Interview For Metal Medi@ Site
By Jerôme Allemand And Stéphane Moreau
Translated By Marcelo Hashimoto
Can you give us a couple of words about your new album?
Hey, it's a good album! Seriously, I'm very proud of this album. You know that my first record, "The Four Seasons Of Life", was more of a guitar oriented work inspired by Yngwie J. Malmsteen, with a lot of guitar solos and kind of a "guitar hero" style. Then, after that, I decided to work more on the songs themselves. Lots of people didn't like my voice, and I didn't like it either. And when an old friend said to me that he missed my old feeling and style, I thought: "That's true, this guy is not me, for now on I'll do what I am.". Therefore, I wrote along with all my band and the second album became a record a lot of feeling, with fast and aggressive melodies. Besides, I now have a great band and a singer who can sing my songs. I worked on this album during the last Helloween tour, with Iron Maiden. You know, we always returned to the hotels after each gig and during that time I wrote 80% or 85% of the songs for the "Kaleidoscope" album after the concerts. Places like Barcelona or Paris always get you
very inspired and gives you a good feeling.
Ok, but how did you decide which songs would be recorded on your solo project and which ones on the next Helloween album?
I didn't decide anything. I wrote for myself because "Better Than Raw" was already finished and the other members thought that my songs weren't fast enough for Helloween. They want high-speed stuff. The last title I wrote, was "Push", along with Uli. I made some guitar parts, you know. I'm writing some songs during the current tour, but I know that Helloween doesn't need any songs from me right now. Specially because there is seven months since the tour started and we will have to return to the studio on next October. Since I will return home next week, I'll have enough time to devote do Helloween. And I'll do it, I promise!
Your new album is called "Kaleidoscope". Why did you choose this name? And what are the main subjects?
I loved that word, I always kept it in memory, saying that one day this word would be useful for an album. About the lyrics, it doesn't have any particular concept, each song represents a small history. The poetic style is not my area. "Kaleidoscope" is about mankind, "Under The Same Sun", which I like a lot, is about racist people and the color of the skin. "Walk On Fire" is about a guy who I don't like. "A Heartbeat Away" is mainly about youth, about that period when you're not so sure about yourself and the fate smiles at you. And "Angel Face" is about a girl with whom I had some problems. If you want some side information, this song is the oldest of the whole album. I wrote it when I was 17 years old. This song is about 22 years old.
Would be "Reaching Higher" your favorite song?
Yes, I heard that Tammy is a guest there.
[Laughs] Yeah, but it's not a big deal, it's only a introduction between two songs. Perhaps one day we will make a solo album of Tammy.
Well, there is a market for it, why not?
Yeah, in the United States there is a stupid Christmas carol that I heard, sang by cats and dogs.
Well, since we're speaking about the cats and the dogs, I will ask you something very personal. You have a particular way of always thank your cats Felix and Oskar on your albums. It's known that you obviously love cats, and you even called your studio "Crazy Cat". Now that Tammy is involved, will you think about changing that name?
You know, when I created my studio, I thought about a name involving animals instead of "Roland Grapow Studio". I chose "Crazy Cat", but perhaps I should change it to "Crazy Cat And Tammy Recording Session For Helloween" [Laughs].
Why did you choose Wolf Hoffmann to take the pictures for the booklet? Is he a personal friend or do you simply like his work?
He is kind of a personal friend. Even considering that I don't talk too often with him, I spent the last two weeks with him and his wife, and we became very good friends, they are very nice and he's like a brother to me. He has the same type of humor that I have. I knew him a few years ago, but although I'm more confortable with myself now, I was very reserved some time ago. He is a very good and popular photographer, and I loved his work for Accept and other bands.
Do you think about asking someone to be a guest on your next album?
Why not? I love to have guests. This time there was only Jens [Johansson], but on the previous album I invited Ralf Scheepers and Axel Rudi Pell.
It's well-known that you are a great fan of Yngwie J. Malmsteen. Do you think about inviting him?
