Interview For Heavy Metal Universe Site (01/15/03)
By Philippe Hallopeau
The debut album of Masterplan was certainly the most expected album of the new year beginning. It marks the return of Roland Grapow and Uli Kusch, it features Jorn Lande to the vocals and Michael Kiske is singing on a song as a guest. In a word, everything a heavy speed band can dream of to peacefully start its promotion. Roland Grapow speaks about this event-band...
First of all, congratulations for your show yesterday. Thank you for giving us a little time. Could you tell us how was born Masterplan?
Masterplan was born almost two years ago in August after the last show of Helloween in Spain, we were headliners at a festival and after, Uli and me received an e-mail saying we were not in the band anymore. So Masterplan was born something like from August to the end of 2001. It took like like three or four months to find all the right members, to get a view, the band name and what we wanted to do. We recorded the album from November 2001 to March and April 2002. And then, we were looking for a record deal. So it took a long time to get everything together.
How did you choose the name Masterplan?
It was really trouble to find a name at the beginning because we didn't have any idea, Uli and I, and we wanted to have everything focused on the music. The music was more important for us at this moment and it was not the time to think about what could be the band name. So we called some fans on my homepage to make a poll and find a name for us. We had like one hundred names and we choose Masterplan at the end because I liked the statement of the mexican guy saying why using this name: "You are master musicians, I'm sure you'll do master albums in the future!". So I think it was the best choice for us. And we didn't want to have something like typical metal name like "Metal Blah Blah Blah", "Iron Something", no clichés. It's like the name of Helloween, that's a more funny thing. That's what we wanted to have, something which is not agressive. And we could do a lot for the artwork with Masterplan. It's opened for inspiration and getting good artworks in the future.
Was it a deliberate choice to have only one guitar player?
Because I'm really tired having another guy next to me, who's not on the same level. It doesn't mean I don't like to work with other people again, other guitar players. But to me, it's getting more freedom to play everything I want on the album and even if we have like a little different sound, I think it's better to have just one guy playing or making mistakes instead of two. I'm really happy to have all this freedom. I'm not only a guitar player, but a producer. Uli write songs as well and sometimes I copy his guitar playing, so in a way we have two guitar players. We are a tight band for the first time and we want to show this image on stage. Helloween was not a great live band for me, we had fun but we never had that image, when people say we're a really fucking good live band.
How did you get a deal with AFM records?
That's when we finished the album mixing. I produced the album, I used all I learned during the Helloween years. So we came to the record labels and we looked for the best deal. It doesn't mean the best money offer but the best deal in general sense, what they can offer for the future. AFM was really, like we say in Germany, a "stomach decision", it came from inside. I talked with Edguy and Tobi because I have really a good contact with this guy. He always told me something nice about this label, that's why I think we made the best choice, because I don't want to be in a same label as the one Helloween have anymore. Nuclear Blast was great, but for me I don't want to be in a such big label with fifty releases each month. AFM has just about fifty bands, it's maybe two releases in a month, that's why I like it.
Do you regret what happened with Helloween or do you think this was a chance for a new start?
Oh, yes, absolutely. At the end, we weren't really happy in the band anyway. There was a lot of fights during "The Dark Ride" album. Look at the artwork, I mean it's black, it's dark, that's really the best way to show how the situation in the band was. But for me it's a wonderfull last album with this band, I'm really happy that we did something good at the end. If we had released a bad album, I think for a new band as Masterplan, people wouldn't have such high expectations from us. I think "Mr. Torture" written by Uli and, by myself, "The Dark Ride", were the best songs voted by the fans on the homepage. So I think it's really good for us. And now, we have a new start and I'm responsable for this band more than I was before. My influence is bigger, as I'm the only guitar player, for me it's a nice situation. It's a really good time, so good reviews, the album is the album of the month as we never had with Helloween.
So, let's speak about the album, how would you describe it?
I never tried to describe it, but a lot of people in interviews say it sounds like Helloween, Stratovarius style, other that it sounds like a really modern Rainbow band. I like both of these kind of views, because I still like Helloween, I like very much Stratovarius and I really like bands such as Deep Purple or Rainbow, so we have all of these influences. Uli was playing on a cover band of Rainbow, Jorn plays some Coverdale or Dio songs and I was a big Blackmore fan. So, it's natural, and for this album we wrote between sixteen or twenty songs and kept the best part. We all decided to keep the best, the best of the best. The arrangement took six weeks, we never spent such a long time for arranging songs. We worked on a song for one day just to say "this part is too long", "this part is boring", and we never made any compromise, we only kept what was good enough. If it's not good enough, it should not be on the album. Helloween made too many compromises. We used for this album all the experience we have
as songwriters and producers and that's what people can hear. It's the best album I ever did. I tried to create something, not to make another Helloween album even if there are Helloween elements. I mean, I played ten years in the band and I should be able to make guitar arrangements similar to Helloween style and Uli, for the drumming, was in Gamma Ray before Helloween, so it's natural. Then it's a good sound, it's heavy, it could be like a modern Rainbow, "Kashmir" Zeppelin sound.
We can read on the album that all the songs have been written by the band, who were the main songwriters?
The main songwriters are Uli, Jorn and me. For the future, we said we should change it, not like we did always in the past, "Written by this guy.". We just want Masterplan because we don't wanna have any trouble with people. It was a really good team work and it doesn't make sense to write all the details. Look at Queen, only "Written by Queen", who cares? I don't want to fight with the other guys, like "I want to use my lyrics for my song!". Why should we do that? If some lyrics are better, then we take them.
