A Few Words With...Hasse Froberg

Interview and photos by John A. Wilcox

A mane of red hair, a gold Les Paul, and that pure, soaring voice - all the hallmarks of Hasse Froberg. Hasse Froberg & Musical Companion recently celebrated the release of their second album, Powerplay. Great songs and strong playing abound. As if that wasn't enough, the Flower Kings have just released Banks Of Eden - their first in years. It's a high visibility time for the very gifted Froberg. A perfect time for a sit down with Progsheet...

PS: What are you able to express with Musical Companion that you can't in the Flower Kings?

HF: Being the songwriter of HFMC, gives me a lot more freedom to express myself than when I'm playing with The Kings. I also have the opportunity to create how to present the band in a live situation. The main thing though, is that I can tell the guys out there (at least the interested ones), where I come from musically. To let my influences be heard. I mean, I truly love playing with TFK but I'm more of a singer/guitar player in that band. While in HFMC I'm in charge of things. What you hear and what you get is pretty much me (for good or for bad).

PS: Tell my how the band first came to be - how did you put these talented players together?

HF: It all started because of the break we took with TFK. It didn't take long before I realized I need a band, I need to write some songs. I'm gonna die, if I don't have any gigs or albums to record. Anyway, all of a sudden I started to write in a more active way than before and all of a sudden I felt I might have an album on my hands. The "thing" that really made me realize I have to do this, was when a friend of mine heard me playing the material on my acoustic guitar. It's a friend of mine that I know very well and when I saw that he got blown away by songs like Fallen Empire and Above (both songs ended up on FuturePast), I kind of understood that I might have something special going on here. Pretty soon after that I started to look for a band. First of all I phoned Ola (the drummer) to see if he knew any good players out there. The result of that was that he ended up as the drummer and he gave me the phone number to Anton. Do I need to tell you that I didn't need to look any further, when it comes to guitar players. I've had my eyes on Kjell for a while (keyboards) because of his playing with Glenn Hughes and Michael Schenker to name a few and he said yes right away about joining the band. Thomsson and me, we've been friends since we were 6 or 7 years old and we've played together in different bands on and off since the age of 12. I just thought it would be great to have him on board again, not just only for his musical skills. He's a hell of a fun guy to hang around with and that's very important, if you want to have the "right" chemistry in the band.

PS: FuturePast was a very strong debut. What sort of reaction did you get from the fans when it came out?

HF: At first I thought there must be something very "fishy" going on here, since the feedback from both "fans" and critics were almost over the top enthusiastic about the album. Personally I thought I was taking a big risk, releasing an album to mostly a prog audience with songs like Song For July and I Wouldn't Change A Thing on it. I definitely thought that first of all critics would hate the album because of those "light" almost "non proggy" tunes. Lucky for me, I was wrong, as it gained fabulous reviews almost all over. I'm not sure but I think people actually appreciated the organic live feeling of the album. The kind of "stripped down" sound with us playing live in the studio, with just vocals, solos, keys and some acoustic guitars as overdubs. To finish off the question, I like to think that the "popularity" of the album came to be because of the strength of the songs and the "neat and simple" production that maybe stood out from all the "over produced" albums we hear nowadays, with drums that don't even sound like real drums etc. When I record with HFMC, I have a very simple philosophy: "I want the audience to hear the person behind the instrument". That means it'll never be layers and layers of instruments on a HFMC record.

PS: Give me some background on the song I Wouldn't Change A Thing.

HF: Oooh...it's been years since I wrote that one. Anyway, it all started with that bass riff in 7/4 and the almost "classic soul" vibe you have on the verses. I came up with the bridge, the chorus and the melodies to it all very quickly but it took a while for me to find out what the song should be about. The song definitely has a certain feeling to it and after a while I started to write about how happy and proud I am to have my family, who's still around (after x years of touring with The Flower Kings and other bands). I'm still healthy (getting very close to 50 years old now... puuuh!!!), I still consider music to be the best thing in the world, both to play and to listen to. I also praise the fact that I have fantasies and dreams of my own, that no one knows or should no about and I guess I consider all this to be a blessing. I think what I'm trying to say is, as long as you have the basic needs and people that you love and loves you, around you, you shall be happy.

