Interview with Roland Grapow.
Up from the ashes comes 'Masterplan' with their stunning new album for 2007. The band started out when ex Helloween members Roland Grapow and Uli Kusch decided to leave Helloween and form Masterplan. Find a vocalist wasn't that hard when Roland approached Jorn Lande (Company Of Snakes/ Beyond Twilight/ Ark) to the ranks. Also joining the band was bassist Jan Eckert & keyboardist Axel Mackenrott to the fold. The band signed to AFM Records in Germany have have recorded 2 successful previous albums to date and now with the release of their awesome new album 'MK II' see the band heading for a brighter future. The new album also features new vocalist Mike DiMeo (Riot/ The Lizards) and ex Rage drummer Mike Terrana. I have to say having heard the new album it is without doubt an incredible album and well worth checking out. I managed to have a chat with Masterplan's axe man - Roland Grapow to find out more about the new album and why Jorn and Uli left the band and what the future hold's for the masters of metal!! Here is what Roland had to say.
OK Roland, it's nice to speak to you once again, it's been a while since the 1st interview with did for the debut album, so I'd like to start by asking you how successful the debut album was for the band?
Well the debut album was a huge success for the band, it was a big surprise for us and after we left Helloween it was kind of like a little revenge for us (laughing). We thought 'Yes we had made it!'
Was there a lot of bad feeling within Helloween?
"Oh yes there was, it was like the same situation with Nightwish, after the last gig she was fired and the same happened to me and Uli. Finally we are in contact with the rest of Helloween again, and there are no bad feelings between us. I am so proud of the band I have now."
So how did you get a hold of Jorn Lande, he is certainly a demanding vocalist, was it hard to get in touch with him at first?
"Yes it was very difficult to get a hold of him, we tried to get a hold of him through emails, but he never replied, and a friend of mine gave me his girlfriends email, so I contacted her and told her who I was and what band I was in. I wasn't expecting any kind of reply from Jorn, but the day later he contacted me & he seemed interested in hearing what I was doing, so I sent him some tapes. So we told him to come to Germany and we would pay for the flight and that happened 2-3 days after he got the tapes. When he arrived he was singing the Led Zepplin song 'Black Dog' which was released on a tribute CD to Zepplin."
Looking back at the debut album, which are you're favourtie songs & why?
"I guess the song 'Kind Hearted Light' is one of my favourites, because I think it has a mixture of all the songs we have done in the faster content. I also like 'Soul Burn' & 'Crystal Night', and I also like 'Hero's' which is more like a Helloween left over song."
Why have you continued to carry on with the Helloween style of music with Masterplan?
"I think it is still in the
blood, after spending 12yrs with Helloween and the European market is totally
different to that of Japan. 'Hero's', was #1 in Japan & 'Enlighten Me' they
didn't want to have on the CD."
Moving on with the 2nd album 'Aeronautics', how successful was that album compared to the debut album?
"Well it didn't sell as well as the debut album, our label AFM was disappointed with the sales as so were the band. I think the song writing was a little darker & more serious. Uli and myself had some serious personal problems and I think they reflected on that album. The debut album had songs that were wrote my Uli and myself and Jorn came later with have the melodies & lyrics. Arel wrote 2 songs on the 2nd album which are really good too. I think on the vocal side of the album that Jorn was trying to get more serious or more progressive & he didn't like this German type of melodies on the debut album? I think that is also why he left the band later too."
Are you still on speaking terms with Jorn & still friends? Was you also disappointed that he didn't stay around for the 3rd album?
"Oh yeah we are, and I think Uli was happy that this bad feeling with Jorn had gone, as Jorn was pretty negative about a lot of things, his vocal performance live etc... I think the debut album had a very good style for the band & Jorn's vocals seemed very suited to the bands music."
The Helloween album 'The Dark Ride' was a darker and heavier album, do you think that the 2nd Masterplan album was reflected in the same way?
"Yes I do in some way or another."
I remember see in you live with your own project at Wacken, and you handled the vocals on the debut album did you ever think of doing the vocals for Masterplan?
