Interview For Heavy Oder Was Magazine (12/23/02)
By Martin Römpp
Translated By Hilda Armacanqui
In times of high unemployment each one of us may be aware that the sudden lay-off of the affected isn't quite easy to cope with. Mr. Grapow and Mr. Kusch also prove that one shouldn't bury his head in the sand during hard times, but devote oneself fully to his professional future. After their shocking dismissal from Helloween, they simply made themselves independent and directed all their energy to a new band, which, I am sure after this album, still has a great future ahead of it. Instead of falling into depression, Masterplan have worked optimistically to achieve a good starting position in the already overloaded scene. And because this undertaking was greatly successful, my dialog partner Roland Grapow has reason to brag more frequently in the last weeks.
"The response from all sides so far is so good, that it's almost a bit frightening", laughs the guitarist. "We didn't know before, whether the people would be positively surprised or suddenly drop us. The whole thing wasn't planned like that, after all Masterplan should primarily be purely a side project... Everything was started just naturally by Uli and I. We had spoken about that already in the beginning of the last Helloween tour in Japan, simply put our ideas together and make a record that would sound a bit more progressive und acquire a singer that we both liked. Well, and then came a whole different decision.".
Could you basically also anticipate that this story would cost you the job with Helloween, or was it a fake excuse from the band to get rid of you?
That was an excuse anyway. Still today I don't know the real reasons. Obviously, I have also read the interviews with Weiki and must say that I never got a plausible explanation for this step. Four months ago I had again the desire to speak about it with Weiki and Markus, but then there were completely one-sided views to it. I just think we have drifted apart from each other and also didn't respect and understand each other privately. Somehow everything wasn't that bad, but there were already some little things that really got on Weiki's nerves, and then he plainly thought he had to kick us out. And as an official reason he used this solo story like an excuse.
This action wasn't very professional, and many statements regarding the split were given in every possible Internet platform, rather uncommon for a band of this level.
I thought so too. Uli was close to seven years in the band, I, almost thirteen, and I didn't actually expect anything big concerning fairness, but I didn't count at all with such a stupid proceeding. It was so sad to learn that over the Internet a day after the tour without any notice. I was then by Roy Z, in order to arrange the seven or eight songs I already had. There I got the call from my wife, after Uli discovered that we apparently had been kicked out. I was obviously completely shattered and trembling, first opened a beer and went to Roy. That's not funny, let's convince ourselves. "I'm not in Helloween anymore". Those were my first words, and he couldn't believe it at all. It was just good that he was there, since he knows the whole story from two years ago, and especially "The Dark Ride" session, he also knew exactly what it was about in the band. Thanks to that, I could talk with someone who helped me immediately. It was a strange feeling. But if I had sat alone at home, I would have been
In any case, through that, the significance of Masterplan has changed drastically for you, out of a project for fun, it had to become a serious pillar with a promising future for you...
Of course, this cool position was over. Naturally, it was bad that there wasn't any warning for us, and from my side nothing was put aside financially. Luckily, I invested a lot of money in my studio half a year earlier. Before, it was a bottomless pit, but for Masterplan's production it was really worth it. We made the whole record at my house and saved a lot of money. And after the first week and all the phone calls with the management were done and it was clear that the split was definitive, I also thought immediately about titles to write that still went into the Helloween direction.
Did that happen out of clean, tactical calculation, or did this kind of songs come from the heart?
Even before, there were in Helloween many disagreements because of my solo records. That's why I was always careful not to use any material that basically goes only in the Helloween direction, I didn't want to scour the band's market. Through this restriction I actually thought that I had the right to try new things, after all, Andi Deris makes also solo albums still. Masterplan was originally inspired rather by Dream Theater or Symphony X, even though after the breakup I could also use the ideas I had aside for Helloween.
In my opinion, in Masterplan there are already some parallels to Helloween, although to my perceptions, the songs sound considerably more mellow and concise than the last albums...
When I wrote these songs after they fired us, I wanted to show how I view the Helloween sound, since obviously one just can't copy songwriters like Michael Weikath or Kai Hansen. People think always that I wouldn't be able deliver those kinds of songs, actually I was always the tactical songwriter there that looked first at what the others had in the beginning so that I would fill the holes. That's why I always made the obscure or hard acts in the end. But Uli brought in just recently many pieces like "Mr. Torture" or "Push", which in the past could have come from Kai, and that's obviously out of the question now.
In such circumstances, that feeling of "Now more than ever!" can come up, in which one wants to show his former colleagues what one has going for himself...
