Interview For Roadie Crew Magazine (June 2003)
By Ricardo Campos
Translated By Marcelo Hashimoto
Some time after the last appearance of Helloween in Brazil (June 2001), fans got caught by surprise with the announcement that Roland Grapow (Guitars) and Uli Kusch (Drums) had left the band and were working, together, on a new project. After a lot of speculation and line-up changes, Jorn Lande (Vocals, former member of Ark, Yngwie J. Malmsteen's Rising Force, The Snakes, Beyond Twilight and others), Jan-S. Eckert (Bass, former member of Iron Savior) and Axel Mackenrott (Keyboards, Punch TV, Catch The Rainbow), joined as definitive members and the band was named Masterplan. The whole curiosity about what would be the result of the work of those talented musicians would only be satisfied with the single "Enlighten Me" (2003), where the undeniable musical quality shown, specially on the title-track, created even more expectations about the first album. And, as no one could expect anything else, the self-titled debut only made greater the admiration on this new, yet composed of very experienced musicians,
band. Check everything about this first stage of Masterplan and see how Roland Grapow is happy with this "new life".
When did you had the idea of creating a band along with Uli Kusch? Was it after you left Helloween?
Before we left Helloween we had the idea of making a new solo album, but together. I think that about five months before we departed we thought about making something different from Helloween, but when the split happened, we decided we wouldn't have to worry about how the album would sound anymore. We did exactly what we wanted and half of the songs we have were written while we were still in Helloween. The idea for the band existed before the split, but there was a different attitude behind it. When we left Helloween, we realized our future was there, and we needed something good!
Why did you decided to call the band Masterplan?
All the songs were already written, we were recording, we knew the album would sound very powerful, we already had Jorn Lande on the line-up and we didn't have any idea of what would be the name of the band... We couldn't decide what kind of name we wanted to use! We didn't want something typically heavy metal. Then a poll on the Internet was made, where people could choose between some names or send a suggestion to us, and a guy from Mexico send something very interesting, saying: "Roland and Uli, you are masters on music and you have, now, the future in your hands. Why not choosing the name Masterplan?". I really liked the idea, I thought it was perfect, because we could create around us an image for the first album, that would be different of the stuff usually seen on metal.
When you left Helloween and it was announced that you would form a new band, the name of Russell Allen (Symphony X) was indicated for the singer spot. Why was Russell left out and how the choice of Jorn Lande was made?
Before anything, when we were still members of Helloween and we had the idea of a side project in mind, Russell Allen was the first choice. We wanted to make a good album, but without having to worry about touring or anything else. But when we split from Helloween and we realized that from then on we would have to make something to move on to our future, we needed a singer that could belong to the band. We asked Russell if he would like to join us 100%, and he said yes, but that he was already on a good band. I saw that the best for him was really staying with Symphony X, which is a great band. That was the first thing, then, we decided to contact Michael Kiske, because we thought it was something very clever to have another former Helloween member on the band. After some talking, Michael agreed to sing some songs, or even the whole album, but he didn't want to go on tour, join us 100%. Uli and I decided not to do that, because we wanted to create a strong band, that could make several albums together.
Then, I remembered that about six months before that, we had heard the second album from Ark and, on the same period, October, the second solo album from Jorn, "Worldchanger". We liked it so much that we decided that him, Jorn, would be the best choice. He doesn't sing like a Helloween clone or something like that... He is so unique, different. It would be a lot better for us than any copy of Michael Kiske! We tried to contact him, something not very easy, since he's always missing or singing on a project [Laughs]! Then, when we finally found him, we talked and he asked to send him a copy of the material. I said no, that he should come to Hamburg (Germany) on the next week, all expenses paid, to listen to the songs and meet us in person. He came and it was very nice! He met my studio and the songs, and he was very excited from the beggining, saying that he would like to sing them, to create melodies and lyrics, and to join the band. On that day he already sang one song with us, the cover for "Black Dog"
from Led Zeppelin, that would be released by a spanish record company [Locomotive] on a tribute ["The Music Remains The Same"]. After that, he became a member of the band.
I must confess that Jorn was an excellent choice! Russell Allen is a great singer, but Jorn is one of the best in the world nowadays. Tell us about the impressions you had when Jorn opened his mouth in front of you for the first time.
