Rock Impressions

INTERVIEW WITH RITUAL (italian version)
Giancarlo Bolther and Michele Maestrini

Hi Giancarlo!
Nice to hear from you! We are very pleased to hear the good news regarding the review of "Think Like A Mountain"! Thanks!
Here are the answers to your questions:

You are celebrating ten years of activity, can you tell us about the story of the band?
Our singer/guitarist Patrik, our drummer Johan and myself had actually been playing together since 1988 in a progressive rock band called "Bröd" (the swedish word for "bread"). At the end of 1992 this band split up, but Johan, Patrik and myself, the original trio, immediately started up a new band since we still felt we had the same musical and creative ambitions.
Our keyboardplayer Jon Gamble joined us in February 1993 and so the band RITUAL was formed. During -93, -94 and the beginning of -95 we spent a lot of time in the rehearsal studio but we didn't perform much live, mainly due to the fact that Patrik was occupied as a successful musical artist here in Sweden. But we continued to write new material and develop our own style. Early 1995 we got in contact with the French record label Musea and in the summer that same year we recorded our debut CD, which was very well received. To follow up the good respons of the first album we toured quite extensively in Europe through-out 1996, playing for audiences in Italy, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Norway, England and Sweden. In the autumn of 1996 we had already started to work on new material for a second album and in 1997 we made a lot of demo-versions of new songs, but the activity of the band was quite low since all the members of the band were busy in outside projects. Our frontman/singer Patrik Lundström actually won the Swedish outtakes for the Eurovision Song Contest with the vocal pop trio Blond. This and other facts limited the touring possibilities for the band. Finally, in early 1998, we took our new material to the Rommarö recording studio to begin work on the second album, which was eventually named "Superb Birth". Superb Birth was released in the spring of 2000. It had been decided that Ritual should try to release Superb Birth on our own label, in other words that we should handle the distribution ourselves. In retrospect this proved to be a bad move, since none of us really had the time needed to run a small record company. Due to this, and due to the fact that five years had past since the release of our first album, the distribution failed and the album didn't get the attention I think it deserved. However, Superb Birth got mostly magnificent reviews in music magazines around the globe. We played just a handfull of gigs in Europe following the release of Superb Birth in 2000. But the creative spirit of the band was very high and so we returned to the recording studio that very same year. Some two years after these first recording sessions "Think Like A Mountain", Ritual's third album, was released by Tempus Fugit. And that brings us up to where we are today.

You have made only three albums, you're not a prolific band, why?
I see what you mean, three albums in ten years may seem a bit thin. But most of us are not full time musicians; all of us except Patrik, has other preoccupations beside music. We all have different outside projects. Patrik and Johan also became fathers a few years ago and parenthood naturally takes a lot of time. But actually, I think we are a quite prolific or productive band in the sense that we put a lot of energy, time and hard work into our music and our recordings. I think productivity should be measured qualitatively as well as quantitatively. And we actually do make a lot of music, but a large part of it is not released on albums. Ritual is a band who once in a while likes to induldge in different experimental musical projects that may inspire and develope our music. For example, in the summer of 2000 we recorded the band improvising. The music was really interesting and it is now edited, mixed and mastered. But it hasn't been released as an album yet. Such projects are good for the band, it inspires and sheds new light on the music -- even if it is never released on CD. We have a few such projects going on simultaneously, beside the normal work of Ritual.

Was it hard to stay together as a band without recording a new album?
No. I sincerely don't think we will ever stop playing together. After ten years (and for som of us fifteen years!) we know we are doing this for musical and social reasons. In these ten years we haven't earned a penny as a band. Ritual costs considerably more than it pays, economically. Still we have stayed togehter for all this time. We simply like playing together and we like each others company. The musical climate, perspectives and the inspiration in this band always change and evolves, which keeps it continuously interesting and engaging.

How much time did you take to realize Think Like a Mountain?
About two and a half years. Most of the music on "Think" was composed, arranged and recorded between the autumn of 2000 and the autumn of 2002. The title song, which was made quite fast, is the newest one, though it has elements in it which originates from music improvised by me and Patrik twelve yars ago! We didn't record all the songs in one continuous period. Quite the opposite actually. As soon as we came up with a musical idea, an almost complete song or a more sketchy idea, we went straight to the recording studio to record it. It usually took about two days. Then we returned home to continue writing. A month or two later, when we felt we had one or two more songs ready, we went back to the studio to record them. This was how the new album was made.

