If you want to see a hard-working guitar ace, look no further than Roine Stolt, who has been going non-stop for more than 25 years. The Swedish axeman is currently busy with two major prog bands, both of which have released albums in 2021; the Flower Kings launched Islands while Transatlantic offered The Absolute Universe in two versions. Does Stolt ever sleep?
You’ve been working ceaselessly. Describe a typical day for you.
Once I get the breakfast things out of the way, I go to work tracking guitar, mixing, or writing new material. I’m lucky to have my studio in the same building as my house, so I try to blend music with a normal family life.
I love my job, and I take nothing for granted. Over the last 25 years, I’ve been part of almost 100 releases with the Flower Kings, Transatlantic, the Sea Within, Kaipa, the Tangent, and Agents Of Mercy, plus my work with Jon Anderson and Steve Hackett.
The Flower Kings is your creative baby, but Transatlantic has three songwriters in three countries. How do you collaborate when writing long-distance?
This time, I probably put in the most work making demos, so I went into rehearsals with almost an hour and a half of music. Some of it landed on the new record, and whatever didn’t, I presented to the Flower Kings for Islands. The material was pretty much standard; we’d pick bits and pieces, and built them up from there. Besides that, we were recording in a top-of-the-line studio, Fenix Studios, in Sweden, with a big SSL desk and the finest converters available. There, we could play together to find an organic feel and get the tempos right. It always comes together in the end – but in all honesty, it’s sometimes a bit of chaos and battle of egos (laughs).
How do the Flower Kings’ Jonas Reingold and Transatlantic’s Pete Trewavas differ as bassists?
I’d say Pete has a more melodic sensibility than Jonas and plays more notes. Jonas, meanwhile, does a fair bit of fretless and has a jazzier style, which he does really well. Both have a very strong sense of rhythm and are among the very best players in prog today – definitely on par with greats like Chris Squire and Mike Rutherford in their prime.
“Take Now My Soul” has a fusiony solo that speaks to Allan Holdsworth – not your usual bluesy style.
Thanks. I don’t plan anything; all of my guitar leads on The Absolute Universe were 100 percent spontaneous. I just play whatever feels right. That one might have been a nod to Allan, who I first saw live in 1973 with the band Tempest. It was almost edited out, but Mike [Portnoy, drummer] and Pete said it had to stay in there – I’m glad they insisted. It’s my personal favorite solo on the Transatlantic album. I ran through it three times and then got lucky – the tones were just singing. The choice of notes of phrase were mine, with a touch of Swedish folk, far different from any modern shred scales or metal licks. I probably borrowed them from 1800s Swedish folk music for violin.
“The Darkness in the Light” has a particularly sweet tones. Which amp or overdrive pedal did you use for the solo?
That was a Mesa Transatlantic set in the Vox position, with a Keeley Aria overdrive pedal. The Orange 2×12 cab was miked with a Neumann TLM 103 through a Millennia HV-3D preamp, and it went straight into the DAW.
Why do you play a mid-priced Telecaster Thinline when you could have a Custom Shop model?
I could have a Custom Shop, but reality is when I bought the Mexi Tele almost 20 years ago, it was just so good. It had a stunning resonance – perfect pieces of tonewood – so I didn’t care where it was made. It was just the guitar. Now it has a new True Temperament fretboard, acoustic pickup, and locking tuners that make it my weapon of choice for live and studio work. Of course, I still have my ’53 Les Paul, an ES-175, a Custom Shop Stratocaster, a Parker, and Jet custom.
Is there anything specific about your playing that is innately Swedish?
That is not for me to say, but I guess there might be some elements of Swedish folk music creepin’ in. The rest is most likely just down to our regular European heritage. We live in Sweden, digesting this country and its cultural expressions – its mood, its colors. These days, I may not feel exclusively Swedish anymore because I collaborate mostly with musicians from other countries, but in the end, my history is here. My musical roots come from Swedish folklore.
This article originally appeared in VG’s June 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.