Interview For Sweet Suffering Site (07/31/99)
I've been in your gig with Kai Hansen's Gamma Ray here in Brazil last month. It was great, even topped my expectations. How was the show, I mean, the crowd, technical problemas, groupies and all these things that arise each gig?
I would say that this show was one of the best shows in my life. I had a lot of fun and I felt that the people really loved the band. There was a magic moment. We had just little problems in the beginning, 'cause Mike's microphone was not working for half of the first song. That's it. Even when the fans didn't know the songs so far. The crowd in Brazil is excellent. I have a lot of friends in S„o Paulo. I stay with them in contact and my official homepage (http://www.roland-grapow.cjb.net/) is made by brazilian friends. That says a lot.
Congratulations for your great work in "The Four Seasons Of Life". It's a great album, full of rich harmonies and emotional performances, and, most important, it's different from your work on Helloween. I've not heard "Kaleidoscope" yet, but I'm sure I won't be disappointed. Anyway, the only fault I could find in "Four Seasons..." was the technically poor vocals. Would you change something on it, or leave it as it was released?
I like my songs, of course, but I'm not really happy with the production. I wish I could record the album again with new drums and vocals, and a nice mix, and I think that "Four Seasons" would be a great record. By the way, I'm not singing anymore, only harmony vocals. That's why I have Mike Vescera live and on "Kaleidoscope" album.
Technically, you're a very accomplished musician. When did you begin playing guitar and, to a lesser extent, how did you meet Kai Hansen and the entrance into Helloween?
I started playing guitar and singing when I was 12 years old. That's already 28 years ago and I'm still learning about my guitar. The most important aspect is to love your instrument and not to see it as a tool. I joined Helloween on Christmas '88 and I'm really happy to be in the band. Weiki just called me and asked me to join. He saw me on stage with my former band Rampage seven years before and I blew him away. He was really impressed. That was my luck he remembered me so well. And the other band members trusted him. I know Kai Hansen of course for a long time, since I'm in the band. I met him many times in Hamburg and we did a couple of shows together (Gamma Ray and Helloween) last years. And he asked me, when he heard that I finished my solo record, to support Gamma Ray and I said yes. And now we are really friends with a lot of respect for each other. And no ego problems. He is a cool guy. And I like the front cover of "Rock Brigade".
Back in '98, on Curitiba's Skol Rock (Brazil), I arrived at the beginning of "How Many Tears" song, the very ending, and the performance was poor, in my opinion. Andi even missed some vocal notes, and the guitars were a bit noisy. Was it due to technical problems, or were you just tired in the end of the show?
Sorry, I can't remember that gig. Maybe we had a lot of problems on stage, it's always not my favorite part to support or play on festivals only, 'cause you never have any soundcheck and a good show is always a question of luck. Sorry, but I don't think we were tired.
"The Time Of The Oath" and "Better Than Raw" marked the return of Helloween to the old metal sound, which was a bit forgotten in the three past works, most remarkably in "Chameleon". What happened down there? Was it influence of one member or the band as a whole adopted that direction? And what made you get "back to the roots"?
The "Chameleon" album is a solo record of three Helloween members and I would say it's a good emotional work, even if it's not heavy metal. The reason for going back to the roots is, the fans did not follow the new direction and live on the road we didn't had fun at all. With the new member in the band it was much easier to go back to the roots. And we are still happy to play aggressive music.
Many people already asked it to you, but what do you think about Iron Maiden's return with the old formation, because Helloween watched very closely the ending of the Blaze Bayley era in the '98 tour.
I think after joining Gamma Ray on stage a couple of times, I would say that the sound with three guitar players could be interesting. I love Bruce's voice and I think Adrian Smith was always a very important part of Maiden. Yeah, I like it.
Still talking a bit about other's people work, hope you don't get bored with this, Michael Kiske said a lot of bullshit in the press about Weiki and Helloween. Was his departure traumatic or kinda, for he to be so upset about you? Still about him, what do you think about the two albums he released, if you have ever heard them?
I think in the past there was a lot of shit going on between them, but I hope this is gone now. I don't have any problems with Michael but we're not really friends. I don't want to give any review about his solo work. The main thing is to respect his dreams and I wish him all the best for the future.