[Laughs] You can imagine! He had some plans and fantasies when we wrote the songs, and that was inicially heard with my voice in demos or Russell's voice, who made some stuff but without definitive melodies or lyrics. When Jorn sang for the first time, even "Black Dog", I said "Shit, this guy is amazing!" [Laughs]. That even gave me chills [Laughs]. We were there, sat in the studio, listening to him to sing, and the producer Andy Sneap turned back, to where I was, and said: "This guy is great!" [Laughs]. Anyone can perfectly understand what I'm saying listening to the album. I'm really happy of having him as a vocalist for the band and we have a great friendship. I'm a big fan of him and of our sound... I think he was the best choice we could have made to create a great album!
You said that Jorn Lande has a unique style, but he became very famous because he had a way of singing similiar to David Coverdale's, and he even recorded a live album, "Live In Europe", playing several Whitesnake songs, next to The Snakes [Nowadays, The Company Of Snakes]. Despite that, I agree that on his last works, such as Ark, Beyond Twilight and, obvioudly, Masterplan, he still sounds like Coverdale, but he began to find his own personality. How do you evaluate Jorn's performance on this debut album?
I think he was very cautious in giving each song what it really needed. Specially on the last track, "When Love Comes Close", where he sings more like David Coverdale than on the others. This is a very bluesy, hard rock song, where even I tried to play more like John Skyes than Roland Grapow and Helloween. I loved it, because it is a very nice ending for a heavy album [Laughs]! But he was also excellent on the other songs, and I can say that on a lot of them he sounds like a very young and modern Ronnie James Dio. But on others he sounds completely different, like in "Into The Light". He is like a little chameleon, who always gives the best of himself and leaves a lot of emotion on each of the notes and each part of the lyrics he sings. He is able to involve the listener, making him believe in what is being said on the lyrics. It was the best choice! I think he was even kinda surprised to sing some melodies we wrote, of songs like "Sail On", "Heroes" and "Spirit Never Die", which are not typically his
style. With Jorn's style, those melodies became very interesting! You can say that we have a lot of Helloween elements on our songs, but with his voice and the great production we have made, everything sounds completely new, different. We didn't copy Helloween! We stayed a lot of time in the band and we don't want to hide our style, it's very good to still have influences from that period. But with Jorn Lande and the kind of different attitude we had on the production... We like to face challenges and not to go back in time, doing something from a million years ago [Laughs]! Back to ther subject, with this we can create something that can catch people's interest. On the next Masterplan album we don't want to copy the first. Of course we will have some similar elements, but we'll always try to develop, to grow.
Some weeks after Jorn was announced as the Masterplan's singer, he left the band where he was playing, Ark. Is there any kind of relation, of influence, between those two facts?
There is no kind of relation between those two things. In the beggining we expected him to be our singer. We wanted him on the band because we were looking for the best. But keeping him was basically a dream of ours. Then, when he heard the final mixing, he felt that everything was very strong and that Uli and I are good people... He felt safe with us, he is a very sensitive guy and he had a lot of problems with bands he has been with. Everyone has problems, and when a band is not so big, there are always a lot of fights because of songwriting. If you see the credits of our first album, you'll see that all songs were written by Masterplan. We don't want to have that kind of problem anymore, when it's said that one song is better than the other and there is always the curiosity to know who wrote it to discover who is the best songwriter. Since the beggining we took a lot of care to prevent this from ever happening. I think those were Jorn's feelings, realizing this is his future. There was no pressure from
us for him to leave Ark, and he did it without even talking to us. One day he arrived at Hamburg and said: "Last week I've left Ark!". We asked: "Why?". And he explained that the band had many internal problems and that's everthing I know. But, in the end, this is good for us [Laughs]! Because now he's 100% with us and he's taking care not to have many side projects, as usual.
The first announced Masterplan line-up also had bassist Jürgen Attig and Children Of Bodom keyboardist Janne Wirman. We didn't they stay on the band and how was the choice of Jan-S. Eckert (Bass) and Axel Mackenrott (Keyboards) to replace them?
