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Progressive Rock Interviews

The Flower Kings

Interviewed by Josh Turner
Interview with Jonas Reingold of The Flower Kings from 2005
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.


You were recently on tour with The Flower Kings. How did that tour go?
Beautiful I think, you know, we've been touring in the States a couple times now, so I think we learned a couple of lessons, you know, where to play and how to do it, and who you should ask to put up shows. So, I think it's going better and better and the turnout was great this time. I think we like had an average of 250 people and we had a sold out show in Quebec City.
MSJ: Wow, that sounds really good.
Yeah.
MSJ: I only expect your popularity to keep growing… I saw you play at ROSfest 2005... Just for recollection, I was actually the guy that brought you out on stage.
Yeah, I know, you were the one who introduced us.
MSJ: Yeah. It was a great honor… Your bass-playing that night with The Tangent and even the impromptu blues that you had the night before was for me the biggest highlight at the entire event. How did you actually get involved with ROSfest?
Well, The Tangent took up the gig, you know, and since I'm a part of The Tangent is why I came. I didn't get a personal invitation. It was through The Tangent, so…
MSJ: I'm very happy to see Karmakanic announced for next year's ROSfest. Part of me would have actually liked to see you guys headline next year or the year after, because I don't think any band is really qualified to follow your band.
No, but, it doesn't really matter, because I think the audience is really into every band, you know, they go there early to watch the whole thing and I don't think, it doesn't really matter, because we would be able to play two hours anyway.
MSJ: Exactly!
I talked to George about it, so I think he will treat us the same way as the other bands.
MSJ: Yeah, another part of me wouldn't want to wait longer to see you when a headline spot would open up, so I'm just happy to see you guys live and I'm just happy to see you guys on the roster one way or the other. I just think it is gracious for you to accept that spot, but what actually prompted that gig?
I talked to George about it last time when I played with The Tangent and we discussed some details about it and we secured a deal a couple of weeks ago. It was quite easy I think. He really told me that he really enjoyed Karmakanic and really wanted to have us. It is nice that we're coming, that somebody is asking us.
MSJ: To be honest with you, along with maybe Transatlantic, The Tangent, and now Tomas' latest solo album I would say that Karmakanic is right at the top of my favorites in terms of side-projects for Flower Kings or basically any projects for that matter. I was blown away when I first encountered Entering the Spectra and you threw me for another loop when you came out with Wheel of Life. Both of them are different. Both of them are outstanding. Both were a real demonstration of your songwriting ability. Are there any plans in the works right now to put together another Karmakanic album?
Yeah, absolutely. My goal is to have a CD out before coming to States in April. I will have a CD ready in December, you know, I've already started to compose. That's really a high priority in my schedule to have a CD ready before the end of this year.
MSJ: Wow, that's good to hear. What can we expect from that next album? Can you give me any ideas?
Yeah, I think of course you will hear the typical Jonas Reingold Karmakanic stuff, because I'm using the same guys again: Goran on vocals, Krister on guitar, Zoltan on drums, and Lale Larsonm, marvelous keyboard player. He's been recording with drummer Virgil Donati and trumpet player Randy Brecker recently and those guys, so he's a top-notch player. I wrote a couple of tunes already, very melodic, like Wheel of Life I think. I will try to throw in some jazzy parts as well, so I think you can expect some of the same as Wheel of Life, hopefully better though composition-wise and I will focus even more on compositions to do a really, really nice CD.
MSJ: Now that Karmakanic is doing some live dates, is there any thought of releasing a live album from Karmakanic?
Yeah, actually we've talked about it, so maybe this is our opportunity to record, because I think together with the ROSfest gig, we'll probably do a European tour as well. So, there will be lots of chances. I know that ROSfest also records the whole entire evening. At the end of the tour, I will go through the material and see if I have good material, you know, if it's enough and probably put out something if it's good. It has to be good music-wise.
MSJ: Definitely! You're an amazing songwriter and I'm just wondering, out of all the songs that you've written, what's your favorite one? Which one actually makes you most proud?
It's hard to pick just one single song, but I have like excerpts from every song that I think is really good. For example, the ending of the first cycle of Wheel of Life "Masterplan". I think the ending is really good with the lyrics and everything. I just laugh like two minutes and I think the song "Alex in Paradise" is a great popish kind of progressive, early Yes kind of in that vein or something. {I laugh} It's really a good track and also like "The Spirit Remains the Same" from the first CD, I think it's a very good track and the end section from the first CD. Is this It? I have bits and pieces that I think is great and then I also think a lot of bars in my music I can do better, but that goes for every musician or every artist in the world. I think it's hard to be able to do the perfect CD. That is dumb. There is nothing more to say. Then you can shoot yourself and go to the grave. So, that will probably never happen to anybody.
MSJ: Okay. I recently heard from Roine that he was saying there is another Flower King's album in the works or you're at least starting to think about it.
Yeah, we don't stop working. Hopefully, there will be a release early next year, April, May or something.
MSJ: Is there anything you can tell me about what's planned for the next album?
Not really. I haven't heard any of Roine's material, but probably it will be good stuff, because Roine doesn't write bad stuff at least. So, I think we are quite quality concerned in our projects and music and everything we do. So, we always try to put out something good. Otherwise, we don't give a s**t if we put it out if it's not good enough. We don't do it for the money. Then we would have chosen a different job.
MSJ: Your work with Opus Atlantic and Time Requiem hits the heavy end of the spectrum. That also goes to show that you've got a lot of versatility. Are there any plans of doing another one of these albums?
No, not really at the moment, because I'm trying to stay focused now on my own playing, you know, The Flower Kings, Karmakanic, and to produce more. I'm producing right now a band from Holland, a real talented band called Splinter. I'm trying to do that more, because to be honest, I haven't done a lot of CD's just for the money. Because people ask me and now I don't have the time, you know, if I send you a check and add blah, blah, blah amount of money, okay, because I have the time to provide. So, sometimes you have to do things that you like from the bottom of your heart.

