Producer/bandleader Pelle Saether – Grand Design
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Adrienne Hawe at Adrienne Hawe Music Management for setting up the interview.
Thanks to GMR Music for the promo pictures of the band.
V is the name of the brand new album coming straight from the Swedish melodic hardrock act Grand Design. The band is led by famous producer/bandleader Pelle Saether which takes care of the vocals in the band. I had the pleasure to once again talk to Pelle and this time we talked of course about the new album but also about why guitarist Janne Stark left the band and what it’s like to work with their new label GMR Music. And what about all the re-releases of the bands old albums which are out of print today…yep, we spoke about those as well. Since all major events and shows are cancelled due to the covid-19 virus when is the band going to do their next performance and why is the band called as the Swedish version of Def Leppard?
Hi Pelle, thanks for taking the time making this interview today, how you’re doing? It’s been a while since last time we spoke, I think it was back when the bands previous album THRILL OF THE NIGHT was about to be unleashed.
Thanks for having me.
Let’s jump back to 2018 and the re-release of your album IDOLIZER, why did you chose to re-release it?
We re-released IDOLIZER for a couple of reasons. Since the album been sold out and we finally owned the rights we saw a chance to make the fans who didn’t have the album to get it. We also decided to re-record a couple of the guitar solos to make the release more up to date and we changed the cover of the album to make the release more fresh. On top of that the album is re-mixed and re-mastered.
The new edition of that album contains three extra songs and one bonus track, what can you tell us about those songs?
The 3 extra songs are the original versions of these songs with original mix and guitar solos. So a total of 13 songs!! Pretty wicked!!
It was released on both CD and vinyls, are the albums sold out today?
We have 3-4 Vinyls left, the rest is sold out.
The bands debut album TIME ELEVATION from 2009 was also re-released back in 2015, who was responsible for that release?
When we finally got back the rights for Time Elevation we decided to re-release it but on CD only. We really wanted to have the original cover but the label owned rights so we did a another one that were similar to the original but not copyed. We also added the song “Your Love’s a Runaway” with guest vocals by Susi Päivärinta (Lili & Susi)
Any plans of re-release THRILL OF THE NIGHT as well?
That would be fun! Hopefully a vinyl version will be released in the near future.
What did fans and media think of the bands 2018 year album VIVA LA PARADISE?
We got great reviews and the fans loved it!! Viva La Paradise is a bit more hard rock influenced and for me it is a split vision. I personally think we went to far on the hard rock path and left out to much of the AOR sound that is typical for Grand Design. I’m very proud of the album and it opened new doors for us, especially live.
Guitarist Janne Stark left the band, when did he leave and was his departure expected?
Janne’s departure in august 2019 was expected because he told us about it 3 – 4 months before. I had noticed a lack of interest in the band from Janne before he told us to leave so for me it was no surprise at all.
Was it hard to find a replacement for him and how did Dan Svanbom end up in the band? Is he an old friend of you and the band?
Well to be honest, after we made it official we had at least 10-20 good guitarist wanting to step in and take Janne´s place. Dan was in the same rehearsal house playing lead guitar in another band. He had always told me that he like this kinda rock Grand Design is doing. So I contacted him and we tried him out and it worked perfectly!
Do you see the current line-up as a solid one?
I really hope so. We have changed alotta members thru the years for several reasons so let´s hope this line up stays for many years.
How come there has been so many various members in the band through the years?
Running a rock band, or any band, is like having an extra family. It has to work both musically and the chemistry has to be there also. Some guys just get fed up and some get kicked out of the Grand Design family.
A few of the members in the band are involved in other bands/projects, do you see any problems or difficulties in that?
Nope, no problem at all. Almost every band I know have members who are in other musical projects or other constellations. As a musician you really need to have other musical directions to explore.
What was special about VIVA LA PARADISE – SPECIAL MISSION? Is it possible to purchase that edition of the album today?
I think that album is sold out too. Viva La Paradise “Special Mission” is really me trying to get the sound and songs I think lacked on Viva La Paradise. The extra songs are more back to the sound of old Grand Design plus we did a Christmas song!! I worked really hard to make the album sound more AOR than hard rock, more original Grand Design.
