Interview with Tomas Bodin (The Flower Kings)


Bodin releases I AM, a 3 movement Progressive Rock/Blues Opera!

Tomas Bodin (The Flower Kings) recently released his third solo album, a conceptual project titled I AM. The album invites the listener onto a journey of a man’s life, from before life until after death and beyond. When asked to elaborate on the background of this album, Bodin kindly offered us his valuable time to answer (A) a few questions (Q).

Q: What is I AM about and how did the story come into existence?

A : Well, I AM is a story, partly picked from my own life. I guess the story itself has been with me for quite some time now. Also I AM is a statement from a spiritual point of view. I wanted to clear things up for myself. I guess making an album like this forced me to think in detail around the spiritual subject. Still I need to say that this is not a general “crusade”.

Q: Did you find what you were searching for?

A: I felt I needed to do this in order to go on with my life. This was just an important step for me to take.

Q: With I AM you turn to lyrics, a deliberate step considering you previous solo releases were instrumental?

A: Yes, I needed a new form of expression. I remember when I formed the I AM story, I started to feel I could write the lyrics without too much embarrassment. I guess I suffered earlier from a lot of perfectionism. Today I tell myself, “Progress is good but perfectionism is lethal”. That is a better engine!

Q: You also stepped up from a trio format to a septet?

A: From the beginning I planned for more people involved. I guess the original line-up was 9 persons, one more singer and another keyboardist.

Q: You refer to this album as a “Rock Opera”, still it is of some structural difference to the common conception of the term, isn’t it?

A: I know that I’m totally out comparing the I AM form with classic operas. I would say that my “Opera” reference comes from the “Rock Opera” Jesus Christ Superstar (Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice, the original album version with Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) on vocals).

Q: How detailed is your composition and orchestration work? In other words: to what level does the music depend on the input from your band? This is considering your press statement saying that this project is the outcome of an “dynamic interplay” with your vocalists.

A: I have very specific ideas about how things should be played. Still I believe there must be a cooperation between the composer and the performing artist. I always try to encourage the musicians to take creative steps when recording a track. Still, I have my veto if I feel that the artist is out of the “emotional line” — especially when we’re dealing with a conceptual piece like I AM. The most important thing is that every person involved is working without prestige. But to answer your question, during the production of “I A M” there was a big interplay between me and the musicians!

Q: You make it a point to let everyone know your influences for this album. Why?

A: I guess everyone is referring to different styles (i.e. “They sound like Genesis or the singer is sounding like Peter Gabriel”). For me this was more important now since I did change my style so drastically. I wanted people to know that this album was totally different from my previous albums.

Q: Looking at your band, there are some new faces to the crowd. What made Anders Jansson your chosen lead voice? And what’s his background?

A: First, he is a fresh face, which is good! Second, I worked with Anders on my last album, Sonic Boulevard. I realised then that Anders had a huge potential. Besides, he is such a nice guy to work with, he’s got a good energy! His background is more a live artist than a record artist. He has performed on a lot of stages her in Sweden and abroad since the mid 1980’s.

Q: Pernilla Bodin sings a beautiful piece called “Mother’s Heart”. Is she your wife and could you please tell us more about her musical whereabouts?

A: Yes she’s my wife and the funny thing is that she has no musical background whatsoever. The story behind this was that I had tried 3 different singers for the “Mother’s Heart” part. I wasn’t quite satisfied and was worried about how to solve this. One day Pernilla suggested that she could try to sing! I said “What…???” (I had never heard her sing before.) Anyway, after some discussion, I rigged the studio and we did a try. I felt in the end that her voice was totally perfect for that part! I think this is a funny story!

Q: And what about Helena Schönning, the other female singer?

A: She’s an old time friend of mine. I met her the first time during the 1980’s. Normally she’s a perfect ballad singer. She has a deep and soulful voice. The thing is that I asked her to sing the melody in a higher pitch. That made my day because she sounded a little bit like Kate Bush…

Q: What is your relation to guitarist Jocke JJ Marsh and how did he join in? He also seems to add a certain shade of blue to the sound, doesn’t he?

A: Yes you’re right, he is a true blues rocker! Anyway, my wife and Jocke are old time friends. She introduced me some years ago and Jocke and I worked together on Sonic Boulevard. The “Blues”, yes, my Rock roots are bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Budgie and Pink Floyd. Back in the old days I believe every guitar player was influenced by the Blues. So for me it’s natural to play the Blues based Rock.

