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Roland Grapow interview

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    Posted: June 14 2010 at 14:27
HI guys,  i had the great pleasure to speak with Roland Grapow about the new Masterplan album, his time with Helloween, and about how ROY Z changed his life!

here is some of the interview...it's a little long, so you can see the rest on http://www.loudtrax.com/Interviews.aspx

tell me what you think!

Interview with Roland Grapow (Masterplan / ex Helloween)

by AM 12. June 2010 00:45

In 1989, Roland Grapow replaced Kai Hansen in the legendary Power Metal band Helloween.  For 12 years, his guitar work and writing helped shape several great albums including "The Dark Ride", "Better Than Raw", and "Master of Rings".  In 2001, Roland and drummer Uli Kusch formed "Masterplan" with power vocalist Jorn Lande, and have since gone on to write their own chapter in the history of the great Metal bands.  I had the pleasure of speaking to Roland from his studio in Slovakia.  Here is the text version of the interview.

Download Masterplan albums HERE

LoudTrax.com  Hi Roland, itís a great pleasure to interview you having been a fan since the first listen of "Pink Bubbles Go Ape" all the way to the new "Time to be King" album. 

Tell us about the new Masterplan album ďTime To Be KingĒ.   From the early concepts of what the album would be, to the writing and then recording process.

Roland Grapow  Well maybe letís go a little bit back to the past when we had a different singer in the band, Mike DiMeo on the MK II album.  I was getting a little bit frustrated on the tour supportingSaxon for 50 shows in Europe.  So after a while, Mike found out that I wasnít really happy and he left the band because he thought the magic was not there really, especially live.  The album was pretty cool still though.

So I contacted Jorn again.  It took quite a while to convince Jorn to come back to the band.  He was somehow realizing something was missing in his career as well.  A lot of people were going to his solo shows but were telling him ďyour great but why did you leave Masterplan?Ē.  The same thing happened to us, fans were asking why Jorn left the band.  We were looking at each other and there was still a lot of talking and agreements that we can continue together on the right level.  Because we shouldnít make the same mistakes as in the past.  For example we had some disagreements about direction. 

When we finally start working together, Christmas one and half years ago, there was fresh material written.  Jorn had a couple of ideas and Axel the keyboard player had some as well.  But I wrote everything fresh because I wanted to be inspired by the new situation.  And so I was very happy and enthusiastic writing stuff and we had a great working and songwriting period for about 3-4 months.  Then we found the material we liked and we had written 14 songs.  At the end we had just recorded 12, so we had 2 songs cut out.  The whole recording process was really 1 year honestly but with many many breaks because I am producing bands in my studio here.  Iím getting quite famous here in the east part of Europe as a producer and a lot of people want the guitar and production sound of Masterplan, and saying they worked with the ex-Helloween guy .  Itís quite exciting for these little bands.  Making some extra cash and experience which is really nice and Iím happy to get into this producing, mixing and mastering business as well. 

So that means we did not work for 1 year on the album because of the bands recording here and we worked around it.  Finally the delay of the release was my mistake because on one side, the lyrics werenít finished by Jorn, and on the other side I had bands booked in the studio for 6 months before.  And we couldnít finish the Masterplan album so everything was delayed.  Thatís why the album came out I would say 4-5 months later than expected.  

So thatís more or less the recording and creation process of the album.  Everything was recorded in Slovakia in my home studio.  Everyone came here.  Everything was really relaxed.  I like to have many breaks during the recording cause normally you make an album in 2-3 months with no break.  But itís beautiful to come back you know after 6 weeks not listening to your own band and thinking ďwow we did some good work a few months agoĒ.

LoudTrax.com  You're able to get a fresh perspectiveÖ.

Roland Grapow  Yes.  You get a new way of judging when youíre listening to your own new songs so many times and recording it and mixing it.  I think youíre not honest to yourself and I think that Ďtil the end I felt we had really strong material and I felt really good about the whole thing.

LoudTrax.com  Did you guys jam as a band often throughout that time?

Roland Grapow  No no no.  thatís the old way, 70s style.  Itís 20 years I donít do that any more.  I think the last time we rehearsed for an album was probably the "Pink Bubbles Go Ape" album honestly.

LoudTrax.com  How important was it for the band to have vocalist Jorn Lande back in Masterplan?

Roland Grapow  Like I said I was very inspired.  I was feeling like the Masterplan camp was back.  Not because of anything against Mike Di Meo.  Heís a great signer and a nice guy but the chemistry between Jorn and us is special.  The German power melodic writing with the Helloween influence and experience I have with Jorn from Norway.  Itís quite an interesting kind of magical relationship.  I think whatever we touch sounds great.  

Even in Europe they have some younger bands thatís trying to copy our style, which I think is not possible.  It sounds easy what weíre doing, it sounds so melodic, nothing spectacular, we didnít make a new style.  But I think how weíre doing it is pretty unique from my experience of the Helloween years and working with producers like Roy Z and Andy Sneap.  I also take care of the whole thing.  I am not the boss or anything, but letís say the ďengine of the bandĒ.  I donít like when something is slipping away from the direction.  You need some vision.  Maybe it was coincidence that on the first album we made it right and I donít want to change it anymore.  I want to deliver quality.  People can say you know what they want, but for me itís quality what I am delivering.  You hear one song of Masterplan and youíll know itís Masterplan.  Thru the production and the vocals of Jorn. 

