NEAL MORSE and ROINE STOLT Talk TRANSATLANTIC’s “The Absolute Universe” Record: ‘This Is Us Attempting to Take an Album Where No Band Has Gone Before’

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When TRANSATLANTIC released their debut album at the turn of the century, fans of classic symphonic progressive rock rejoiced. The combination of Mike Portnoy, Neal Morse, Pete Trewavas and Roine Stolt resulted in a powerhouse of prog material that can only be described as epic. They took an extended sabbatical following their follow-up “Bridge Across Forever” but triumphantly returned in 2009 for the much-loved concept album “The Whirlwind”. Now, seven years after their previous album “Kaleidoscope”, Transatlantic finally returns again with an approach that eclipses anything they (or virtually any other band) have ever done. “The Absolute Universe” is offered in two distinct versions: one with a running time of 90 minutes (the “Forevermore” version), and another at 60 minutes (the “Breath of Life” version). But the twist is that not only are some songs left out of the shorter version; rather, each version contains different arrangements, instrumentation, singers and lyrics in various places. Indeed, the shorter version even features an extra song not found on the longer version! A Blu Ray will be released featuring a 5.1 surround mix which incorporates aspects of both versions, essentially creating a 3rd edit mix. 

To make sense of it all, Sonic Perspectives correspondent Scott Medina spoke with Neal Morse and Roine Stolt at length separately. However, in the spirit of the approach of the album, we have combined both chats into one overlapping interview which brings much of the material together into one transcription. Consider the transcription as our Ultimate 5.1 mix which brings the best of both interviews together. Enjoy reading about it all below, and prepare for the TRANSATLANTIC dirigible to lift off again this February as it tours the Absolute Universe! Remember that for more interviews and other daily content, make sure to follow Sonic Perspectives on Facebook, Flipboard and Twitter and  subscribe to our YouTube channel to be notified about new content we publish on a daily basis.

TransatlanticPhoto by Tobias Anderson

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Hi everyone, we’re pleased to bring you news on the upcoming Transatlantic album “The Absolute Universe”, which features multiple versions of the album in a variety of ways. We’ll explore these distinctions with two of the main architects involved: Neal Morse and Roine Stolt. You guys have really been charting out new territory here, where few bands – if any – have gone before. So what’s your account of how the band got to this finished product of multiple versions of the album? 

Neal: Well really, the reason why there’s two versions is…[long pause]…it’s all my fault, Scott. I take full blame! The short version of that story would be that we did the initial tracking in September of 2019 in Sweden, and then Mike came here to Nashville to do his drums in November. And then I did my parts in December and January. And then I went to Australia to do some gigs and took a vacation in New Zealand. That’s where I got inspired and started writing [solo album]“Solo Gratia” and I got so deep into that, I got completely away from the Transatlantic album. So when I listened back to Transatlantic in mid-March 2020, I just kinda thought… Well, let me say that on a lot of albums of recent years like “Similitude” and “Great Adventure,” when I got away and I listened back later, I came away thinking like, I don’t think we’re quite done…I think it needs more. But with the Transatlantic album, my reaction was: I don’t know, this might benefit from some editing! And there were some people in the Transatlantic camp that were trying to keep it to a single disc earlier when we were in Sweden. And oddly enough, I think I was more in the double-disc camp at that time because I felt like we had so much music that we just needed to have time to get it all in. But then I listened back to it in March and wasn’t sure so I just kinda did a rough edit one day and I sent it to the band, in an email with the subject line that said, “Am I crazy?” And I figured that they were just probably gonna say, Yeah, you’re crazy. You know, let’s just do what we have. But there were some in the band that thought perhaps maybe it was better if it were shorter. And when I was cutting songs out – just so you know, I was an equal-opportunity editor, [laughs]it wasn’t like I cut out all of just one guy’s parts or anything like that. There were a lot of things that are not on the shorter version that we wrote together or that were from my demos, my original demos. So we went round and round about that until May! We had a Zoom meeting and we were kind of divided over it. And that was when Mike had the idea of: What if we release them both? See, we were thinking that what we would do is have one of the versions be the frontline version and the other version be the bonus version. So it was really Mike’s brain child to release them both at the same time. And then we had to ask the label what they thought about that, you know, would they do that? They were a little concerned about the charts because to have a release that is divided in two means you probably won’t chart as well, but they finally just said, If that’s what you guys want to do, okay. I mean, really, hats off Inside Out. They just always give us absolute creative control. It’s just great.

