Stolt, Roine (Transatlantic) (March 2000)

Roine Stolt

From Sweden To America: It's Only A Transatlantic Flight Away

Transatlantic (l to r: Roine Stolt, Neal Morse, Pete Trewavas, Mike Portnoy); courtesy Transatlantic/Ian Oakley Roine Stolt is a nice guy. A true musician and, although he's been in the music business for a considerably long time, rather shy. In fact he wanted me to send him the questions by e-mail because he would have more time to go over them, to have more time to think about what I asked rather than having only a split second to answer over the phone. However, I had sent him the questions but the record company nevertheless had asked Roine to give me a call, so we did end up chatting anyway. Strange as it might seem but each time I tried to get together with Roine and the boys and do an interview something came up. It's like an omen that stops us from really talking "face to face." Roine and the rest of the Flower Kings even visited my hometown of Brugge, Belgium, but alas Roine had his filofax at home, and thus was unable to give me a call. He liked the city though, so with this I invite him once again so I can be his private guide. But this journey has to be about Transatlantic, the new supergroup featuring, in addition to Roine, Marillion's bass player Pete Trewavas,Spock's Beard's singer and keyboardist Neal Morse and Dream Theater's drummer Mike Portnoy. Roine Stolt; courtesy Transatlantic/Ian OakleyOriginally an idea of Mike's to include Fates Warning guitarist Jim Matheos, Roine only stepped in when it became obvious Jim was too busy to join the project. So wasn't Roine offended when he found out he was a "stand in" rather than the first choice?

Mike Portnoy; courtesy Transatlantic/Ian Oakley "I think it's Mike Portnoy who must get the credit for bringing us all together. Mike is always into doing all these side projects, like LTE and such. Mike is also a great fan of progressive music and an even greater fan of The Beatles!!! I know it may be hard to imagine when listening to Dream Theater's heavy approach!!! However Mike sent me a couple of e-mails telling me he really liked Flower Kings, asking if I had the time and if I was interested in doing this project with him, Neal Morse and Pete Trewavas. They were initially going to work with the guitar player from Fates Warning but he pulled out (well ... now they got a real progger!!!!!). I said: 'sure Mike!' It's always interesting to work with new people and these guys are extremely talented. In fact I have never heard Jim Matheos ... so I don't feel like I'm replacing someone ... as he was never in the band in the first place. We decided on recording the backing tracks and a bit of composing/arranging at the end of June '99 in Millbrook Studios, New York.

Did you have discussions at first as to what you wanted to produce?

No discussions really. I told Mike: "[P]lease be aware I'm NOT a 'gunslinger' guitarist" and he replied: "No Roine I just want you to play the way you do ... that's what I want ... I've done the gunslinger stuff for a while ..." Mike told me he wanted me to contribute writing as well, plus he wanted to do an old, obscure Procol Harum classic ..."no one ever heard!!!".... Luckily that song was one of my VERY favourites at the age of 12!! Imagine Mike's surprise when I told him about that!!! So we mailed each other demo tapes ... that's all.

Did you meet prior to entering the Millbrook Studios?

Pete Trewavas; courtesy Transatlantic/Ian OakleyI'd just met Pete the day before going to Millbrook Studio in New York City for dinner. I'd never met Mike in person. Neal I knew from a brief "hello" backstage in LA back in '97. We started recording only 3 hours after meeting all of us initially!!!!

What was the very first thing you set out to do once you entered the studio? Did you jam in order to "get the feel" to work together, or did you stick your teeth into an original composition straight away? On the limited 2CD set there will be some outtakes and also some cover versions. Can we, for example, expect "Honky Tonk Women" sung by Mike?

In fact we started working on "All Of The Above." Hey, we're professionals! "Honky Tonk Women" you get in a full-fledged high tech version!!! No, just joking ... You get a version sung by Neal; he sounds drunk, or stoned beyond consciousness ... but we were just having a bit of fun! I guess Mike's voice is in there too somewhere. Maybe even Pete...who is keen to sing whenever he gets a chance...!!

