Interview With Guitarist Andreas Gullstrand of Creye and Grand Slam.
Interviewed by David.
If I say the name Andreas Gullstrand then it may not ring any bells for you…yet (that day is coming though, mark my words), but if I were to mention the names Grand Slam and Creye then you will likely know them right away, and if you are familiar with either then you know Gullstrand’s work as he is the guitarist behind both of those bands, and the mastermind behind the latter.
This young up-and-coming artist set the melodic rock world abuzz earlier this year after releasing his first EP with his new band Creye. It is a fantastic EP (click here to read my review) that, in just four months time, has already sold out the entire pressing! An impressive feat.
I have had the pleasure of talking with Andreas many many times over the past several months and am thankful to be able to call him a friend now. He is a very cool and down to Earth guy and big things are happening now with him and his band. With a newly signed contract with a record label firmly grasped in hand and a new album in the works, Andreas Gullstrand is a busy guy to be sure, but he still kindly agreed to sit down and answer some of my questions about his career and just how his new passion project came about.
Below you will find the fun and insightful conversation that took place.
MMR: Thank you so much for taking the time to sit and answer these questions, Andreas, I really appreciate it, man.
So let’s jump in here at the very beginning if you don’t mind. You are a fantastic guitarist, just a very talented guy. When did you first start playing?
AG: First of all thank you so much for your kind words, Dave.
I got my first guitar for Christmas when I was 14. I had been listening to rock music for a couple of years and most of my friends were playing an instrument so it was just a natural transition for me to eventually start playing as well. I actually wanted to play bass at first but after trying the guitar I knew that I wanted to be a guitarist.
MMR: And now here you are making waves in the melodic rock world doing just that. Very cool.
Now I know you have played in the band Grand Slam. I have the EP and the excellent ‘A New Dawn‘ album, great stuff, especially ‘Get High‘, love that song! Will you tell us a bit about that band and how that all came about for you?
AG: After playing in a couple of heavier progressive metal projects through the years that never made it out of the rehearsals I wanted to find a complete band with a full repertoire of original songs that was a bit more commercial than what I previously had been playing. Grand Slam was looking for a guitarist and I did an audition and got the job.
Grand Slam was created in 2007 by drummer Andy Swaniz as a melodic hard rock project. But the current line-up has only been playing for around 4 years now.
MMR: Well I think you made the right move there! I may be a bit biased with my taste in music but I just don’t think there is another genre that can touch melodic rock and AOR so I think you made the right move indeed.
So are you still active with the band?
MMR: Nice! So hopefully another record with them sometime in the near future then!
Now that is the only band I know you from personally, but have you been in any other bands prior to Grand Slam?
AG: Yes. Like I said there’s been a couple of unknown projects and nothing that has ever been recorded or performed live.
MMR: Okay, so you really are pretty new to all of this. Amazing considering your talent.
So when did you first start thinking about striking out and starting your own band?
AG: After we got the opportunity in Grand Slam to do ‘A New Dawn‘ I felt very held back by creative differences and decided that I wanted to direct my songwriting and ambitions towards a band where I could decide the direction and concept myself.
MMR: That band of course is Creye. Yet another exciting band coming out of Sweden! Tell us about that project and when it all started for you.
AG: Thank you so much! Like I said, I simply demanded more and I wanted to raise the bar and I felt that my voice wasn’t heard. So the only way for me to do that was to go my own way and create something of my own. The concept was very simple. I wanted to make melodic rock like they did it in the old days but I also wanted to mix in some pop from the 80’s and also some synth based retro wave in the mix to hopefully create something new and exciting.
MMR: Well you certainly succeded in that with the EP and thankfully we were all introduced to your creative side there with your music!
So how different is it for you having your own personal project now as opposed to being in Grand Slam, a band that was already established when you joined?
AG: It’s very different. Grand Slam has been around for many years and there’s some things that you just can’t change when you join the band as late as I did (for better or for worse). Creye is brand new and I’m able to build it up to my liking.
MMR: That is very true. When you join up with an existing band like that then you have to go with the band’s vision, having your own project gives you that freedom to create what you want and how you want it. Which is what you have done with Creye. So let’s talk a bit about the whole project.
You founded Creye and you are the guitarist for the band obviously, but you are also the main song writer, and a damn good one I must say. How long have you been writing music?
AG: I wrote my first song when I was around 16 and I had the fortune of being able to surround myself with people that were much better than me. And most importantly people that wasn’t afraid to tell me when something sounded like shit. But I didn’t actively start writing music until I joined Grand Slam. And since I started Creye it feels like it’s the only thing I do haha.
MMR: Well you obviously need people around you that won’t pull any punches and will tell you the truth about what you write. And being man enough to be able to take constructive criticism like that says a lot about you, man.
So what is it that inspires your writing?
AG: It’s very hard to define it. It’s things that happened in my life, movies, games, books, other songs. Basically everything haha.