I already proposed that to him for "The Four Seasons Of Life" and he was okay with it. He said something like "I will make a solo on your album because you're a friend and I'll do it with pleasure.". The manager was also okay with it and everything was perfect, but the japanese label said "No, Yngwie won't play on any record!". He was already on four or five albums, so I ended up not asking him.
The band that played on "Kaleidoscope" is almost totally different from the band that played on the previous album. Can you explain the reasons of that change?
It's kind of a german / american friendly relationship! Now, seriously, I already called Michael Vescera some years before because I wanted him to work on my project. I love his voice, I've seem him live and I have a video of him. In fact, I followed his career a little. I knew that his voice would be great for my record. He has his own style, somewhat aggressive, not very heavy, and great for the ballads. I called him and the said yes without even knowing who I was. When I explained to him, he said "Okay, in Japan you are famous and I am famous.". Then, I asked him for the phone number of Mike Terrana, I love his drumming.
Why was Barry Sparks replaced on the brazilian tour?
The problem was that he was very busy at the time. He really wanted to come with me. But I wish he is on the band next time I go there.
You don't play on the tour the songs that you wrote for Helloween, except for "The Chance". Why not playing only your songs?
I love my songs but, then again, why should I not play Michael Weikath's songs? He is my friend!
"Crazy Cat" would be funny to hear!
Oh no! It's too silly. "The Chance" is perfect because it's fast and my set lasts only 45 minutes. I don't want to play "The Time Of The Oath" either because I already have "Kaleidoscope", which is very similar. I love to play "Dr. Stein" because everyone knows this song.
How was touring with Kai Hansen?
Great! Very cool. The first show on Netherlands wasn't exactly great because there wasn't too many people. In Spain, people were really nice, and specially in Barcelona they were incredible. They screamed my name: "Roland! Roland!", my album wasn't released yet but they really seemed to like the new songs. Then we went to South America and some fans probably already knew some songs because of the japanese imports. Michael Vescera is already very famous there, mostly because of his solo career. In Argentina I joined Gamma Ray on a concert and we played "Future World" with three guitars. In São Paulo, if I remember correctly, we did the same with "I Want Out". We also did a jam for "Dr. Stein", but I usually play it on my own show.
I heard that one of your gigs was acoustic. When was it?
This is not completely true! We did a show on a stage where you must do an acoustic part. I played two songs and I also played some blues.
Well, we hope to see you soon in France. Will you have any surprises?
What? Would you like that I bring, for example, Kai Hansen with me? He could play as the opening band for me [Laughs]!
Okay, changing the subject, can you speak to us about your former band Rampage? Is it possible to find CDs somewhere?
No, we only recorded two albums in 1981 and 1982, I believe, "Victims Of Rock" and "Love Lights Up The Night". By that time we were very young and our style was very different, we were very influenced by Judas Priest and Saxon, with some similar riffs but not so heavy. The greatest difference was the presence of three singers. The sound was not very good on the first album, but it was much better on the second. The sales and the money earned were ridiculous. Honestly, this is not a work that I'm happy with. Some old friends really love it, but it has nothing to do with Helloween or my own style.
But is it possible to buy a copy?
Not really. The albums were recorded by a german independent company, and they probably sold about 3000 copies each, which was not good business for the company. I've heard a rumour five years ago that a label wanted to release those albums on CD, but the problem is that you need the original tapes to do that. They can make a copy using the vinyl, but will sound like shit. And I know that the original tapes doesn't exist anymore.
You destroyed them?
Not me, but another guy of the band.
How "Kaleidoscope" is doing on Japan?
Oh, they loved it, I heard some nice reviews. The company loved it as well. The only problem is the current situation on the market, there was a huge fall on most sales on the last two years. All bands are selling much less. Recently, Hammerfall played live in front of 800 people in Tokyo, and that's really nothing at all. We played in front of 3000 people during three evenings of gigs, but honestly even Helloween and Gamma Ray are selling less than they did before.