It has been said that tapes and ideas were being circulated before the actual recordings. Did you use a certain computer standard and send these files to each other adding bits and pieces?

No we just used ordinary cassettes; well I may have used a DAT. We weren't sure what to play until we started recording the first day ... we send the tapes to get an idea what would be the possibilities to work on.

Did each of the various members contribute equally regarding the material given?

Neal Morse; courtesy Transatlantic/Ian OakleyI'd say this is maybe a bit more Neal than the rest of us but we all contributed. Speaking for myself I guess I was more low profile than usually which is a nice change. All of the guys are bursting with great ideas (and some bad ones as well!) I'm usually more of a perfectionist in terms of composition and production. This was fresh in a way, just rocking, carelessly. Mike is a great source of rhythmic ideas and Pete is a real quick learner, an amazing guy.

The opening track "All Of The Above" actually consists of six parts, but you have said at least 25 parts were written for this. Does this mean lots of these ideas were then thrown away or were they re-used in another song?

No, what I said was: "it was maybe recorded in 25 parts..." We actually used all sections Neal wrote except for one "semi Caribbean thing" which we threw out. Then Pete contributed the music for the "Camouflaged In Blue" section.

Was it also agreed upon that no, or at least very few, acoustic instruments would be added? I am referring to real violins, cello, oboe, flute, and choir.

We never spoke in those terms as in fact we don't play any of these instruments except for acoustic guitars. So it was natural to use what we actually do play and sing; that's the whole idea of doing it with just the four of us. We added, in fact, a few real string quartet parts ... as overdubs.

"My New World" is one of your compositions, yet I guess it had not been written especially for this project, but had already been written some time ago. However you did re-write it extensively? The cello in the beginning is "real," so who plays it, whose idea was it and where was it recorded?

"My New World" was written specifically for Transatlantic.Transatlantic - SMPTe (2000) A bulk of material that I had written we didn't use, and will now use it for Flower Kings and I realize how good some of it is. Don't know why it didn't work with Transatlantic. The cello is real, it's mine and Neal's idea but Neal recorded it in Tennessee, with a player I don't know the name of. Neal never told me...!!??

Can you tell me who the actual composers (or contributors) were for the songs?

"Full Moon Rising": Neal wrote it, we all arranged it
"October Winds": Neal wrote it, we jammed some instrumental parts together
"Camouflaged In Blue": Pete did the music, Neal the lyrics
"Half Alive": Neal wrote it, we jammed again
"Undying Love": Neal again, pretty much as it is
"Full Moon Rising (reprise)": Neal's baby, I did the SOS space end. [These are the parts of "All Of The Above" - ed.]
"We All Need Some Light": Neal's song
"Mystery Train": Neal's idea, Mike's rhythmic ideas
"My New World": my song, but Neal did the middle slow section, all of the band contributed ideas
"In Held ('Twas) In I": it's very much like the Procol Harum original. It's true, Mike and I wanted this song on the CD, Neal didn't like it. Pete was OK either way. I think it's one of the best tracks. It was the last song recorded.

The actual recording took place between 26th June and 6th July. I believe the "main" parts were then recorded such as drums/bass/guitar/organ. No vocals recorded there? How do you know where certain overdubs have to go? Was that mapped and discussed beforehand or did everyone have a freehand to ad whatever he felt necessary?

We kept the drums and bass plus most of Hammond and a few guitar tracks from Millbrook. Also Mike's harmony vocals and leads were recorded at Millbrook. I re-did most guitars in Sweden because I wanted to use my ordinary stuff that I didn't bring to Millbrook, NY (however, I'm not 100% happy with some guitar sounds in the mix). I did some Mellotron and sampler stuff and also most of what is background vocals and my lead. Neal did his pianos, a few Hammond overdubs, synths, and all of his lead vocals in Tennessee. Pete did Taurus pedals and his backing voices and leads in UK. We had very much a free hand... yes ... this may have been one of the minor problems: there was no real producer, just the four of us.

Although Neal does all of the keyboard playing it is you who adds Mellotron.

