Singer and guitar player Hasse Fröberg, you first gained attention as singer and main songwriter for Swedish hard rockers/metalists Spellbound. How do you remember those days, in the rear-view mirror?
– Those were fun days. We were on the road a lot, especially in 1983 and 1984. I remember when we were going to record an album in London, arriving at Heathrow airport and all the taxi drivers pulling us apart. It was the day of Live Aid, and they thought we were rock stars! We made our first album in just a week, mixing included. Then came the latter years, when we developed and rehearsed a lot, but it’s all in a haze, nowadays. Every now and then, there’s talk of re-releasing the albums, and if it happens, I’m all for it.
Kerrang Magazine awarded you a KKKK1/2 review for “Breaking the spell” and the magazine featured Spellbound in a two-page spread.
– It came all out of the blue. The record company was taken completely by surprise. The album was sold out in less than two weeks and there was no second batch ready. Who knows what would have happened if it all had been better handled by the record company, and if I hadn’t gone into military service.
Is it true that you skipped military service to write lyrics?
– I didn’t skip it, but if an opportunity arose, I’d sit down by a tree trunk writing some notes.
Then came Solid Blue, a root-rocking band which won the Swedish Rock championships (and included Evergrey’s Rikard Zander).
– Solid Blue was the most easily maintained band I’ve ever played with. We had lots of fun, playing the Swedish pub circuit as well as England. Sadly, the record took ages to be released, and when it finally came, we’d basically become a cover band. The music has been released on Spotify lately, which made me listen to it for the first time in ages. I realized it’s pretty damn fine.
How did you end up with progsters The Flower Kings?
– I had performed with Roine Stolt a number of times. He had a blues band which used to play at (now defunct) Uppsala club Fellini, and I used to come up on stage to do some singing. So it was back in 1994, Roine phoned me to ask if I could sing the chorus of a new song he was recording. That song was “The flower king”, and as it happened, I did backing vocals for some of the other songs as well. Hang on a minute – now I recall Roine producing the first Solid Blue demo at Studio 55, which obviously was at an earlier date. However, I was reluctant to playing gigs with The Flower Kings. There was a lot of instrumental interplay, and I couldn’t imagine myself playing guitar in this very technical environment. But I tried, we went on tour in Canada and the US, and it whet my appetite for more.
How do you look back on all the years with The Flower Kings?
– To begin with, everything pointed upwards. I remember me and Jaime Salazar (drummer, also in Bad Habit) taking turns driving the miniscule van to clubs with an audience of maybe fifty or a hundred. Then suddenly, by the time we reached “Unfold the future” (2002) and “Adam and Eve” (2004), the audiences numbered five or six hundred, or even more. Then came “The sum of no evil” (2007), and by that time, quite honestly, there was a bad atmosphere within the band. Roine proclaimed a break. No one knew how long that would last, so I started toying with the idea of forming my own group. Then of course, The Flower Kings returned, and I think the “Banks of Eden” tour (2012) was among our very best. We played well, we had a lot of fun and we drew big crowds.
So, we’re reaching the birth of Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion – HFMC. How did it happen?
– Well, I’d been writing songs for the first time in years. Things like “Fallen empire” and “Above”. I didn’t know if I would use them with The Flower Kings or by myself. Pretty soon, I decided that I wanted a band, so I phoned ex-Spellbound drummer Ola Strandberg, asking for suggestions. He recommended guitarist Anton Lindsjö, who had no idea who I was. He had never heard about the Flower Kings, either, and thought the music was really weird. Anyway, Kjelle Haraldsson (keyboards) had been on my mind for some time, and by this time, Ola was really keen on joining the band himself. So we recruited Thomsson on bass, had one rehearsal and we all just went WOW! This must have been in december 2008, and from there we went.
HFMC’s five albums and one DVD have all specialized in….what genre?
– I’ve never understood that, myself! We’re more prog than metal, but there’s also an element of dirty rock n roll in the Deep Purple/Led Zeppelin vein. At gunpoint I’d probably brand us prog.
The new album’s title is a bold statement: “We are the truth”.
– The whole point is to stand out, but the title doesn’t refer to the band in particular, but rather to you and me, to the moose in the woods, to us all who have the responsibility to make this planet a decent place. The times are very turbulent and disharmonic. I often ask myself – “is this the way it ought to be?”. My lyrics concern my perspectives of the world. Perhaps we should think more of long-term effects, and not just the next interim report. And then there’s the way people communicate on social media. What’s wrong with being nice to each other?
Then there are songs with entirely different lyrics, like for instance “Yoko”.
– It’s ridiculous, but you know the synth sound behind the main riff? It sounds precisely like Yoko Ono’s voice! That’s the reason why I wrote those words. I’m not particularly knowledgeable with Yoko’s story, so I had to google a lot. I like that song’s minor sentiment; its tonality reminds me of Russian folk songs. Our new bassist Sampo Axelsson wrote the music for that one.
Speaking of bassists, why did Thomsson leave, and how did you decide on Sampo (Lion’s Share, From the Sky) as his replacement?
– Thomsson’s leaving came out of the blue. We played the Rock the Boat festival and then he announced his resignation. But he was working Monday to Friday, then doing the cover band circuit at weekends, never getting the chance of recuperation. As far as I know, he hasn’t touched the bass since. In fact, it was he who recommended Sampo, and I had performed with him as well. It felt great at once. The other applicants didn’t even get the chance to audition.
What else is new on “We are the truth”?
– Maybe I’m the only one who hears it, but I think there’s a lot more humour than on previous albums. Such as Kjelle’s piano parts in a number of songs. Or the album intro, which is Kjelle trying out different sounds on his keyboards and our producer Petrus Königsson thought it sounded cool. Kjelle’s gonna strangle me for using it on the record…. Petrus also said there’s a number of James Bond references, and that is definitely something new to the band.
Kjelle hasn’t been writing any songs for the album…
– But his spirit is all over the place. His marvellous solos, his fake strings and brass, his full-on Beatles arrangements of “Every second counts” and “Rise up” with its very ELO strings. Me and Petrus laughed when we heard it. How the hell were we supposed to suit that into the song? But somehow it worked.
And Ola Strandberg has developed a lot.
– I knew Ola was a more than decent guitar player, but I didn’t have a clue he was such a formidable song writer. When he came up with “Pages” for the “HFMC” album (2015), I couldn’t believe it! His songs definitely belong on our albums and I love his warm, expressive voice.
What are the imminent goals for HFMC after releasing “We are the truth” on November 26th?
– To find gigs, which isn’t easy after the pandemic, when all bands are craving for live shows. It would feel very, very odd to make a new record and not play the songs live. Also, the gigs are where we sell records, rather than in record stores. Anyway, we’re booked for We Låve Rock in Norway in May and Crescendo in France in August.
Finally, what are the Flower Kings up to?
– I think the new album will be released in March. From a hifi-point of view it’s probably our best sounding record ever. Hasse Bruniusson is back on percussion and we’ve all been very much invited into the creation process. Roine usually brings quite strict demo’s to the table, but this time around they were more like shells, which we all participated in filling up.
Photo: Alf Strandberg