I heard that the tracklist of the japanese version was different, who made this choice and why?
The japanese market is so different, but I was really shocked when I heard that they didn't like "Enlighten Me". This is the single in Europe, how could you say you don't need to have it on the album? No need to be the single in Japan, but not to have it on the album, I think it's not good. But I told them "If you really think that a b-side is better than that song, ok, do it.". We gave the freedom to do what they want, but I don't like that. For "Bleeding Eyes" I could imagine that people in Japan doesn't like these typical easy melodies, so I'm ok with that, but for "Enlighten Me" I think it's a wrong decision. A lot of Helloween or former Helloween fans bought the album or the single here with "Enlighten Me" and don't understand why it's not on the album.
On the song "Heroes" we could hear Michael Kiske singing, when did you think about him and did you write the song with this intention?
No, I wrote the song more like in a Helloween direction, I wanted to be sure that we still had Helloween elements here and there. I wanted to have him just singing one song, that was planned from the beginning. In fact, first we asked him if he wanted to join the band but he didn't want, so I said "Ok, but if you sing one song, is that ok for you?". And he said "Yeah, that's right!". But we couldn't find the right song, so we thought about "Heroes" and we asked him just to sing the chorus and the bridge. So, I changed the chorus melody for Michael Kiske a little bit to be more typical Helloween. So I think it was really great for him, it fits his voice. It's not so high, it's not too high as in the early days but I think it's really nice for the Helloween fans.
Did you hear Supared?
Yes, I've heard two songs, but it's so different... I don't want to say anything.
Do you plan to release another single in the future?
Oh, it depends if people really like the album. For me, it would be great to have "King Hearted Light" or "Heroes" as a single and if we do this, we should do a video as well. Even if videos are not supported in metal anymore, I like it for the fans, for later compilation or DVD. I mean, we will do a little filming, so maybe if we have to release a single, we could use live stuff, it would be nice. But at the moment we don't have anything.
Let's speak about the tour, what are the first impressions?
The first impressions are incredible because I knew from the beginning that people don't know the songs, specially in Germany, where we played, the album was not released, it's only on the 20th. But here in France, I know that people bought it the day before or the same day, so the reaction was great, it was pretty nice. I think that people liked the band even just for seeing them and hearing the songs first live, which is always a compromise. When we saw we had fans on stage, we were getting better everyday. I think the first show in Germany was terrible, everybody was nervous, we did mistakes, the second show was better, but still no good, and in Belgium, the first show was great. I can imagine we're getting better and better everyday, and now we're coming to Spain tomorrow, in Madrid, I think it will be incredible. And we're looking for the second part, when we will play in Germany and people will know the songs already, people could sing along with us and they will really enjoy it more. And it's good
to support a band like Hammerfall, better than bands like Gamma Ray which will have a lot of Helloween fans.
Is the tracklist always the same, I think, specially about the Helloween covers?
Yeah, for the moment we just play the same songs, I think it's really ok. I don't want to play too many songs, wasting time instead of playing Masterplan stuff. Then it makes sense to play Helloween songs in a medley.
I was a little bit disapointed for not hearing "Mr. Torture"...
Yes, me too, but we will play this song better in a headliner tour 'cause I don't want to make a medley with "Mr. Torture", because this song should be played entirely. So we will play more songs, maybe "The Time Of The Oath", maybe "The Dark Ride", I like this song, and maybe a drum solo, guitar solo...
Then you already think about a headlining tour?
Yeah, it would be great to do a little headlining tour, maybe in October and maybe with bands of AFM.
Will you play at some festivals this Summer?
Yeah, we should play in Wacken, maybe Sweden Rock Festival or in Spain 'cause after the tour we could get better positions in the festivals.
Will you get some time to do solo projects again?
I don't know what kind of solo project I should do, 'cause now I'm fine with Uli in Masterplan.
Do you mean that you made solo projects in the past because you were not ok with Helloween?
Yes, I was not happy with Helloween, but I can't say I won't do another solo album. But if I do one, it will be different, maybe like a blues one or with orchestra, something new with nice arrangements and atmposphere. But the second album of Masterplan should have a lot of attention and should be better than this one, that's a hard work and I shouldn't waste my energy by doing good solo albums. I don't want to do too many albums anymore, more in a level as bands like Def Leppard or Metallica, that takes always a long time. People should talk about the album for the next five or ten years: "It was great and it's still great!", like the "Black Album" for Metallica and Def Leppard with "Hysteria". Maybe now we have the level to produce good albums, we have the experience and you have always to say "take the best from the best and take your time".
I really like to hear you singing like on your first solo album.
Thanks, I think I can be good, but I wasn't good enough for my solo album, I didn't like that singing, but yeah, I'm thinking about singing more, but I always need a couple of days on tour to get my voice stronger. Yesterday, that was ok, but maybe in two or three days it's getting more powerful... [Singing] Yeah! [Laughs].
Are there any projects with other bands?
I'm getting a little bit tired about this, many projects with solo parts like swedish bands, Mike Vescera, Timo Kotipelto... I think it's a little bit too much and it's not always good. But I like the stuff on Mob Rules album, I was proud of this and this was made for friends. So now, I'm looking for something really nice, if people like Hammerfall or Stratovarius would ask me, yeah, if it's only for the feeling between friends.
To finish, could you give us a little words for our readers?
I think the show yesterday was something special, a lot of people were there and gave a very nice welcome for a new band and we are really happy to be back after a hard suffering one and a half year not in Helloween anymore. I think now we have a good album and I hope you'll like the album and then we could come back for an headlining tour. So it's always nice to be here in France.