Mike PortnoyPhoto by Tobias Anderson

Roine: I suppose it’s the fact that we maybe had a little bit too much time [between recording sessions]and then I think certain question marks came up. Back in the old days you went into a studio somewhere, in Stockholm or in London or in New York and you spent maybe 10 days or two weeks recording an album and then you came out with a mixed finished album. And nowadays that’s not the case, you can go on forever. I would say in a way it’s good because you can really work all the details on an album. But at the same time, I fear that sometimes if you go back too much we start questioning stuff. I think that’s basically what happened. 

I think we started around the 15th of September, 2019, and then I think it was kind of put on the shelf for a couple of months because all of us, we were out touring. Neal and Mike were probably out with Flying Colors and Pete possibly with Marillion. And I went out later at the end of the year with The Flower Kings touring in Europe. Then finally around Christmas time we started to reconnect to finish the album, but then strange things happened. And then I went to Japan to play with The Flower Kings and we learned about the serious situation with COVID. And then everything had to change in a way, everyone was sort of locked down in their hometowns and studios. So we needed to find a way to take what we had, what we did in Sweden and make an album out of it. But I think it was a strange album in a way, because it was started and then there was a gap of a couple of months. Even though I have to say, when I got home from the studio in Sweden in 2019, I pretty much started working a bit already with guitars and some vocal stuff because it felt to me like I was in the zone once I got home. I’d rather do that than sort of reconnect a couple of months later. I mean, it’s difficult to explain, but when you’re working with the material, then you’re in the zone and then you have all these ideas. But if you leave it on the shelf for a couple of months, then you need to reconnect. If you’re lucky, you can do that. But I mean, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get back into the same zone and then you start questioning…what did we do? Is this really good? Et cetera, et cetera. 

So, it went from there and we weren’t in agreement that the double album was perfect as it was, so I think the idea came up to make a shorter album. And then half of the band said, Oh, no, no, no, let’s keep the long version, there’s lots of great stuff in there. And the other half the band said, Ah, it’s probably better if we cut it down to a single album, et cetera…is this too much maybe, or are there too many songs, or do we need all of these songs, et cetera. So we ended up in that situation until Mike came up with the idea that we can actually make BOTH.

On the Forever mix, the extended 90 minute album, it feels like we’ve got a lot more of your guitar on this version. It’s kind of feels like the Roine Stolt mix. Was that intentional? Were you kind of shepherding this version of the album? 

Roine: Yeah, that’s what happened because when Neal said he wanted to sort of try to cut down the album because it was too long, there was too much music and then Mike came up with the bright idea to have both versions – have the long version as we wrote it in Sweden and then have a shorter version which is easier to digest. Then I think Mike said, well Neal then you can sort of coach the short version and do with it as you want and Roine can have his wild epic fantasy with the “Forevermore” version. So yeah, of course there’s a bit more guitar there. I played a lot and I wanted it to stay in the recording because sometimes you play lots of stuff and then you get back the mix from the engineer and then you realize that lots of the guitars are edited out. But if there’s still an original rough mix laying around, and then you come across that rough mix years later and you hear all that cool stuff that was just edited out, then you wonder, Why did we edit that out?! So that’s usually something that comes up when there’s a remix, whenever people do remixes of some album, then you hear like a different keyboard take or different synth solo or different guitar solo or different backing vocals. That’s kind of cool, you know. But yeah, I probably went in a little bit more aggressively with all the guitar overdubs, trying to create a great sound. So I think this Forevermore album is mostly true to what I’d like a Transatlantic album to be, or what my guitar should be in Transatlantic, which is kind of a good solution because you have both versions. So for those who can take a little bit more details and a little more guitar playing, or a few more synth or orchestration thing, I think “Forevermore” is a gold mine. And then you have the other version that is equally great in its more scaled-down version. So yes, I was sort of guarding the longer version and Neal was guarding the shorter version.

