Interview with Roland Grapow & Uli Kusch
"By now most of you will be aware of this awsome new band which was put together by ex Helloween Members Uli Kusch & Roland Grapow, along side of them is the ultimate singer Jorn Lande. This band were signed to AFM Records in Germany who have certainly put a lot ofpromotion the band way. With the release of their debut album the band have already played nearly all the most important festivals if not all of them throughout the world. I managed to catch up with the guys @ this years Bloodstock festival in the UK, were I put the following questions o what is a 'Masterpiece'. Here is what they had to say"
"My first question is related to your previous band, just to get things warmed up, so out of the previous albums you recorded with 'Helloween', which is your favourite & least favourite and why?"
(U) "I think for me the best album had to be 'Better Than Raw' because of it's high energy and technical feel to it. My least favourite album would have to be 'Time Of The Oath', because I feel that the songs on that record were good but the sound was bad as it did not seem to be very clear like the other albums we have recorded."
(R) "Well for me I like 'The Dark Ride', because it was hard and heavy and it also saw us leave the band because Mike did not want to go in that direction, he wanted to keep the typical 'Helloween' sound. I also like 'Master Of The Rings' and 'Time Of The Oath', but like Uli said the sound is not great.
"So why did you leave 'Helloween' and are you still friends with them?"
(U) "We had to leave the band because we were fired, and to be honest if it had of not happened we would of left the band anyway sooner or later. So after 'The Dark Ride' tour I thought we should take a 5 month break and rest and see how things were after 5 months, but Mike was first to fire us and for a short while it was a shock to the system but we soon got over it. Now I am very happy that we were fired because this band to me is so much better!!"
(R) "Mike had a lot of problems within himself and he started to blame us for the situation within and around Helloween, and he blamed me for the different style of 'The Dark Ride'. To be honest he was at our rehearsals and he also wrote some of the songs along with me and he ended up blaming me for the sound that had changed. That was the producers idea to change the sound not mine!! The whole band agreed on the sound change except for Mike who said nothing in the beginning until it was recorded. He tells people he is the band leader, he never was but maybe now he is. He also said the same thing about the 'Chameleon' album as well and he said at that time he loved the albums and now he is telling people he does not like them, you figure it out?? I think the last album did have a different sound and I think it worked really well in my opinion."
(U) "Andy wrote some of the darkest and heaviest songs on the last album, so why did he not fire him??" Mike likes to write songs that are fun and about rabbits which I think you can only do for a certain amount of time before people get bored with it (ED: I agree). We are still friends with Markus, but that is about it."
"Ok Roland, let's talk about your solo career as the 'Roland Grapow' albums, will you be recording another album in the near future?"
(R) "I am not doing anything right now, I feel that 'Masterplan' needs 100% attention right now, so everything else is on hold. I do play guitar at home every day and record what I play onto mini disc to collect ideas that I like."
"Uli you recorded Rolands debut solo album, why did you not record the 2nd album?"
(U) "Well Roland wanted to work with Mike Terrana for the 2nd album, I think Roland did not want to have anybody from Helloween on the 2nd record, he thought it would be best to have different members on the 2nd album, otherwise people may think it's another Helloween album."
"So who are your influences and how do they reflect in both Helloween & Masterplan?"
(U) "I would say that all of the 80's metal music, everything from Heavy, Thrash, Rainbow etc... I think that Masterplan are a Hard Rock band with Heavy Metal influences, whereas Helloween were more of a Heavy Metal band. Don't get me wrong we are a Heavy Metal band but different to that of Helloween."
(R) "I think the secret of this band is that we are more varied than Helloween were and Jorn helps with his influences as you know he use to be in 'Company Of Snakes', we like Dio, Whitesnake, Deep Purple etc... We all love it!! Jorns father was a musician in the 60's so he learnt a lot form his father. I think all our influences are creating the perfect blend for Masterplan. I like to listen to blues and I like guitar players like John Syles, Zak Wylde, John Norum, because they play blues with a heavy edge to it."