Germany, and Europe in all it's extent, has given birth to many good metal bands, the "german power metal" definition. And about 90% of them point Helloween as an influence, and that's true, in my opinion. Helloween released two milestones, the "Keepers", that created a wave of good music, like Blind Guardian, Hammerfall, Rhapsody, Nocturnal Rites, Stratovarius and many others. I already know that these bands mentioned in their interviews, but I want to know what you think about the music they play.
It is really nice that Helloween influenced so many bands with only two records and I agree that these albums are really milestones. But I wasn't in the band at that time, so I don't feel guilty [Laughs]. But I like most of the bands really much because I'm a fan of speed melodic metal like Helloween, Angra, Stratovarius...
If I'm not mistaken, you're in the same record label that Rage and Grave Digger, two old and praised metal bands. Are you used to listen to them? If yes, what you have to tell about their lastest releases, Rage's "XIII" with Lingua Mortis Orchestra and Grave Digger's "Knights Of The Cross"?
I must say I'm a big fan of Rage, I know Sven Fischer very wall and Peavy of course, but the band split already and Mike Terrana, my drummer from "Kaleidoscope", is now the new band member of Rage. The band is just Peavy, Mike and a russian guitar player now. I know the guys of Grave Digger very good, very nice guys but I don't know so much about the music.
Talking about orchestra, it's well-known that you like a bit of classical, and it inspired you to a certain extent. Have you thought about playing with an orchestra, with your band or with Helloween? The intro for "Better Than Raw" made me ask this question and, well, even Metallica played with one, so I would love to see some of your songs orchestrated, in the vein of Yngwie Malmsteen's "Concerto Suite".
I like the idea, but only when the orchestra is arranged like a heavy metal band and not if somebody is playing solo guitar to a classical tune. That's boring for me. Yngwie and Uli Roth did it already and I did it a little bit on my first solo album with samples. That's why I liked the Rage arrangements so much.
"Metal Jukebox" will be out soon. Who had the idea of playing miscellaneous unorthodox covers?
Not me [Laughs].
When you are at home, what CDs does you spin in your player with more frequency? It's a mask for the good old question: what are you hearing nowadays and what are your favorite bands?
I like old stuff from the 70's, but I don't have time anymore to listen to other music. Also, I like classical tunes as well. Yesterday I was listening to Amanda Marshall, that's not heavy. Here is my collection of bands I like: Journey, Styx, Kansas, Foreigner, Rush, Grand Funk Railroad, Deep Purple, Queen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Rainbow, Judas Priest, Queensrˇche, Dream Theater, Helloween, Black Sabbath with Tony Martin, U.F.O., old Scorpions...
Now I think I have an original question for you, it was about time! Please comment a bit about the following metal styles: doom metal (Paradise Lost, Therion), black and death metal (Dimmu Borgir, Death), industrial and gothic (Samael, Rammstein, Crematory).
I like Rammstein a lot, the other bands I don't know so well.
With which bands do you and Helloween keep a good relationship?
Yngwie Malmsteen is my friend. Rage, Uli Roth, Grave Digger, Gamma Ray, Jens from Stratovarius, Dario from Drakkar, Andre Matos from Angra, Mike Vescera, Mike Terrana, Barry Sparks, Edguy, Hammerfall, Axel Rudi Pell...
What do you think about brazilian music, not only metal music but...? Do bands like Sepultura, Angra or Dark Avenger caught your attention?
I wish I could know more about brazilian music but I know just samba and Angra and Sepultura a little bit.
I already know that Weiki is the internet maniac, but what's your relationship with internet? Like favorite pages or chats.
I like to e-mail all my friends and fans, I hate to write letters. I'm not a maniac about internet... Some infos, our Helloween homepage, my one of course and little here and there. I'm only connected since the last four months. And I like to find updates for my system and so on.
What advice would you give to starting metal bands?
Learn first and instrument before you start a band [Laughs]. And have fun, it will take a long time before you hear any profissional result. Don't worry about it, just learn and try your best. I said it already before: love your instrument. If not, you will be a metal worker and not an artist.
That's it for the interview. Thank you very much, Mr. Roland.
Thank you very much. Yours, Roland.