Roland Grapow

Marc-Elie: Hello Roland!
Roland: Yeah hello Marc!

interview Roland GrapowM-E: First of all, thanks for accepting this interview. Can we start now?
R: Yeah! I’m ready

M-E: Ok, firs , Masterplan’s new Album will be released on May while the Single will be released on April, is that correct?
R: Uhm, I’m not exactly sure, we planned something like in the middle of March, April or something like that. But I think we’re having a little delay so maybe you’re right yeah. The single will be released on April and the album on May.

M-E: Ok. So after all these changes in the line up, can we expect a new masterplan sound, compared to the last album "Time to be King"?
R: To be honest, I always try to develop the style of the band because I don’t like to repeat myself. I mean the new album came out nearly 10 years ago, and I don’t like to sit in front of the CD trying to analyze and copy myself as a songwriter. So as a natural process, this band is really a team now and we have really strong players. And we have a new songwriter, the drummer, I mean he has one great song in the new Album, and Axel is the main songwriter now. So the whole chemistry changed a little bit. But I take care of the style of the band so that it doesn’t go too far from the original path, specially with my guitar work, my songwriting and as the producer of the band of course. But definetly, the album is getting very powerful, the drums are very powerful, we have a lot of double bass playing, the songs are very fast, but we’re still keeping the nice melodies, and the progressive style is coming back as well, you know.

M-E: Yeah we noticed that strong progressive style in almost all albums. I mean it wasn’t just power metal or traditional heavy metal but there was also that strong and powerful Progressive metal impact in your albums
R: Yeah, I think it’s a little mix of everything you know. I don’t like it too progressive, like Dream theater, Symphony X or something like that. But I like these kind of bands and they always had kind of pop songs mixed with progressive elements, you see.

M-E: Yeah sure, but in the end, do you define yourself in a certain genre? Or do you say : Oh, we’re just Rock’n’Roll, Heavy Metal or whatever
R: No, I think we created something new. I mean since the first album when Uli and I started the band, and then of course when Jorn joined us later, all the songs were written by Uli and I , and we were pretty sure that we created something new. And that came from our past experiences, specially Helloween of course, and also from our main influences like Rainbow. But I should say that "The Dark Ride" of Helloween, changed my whole view of the metal scene, because I was really talking and learning from Roy Z

M-E : Yeah, so he was the musician who changed your whole view of the metal scene?
R: Yeah at that time, there were problems between me and the rest of the band, specially Weiki (Michael Weikath). He told me: "You know Roland, I brought you to the band because I liked your style when you were 20 years old." And when I joined Helloween I was very unsecure and I was searching for something to be impressive in front of the people because I had to replace Kai Hansen.. Kai Hansen was a great player but he was not my Idol at all.

M-E: Yeah right, I guess your main influence at that time was Yngwie J Malmsteen ?
R: Yeah, I was starting to like Yngwie but like I said before, I wasn’t a total fan of metal guitar players

M-E: Ritchie Blackmore of course!
R: Blackmore, definitely! Blackmore is one of my heroes along with Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker and these guys.

M-E : Same guys that I love !

R: Eddie Van Halen, Zakk Wylde, John Sykes and all these guitar players who have a classical way of playing and a great tone are still my heroes you know, but Yngwie was at that time very impressive to me. I thought like : Fucking Hell that guy is crazy! But that was long time ago. I took a little bit of his style, but then I went through neo-classical and lost my own identity. So the band talked to me and Roy was there and gave me advices. And I decided to move on and said : Ok let’s prepare the new album! (The Dark Ride) and I picked up again the Les Paul, the Flying V and guitars I was using when I was 20. But I was Still using my Strat. I still Love Strats for solos or melodies, specially those of "Chameleon".

M-E: So, do you find any big difference between using a Strat and using a Les paul for example? I mean, do you think it changes the feeling of the song or the album?
R: I think there’s a big difference because, well let’s say, as soon as I have a strat in my hands, it gives me the feeling I want to play something like Blackmore, Yngwie or whatever.

M-E : Yeah right. It’s like a kind of inspiration that motivates you in a certain way.
R: Yeah, and the feeling of the neck can change everything, you can play fastest songs depending on the neck. For example when I use a Les Paul, it m
interview Roland Grapowakes me want to play more melodic and powerful. Oh! And by the way there’s a guy I forgot to mention and who is one of my biggest idols : Brian May. For me he’s one of the best guitar player.

M-E: Yeah! I really love that guy, he’s a great composer.
R: Yes, I love him because he doesn’t play to show it off, you know? He plays what a song needs, and that’s what I try to do now.

