Interview For BW&BK Site (10/21/01)
Several months ago, word came down that Helloween guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch, along with Symphony X singer Russell Allen, were working together on a side project. News like this out of the Helloween camp came as no surprise since the members have been involved in numerous solo ventures and side projects over the years. So, it came as a shock to learn that Grapow and Kusch had been fired from Helloween in the wake of this project, with bandmates Weikath, Deris and Grosskopf citing "A lack of interest and contribution to the band." as reasons for their dismissal. Grapow and Kusch were understandably surprised by the decision, but the anger and disappointment has been channeled into the as-of-yet unnamed project, which has since become a serious band with serious plans for the future.
Grapow sat down with BW&BK to discuss what went down with Helloween, and his plans for his new band.
"It came as a big surprise, I can tell you that.", Grapow says of the firings. "I was working with Roy Z in Los Angeles and he got a call from my wife saying that it was very important that I call her back. She told me that there had been a message that said, basically, 'Sorry guys, you're fired'. At first I was thinking, 'Yeah, right, good joke', because this is the way band members sometimes act with each other, especially when you've been together for so long. But then we discovered it was true and I was really surprised. Not so much because I wasn't in the band any more, but how they fired us. I think it's really bad if you see how many great songs we've written, what kind of people we are as individuals, and then on the other side, not grown up at all.".
Grapow is understandably hesitant to talk about any behind-the-scenes problems that might have influenced his and Kusch's dismissals, and he makes it clear that he won't slag his former bandmates in the press. Asked about whether or not the other members of Helloween were justified in saying that he and Kusch did not contribute enough or weren't committed to the band, Grapow is mystified by such claims. Granted, his songwriting contributions over the last couple albums were on the low side, but he did write two of the strongest songs on "The Dark Ride", one of which was the title track. And Kusch was probably the most prolific writer in Helloween beside Andi Deris.
"To say that we didn't contribute to Helloween or weren't into the band is wrong. I played 75% of the guitars on The Dark Ride, I have the original tapes to prove it. And Uli is so creative, he's written some of the strongest Helloween material ever. There was some tension in the band at times, I think because of the fact that the drummer wrote too many good songs. I guess that pissed some people off. That's why I'm really fucking happy to have Uli with me. They gave up the best songwriter in the band.".
At this point in time, Grapow says that the chances of his ever working with Helloween again are "never", but he doesn't discount the possibility that he might change his mind in a few years. For now, however, Grapow and Kusch are concentrating on their new band. Songwriting has been completed, recording is commencing, and a record deal is only weeks away from being finalized.
"I have a really good feeling about this.", Grapow says of the new band. "We've been writing for months. We're not 100% sure that Russel Allen will be joining us, though. He's got a great voice, and we thought he'd be great for a side project because he could still do it even though he's in Symphony X, but then everything changed. This is much more serious now, so we need a real band. It's kind of a tricky situation, but we start recording in my home studio on October 29th, so things will be settled by then.".
The album will be produced by Andy Sneap, well known for his work with Nevermore and Stuck Mojo. The direction of the music won't be too far afield from what we expect from two Helloween alumni.
"Roy Z, who worked with us on 'The Dark Ride', and Andy Sneap are my favourite producers.", says Grapow. "Andy Sneap is a very modern producer, but nobody should expect that we're going to sound like Stuck Mojo or Nevermore. If I were to compare the new music to my solo albums, I'd say there's not much in common. For me, it's a little bit more progressive and a little bit more modern sounding Helloween record. It's sort of like 'The Dark Ride', only a step further. It's a well balanced album with a lot of depth.".