Pete TrewavasPhoto by Tobias Anderson

Neal: Well, that was Mike‘s idea, yeah. I wasn’t so sure about it at first. But ultimately I was convinced. I was just glad that we were able to come to an agreement. Everyone got on board with that. Part of the thing that was cool was that Roine was given the overseeing of the long version that I was given the overseeing of the short version. I think that was a cool thing because then it was clear. It’s not that the other band members weren’t involved, but sometimes it’s good to have it established who has the final say, otherwise if there’s no actual leader of any kind, then it can just be confusion, you know? And so I thought it worked out well. So then Rich went to work mixing it over the summer. Man, he took forever! He took so long on this one. I think he had some studio problems too. But yeah, this album goes down in the record books of my recording life as being the longest process and the most work I’ve ever done on any release that I can remember!

So once the decision was made in the Spring to do both versions, did you guys try and make the two versions as different as possible from there on out? 

Neal: Yeah, that was the goal. And that was really fun for me creatively. Once we gave up on having a definitive version, so to speak, and I was kind of given pretty free rein with the short version – which was really cool of the guys, I thought – I got to just kind of go for it. I started slicing and dicing and then did all kinds of stuff! I changed the whole first song with different lyrics and different singers. Up to the last minute, even into October – we were supposed to deliver this October 1st – but I don’t think that the long version was signed off on until maybe the second week of October, and THEN Rich started on the Breath of Life version! So this went into November. But I would listen to it and go, Oh, you know, Pete should sing this part! And Mike, would you… So I was firing off emails to the guys into October like, Hey, can you re-sing this and send it to Rich? It was insane. I can just tell you, it was pretty crazy all the things that were going on, cutting out whole songs and writing “Can You Feel It” and putting it in there. A song like that kind of changes the whole flow, you know, it has a different flow. So as I listened through, I thought, Well, you know, it doesn’t really make sense to come down a little bit into “Lonesome Rebel” here, because we want to just ramp up to the end now. So that’s why I put “Can You Feel It” in there. I had a reason for everything that I did, everything that I wrote in the rewrite period. It was a ton of work. So it was a whole other month of my life working on just the short version. But I’m glad to have been able to do it. I hope it’s a blessing to everybody, having so much material to go through!

Roine: The reality was that yeah, I did quite a bit of guitar on the ‘Forevermore” original version, so I think it got to the point where Neal at some point said, Oh, there’s plenty of guitar, there’s a lot of guitar here! And I said, Yeah, there’s a lot of guitar [laughs]and I kinda like it, you know, but you’re free to take out whatever guitar you want to take out in the short version. That’s fine with me, because we have both versions. So I think that’s probably a good thing to have different takes on basically a lot of the same songs, but you can hear the different mixes. 

It’s a mindblower for sure. Whichever version you start listening to and getting into the cells of your body and getting used to, then you go to the other versions and it’s a mind-bender. You think you’re listening to the same song as the other album but suddenly, no, it’s not. There may be a different singer or sometimes there’s the same singer and different lyrics. Like “Heart is Like a Whirlwind” and “Reaching For the Sky” have different titles but largely are the same song, and Neal is singing on both of those but there’s whole new lyrics and melodies for each song, which is really just mind blowing when so much else is the same. So did you guys write new lyrics for each version or were those earlier drafts that got included? 

Neal: What happened with the lyrics on my end was that the first draft would have been in March of 2019. That’s when I was working on demos for the sessions. At that time I was kind of thinking that we might want to do a follow-up to “The Whirlwind.” And that’s why there’s these “Whirlwind” references in some of the lyrics. But then when we got together in Sweden, the band didn’t want to go that direction, but some of the lyrics sort of lingered and remained. I couldn’t think of anything else to say that sang as well like “your heart is like a whirlwind“!  That really felt good. We kept that in both versions. But then the next phase of lyric writing was the December/January phase. And then I started – I don’t know why – but I started writing about some of my time from when I was in my twenties. I got into this author named Ayn Rand, who wrote a book called “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged“. And she’s kind of the mother of Libertarianism. She wrote a book called “The Virtue of Selfishness” and there’s a whole kind of world of philosophy and living that sprang from her books and her thinking. And so I spent some time in that, and then I was writing about that and where it led me. That’s why there’s those lyrics about Howard Rourk who was the main character in “The Fountainhead“. So I’m writing about how I went down this road of selfishness basically, and then how the Lord brought me out of it and how much better it is to not be in that place. [laughs]That’s what I’m singing there near the end with. “I lived that life. I testified. Dwelled among the sons of pride. It only left me cold and alone…keep looking for the light.” Then the third draft of lyrics was in the midst of the pandemic! So in June and July of 2020 is when I was doing the rewrite. And so the new lyrics for “Reaching for the Sky” are all relating to America in June of 2020, where there’s lots of rioting and the pandemic. So that’s why there’s references to going to jail and different things relating to that. Like the different lyrics to the verse of “Take Now My Soul” is having to do with the shutting down of Nashville, like how we thought in the summer that things were going to get better, but they didn’t. So it’s kind of a hodgepodge of lyrics from my end. I don’t know all of the inspirations that Pete and Roine had for their lyrics. But somehow in a miraculous way, I think it all fits together rather nicely. I can’t really explain that, except that I think God’s involved in orchestrating all of these things. So that’s great. 