Would you like to tell us about the new songs?
The songs on "Think" are very varied. I think each song is a world of its own. Each song has its own feeling to it, its own mode of arrangement and sound, its own production and its own atmosphere. We tried to achieve this quite consciously. For example, we have "What are you waiting for" which to me is a typical Ritual opening tune: very energetic and with a "electro-ethnic" riff. We have "Explosive paste" which has some weird "rock & roll" elements and a heavy drum beat. "Mother you've been gone for much to long" is a quite extensive and atmospheric piece with a quite elaborate production including a string orchestra (violins, violas and celli). On the other hand we have the instrumental "On" which is a very immediate and quite basic acoustic tune with just guitar, bouzouki and percussion, recorded more or less "live" in the studio. So it is a very varied album. A lot of different moods.

There is a concept behind this new album?
Musically I think the variation can be seen as a kind of concept. Lyrically there is certainly a theme uniting the songs but this was not something we planned, it is just how it turned out. You see, there is an ever present ecosophical lyrical theme in Rituals music. The title of the new album, "Think Like A Mountain" refers to this theme. It is ever present because it means a lot to us. Most songs on this album (and indeed on all our albums!) in one way or another express the need to identify with the natural environment again, not only in order to reform and improve our very strained relationship with the living planet, but because we also could benefit on a more personal and "everyday" level, both physically and psychologically, from realizing that we are not strangers set apart, that there is substantially more to life than fame, fortune and human social affairs, that life itself is considerably older than man and more remarkable than anything man has ever invented or made up. Still, the history of man is intimately interwoven with the wondrous history of the living earth and all its manifestations. And we carry all this inside us at every moment no matter how urbanized, alienated and detatched we become. People are, of course, as much "nature" as the pikes in the lake, the owls, the tiny plankton and phenomena like cloud formation and thunderstorms. This may seem spaced out and "new age" to some, but it is true regardless. With this perspective life becomes less dreary, dull and monotonous and more fun, varied and astounding. It can be quite a liberating feeling to let go of the antropocentric world view. Maybe we all could benefit from learning to "think like a mountain". To sum up: It's all about reconnecting your thinking with the natural environment. To me restoring your bond with the Earth is a great way of finding personal and communal wellness.

Where did you find the ispiration to write your music?
The inspiration comes from a lot of different places. Partly it comes from experiencing nature and thinking about nature. Musically it comes from everything you listen to. There is so much music in this world! The inspiration to write music can come from a specific sound from a specific instrument. Ultimately, who knows where the need to play music comes from. It just seems to appear like magic. I think it is a force of nature.

In the new album i've listened a lot of folk influences, can you tell more about this interest in folk music?
I have been deeply interested in traditional music or folk music since the mid-eighties. I have played Swedish folk music for many years and I have studied etno-musicology. And I have always presented interesting traditional music from around the world to the other guys in the band, and they usually love it as well. Johan, the drummer, is now also a folk musician, playing the Nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle), which is a very unique traditional swedish instrument. But the folk music element of Ritual is not specifically Swedish or Scandinavian. It is more geographically undefined. Actually I think there are more Arabian elements than Scandinavian in Ritual's music. In fact, one of my favourite bands is a kurdish group from Iran called The Kamkars. I strongly recommend their albums!

Your vocalist is singing also with Kaipa, another band who mix prog and folk music, are you more than friends?
We have known or been acquainted with Roine Stolt for some years, since we played some gigs with The Flower Kings in the past. But we are not close friends. Hans Lundin of Kaipa called Patrik and asked him if he wanted to sing on some tracks on their album and Patrik agreed. Patrik's participation on the Kaipa album is a guest appearance, he is not a full-time member.

There will be a new Kaipa album soon?
Yes! Patrik has been adding lead vocals on some new Kaipa tracks. But at the moment he don't know when the new album will be released. Probably later this year.

