Your latest album 'Shine'was released in November 2004. What did you do after the release of that album up to the preparations for 'The Grand Design'?
Right after the release of the album we did a tour with Angra, mainly in the Southern and Western part of Europe. Unfortunately we were not doing shows in the Netherlands and Germany. Furthermore, right after this tour I started to do some pre-work for the new album.
When did the actual preparations concerning songwriting and pre-recordings commence and how long did it take you to finish the new album?
There were some ideas that were even going back to the 'Shine'-period and I decided to further develop these ideas into real songs. The majority of the songwriting took place in the March/April 2005 time frame and we went into the studio in October of that year. The actual recording lasted about three months and the mix was finalized in January 2006.
As usual you were responsible once more for all the music and lyrics. Don't any of the other band members have any songwriting aspirations or don't you allow outside influences?
It's not a matter of not allowing the other band members to come up with ideas, but they think it's going well as it is. They really don't have any songwriting aspirations, so that's why I still write all the music and lyrics for Edenbridge.
Isn't it difficult for you to come up with new and exciting tunes, since you're stylistically in a very narrow street? Where do you get your musical inspiration from?
That's a good question, it certainly is not easy. You have to present something new on every album and being in the style we are, that sometimes is a challenge. Despite of this I always seem to come up with new ideas for songs and my main inspirational source for that is nature. I like to perform sports in nature, I do mountain hiking and when I do this I always get new ideas. This approach really seem to work for me.
The sound and songwriting of the new record has become even more bombastic as it used to be, especially in opening track 'Terra Nova' and title track 'The Grand Design'. Was this an intentional move or did this subtle change came natural?
I really love bombastic music and I'm a great admirer of Robby Valentine's music. After listening to some of his music I knew that I had to do something like that. I must say however that this is a natural process, because I'm a big fan of this style of music myself, and that it's absolutely no planned move.
This subtle change in direction caused me to listen to the record a few more times before I really started to appreciate it. Aren't you afraid that a lot of the listeners are not taking this effort and therefore miss out a great record?
No, I'm not really afraid of that. We have quite a loyal fanbase who will love the album for sure. Furthermore I think that the best albums are the ones which take a couple of listens before you actually start appreciating them. There should be new discoveries after each listen. An album which immediately attracts your attention the first time tends to become boring after listening more than three or four times to it.
You already mentioned your admiration for Robby Valentine, and due to the bombastic sound, some of the tracks really remind me of him and he also makes a guest appearance on this album. How did you get connected to him and his he the reason why we hear Valentine type of influences?
I've been in touch with Robby already for about three years. We've been in touch by e-mail first and wanted to meet during one of the Edenbridge tours but this never happened. When I wrote the chorus of 'The Grand Design', I really had Robby's choirs in my mind and I just asked him if he was interested in doing this and luckily he replied that he would love to do it. So in November we did the work in Robby's studio and we became friends. He's absolutely one of my favorite musicians and I'm very pleased to have him participating on our new album.
There are also guest appearances from of other well-known musicians like Karl Groom and Dennis Ward. How did they get into the picture?
Dennis has always been a part of Edenbridge, since he was responsible for the mixing and recording of the first four albums. He also has a terrific voice and I figured that his voice in the choirs would match greatly with Sabine's voice, which proved to be right. For the production we wanted to do something different now and we asked Karl to take care of the mixing process. Since he was working on the album anyway, I asked him to play the solo on 'Terra Nova' and he was happy to oblige.
You also were present in the Wild One studio of Jakob Grabmayr. What did you do here and why did you need five different studios to lay down the tracks for 'The Grand Design'?
We recorded the drum tracks in the Wild One studio, the instruments and vocals were recorded in my own studio, Dennis and Robby did their respective part in their own studios and Karl took care of the mix in his studio, so indeed we used five studios to record this album. Nowadays this is not a problem because you don't need to be physically present anymore, you just send complete files over and add the stuff you want to add.
