Interview with Pelle Saether of Grand Design

Think about the music producers that set standards back in the ‘80s and Mutt Lange’s name is one of the first that come to your mind. Obviously, he’s worked on a huge number of albums throughout his career – including songwriter cameos too. However, there was definitely something captivating about the huge, multi-layered sound he helped Def Leppard to create and master –not only did Joe Elliott and the gang themselves revisit this style on their 2015’s self-titled release, but also it influenced a huge number of latter Melodic Rock acts. Grand Design is certainly one of them, producing the best Def Leppard albums the Lepp themselves have never recorded since 2009. And as they returned this year with their fifth album aptly titled V, I caught up again with Pelle to discuss it and more.

Grand Design 2020. Photo used by permission.

Alexandra Mrozowska: Your new album V saw the light of day right before the pandemic started. What was the impact of the global situation on the album sales? Do you think that, paradoxically, people could’ve paid more attention to it during the coronavirus lockdown?

Pelle Saether: We haven’t seen the album sales yet, but we have a lot of loyal fans so I think the album has done pretty well. Only thing was that our German distributor went out of business, so the label had to find another one. And to be honest, I think people have listened to it a lot more, since it has gained more streams than the album before (Viva La Paradise, 2018) in only five months. Maybe people need to listen to ‘80s Rock to forget about these crazy times (laughs).

AM: Things go better with Rock – especially, ‘80s Rock! So, what did you try to achieve with this album musically and did it come out exactly as you wanted? There are no ballads per se on V, so was it a deliberate decision?

PS: We wanted a more AOR approach, a little more melodic choruses and not so many fast songs… Also the sound is more like we wanted – less ruff, nicer. I think we got we what wanted and we are happy with the result. We had a lot of discussions in the band about putting a ballad on album. We ended up putting it (“Luv Will Stay Alive”) on the Japanese version of album V. I personally think we should have included the ballad on the regular version of the album. It’s inspired by the song “Drive” by The Cars. I luuuuuuv that song and I wish I had written it. But hey – I’m a sucker for AOR ballads. We will tear down ev’ry wall/Luv conquers all – that line explains our whole song, I think. If your love is strong, you can overcome anything.

AM: V is also a continuation of Grand Design’s deliberately “misspelled” song titles. I think I haven’t asked you about that in our previous interviews, but is it a tribute to the British Glam Rock Slade?

PS: Yessss! I Luv Slade! I want listeners to react to the lyrics and the spelling. Some fans like a lot, some fans think we are totally crazy (laughs), but we don’t care. I do these misspellings for a reason and that is to make a twist, to make rawkers go, “Hmmm, that’s odd.” We like odd (laughs).

AM: You’ve also included one cover version on V – a 1984 Scandal single “The Warrior”. Why did you choose this specific song?

PS: This was my decision. I have always wanted to do a Grand Design version of this great song. I knew we could do it justice and put in some Grand Design elements in the song. We changed the key and the tempo plus re-arranged it a bit, and I’m very proud of how it turned out.

AM: Last years were a period of line-up changes in the band…

PS: Well, we got a new lead and rhythm guitarist in shape of Dan Svanbom. A helluva guitar player and a super great guy. He lives here in our town Västerås which makes it easier and more smooth. He played all solos plus some rhythm guitars on the album V and I was surprised how good he was in the studio. Also, we have done a couple of live gigs with him and Danne knows how to rawk on stage too.

AM: Speaking of changes, you’ve also changed the label from AOR Heaven to GMR in recent years. Why?

PS: Well, as a matter of fact we changed label before the last album Viva La Paradise was released. We are very happy with GMR Music Group and finally we could make vinyl versions of a couple of albums. We like vinyl – a loooot!

AM: Back to the current situation, your social media indicate you’ll resume touring in support of the new album soon. What are your specific plans?

PS: Well, the situation is crazy. Our whole tour in March, April and May was cancelled. Now it seemed that we have managed to get a Spain tour in September but I just got the news that it has been postponed until March 2021. Our gigs in Holland, Belgium and Germany (October, November) are still on but the situation changes every day. So lets hope for a rawk n roll miracle.

AM: The world could definitely use one right now… So, speaking of social media, you’re quite active on a few platforms. Do you enjoy it?

PS: To run a band nowadays, you have to be active on social platforms. The cool thing is that you get response directly from fans. Sometimes it can be time-consuming, but it needs to be done and it’s a part of reality now for all bands out there.

AM: You’re also still active as a producer. What are your current projects? What kind of approach do you have as a producer?

PS: Right now, I’m moving the whole studio to another location. It’s like tearing down a whole house. I’m gonna start building the new Studio Underground in October or November. And when it comes to approach, half of the time my role is producing and half is engineering. I think the best situation for me is a mix of both. Five musicians locked up in a studio for three weeks, working their asses off, sleeping four hours per night, performing one hundred per cent – it’s all a very special feeling. It’s a kind of magic – and I love it!

AM: How wide was the range of albums you produced stylistically?

PS: The studio productions are mainly Metal of all kind. Very hard to produce, but very challenging. Often the musicians are top-notch in this kind of music, so it is always a joyride to produce their bands.

AM: If you could use a time machine but at the same time were allowed to make a choice, would you go back to the ‘80s or stay in the present? Why?

PS: I would go back to the ‘80s and stay there. Best kind of music, best outfits, no computer recordings – only analogue, a lot of local Rock places to play in. Everyone’s life was so much more of easy livin’. Viva les ‘80s!

AM: Speaking of the past – as the band trivia have it, you actually played the violin in your early days…

PS: Hey, how did u know that…?

AM: Should’ve switched to investigative journalism (laughs).

PS: It’s my dirty little secret (laughs). I played the violin for almost ten years until I discovered rawk’n’roll. So I told my mum when I was 15, “Hey Mum, no more violin. I want a guitar and I want to sing Hard Rock.” She said, “Okay” (laughs)

AM: Luckily! Is there anything you’d like to add?

PS: Yes! We have a new song coming out on August the 28th. It’s a Rock anthem song that we think all rawkers will love and sing along to. It’s a song you’re gonna play on any rock party anytime, anywhere on this globe. We think it has a great potential to be the Grand Design trademark song. The song is called “We Were Born To Rawk n Roll”  and just the first line says it all!

AM: So for everyone who reads this, be sure to check it out!

Grand Design Official Website

Grand Design on Facebook

Check out the music video to Grand Design’s first single off their new album V below: