Hello Roine! Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers of Metalglory. I can imagine that you're very busy at the moment doing a lot of interviews so let's just get started with the questions...
Finally there is a new Transatlantic epic available. I have to say that "The Whirlwind" is an absolutely tremendous album! Although the seven years since "Bridge Across Forever" have definitely been long, the waiting was worth it! After all these years with everybody thinking that Transatlantic are history, how did the collaboration of the four of you come about again?
ROINE : The last album is actually from 2001, It is possible that the years that went by since then got us even more motivated to do a really fabulous album. I got a mail shortly after new years eve from Neal Morse saying that he wanted to see how we felt about recording a new Transatlantic album. Now guess my answer to that ? - Ha ha .
I'm sure the Lord smiles upon us and approve, there is nothing evil in
Transatlantics music. He has asked me to join him on stage many times over the years but
time hasn't been right for me then, but now it was perfect because I took a break from TFK recently.
The TA legend seems to carry on and anticipation have ben swirling around for years and now finally the dream comes true. Also the market is flooded with much new music in prog field but very few bands impress or stand the test in the long run, it seems Transatlantic seems to have all the right elements in place to impress and excite a bigger crowd,the whole concept was "airborne" from day one.
I'm very happy with this record in that sense and I'm sure it will stand the test of time and even grow over the coming years. We all put in both heart and soul and all our collective experience in music into this and we're all thrilled about the level we reached this time and I think that goes for the rest of the engineers,mixing guys as well.
As Pete, Mike and you are also involved in your "main" bands I imagine that it must be quite difficult to plan songwriting, recording etc. of a new Transatlantic album. I must say that I was quite surprised to hear about the coming album and that it should be released only some months after the announcement. How did you manage to keep "The Whirlwind" a secret for such a long time?
ROINE: We didn't try hard really but said let's not talk much about it until we play the first few notes, it was actually decided in January and I went to USA in April to record it so we only had to keep a low profile for a few months and I personally spent time in Costa Rica for part of that so it wasn't hard to keep a secret.
How should one imagine the creation of "The Whirlwind"? According to the press sheet you met at Neal's house and just started jamming. There must have been a lot of creativity in that phase of the creation, so how did you manage to channel all that creativity into the right direction?
ROINE: Well, there was jamming but I wouldn't say it was the bigger part of the album, but it helped to get us into places we wouldn't go by just writing songs separately, I later wrote vocal parts and lyrics over our jamming so new vocal sections were born. The writing was very much like the other albums - and here I'd like to set the record straight - it is NOT just me and Neal that write, Pete and Mike have far more input and impact on the writing and arranging of songs than most people seem to think they have. I've seen discussions on the internet where people propose that "Neal wrote most of the music anyway" or "TA is just Neal & Roine's music with a good bassplayer and drummer". That idea is very FAR from the truth - both Mike and Pete have a huge influence in and on the writing/ arranging process and Pete did write chunks for both "All of the Above" and specially "Stranger in your Soul" and so with this new album. Mike Portnoy is probably the member that conduct the collective writing process but there is also a fair bit of jamming – especially on this new album. As a whole it wouldn't be the same if we had not met and actually
played the tunes to where we were happy - it is a bit more complex and a bit different than previous albums, however as a whole I view this very much as if a person have liked the 2 previous albums they will most likely love this one too. As for sounds I imagine there are quite a few new orchestrations but I'd imagine the audience will be as openminded as I hope we are.
How long did the whole recording process take you (incl. conception and songwriting)?
ROINE: I started writing material just after we decided about the April 2009 recording schedule, so I was working on and off with it from late January until late March and came up with about 60 minutes of new music and Neal had already some 40 minutes of music and Pete had some 25 minutes of material, so we had plenty to pick from.
After we recorded the basic tracks we started right away doing overdubs and I and Neal did fine tuning of the lyrics and orchestrations in our own studios and then the mixing guy started right away the daunting task of mixing these over 100 channels of audio. There wasn't much of a deadline really, we talked about the prospect of seeing a release this fall but there was pretty much time to do what was needed, no rush on my side.
There was plenty of jamming, more than ever before, whole sections just materialized on the spot , things like "Evermore" was just jamming from myself, Mike and Pete, that we recorded and I simply wrote some lyrics and sang over it later.
Also "Lay down your life" was a riff of one of my bits that Pete and Mike started to jam on and did all sorts of tricky time signature changes and I just added a few chord changes on the spot in a kind of Lennonesque way and that triggered Neal to start sing some fake rocklyrics about "Rain in
Spokane" etc. hilarious .!!! .... but we worked it out to a song that is one of my fave parts of Whirlwind , really heavy stuff with added real strings - big Zeppelin style and a crazy E-bow guitarsolo.
