Mark Dean of Myglobalmind webzine recently conducted an interview with former HELLOWEEN and current MASTERPLAN guitarist Roland Grapow. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Myglobalmind: Do you think that MASTERPLAN has exceeded the personal expectations that you had when you first started?.
Roland: Especially with the first two albums, I think that we achieved a lot of respect and a lot of surprise from people. Nobody really expected anything so strong from us. I guess even the HELLOWEEN guys didn’t even know when they fired us that maybe we would be just go out of the business. After the first album, I was very happy that we came back with such a powerful return. It was such a big success for that time. Nowadays sales are on the way down every year and there are other problems. We have just released our fifth album and I think that over the years, there has been a stable degree of good quality within the band. There have been some big lineup changes, singer problems… It still sounds like MASTERPLAN for my taste.
Myglobalmind: You referred there briefly to the lineup changes that MASTERPLAN have undergone . Do you find that rotation of the band personalities is necessary for its evolution and development?
Roland: I think that its basically hard to explain why we always had singer changes. When we started MASTERPLAN with Jorn [Lande], a lot of people had warned me to be careful saying that he was very difficult. That he was never happy or satisfied with things. I think that the only thing that he really was concentrated on was trading on a solo career called JORN. Everything else for him was just a side project; he never saw MASTERPLAN as his main band. It was especially bad for me as I had put so much love, work and so much feeling for this band. I had given everything to make the band big. Jorn never did anything for us for this band. He never even said anything great about MASTERPLAN. That is not nice; you need a really good team behind you which loves this work. It’s the same as a company — if someone is not dedicated totally 100%, it doesn’t matter what a great voice he has. You stay on the same level, but now with a totally different lineup, we have a really big chance of getting further now. We can play live again, and have already played a couple of shows. There are a lot of shows booked, including some festivals, and we are planning a tour in October. That just wasn’t happening for about six years, which was quite terrible, to be honest. It is definitely very important to play live. It doesn’t make sense to make great music with people saying, “You are a great band.” If you don’t show yourself, nobody can fully get that feeling. Personally, I need it as well — if there is a band that I really like, but I don’t get to see their live performance, it doesn’t give me that last 30%. I think that is really important to get more closer to the band. Especially sometimes when you think that a song is OK, but if you see that band performance of the song live then you will always remember it. It’s like an imprint on your brain or something. There is also some elements of difference, with the solo parts and some improvising. Sometimes we shorten some things which are too long for the live situation. Or we make parts for the audience to sing along. The next plan in the near future is to make a live album or DVD. MASTERPLAN now have five albums out after 10-12 years so we want to release a DVD or something definitely.
Myglobalmind: Do you then prefer to focus creatively on looking forward to the future, rather than back to the past?
Roland: Sometimes I like to look back, but am more thinking of the future. I am not one of these guys sitting at home thinking back that was such a good time. Of course we had a great time in HELLOWEEN, but also some terrible times. The same is true of MASTERPLAN. However, MASTERPLAN is the kind of band that makes me prouder than HELLOWEEN, even though we did great work in HELLOWEEN. Everything that I am doing now is the result of being a longtime member of this really professional band. We work with Sanctuary, English management. We have toured many times with [IRON] MAIDEN, so we have had good experiences. That really helps you a lot for the future. Definitely that arrangement and also working with great producers, who have really lifted the MASTERPLAN sound.
Australian melodic power metal band BLACK MAJESTY will enter Grapow Studios in Slovakia in July with producer Roland Grapow (MASTERPLAN/ex-HELLOWEEN guitarist) to begin recording its new album. BLACK MAJESTY will also release a compilation album in mid-to-late 2013 titled “The Royal Collection” through Limb Music that will also include bonus rare material.
BLACK MAJESTY‘s next live show will be at Madhouse in Melbourne, Australia on Friday, May 3.
BLACK MAJESTY‘s latest album, “Stargazer”, came out in July 2012 via Limb Music. Dirk Illing (SCORPIONS, WIZARD) once again handled the album’s artwork, which continued the theme of the band’s past works.
Melodic metallers MASTERPLAN have unveiled the artwork for their new album, Novum Initium, due for release on April 26th via AFM Records on CD, limited digipak and limited vinyl. Novum Initium is the band’s follow-up to their 2010 release, Time To Be King. The artwork can be seen below:
Joining mainstay guitarist Roland Grapow (ex-HELLOWEEN) in MASTERPLAN‘s lineup are vocalist Rick Altzi (AT VANCE, SANDALINAS, THUNDERSTONE), who replaces Jorn Lande, new drummer Martin “Marthus” Skaroupka (CRADLE OF FILTH), bassist Jari Kainulainen (ex-STRATOVARIUS, SYMPHONIA) and keybordist Axel Mackenrott.