Although you were in five different studios of well-known musicians and producers, you did the production work yourself. Why did you decide to do this yourself? Isn't it difficult to keep enough distance, since you were also responsible for all the material to be recorded?
It is difficult to keep a distance to your own material, but I also think that I know best how I want Edenbridge to sound. Furthermore I've always did production jobs myself, so I'm quite capable of doing this. To make sure that I don't become too involved into my own music, I always use the engineer as an independent ear.
Since you're responsible for the Edenbridge music as a whole and Sabine is more or less the face of the band, the spotlight is always on you both. How does this make the others feel?
For the studio part it is indeed just like that and the other band members have no problem with this. On the live stage however the spotlight is really on all five people of the band.
You've always been (in my opinion wrongly) compared with a band like Nightwish. Now that they have fired their female vocalist, does this create an opportunity for you to fill this gap?
I don't believe there is a gap to fill, this has never been our goal anyhow. We just try to do our own thing and we want Edenbridge to be unique and stay true to our original style.
If you compare 'The Grand Design' with 'Shine', what in your opinion are the major differences and what is the biggest progression that you made?
First of all I think that the production has made quite a difference. We changed studios for the mixing process and Karl has used quite a different approach with respect to the guitars. Secondly, 'Shine' was our first release where we went a new way with introducing the choir stuff and on the new album we took the choir things a little bit further. Thirdly, there is a lot more variety to be found on 'The Grand Design', because we have long bombastic tracks like the title track and 'Terra Nova', we have a short modern sounding single track like 'Evermore' and we even have introduced some A.O.R.-influences in tracks like 'Flame Of Passion' and 'Top Of The World'. So I feel we have really matured as a band and have taken our style to the extreme. Last but not least I also developed as a composer.
Besides two really bombastic songs ('Terra Nova' and 'The Grand Design') there are also two piano ballads ('The Most Beautiful Place' en 'Taken Away') to be found on this record, where Sabine really showcases her vocal talents. Why did you decide to incorporate two kind of similar piano ballads?
I just had them written, I don't really make up my mind before the actual production. The songs were there and they fitted into the lyrical concept. They also contributed to adding a different atmosphere and more variety to the album.
In my opinion the strongest tracks are the pretty straightforward songs 'Flame Of Passion' (with an outstanding chorus) and 'Evermore'. What are your favorite songs of the new album?
It's funny and also surprising that you mention these songs, although I can understand your choice because the chorus lines immediately stay in your head. I myself am more in favor of the longer tracks and then especially 'The Grand Design' itself. I've put so much work into this song and it evolved really from the early beginning to the very latest version. It took me one and a half month to do the arrangements and it was a beautiful and creative process.
On the limited edition digipack there will be an instrumental bonus track called 'Empire Of The Sun' Why did you use an instrumental as a bonus track?
The lyrics are based on the eight songs that are to be found on the normal version of the album and I didn't want to incorporate a song which didn't really fit into the lyrical concept. That's why we decided to add an instrumental track instead.
Besides the guest appearances of the more well-known artists we also find contributions of Martin Mayr (flamenco, acoustic/rhythm guitar), which is totally unknown to me. Who is he, what's his musical background and how did he get involved with Edenbridge?
Martin filled in when our previous guitar player left the band and he already played with us on our last tour. He's a great fusion player and he plays terrific flamenco guitars. He played a great acoustic solo on the album and he will also be part of the band on our next tour.
In 'The Great Design' there's also a violin solo of a girl named Astrid Stockhammer. Since there's also a guy named Arne Stockhammer (Lanvall's real name – Sjak) in the band, what's the connection?
(starts laughing) Arne Stockhammer, who's that guy? Astrid is my sister, who's more than twelve years younger than me. She worked with me already on my third solo album and on 'Shine' and this time the title track just asked for a violin solo so it was obvious that she would be part of this project again.
Why didn't you play these instruments yourself, since you seem to be capable of playing about every instrument there is on this planet?
No, that would really be too much for me. Furthermore I'm good at playing guitar based stuff and I have a lot of instruments at home, but I'm really not good in playing violins and such so I really needed to get some outside help in.