So, that's the reality for a working musician. I try not to exclude those projects.

MSJ: Do you have anything in store for us from the heavier side of things or are you sticking mainly with prog?
No, I will try to stay focused on prog, that kind of stuff, but of course I have my doors open. If something really good and talented shows up in the heavy metal scenes, I will do it, because I'm a big music lover and there is quality in everything. There's quality heavy metal music and there is quality prog music. There is s**tty heavy metal music. There is s**tty prog music. It doesn't matter really the genre. I just go for quality and if I get excited when I listen to the stuff.

MSJ: You just mentioned the next Splinter album. I thought The Devil's Jigsaw was a very good album and then I find out that it's not their debut album.
No, it's demo CD that they made in two days I think.
MSJ: Wow. That's a very talented group of artists. I'm looking forward to seeing that next album. How did you actually get involved with this band?
They did a couple of tours for us in Europe for Karmakanic and Circus Brimstone tour and that's how I met them. I thought they were extremely talented, the guys, and they are really young. They're kick-a** musicians.
MSJ: You already mentioned several projects. Do you have any other projects in mind that we haven't talked about yet?
No. I'm thinking me, Zoltan, and Krister are trying to put out a trio album where we play fusion and stuff, instrumentals, in a trio form that we recorded live in a studio, so hopefully we can be able to do a few dates, try to do a documentation of where we are right now in our musical career, try to do something funny, or in the spur of the moment.

