Interview For Where The Rain Grows Site (02/19/02)
By Tony Webster
So tell me about your new band, Masterplan.
Sure! Well, the new band, Masterplan, is nearly finished as far as mixing the record. We formed it six months ago when Uli and I were asked to leave Helloween. So we have written 16 songs so far that have been recorded and we are really proud of the results so far for this record, as it is really creative. We have Jorn Lande on the vocals, Janne Warmen on keyboards, myself on guitars, and Uli on drums. The producer is Andy Sneap. We chose the name Masterplan after a long search for a name because it wasn't easy to come up with a name, so this name comes from a fan in Mexico. On my homepage I did a poll so see if anyone could help us come up with a name. We didn't want to have a typical name for a metal band, like a cliché from the 80's of something like this. I think Masterplan is pretty cool.
What type of music have you written and recorded?
I would say it's a mixture of a very nice kind of Helloween and Stratovarius type music on five songs, and the others are more modern sounding like you would hear on "The Dark Ride". For me it's one step ahead of where "The Dark Ride" was, and where Helloween was with that album. That's what I always wanted to do to bring Helloween in a more modern direction as oppossed to do something like a "Keeper" record again, which was fifteen years ago. I think we are sounding more modern with Masterplan than when we were in Helloween.
Why did you pick Andy Sneap as the producer?
Uh... I really wanted to work with only the best people and I am pretty open minded to other people's ideas. Andy Sneap is a great producer, he did Testament, Nevermore, and other bands too. When we did the tour last year with Blaze supporting, I talked to their drummer and he was playing in a band before that was called Kill To This, so I checked out the record and Andy Sneap had mixed it, and I was very impressed. So I bought all of the records he has done and the guitar sound has always been great. He has so many cool tricks which I do not want to mention because it's so special, so... Nobody should know [Laughs]. I am really happy because that means our record will be a great sounding record.
What happened with Russell Allen, why is he out of the picture?
We chose Russell at first because he was an unbelieveable singer. He was our number one choice for sure, but the problem was that when we started to create everything, we had met in August at Roy Z's place and we did some pre-productions here and there. At this time we all thought it was just a project and then, when we realized we needed an actual new band, we couldn't get him as our main singer because he was already in Symphony X, so we needed a full time singer because we wanted to play some festivals this coming Summer. The same can also be said about Jorn Lande of course, he is one of the best singers worldwide. For me, Jorn and Russell are the best singers in the world right now. Jorn is playing in Ark and doing solo stuff but he will have time for us in the future, so that is why we went with Jorn.
What is the deal with Michael Kiske?
I was already in contact with Kiske before we left Helloween. Maybe some people will be suprised and I had a bad feeling one and a half years ago, so I contacted him. You know, it's stupid to always have some bad feelings about people the rest of your life, I mean, I wrote a song about him called "Mr. Ego", but this was seven or eight years ago. You know, people change every year and you have to learn that people can change and that you don't always need to have bad feelings towards each other, and you don't always have to fight. So Michael is singing on one song with Jorn Lande. It's more like a statement that we don't have any problems and I am still a fan of his voice. We don't want to have him on more songs because then it will look like a project instead of a band.
Is it weird not being in Helloween anymore after twelve, thirteen years?
It was strange at first, and it wasn't easy in the beginning. The problem was that everything changed from one day to the other, and I am really responsible for my life now. I don't want to be a band leader or something, but Uli and I take care of everything now. We don't have a management company and people will be suprised, hopefully, about the result we will present on the next record. I don't want to listen to band members who are not 100% behind the future and it was hard to have so many people wanting to do so many different things. So it's cool because Uli and I are the band leaders, you can say, and what we say goes and we can do our own thing now. For me it's a good thing because we are too strong to share with other people on an album. It's good to write songs now because you know who you are writing it for and, to be honest, one or two songs in Helloween wasn't enough for me. That's why I did solo records before. Now I don't have to do solo records anymore.
Do you have any bad feelings towards the band?