In the beggining, when everything was still a project in our minds, Jürgen Attig would be the bassist. But then, when we went to record the bass, we realized that he was not the right guy [Laughs]! He wasn't good enough, because he played like a jazz bassist, which he really is. I said that such style didn't fit well on our sound and Andy Sneap also commented that he wasn't the right guy for us. Then we decided that the songs for the album should be played by a different bassist, and he left the band, although he had already recorded some b-sides we kept. We called Jan-S. Eckert, from Iron Savior, that I know for more than ten years! He used to make some rehearsals with Helloween when Markus Grosskopf was on vacation. I already knew that he learned stuff very fast, played very well and got a great sound. Beyond that, he's an excellent backing vocal, something very good for shows. About Janne, I've tried to have him on the band as the definitive keyboardist, but obviously he has already a great name with
Children Of Bodom. When the tour started being planned, a lot of dates were the same for both bands and we realized we had a big problem [Laughs]! If he couldn't tour with us, it would be something stupid to imagine a future together. We had to search for another keyboardist to replace him. Janne played the whole album, but a lot of the keyboard lines, I can say something around sixty percent, were composed and played by me and Uli. But Janne made those lines to sound better, he helped us to make a good album. Janne is a very talented keyboardist, but I think Axel fits better on the band. He also knows how to play guitar, so he can make some bases live, and help me to bring the good sound quality that the guitar has on the album to the stage.
Masterplan's debut album was recorded in your studio, Crazy Cat Studio, located in Hamburg, under the production of Andy Sneap. Why did you choose Andy, since he's famous for producing, mostly, thrash metal bands?
I always like to keep track, to sound modern, even though I play something more melodic, more bluesy. I have in my heart my good old style from the 70's and 80's. But, sometimes, I like the influence of more modern bands, specially when it's about guitar sound. I wanted something different, because I think it's bad to have a weak guitar and drum sound on the album, even though the songs are good. I was listening to some productions from Andy and I loved "The Gathering" from Testament... That guitar sound is amazing, and I wanted the guitar bases from Masterplan to have that quality. So I called him and he was the right choice! Andy gave me a lot of advice in studio, about what I should use, what kind of equipment for the guitar. There is no magic behind it, it's really simple, but the experience he had made me feel for the first time that I was getting a good sound from my studio. Now I know how to do it and how to reproduce this sound quality live. We already did about thirty-six concerts on Europe along
with Hammerfall and, always after the performance someone came to me and said: "Man, the band has only one guitar but the sound is a killer!". Even before that, Roy Z already gave me a lot of experience during the recordings of "The Dark Ride", the guitar sound is great on this album, but Andy was like an "extra heaviness". He also made the rest of the band to sound very close together. He was very cautious to make specially Uli's drums, the bass and the rhythm guitar to sound very close, to make the sound stronger. However, for the mixing, we felt that Andy wasn't the right guy. Like you mentioned, he's famous on thrash metal and when he went to mix our songs, he basically left out all the choirs and keyboard lines [Laughs]! I said: "Hey, the's something strange here!" [Laughs]. And he said: "No one wants to hear that shit!" [Laughs]. Then I decided that our material should be mixed by someone else. I was very happy that we have made this on Finnvox, because I love those scandinavian productions, like
Nightwish, Stratovarius, Children Of Bodom... Those bands always have a great sound quality and I think that Mikko Karmila did an amazing job. This guy is really a genius! He is so fast and the results are very good. We usually listened the mixings he had made and there was very few things that needed to be changed, since he did a perfect job. It's very good when you can trust on the person you're paying. The most important thing Masterplan did was having the control of everything, of production, of sound, of arrangements... And it was every member of the band. I think that's why we sound so good!
Roy Z produced the last Helloween album with you and Uli on the band, "The Dark Ride". He did an excellent job, but I confess I don't like that much some productions with his signature. How do you compare, as whole, the productions of Andy and Roy?
