The first album of The Sea Within is set for release on June 22, and by now you’ve read all about it in our thorough review. If you haven’t, check it out here: https://lotsofmuzic.weebly.com/home/the-sea-within-the-sea-within-album-review-by-friedrich-stenzel
An ambitious mix of each members’ style and influences, The Sea Within may not be an album that grabs your attention at first. Like many great prog albums, it is best digested in small doses, where you can enjoy its twists and turn properly, and allow yourself to be slowly engulfed in their harmonies, riffs and melodies. Give it a spin and let it all sink in, then try again. We guarantee this will be a rewarding experience.
Lotsofmuzik’s Rodrigo Altaf had a chance to discuss this new release with their guitar player Roine Stolt. He spoke about the other band members and special appearances on the album, as well as his other plans with Transatlantic, Anderson/Stolt and many other endeavours. Check out the interview below:
Lotsofmuzik: First of all, congratulations on the release of The Sea Within’s first album – I’ve been enjoying it non stop since I received it. Tell us how the choice or scouting of each member of the band was made?
Roine Stolt: Let’s put it this way. I have played on record and live with three of The Sea Within members. Jonas (Reingold, bass) has been a member of The Flower Kings for a very long time, Daniel Gildenlow was also a member for two years, and he also was a touring member of Transatlantic around the time we did The Whirlwind. Most people know Tom Brislin (keyboards), from touring with Yes Symphonic, and he’s also played with Meat Loaf and Camel. He also has his own band called Spiraling, which is piano-driven pop music with touches of prog. We worked together in the Anderson/Stolt album, which we did two years ago. Marco Minneman I had never played with before, but we met in North America at some point, and we were in contact to discuss some touring before Felix Lehrmann joined the Flower Kings. He had some other touring commitments, I think with Joe Satriani or Steven Wilson at the time. It didn’t work out then, but we kept in touch. I was talking to the record label about doing something new and take a break from The Flower Kings for a while. Also, there wasn’t anything going with Transatlantic at the time, and I’m working with a second album with Jon Anderson right now, but as you know Jon is touring with his version of Yes, with Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin and they’re making a new album. So it seemed like a good time to try something new – new writing partnerships and playing with other guys on stage, so this is basically how this band was put together.
LOM: It’s an interesting blend of talents for sure. Was there any situation though, where there were conflicting ideas or opinions about songs? How to balance the egos and overflow of ideas?
RS: Definitely! We all have egos, no doubt (laughs). This is bound to happen when you put five people in the studio. I can’t think of a band that I’ve been in where everyone was totally on the same page. Sometimes it’s a bit more smooth, and sometimes it’s a bit more difficult to get to a point when we can all agree on something. I would be lying to you if I said that this time we agreed on each and every detail of the lyrics, the album cover, the mix…we didn’t. But at the same time it’s interesting to have a little bit of friction and to have someone stand up for their opinions. When we were recording the basic tracks in London, we had some great times and great dinners, and everyone got along really well, so that’s a great foundation to build on. If a band can play together but can’t be on stage together, then we have a problem, but this time I think we got along just fine.
LOM: You recorded almost two hours of music – did anything NOT make it to the album, and if so, has it been kept for a second release, or has it been discarded completely?
RS: I think we recorded a lot. There was something we did towards the end – possibly the last day – we worked on an experimental track that we didn’t use on the album. And I think we didn’t use it not because it wasn’t good, but because we didn’t finish it really. It was probably too experimental, so there was too much work needed to get all the pieces of this theme together and make it sound coherent. But we used everything else and experimented a lot. None of us really had a strong conviction when we finished those songs about them being in the album or about the sequence in which they’d be presented in the album. We got together, experimented a lot and played as best as we could.
LOM: The songs are split in the first “main” disc and in a bonus disc as well. What was the rationale behind having disc 2 not as part of the album?
