Interview For HårdrocksMagasinet Site (04/18/02)
Today (04/18/02) I had the great honor of calling up one of my biggest idols, Roland Grapow. It turned out to be a very interesting interview with a lot of exciting revelations... And despite Roland claiming to be tired, I think he had the energy to talk quite a lot!
Granted, the first thing we talked about was Roland and Uli's new band, Masterplan. And it's not a bad band they've managed to put together. The other three members are no less than Jorn Lande (vocals) from Ark, Janne Wirman (keyboards) from Children Of Bodom and the most recent addition, Jan-S. Eckert (bass) from Iron Savior. In the recent days the band finished recording their debut album, which Roland is now mixing in his studio. "So far we've only mixed the album roughly, and I'll be sending it to some record companies tomorrow.". Record companies? That's right, the band actually doesn't have a record deal yet. But that doesn't mean they haven't gotten any offers yet, they're still considering offers from both SPV and Nuclear Blast. To get rid of some problems Roland says he had in Helloween, him and the other band members have decided to finish recording the album first, and get in contact with record labels afterwards. "We don't want to get a record deal just because we're former Helloween members. We'd rather wait until we really have something to show off, then the record companies can judge us for themselves.". If they manage to pick a record company soon, their self-titled debut album is estimated to be released sometime in September. And it will surely be an album to look forward to! Roland says it's hard to describe the album, and he uses words such as "happy" and "colorful". There are some different styles represented on the album, but the red line between all songs will be good ol' metal. "It's really good, the music isn't that far from 'The Dark Ride'.". On the album we'll find a couple of ballads, some heavy stuff and a number of fast songs. But everything is, according to Roland, very melodic. Somewhat surprisingly though, the closing track on the album is a cover of the song "Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin. That all started when a spanish company gave Roland a call and asked if he was interested in participating on a tribute album. Jorn thought it was a great idea, especially since it really shows how good he is at singing. "Jorn can sing anything! His voice is like a mixture of Plant, Coverdale and Dio. He has no limits.".
And then I have something nice to reveal to all the old fans of Helloween. As a guest appearance on the song "Heroes", you'll find nobody less than Michael Kiske! The song is fast and melodic, and Roland compares it to old classics like "I Want Out" and "Dr. Stein". "I picked the song that I and the fans expect him to sing. His voice is still unbelievable, it's too bad he doesn't write this kind of music himself anymore.". It took some time for Roland to convince Kiske, as he wanted to cooperate with him two years ago already. Kiske however wasn't the slightest bit interested at the time, so we'll have to be happy that it at least turned into a duet this time.
The next question is whether or not Roland is starting to think about a tour yet. And oh yes, he always thinks about touring. He even managed to get booked for some festivals this summer. But don't get all happy now, because everything has been cancelled. "We were asked to appear at several festivals, such as Wacken and the Sweden Rock Festival, but it's not very good to present a band that hasn't even released an album yet. When we received offers from the first festivals, we didn't even have a bandname to give to them. But we'll try to play all the festivals next year.". And what about when they're touring, will they be playing any Helloween songs at their shows? "Me, Uli and Jan-S. discussed it in my kitchen a while ago. By then, we will only have released one album, so if we want to play a full show, we'll have to play every single song. But 75% of the show will be from our own album, the rest will be a mixture of greatest hits. From Helloween, we'll only play the songs that Uli and I wrote. And I guess we'll play some Ark songs, too.". So if you want to hear Roland playing any of the older Helloween songs, you'll have to go to Brazil on May 18th. Jornal Rock News will be having an anniversary party with a Helloween theme. "Renato Tribuzy called me and asked me if I wanted to play with them. And the costs are covered, so... I'll be doing four or five songs there, mainly old Hansen-songs such as 'Power'.". As an extra bonus, Roland also reveals that he will be appearing on the next Thoten album.
As if it wasn't enough for Roland to record an album with his new band, he also had the time to do a whole bunch of other things. For instance, he plays in the song "The Adventures Of Zaphod Beeblebrox" on the new Locomotive Breath album. He also took part on Timo Kotipelto's (Stratovarius) solo album. But for now he mainly concentrates on Masterplan. "If we fuck up this record we're just ex-Helloweenies!". But Roland still confesses that he's interested in other things. As soon as the record deal is settled, he will have some spare time before the touring starts around autumn. That time will probably be spent in his studio, note that he has his own studio, something he pointed out several times. He's actually going to start producing a little for a small german band. And he also wants to make another solo album. "It will probably be a blues album, or maybe a bit neo-classical. Or maybe it will be modern hard rock, but I don't have the guts to put my name on that!".
But how did Roland and Uli manage to put together such an all-star line-up? Roland says that they were mainly interested in quility, rather than big names. He had never even met Jorn and Jan-S. before. While they were still in Helloween, and Masterplan was just a project rather than an actual band, they wanted to involve some guys from Stratovarius. The one they had in mind the most was Jens Johansson, who appeared on Roland's latest solo album. But Jens was too busy and wanted too much money, so he introduced Roland to Janne Wirman. Roland had already seen him on a TV show, when Roland and Markus were in Finland promoting "The Dark Ride". Jan-S. Eckert already knew Roland, since he rehearsed with Helloween a couple of times when Markus was on vacation. And the thing with Jan-S is kind of funny, 'cause it's only been a week since they revealed that he would play in Masterplan. "We've actually known about that for quite some time. Jan-S. wanted to join the band earlier, but he was quite busy with Iron Savior at the time.". When I told Roland about my interview with Piet Sielck, and Piet's comment about Iron Savior still being the most important band for Jan-S., Roland didn't take long to comment on that. "I have nothing against him playing with Iron Savior this summer, Masterplan won't be touring until next autumn. We all live in Hamburg. But Masterplan is more important. I have nothing against Iron Savior, their music is good. But with Iron Savior Jan-S. will never get to play in places like South America and Japan.".
The conversation is directed into a more sensitive area when I ask Roland about his and Uli's contact with the other Helloween members. Roland thinks it's unnecessary being too proud to talk to them. "Fuck the past! I still talk to Weikath and Markus, it wasn't long ago that me, Markus and his wife were at a pub in Hamburg. We've agreed not to say anything stupid in interviews. But I have a new record and a new band that I think is better. Maybe it won't be very easy reaching the old fans, and I don't think we'll be able to achieve an audience as big as Helloween's. But I'm proud of our record, we don't have any fillers on there. Even the b-sides are really good!". And now things seem to be going better for Masterplan than for Helloween. Helloween still haven't managed to find a replacement for Roland, although they're negotiating with Henjo Richter from Gamma Ray. "I've tried calling Weiki to ask how things are going, but the only answer I get is 'maybe'. But I can understand Henjo, it's not a smart career move. He already has a strong position in Gamma Ray. And if he joins Helloween he'll have to replace a good guitarist and two good songwriters. It's hard to find someone as good as me. Maybe Kai should join Helloween again. But this isn't good for the fans. Helloween already started writing songs, and they'll be entering the studio in a couple of weeks. And now they only have two songwriters, we used to be known for having four good songwriters.".
At the end of the interview we started talking about Ozzy Osbourne's show "The Osbournes" that airs on MTV (Fridays at 22:00). Like me, Roland had no idea the show now aired on MTV Europe, but thanks to some nice readers who wrote about it on our message board, I was able to tell Roland about it. "I've got to see that. I mean, it's cool enough just to see him farting in the livingroom. He's a legend!". But Roland, however, isn't interested in taking part in anything like that. He needs his privacy...