Another funny thing is, if you look upon the prog world of today you could detect 3 major directions:

1. Metal/Progressive with bands like Dream Theatre and Pain of Salvation
2. Symphonic/Progressive with bands like The Flower Kings and The Tangent
3. Pop/Progressive with bands like Spocks Beard, Porcupine Tree and Kino

I was looking for a direction that suited me. So here we are: Blues Based Rock/Progressive!

Q: Marcus Liliequist joined The Flower Kings (TFK) just a few months ago, but you have known him for some time? Were you his door opener to TFK?

A: As a matter of fact, I was introduced to him by Jonas Reingold (bass, The Flower Kings, Tomas Bodin and several others…). I was looking for a drummer with a good rock attitude. Jonas told me he knew this guy and the rest is history… Yes, I felt that Marcus was the perfect replacement for the former TFK drummer Zoltan.

Q: Looking at the story of I AM, what is the Wheel Spinner?

A: The wheel has been a symbol of reincarnation for over 4000 years. The “Spinner” is the same as “Mr Life and Death” or God. In I AM it also mean continuation, life goes on.

Q: In “The Path Of Light II” you claim the sun is green. Please explain!

A: In the second verse of “Day By Day” (early in the “I” movement) Anders sings: “The Sun fed up turned grey”… Now I guess this is quite a common picture for life in boredom or when things go bad. (Life turns grey!) So what the character discover in afterlife when everything has become better (“The Path Of Light”) is that the Sun is green! This is perhaps not what you might expect (i.e. yellow), so I would say that this is the same kind of sickness you could find in a John Lennon kind of lyric.

But, the Sun and the sunbeams are also symbol for the “Spinner” or God. If you take a look at the cover art, you will then discover a greenish “sun” beaming on symbols representing the 5 big religions and more. Also, the “I A M” letters in the middle of the picture does not only reefer to “My story”. If you translate “I am” to Greek, you will get “Ego Eimi”. When the Jews translated the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek (year 200 BC) they used “Ego Eimi” for the word IHWH (Yahweh) which is the same as God.

Q: The “A” movement seems to be a turning point in the character’s life. What triggered this event? Was it anything out of your own experience?

A: Yes, in my early days I spent a lot of time using drugs and alcohol. In the end I felt I had to quit it all. So I guess the trigger was a wish for life or as Ella Fitzgerald sang: “I want to live, not nearly survive…”

Q: In I AM there are several beautiful piano solos. Considering your background, do you prefer the acoustic piano over the synthetic ones? (Geek question…)

A: Ha ha ha, well a piano is a piano is a piano! However, today we have many great synthetic piano sounds. You have to compare it to the sound you’ll get if you record a piano with a couple of microphones. This is not an easy task, so, I think that the sound itself is the minor problem. But if you talk about the feeling, playing the real instrument, then there is no competition at all!

Q: What are the chances of a live setup of I AM?

A: I have decided to do this live. I have already several of requests from promoters both in USA and in Europe. I don’t know when, but we will do it! The band name is “The I.A.M.”.

Q: With a conceptual album of this magnitude (having covered the lifetime of a man (and then some!)), where will you go next?

A: The next step is the second album in the I AM trilogy. The second album will be YOU ARE which will be a closer look at certain behaviours among people of today. I AM is a “take a look at yourself” kind of album. YOU ARE is more an extrovert experience! The third album in the trilogy will be HE SHE IT. This album will deal with different aspects of love. (I hope that love will override the madness in the today’s world.)

Q: You seem to be quite busy, do you manage to complete one project at a time or are you more of a “multitasker”?

A: I don’t know… I just love making music! I feel there are so much to do and so little time! Life travels fast! Still, progress is good, perfectionism is lethal! So there is a chance for longer life after all!



  • Frode Leirvik

    Frode was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Norway. His headbanging experience started when his brother-in-law gave him Deep Purple’s Fireball at the age of ten. Since then, he has also been a fan of and active in several other musical genres, resulting in a deep and profound interest in music. Some of his favorites, among all of those who have somehow managed to tap into the universal force of Progressive Music are (in no particular order): Thule, Dream Theater, King Crimson,Pink Floyd, Rush, Spock’s Beard, Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, Ekseption, Focus, The Beatles, Deep Purple and Frank Zappa.

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