Not only them, I want to prove that to myself and also to the fans. Therefore we spoke for a long time about which mistakes were made in Helloween's structure, since we want of course to avoid those ego problems appearing among us two years from now. We have determined for example, that no songwriter will be credited on the record. Uli, Jorn and I are a team of three that get along well. Why should we then divide everything and calculate each one's portion? I really though that was dumb in Helloween, when one argued about whose song would be on the single, and I didn't want anything like that anymore. Our single "Enlighten Me" is for instance not mine, but I don't have any problem with it, after all it's our band! We pull it together.
Russell Allen also fell victim to the seriousness of the situation, since he originally would have had to lend his voice to Masterplan...
We tried for long to keep him and maybe even get him out of Symphony X so that he would join us permanently. He also visited me when I was with Roy in Los Angeles, although when he realized that we were out of Helloween his responses were rather mixed. He plainly sat between two stools, because he didn't want to give up Symphony X.
Then again, it still amazes me that you engaged Jorn Lande in his place, after all, he's really into anything and everything.
It was just that, though since September he's exclusively busy with Masterplan! Ark did in a final step namely so, as if Jorn were with them in the studio in order to record their new album, but the fact is that he has put all other projects on hold.
However, it is a risky decision, after all Mr. Lande has often joined bands and left again after a short time.
We also were concerned about that at the beginning. But he strived without end in the studio, something that I wouldn't have counted on at all. When the mixing was done, he realized by himself, what a strong piece we had made. In our conversations, I also tried to make to make it clear to him that we would only achieve something if we were a real band, since he could see often enough in his own career that projects don't bring anything in the long run. When we were negotiating for the Hammerfall tour in January, the request from Ark to go to the studio starting in November came suddenly. Jorn had already told them that he didn't have any time for that, reason why they asked him for a decision: Do either Masterplan or Ark. Now, he has decided and at the same time packed all the other projects. It's not that we would have forbidden him to do them, but he now concentrates on Masterplan and only makes other things when he has the time. And when everything is going at its worst that the whole thing fails, then
he even takes studio jobs, after all, he has a family with two kids to feed, and Norway is expensive.
The thing with Jorn has a disadvantage for you: That you won't ever be able to tour with Yngwie Malmsteen...
I don't know if that's so bad [Laughs]. But now it strikes me that I didn't have contact with Yngwie ever since. Before, we spoke over the phone every now and then, though if I called him now, it could be that he reacts a bit dumb. But I take that risk if I can have such a cool singer in the band for it. After I heard the finished mixing, I even had the need to tell Jorn that I would never want to make a record without him [Laughs]. Seriously, this positive feeling has helped us tremendously to forget the thing with Helloween as soon as possible. And besides, Uli and I don't speak at all about this story on interviews like the one today.
The hard guitar sound in Masterplan surprised me more than anyone else. At first sight it doesn't seem to fit that much into your well-known Yngwie style up to now.
I lived that out enough in my solo records, and anyone who knows the last three Malmsteen works won't be amazed that my enthusiasm for his music has remarkably dwindled. By the way, this change took place already during the recording of "The Dark Ride", when I barely used my Fender for rhythm parts in the studio, but went back to Les Paul again, the guitar that I formerly began with. With a Gibson you play automatically more melodic and grind other things besides apreggios. I remembered my old idols like Michael Schenker, who always put up a solo like a song within a song, and people think of a solo melody in that way, instead of listening merely to scraping all the time. That impresses at most fifty guitar players worldwide.
In "Heroes" you hear a duet between Jorn and Michael Kiske, could one enter that into the "promotion" section, or did it just come thanks to the good terms you are in?
I have to reach back for that one. After Russell turned us down, I wanted to play really smart and tried to get Michael into the band. After his departure from Helloween there was a phase where we had no contact at all, but in recent years he noticed that he could trust me again to some extent. For instance, I arranged the job in Avantasia for him, after Tobi called me. When I was then fired by Helloween, we had very good conversations, after all, Uli and I were all of sudden in the same boat as Michael was. When I later made the suggestion very carefully to him, that he really could join Masterplan, he wasn't all too excited with the idea. He would've in fact sung for our record, but never would've played with us live, and that just wasn't acceptable for me. If it were a project, it would be ok, but as a band, we would have betrayed the people and only exploited his name. And in concerts we wouldn't have been able to replace him with another singer anyway, so we decided at the end for a song in duet with
Jorn, just as a statement that we have good contact again, and the Helloween fans will be happy too, obviously.