Roine: There was something in Pete’s lyrics that had some kind of weird connection with the situation we ended up in. I think maybe he rewrote some of it, but there were some references even in his initial demos…which is kind of odd because when I listen to it now, I think How could he know that we’d be put in a situation like this with COVID and the world shutting down and a pandemic? Because I can sense there’s something in there in his lyric! But maybe it was just a coincidence, you know? 

It does sound like a main theme of the album focuses around the ego surrendering to love, and that would lead you to a place like you just said, with all of these different aspects, different lyrics, different authors of the lyrics all coming together somehow by surrendering to this return to love at the end. 

TransatlanticPhoto by Tobias Anderson

Neal: Yeah. Yeah that’s definitely it. And the “Whirlwind” concept still fits too because it’s like all the turmoil and Roine is writing a lot of stuff about all the issues in the world, like the world we used to know is slowly fading away. And Pete writing about solitude and that it when it came, it was worse than expected. That he kind of went into his solitude place, but then he found that coming into a place of love was still possible, and the means of deliverance. 

Were there more political overtones in the songwriting than ever before in a Transatlantic album? 

Roine: Uh…yeah…[Laughs] I suppose I’m the guy to ask! For me, it’s not like I think that okay, let’s write some political lyrics… I wouldn’t say they’re really political, it’s more like a social observation maybe [laughs]…or possibly a political observation. So it’s not like it’s red or blue, or it’s not like it’s left or right. It’s more like a view of the situation the world is in right now. At least for me personally, it is very difficult to just look away. I can’t. And I don’t want to try to be some kind of a Swedish Roger Waters or anything like that, but I kind of end up in the same spot, I suppose. I know that some people get upset by that. But with music and being an artist, it just comes with it…you’ve got to have the freedom to write any notes you want and to play any rhythm you want or play any notes you want. And at the same time, you have the freedom to write the lyrics you want, and you have the right to sing them any way you want. Because if the audience starts dictating what you’re supposed to do, or saying go back to how your third album sounded or go back to write those songs like you did back then, you know, then I think it’s it’s not worth doing it. I can’t really see myself being dictated by fans what to stay away from or what to write. So it’s not really about being political. It’s just being very honest with telling who I am.

There’s one lyrical theme that comes up a lot on this album. It’s the “Belong, belong, better to belong”. What’s that all about? 

Roine: Well, that’s something I had in some of my demos. There were plenty of demos and I had it somewhere. For whatever reason, I just liked it and I sang it on the initial recording we did. And then I think someone said, Shall we really have that one in? And I said, Yeah, I kinda like it. And then else said, Yeah, I like it! It’s kind of catchy. The idea of “belong” is to belong to something, because I think the disconnection that you can see now is that we’re more and more getting disconnected. Yes, we’re connected with all the fantastic mobile phones and social media and with our iPads and everything there’s lots of connection. But at the same time, there’s lots of disconnecting  happening at the moment. Talks about anything: life, philosophy, music, religion, whatever you’re interested in… these happen nowadays mainly if you have an account and you put up a one-liner somewhere, and people react to that. In the big picture I think also young people have the need to feel that they belong to something. And it really doesn’t matter what it is. It could be a political movement, it could be a religion. it can be saying Yeah, I’m a Grateful Dead fan or I’m a Yes fan or I’m a Pink Floyd fan. You got to belong to something or you’ll be disconnected. And I think it’s dangerous to be disconnected because then you’re just swirling around in empty space. I think the defining thing about religion is to belong to something. People feel that they belong to the community, they belong to something, a certain belief, you know, or a worldview. I think it’s incredibly important these days. So I wanted it to stay in the album and after a while I think people got used to it [laughs]and so it stayed in all the way to the end, to the final mix!