Like Mahavishnu Orchestra or something like that.
MSJ: I recall playing Meet the Flower Kings DVD for a friend who wasn't familiar with your band. He's actually a guy who's very knowledgeable about music and he was just standing there, staring at the screen. He says to me, "whoa, look at that bass player's playing," and he was just like in total shock. I've frequently seen people react this way to your playing and your music. What are you doing differently from other bass players in terms of how you're tuning and calibrating your equipment, what kind of equipment are you using, and just how are you're playing it because it sounds totally different?
I try to play in a musical way, you know, try to play something special, not to just go for the root in a chord, like playing the same old s**t that's been played over like 30 years. I try to do every piece in the music special to me. I try to not go on routine and just play something safe and keep everybody happy in the band and in the audience. I always try to see if I can do a little bit more without taking too much space inside the music and to do it in a musical way. My big hero of course is Jaco Pastorius. I think he did it in a marvelous way, you know, playing extremely delicate stuff, but not getting away from the composition or the flow in the music. That's my ambition, to always try to be as musical as possible and insert something from a bass player's point of view also.
MSJ: We talked about your songwriting earlier. You just really have a knack for forming great melodies and tying themes together seamlessly. Do you sit with your bass, a pencil and a sheet of paper, sit by the piano, just start humming, or a combination of these approaches? How does your songwriting process work?
I think I'm writing mostly my songs on piano or guitar. So, sometimes if I have a cool lick or something, I play it on the bass, but mostly I'm sitting down at the piano trying to make chords or singing and doing a little bit of lyrics. I think I'm quite traditional in that way. Normally, I write like a three minute pop song that I really like and then I expand that pop song with a couple minutes instrumental that will hopefully fit the music and try to do it in a progressive way, so it will fit a progressive theme. So, that's basically it, you know, it's no mystery or just like one guy to create a good song on the guitar or the piano.
MSJ: You sort of talk about this, but who are the bass players that you looked up to when you were developing as one yourself?
Actually, it was Jaco Pastorius of course and I had a lot of rock players I really digged. Billy Sheehan, I think, when he played with David Lee Roth and that kind of stuff. I was really into that rock n' roll thing for a couple years so I listened a lot to him, you know. There's a great player, jazz player, his name is Ron Carter, you know, Paul Chambers, a lot of great musicians, jazz players, Stanley Clarke, so, I think my main influence as a musician are also other players, not necessarily bass players, you know. I used to love Dex Gordon, another jazz tenorist and I listen a lot to Wes Montgomery, jazz guitar player, Pat Metheny, you know, Michael Brecker, and I tried to duplicate what they did on guitar and tried to do it on bass and tried to pick out Travis Klein's saxophone solos and tried to play it on the bass guitar. So, I've tried to get inspiration from other players also, not just bass players.
MSJ: Your style is pretty unique, but if I had to draw a comparison, I would probably say that it's closest to Chris Squire. Would you say that he's a big influence?
Yeah, of course I heard of Chris Squire and I think he's a great musician, you know, really, really pinnacle of the progressive rocking bass sound. He's the one who opened the door and the rest of us just walked in. Of course, obviously, I'm playing in a progressive band, so I really have to have some influence from him, not actually that I sat down and tried to duplicate what he did, but I tried to, you know, listen to his sound, the way he's playing. So, I probably adopted a few things from his playing. Unconsciously.
MSJ: How did you actually decide to become a bass player? Did you start with the guitar and move your way over to the bass like others or was that your primary instrument? How did this come about?
Actually, I started out playing violin, so that's what I did until I was like 12, 13, and then I switched to guitar and the reason that I started to play bass was that I subbed for a guy in a band. I worked in the band for 2, 3 months and after the summer, he asked me, okay, do you want to be like our bass player and I accepted the gig and they had a lot of gigs at that time. So, I had to buy a bass and an amp and there it was, you know. It was actually a coincidence that I started to play bass.
MSJ: I've actually heard it mentioned that you really don't have a background in progressive rock that goes back for more than a few years, however, when I think of modern day progressive rock, I actually think of you. When thinking of what might have influenced you, I'm kind of drawing a blank. I guess I'd think you were probably more influenced by hard rock and heavy metal due to the fact that you're dabbling in heavier music and can rock out, but since your music takes more of a song-oriented approach with strong hooks and melodies, I'd have to think that groups like The Who and Queen are somewhere in your list of influences.
Yeah, of course, I'm coming from the rock scene. Kiss was actually my first band that I really got into, you know, in the early seventies when I was just a couple years old. I also listened to a lot of Rush in my early days, you know, when I was a kid, so I have the progressive sound with me I think. I love Jimi Hendrix. I love Deep Purple and all of the big-time bands, Iron Maiden when they came out on the scene and then I switched over to Yngwie Malmsteen and that kind of neo-classical stuff. Later on, I switched over to jazz, so I think I have a big variety of styles in my musical context and I think that's a good thing, because I'm a musical geek. I can listen to everything as long as it's good, you know, and then I have my sessions in the studio for eight, ten hours. I switch on the TV and really check out what's on the charts right now, to keep it updated, so some stuff I really like even if it's a rap artist. I try to stay open to everything, so if I can do a mishmash of every style I know then you wind up having Jonas Reingold. So, I would say my influence is like rock, jazz, pop, you know, Beatles, Queen, Deep Purple, King Crimson, you know, Jaco Pastorius, Weather Report, straight-ahead jazz players like John Coltrane, you know, everything. Classical music also. I'm a big-time into Richard Strauss and, yeah, everything that has quality I think.
MSJ: You've actually worked with a lot of top-notch artists. Is there anybody in particular that you would like to work with that you haven't already?
Joni Mitchell. If she'd ring me up, I would accept it. A small tour with her of course. She's on my favorite list. I'm a big fan of Bonnie Raitt, really big. Of course if Yes, if I had the chance to substitute for Chris Squire or something like that, of course that would be marvelous, but there's so many great players out there. I would like to play with Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, you know, Herbie Hancock, a lot of guys.
MSJ: You actually told me the history of how you became a bass player, but how did you actually decide that you wanted to ultimately play bass in a progressive rock band?
I think it was, well, I recorded a kind of semi-progressive CD in the early nineties, so that's really how I got in contact with Jaime, the former drummer and since I knew that he played in the Flower Kings. When he asked me to fill up the spot from Michael, the previous bass player, you know, yeah, I will give it a try, if the rest of the guys are digging my style and everything then I go for it. So, that's why actually I got into The Flower Kings.
MSJ: That explains how you met the members of The Flower Kings, but Krister Jonzon is another talented fellow. When the two of you come together, I think the results are just magical. You've got this bubbly kind of feel that you bring to the music and he brings in something that's a little more wacky and wild. How did you actually meet this musician?
First time I met him was back in '89 I think. We went to the same school, you know, a music school. So, that's actually how I met the guy and I understood immediately that this guy was something special. He's really good. He's a talented player even if he was just 18 years old at that time. So, we stayed in contact after school and when Roine left The Tangent, he was the first guy I was thinking about. Let's give Krister a call and ask him if he wants to be a part of this. Because I think he recorded a solo album recently, Krister, and it's kind of King Crimson goes acoustic with a touch of Mahavishnu Orchestra or something. I think he's already taken the first step towards progressive music.

