Interview For Whiplash Site (08/31/99)
By André Toral And Mário Del Nunzio
Translated By Marcelo Hashimoto
You are a fan of Helloween's old material, right? What's your opinion about the band, before and after you came in?
I surely appreciated Helloween's old material. My favorite album is "Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 2". After I joined the band, it changed a lot and we had to found a new direction for Helloween. It wasn't my fault that we tested so many new directions and the band wasn't perfectly together. Now that we have Andi and Uli on the band, we know which direction we should take and people still loves us.
Helloween has changed a lot from one album to another. Do you agree that "The Time Of The Oath" is the only one who came closer to the "Keepers" style?
I don't know why, but it's natural for us. We just wanted to be like Helloween, and that's it. We are Helloween. "Better Than Raw" it's kind of a more modern album, and we like having challenges from one CD to another. "The Time Of The Oath" is the last album with Helloween's old sound. And I already wait the next one. Nobody needs ten records sounding like the "Keepers".
On "Better Than Raw" there were some changes on the sound. Is it easy to write songs like "Time" and "Hey Lord!" while you're playing heavy metal?
Yes, I've already said that about "Better Than Raw" and obviously we still love heavy metal, and that's why we play it. It's very easy to write songs like "Time" and "Hey Lord!", becuase we all have melodic base and knowledge.
How is Helloween's relationship on studio? You start recording with everything ready or you still do some experiments and think like "We have done so much, what can we do now?"?
Well, both [situations] happened on the recordings of "Better Than Raw". 85% of it was already written and we worked as a band hardly as it was possible on the material, during the pratices. But sometimes on studio it's possible to have a wider point of view about the material, and the producer helps sometimes. So, we worked through almost all the recording.
Thinking about it now, some years after its release, what do you think about "High Live"?
I don't know, really. The only live albums that I really appreciate are Deep Purple's "Made In Japan" and Grand Funk Railroad's "Live". It's always hard to get the feeling [of a concert] on an album, that you had live, in front of thousands of people. You'll never be able to put this on tape.
Considering that Helloween has young fans, do you think that you must introduce to them the origins of rock with "Metal Jukebox"?
I think that even younger people know which our influences are. When I was little, I also checked some influences of my idols and found them interesting, even sometimes not being able to have the same feeling. Now we are on the "teachers" situation, and I like that. I believe this being something positive.
You know something about singing. In your opinion, what are the differences between Andi Deris and Michael Kiske for Helloween?
They are totally different. As persons and friends, but I should focus on the music. I think Michael was great on the beginning of his career, and he was one of the reasons for Helloween being so sucessful. He was exceptional as singer and frontman. Andi is much better for Helloween nowadays. With his voice we can write different songs e take different directions, it's easier. He's easier to work with, a great person and a great friend.
Still comparing, how would be comparing Uli Kusch with Ingo Schwichtenberg?
Ingo was great, and had a very unique style. A lot of drummers followed him. I believe he was the one who created that style of playing. I really enjoyed his drumming, and that's why I have a Sonor drum set that is heard on "Kaleidoscope", played by Mike Terrana. Uli is more technical, great too, his style is more flexible and he's a great person.
What do you think that are the greatest elements of your partnership with Michael Weikath? And how would you compare your style to Kai Hansen's?
I think it's a pleasure playing with Weiki, he's the only reason that keeps me on this business. I love this guy! I'll always be grateful for the chance he gave me. He always trusted me, even now that I have a solo career besides Helloween. Thanks Weiki! About Kai, he's a great guy too, and we had a lot of fun during the tour we made. I've felt really great with the guys from Gamma Ray. I think my style is completely different from Kai's, and that's important for me. If you have a band with two guitarists, I think it's important to hear a difference between them on the record. I've never heard any differences on Gamma Ray or Helloween's older records, I don't know who is playing each solo. But don't get me wrong, he's a great guitarist.
On your solo records, you are responsible for all the songwriting, melodies, etc., while in Helloween there are five musicians working. Which situation is more confortable? Why?
It's easier to do a solo record, because no one will never discuss your music structures, and all the ideas can be executed. But it's less stressing with Helloween, because there are five people together. So, I feel more relazed on Helloween, because I'm only a part. And I don't do so many interviews for Helloween [Laughs].
If you had to decide it today, what would be the sound of the new Helloween album?
Very aggressive, but still melodic. One ballad, maybe a very modern-souding song and one very heavy. But we always keep the fast and melodic style of Helloween. In short, just a good album.
Would you like to play with Michael Kiske nowaday? What's your opinion about "Chameleon" and "Pink Bubbles Go Ape"? Have you heard Kiske's solo records?
