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Roine Stolt

Interviewed by Grant Hill
Interview with Roine Stolt from 2012
MSJ:

It seems like things have been busy for you these past couple of years, and the Agents of Mercy release, The Black Forest, has gained some critical acclaim these past few months. Maybe that’s a good place to start. How did the contributing ideas and writing process develop for the album?

I think we started in November of 2010. It’s mainly ideas from me and Nad, who writes in AoM and we just set out to write plenty, even more than we needed, so that we could really pick the best songs. Then we started sending out mp3 versions of our demos to all band members. After that it was almost a totally democratic process. We were all into making a bit more of a rock album and leave the slightly softer pop style prog from earlier albums. Lyric-wise, we did set out for a darker, more disturbing theme for a change.   
MSJ: Now that the CD is released, how does the band feel about the work, both from the final product overall as well as the popular reception of the work? 
We are all very happy with the album, both the songs and the  production.  It feels like a natural progression from the earlier albums, a bit heavier but with the typical cinematic prog that is the AoM archetype. Also it feels good to know the music was actually played live in a room into an analogue tape recorder like in the old days. We want to be a good live band and be able to fully reproduce the music from the albums live, and this way we know we can. It's a   good feeling.
MSJ: You’ve played in so many wonderful bands, each with their unique overall sound and approach. No one could argue that Flower Kings, Transatlantic and Agents of Mercy are all groups of masterful progressive rock musicians. How do you draw a unique voice and sound out of your work with each to keep it fresh and non-redundant?
I think my writing is probably not that different on each project. I just write what I feel at the moment. It's more based on each band's construction of individuals and combination. I'm a firm believer in band chemistry. So, even people like myself, or Neal tend to sound a bit different, depending upon who else is in the band. Transatlantic is such a dream team; we're frightening as writers. Agents of Mercy are a great bunch of people, too. We're like family, or like brothers.
MSJ: How do you balance writing styles when you have your own approach to a piece versus when working with a contributory ensemble? For example, how do balance bringing your ideas in to play with someone like Neal Morse? 
With Transatlantic, it works like a writing pool. We just throw ideas on the table, pick a bit of Pete's and another from Neal, and then a piece of mine and hope it works. Normally I sing my bits and Neal his bits, as it just comes naturally that way. But, of course it happens that I sing some of what Pete wrote or Mike sings what Neal wrote. Then we do a lot of jamming, of course, and these bits are all part of the composition process. In Agents of Mercy, I just throw ideas on the table, then take in opinions from the band and try make the best of it. They of course add all their flair in playing it.
MSJ: I love some of the wide influences you’ve emphasized, whether it’s   Puccini or Miles Davis, Metheny or Genesis. Some composers start with   melody, some with harmonic interplay, some with a basic rhythm idea, etc. What type of approach seems to work best for you?
It's different every time. Whatever the chord structures are like seems to be the trigger many times. I do not make plans about what to write, so it's all a very spontaneous process. I guess I just trust the muse that I'll come up with cool ideas, and I do nine times out of ten.
MSJ: The last I read, you were developing a symphonic project for the near future. Can you tell us how that is progressing, and what kinds of orchestration are you employing?
Oh, yes, that's my never-ending story. Wish it was "near future."  Now it seems more like a distant future. I'm sort of almost halfway, but it still needs plenty of work. There have been so many other projects lately, so the orchestra thing is on the backburner.  I hope to be able to finish it later this year. It will be quite different from anything I've done before.
MSJ: Is there anything new developing now for any of your other bands at this point?
Well, there is one thing, some would call major, but I'm afraid I still cannot say anything about it. However, I'm working on it as we speak and will enter studio with full band next week. Details will soon be revealed.
MSJ: With an industry still in total chaos for the past couple of decades, what would you advise young musicians today to do to approach writing, recording, and performing?
I'd say for everyone, anyone who is into making music for all the right reasons, don't stop, ‘cause you can't go wrong. But for everyone else, be aware the music business is not somewhere you'll make easy money. Live music will always be attractive, even if it now tends to be focused on the big events and the image superstars.  Also the big festivals get bigger, and ticket prices go up. It’s not easy.
MSJ: Where do you think the music business is headed, and what will you do to adapt and survive in that context? 
We will definitely see more digital distribution in all forms and shapes, but physical product will exist, too, and in particular with more elaborate products such as Vinyl and CD box-sets with extended artwork and books. We, as musicians, need to stay in the loop, get updated and be modernized, so I'm now slowly warming up to downloads and internet shops.
MSJ: What have you been listening to lately for your own enjoyment or inspiration?
Hmm, I've been listening to Steve Hackett's Beyond the Shrouded Horizon, Haken’s Visions, Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion, and Opeth’s Heritage.
MSJ: And finally, if you would, please ask yourself a question and answer it! 
Question: Will you still be doing it in ten years from now, will music still be fun, and will you have something to say that's valid? 

Answer: Yes, definitely, to all!

 

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
You'll find an audio interview of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
 
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