I could say that Roy is more like an incredible arrangement guy, he creates great songs with the artists he works with. He inspired me a lot when we recorded "The Dark Ride", I had a lot of fun with him. Roy was the guy who helped me to play a good guitar and to keep inspired, because everyone else was arguing and stuff like that. The band didn't have a good relationship anymore. He was the guy who took care of everything and he's still one of my best friends. Actually, he helped me on some arrangements for Masterplan, he was responsible for some ideas we have on the album, but he didn't have time to take the production because of the recordings of Rob Halford's latest album ["Crucible"]. I agree when you say that Roy's work is a little bit irregular. I've heard "Crucible" and I think it didn't sound that great. It's not something very stable the quality of the works Roy has been putting on the market, but when it comes to arranging and inspiring, he is perfect! He makes you give the best of yourself, sits
next to you and says: "Come on, man, I know you can do better! Want a beer?" [Laughs]. This is what I like and he is perfect. It's like a good friend sitting right next to you. Maybe we can work together again, but definitely with Andy Sneap and Finnvox.
Before the debut album was released, the band was introduced to the audience with the single "Enlighten Me", which right on the beggining reached the 15th position on the german charts. Did you expect such a repercussion for the single of a band that didn't even have an album?
No! We had an incredible repercussion. With the single, we began at 15th and we reached the first position, then came the album and we entered in 42nd on the german pop charts. Actually, this month [May] we are number one on japanese charts... All of this is unbelieavable! We got several stuff, like "Album Of The Month"in six or eight of the biggest european magazines and, honestly, I've never had this kind of success with Helloween [Laughs]! You can imagine how proud I am. This makes me feel very good, because we did a lot of hard work and all the suffering we had been through is gone, totally. I think now we have a better position and a solid base of fans so that we can create another very good album and do a headlining tour next year, since this year we are playing as an opening band, or the one before the headlining one. Maybe in October we'll do a tour as co-headliners along with Zak Stevens' band, CircleIICircle. Beyond that, we'll also play on eight or nine festivals in Europe and we'll do some gigs
in Japan. It's very good to have all that support. Usually, a debut album means a small tour as opening band and nothing else. But people are really talking a lot about us in Germany and the whole Europe. I don't know what's happening in Brazil, I still haven't heard any comments, but I hope everything is ok, because we really want to play there.
You haven't heard anything because the album wasn't released here yet! [It wasn't when the interview was made, now it's already on the brazilian market through Laser Company and Rock Brigade Records] I think it will be available on the next weeks!
Oh, so that's why [Laughs]! I didn't know that and I thought it was strange, because no one from there wrote me about the album [Laughs]!
I'm sure that Masterplan will be a great success here in Brazil, considering the sound quality and that the brazilians have a special care for you and Uli, beyond the fact that Jorn Lande is already well-known through the albums from Ark and Beyond Twilight!
I hope the brazilians really like it! Brazil is one of my favorite countries to play and if this doesn't happen still this year I'm gonna be very dissapointed [Laughs]! I really want to return to the country, specially because I spoke a lot about Brazil to the other guys in the band, Jorn, Jan and Axel, and they are really excited! We are working a lot for this to happen and I hope it does still this year!
I must confess that, considering the fact that I really liked the album and because of several comments I've heard, I'm really looking forward to see the band live!
Believe me, it's very fun! We don't do anything crazy or something like it, but we have a lot of fun on stage. It's like a rebirth! I think my career and Uli's actually started with this album. What came before was like a great school. We had great moments on the years we spent with Helloween, and I really treasure the experience we had and the fans we got. But, now, we have a "baby", more responsabilities, we write the songs, we arrange them. When people sing our melodies, we feel very good!
Back to the single, "Enlighten Me" is one of the best songs you've ever written, with perfect melodies and a catchy atmosphere. What do you think about this song, that might be already considered a fan favorite worldwide?
This song is something very special, I agree! It has a rhythm that sounds a little bit progressive, but, still, catchy. The melody that Jorn sings is very different from the rhythm of the guitar and drums that follows it, it's something very peculiar. Then, it comes the easy, catchy part of the chorus [Roland sings the chorus]. The guitars are very simple and the keyboard stronger. This reminds me a bit of a Faith No More song, Uli is very influenced by this band. We chose that song to be the single because we wanted to introduce to people something completely new from Masterplan, and not something typically Helloween, such as the track "Heroes". This is an excellent song and people in Japan love it, but to me it's too obvious and if we released it on a single people would say we were trying to copy the other band and you know the rest [Laughs]! "Enlighten Me" was the best choice. After so many months since the single was released, it came out on October or November 2002, we're finally on TV here in
Germany, on the VIVA channel, since the promo video appeared this week. It took some time, but people are more involved. We're even reaching the pop market here with this kind of music, and that's very interesting.