Right at the start of the actual track “Belong” there’s these pygmy-like cries or something. What are those?

Roine StoltPhoto by Tobias Anderson

Roine: Oh, yeah! That was a sound effect I found some somewhere and…I don’t know, really. Sometimes you just find something and you try it and you put it in and it just sounds right. It’s a presence of something else or someone else. I used it in The Flower Kings also, like there’s an African tribe coming up with some chants somewhere or some Mongolian monk or something. It’s just a flavor, like a reminder of a world that’s not about Sweden and not about the United States being the center of the universe as some people think. It’s about that there’s a world outside there, that there are people living somewhere in the Himalayas or in Tibet, or nomad tribes somewhere in the desert and they have a language and they have music and they have other lives. So it’s like opening a door to something that belongs to the big picture.

Neal, If we look at a song like “Take Now My Soul” (or on the other album it’s called “Swing High Swing Low”), in your vocal entrance to that song and the chord progression, there’s a big similarity there to “Rose Colored Glasses” from The Whirlwind. I was wondering if that was intentional to connect the two in some way?

Neal: Well, that thought was brought up at the sessions in Sweden. I can’t remember now, I’d have to listen back to find out if that was taken from a demo of mine or if it was written in the room. I don’t remember, but I remember particularly when we came back to it. When we were creating the end section and we landed after the big theme and Mike said, Oh, you should play a little piano and then sing something. What could you sing…what could you draw from, from the album that you could sing slowly? And I tried a couple of different things. And then I tried drawing from that verse of “Take Now My Soul” and he loved it. He loved it, but somebody said, Hey, is that too much like “Rose Colored Glasses“? And, uh, I think it was determined that if it was, we didn’t care! [laughs]  Some of us were wanting to do some nods to “The Whirlwind.” In fact, when Mike and I were discussing on the phone possible album titles, he asked me, Hey, is there some title that we can come up with that would somehow reference “The Whirlwind” but not be like, Oh, it’s a sequel? Mike thinks of this – and I liked the way he puts this – he says that he feels like it’s a spiritual companion to “The Whirlwind.” Like not a sequel, but a companion. And so he was looking for something in a title that would possibly reference Whirlwind. So I think I emailed him a couple hours later after thinking about it and suggested the “Breath of Life.“

Similarly, Roine there’s this track called “Owl Howl” which is one of the really, really cool songs on here. When you come in with your vocal entrance, it has a very similar feel to “A Man Can Feel” from The Whirlwind album. Was, was there an intention there to connect the two in some way? 

Roine: Not really, I think how it came about, this was a riff I had lying around for some time. So it wasn’t written specifically for Transatlantic. I felt like this riff is cool but what am I supposed to sing over this? And then I just came up with the idea that maybe I shouldn’t really try to sing a great melody…Maybe I should just try to do more like my Iggy Pop or dark David Bowie thing or Frank Zappa thing, you know? Everything comes very natural, you know, so when you have this riff, it just puts you in a place where it’s slightly darker than what would normally be a Roine Stolt song [laughs]where you’re closer to the light.  The riff in itself is… I wouldn’t say it’s sinister, but there’s some bite or edge to the riff itself, you know? Even the vocal sound, I think I printed this delay on it and I said that I’d rather not leave it to anyone else to mix it because I know exactly what kind of a vocal sound I want, heavily compressed and heavily double-tracked delay, because it gives a certain sound or certain flavor that I think absolutely matched the lyrics. 

There’s a songwriting approach I would call a psychedelic power pop style, a late-era Beatles and Queen vibe that you guys have used. Neal uses it with his band, Flying Colors uses it a lot, The Flower Kings have used it like in the song “Black Swan” on the last album “Islands” and now on this Transatlantic album it’s the “Rainbow Sky” song. Who wrote that song “Rainbow Sky”? 