About the new material, Grapow told Metalshockfinland.com recently: ““We are not leaving the Masterplan path too much, but everything we have – the melodic part and a little bit progressive, I would say we’re a little bit more powerful and I’m also mixing the album this time. I want to get a little bit more modern, as the sound we have was created ten years ago. I’m really looking forward to presenting a new band and a new start with Masterplan. We’re still having the typical sound with melodies, but the drummer is amazing and plays a lot of crazy shit! The music is first, then comes the creative stuff like artwork.“
He was born in Hamburg, Germany on 7 August 1962. He and his band created a new revolution in Heavy Metal music in the 1980’s. Michael Ingo Joachim Weikath (AKA Michael Weikath and Weiki) is one of HELLOWEEN’s founding members and along with Markus Grosskopf he is the only other original member still active in the band. He is a musician and songwriter who plays guitars and keyboards, he also sang backing vocals in some of HELLOWEEN’s songs.
I was lucky to have a chat with Michael a few days ago and place my Burning Crown on his head. I found him a very nice person who doesn’t fear to speak from his heart. But unfortunately we had some problems with the line at first, but as you will hear it improved later. I’ve split this interview in to 3 parts to make it easier for you to listen.
* Please note as some parts of this interview are broken up, if you had open heart surgery, or blood pressure issues or you are under 18 years old, you can still listen to this interview. But if you are one of those angry people who always disagree and you are not a fan of HELLOWEEN, you’d just better leave it and find someone else to blame!
In the first part, I asked Weiki about the team who produced HELLOWEEN‘s newest album “Straight Out of Hell” and why they changed the record company. He told me it’s still Sony and a cycle of people working well together…. We also started a conversation about why they chose to be on positive side, when many other bands are writing their music with dark themes. Weiki stated that he doesn’t know anything about the dark side and it’s not healthy to write about those kind of themes for him. Listen to part one to find out more below:
I believe HELLOWEEN‘s logo is great so I asked Michael about it, as it seems they use different pumpkins for each album. Michael stated the following when I asked him whether the idea for this was the designers or the bands:
“It’s a mix of both. Sometimes you can say this pumpkin is boring, or cos we have a different subject, or just for fun, or there is something particular going on in the artwork. You can always do something for the pumpkin itself, or you can make the last logo or a classic logo. It’s just a matter of playing around with ideas and having some fun with it. Be creative.”
He also continued when I asked him who designed this new logo, with the following:
“Yes I designed that logo in the beginning, and that stupid pumpkin in the middle, to the left in the logo, that’s the way I wanted to have it, because I simply didn’t care. I thought “why the middle only?” And you go “give it a gas mask” or it has a straw head, or whatever, you can play with it.“
I had an interview with guitarist Roland Grapow (MASTERPLAN, Ex-HELLOWEEN) a few months ago, and asked him what was the reason of his firing from the band, he said: ” I felt very secure in Helloween. In the middle of the tour I said something to Michael and Markus and I said my opinion about something. I wanted to make something the best for the band and I think they misunderstood me, like I wanted to be leader. I was telling the truth and that’s how I am… It was a great time in Helloween …” So I found it a good moment to ask the same question from Michael to hear the reason from HELLOWEEN‘s side, Weiki said:
“Well actually we said those things in the past. It’s basically because there was interest in a different kind of music to be made with Helloween, and then some side projects that he was doing. They seemed to consume a lot of time and the process and whatever. We on the other side we were not quite happy with the output that we were actually given by for instance Roland, and you know there’s some kind of misconception when you hear those things. We wrote him an email, Markus and me, about why we did that and I can still remember the first few interviews they did after that, saying they don’t understand why. It was in the email why, you know that’s not public, so if they still have it, maybe they can publish it and everybody can read it. It was really quite clear why. We also had some little discussion with Uli, because he was kinda disappointed, I actually had him on the phone and we had a short talk about it and the reasons that we said in the interviews basically. So it’s strange that this is always being brought to attention. There were lots of misunderstandings at the time, and that’s why, I don’t like misunderstandings.
They were also saying lots of things about Masterplan and the first record. They said so many things in interviews about the situation, like “the pressure has all gone.”Months ago he told Uli he felt really comfortable in Helloween, so it’s contradictory. I don’t know what to think, he must know what he wants to tell people, I have given up trying to understand what was going on there, and that’s another reason.