I have nothing against working with him, but I don't think this will happen. So, why ask? Well, I like both "Pink Bubbles" and "Chameleon" albums. They were very important for the band and for me. I like them. The recording process for these records were very unpleasant. We had a lot of conflicts and problems. Let us forget about that. I have Michael's first solo record, but I don't want to comment about it, I'm a musician and not a reviewer, I want to respect him.
Recently you've released your second solo record, "Kaleidoscope", with awesome musicians like Mike Terrana and Michael Vescera. How it was working with those musicians? Are you planning to call them again, even if each one has other bands and side projects?
It was very good working with them, it was easy and very professional. And we had a lot of respect and fun together. We are really close friends now, we are always on touch. I called them to work together two years ago and everybody was happy with this project. A friend of mine and Yngwie gave me their contact phone numbers. And yes, we are planning to record together again and it will be an actual band. Everybody will write songs and will be involved on the whole production next time, and I'll be just the guitar player and one of the songwriters. Cool, that was my idea. I think the next album will be more aggressive and, of course, sounding even more like a band. Maybe we'll even have a band name, we'll see.
How would you compare "Kaleidoscope" to "Four Seasons Of Life", your first solo record? What do you think about your performance as a singer in it?
"Kaleidoscope" is more melodic, more song-oriented, and it sounds more like a band. "Four Seasons Of Life" is a guitar record, sounding more like a solo record and I wasn't satisfied with my vocals. That's why now I have Mike Vescera on the band.
On "Kaleidoscope" there are songs that sound similar to some "Keeper" songs of Helloween, some more technical and classical ones, some more hard rockish and some even with trash sound. How were you able to show so much diversity on the album? Which are your favorite songs?
That's what I'm always trying to do and that's why some people get confused about my songwriting. I have so many styles on my head. It's something natural for me, I would feel bad giving the fans eleven songs all sounding the same for a great amount of money. That's what I liked on my 70's idols. They wrote good songs always sounding different. Diversity is great. "Walk On Fire", "Under The Same Sun", "'Till The End", "A Heartbeat Away" and "Kaleidoscope" are some of my favorites, although I like them all. I think those shows a bit more what's this album is about. They are really strong live and have good melodies.
You worked with great musicians. Is there someone who would you like to play with and didn't have the opportunity? If you could make a "dream band", how it would be?
I think that working with band who played on "Kaleidscope" was already a dream. I obviously like a lot of other musicians too, like the ones of Deep Purple and Journey.
What did you think about your recent tour through Brazil and South America with your solo band, opening for Gamma Ray?
I think that one of the greatest gigs of my career was at São Paulo. We had a lot of fun and that was a really magic moment. It will be probably released on video and the rest of the world will be pissed for now seeing it. It's always a pleasure being at South America. I love the feeling and I have lots of friends on Brazil and Argentina. Even my official website is done by a brazilian! You can see it at http://www.roland-grapow.cjb.net/.
Your solo band has former Yngwie Malmsteen members on the line-up. The sound of the records sometimes is really close to the traditional Yngwie sound. The style of you both playing is very alike and you even wrote a song called "Grapowski's Malmsuite" to celebrate him. This makes some people see you as a mere copy of him. What do you think and how do you feel about that?
Yngwie is my friend and I'm not stupid to say that he didn't influenced me, but, on the other hand, I'm more influenced by Richie Blackmore. It's great being close to Yngwie and not just any guitarist. So, I should be proud of that. By the way, you should listen to the "Kaleidoscope", there aren't so many Yngwie influences in it. Even on Helloween I don't feel his influence too much. Everybody is influenced by somebody, and I like to be influenced by the best ones. The reason I played with these great musicians is because they are really great. And I don't think that they were responsible for Yngwie's band sound. He always has different musicians. I thought it was good to use a band that already worked together before, that's why I've made this choice.
What have you been listening to these days? Could you tell us some of your favorite records and bands of all times?
Because I'm playing on a metal band, and music is my job, I'm happy to hear something different, as classical, pop, radio music and something from the 70's, like Deep Purple, Grand Funk [Railroad], Journey and others. I like Amanda Marshall e a lot more, but I'm not listening so much metal right now. I like to keep my head clean before I start writing songs for Helloween, so that I'll not be influenced by other bands.
Please, leave a message for Whiplash readers and your brazilian fans.
It was very fun to do this interview, and I hope we can do some more, and that you had enjoyed it. I wish the best for the Whiplash! readers, and good luck on the future, with lots of great metal records. And to all the brazilian fans, I hope I can see you soon. I love you all.