"As we are talking about your influences, what do you think of today's current scene?"
(R) "Some of it I like but I cannot find anything to satisfies me from the beginning to the end. I think Masterplan has something new and old combined together with something fresh and new."
(U) "I think people create a new style then everybody else follows and I think that is the downfall of it all."
"OK so let's talk about 'Masterplan', so why the name and did you have any other names in mind?"
(U) "I think it sounded the best out of all the names we were thinking of, we had about 50 names to start with but the list got smaller. We did a list separately first and then pulled names out of the hat."
(R) "I left a message on my homepage for fans to leave names for this band, and there was a guy from Mexico asking us to call our self's 'Masterplan', he said we are master musicians and he have our own future in our hands now. We did not want a stupid name or an aggressive name we did not want another Helloween type name. We did think about calling the band 'October Fist', because here is Germany we have October Fest's, so we thought it was a pretty good name."
"So how does the bands name reflect in the music your have created?"
(U) "I really don't see it reflecting in our music to be honest. In the beginning it was a project and now it is a band and we think the name 'Masterplan' does suit our music."
(R) "You can say it is a positive message or name and it is not something aggressive or negative. I think our name is a very neutral name for the band and we have a lot of positive message in our lyrics. We are a positive band!! A lot of people did not get our album cover at first because they thought it was too aggressive, but we wanted to related the 5 elements to each band member, Jorn has the ball and is keeping everything together within the band. We have old paintings in side the CD booklet and a modern cover on the front, we feel it has worked really well."
"Besides Jorn, who else did you audition for the band and how did you hook up with Jorn?"
(R) "Well this band was a project in the beginning and we talked to Russell from 'Symphony X', but then we asked him if wanted to join us and he told us he was staying with Symphony X, we agreed he should stay because they are a great band. We had for about 2 weeks Mike Kissker the old Helloween singer, and then we decided not to have another singer from Helloween in the band. We then heard 'Ark' albums and we thought we had to get a hold of Jorn, which we did in the end. We were laying down the guitar trax for the debut album and Jorn had just released 'World Changes' and Andy Sneap told us to get him in the band. He later on came to Hamburg and heard what we had recorded and he liked the style and so he decided to join the band."
"What do you think of Jorns solo career material?"
(U) "I think they were great, I did not like the Black Metal album he did on Nuclear Blast, I thought his voice did not suit the music, but the rest of his work is very good indeed!!"
(R) "I liked the 'Beyond Twilight', even though it was a dark album it was a very interesting album and aggressive. The 'Ark' album was pretty good but there seemed to be too many different style on it which did not grab me as much as the other record already mentioned. I also like 'World Change', that is a awesome album!!"
"Jan was also in 'Iron Savior', where did you find Axel?"
(U) "Well I use to work with him on the 'Catch A Rainbow' tribute album, and we did 2 gigs and then he left and after he left we found another keyboard player who is also in 'Children Of Bodom'. So I then called Axel again and he agreed to join the band."
"Just how many demos did you record prior to the release of the debut 'Masterplan' album and also what labels showed interest in the band?"
(R) "We did not release any demos, we recorded the album and then sent it to record companies. We chose AFM because we trusted them a little bit more whereas other labels I think wanted something similar to Helloween. We knew there were a good label because they had done some good work for 'Edguy' and for us they gave us more of a personal treatment. We did not want to go with Nuclear Blast and be another band and they have Helloween, we needed something more special were we would get better treatment. So AFM offered us a better deal."
"I have noticed that you still carry a small torch of Helloween in Masterplan's music, do you agree?"
(R) "Yeah I agree with you as it is hard to sometimes let your old bands music go, we feel that we have carried Helloween's music forward and have added our own style which I think has blended together really well. It is a grown up Helloween!!"
"OK Uli, let's talk about the title of the album, why did you not have any titles for the debut album?"