You’re a highly acclaimed producer and have worked with many known bands, does the job as a producer take away a lot of time from Grand Design?
It has never been in the way to produce, record, mix other bands in my studio (Studio Underground) It is so fun to help bands make a great album in the studio. It´s teamwork 24/7 when you make an album in the studio.
Grand Design has been named the Swedish Def Leppard, how does that feel? Do you see any similarities with your music and the music of Def Leppard?
You mean Lep Deffard?? Hehehe. I think Grand Design has it’s own sound but with some inspiration from The Lepps. We even hear that we sound more D.L than Def Leppard themselves – hahaha
The band performed at the first ever Melodic Rock Fest Scandinavia in Malmoe 2018, how was that? Were you happy with the show?
Yes we had a blast and we really enjoyed the moment. Alotta fans met up after the show and they were veeeeery happy. I had a lot of technical problems with my in in ear but what the hell – it’s only rawk n roll and we loooove it.
Is Grand Design a band or a project?
It started as a project but is now a full scale band. I mean, all these shows we have done, were we prove time after time that we really know how to rawk live, is done together on stage as a team and a band. Also in the recording process the guys add their personality to the final product.
New album V
When did you start to work on material for V?
It usually takes a year of writing songs, lyrics and record, mix, mastering the whole album. I write the parts for the songs and the guys come in after and add their magic.
Have you had help from any of the other members with writing material this time?
Yes of course. I usually write the foundation to the songs plus the lyrics the during the recording process. Then we work with ideas to develop the songs and make them rawk. This makes the Grand Design sound.
Where do you find inspiration to write music? What are the lyrics about this time?
Inspiration is everywhere, all the time. You just need to grab the moment when you get an idea. The lyrics is always about things in life spiced up with some rawk n roll expressions. I like to leave a lot in the lyrics to the listeners so rawkers can have their own version of the song.
How does it work when you write material? Do you sit down from 9 to 5 and write or do you tend to write a little whenever you get inspired?
I always have my Iphone ready and when I get a cool melody or a cool phrase in my head I record it on to my mobil phone. It´s a great way to not forget the ideas. Then later on I sit down and listen to all the ideas and some of them will work, some will not work.
A lot of the songs on VIVA LA PARADISE was written together with Janne Stark, do you miss working with him?
On the new album “V” all the guys in the band have come up with ideas and it feels veeeery good. We are tighter than ever and this album is really the work of 5 rawkers.
Who did the cover art-work to V?
The cover art-work was done by Carl-André Beckston. We had a lot of ideas and wanted the cover to stand out as much as possible. After some changes Carl-André came up with this one and it was spot on!!
What’s the thought behind naming the album V besides the fact that it is your fifth album?
Yes it’s album #5 but the letter “V” also stand for victory or peace or if you throw the album up in the air it will be a Flyin´V – heheh. But it’s all in the eyes of the beholder – right?
At the beginning of the year a video teaser to the album was published on Youtube, what did fans think of it?
We have a lot of loyal fans and the reception of the teaser was enormous. We also succeeded to gain a lot of new fans with that teaser. So it was a big thumbs up.
Album ”V” Teaser no 1
What are the longest songs “Wut Are U Waiting For” (4.50) and “Strandead (Trapped In A Heartbreak Zone)” (4.43) about?
Wut Are U Waithing For is about someone who lost the connection with their own feelings and being afraid of starting over again. Can happen to anyone really.
Strandead (Trapped In a Heartbreak zone) is about being stuck with a broken heart, having a hard time time getting back on track. Spending endless nights thinking – why me ?
album V Teaser 2 inc snippets
Were there many songs that you wrote that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album?
Some material that didn’t make this album will be for sure potential songs for next Grand Design album. Since it’s hard labour making songs for an album we give 100% on the chosen songs.
The bio states that V goes back to the bands beginnings with that typical Grand Design sound and songs from the early albums, what do you think of that? Is it true?
Before we started the writing process of album “V” we all sat down and talked about this and we all wanted the next album to be more like the first 2 albums (Time Elevation, Idolizer) We looked at the song structures and sound of the 2 first albums and took the best elements of these releases to make album “V”
Do you think old fans of the band is going to like V?