Have you heard it?
MSJ: No, I didn't even know about it. I'll have to check that out.
Oh, it's a really great album. He's a great cello player.
MSJ: You actually talked about some of your schooling in music. Can you go a little bit into what your formal training may have been?
Yeah, I mean, I've been to a lot of schools. I have a master's degree in music. I went four years in the university and then I spent two years in a private school. I went two years in a like, we can choose programs in High School. I chose the musical program. So, I think I had like eight years in my background of schools.
MSJ: Just talking about bandmates, it actually sounds like you and Zoltan go back quite a ways. How did you guys meet up?
Actually, when he was 15 years old, he's coming from Hungary to move to Sweden and the parents, they saw an ad in the newspaper for a talent contest in music. The parents, they put him on the show, so he really needed a couple of backup players, so I was the guy that they got in contact with cause I played a bit in Malmo and I was quite well-known in this city, so that's how we met and I told him, man, you're great. You're 15 years old, keep it up and I will probably give you a call in a couple of years, you know, cause he was a little bit too young at that time and didn't speak that much Swedish, so I told him hang in there and when he was, when the Flower Kings job came up, I told him, you want to be in a progressive rock band. Oh, yeah.
MSJ: When I asked you in person if you ever felt nervous before you went on stage, you actually said to me in a real cool and nonchalant way that you've performed thousands of times and you basically just shrugged your shoulders and said, you know, it's no big deal. You even stated a specific number of times you performed live. What's the current count?
I think I had like two hours off in the bus once. I roughly calculated this one, but I think came up with 2,800 shows.

If I'm supposed to be nervous every time I perform, my life will suck.
MSJ: You'd be stressed out all the time.
Better to not be nervous anymore, because I cannot do that, you know. I'm getting old. I have to worry about my heart, so...
MSJ: You're probably a lot younger than a lot of your fans. It's funny to hear that.
Yeah, and they aren't nervous too.
MSJ: Since you have so much experience playing live, can you tell me about a Spinal Tap moment, some kind of mishap or untimely mistake that might have been kind of humorous, that may have occurred on stage, recording, or touring?
Yeah, a real s**tty thing. You'll probably say so what, but I played New Year's Eve like 10 years back and my stomach was totally f**ked up. So, I threw up in the bathroom once every minute and we were supposed to play like 10 seconds to 12, you know, to do a really big thing at the place. It was really important that you synchronize your performance with 12 o' clock or it will not be happening. Really on the second, you have to start. So, I was sitting in the bathroom and I had this big, big shirt on, you know, and it was hanging down in the toilet. I didn't notice that it was in the toilet. So, the guy starts, "Oh man Reingold, come on, hurry the f**k up, we have to be on stage, come on, come on." I rushed and one of the tiny little smelly things got stuck on my shirt. I just pulled it off and put it into my trousers and then went on stage and we started playing a song and suddenly what's this smell. So, I had to play for 45 minutes with that thing stuck in my shirt. So, it was a really terrible moment for me. That's Spinal Tap I think.