M-E: Yes, he has that great and clever style of playing: it’s both simple and catchy at the same time.
R: Yes, that’s a kind of attitude I have now, I don’t want to impress musicians now like I did 15 years ago. It gives me the feeling I found my own path again, you know. And I think Roy is the one who helped me the most. And to be honest, since then, I totally lost the interest to listen to Yngwie anymore.


M-E : Yeah, I mean I don’t know if you share my opinion and feeling, but I think people are first impressed by Yngwie during the first years and then they realize it always goes fast, and that he repeats himelf a lot so it gets boring in the end. Do you feel the same?
R: I definitely feel the same! I really appreciate it now when I listen to David Gilmour, Gary moore and stuff like that you know.

M-E: Yeah, same here.
R: A musician can be impressive and play fast but he doesn’t have to show it all the time!

M-E : Yeah, but it’s sad. Because Yngwie is capable of writing very nice and slow guitar parts, as well as acoustic stuff, but he does it maybe five percent of his time.
R: Yes, that’s true.

M-E: Okay, now let’s go back to the band. So the new drummer : Martin Skarroupka came to the band. Are you a fan of his ex-band "Craddle Of Filth" or just his style of playing and singwriting abilities?
R: To be honest, I already had an album of "Craddle Of Filth" , and it’s not his ex- band by the way, he’s still a member there. So anyway, I was listening to the album and I didn’t realize he was the drummer, and there was a friend of mine who was producing their album, and still, I didn’t know who was the drummer of the band. After that I had customers from Czech Republic who came to me and told me they knew a great drummer, although I wasn’t searching for any drummer, who lives around two hours far from me. They told me he’s incredible and that he plays in a famous English band "Craddle Of Filth" so I checked a video of him on youtube, and I liked so much his style of drumming and thought: He’s the reincarnation of Uli Kusch!

M-E: Yes! That’s exactly what I wanted to tell you, because I watched that same video and immediately realized his style of playing reminds me a lot of Uli Kusch, as well as his songwriting ability which is typical Uli Kusch you know.
R: That’s definitely one of the favourite imputs we love in him. He came here and I had the feeling that he needed to replace Mike Terrana. Nothing against him, he’s a good friend but I told him it couldn’t really work because he played in 5 bands, and we always had trouble to get him for video shootings. So when I met martin, I was more convinced I had to do this. Hhe’s a very nice person as well as an incredible drummer. To be honest, one of the biggest changes in this new album is the drumming part. And one of his songs is in the album, and it’s a really cool song. And he wrote everything, even the Keyboard parts. He’s very talented.

M-E: So he perfectly replaces Uli Kusch?
R: I mean, Uli Kusch is very special, he’s a part of my life and a part of Masterplan as well. He gave the imput and the Start you know. I totally trusted him, but Martin gives me the feeling he can replace him in a way. They’re not identical. Martin has his own identity, but he’s so accurate and powerful. I’m really looking forward to play on a live show with him.

M-E: Oh okay. I guess he’s as good as in the studio.
R: Yes he is! (Laughs)

M-E: The new singer, Rick Altzi came to the band as well. To be honest, I never heard of him, so I decided to check him out. so I searched for his ex band. Now we can say ex-band, right? (laughs)
R: Which one? (Laughs) He had so many bands.

M-E: I don’t know any of his ex bands! (Laughs) Anyway, when I heard his voice for the first time, I thought he sounds a bit like Jorn. I don’t know if you share the same opinion.
R: I think they’re not in the same level you know, Jorn is a master of his own kind, but Rick is originally a bass player so he started singing 10 years ago and he became very popular in the last 3-5 years, and when I heard the last song he did with "Advance", I said, Fuck, he’s brilliant! He’s just right here now by the way.

M-E: Oh okay! Well say hello to him (laughs)
R: Yeah, he came on Sunday and he will stay for a week... so anyway, we wrote and recorded the vocal melodies and the lyrics, and he’s incredible! I mean, Jorn is the mas
interview Roland Grapowter, but Rick will be as famous as him, soon! I’m really happy we found him because he’s a very normal person, very easy to work with, and has a lot of experience, but not as much as Jorn of course.

M-E: And it was great to see Jorn singing with "Heaven and Hell", I mean he was on stage with all Black Sabbath members. It was awesome!
R: Yeah it was! But he hoped he could be a member but they didn’t choose him because they said "Heaven and Hell" is over now. It was just a tribute, but Jorn always hoped to be a member of Black Sabbath, Heaven or hell, or something like that.

