ART OF ILLUSION - It's Melodic Music from Anders Rydholm (keyboards, bass, rhythm guitars) and Lars Säfsund (lead and background vocals, keyboards). "X Marks The Spot" - the debut album available from AOR-Heaven, Germany and from Marquee/Avalon in Japan, release date: January 2021. Indeed. This is what you get when you combine the melodic music of Anders Rydholm (GRAND ILLUSION, Code, Demon Kakka) with the magic voice of Lars Säfsund (WORK OF ART, Lionville). It's their tribute to music that focus on great melodies, big catchy hooks and tons of background vocals. Plenty of sing-a-long moments and Swedish AOR at its most technological and crafty approach. has been praising the 'grand work of art illusion' in the past. Find out more about the project and what to expect from the band in January-21. Here's: Mr. ANDERS RYDHOLM...

Art Of Illusion? (AOI) Are we running out of band names :)

Ha ha. Easy to think that, but the name is more of a salute to our past. Instead of using our names, we used parts of our band names instead. I think we have discussed at least 100 name suggestions, but to find a good band name is 10 times harder than to write an album.

The Grand Illusion trademark is a Work Of Art, an almost technological approach to albums and sound. Are we supposed to expect the same grand work on this project?

Hard to completely change yourself, so there are of course some similarities, but I think this album has less prog than Grand Illusion. More direct songs as well. A clear focus on the melodies and Lars also have had a big impact on what songs that has ended up on the album. I have written many more songs that haven't been used. Many of them really great too, and I will try to use them in the future for other artists. We recorded 17 and 13 in total are being used (with the Japanese bonus track). I know it's important for Lars to feel that songs suit his vocal style and he sings truly amazing on this album. Lars also shows a little bit more of himself and what he is able to do, I think. Lots of dynamics. Hard to describe in words. You have to listen.

Would you say it's a "lockdown" project or something else? How did you hook up with Lars Säfsund from Work Of Art?

Not at all a lockdown album! This album has been in the making since 2015 and the most of it was written and recorded before the lockdown. Only the song "Let The Games Begin" is written and recorded during the lockdown. I met Lars through Robert Säll of WOA. In 2010 Robert and me met and wrote a bunch of songs together. Two of them ended up on Work of Art albums. "Castaway" on the second WOA album "In Progress" and "The Turning Point" of the third album "Framework". I play bass, keyboards and rhythm guitars as well on these songs. Already in 2010, I talked with Lars, since he sang demo vocals on the songs. We met for the first time when WOA played support for TOTO in Smögen. In 2015 I sent Lars some songs and asked if any of them was something he would consider singing. Since then when have been working on this album. We both work with other things as well so the pace has gone both up and down.

How much flexibility did you allow him on vocal harmonies, melodies, etc.?

He has total freedom on harmonies, but he's been very true to my original melodies. That's important for me since I don't write backgrounds and let singers come up with their own ideas for melodies. I write songs and the melody is always my starting point and in focus. Small tweaks only and mostly to suit his voice. Lars has a unique way of thinking and arranging melodies and it works great together with my way of thinking/arranging. For example on the song "Waltz for the Movies" I wrote the song and sent just a guide, piano track and the lyrics to Lars. I then did the orchestral arrangement for the song, but never sent it to Lars. Two days later I had Lars vocal tracks in the mailbox. It was just to insert the tracks and mix it. Despite that we didn’t communicate about it both our arrangement parts/ideas, it worked like a charm together and that's what on the album as well. We both used a lot of colored chords and it could have been a train wreck, but it works like a charm.

Lyrically, what is represented on the new album? Any intention of keeping it traditional AOR and several topics about hate,

I think the album has its own twists lyrically. Of course, there are some love lyrics, but there are quite a lot of songs that has completely different touch as well. We have tried to use some humor also. Not sure that everybody would appreciate that, or understand, but to me humor is important, and I love musical kind of humor. One song is about going to Rome in Italy, to eat yourself to death. Who doesn't love Italian food? One song is about a movie projectionist dreaming of the past. Another about the fear of a being a Gladiator. The song "My Loveless Lullaby" is also about love bout from a loser/virgin male kind of perspective. So, I would say that it's not the usual stuff.

Totally understand. I use a lot of humor in my work. What's the story behind the title of "X Marks The Spot"?

No story its more about saying that here we are!!! Hopefully people will find a treasure when the listen to the music. Titles are also tricky. None of the songs was suitable as the title, so we had to find something different. A lot of fast songs on the album so my working title was "Melodic Lullaby's in 160 BPM". Not intend to be used, of course.

Would you say it's mostly rather a melancholy album? Considering that we are all miserable bastards due to lockdown.

Not at all. Many AOR-songs goes in a minor key, but most of my hooks and refrains are written in a major key and always been writing and thinking in that way. I like the hooks to be catchy and uplifting. It's just the way I think music and how I write. I tend to be sadder and more melancholic, when I write ballads.

But seriously, was it much a self-communing album? Did you find out more about each other and your love for melodic music?

We have learned to know each other in the process and what we like musically. It's been an honest and simple dialogue all the way. We share many common musical heroes and grounds and that I also think could be heard in our music. I love Lars interpretation of my melodies and lyrics and he sings more dynamic than ever before. We both share a huge respect for Queen and Freddie Mercury and I think that you could hear that on several of the songs. All those common grounds simplify how we both hear and interprets music.

Is it fair to say that AOI belong in the 'up and coming' AOR category or should they be a little higher on the ladder?

Impossible to say, since people interprets music so differently and AOR people are really fanatic about what's AOR for them. We have both more traditional type of AOR songs, plus some heavier ones as well and it always hard to label anything yourself. I just hope that people enjoy the music and after a while find out they are humming along to it. We have an old Grand Illusion song named “Itch in my brain” that’s about something that you could not get out of your head. I hope that many of these songs will be pain-in-the-ass itches.

What kind of input did friends and record label have during the recording and writing process?

None. I am really solitary in my writing. All songs where done before I presented anything to our labels. I wanted this to be an album that we ourselves are happy with 100%. No compromises! I hope that the AOR community would give us a chance and listen to our album. Not only one song but the whole album, since it's quite diverse. I am really proud of this music and this album has also given me back the will and focus to write melodic music again. Let us know what you think by writing us a line at our facebook page. Cheers/ Anders Rydholm - Art Of Illusion.

Interview by: Urban Wally Wallstrom

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Photos from the band's Facebook page