"No I didn't think about handling the vocals for Masterplan, I knew we needed a professional singer and we thought that Jorn would be suited for the band if we could get him on the record. A lot of people made band reviews about my vocal on the debut solo album and I took it too heart too much, so no I didn't want to sing on the Masterplan albums."
Looking at the 2nd album with Masterplan, which songs did you like and why?
"I think my favourite has to be 'I'm Not Afraid', has it's a dark song. I also like 'Wounds' is another good song. I also like 'Black In The Burn' & 'Crimson Rider'. I think the song 'Into The Arena' sounded better on the pre-production."
After Jorn left the band, how many vocalist did you audition for the band?
"Well we had for vocalist who we had in mind for the replacement after Jorn left the band. I really can't tell you who they were, that would be unfair, sorry!! No we did have in mind the vocalist from 'Beyond Twilight' Bjorn & the old singer Kelly, we also had Patrick from Astral Doors, that was the main 4 we had in mind."
So what was it that stood out the most with Mike DiMeo?
"Well I had a feeling that his voice was more suited to our music and his voice was more like his own style, so I spoke to Uli about it and he agreed that Mike would be the perfect replacement for Jorn. We joined the band last August and we kept it a secret for a while. Jorn isn't really a metal singer, whereas Mike is & he loves our music."
I wasn't too sure what I would be thinking when I heard the new album for the 1st time, I wasn't sure if Mike's voice would be suitable for the band, but how wrong I was, it's a master piece!!
"Well thanks Jason, we have
not had any bad reviews so far for this album, so we are totally happy with
What do you think the album would of sounded like if Jorn had of sang on it?"
"I think it would of sounded a little bit different but still a good album. I think his vocals would of sounded different to Mike's, but I trusted Jorn to deliver some good stuff. I think he might of brought something a little more darker to the new album."
Has Jorn or Uli heard the CD?
"I am not sure if Jorn has, but I do know that Uli has and he wrote us a congratulations email to the band, so that was cool!!"
So why did Uli leave the band, what was the reason behind his departure?
"Well it wasn't to do with
'Beautiful Sin', but I had a feeling he was moving away from Masterplan's music.
The main reason why he left the band was because we ended up having fights
together, just because of business reasons about money. So we stopped talking to
1 another and he talked through the manger, so in the ended he said I could keep
the band & he moved on."
That's pretty sad, as you 2 were together for some number of years in Helloween.
"Well it hit me more when he left than it did when Jorn left as I always expected Jorn to leave at some stage, but not Uli!!
What do you think to the Beautiful Sin album?
"Well it's really fair to talk about it, my 1st impression was, 'why has he made an album like this, when it has 1 song that is Helloween and the other Masterplan which is a bonus song and a instrumental. Jorn has sang on the original version of this song."
How did you get in touch with you're new drummer Mike Terrana. I know he did you're 2nd album album and played Wacken with you.
"Well all the vocals and guitars were done for the album, I was so stressed with this album Mike had 1 day to record each song. I called him up and asked if he wanted to help out, he said he would rather be in the band. So he left Rage and joined Masterplan. He is also still with Axel Rudi Pell."
Tell me a little bit about the new album, for instance, the title of the album 'MK II',
"It just means mark 2, a new era for the band. It is the idea of Axel, and we are both Deep Purple fans. He had a really good feeling about the new line-up, a fresh beginning and I agreed with him. The fans should not forget about the 1st 2 albums, I just feel that this album is a better quality album and quality of the band."
Did you have any other art work for the album?
"No not really, we just want a symbol for Masterplan and we thought that this was the perfect symbol for the band. I think the debut album was a good cover, but the 2nd album was too much for me, I didn't like the cockpit and the merchandise was the same people didn't buy it. For myself, I do like little symbols myself, because I think it fits more of my age group."
How long did it take to record the album? Also was it recorded by yourself in Hamburg?
"No the album wasn't recorded in Hamburg, I live in Slovakia for 3yrs now, because I have a girlfriend. I lived with her parents for a while as they have a big house and they had another house below there's, so I turned it into a studio and we recorded everything in there, it sounds great!!"
You produced the album, did Andy Sneap have anything to do with the recording this time around?