RS.: To be honest, that was entirely the record company’s decision and recommendation. I wasn’t against it or for it, I thought they probably had a good reason to present the album that way – they kno the market better than I do. The four songs on the second disc are not second grade, it’s just the order in which they placed after we decided on the order of songs, and they ended up on the second disc.
LOM: You wrote the songs through a span of six months, and not always with everyone involved present – I guess this is the modern way of recording albums, but it still very much an organic effort, right?
R.S.: I think it is because we went to London together and sat down in the studio and played, jammed and recorded. Some bands these days are recording things on a computer and sending files to one another. I spoke to a journalist the other week and he said he spoke to a musician about a band, and this guy didn’t even know who the other musicians in the band were! That’s kind of weird – playing on an album when you don’t know anything about the other guys in the band. I’m not saying it can’t be made that way and be successful, but we’re slightly older and like to make records in the old fashioned way. The bulk of the album was finished in London and certain bits were finished at a later stage – some vocals and acoustic guitar here and there. But the bulk of the album was done together.
LOM: Of course we’re saddened by the news that Daniel will not join you guys for the first run of shows. At what point did you guys realize or discuss that he would not be available for the first run of shows?
R.S.: It was in London when we first got together and started to discuss the album. Once we sat in the same room we started to talk and realized that he’s planning a tour and some studio time with Pain of Salvation. He also has a young family – three boys at home. It’s a different case for me – my oldest son is almost 30 years old and they all have their own lives – but in Daniel’s case it’s understandable, he as to be there for them. He has Pain of Salvation which is essencially his band. And once we sat together and started to talk about touring, his preference was to continue with Pain Of Salvation, and I do understand that.
LOM: Did you invite Casey Mcpherson to sing on the album already in preparation for Daniel’s absence?
R.S.: Yes and no. Casey was in the plan even before Daniel, actually. I wanted Daniel in – I knew him from Flower Kings and Transatlantic as I said. I didn’t know Casey before this project, but he came on recommendation from other friends. When we realized that Daniel wasn’t going to be able to tour, Casey was fast in responding and helped us finish a few songs on the album, so that’s how things developed over time.
LOM: On many songs there’s a significant change from the starting point – there’s the saxophone solo on Ashes of Dawn and the jazzy breakdown on “An Eye For An Eye For An Eye”, just to mention a few examples. It makes it difficult to categorize the band, right?
R.S.: There were a lot of things that we weren’t in agreement about, but there was one thing we WERE in agreement about: we didn’t want to be a stereotype progressive rock band. We didn’t want to be another Yes clone or a Genesis or King Crimson clone. So we mixed all kinds of things together. Sometimes we sounded like a new age band, other times like a jazz band, a folky or psychedelic band…we mixed everything together, and out of the mix comes something hopefully a little bit more unique. We didn’t put any lids or limits on anything, and our composition was not by the book. If someone suggested a piano solo, like we did on “An Eye For An Eye For An Eye”, we went for it – it sounds like a crazy idea because that’s a very upbeat and rocking song, but it worked. I think that’s the case with great prog bands. King Crimson was the mother of all prog bands, and they wrote “21st Century Schizoid Man”, which is probably one of the first metal songs, and in the middle they have this crazy fusion jazz thing going on. The Beatles were also masters of that towards the end – they mixed a bit of everything.
LOM: Funny enough, the one song I thought was the most “straight ahead” songs of the album is Broken Cord, and it’s the longest one with almost 15 minutes – did you guys made a conscious decision to write one long song, or is this just how it turned out to be?
R.S.: That song was even longer – I think it had 25 minutes at least. This was something I sent in the beginning to Jonas and we were trying to make more concise songs. I remember working quite a bit on that song to try and make it more cohesive.
LOM: Let’s talk a bit about what I think is the secret weapon of the band - Marco. Are you used to working with a drummer who’s so prominent on guitar? He recorded some guitars on the album, right?
