Hasse Froberg: “A good song is still a good song”!
Hasse Froberg is one of “The Flower Kings” and the only musician who I've not only “forgiven” but even loved as a vocalist and guitarist for the “Flower Kingdom” along with Roine Stolt. I didn’t know anything about his music before the TFK era but I headed to investigate some “rare” videos of the Spellbound band on YouTube because Hasse Froberg has invited some of the musicians from his (very) old band for his newest project - Hasse Froberg & Musical Companion (oh – HFMC is not a project but the band as Hasse says!). Actually I wasn’t so “spellbound” by this music and that’s why I was waiting for the HFMC album with some suspicion. Meanwhile, I was reading every line of Hasse Froberg’s notes on his FaceBook and MySpace pages with great attention - as a big army of prog-fans did! Serious “Prog experts” on musical forums on the Internet were predicting that “It will mostly be hard-rock music on a prog basis.” And “it will be a very dynamic one” – as personally Hasse said in an interview for the Russian “InRock” magazine. Fortunately, all the musical worries are in the Past, and only delight is in the Future! The album titled “Future Past” was released on August 27, 2010 through Reingold Records and after listening to it I can finally say that it’s simply excellent music – beautiful, energetic and melodious. It gives fans the real happiness of discovering something interesting and new - the same as it gives journalists wishing to know more about the personality of Hasse Froberg and his own music!
OP: Hasse, first of all I congratulate you on the release of this beautiful album! Really, as you wrote at your MySpace blog, it is “the best vitamin injection” we can get “before the autumn and the winter”.
HF: Thank you, Olga – glad that you like it!
OP: It’s such an interesting and unexpected thing in the “FuturePast” album that the classic rock tunes that can be shown in a “prog format” - some songs are more than 10 minutes. Hasse, do you keep all the ideas (in your mind or tape-recording) and then put them together, or there is one idea with its development?
HF: I guess it's different from time to time. I don't have a secret recipe that I can use whenever I like. It's more like the songs write themselves really. "Piece of the sky," which is the longest song of the album, was very easy to write. I guess I was lucky that the different parts "blended" so well together. I very often have a clear picture of how I want it to sound. I guess around 80% of the music that ended up on FuturePast is played almost exactly like I showed the lads in the first place.
OP: There is very "positive" feeling after listening to this album - it's not so close to The Flower Kings music but I feel this pleasant “flower deja vue”. So, as I may judge about this album, your contribution to the TFK music is more than we thought, isn’t it?
HF: I'm not sure but I guess I’ve put my element in there as well as all the others, mine being "Rock`n?Roll". I guess TFK would maybe have sounded a little bit more "fine", if I wouldn't have been in the band and then it's of course my voice.
OP: In 1997 Roine Stolt invited you…
HF: It was actually kind of funny! One afternoon I'd got a phone call from Roine. He was in the studio and he couldn't reach the high notes on one of the songs on his then-to-be-released album "The Flower King". A couple of hours later I had finished the lead vocals on the choruses of the song "The Flower King" and also some background vocals for some of the songs on the album. I think this was back in '94 and then I did a job on "Retropolis" as well. After that I joined the band in '97 for "Stardust we are", when the band really started to tour and work hard.
OP: Hasse, do you have any favorite songs of The Flower Kings?
HF: I love "City of angels" from "The Rainmaker", I also think "Lucy's dream" and "Minor giant steps" from "Paradox hotel" are killer songs and why not "The Merry-go-round" from "Stardust we are"?
OP: And which is the most difficult song of TFK in vocal meaning for you?
HF: "Love is the only answer" during our latest "The Sum of no evil" tour, was probably the toughest to both play and sing with my years with TFK.
Maybe it’s very difficult to sing things like “Only my blood” (song from the new album) “live”!
OP: Do you warm up before the concert? Do you have any special ways to do it? (For example, we have a famous film of the Soviet period, where a girl sitting at the piano breaks eggs on the nearest statue’s nose and has them to improve her voice!)
HF: Yes, I do warm up my voice before the show but I don't use any eggs! (Ha-ha!)
OP: Hasse, I like reading your blog with interesting and sometimes very funny stories, for example, about TFK. Has the HFMC got its historic moments already? (I like one of the moments from your diary: “Last night I even brought Thomsson to the studio to replace maybe 20 seconds of bass guitar, or to be precise, 16 notes. Now you may think I've become a perfectionist but I'm still far from it”).
HF: The night we had our "male bonding" could be a classic and then of course week 21 last year, when we did the backing tracks for FuturePast. Lots of great and funny things happened then, not to mention all the fun we had!
OP: The “Future Past” album has a long history (of recording), so I want to ask if it was difficult to keep it solid and integrated with the same mood and its special “chemistry”?
HF: You're right but you're wrong at the same time. Yes, Olga, it took forever to record! But the effective time in the studio was less than 300 hours and that’s not much. The problem was the logistics, to synchronize the schedules. Petrus (the sound engineer) is working full-time at Uppsala Statsteater as a sound engineer and they sometimes even hit the road. Every now and then it could take a month between the sessions, which was very frustrating at the time but that is forgotten now.