MMR: So you really just never know when something will hit you then. Always have to have that pen and pad ready I reckon!
So moving on here, who are the bands and artists that have influenced you the most both musically and with your writing?
AG: There’s so many but if I had to choose a few that have inspired my writing more than others I have to choose Survivor, Michael Bolton, Giant, H.E.A.T. and Dream Theater. But there are so many. I draw quite a lot of inspiration from genres such Blues, Soul, Funk and Country as well.
And for me as a guitar player, John Petrucci was a huge influence for me in my early years. But now in the last couple of years I tend to lean more to fusion guys like Frank Gambale, Larry Carlton and Guthrie Govan.
MMR: I’ll be honest, I am not a big Dream Theater fan myself, just not really into much of that progressive stuff, but there is no denying those guys are some master musicians and I have always enjoyed Labrie’s voice.
As for Survivor, Giant and H.E.A.T. I can’t argue with any of those! All amazing bands for sure, and Bolton has definitely had some incredible stuff in his career.
Some amazing guitarists there as well. I am not very familiar with Gambale’s stuff personally but I have heard enough to know he can more than hold his own.
Well back to the band, you had a three track EP release earlier this year and it is superb, I love it as you know. You have two original tracks on the EP, ‘Straight To The Top‘ and ‘Never Too Late‘, and one cover. Can you tell us a little about those first two songs that you wrote for it?
AG: ‘Never Too Late‘ being the debut for the entire band was probably the hardest song I’ve ever written.
I did so many versions of that song in the pre-production that I nearly went insane. But it was so important to me that everything was perfect and up to my standards. Lyrically the song is about a guy who has to live with not being able to stop loving someone that he can’t be with anymore.
With ‘Never Too Late‘ being a kind of ”medium tempo” song for the band I knew that we could go both ways with the second song. Either faster/heavier or softer/slower. And I quite quickly decided that the second one should show off a much more aggressive side of Creye.
When I was writing ‘Straight To The Top‘ I tried to exaggerate everything in ‘Never Too Late‘ which led to me developing the very iconic drum sound in the song wich has almost become a trademark for Creye. This song also went through a couple of major changes very late on when Joel entered the process.
The song is basically is about me betting it all on my dreams and this band.
MMR: That is awesome. I love hearing how songs came about like that. Songs can be interpreted so many ways by different people, it is always fun to hear how the artist meant them when they were written.
Well the third and final track on the EP is an excellent cover of Robert Tepper’s ‘No Easy Way Out‘ from his classic album by the same name, just a terrific song from a terrific record. What made you decide to go with that particular cover?
AG: I’ve had a huge interest for movies my whole life and one of my favorites are the Rocky movies. I must have seen them hundreds of times and they have had such a huge impact on me and the way that I simply never give up. And sometimes I try to re-create other artists productions just for fun and this was the case with this song. And the funny thing is that when I first met our manager Johan Nylén we talked a bit about the next steps for the band and he suggested that we should include a cover next time we did a recording and said that he had wished that someone would cover that song for years to which I responded that I’ve already done a pre-production of the song. So it was pretty much just to enter the studio with that one. And personally I felt very excited as a fan myself of the song to hear Alex sing it.
MMR: Well who doesn’t love Rocky! And what a great job on such a classic song too. Everyone really nailed it there and Alex was excellent on it like he always is.
Well we have talked about the music so let’s move onto the band members themselves. You had a fantastic group of musicians featured on the EP. How did the musicians in the band come about joining?
AG: When I started this whole thing I wanted to use studio musicians for the first songs to be able to make the first impression of Creye to be that it was a name that stood for quality. I didn’t want to be one of those bands who sounded like crap at first and then became better.
The first one to be included in this whole idea was my friend, right hand man and producer Erik Wiss, who ended up also playing the Keyboards on ‘Never Too Late‘. Shortly after that I contacted Alex about the whole concept and asked if he would be interested in singing on the debut single of this project that I was working on to which he said yes. He then helped me get in touch with drummer Carl Tudén and I personally contacted Linus Abrahamson who’s playing bass on ‘Never Too Late‘. And to see how another professional guitarist would approach my songs I also brought in Andrée Theander who laid down some additional guitars on the song.
After the debut single I decided that it was time to find some permanent members for Creye who were able to be fully dedicated to the band. And after putting up an add on Facebook that we we were looking for full-time members, keyboard player Joel Rönning contacted me. He then helped me get in touch with both Arvid Filipsson on drums and Gustaf Örsta on bass. All of which are playing on the two later songs. Gustaf was included in the process pretty late on so that’s why we decided to have Simon Gudmundson play the bass on the cover song. We had a few singers that had contacted us but no one that we felt could could even come close to Alex so we decided to continue with him on the second single as well.
After the EP was recorded we decided that it was time for us to have a debut rehearsal with just the four of us that were full-time members at the time and it quite quickly became clear that we needed to bring on board a rhythm guitarist to achieve the sound that we wanted. Fredrik had been around the band ever since ‘Never Too Late‘ and he just seemed like a very natural choice for that position in the band, so I asked him and he said yes.