"On The Prowl" has also lots of jam things in there and Neal came up with some proggy fiddly bits here and there and we jammed up Pete's idea "Is It Really Happening" to a total prog frenzy . These parts were all so cool and added a new spark into TA – very precious energy indeed.
What's the "regular" studio work like? Are you very concentrated and work with much planning and structure or is there more of a chaotic creativity running free?
ROINE: I think we just start playing and feed off each others ideas, but sometimes stop and listen to a demo from me or Neal and try incorporate these in the sections we're working on. Mike Portnoy is good at organizing where the rest of us go off on a tangent and just throw in ideas randomly.
It was great getting back together and just felt like yesterday and I mean that honestly , working on the album was as good or better than "Bridge".
We're 10 years older, almost, but it felt very fresh and more spirited, Mike have grown as a drummer and was absolutely nuts playing some of that hyper prog /metal madness. I've played with many of the new great musicians, but Transatlantic is special, there is and there was a very much magical energy from day one, almost explosive.
Besides all guys are extremely talented on their instrument and great players and composers. Between the 4 of us is almost scary how well and how fast we write, record. But speaking of it, maybe we're all thrown in the eye of the whirlwind and we just try navigate the Transatlantic ship out of the dark skies and into light with our music . It's a very powerful experience anyway, making music with Transatlantic, you can feel the energy on all levels,no doubt. I just hope we can take it to the stage very soon, or at least springtime 2010. I'm really,really looking forward to that.
Well let's come to the ideas behind "The Whirlwind". Musically as well as lyrically the album is one big concept album. Can you maybe say a little bit about the lyrical side of the concept?
ROINE: Well, Neal had an idea for a song called "Whirlwind", suggested by a friend, some time back, but only bits of that were used in the end, nevertheless we decided to call our newborn epic "The Whirlwind" anyway because it was fitting for our new piece of music . So the story of "whirlwind" is a combination of Neals, mine and Pete's lyrical ideas and we manage to make sense ( I hope) in the end because the topic and the idea was a metaphor for life's twists and turns and that we're ruled by a power beyond our grasp. (God !)
Well, life is a mystery in itself, we always hope for good things to happen every day, but they don't, some days are hard, turbulent for us, there is a long hard road to walk, we sometimes stray from it and sometimes the "whirlwind" comes and sweep us away into sorrow, bitterness or even hate, still we soldier on and try make things better. We lose our dear ones and we lose friends and we ask ourselves why, we just try make sense of everything.
"A Man Can Feel" is about mans shortcomings and fear in a turbulent society where those in powers, who could make a difference for the better , unfortunately chose to go the wrong route of greed, egoism and lack of compassion and maybe even lack of real love for all mankind. The future is "a scary prospect" with so much power in the hands of few and they have way too much business on the side where they profit. The western world have destroyed so many cultures and continents, religions etc . in the belief that all we do is superior and "for the good of mankind".
"Lay down your life" is, I suppose, about to lay your life in the hands of Jesus, that is not a bad thing in my book either. Jesus was so ahead of his time, so much smarter than the rest and with
insight to the universal mysteries and science. In Neals world to "Set us Free" is most likely to put your heart in the hands of the Lord, to take our sins and sorrows away. To me it could be the same, but I voice it differently and I find "freedom" in freedom of speech and most of all in "truth", or as Jesus said "The truth shall set you free".
In our society people are trying to tell you lies everyday, media lies, our leaders lie and they keep secrets away from us, it's a sad bunch, all for power, glory and money. I've told my kids to always tell the truth, no matter what and I told them I love them no matter what, but ask them to try do good things. I suppose that is what The Lord do with us too, just ask us to try be decent,to respect the 10 commandments, cause that would make the world a so much better place.
There is no way we could do an album that is NOT personal,this is not a light fun project that saw the light of day over a few beers and some pointless jamming, this is our collective hearts and souls put into it. It's real and we love every bit of it and are really looking forward to play it live soon.
What about the music following this concept? Did your songwriting evolve while bearing this concept in mind, creating songs for one closed circle instead of single songs, each one standing for itself?
ROINE: The music is anything from older song ideas to songbits written on the spot or jammed up in the studio, so it's a big mash of things and I feel that is what makes it interesting and very vivid.
There are songs,or sections that are more like separated song ideas and they weave together with chunks of jamming and instrumental bits, revisiting of themes etc. just like in a bigger orchestral work or classic music or even as a film soundtrack. We like the epic scale of music making and there is no denying we aimed for that.
We got together to write and to combine themes that Pete, Neal and I had been writing back at home, so we went on as long as there were new ideas coming up and we also went into extensive jamming, that spawned a few cool new themes too. We had talks about NOT dividing the music into pieces or songs but rather do it as one lengthy piece and to be honest I was against that, because I thought it was a bit predictable that TA would do just that , but the other guys convinced
me that it would be great with a comback with a bang - 77 min of a monster song!!! Ha -Ha !