You know, it was actually really easy. It was Kai Hansen ok, he wrote some songs, I wrote some songs. Then we did records, and we wanted to records as good as possible. I told Roland before he came into the band “we want to change the music a little bit, we want to be more diverse and have more variated music.”I really don’t know, what’s difficult being in a band, Helloween, making great records, everybody writes some great songs. I don’t know where the problem is with that. Things are running good now and not problematic, no misunderstandings and stuff. It’s been about 10 years now, which I actually enjoy a lot, because there are no misunderstandings and this and that, and no contradictions, you know?“
Listen to the second part of this interview to hear Michael answering about HELLOWEEN‘s logo, Roland Grapow, the earlier days of the band and also why they chose the Helloween name.
In the final part of this pretty long conversation, we had a serious and interesting chat. I asked his opinion about the differences between old songs and modern songs and Michael agreed with me that old songs are more like pure art. But when I asked him about the roles of the singers in HELLOWEEN‘s styles and how much it affected the style of the band’s music. He started talking about his problems with the band’s ex-member, Michael Kiske, and also why he thinks Andi Deris is better. Check out the following:
“Well, for me as a songwriter it was kinda getting difficult with the voice of Michael Kiske, which is perfect, really good, really elaborate and whatever, but always kinda the same. If you wanted to make a rock and roll or rock song, or something heavy, that requires shouting or grumbling or growling, he really wasn’t good for that. If you wanna have something like “Nothing To Say” or something else, it would be like Elvis on steroids or something. He could do that, because if you listen to his recent recordings, he managed to do that. He can now growl or sing a little bit more distorted or whatever, he can. He just didn’t want, cos he was afraid of harming his vocal chords or whatever, then actually he can do those things. Deris is a shouter, he has variety and stuff and has several techniques he can maintain or create. To me, that was very impressive and also very powerful, for a certain approach of songwriting that you want to do. You can’t do a “Hair Of The Dog” by Nazareth with Michael Kiske, that would sound strange.
And you know, I always like shouters and singers. The best guy probably, there is, is Bruce Dickinson or Ian Gillan. They can sing, they can shout. I would have appreciated that. Instead of that we had lots of discussions and lots of changing of attitude. Michael was like a normal guy, then soon he turned to be vegetarian and he had religious ideas. And he was sharing that stuff so much that sometimes you really got enough of that, you didn’t want to share that so much. Thinking about those things, he also wanted to do tracks and music and hits, and Helloween tracks, and you know, to be successful or whatever. Because we don’t want to play in clubs for 50 people only, it’s not the idea behind the whole thing, and there you go, those are the differences. It comes to a point where it’s boiling and you want to have decisions.”
I really couldn’t leave this interview without asking Michael‘s opinion about the legendary singer, Ronnie James Dio who is a father to me. Check out the following which are Michael‘s opinions about Ronnie:
“Well, he’s the one. He’s always been very magical, ever since he did recordings. It was noted by lots of people, his voice and the way of singing. It seemed so magical, it touched your soul and your heart. At that time, it was the best voice for rock or metal and when people get to hear him first, it was like “ooh what a voice, who is he?” That’s absolutely clear. Even Freddie Mercury can shout and that is one word for Dio, it’s a synonym, right? That’s the stuff I always liked.“
We almost lost the time during our pure METAL conversation but it finished when Michael found out that he had an appointment for dinner in a Persian restaurant which surprised me, as I am a Persian metalhead. Also my special thanks to Blackdiamond, Caitlin and Leslie who helped me to sort this interview. As my final word, I hope you found this interview interesting and I apologise the sound was not clear in places. Hopefully next time we will have a better line. Till then I leave you in peace and METAL.
Roland Grapow started playing guitar at the age of 12, his teacher told his father that he wouldn’t be a good guitarist, but as nobody can read the hand writing of destiny, Roland said NO and he made it. He is leading one of the best active power metal bands, MASTERPLAN, and also he was a part of legendary power metal generators HELLOWEEN for 12 years. A very successful and shining career is the result of that saying NO and his determination to continue.
Metal Shock Finland‘s Chief Editor Mohsen Fayyazi has recently conducted an interview with Roland and asked him several questions which were answered by some interesting stories. An excerpt can be read below:
Roland answered the question about what happened with the band and the new line-up, especially about Jorn with the following:
“Everybody always expects something special from Jorn, but it’s a very unstable situation. To keep happy it’s not easy and to be honest I’ve not heard from him for 2 years. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still friends but we just don’t have much contact.”
When Roland was asked if he thinks Jorn will go back to the band, he stated:
“No, as much as I love Jorn as a singer and he has an incredible voice and great ideas, we need to move on …I wanted Jorn back on the last album, but it was a compromise… We went more rock or AOR rock, but I want to get back to where we came from, more metal and melodic style.”
