It has been a busy few months for Peter Dyer (keyboards), Joel Van Dijk (guitar), and Joe Gonzales (bass), who together make up The Grand Scheme. After their most recent tour with live partner Aloe Blacc, which culminated at Coachella 2014, The Grand Scheme recently kicked off a summer tour with Bruno Mars. As friends of Strymon, they took some time out of their hectic schedules to answer some questions about their favorite gear, recent success, and future plans.
1) This one’s for Peter. While Strymon effects are usually associated with guitar, you’ve managed to incorporate them into your style as a keyboardist. What effects/pedals (not limited to Strymon) do you use, and what makes them suit you as a player?
Peter: I’m a big fan of fxs pedals on keys. Dry stock presets kill me. Keyboards can sound very dull and static sometimes. Even a smidge of fx spice can go a long way. A nice delay can transform an otherwise trite synthy worm into a lush spacey lead. A mild chorus can widen a lifeless pad. A knobby hardware pedal lets me further shape my sound in realtime, making it my own, and engaging the audience. Folks can hear that stuff.
I adore the big box Strymons. I generally hate multi-pedals since they usually do too many things and usually poorly, but the quality and flow of the big Strymons feel “analog” to play and tweak. Saveable presets, stereo, and midi sync are icing on their stunning fx engines. It’s a wonderful hybrid.
Apart from my touring rig Strymons, I’m a glutton for an analog chorus on polysynths (MXR-134, Moog Cluster Flux), and a bucket-brigade delay on monosynths (MXR Carbon Copy, Moog 104z).
2) The Grand Scheme just wrapped up Coachella with Aloe Blacc and is preparing for a summer tour with Bruno Mars. Did the band anticipate this level of success or is this just the beginning?
Peter: I’m glad I got to see this act rise up 3 years ago when I joined from a mild success to the world stage. Usually I just catch one or the other as a sideman. And further, to have been a small piece of Aloe’s hit “Wake Me Up” and see folks singing it every night is a pretty nice feeling.
Joel: I believe both. At the beginning of my career playing with Aloe Blacc I had no idea it would make it to this level. I have played the empty shows, the tours in the van, the RV, and everything in between with Aloe. To be on this level now is awesome, but to answer the second part there is always room to grow and I believe this project will continue to do that. We are opening for Bruno now, but in the future who knows!
Joe: It’s been an unexpected rise to success. We started out doing smaller tours and each year has been bigger and bigger. The way it looks now this is just the beginning.
3) I’m sure over the years you’ve collected a lot of gear. Any particular instrument that you love the most?
Peter: My Rhodes Mk V, a Clavinet D6 I rebuilt, and my Yamaha CP70 (electric grand). There is life and uniqueness in every note, as each note is literally a different mechanism. The Mobius can coax 3 decades of classic album tones out of them, so it’s usually on.
Joel: Gear is like fashion, things go in and out of style, and/or my taste for them changes! I still have a Parker Fly from my teenage years which I will always love, but for my current taste and gig it’s not for everything. I still love to bring it in on sessions, especially for the clean stuff. I am still digging into the Mobius and Timeline and I am particularly excited about the results I have been getting with my stereo amp set up!
4) Do you prefer the stage or the studio?
Peter: I like the studio. As a keyboardist, on stage, it’s expected for me to supply a hundred different sounds and parts at the drop of a hat, and possibly run tracks at the same time. In the studio, I can focus on making one amazing sound at a time, and tweak to my hearts content until it’s right.
Joel: I love them both for different reasons. The connection to the audience and spontaneity of the live show is priceless, but the lasting results of the studio and creation of something new can definitely trump the live experience for me. If I had to pick one, I will 9 times out of 10 say studio, but I would also attach that to my ideal touring schedule, 9 days in the studio and 1 day onstage! Live magic just can’t be replaced.
Joe: Personally I love them both but something about playing live and the energy feedback from the crowd. You just can’t get that from the studio.
5) Most memorable gig you have played/attended?
Peter: The Pyramids of Giza. It was a show for a private group with Mariah, and they had a stage built on the sand for the event, in the desert, with the pyramids less than a few hundred yards away. It was the strangest show I’ve ever encountered, possibly for life. A sandstorm hit during soundcheck, i mean come on!
Joel: Glastonbury stands out for me as a pinnacle moment in my career, while it was both live broadcast and live to around 20,000 people. There are plenty of other notable experiences that I have had since, but that festival marked a change in the game for me. Big time festival, tons of mud and people going to extreme ends to witness the music there!
Joe: The gig that stands out for me was playing on the David letterman show in the historic Johnny Carson studios. I’ve been watching bands on that show since I was a kid.
6) Can we expect an album from the three of you in the future? Any solo projects to keep a look out for?
Joel: The Grand Scheme project has been in the works for a long time and is nearing completion! We recorded a lot of material at the end of a long summer run, at Modern World studios in the UK and are looking forward to releasing the material to the public. Stay tuned! Instrumental-Soul-Jazz-Afro-Punk style on it’s way!
Peter: It was a magical time, near the end of a rough summer of constant touring. The Scheme was in sync and I’m glad we captured it.
Joel: That being said I have two albums of solo material under my own name (Joel Van Dijk) A Kind of Blues from 2012 and Truthseeker from 2010. There are definitely some Strymons recorded on there from everyone.
Peter: Joe & I are proud to have been apart of JVD’s albums.
Want more from the Grand Scheme? Check out their latest track “Scheme Theme” from their upcoming album:
Many thanks to the Grand Scheme for taking the time to chat with us, and we wish them the best in their future musical endeavors!