Simply because I own a good portion of good Mellotron samples. And I try to add them with a nice voicing, not just putting down regular simple chords. You know Neal plays some acoustic. In fact he did the solo on "We All Need Some Light"!! Plus lots of electric guitars on "Mystery Train." There's no silly prestige in this band ... I hope.

Is it always like a surprise once you receive the material after someone else has added his overdubs?

No. Well sometimes, but in this case I was aware of what they wanted to add. I'd say maybe it was me who added the most surprising stuff in terms of harmony vocals, which Neal also adopted later, and even some guitar stuff they hadn't expected. Sadly they took out some of it...

There were two mixes of the album and in the end they did not use your mix. Was that a very negative experience for you?

Well, I did a remix because I thought the mix we ended up using was too much cymbals and it was lacking punch and body in the snare and kick, and the bass guitar was too soft and lacked a bit of amp sound. Pete played very well but was kind of drowning in drums. Also I felt there were some strange levels on vocals, guitars and keys! However if the prog fans are happy, it's OK by me. The refused mix was negative because someone told me my mix "wasn't even close to his (professional) mix"!!!??? That of course is completely untrue. My mix was in most parts better, the truth being the original recording had some shortcomings. I did in my opinion a more musical mix, serving in ALL members' interests, as I knew the music well, but Rich Mouser wasn't present during the recording. I don't blame him as I guess he did a good job from his perspective. No offense. That's my only concern.

[SMPTe - The Roine Stolt Mixes was later released, in 2003 -ed.]

Being used to making all of the decisions yourself, how difficult was it to share all of the decisions here, even when it concerned your very own composition(s)?

I had no problems with that. Maybe I would have liked the members to trust me a bit more when it came to the artwork I did for the CD. Making music was not a problem, opinions about the mix was a minor problem.

You were not happy with the band name in the beginning. In fact you had several names for it yourself. Can you tell us what some if not all of these names were?

I left a note at Millbrook when I left... don't remember ... but they were good!!! In fact I have a list in my studio as well. However I cannot give it away ... sorry. I'll keep them in the vault until a funny project comes up with no name....

SMPTe is a communication code used in studio recording. What exactly is it?

Transatlantic - SMPTe (2000) (US cover) It's the time code for people working with music for film and TV, plus what we sometimes use for sync in Midi and Audio studios. It just so happens it's our initials!!!

Whilst all of the big prog names have been mentioned to typecast Transatlantic's music, also the name of The Beatles has been mentioned. Are the Beatles prog?

Sure they are ... it's the divine mother of prog ... listen to Magical Mystery Tour album or parts of Sgt. Pepper ... even some parts of Revolver or Abbey Road. "I'm The Walrus" did it for me ... and the glorious "Strawberry Fields Forever."

Imagine Transatlantic really hits the roof and the rest of the members agree to leave their respective bands in order to make Transatlantic their fulltime commitment, would you disband Flower Kings?

I guess not as I consider Flower Kings, at this point, as being far more musically elaborated, detailed and sophisticated. I'm in it for the music, not the money. My bandmates in Transatlantic may have better sales than us in Flower Kings at the time being, but I still can hear what is good music. The Flower Kings - Alive On Planet Earth (2000) I'm not impressed that much about fame and sales figures. What's more it's a good thing we all have other bands as it opens up the possibility to be diverse. I'd hate to see Dream Theater stop or Marillion or Spock's. They are all good bands. The prog community needs us ALL!

There are some live dates to be expected. Will the foursome get together to rehearse prior to the gigs?

Yes for a couple of days at Mike's house in NY I guess. We also prepare at home of course.

Now that you all know each other better, including each other's weaknesses, do you think the second album (which undoubtedly will follow) will be easier to record?

Yes ...I'm 100% convinced!!!! It'll be 40% better on all levels.

What would you like to change on the second album compared to the first?

