Interview For Guitariste.Com Site (05/09/03)
Translated By Laurent Bismuth
Former guitarist of the german heavy metal band, Helloween, Roland Grapow, made a big surprise with Masterplan and their first album, which was a big success. The man explains how the band was formed after a harsh departure from Helloween. He tells us why Masterplan works so well and recalls that you need to practice a lot before being a guitar master.
How did Masterplan begin?
Everything started in January 2001. Uli Kusch (Drums) and I were in Japan with Helloween. We discussed about a side project. I didn't want to make a third solo album. We wanted to do something special, and we had already written a few songs. But Uli wasn't ready by that time. Since I like to manage everything and meet all the men in business, I became the "engine" of Masterplan.
How was your situation in Helloween by that time?
We informed our bandmates about this project. They said it was okay. But five months later, they fired us! We were so surprised... During the last tour with helloween, the atmosphere was really cool, everything seemed perfect. We did a show in Spain, and they told me I was fired. I could not believe it. Uli and I stayed together. That's a good point because Uli is a great drummer.
How did you find your singer, Jorn Lande?
In the beginning, we thought about recruiting Russell Allen, who sings in Symphony X. We met him during a gig in Berlin. He thought the idea was cool, but Masterplan was not a "real" project by then, we were still in Helloween at that moment. So, Russell chose to stay with Symphony X, which became a big band. Then we asked Michael Kiske. He agreed but he could not play live because of his own band Supared. So three months after the split of Helloween we asked Jorn Lande to join Masterplan. He was Ark's singer. He listened to our songs without the vocals and said it inspired him. Music was already composed and I had written half of the lyrics. We recorded it in November. When the mixing was over, Jorn thought the songs were very good. He had problems with Ark so he left them to join Masterplan. Jorn's voice is unique, very different from Helloween.
How did the press receive your album?
We had very good reviews. People didn't expect good stuff because we were coming from Helloween. This band wasn't very appreciated, especially in Germany. But thanks to Jorn's voice, it was great. The album has always been good rated in press, from eight to ten out of ten. Rock Hard magazine (Germany) put our album in the first place among fifty others. We sold so much albums in Germany that we entered the pop top selling list. In Switzerland, Netherlands and other countries, Masterplan was "Album Of The Month". Incredible for a first album.
Can you tell us how much albums have you sold?
I don't know exactly, but we sold over 60.000 in Europe and 20.000 in Japan.
So, what's your secret?
We try to be interesting, making catchy songs, progressive but not too much. We don't want to do a too simple melody, [Sings "Ohh, oh, oh...", like a choir], but not too much complicated either, like Dream theater or Symphony X. A lot of people like "Enlighten me" or "Soulburn". Our songs can be heavy but still melodic. You must feel the music. If it doesn't touch your heart, it's wrong.
What do you think of metal nowadays?
It's hard to say what I like. I like Creed for example. I'm a big fan of Nu-Metal, Limp Bizkit for example. Some people would kill me if they hear that [Laughs]. Rap voices too, cause the rhythm is catchy. I'm a big fan of Rammstein too. Their style is very dynamic, like in the track "Mein Herz Brennt" one of my favourites.
Let's talk about your beggining. I read that when you started playing guitar, your father convinced you to have a teacher.
Yes. I was twelve, I started to play on a cheap acoustic guitar in front of a mirror. My father heard me and said "You should take some lessons". So I went to a music school. It was in 1972. I was in a class with twenty other students. There was a lot of beautiful girls and I was very shy, you know, always far from the teacher. When he said "play", my face became red and I couldn't play [Laughs]. I didn't understand theory. After six months, everyone was better than me. The teacher told my father: "Stop wasting your money with guitar". I felt bad but I loved to play. I knew I could succeed. I learned by myself and after three years I became good enough.
You worked for hours, everyday?
When you are young, you have time. I didn't have a girlfriend, I was just playing football in a club, so I practiced a lot. During holidays, for six weeks, I could play eight hours a day. When I was nineteen, I became good, people wanted to play with me. So I joined Rampage. Nowadays, I still learn music. But I don't work scales anymore. I climbed down enough to play what I feel. I use my brain more than my fingers to create. It's important. When you don't play for four weeks, your fingers are going weaker but your spirit remains stong.
How do you compose?
I don't compose with a guitar anymore. I use computer and keyboards. I like to be inspired by a keyboard or a drum's groove.
Despite of Helloween's split, would you like to play again with them?
Yes! They are still my friends. If Kai Hansen, Michael Kiske and other members of the band could meet and create a few songs together, it would be great. I would love to do it again.