What does Transatlantic mean to you personally in contrast to The Flower Kings?
ROINE: They are just very special people, very talented and very creative, I was in particular blown away by the excellent drumming from Mike Portnoy this time, he's even better than 10 years ago.
I think when we gather in a room magic happens, I can't say why, but I guess it's the creative flux of the Gods that shower down upon us. But I'm very happy that it suddenly materialized - and I must say that this recording have been the most rewarding so far and the one that got us all closer - there is no denying that the chemistry between the 4 of us is very special,once we get to work. This time it really felt like 4 very good friends (brothers) with equal say, getting together to write, laugh, eat and perform rather than a supergroup in assembly.
Flowerkings on the other hand is my baby 90%, I am behind the wheel there, making all the plans for tours and recordings and paying all people involved, so I'm responsible there but still have had lots of good coaching and wonderful friendship from the other members over the years.
In reference to your studio- and touring-experience with Transatlantic: Could you describe each one of your fellow musicians with one single sentence describing one of their main character traits?
ROINE : NO ......well seriously they're all great characters but I wouldn't be able to describe them, they're just very creative and spontaneous and full of music .
There are four cover songs on the bonus disc of the special edition of "The Whirlwind". Why did you choose these four particular songs? Did you choose the songs together or did maybe everyone choose one?
ROINE: The cover songs were mainly chosen by Mike , but we were all keen on "Giant Hogweed" and I loved "A Salty Dog" since I was 12 years old so that was a treat and the Santana tune came very natural and almost like a jam in the studio and it's fun because it was the first
song I recorded in a real studio back in 1971.
As you all know The Beatles thingie is a MUST for any Transatlantic record or live show so there you've got it, we did George Harrison's "I need You".
Rumour has it that there may be a Transatlantic tour coming next year? Any news about this? Will you tour Europe or the US or both? I hope you'll come to Germany again? ;-)
ROINE: Most certainly a tour in 2010. We will most likely tour with Transatlantic in USA and Europe in spring 2010, maybe South America,Canada and Japan. Personally I love playing to bigger crowds, I know some people like smaller intimate club gigs much more and I can dig that too but in fact much prefer a bigger audience on a big stage with full production, I simply feel more relaxed there.
Festivals I'm not sure about, maybe later, Transatlantic is a very complicated business on stage with zillions of synthesizers and guitar gear and I fear we won't be playing our best unless we get a fair chance of proper soundchecks, our own amps,own crew etc.
If the tour should take place: Are you looking forward to it? What's it like touring with Transatlantic?
ROINE: I'm really looking forward to it and hope we get the proper time to rehearse this time.
It's a great material and we probably play all of Whirlwind plus a few
"oldies". I think tickets will sell like hotcakes so this time it will be even bigger,we can do major halls.
You've already seen a lot of the world doing tours etc. but is there maybe still one special country you would like to play in and haven't had the chance yet? Is there some country you've already toured but would really like to tour again? What would be the reasons?
ROINE : I've never played in Australia, that would be fun or I'd imagine places like China would be great too , or I'd love to come back to Japan again, I haven't played there for 10 years.
Your past tours were documented in form of some great live DVDs and CDs. How are the chances that a coming tour will also be recorded to release another fantastic live DVD?
ROINE: I imagine it will all be filmed as that's the routine and I think it should be, as I'm personally more drawn towards live recordings in general. There seems to be a organic quality to it that get's you more excited than a full studio recording .
Finally one last question and apart from Transatlantic: Are there any news concerning The Flower Kings?
ROINE: We are taking a break at the moment but I'd imagine we may well start working on a new Flowerkings album in the next months for release in late summer 2010, but it's still up in
Personally I feel as inspired as ever and I think a few things like Transatlantic's - The Whirlwind, my new band Agents Of Mercy - "Fading Ghosts Of Twilight" and the new "3rd World Electric" fusion album are all very strong albums in their own right, so 2009 has been a very good year for me.
"3rd World Electric" was fun to do and something I've dreamt of doing for a long time, as I've grown up on Mahavishnu Orchestra , Weather Report, Headhunters, Billy Cobham etc. just as much as prog or pop. I even got to play with super fusion drummer Dave Weckl who has been in Chick Corea Band for ages.
Furthermore I feel the recent break with Flowerkings is healthy and something that most certainly will provide for a more inspired and different next release. But first a few other projects that I've been mulling for some time, the first being a new Agents Of Mercy CD .
Well, that's it already. Thanks again for taking the time to answer the questions! I wish you all the best for your future work with Transatlantic and the Flower Kings.
ROINE: Thanx for having me.