M-E: And was that one of the main reasons he wasn’t so stable in Masterplan?
R: Well, it was always tricky with Jorn. He’s a good friend of mine but the problem is to hold him and talk to him you know. I mean you write to him and he never answers. That’s a kind of attitude I don’t like because we couldn’t tour anymore. And I didn’t hear of him and didn’t see him for about 2.5 years. And the only message I had from him was when my mom died in February. and his wife told him, that’s why he wrote to me. And then I asked : What about Masterplan? But he never answered, you know. There was no fight or anything like that, but he didn’t show any interest. So I said : this can’t work at all, and we need someone who is really hungry because we wanted to move forward and play live again. All new members are hungry: Rick, Martin and Jari (ex-Stratovarius bass player)

M-E: And did Jorn’s love towards old music, separated him a bit from Masterplan?
R: Yeah, he got more and more into the 70s and 80s style which is not really my cup of Tea. I Love the style of the 70s and 80s but only like little pieces from here and there because I want to continue with more modern music you know. And he never agreed with my different kind of opinions. But his main thing is solo albums.

M-E: Ok so talking about solo albums, you did, in the late 90s, two solo albums "Kaleidoscope" and "The four seasons of Life". And during the Kaleidoscope album you brought ex-Yngiwe Malmsteen members. Was that choice made to sound more like Yngwie, or because you liked each of these musicians?
R: Like I said, I was influenced by Yngwie, but never wanted to be a clone of him (Laughs). when I heard Yngwie’s albums, I really loved Mike Terrana’s drumming and of course Mike Vescara’s singing style, specially on the ballads like forever one, and all this kind of ballads, you know. I even worked with Jens Johansson as a special guest.

M-E: Yeah, Jens Johansson is just incredible!
R: Amazing! I was in New York, I was touring with Helloween, and we just had one show in America. We arrived in the morning and Jens Johansson came to my hotel with his keyboard and he recorded his part. We just had some cups of coffee together and recorded everything. It was just perfect.

M-E: Yeah, when I hear his classical compositions, I’m just amazed! I never found someone like him!
R: He’s amazing, yeah! He’s a real musician! (Laughs)

M-E: You’re a real musician as well!
R: No, no, no! I’m not. I just know how to use tricks to sound good (Laughs)

M-E: So you’re trying to convince me that Roland Grapow is not a musician!
R: I’m a fuckin looser!


M-E: If you’re not a real musician, then I’m piece of crap!

R: Maybe not!

M-E : Okay, now back on Masterplan. During your first album, did you really asked Michael Kiske to join the band?
R: No, no. The idea was, when we were still Helloween members, Uli Kusch and I wanted to do a side project with Russel Allen on vocals. And then we were fired of the band after the tour. And after that, I met Russel Allen in Los angeles, at Roy Z’s place, and we arranged everything together with Uli, and I stayed there for one week. So we worked on the songs, and he sang on the songs, I still have the demo tapes and then I asked him if he wanted to join our new band (we had no name at that time), but he said : No no, I’m not leaving Symphony X, I’m happy with them, I can sing the album but not play live with you. So I told him : Okay we can’t continue with you. We need a singer who can play live with us. So the next step was Michael Kiske. And I said to Uli, this could be really cool because Michael is and ex-Helloween, and we are ex-Helloween, so maybe we should choose him. So Michael said : Yeah I would sing the album of course, but not live. (Laughs) So I said to Michael: Okay, we don’t know who’s the future singer of the band but it would be cool if you could sing one song in the album.

M-E: Yeah, but at that time he was also far away from the metal scene, so I guess you kind of chose the wrong moment to ask him.
R: Yeah, but then we found Jorn and we were Happy, you know

To be continued...

Second part is here

Interview done by Marc-Elie Adaime


0 Like

Tioub - 03 July 2013: Please, y'aurait pas une âme charitable pour traduire cette prose? je me suis fâché avec les études.
Merci ;)
hellowkiske - 05 July 2013: Salut , c'est Marc-Elie, j'ai meme pas fini la deuxieme partie de l'entrevue, donc pour la traduction j'ai vraiment pas eu le temps de la faire. mais jvais tout faire le plus tot possible
Hepha38 - 06 July 2013: " the last song he did with "Advance" "

C'est At Vance ;)
hellowkiske - 08 July 2013: oui je sais, c'est une erreur de ma part, j'ai pas fait attention:) (il y a meme d'autres fautes de frappe)

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