I am still just... disappointed on how they treated us in the end. We still thought we were friends, then suddenly we get an e-mail saying we are not in the band anymore. I told myself that I am too proud to talk to these people anymore, but I don't care. I don't have any bad feelings, but we are not friends. I don't really have anything bad to say though since I am not upset about it anymore. I am able to do my own thing with Uli so in the end it turned out for the better.
Are you proud of your career in Helloween? Also, what were some of your favorite moments in the band?
Well I am proud I was a band member for so long and that I got to see so many great people. I am proud of this more than what I created in the band. I always wanted to get better while I was in Helloween and now I am better. There were many great moments, like when I was first in the band, and just playing guitar, then quitting my job as a car mechanic, and it was great not having to go to work everyday, all I had to do was play guitar. During the "The Time Of The Oath" tour, it was a great tour and the band was in a good friendship shape with good communication going on and this was great, before all the ego problems between all of us began. For me, "The Dark Ride" record was the best record I did with Helloween, because I got to work with Roy Z and I think it's still a great record. Even with all of the bad feelings, we did some good work.
Any record deal for your new band yet?
Well, when you are a new band, we don't want to go tell the people "Look! We are the former Helloween members!" just to get a deal. We are looking for a really good deal. We have a band, a concept, a good sounding record and we have strong songs. I think a finished product will get us a better deal in the end. In March we will be finished we will send it to the record companies. We have a lot of offers right now.
Are you producing it at your house?
Yes, we are doing it at my house. I was asking Andy Sneap if he could come stay at my house because he is based in Nottingham, England, so he said he didn't mind. I told him about the studio and he liked it, so he is happy with the sound. I am really suprised how he created the sound here because of his experience. I am happy to get a good sound at home. We don't need to spend a fortune to get a good sound.
When you tour for Masterplan, will you play any Helloween songs?
Maybe one or two... Maybe "Mr. Torture" and "The Chance", but who knows?
You wrote 16 songs, now are you going to use them all?
We don't know so far, the plan is that we don't want to waste these songs as b-sides. All of the songs are really good. We may release the extra songs on an EP or maybe on the second record.
You used to use Fender guitars exclusively and now you seem to have changed your equipment. Why did you do this?
I would say I used to use my Marshall 50W from 1973, cabinets and my strats, you know? It was really similiar to Yngwie's sound. I didn't use these on "The Dark Ride". I don't feel too happy with this anymore, it's so old fashioned and so small sounding on the record. I was always impressed with good sounding bands and it didn't matter what style of music it was either. That's why I wasn't happy with "The Time Of The Oath" record. We had great songs on it, but the sound was, well... not even standard. Sound is really important nowadays and its getting more important as the years go on. My whole style is more melodic now and I don't care about playing fast anymore. I play for the songs and not for me. When I did my solo records, I did this neo-classical stuff and this was for me. On "The Dark Ride" I wasn't playing this fast paced stuff and I was really happy with it. Roy Z told me "Hey, that's not your style, I heard you playing ten, twenty years ago, more melodic.", just like my idols Uli Roth and Michael
Schenker. It's so nice to hear a Michael Schenker solo. You know it's hard because you have to create a nice melody. When people can sing the melody of the solo it's like half the song. It's like the song is so strong and you can go on the street and sing the melody of the solo. I don't know of any other band who can do this except Michael Schenker. My style is a really modern guitar sound. Everything is more tastey, nothing is like wanking on a guitar neck. I use a lot of Gibson kind of guitars, in fact I play them 90% of the time. I also use my Flying V, which I used on "The Dark Ride" also.
So, what can we finally expect from this Masterplan album?
It's hard to say, it's sort of an euphoric feeling. Uli and I are a really good team and I have never worked so well with someone before. Everything feels that it's been worked out, nothing sounds like it was made by accident. This is why we are taking so long for it. We started at the end of October and we still have a lot of work. This is a high class production, and the sound may be too big for some people. The sound and the songs will really blow you away. Uli and I are big fans of our music... We played the songs to Jorn Lande, for example, and he never cared where we were from, he didn't care that we were former Helloweenies, honestly, and when he heard the music he loved it. The result counts more than our reputation. We will reach a lot of people with this, nothing is cheesy and nothing is weak.