(U) "We did not think about having any names for the album, so in the end we just decided to call it the same name as the band. We did not have a song from the album that would appeal to us for the title of the album."
"So who did the art work for the album also does the art work reflect I the music?"
(U) "It was done by 2 artist's, I brought back the artist who did the Helloween album 'Metal Jukebox', his name is Rainer Laws, and he came up with a few ideas and we spent a lot of time speaking on the phone trying to work out ideas. The other artist is Thomas Ewerhard. I feel that too many people were involved with the art work and I was not sure how it would turn out, in the end we are happy with the way it turned out. Rainer did the art work for free because he is a really good friend of mine and it has helped him spread the word about his talent as a great artist. Yeah I think it does reflect in the music we are creating with the earth, wind and fire & storms."
"Do you all write the songs together as a team effort or are they wrote by individual members of the band?"
(R) "It is wrote as a team effort, people in this band have their own ideas which they show the rest of the band, so we put them together and spend time preparing them in the studio. I wrote 4 lyrics on this album and Jorn did the rest."
"On the album which songs are your favourite and least favourite and why?"
(U) "I really don't have any least favourite trax, maybe when I first heard it I thought 'Heroes' was a little too Helloween'ish and in Japan that was their favourite song and they were singing every part of the song which blow me away!! SO now I see that song in a different shade of light. I also think the song 'When Loves Comes Close' would not suit a festival, but to be honest it worked really well live!!"
(R) "I really don't think I dislike any of the songs, I think it depends on what mood I am in at the time."
"So how did you hook up with Andy Sneap for the recording of this album?"
(R) "Well we toured with 'Blaze' in Europe and the drummer Jeff gave me a CD by 'Kill 2 This' and I really loved the drum sound on that record. Then I started to listen to 'Testament', and that is when I decided that Andy would be the ideal producer for the album. I am happy to an extend with the way the album turned out, but I am too happy with the mixing, it was done in Finland where 'Nightwish' among other's record their albums. We will use Andy again for the next album, that's for sure. I would also like to have Roy Z helping out again on the next album as well."
"I noticed you recorded the song 'Black Dog' on the Zed Zepplin tribute album, so why did you decide to record that song?"
(U) "Well we did that song because all the other songs were spoken for, so that song was the only song available to us."
"Would you consider doiong any other tribute songs?"
(R) "No not really, but we could do a song for a 'Whitesnake' tribute, that's for sure!! (ED: I wonder why?? Not because Jorn sounds like Dave Coverdale right??."
"As we are talking about tribute albums, what do you think of those Spanish bands doing 'Helloween' tribute songs?"
(R) "I don't like them at all!! I mean 'Helloween' don't sound like they use to anymore"
"So why did you decide to shoot the video for the song 'Enlighten Me'?"
(U) "That was the only song we decide to have as a video song, because it was a more modern song crossed over and we did not want a song that sounded like a Helloween song. I think it turned out well, but then again it could of been better."
"Has the band wrote any new material for the next album yet, if so what are they called or what direction will they be in?"
(R) "Well we have a lot of idea's, but nothing is certain yet."
"So how many tours has the band done so far & festivals?"
(U) "We have done 8 festivals so far, we did some dates in Japan, we also did 32 shows with 'Hammerfall', which was great!! The Japanese shows were awesome, Sweden Rock festival was also a good show for us."
"How important is it for the band to be playing this years 'Bloodstock' festival in the UK?"
(R) "I am really happy to be playing here, I like the people here and they always give bands a very warm welcoming."
"Well Roland & Uli, thanx for doing the interview, it's to see you again, take care and have a good show. Do you have anything to say before we finish?"
(R) "I would like to thank you Jason, for keeping the faith and supporting our band. To our fans thanx for the support and for checking out our shows."
(U) "Yeah, thanx for the interview Jason, we hope to see you soon and good luck with the Zine, maybe another 13yrs a? To the fans thanx and we hope you like our music."
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