"No he didn't, he did the
1st album, only basic production, drums, and over dubs. Andy was going to
produce this album too, but he had a lot of great offers from famous bands, so
he decided to work with those instead. He did come to my studio to help me out
the the acoustics sounds etc.. and made the setting for us which I'm really
grateful to him for, thanks Andy!!"
What sort of time period did it take to record the album?
"It was done in a very short time, and I have to be honest I learnt everything from Andy!!"
Would you ever consider producing any other bands in you're studio?
"Oh yeah I would!! When I have more time I want to start working with smaller bands, but professional like Andy or Roy Z."
Where the songs for the new album wrote as a team effort?
"I will tell you the percentage of who wrote what. I wrote 60-70 %, Axel wrote 3 songs, and 1 song of Uli's & 1 song from outside the band. A Swedish song writer wrote the song 'Lost & Gone', which is a single for us!! Axel wrote, 'Enemy', 'Watching The World', and my favourite song is 'Keeps Me Burning'. Mike DiMeo wrote all the lyrics expect for 'Lost & Gone' and he worked with me on the melodies to make it sound more like Masterplan."
Briefly Roland, talk me
through the songs, what are they about?
"'Lost & Gone', that is about a relationship, 'Keep Me Burning' - Its about the band really, how we have kept the flame burning throughout the trouble times with the band. 'Phoenix Rising', that is the instrumental and it is about the band too. 'Warriors Cry', that is typical classic metal lyrics, its a cool song. 'I'm Gonna Win', it's a song I wrote the song and I was inspired by my girlfriend. It is also a song about maybe a boxer coming into the ring for his fight. Next is 'Watching The World', I think its a song that Mike wrote and I am sure its about how the world is changing. 'Call Of The Gipsy', its about gipsy's, when a member of the family dies, they have a special ceremony were they put money on the eyes of the dead & covering them with really nice things, and they are still partying with them in the room. Its as if there not dead, but they are going away. Next is 'Trust In You', the ballad, a relationship thing again and it's also about trusting you're self. 'Masterplan' is a song that Uli and I wrote, its similar to that song 'Crawling From Hell'. Next is 'Enemy', not sure about that song. Last song is 'Heart Of Darkness', another song Mike wrote which I don't know about, sorry!!"
So I guess your totally happy with the way it turned out the album right?
"Oh yeah!! I love this album and I choose the title for the album and the running order."
Are you happy with AFM Records?
"Yes I am totally happy with them, They kept a lot of pressure away for me, and they paid for everything, and they believed in me. The company in Japan fucked me up! There called 'Marquee Avalon', and they said nothing when Uli left, and when I asked for money for the mix they didn't pay up as they were worried that 2 members had left the band that the next album would not sell. They asked for some demo tapes before they paid us, and I was pissed off because I didn't want to send out any shitty demo tapes out that were not finished. They told us to feel free to contact other labels, so we did. We are signed to a label through AFM who has contacts in Japan."
Will there be a promo video for this album, if so which song?
"Yeah we will be doing a promo video, we made a video for 'Lost & Gone', and it turned out pretty good and it is a low budget and will be on a ltd CD."
As we are talking about videos, will you be recording a live DVD for this album?
"Yeah we are talking about it, when we get some headlining gigs. We hope to have it for next year."
Will the DVD feature footage of Jorn and Uli?
"I'm not sure about that,
maybe it's not a bad idea at all!! Maybe we could have that as a separate DVD
called 'MK I', who knows??"
So you're about to tour with Saxon, how do you think it will be for the band?
"We are really looking forward to the tour, it gives us the chance for our fans to see and hear the new material. We are looking forward to be playing so many shows in the UK, we have never done that so far!!"
Are you playing Bloodstock again this year?
"No we have not had any offers to play this year (ED: that sucks!!), we are trying to get to play a lot of festivals, but the promoters are weary of us, like a fear!!
Well thank for talking your time out and doing this interview, do you have anything to say before we finish? See you on tour soon ok!!
"Yeah thanx to our fans for their support, we're back and ready for action!! Thanx for the interview, we hope to meet you again Jason."
Thanx To 'Metal' Mike Exley for his support in setting this interview up.
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