Roine: Right. Neal wrote “Rainbow Sky“. And the funny thing is, that’s one of the songs he wanted to lift out! That’s lifted out of the short version. To be honest, when I heard his demos, that was actually the song I liked the most! That was really something. I said, Oh yeah! Let’s do that one! I love that one. As you say, it’s a little bit of Queen, maybe more of the Beatles, I don’t know. But it was just like a happy song and it was catchy and I just instantly liked the song. And then I was really disappointed when he said, Oh, I don’t know. I want to leave that one out. It doesn’t feel right yet. But I said [enthusiastically], Yeah, It feels right! That’s the best song! 

Neal: Yeah. That was from one of my early demos. Well, to me it’s like scenes in a movie. You might really like the scene, but does it belong there? [laughs]I don’t know! I like both versions, really. It’s all really just preference and taste. I just felt like it was a little stronger without some of those things. But I could be wrong. So now you guys can decide! 

Roine, someday in the future – who knows when that day will be – but when you’re standing on stage with the Transatlantic band and you’re playing this album, do you think your fingers are going to get to play all of the guitar notes from the Forevermore version? Will all that guitar be present live, do you think? 

Roine: I would guess that if we get to a point where we can do it, I don’t think we’re going to play the “Forevermore” version. I think we’re going to probably play more like the 5.1 version that is like yet another edit of that has a bit of “Forevermore” and has a bit of “The Breath of Life.’ I’m just guessing now, we haven’t even talked about it, but I would guess that Mike will probably suggest that we do a mega version that is a compilation of the Forevermore and The Breath of Life. I could see that happening. And will I get the chance to play the guitar parts? [laughs]. Well, I don’t know! I will probably play them regardless if I get a chance, I think it should be played in its full glory. But then again, when we play live we usually have one helper guy, either Daniel or Ted, helping with synths and guitars and percussion and extras and vocals. So I think it’s maybe too early to tell how we will actually do a live version of it. Also since the band has been away for some time, I would imagine that we would play some old music because I mean, like it or not, when you go and see an artist, you don’t only want to hear the latest album. Usually what ends up on the fans lists are normally older songs and not whatever was on your latest album. The older songs seem to be what kicks people into euphoria. 

It’ll be interesting to see though if there is a shift now. There’s been so much new studio music coming out because of the COVID situation and with no live performances, I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time concerts happen again – maybe the latter part of 2021 – that people will actually want to hear a lot of the studio music they’ve been listening to for the last 12 months. You might have people just as excited to hear just the new Transatlantic album or just the Island material, as much as the old material. It could shift some of those dynamics. 

Neal MorsePhoto by Tobias Anderson

Roine: Yeah, it could be as you say. I mean, normally when we do an album with The Flower Kings, maybe like two weeks later, we go on tour. And that’s probably too close. People haven’t had the time to fall in love with the songs. They haven’t had the time to live with the songs. So probably you’re right. Maybe this time that passes now will give the later material the chance to be a little bit more loved [laughs]and wanted in concerts. It’s possible.

So after all these years with all the different bands that you’ve been forming and been part of, at this point, how do you hold Transatlantic in contrast to all the other musical projects that you’re involved with? 

Neal: You know, the dust has to settle for quite a while for me sometimes, to really get perspective. I’m not that great at getting perspective really quickly. It’s not a strong suit of mine. That’s why a lot of times I come back months later and go like, “Hey guys…” [laughs]Mike’s really fast. You know, he seems to just do things, love it and move on. I’m a little different than that. And it was always hard for me in Transatlantic. When we did the first album, we were moving so quickly that we’d come back in to listen the next day. And we’d be listening to what we recorded and I would not know what was coming next! To me it was just moving too quickly for me to know whether it was good or not. But I learned a lot about trust through Transatlantic. But see, I didn’t know them then. We met in the lobby of the studio where we made the first record and I didn’t know them very well as we had just met! And so it was difficult to trust, but I learned a lot because some of the things that I was kind of against wound up being some of my favorite parts on the first album. So, I’ll say this, on my Waterfall app that has everything that I’ve ever recorded and every release that I’ve ever been involved with, I find myself gravitating a lot towards listening to the Transatlantic stuff if I’m just hanging out and I want to listen to something. I actually listen to Transatlantic quite a bit. Maybe a little bit more than some of my solo things. There’s just something about it, I don’t know. I love particularly the space on the early records. Where there’s only just the four instruments playing. There isn’t a lot of overdubbing and I liked the space of it and I just think the Lord really blessed a lot of that stuff.  