PS: Powerplay has a great feel to it. It feels like it would fit nicely alongside classic Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. How does Powerplay differ from FuturePast for you?

HF: Ooh, thank you!!! It has another kind of energy. To start with, the overall tempo of the album is a bit faster, the vocals are more "daring", the solos are more weird, beautiful or whatever, the rhythm section is more powerful, softer or whatever. To me, Powerplay is more of everything really if I compare it to FuturePast. Of course there's also similarities, like for instance the melodies. When I write, the melody always comes first. It doesn't matter how cool the keyboard or guitar sound is, if the melody isn't any good. I'm not saying I'm Paul McCartney or Stevie Wonder but I really try to focus on the melody when I compose. Anyway, another thing that might differ between the two albums, is the fact that I think Powerplay is heavier than FuturePast. The biggest difference though is that the songs on Powerplay have more advanced structures or arrangements. If you compare the two "epics" of the albums, you can see that Piece Of The Sky (FuturePast) has a couple of different themes, while The Final Hour (Powerplay) has lots of different themes.

PS: I love the lyric to White Butterfly. Can you tell me the background on it?

HF: It's too personal but I can give you a hint. It's one person that's very close to me that's had severe alcohol problems for a while. The lyrics is about me standing in the middle of it, sometimes angry, sometimes sad, hoping that it'll become better.

PS: Tell me the story behind My River To Cross.

HF: It's about people that has potential to become just about everything but are their own worst enemy (if you get what I mean?). You might be shy, you might be the worrying kind, you might be an alcoholic, you might even come up with bad or lame excuses just for not trying whatever it is you're about to try. For instance, I know a guy who's a fabulous bass player but he never plays in a band or anything. The reason for that, is that in "his world" he's too bad to play with the musicians or bands he's interested in playing with. In this very case, I think it's his self esteem that really needs a boost! In general, the lyrics to My River To cross is about to dare. Dare to step out into the unknown. It might be to ask a girl out for a date, ask your boss about raising the salary, or enter the stage........ I think you know what I mean.

PS: What was the inspiration for The Final Hour?

HF: If you're talking about the music, I don't have a clue. I actually wrote it very fast and the thing that was most important to me while writing the music, was to have quite short sections. I also wanted the dynamics and tempos to be "miles apart" in the song but still have themes that comes back again and again throughout the song, like for instance the melody of the first verse that comes back every now and then. I'm not sure I succeeded 100% but I think the song has an "aura" of it's own that I like very much. The lyrics is about the "little man" who's trying to hang in there, despite all the bad things going on around him. Both in his personal life and in the world.

PS: After a few years off, the Flower Kings have a new CD - Banks Of Eden. What's the vibe of the album this time?

HF: To me it's a more energetic TFK than the TFK you heard on The Sum Of No Evil. I know for sure that you'll recognize the sound, since all the key elements are still there. Still, in my ears there's a knew twist to the sound, don't know what though? It might be the new drummer Felix, it might be the songs, I'm not sure, but I think we sound "younger" and more alert and in my book that can only be positive!

PS: Tell me about Felix Lehrmann. What does he bring to the band's sound?

HF: It's the first time around we have a rock`nīroll drummer (Van Halen is his favourite band) on board and I think we can only benefit from that. Especially since he have those "smooth" jazz grooves as well (like Jaime, Marcus and Zoltan), that are very typical for the TFK sound. I think his "take no prisoners" attitude, is exactly what the band needs at this stage of our career.

PS: Any plans for the Flower Kings to do any live dates here in the US in 2012 / 2013?

HF: Yes indeed. I know it will happen but I don't know when. We got a new booking agency that's just as far as I know, started to book gigs in Canada, USA, South America and Japan. If you think of the huge European tour we're about to do this autumn, I think you'll realize that we're about to do our biggest tour ever.

PS: Please tell me 6 CDs you never get tired of listening to.

Queen - Sheer Heart Attack
Jeff Buckley - Grace
Genesis - Selling England By The Pound
Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Yes - Fragile
The Faces - Ooh La La


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