What I have heard is that fans really dig the new album “V” We try on this album to be more HardAOR than hardrock and I think we did a great job.
On VIVA LA PARADISE you recorded a bonus track for Japan in the cover of the Kansas song “Fight Fire With Fire”, have you recorded any bonus track for the Asian market this time too?
This album contains a cover of Scandal’s “The Warrior” We all felt that it should be on the regular album so we took a great ballad called “Luv Will Stay Alive” and put on the Japan version as a bonus track. I personally like that track a lot.
Have you read any reviews in the media regarding V yet?
Yes I’ve read few. We respect every reviewers thoughts about the album but the rawkers who buy/download/stream our albums, come to our concerts, sending us mail etc are the true reviewers. If they like it, we’re happy.
Do you in the band care about what media and critics write about your work?
We care about what everybody thinks of the band. No matter if they are critics, Grand Design fans or somebody else. That is the power of music – it moves people and we like it.
Do you think V and VIVA LA PARADISE have anything in common music-wise or have you changed/grown in the musical department since the release of VIVA LA PARADISE?
On “Viva La Paradise” we aimed for a more hard rock sound and the songs were faster and hardly any mid tempo songs or ballads were on that album.
On our new album “V” we are back were we started from – HardAOR. The songs are more detailed and the sound on the album is more AOR than Hard Rock. Also there are more slow songs on the new album which I personally like alot.
“Viva La Paradise” (Official Music Video)
How would you like to describe what kind of music Grand Design plays?
Many like to put us in between Hard Rock and AOR so I guess we play Hard AOR plus some Rawk n Roll included.
“Right Away” (Official video)
Many bands and artists consider their latest work/album are their best one yet, do you think that V is the best album Grand Design done so far?
Of course – we think “V” is our best album since 2018 – when we released “Viva La Paradise” – hehehe.
Studio and production
When did the band start to record V in the studio?
We started recording guitars in august 2019 and then during the autumn we added drums, bass, sologuitars and a helluva lot vocals + choirs. The whole album was ready beginning of December 2019.
Were there any differences in how V was recorded and created compared to how you worked with VIVA LA PARADISE?
No, not really. The pre-production was a little more unfinished to leave room for development and ideas in the studio. Also the lyrics were finished much more early in the recording process than previous albums.
Is it hard to produced your own material? What does the rest of the band think of working with you as producer? Isn’t hard to stay objective?
Yes that is a fine line. The guys in the band thinks I’m to picky but I treat every band the same way, even my own band. It’s always hard to be objective so I listen to the guys a lot during the recording process. Also during the mix we have a lot of discussions and change stuff in almost every song.
What is your strongest feature as producer do you think?
I think bands that have been working with me see me as a picky guy but with alotta humor. You can accomplish nearly anything if you add some bad jokes and humor into the workflow
Who mixed and mastered V?
I mixed and mastered the whole album and it took around 2 weeks to mix. I looooooove mixing albums but hate doing the mastering. I mean when you have done the mastering it’s final, no coming back. That’s kinda scary.
Label and management
Since VIVA LA PARADISE Grand Design is signed to GMR Music, are you happy with the work the label put into the previous album as well as in V?
Yes, we are very happy with GMR. It’s a small label but we are high priority and the label is from Sweden so it’s easy to communicate with them.
The three albums prior to that was released by AOR Heaven, why did you end you co-operation with them?
AOR Heaven is a great label but we felt we wanted to have a Swedish label. More easy to communicate, both the language and the way of thinking.
The re-issue of IDOLIZER was managed by Sharp Music Sweden, how come you pick them to handle the work with IDOLIZER?
To be honest I think Janne did contact Sharp Music and Johan Nylén and made all the arrangements. Johan Nylén is a great guy and really working his ass off for the AOR music around the world.
What are the pros and cons with being signed to a smaller record label and what are the differences between working with GMR Music and AOR Heaven?
On GMR Music we are are high priority and Lena (CEO of GMR Music) is only a phone call away. Me and Lena have the same way of seeing things regarding the band so everything is so much easier
Is the band still signed to Rubicon Music who handles the Japanese and Russian market?