R.S.: The guitar he plays on this album was on the song “An Eye For An Eye For An Eye”. But if you listen to Marco’s own albums, he plays a lot of guitar. He has a style, and he varies between heavy riffs and some twangy 60’s sounding playing as well.
LOM: Jordan Rudess played on “The Hiding of Truth”. How did you guys think of collaborating with him? He’s in Levin Minneman Rudess with Marco, so I’m guessing that’s how the connection was made, right?
R.S.: Jordan was actually in the plan for the band in the beginning. He was asked to join and accepted to be in the band. But I think he was probably on a flight to Europe with Dream Theater, and the management team, when he dropped the news, someone was a little bit upset – I don’t know, but I guess that too many commitments for a guy like Jordan may not be a good thing, so he had to decline. And he has other commitments, he’s involved in developing new synthesizers and things like that, so he’s a busy guy. So he said he couldn’t commit to recording an album or touring and offered to play something on the album, and we accepted it. I’ve known Jordan for a long time, I thought it was a good time for us to do something together, and he played piano on one song, which is great. We’ll probably have a chance to play this song together on Cruise to the Edge, because he’s also going to be there, and hopefully he can join us.
LOM: And of course there’s a VERY special appearance by Jon Anderson which you mentioned earlier on, and I guess it stemmed from the fact that you already collaborate together, right? What can you tell us about the next album you’re working on with him?
R.S.: We started working on album number two about half a year ago, and we’re making good progress, but because of my commitment with The Sea Within, this has been put on ice. I also know that Jon is putting a live album and a studio album with Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman, so for the time being that’s where we are. Jon even brought in his son and they wrote a song together – a really beautiful song which has almost hit single potential to be honest. I hope we can carry that song all the way to the finished product, but I can’t really say when we’re going to finish it. I guess that once we do the first tour with The Sea Within I’ll get a bit more time and will be able to finish it – we’ll see.
LOM: Regarding disc 2, I think the most surprising one is “Denise”, which I thought was going to be a ballad, but it’s so dramatic, very tense in feel and execution – what can you tell us about that song?
R.S.: The initial idea for that song came from Jonas. He had the melody and some lyric ideas. I can’t remember now how developed the lyric idea was – if it came all from him or not. I remember I took the lyrics and rewrote some of it. The general idea was that of farewell – a father who committed some crime, went to prison and was going to the electric chair, so there was a dramatic effect to it. So we worked on that, and when Daniel came in he added some melody lines towards the end and started to build on the song. When we were in London to record we found this old keyboard – a harmonium, which has a distinctive sound, more like an organic sound rather than a sample. It was slightly out of tune and we used it anyway. I think this song works like a compliment to the more “streamlined” songs on the album so to speak.
LOM: The album has a beautiful cover art, done by Marcela Bolivar. What kind of input did she get from you guys to design that cover?
R.S.: Actually the cover was finished before we came along, and we were looking at a potfolio of the art she had done over the years. I don’t know Marcela personally, it was something we found on the internet. I found her some time ago and pointed it to my friend Nad Sylvain who now sings with Steve Hackett, and he used her art for an album called “The Bride Said No”. We were looking around for something that would work for the music we were making. In this case the cover works well on an LP cover and also on a backdrop.
LOM: I’m surprised that you guys didn’t give Marcela any direction, because the cover fits the name of the band and the sound so well!
R.S.: Yeah, and I think exactly like you, and this is what I said to the guys – it works almost like magic. I think that once you connect with the music, ten or fifteen years after you’ll look at an album cover and you’ll think that it fits with the music, but most of the time it’s just a coincidence. Why did The Beatles choose Klaus Voormann to design the Revolver album, or why did Yes choose Roger Dean to draw their covers? He made a career out of it and was connected to Yes forever with these wonderful covers. So I think you can’t really predict that, and there’s a little bit of magic involved. So I said to the guys: let’s not be too picky – look at it and see if it fits and if you get a good feeling and think about our music. If you get a gut feeling that this works, let’s go with it!