The "Enlighten Me" single also has a cover for Led Zeppelin's classic "Black Dog". Why did you choose this song to be the first cover by Masterplan?
There is a reason, we would never pick it just to have a cover song. It was an offer from Locomotive. Before we even had a singer, they invited us to participate on the Led Zeppelin tribute they were organizing and I agreed. Then, as choices, I picked some songs I really liked, such as "Immigrant Song", "Kashmir" and "Stairway To Heaven", but all of them were already "occupied" by other bands. And each song I mentioned was already picked by a band! The only song left from Lez Zeppelin that I like was "Black Dog" [Laughs]! Then we just recorded it without thinking too much. I think we did a great version, but we didn't change the arrangements too much, because we wanted to keep the Led Zeppelin aura of the song. We just used a more modern sound... But Jorn was unbelievable on this song! I didn't even imagine that he could sing like Robert Plant, and I think he even sang better [Laughs]! But it was because of the tribute that we chose it, I think we would usually choose something from Whitesnake [Laughs]!
Maybe some song from the "1987" album.
Yes, it would really be the best choice, since Jorn has a large experience in singing Whitesnake!
[Laughs] Definitely! We'll do that someday for fun, to see how it sounds like, I think it will be interesting!
That's for sure! Now, talking about the debut album, those eleven tracks represent a great mixture of different styles, like traditional heavy metal, melodic, hard rock and some guitar riffs that sound almost like thrash metal. Despite this have been already commented, the main songwriters of the band are you, Uli Kusch and Jorn Lande, who participated a lot on vocal melodies and lyrics. However, I think you're the main one, since I can hear of your style on the album. How it worked the songwriting process?
Uli and I wrote half each and recorded about sixteen songs. We didn't finish three of them and the others are b-sides, they are nice, but nothing very brilliant, I can say. On the album itself, Uli and I did 50% each, but most of it was made as a team work and not just by Uli or just by me. Specially the song "Soulburn", which I consider to be a perfect team work! The beggining of it was made by Uli, the chorus by me and the vocal melodies by Jorn, I think this is the best team work we could ever have. We don't care anymore if the song is mine, Uli's, or whoever it is, we just expose the ideas and work together. We never did that too much on Helloween, just a little bit here and there, but everyone always tried to make their own good song. To me, the results are better if made by a team. If Uli created a guitar base better than mine for a song, we'll use it without any problems. We tried to mix our styles on each one of the songs. In the future this will happen even more, because now we have two new
members, Jan and Axel, who weren't there when we recorded the album. Next time, I think the situation will be even better!
On our issue #52, we published an interview with Michael Weikath and Andi Deris and, when asked about Masterplan, they said they liked it, but that some of the songs were originally written for "The Dark Ride". What can you say about that?
It's true that "Into The Light" had already been written and was even recorded for "The Dark Ride". Other songs have some elements that were originally recorded for demos of other albums, like the beggining of "Soulburn". But all the rest of the album is completely new.
Like it was asked to them, did you had the opportunity to listen to "Rabbit Don't Come Easy" already? If you did, I would like to hear your opinion about the album.
Yes, I've heard. I don't know, that album is not the style I would usually enjoy. I must confess that I'm glad I'm not in that band anymore, honestly. But I don't want to say anything good or bad.
I think this new album of them will please the fans in general, but I must say it isn't much my style, I thought it was too "happy"!
Yeah, but if I said that, the fans would hate me [Laughs]! People always think, perhaps Weiki have said, that Uli and I were responsible for "The Dark Ride" sound, but this is not right. This was just an excuse to kick us out of the band. By that time, there was a very bad internal atmosphere inside Helloween, without friendship. The title "The Dark Ride" really reflects the situation of Helloween on that moment. And considering everything we've been through, I think that was a great album! What you can hear and see, like the dark cover artwork, it's really the situation the band's been through, and why shouldn't we like it? It was a situation from three years ago and Masterplan, to me, is very heavy and has very aggressive guitar lines, but the vocal melodies and the solos I play are extremely positive, even though they're nothing "mega-happy" like Helloween... I like having positive melodies. Also, we don't have anything negative on the lyrics. People might even think that we're doing something on "The
Dark Ride" style, but we only have one or two songs similar to it. I like heavy stuff, I'm a big fan of Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Zakk Wylde and a lot of others, then why not having this kind of influence? The song "Bleeding Eyes" has this tendency.