OP: This album has so positive an “aftertaste”. It’s energetic, dynamic… And if it is exactly your music, does it reflect your personality?
HF: I guess so, but most of all it's a mirror of my musical journey through the years. I guess you can hear echoes of TFK, Spellbound and even Solid Blue in there.
OP: Do you collaborate with the musicians and can they bring into HFMC music their ideas or are they only performers playing your music?
HF: In this case, the music was written before I had a band. In the future I wouldn’t mind if the guys contributed with a song or two, or helping out with the arrangements or whatever.
OP: Hasse, who is the first person you show your work to – who are your companions, people sharing the same ideas?
HF: Before the recording of "FuturePast", I tried the songs on my kids.
OP: At the age of 10 you played in a trio, as you wrote, “in ELP style”, so, Hasse, what kind of music was heard at your home when you were a child? Was it really ELP and other prog and classical rock stuff?
HF: At the age of 10, I don't even think I know who ELP were! Back then I listened to Deep Purple, the Sweet, Slade, Hep Stars (Swedish band) and of course the Beatles and the Stones that they played on the radio a lot. I also loved Tom Jones. Not long after that my neighbour Patric's mom "remarried" with an American man and he played us Yes and the Who, Led Zeppelin and the early Rod Stewart (Faces) stuff that really blew me away. Rod Stewart was the first concert I attended in 1976. The year after that I saw both Thin Lizzy and AC/DC and after that I was marked for life. There was no turning back!
OP: You define yourself as an “old-fashion” man – in what things you are really “old-fashion”?
HF: What I'm referring to is the way I play and listen to music. To me a good song is still a good song. For some of my fellow musicians over the years, it's more important to play the right chops and maybe play "laser tight". That's not that important to me.
OP: You say that you are not a professional musician. What does being professional means to you? Is it an official diploma or skills or something else?
HF: Professional musician to me, that's when it's your profession! You might be a violin teacher, working as a trumpet player on a musical, or making enough money on your music so that you can live on it.
OP: Oh – it’s difficult now and I read that you still work at the airport… And - you learned to play the guitar yourself, and worked as a guitar teacher for 2 years. What is the main thing to teach and to study on your mind?
HF: First of all, it's not easy to teach someone to play an instrument. I did take a course in the subject and I thought that this will be a piece of cake. When you sit there and you try to teach the kid who knows nothing, you can actually hear how weird and advanced, even the simplest thing sounds sometimes.
OP: Hasse, have you got a guitar collection (as for instance Steve Howe has) and do you have your favorite or very special one among your instruments?
HF: I mostly use my Gibson Les Paul (Gold Top) since it's the most all-round guitar I have. I also own a Stratocaster, a Telecaster and my own specially built "lefty", the Hagstrom Viking (that I use on the booklet). I also own an Ovation acoustic guitar and a Yamaha apx acoustic guitar. I'd use all of those instruments, while we were recording FuturePast, except for the Hagstrom Viking.
OP: Is it difficult for you to compose the lyrics or do the words come spontaneously?
HF: I've almost always had a hard time to write the lyrics. This time it was different, it was actually quite easy.
OP: The “Piece of the sky” and “I wouldn’t change a thing” lyrics are like very touching “mantras” - I believe in the power of these words! And, Hasse, maybe it’s so pathetic, but, seriously, - what would you like to change in our world?
HF: Jesus, that's a lot of things Olga, I don't know where to start. Why not try to end all the wars, what good can come out of that? I don't know if all the things that are happening now can be a coincidence. Too much rain, too much sun, too many thunder storms, the oceans are not feeling well anymore, too much of everything really. I just hope we can get it all right someday.
“Being the artist, the songwriter, the producer, the manager, the booking agent and last but not least the secretary is actually quite pleasant. There are not that many discussions and there's not that many people to delegate the orders to. The only thing that annoys me a little is that I'm always short of time, especially now when the album is released and you really wanna get this thing going”.
“Today I've been painting (the house that is). It's not my favourite hobby but it needs to be done”.
“If you're in the mood and you have the time, reading a book can be just like walking into another world, or stepping into another man's/woman's life. I love biographies. To read about Keith Richards or Led Zep (The hammer of the Gods), can be very interesting”.
“Back when the kids were young, every time at the last day in school before the summer break when they started to sing "Den blomstertid nu kommer", I started to cry. It was "happy tears", a strange combination of relief, happiness and of course I was proud over the two junior Frobergs. If you're talking about strong emotions, this is the winner”.
“Most of the time I think the world is a beautiful place and I hope that reflects in the music. I'm not stupid though, I know there's a lot of NOT so beautiful things going on out there and I guess you can hear that as well, especially in the lyrics, one of them being "Fallen empire".
Despite some not so positive topics, all in all (in my ears), this is really a feel good album!”
“Sometimes I've been angry and sometimes I've been frustrated that we haven't been able to finish this recording earlier. Now that it's done, it's a relief, but at the same time it feels empty. I've been living with those songs, those arrangements, those mixes for so long now, that it actually feels strange, that there's nothing you can do about it anymore. I know this production might not be perfect but at least it's honest”. Read more here.