LOM: What can you tell us about the live set - will you prepare other songs to play live, or will your set be comprised of songs from the first album only?
R.S.: I think it will be the songs from the first album, and we’ll take certain sections of some of the songs and we’ll expand them a little bit. With wonderful musicians like Marco, Tom and Jonas, we can expand certain things to make them even more adventurous and interesting live. Once you have someone like Marco playing drums it sounds like a symphony on drums! We can play a few chords on guitar, and if Marco plays on top of it, it just sounds like a symphony (laughs). I think it would be stupid not to use these fantastic musicians to do something unique for our live performance. And we won’t be using any backing tracks. Without naming names, there are certain successful prog musicians touring out there who have everything on click track, pre-recorded vocals, people counting for them in their inner ears…for me personally that’s weird. I’m not speaking for the other guys in the band because they may have a different opinion, but I think the magic happens when you play for real on stage and take chances and risks and stretch and improvise – eventually you play a wrong note here and there, but it’s all about taking chances and inbetween the wrong notes, the magic happens.
LOM: When it comes to writing songs and lyrics, how do you know where it’s going to fit, since you’re involved in so many different bands and projects?
R.S.: I don’t actually, and I don’t think in terms of who’s going to perform it. All the time, I don’t know if I’m writing for Transatlantic or the Flower Kings. I remember writing something for a Transatlantic album which ended up on a Flower Kings album. Then one time on a tour bus someone put on the latest Flower Kings album and Mike Portnoy turned to me and said “hey, that’s OUR song!”. And I said “no, that’s a song that we rejected and I used it for The Flower Kings!” (laughs). So that’s how I do it, I just write music and present it and see whoever accepts it, and then I shape the music to fit whoever will be playing it, and they make it their own.
LOM: One question a lot of fans have been wondering about is – does The Sea Within mean the end of Transatlantic, or is another album in the cards?
R.S.: That’s impossible to tell really. I think that as it is now, Neal is busy with his stuff, Mike is out with Sons of Apollo to try to build and establish it as a new band, and he has a lot of other things too. So I can’t really see anything happening in the next year or two. For me, let’s keep it open – never say never! (laughs). I’m actually meeting Neal in Stockholm soon – he’s playing a concert in Stockholm soon, so I’m going to join him on stage and we’ll play a few songs. So we’ll meet and talk, and let’s see If something comes up.
LOM: So far there are only two confirmed appearances - Night of the Prog Festival 2018 at Loreley, and Cruise to the Edge in early 2019. What can you tell us about the other touring plans?
R.S.: There are touring plans, and we have a booking agent working on it now. Once we have the tourig plans set up we will announce the dates. We’re looking into Europe first and then North America and possibly South America. And there are also plans for Japan too. But that’s for next year. The general idea within the band was to release the album and let it sink it, and let people really get to know the songs, and then we’ll tour next year. That’s a new way of thinking – I’m used to just releasing an album and go on tour, but I guess this is how it’s done nowadays.
LOM: I think it makes sense, because it took me at least four or five listens to properly understand this album, and I still find new things here and there at every listen.
R.S.: Absolutely! I think there are songs on the album that probably stick faster – you listen to them two or three times and you start loving them. But there are other songs that will take ten or fifteen listens, and in time they will grow. Thinking back on music from the 70’s, how many times have you heard those songs until now? Think about Queen – when I first heard Bohemian Rhapsody, I wasn’t crazy about it, but every time you hear it, you start noticing all those little details, and it has a different impact than something you just heard last week. So it makes sense for us to let those songs sink in with the fans and then tour to support the album.
LOM: To finish off, where can the fans be aware of all things The Sea Within?
R.S.: We have a website set up, but it’s still under construction – www.theseawithin.net. Around mid summer it will look more like a complete website, with the band member’s bio, merchandise, links to the social networks etc.
LOM: Thank you so much Roine, I wish you all the best with the new release, and I hope to catch you guys on the road soon!
R.S.: Thank you, bye!
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