MMR: Great stories there! And congratulations, you have yourself a group of talented musicians and I think a winning combination for sure.
Now obviously one of the big drawing points for the EP was the inclusion of the amazing Alexander Strandell of Art Nation fame on vocals, what a talent! You touched briefly on this a moment ago but how did you come about getting him on board?
AG: Yes there’s no doubt about that Including a great singer in this was a crucial strategic move. Something that I was very well aware of from the get go. After stumbling over Alex’s Swedish Idol audition I was simply blown away over this guys voice. But it wasn’t until months after that I decided that I wanted to create Creye and then I asked him if he did studio jobs and if he would be interested in singing on some of my songs and the rest is history.
MMR: This genre has featured, and still features, some of the greatest vocalists ever, so the need to have a strong singer behind the mic is paramount, as it is in any genre of course, but I feel it is more so the case in this genre because of the soaring vocals and sheer power this music requires of it’s singers, and Alex of course has that. But now things have changed up some in the band lineup, and with the success of the EP and signing to a label, which we will get to in a minute, you knew you needed to find a vocalist that could give you all his attention and of course with Alex being first and foremost committed to Art Nation you needed to find someone else. Enter Robin Jidhed. Tell us a little about him. How did you find Robin and how did he end up being the vocalist for Creye?
AG: Like I said before, Creye started out as a band that only existed in the studio. And this was my plan all along, set the sound, and then look for full-time members after the first single was released. And I wanted the world and other musicians to know that I ment business with this.
But as the rest of the band slowly took shape, finding a singer to fill the shoes of Alex was easier said than done.
But it was definitely time to start planning for a future outside of the studio and raise the bar even higher. And as you said, Alex being committed to Art Nation, we needed a frontman of our own who was able to commit to Creye 100% to make it work longterm.
And even though we had a couple of very strong contenders to join the band after the release of our EP none of them worked out in the end. So I simply called our manager Johan Nylén and asked if he could help us out with this. It didn’t even take one day before he contacted me about Robin.
Robin sent us a demo of him singing ‘Straight To The Top‘ and there was no question about that we had definitely found what we’ve been looking for and more. The chemistry was right between us and this guy could definitely sing. So I asked him if he would be interested in joining and he said yes.
MMR: Well I know that I for one am very excited about hearing him on your songs! If you chose him as a replacement for someone the caliber of Alex then I know he really has to be something special.
So you just released some huge news the other week that you were just signed to the biggest melodic rock record label out there, Frontiers. The label is incredible of course and are really one of the driving forces in keeping this genre of music going. How did you end up being signed to them and how does it feel finally getting your own band signed, and to such a big label no less?
AG: For me personally this is my second record deal but it’s always a bit extra special when it’s totally your own creation. We had 12 offers from different labels when we signed the contract with Frontiers so there were quite a few to choose between. Our first offer actually arrived as early as when we had only released the teaser for ‘Never Too Late‘ haha. But I knew what I wanted from a lable and I had no rush in signing anything just for the sake of being signed. When Frontiers contacted us it just felt right straight away. And it felt like they really had the muscles and financial capability to help us get to the next level.
MMR: Twelve offers? Wow! Deservedly so I must say! And I think Frontiers is the perfect home for you. They definitely have the capability to take you to the next level. And congratulations on the record deal, I can’t wait to hear more from you. Speaking of which, I know you have been working on new music for the past couple of months. You have a band in place, a full-time vocalist on board and now have a record label. When can we hope to have some new music from you?
AG: Sadly not until next year I’m afraid. Since we will be busy working on the album for the rest of the year.
MMR: Well that just gives us something to look forward to next year, right!
What about touring plans? Do you have any plans yet on taking this music out to play live?
AG: I can’t mention any details yet but we have shows booked already. And there’s definitely plans for tours and more shows in the future.
MMR: Excellent! We will stay tuned for more news on that front then.
Well I know you are a busy man so thank you once again for your time, I look forward to what you bring us next! Congratulations on everything and keep up the great work. So one last question and I will let you go. If you could only have three albums in your possession which ones would they be? I know, I saved the easy one for last!
AG: That’s indeed a difficult question but I have to choose the 3 albums that totally changed music for me when I bought them.
The first cd I ever bought was Survivor ‘Ultimate Survivor‘ and it just has a huge sentimental value to me and me growing up.
The second one would probably be Dream Theater ‘Images And Words‘ who opened up an whole new world for me as a musician and as a guitarist.
And the third one would probably be H.E.A.T. ‘Address The Nation‘ which is the soul reason that I decided to dig deeper into the world of AOR.
Thank you so much for having me, it was a honor.
To find out more about Creye and to follow them then check out the links below.
Click here to visit the band’s Facebook page.
Click here to visit the band’s website.