We talked quite extensively about the musical part, let's switch to the lyrics. Is 'The Grand Design' a concept album and if so, what's the concept about?
It's about the beginning and the end of the earth and of life in general. Both opening and closing tracks 'Terra Nova' and 'The Grand Design' are the macro-cosmos and the middle songs are the micro-cosmos and express the different feelings that human beings are running through. The red line of the concept is much more present than in any of our previous releases, although I didn't really intend to write a real concept album. It just came naturally. I always write the music first and the lyrics come last, so I really had to make up my mind where to go to lyrically.
I really like the new cover artwork by Thomas Ewerhard. It is quite obvious that this is related to the lyrical concept, but can you tell me how this got established?
It was in fact a process that both Thomas and me went through. The title was there and it's a title which you can easily connect to. Thomas came back with the first idea for the cover and after a few brainstorming sessions together (and seven cover versions later) we came up with the current one, which I'm totally happy with.
Before the release of the new album you've released a single 'For your eyes only'. Besides two versions of the title track, 'Evermore' is as is an edit version of 'The Grand Design'. Why did you decide to release this single since you're not really a typical singles band?
'For Your Eyes Only' is our second single, since we already released one for the 'Shine' album. We believe a single is a good appetizer for the fans and it was clear from the beginning that we would do a single. First we wanted to use the song 'Evermore' for this, but because of commercial reasons we decided to do 'For Your Eyes Only' instead, which is totally different from our normal work. We always planned to do a cover someday in the future and because I'm a real fan of the James Bond movies with Roger Moore I decided to use one of the movie tunes of the James Bond films. We had the felling that 'For Your Eyes Only' could work and therefore it became the single.
What's the difference between the edit version and the album version of 'The Grand Design' and why did you include two different versions of 'For Your Eyes Only'?
We thought that the single must contain something special and therefore we decided to also record an acoustic version of the single's title track. We also added an edit version of the album's title track, which only lasts about four minutes, as kind of a first acquaintance for the fans.
What do you want to accomplish with this album? For a commercial perspective, is it intended to be the next step in the career of Edenbridge?
We are not lead by commercial thoughts, the commercial success comes by itself. If you focus on the commercial aspects, this doesn't lead you into the right direction. As an artists you just want to grow and perform better than before.
So, what's going to happen now? The record is out and probably you're doing a lot of promotional interviews. When are you going to hit the road again to promote the album on a live-stage?
We will play a festival in Oslo in August and we will co-headline a gothic festival in September. Furthermore we will play the UK in September and October. The real tour, which will be a headline tour by the way, is planned to start in the beginning of the winter, but so far these are only plans. If the package would allow it, I think it would be a great idea to have an all female vocal package, but we'll have to see if this is going to work out.
There was a rather mediocre live-DVD added as a bonus to you live album 'A Lifetime In Eden'. Any chance that we will see a “real” Edenbridge DVD pretty soon or aren't you thinking about this yet?
There are no real plans for this. It's good to keep this in mind for a possible future release, but there's nothing concrete yet.
We talked about the short term things that planned for Edenbridge. What are your more long term plans that you want to achieve with this band?
Well, our record deal with Massacre ended so we have to start negotiating a new record deal, which will probably keep us busy for the next couple of months. I never look further than a few months since it's really hard to predict the future.
You also released solo-albums as Lanvall. Are you still going to put out records as a solo artist or are you really going to focus on Edenbridge, which in my opinion has the biggest chance to become a recognized band in the business?
I'm really focusing on Edenbridge now and I don't have any time to work on solo albums anymore. Furthermore I don't think there's a market anymore for instrumental albums, because this is not really appreciated anymore. Edenbridge is my absolute priority.
Okay Lanvall, thanks for your time and your willingness to answer my questions. Any last words from your side?
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about Edenbridge's new release and thank you for the time to talk to me and asking me all these nice questions. I really believe that 'The Grand Design' is the best effort so far coming from Edenbridge. I hope that the music fans are willing to check it out.