Which are the most important differences between your albums?
To me our new album (Think like a mountain) is a kind of combination or a conclusion of the two previous ones. The first album was very varied and playfull, with a youthful energy and a lot of different arrangements and instrumentations. Superb Birth was perhaps not as varied as the first album, but it was more focused on songs and it has a slightly darker yet powerful energy, more raw energy. I think the new album has the variation and playfulness of the first album while it has the focus on songs and the powerful production of Super Birth.

Which are the artists that influenced you best, if there are some?
There are so many. We listen to a lot of different music. The musical starting point for everyone in Ritual was actually in the heavy metal scene of the early eighties and we were all Iron Maiden fans. When we started playing together as a group we all listened to English bands and artists like Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis, Peter Gabriel and Queen. We still enjoy listening to those bands. With King Crimson it's a bit different, because they are still a fantastic band. In fact, I think their last three albums are their best; they are still renewing their music and their sound while being true to the spirit of the band. I love their latest album "The Power To Believe". We all have listened to Björk and U2 and we all enjoyed Radiohead's "OK Computer" very much. There is so much good music in the world.

We notice a lot of great groups from Sweden, only to name but a few: Anglagard, Anekdoten, Flower Kings, Landberk, your country seems to be very prolific for talented artists, do you think there is a reason about that?
I really don't know. The thing is that none of these bands are well know in Sweden. There is not a scene for progressive rock in Sweden. The musical climate in Sweden is very commercialized and trend aware. Most of the time when the press mentions progressive rock it is usually in a negative context. So it's a bit of a mystery. I think most of us have been more successful abroad than in our own country. But still there is a lot of talent around, a lot of good musicians. A part of the reason for this is that in Sweden there are quite a lot of possibilities for kids to pick up an instrument and begin to play music. At least that's how it was when we grew up. It was part of the school system. Today I believe the political and economic climate has changed and the possibilities are less.

What do you think about the new prog scene and how do you see yourselves fitting into it?
Personally I don't listen very much to the neo-prog music of today. And that goes for everybody in the band. Some of the neo-prog music seems to be very formulaic or focused on the technical skills of the individual musicians. In some ways it can become very conventional. To me a lot of the true progression going on today in music occurs outside the "prog scene". But the term "progressive" is very vague and subjective. I don't really care if music is prog or something else as long as it makes me feel good or curious or inspiring in some way. But certainly, I think Ritual is a part of the "prog scene"; in what way or how Ritual fit in is hard for me to say because I'm too involved. I think different listeners have different perspectives on this.

Do you think that the moment of grace that the prog and symphonic scene are experiencing helped your band to emerge?
Certainly, because if there wasn't a prog scene I don't think we would have had a forum for our music.

In this period prog metal is very popular, there are great bands like Dream Theater, Simphony X, Flower Kings or Ayreon, do you believe to be close in some ways to these artists or not?
In fact, I have never heard Simphony X or Ayreon! I have heard Dream Theatre but it was not quite my cup of tea. Flower Kings I have heard and seen live a couple of times but I have, once again, never really got into this kind of music, even though I have all the respect for these musicians. To me the good thing about the prog scene is, and has always been, the great variation of bands and musics. The bands are all very different: Dream Theatre, Landberk, Flower Kings, Ritual - these are all very different bands musically, each have their own sound and style. This diversity, to me, is the blessing of progressive rock!

What is the greatest challenge for your future?
First of all to follow up the respons for "Think like a mountain", which hopefully means some more touring and playing live, to meet our fans basically. It would be great to come back to Italy! The next challenge is to write new music that feels exciting, inspiring and important to us. It will not be a repetition of "Think", but I believe Ritual's fans doesn't look for repetition. The world is always changing and there is always music around so I don't think it will be a problem!

Thank you very much for your interest!
Best regards
Fredrik Lindqvist, Ritual

Line up:
Patrik Lundstrom vc & gtr
Fredrik Lindqvist bs
Jon Gamble keys, synth & mellotron
Johan Nordgren drums & percussions

Ritual 1995 Musea
Super Birth 1999 Self
Think Like A Mountain 2003 Tempus Fugit

Live 2005 Tempus Fugit
The Hemulic Voluntary Band 2007 Tempus Fugit


Review (in italian): Think Like a Mountain; Ritual; Superb Birth; Live;

The Hemulic Voluntary Band

Live Reportage (in italian)

Web Site


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