I look really cool up on stage performing. The chicks are loving you, but there is a swordfish slammed on your back. So, that was not a good moment.

 

MSJ: What's the last CD that you purchased?
I think it was the new U2 CD How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. A really great CD I think. U2 went back to their roots kind of and that was probably my latest CD I bought.
MSJ: What's the last concert you attended as a fan?
I went to the, what was it now, yeah, I saw Mike Stern up in Uppsala when we rehearsed for The Flower Kings tour. That was actually my last concert. It was Mike Stern Band with five-piece band with a tenor saxophone, bass player, keyboard, and drummer and him. Great, great concert I think.
MSJ: What is your favorite album of all-time?
Oh, really difficult, really, I can pick out like five that I will bring to an island is like Joni Mitchell Shadows of Life, the first Jaco Pastorius album, Kind of Blue Miles Davis, King's X Dogman, Kiss Love Gun, the first CD I purchased…It's nostalgic, not just for the music. That really opened the door to my musical career.
MSJ: Do you have a favorite band of all-time?
Hard to tell, but Weather Report I think was a marvelous band.
MSJ: What is your favorite movie?
That's a tricky question also. I'm really a big fan of the Star Trek, no, not Star Trek, Star Wars. You know the first movie I remember when it came out. It was '77. I was just 8 years old and oh my god, what a nice moment. I saw that movie like five times in a row.

Now I'm talking from a nostalgic perspective, but there is a lot of good movies, many, many good movies. I really dig Forrest Gump.
MSJ: What would you say is your favorite TV show?
I don't know. When it's the world championship in soccer, I cancel every gig almost - or the Olympics. I'm a real track and field fan. I try to watch every single minute when it's the Olympics.
Because I'm really that kind of guy who really knows the results way back, you know, to 1968 and that kind of stuff. Yeah, so I'm quite a big sports fan who normally watches a lot of sports when there's something on the tele.

MSJ: Do you have a favorite book?
I read a really good book recently called Conversations with God. It's like a guy picking up messages from something higher than himself. He wrote it like a conversation. It's a really nice book, you know, really, really good. It opens up new doors. Recommended!
MSJ: Is there any chance you'll write an album with that kind of theme since Tomas and Daniel have done something kind of similar to that?
I think Wheel of Life is in that field about big, big questions like how everything is related to each other. If a leaf falling down from a tree in my garden and somebody is coming and it gets stuck on the shoe, he will bring the leaf over to maybe England or whatever on a plane and then suddenly a new tree will grow from that leaf, so I'm really into that, you know, how, see how everything in the world is related to each other and there's a consequence if you do something, you know. If I do a thing here like in Malmo, maybe in two weeks, you will see the consequence in the States. Because everything is related to everything.
MSJ: Do you have any pets?
No, not really. I have two kids. That's enough. A lot of ants in the summer. I have to place out ant traps everywhere.
MSJ: I will just take a wild guess, but I'd say that one of your kids is named Alex, right?
Yeah. He's the one that starts that song in the beginning. {"Alex in Paradise"}
MSJ: That's him, well, he started his career early.
Like at 18 months already recording.
MSJ: Is there going to be a song for your other kid as well?
Yeah, probably, on the last US tour, I played a song for Norah, which I wrote for her baptism. I played it up on stage like a solo piece, so maybe we'll record it on the new Karmakanic album. I have to be democratic. I don't want to see Norah's face in 18 years and tell me, daddy, Alex has a song, where's my song? So, I really have to record it.
MSJ: Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans at this time?
Try to support us as much as possible. Try to avoid people downloading our music too much on the Internet. Try to get some out to the record stores and buy the actual CD. Because we're putting a lot of time into our work. To be able to do this in the future, we really have to have the audience support as well.
You'll find an audio interview of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
 
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