Roine: I think it’s one of the trademarks of the band, you know, that we have four guys singing and I’m not talking about who’s the better singer. I think we all can agree that Neal is the best singer in the band, but this is more that there’s something about having a band where everyone can sing. Singing just like the Beatles, you know, or Fleetwood Mac, they had three singers. And although there’s lots of like big, epic, massive vocal things, but sometimes the things that stand out are the more simple direct things. And I think we need that too, you know. I think for every band, I mean, Yes had it, Emerson Lake and Palmer had it. There’s always like a Long Distance or Lucky Man in there that you can sing even after 20 years. Like if you ask me to sing any Emerson Lake and Palmer thing that’s instrumental, I can’t do it, but for sure, I know Lucky Man! I can’t sing all of the Gates of Delirium, but definitely some of Roundabout and Long Distances and Wonderous Stories, you know? So I think it’s important to have those little bits of very simple music. I really can’t see Transatlantic doing something that’s really too poppy or sounds too cheap or too easy listening, because it’s surrounded by really epic stuff, you know? And I think the blend between the poppy stuff and the big epic stuff, I think that’s the blend that actually makes it very, very interesting. Even in the later Beatles album, you had it. I really like that with Transatlantic, the blend of all styles.

TransatlanticPhoto by Tobias Anderson

What else have you both got planned for 2021? Roine, is there any more progress on the second Anderson/Stolt album?

Roine: I came to the point a couple of weeks ago where I started digging into the files again and listening to them and finding some stuff. I have kind of a symphonic piece that’s probably like 15 or 20 minutes that’s just instrumental. And I was aiming at doing it orchestrated with a real orchestra, but that was 10 years ago or even more [laughs]and nothing happened really. So I have this piece of orchestral music and then I just felt like, well, this is probably something that Jon could sing. Because he’ll sometimes say, Oh, send me anything…send me some music and I’ll sing over it! Maybe I should just compile the best of the songs that we’ve done up to this point, because there’s probably seven or eight songs that I think are really strong. And one or two of the songs he wrote together with his son. So I think there’s great material already. And then I was just thinking that maybe if I take this symphonic piece and let him sing whatever he wants to sing on it, that makes an album! So that’s the latest progress in my world. I haven’t spoken to Jon in a couple of weeks or a month or something like that. So, I have no idea where he’s at with that, but I’m thinking that maybe I just send it over to see. If it works, it works. It’s strange time for all of us. It’s about a couple of different things, we have other projects, but it’s also about survival. So we need to find ways to get the money in. Transatlantic for me is a good way of that, and The Flower Kings, of course. So sometimes I have to give priority, you know, and which I kind of regret sometimes, but it’s reality. I have to pay my rent and I have to stay afloat and, and all that. I mean, I don’t want to sound like I’m in it for the money because I’m not, but I mean, that’s another reality. Sometimes I’m too much of a dreamer. So I just think about all these projects with other people that I want to do and it just goes on and on and on. Sometimes you spend a lot of time on projects that don’t generate a lot of money. There’s other stuff, even like The Sea Within, there was a plan for a second album. We haven’t made much progress to be honest, but there are songs and so we got to just say, Okay, let’s do this now, and start sending out files and, Can you sing on this? Can you play drums on this? And then once we get to that point then you can move forward. Regarding The Flower Kings, probably the next album’s going to be…well, a week ago we were talking about it and then someone said, Let’s make a bigger symphonic piece. And I said, Yeah, sure. That sounds great, let’s go ahead and do that. So it’s going to be different every time.

Neal: The Neal Morse Band is getting together in January to start writing a new album. I’m really excited about that! We’re all going to be together in-person, Mike and Bill are even driving down to my place in Nashville. For the first time we’re not coming in with a lot of ideas ahead of time – I’ve hardly done any demos for it – so it’s going to be exciting to see what we come up with right in the room together. 

Thanks for sharing all of these insights about the new album, guys! 

Neal: Thanks, Scott. See you soon! 

Roine: Okay, I think dinner’s ready for me here, so bye-bye. 

Supper’s Ready! 

Roine: Exactly! Take care, enjoy! 

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2 Comments

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    This is basically unreadable with the ad refreshes moving the page around every five seconds.

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      Hi Patrick. Do you encounter the ads refreshing issue while reading on your phone, or on your computer as well?

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