Roland commented about the upcoming MASTERPLAN album:
“We are not leaving the Masterplan path too much, but everything we have – the melodic part and a little bit progressive, I would say we’re a little bit more powerful and I’m also mixing the album this time. I want to get a little bit more modern, as the sound we have was created 10 years ago.
I’m really looking forward to presenting a new band and a new start with Masterplan. We’re still having the typical sound with melodies, but the drummer is amazing and plays a lot of crazy shit!
The music is first, then comes the creative stuff like artwork.”
When discussing with Roland about when he and Uli were fired from Helloween due to musical and personal differences, and what he thinks about Helloween in general, he answered:
“Statements from bands and managers always have to say something like that, but basically it was just some personal kind of problems we had. I felt very secure in Helloween. In the middle of the tour I said something to Michael and Markus and I said my opinion about something. I wanted to make something the best for the band and I think they misunderstood me, like I wanted to be leader. I was telling the truth and that’s how I am… It was a great time in Helloween … but I am happy when I left the band after “Dark Ride” because it’s one of my favourite albums, It changed my life totally … To be honest the first line up of Helloween was the best but of course I have to say when I was in the band, it was a great line up as well … I was very disappointed when I saw that they changed the style to get into the Chameleon direction, I think Helloween would be much bigger if they would continue with the style of Keepers albums, I think Helloween could be as big as Metallica today.”
You can listen to the whole of the interview on the player below:
Multinational melodic metallers MASTERPLAN have revealed their new band lineup. Joining recently announced new drummer Martin “Marthus” Skaroupka (CRADLE OF FILTH) are vocalist Rick Altzi (AT VANCE, SANDALINAS, THUNDERSTONE), who replaces Jorn Lande, and bassist Jari Kainulainen (STRATOVARIUS, SYMFONIA, DEVIL’S TRAIN).
The band is currently recording the follow-up to its 2010 album, “Time To Be King”, for a March 2013 release via AFM Records.
Commented MASTERPLAN guitarist/leader Roland Grapow: “The last years have not been easy for MASTERPLAN. Because of several factors, we have been unable to play festivals and tours — even though we had plenty of offers. But this will definitely change now.
“I’m very happy to welcome Rick and Jari on board now. Beside their undoubted musical qualities, they both fit perfectly into our team.
“We feel a huge motivation to get things going now.
“2013 will be see a new MASTERPLAN album, several festivals and a tour! It’s time to return with full force.”
First confirmed MASTERPLAN gigs for 2013:
* Wacken Cruise
* Rocknacht Tennwilm (Switzerland)
* Norfest (Portugal)
* Masters Of Rock (Czech Republic)
MASTERPLAN‘s new lineup:
Rick Altzi – vocals Roland Grapow – guitars Axel Mackenrott – keyboards Jari Kainulainen – bass Martin “Marthus” Skaroupka – drums
Back in March, Grapow revealed that he had 15 songs written for MASTERPLAN‘s next album. He added, “We are looking for a more powerful album this time… still with great melodies and feelings, but also with more orchestration and faster stuff again… just more metal.”
In an August 2011 interview with the Czech web portal Kultura21.cz, Grapow stated about the status of the songwriting sessions for the next MASTERPLAN album, “This time we tried not to make demo productions, which have a poor sound — so we wanted to make really nice pre-production [recordings] which sound very close to the album sound, which is very easy [to do] in my studio now. I think we have many, many new ideas which, I guess, are a little bit more modern and more aggressive as well. So we try not to follow any trends of MASTERPLAN — I’m not saying we’re reproducing the first album or the third one or the fifth one. I think we always have to try to make some surprises for the people. The ‘Time To Be King’ album is great, but this new album sounds a bit different again. I always want to do this, because I’m not that kind of guy who wants to make every year the same album.”
On the topic of MASTERPLAN‘s numerous lineup changes, Grapow said, “I think it’s always difficult in this band, I guess. If you see, the first album just came out after a big turbulence — leaving HELLOWEEN, Uli [Kusch, drums] and me. I think this band always needs some very bad moments to some great songs. [laughs] And it looks like MASTERPLAN, basically, is my main band, and whoever will sing and whoever will play in the band, I’m happy with. But, basically, at the moment, I’m thinking the main songwriters are Axel now and me. So whatever happens, this band will continue. It’s very important for me to show that we still have the power and the ability to write beautiful melodies and some aggression and rock and metal songs. Whatever we do, we want just to make good-quality stuff.”
MASTERPLAN‘s last CD, “Time To Be King”, was released on May 21, 2010 through AFM Records. The CD’s first single, “Far From The End Of The World”, was issued on April 16, 2010.