The song "Spirit Never Die" is really cool, but it's the one I like less from the album. Why did you put it as the opening track?
Really [Laughs]? The reason this song is opening the album is an old Helloween secret: We always put the fastest song to open an album. A work should never begin with a mid-tempo song. We had two options: The two faster songs! One of them was, obviously, "Spirit Never Die" and the other was "Crawling From Hell", the others have fast parts, but nothing too big. To my taste, "Spirit Never Die" was a good choice. You're the first person who said you didn't like it [Laughs]!
Since the first time I've heard "Kind Hearted Light", I've noticed that it has a feeling very close to Thin Lizzy and Gary Moore. Actually, the chorus reminds me a lot of the song "Out In The Fields", sang by Phil Lynott on the album "Run For Cover" of Gary Moore. What do think about this similarity?
When we wrote the song, Janne Wirman was the one who gave us the idea for that keyboard melody. Right after we already did the bridge and the chorus. "Kind Hearted Light" was made very quickly, it developed so well, and we didn't even thought that much when we were writing it. But when the chorus was done, I actually realized that there was some similarities to Thin Lizzy and Gary Moore [Laughs]! I did everything to make it sound not so much like it, but in the end, of course, it kept the similarities. Honestly, I really love "Out In The Fields", then why not being influenced by it? Weikath said during all the years we've been together that "I Want Out" is almost a copy of "Out In The Fields" [Laughs]! I think not, I think Kai Hansen might have been inspired by it, but "I Want Out" sounds completely different, it's another feeling. I can say the same about "Kind Hearted Light"... I think it is some notes that make this similarity larger [On this moment, Roland sings part of the chorus, indicating the
similar notes]. This is the problem, it's some notes on your song that make everyone think it sounds like someone else, in this case like Gary Moore [Laughs]!
The vocal lines in "Soulburn" are simply amazing and give the song a perfect atmosphere. Generally speaking, it has a mood similar to the one in the album "The Devil's Hall Of Fame", of Beyond Twilight, also sang by Jorn Lande. Do you agree?
I agree! "Soulburn", to me, has a kind of feeling which is very deep and slow, specially in the beggining. There's something kinda bleusy there and there, quite similar to Beyond Twilight, I agree! But in the chorus, things change, it's like the listener went flying or something like that. On this point, the melody is different from Beyond Twilight, since that one is much more darker. "Soulburn" is not very fast, but it's very cool and positive. I think that, to me, this is the best song on the album!
"Heroes" is a great song and has melodies on the style of Helloween. Tell us about the appearance of Michael Kiske on it.
Since we've talked, during two weeks Michael Kiske was kind of a singer of Masterplan [Laughs]! But when we decided he was not the right guy, because he didn't want to do concerts, I still wanted him to participate on the album. Something just for the old fans, to show that we have a good friendship. Michael and I regained contact one year before I left Helloween, but no one in the band knew. I always felt really bad, because we kicked Michael from the band and I always thought he is one of the best, the best singer for bands on the style of Helloween. Then, I wanted him participating on the album and it had to be on a song with a style similar to Helloween's. I wrote "Heroes" specially for his voice.
Just like "Heroes", "Sail On" has also melodies on the style of Helloween. Being the general sound in the album different from the one you did next to that band, were those songs written in the direction of the taste of the fans of your period in Helloween?
Not necessarily. People, specially some Helloween fans, always think I can't write songs on that style, because on the albums there were always credits to Weikath, then to Andi Deris, songs that sounded like a mixture of Helloween and Pink Cream 69. I never wanted to copy Weikath, or Kai Hansen, or Andi, do songs on the same typical style, and that's why I've always tried to do something more modern. You can hear that on songs like "Escalation 666", "The Time Of The Oath" and "Mankind". But of course, if you hear my solo albums or older Helloween songs I've wrote, like "Someone's Crying" or "The Chance", and even now, when I was responsible for songs like "Heroes", "Sail On", "Kind Hearted Light"... Listening to all of these, you can realize that I know how to write songs on that style, and I really like it! But if you have a songwriter on the band like Weikath, who already writes on that style, it would be too much if I've also tried to always make songs on this style of Helloween. Now I am free, and I
don't have this problem anymore [Laughs]!