I'd like us to be a little bit more elaborated in the instrumental parts. And maybe a bit more dynamic. Maybe I'd like to contribute with more of my specific guitar playing and production skills and a few more songs from my pen. Hey ... hear my ego! No, to be honest, I don't care. I'm just concerned that we benefit from all the talent that may be at sleep in this quartet ...

Can you give me a top-five of what you are currently listening to?

Beatles / Anthology 3
Chick Corea's Return to Forever / Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy
Hansson & Karlsson / Best Of (great Swedish Psychedelic Hammond Organ Jazz-fusion)
Jeff Lynne / Armchair Theater
Miles Davis / Kind Of Blue
Yes / The Ladder
Anything by Claude Debussy ... but this changes ...all the time!

I know there's a new Flower Kings studio album being mixed. Can you tell us some of the titles yet and when can we expect the album? Will it be another Foxtrot release or will it be an Inside Out release straight away?

It will be released in May by Inside Out in Europe and America. Possible title: Space Revolver, 77 minutes of music. It isn't mixed yet. The titles are not final, but ok, here are some of them as a first!

"Chicken Farmer Song"
"Exit Dominus"
"Dream On Dreamer"
"Monster Within"
"Slave To Money"
plus an untitled 25-minute song

[It was ultimately called Space Revolver, most of the track titles remained and that 25-minute track? "I Am The Sun" parts 1 and 2 -ed.]

All feels really good. Maybe the most direct and yet the most mature CD to date. Sound being fuller than ever. New bass player on the ship.... some Pastorius tricks ...Oh well.

In what way will it differ from the FK material we already know and love?

You'll be the judge ...I cannot tell. But no one will get disappointed!!

Compared to your period with Kaipa how do you feel now?

Older!!! Well I feel more in control, wouldn't say happier, nor healthier ... I know so much more about music AND life. About human behaviour, needs, shortcomings ... My love for the planet and all people makes me both sad and gives me so much joy. In Kaipa I was young and didn't care about things outside the music that much. Today I have a little family that I love dearly, but spend too little time with. And I have the Universal family ... I've had the chance travelling all around the world playing music meeting great musicians and wonderful people. I have to keep telling myself: "wake up...this IS your job... You don't need to grow up and get a proper job." It's amazing ... it's a dream come true. And today I make good money out of making my own music. What more can I ask for?

Are there still certain things you'd like to accomplish next to FK and Transatlantic?

Well, I'm still waiting to do something with Jon Anderson ... What an amazing and interesting person. Seems we share many ideas about life, art, music and spiritual matters? Great music could evolve from that. I would also love to work with Bill Bruford, Patrick Moraz, Jackson Browne or Paul McCartney (talk about being pretentious ... sorry). I hope new interesting projects will come my way soon. In fact I'd say: "get me a job in Genesis, I'd lift it to new heights (even commercial) ... believe me, no kiddin' (pretentious again ...sorry).

And so our lengthy conversation with one of today's great guitarists ends. We are looking forward to the general release of the Transatlantic album (don't forget the limited 2CD issue) and of course there's the new studio album by Flower Kings to be reckoned with. Rumours also have it that keyboard player Tomas Bodin is putting together his second solo album. I have asked myself over and over again: how come these Scandinavian musicians are so productive and creative? Certainly it has to be something in their water with millions of small crystals melting from the fjörds right into their scotch. Transparent transatlantic anyone?

Transatlantic - Trewavas, Portnoy, Stolt, Morse; courtesy Transatlantic/Ian Oakley

SMPTe (2000)
Live In America (2001)
Bridge Across Forever (2001)
Bridge Across Forever - Special Edition (2001)
Live In Europe (2003)
The Whirlwind (2009)
More Is Never Enough (2011)
Kaleidoscope (2014)
KaLIVEoscope (CD +DVD) (2014)

Live In America (DVD) (2001)
Live In Europe (DVD) (2003)
Building The Bridge Across Forever/Live In America (DVD) (2006)
Whirld Tour 2010 - Live From Shepherd's Bush Empire, London (DVD) (2010)
KaLIVEoscope (DVD/BR) (2014)

Added: March 14th 2000
Interviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

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