LoudTrax.com  Is he still working on his solo career after this Masterplan album?

Roland Grapow  Yes I think he just released an album one month ago.  Itís a bit sad with Diopassing and Jorn made a tribute album to him before it happened.  He mixed it the end of January.  He really wanted to make a tribute just for him.  He wrote one song for him which is not a cover song.  The lyrics are to say thanks to him because he was a huge influence on him.  Jornís biggest idols are Dio, and Coverdale.  Itís so sad that he just passed away and Jorn is coming out with this album.  

LoudTrax.com   You have been through numerous band member changes in your career.  In your 12 Ĺ years with Helloween, there was a vocal and drummer change.  In Masterplan, there have been several line up changes.  How do you deal with that and what is the hardest part of that reality?

Roland Grapow  The hardest part is always how to treat these situations and to find new people.  In Helloween, I think to be honest no one could replace Michael Kiske.  I donít even think they searched for someone who tries to imitate his sound.  Thatís why they chose Andi Deris.  Honestly I didnít choose him, it was Michael Weitkahís decision.  But when Ingo was getting sick and we had to replace a drummer it was tough.  Ingo had his amazing nice style for the band. He was a great drummer and a nice guy.  He was very important for the band as well.

Later when Uli came, he was not a writer at the beginning, but later on the "Better than Raw" album he started writing and was getting really good with the help of the band of course.  On "The Dark Ride" also he wrote one of the best songs (Mr. Torture).   But I have to be honest, the band and the producer also helped him.  And in Masterplan the same, Uli wrote one of the best songs with my help.  ďSoul BurnĒ was perfect he wrote the intro verses bridge, I wrote the solo parts and chorus.  I think the team work was getting important for Masterplan.  You know I donít care anymore if I write the songs or how many I write or if I write it alone.  I just want the best result.  I think the quality is the main key and not the ego problem. The ego is just for yourself you can keep it home.  Your fans want to hear good stuff and itís possible when you get the help of the other guys in the band as well.  Masterplan is so open minded now we also have outside writers.  Since the last album we have one writer who wrote ďLost and GoneĒ. 

On this album, I didnít ask for help, but people sent us material.  One guy was Carl Johan Grimmark from the band Narnia from Sweden.  He wrote a great song for Masterplan, so why not take it?  Thatís all about teamwork and deciding what is good for the band, thatís how I see myself.  I see myself a little bit as an outside person from a record label choosing the songs for the band.

So getting back to the questionÖ.When Uli left the band it was a kind of a difficult situation because he was not only the drummer, he was a good songwriter and it was very difficult. I am very happy that our keyboard player Axel Mackenrott  is getting more and more involved with the writing.  Axel is now totally filling the shoes of Uli and he has a very familiar style of writing that I love so much and itís very important for the band.  All the best songs on the new album are co-written by Axel ie:  ďTime to be KingĒ, Blue EuropaĒ, The melody on the top and the lyrics are from Jorn.  Guitar works and solos are from me, so itís all about the chemistry between the band.

LoudTrax.com  Any plans for a Masterplan Tour?  Is North America part of the plan?

Roland Grapow  I hate this question honestly!  The tour plans we have and are pretty real now.  We had a meeting 3 weeks ago and we planned to have a tour in Europe in November for 25 shows.  Would be a package tour from AFM Records bands.  Itís quite difficult times at the moment and we want to be sure that we wonít be losing money and we want to be on the safer places getting a lot of people to the shows.  Itís easier when you have some good bands together.  Masterplan will headline and AFM is supporting and making a lot of efforts on the marketing end.  

We have some dates and invitations from Japan already.  North America would be just a dream.  Masterplan never played in America.  I have to be honest, there are just 2 continents I never played in, Australia and US/Canada.  So I feel really ashamed about, I had big dreams about coming to Canada and I know thereís some great metal people there always telling me that thereís a great scene.  Itís always about the financial problem to come there and the whole creating a tour in America is quite difficult for Masterplan. 

The new album is very successful here.  In Germany, reached the Top 20 and Sweden Top 15, and not the Metal charts, the pop charts which is quite amazing I think.

So itís really nice to see this and if we can hit just a little fraction of that in America would be amazing to get a chance to play there would be a dream for me and for Jorn as well.  Canada of course is quite high on my list of places to play.

LoudTrax.com   I saw Gamma Ray open for Helloween a few years ago and during the final encore, Kai Hansen and both bands shared the stage and performed classics together.  From a fanís point, it was cool to see.  Would you welcome a tour with Helloween or do you prefer to keep that as part of the past?

Roland Grapow  Iím not sure it would be fitting honestly because Helloween fans and Gamma Ray fans are more or less the same.  Masterplan, we have some elements which are of course very close to Helloween, more on the first album than now.  read more at: http://www.loudtrax.com/Interviews.aspx

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