"Bleeding Eyes" is one of my favorites of the whole album, presenting a very epic sound and a egyptian atmosphere, or something like that. Was this kind of atmosphere something you had in mind when you wrote that song?
Surely, I was very influenced by my favorite Led Zeppelin song, "Kashmir". I love this kind of rhythm, of atmosphere. Besides, I'm a big fan of Rainbow, and Ritchie Blackmore have always used this kind of arrangements, specially on the keyboard and, obviously, guitar lines. I've never studied music, I'm completely self-taught, I have no clue about chords, notes, I can't read music, I play purely through my ears. To me, it's something very inspiring a good melody, rhythm, or the sound of instruments that are different from each other, stuff that makes listening itself very exciting. That's why I like songs such as "The Time Of The Oath" and even "Escalation 666", that, despite not being something typical of the Helloween style, is great. It was even considered by many people the best song on "The Dark Ride", but the more radical fans hated it [Laughs]! Beyond that, it was the favorite of Roy Z and of the Helloween fan clubs in Germany and Switzerland. However, listening to those radical fans, I thought I
had made a mistake... But I don't care about this anymore, I just want to write good songs and to really believe in what I'm doing. That's why I've made "Bleeding Eyes". It is not so heavy like "Escalation 666", but has a great atmosphere and has downtuned sound. To me, it's always good to have a song like that on the album, because we don't want to have material with all tracks sounding exactly the same. We want to make albums that people listens entirely and each one of the tracks are different, and not just liking two of ten equal tracks.
You started 2003 touring with Hammerfall, Dream Evil and Nostradameus, the last two alternating as the opening band in different parts of the tour. How it worked the Masterplan setlist? Did you include Helloween songs and some covers?
In the beggining we were kinda insecure about that, because we knew we should play some Helloween songs, but since our time on stage on this first tour was a little bit short, something around forty-five minutes, we decided to focus more on our own songs. But we did a five-minute medley which started with "The Chance" (Helloween), followed by "Sunset Station" (Jorn Lande) and "The Departed (Sun Is Going Down)", from "The Dark Ride", which was written by Uli. All of them were mixed and worked very well together. People liked it a lot, but the reaction to this medley wasn't bigger than the ones to our own songs. And sometimes we started to think that we shouldn't be doing that at all. But our setlist will change on the japanese tour we will do as headliners and on the european festivals, and maybe we'll do this medley again, because the gigs are longer and we'll need extra songs.
Masterplan has confirmed presence on several festivals this year, among them are Wacken Open air, Sweden Rock Festival and Bang Your Head. Being those great opportunities to present the band to a larger number of people, what are your expectations?
I think this tour with Hammerfall was very good, because even though they weren't the profile of our fans, since both bands have different styles, people came to us in the end of the gigs and said they really liked our sound. Besides, we were really complimented on magazines and, now, more people have our album. On festivals, a bigger audience will be able to see us, and we hope we'll get more fans there, so that we might have chance to start the next year even bigger, since we'll release an album and a single. The plans for this year are for touring and presenting the band, so people will know us and talk about us. It's very important that they see that we are a very good band live. Six months ago everyone thought we were a project, but now they already know we are a band, with definitive members... Speaking of that, some time ago Jan left Iron Savior. He came to me and said: "I've said to Piet Sielck that I didn't want to play in Iron Savior anymore!" [Laughs]!.
I hope that, after all those festivals and the japanese tour the band will make, everything will be fine for the brazilian fans to have the opportunity to see Masterplan live!
I hope so! We have a great wish and hope this will happen still in 2003. We only need one phone call inviting us and we will be there [Laughs]! There's a person who works on the company that schedules our tours, All Access, who has a lot of acquaintances in Brazil and is going to São Paulo in two weeks. He'll check if there's the possibility to play there still this year. We really want to return to Brazil and I hope this happens soon!