Yes! We will release a Japan version of album “V” April 8,2020. It will include a bonus track called “Luv Will Stay Alive” It’s a ballad and I personally think it should have been on the regular album. We voted about it and I lost.
Is the band big in Japan and Russia?
I really don’t know. We get fan mails from all over the world Japan and Russia included. So I guess there are a couple of Grand Designers in Japan and Russia too.
Are there many fans that purchase Grand Design albums through bandcamp?
We have never before sold so much CDs, Vinyls, Merch of album “V” as we do now. Both old and new fans buy the new album plus the old ones so we are veeeery happy with this.
Is the band’s music available on Spotify or Itunes?
Yes. We are on every digital platform available. AS a rock band you have to be everywhere these days to survive as a band.
Is the band signed to any booking agency or management today?
Right now we work with Norrland Booking and Lestrato Concerts.They are doing a great job and have managed to get gigs in Spain, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Italy!
What are your thoughts on the fact that bands can’t live solid on their music today and have to write biographies, host meet and greets and sell alcohol in order to make some money?
Well it’s the sign of the times. Adjust or fade away. But still you have to make great music.
V is available on vinyl, are the band members fan of the vinyl format?
Some guys in the band are as we say: vinyl freaks. Where ever we go to play they manage to find small obscure vinyl shops that don’t even exist on google maps. Then they spend hours drooling over some red printed vinyl that they found – hahaha
Past, present and future
The band got a really nice website, who runs it?
We run it ourselves. Danne, our new guitarist, is our webmaster. We made a total make over in December so now the homepage is running smooooothly.
You got about 11 000 likes on the bands facebook, are you happy with that or do you think the release of V is going to increase the likings?
Always nice to have a lotta fans on the digital platforms such as FB, Instagram, Twitter etc. Hopefully it will increase after the album is released.
I saw there’s a fan-site on facebook called Grand Design Fans, have you seen it? Do you know the people that runs the fansite?
That site is run by ourselves. I don’t remember why we have to FB sites but that’s the case right now.
Does the band get a lot of mail from fans? What’s the most common question you get from fans worldwide?
Yes we get mails from all around the world. The most common phrase is “Please come to my city to play” That is pretty neat I think. We wish we could come to every Grand Design fan’s hometown to rawk n roll.
The band got shows booked in Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands in March and April, are you going to go through with the shows now in these Corona-days?
Nope. All shows are postponed to November, December this year. So to all of you who bought tickets: ask the venue about new dates for our shows.
Are there any plans on play live in Scandinavia in the near future?
We are working on some gigs in Sweden but right now, because of this corona thing, everything is on hold
Does the band have any festival shows for the summer booked so far?
As stated: all shows are on hold
Why haven’t the band done more live shows?
We play festivals, club gigs where the conditions are right. So we have turned down some shows because the conditions were not right.
“The Warrior” (official video)
Would you have wished that the band had played more live shows and done more touring than you have done so far?
Of course we want to play live a lot but it has to be on good stages with great sound and light. We are picky when it comes to performing live. I want the sound to be like on our albums and that is a big task to accomplish for some venues.
How would you describe a live show with Grand Design as?
100 % Rawk n Roll power and a smile!!
Are you satisfied with what you have done with Grand Design so far and are there anything you regret that you didn’t do with the band in the past?
I have no regrets what so ever. We have worked hard thru the years and will keep working hard to spread the music of Grand Design to all rockers in the world. Our fanbase is growing every day and that means we are doing something right here.
What would you like to say to the ones who, for some reasons, haven’t heard the music of Grand Design yet?
If you’re into bands like: Europe, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Poison, TNT – you’re gonna loooooove Grand Design. Find a Grand Design song, push play and prepare for an overdose of 80s Rock.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy V?
The Grand Design album “V” is packed with great songs, great production and great layout. Put on your Ipods and Rawk Back To The 80s with Grand Design!
Well, that was all for me and metal-rules.com this time around. Once again, thanks for taking the time making the interview. I wish you and the band all the best in the future and I would love to see Grand Design live in action on stage soon.
Thanx a lot for this interview.
Do you have final words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
Then I would say:
Viva La 80s!
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