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Roland Grapow (Masterplan)

Interview with Roland Grapow from Masterplan
by Panos Pagonopoulos at 22 July 2010, 9:07 PM

MASTERPLAN have just recently released their critically acclaimed 4th studio album which also marked the return of their original singer Jorn Lande.So, Metal Templegrabbed the chance to speak with the founding member and leader of the band Roland Grapow about the new album , the return of Jorn Lande , future plans and lots of other interesting stuff.

Before starting with the main interview can you make a comment on DIO’s passing? Can the Metal scene be the same without such a great voice and person?
Hard to say. It was incredibly bad news when I heard it and it's a big loss for the Metal scene. I think I feel, insecure about the future, about everyone, you know. It's nice to have your idols still somehow leading the Rock and Metal scene and Dio was a wonderful singer , definitely the number one and it's a shame if you lose someone famous which is getting 60-70 years old and is one of your heroes and Dio was always in our hearts. In our songwriting process I always talked to Jorn about 'come on lets do it more the Dio way'. He was always with us on every record and definitely he was a big inspiration for us and will always be.

MASTERPLAN 's new album “Time To Be King” was just recently released. What are you expectations? Are you satisfied from the first reactions by the fans and with the reviews from the critics so far ?
I think I am very very happy about it. I mean you can always find a 5% or 10%of jealous, little online magazines or something else, complaining but definitely the reactions are incredibly good and the successful album sales in one weekare showing already that we are in the right way. We have chart position in Sweden at #15 on the normal pop charts and in Germany looks like we are reaching the top 20 , we will find out today. (Eventually “Time To Be King” managed to reach #31 which is the best German MASTERPLAN chart result ever!)

Would you like to tell us a few words about the songwriting (who wrote the music and the lyrics), the recording sessions, the production of the new album, and in general describe the whole process?
The whole process was done here in my studio in Slovakia. I have my studio here since 4-5 years and it's the second MASTERPLAN album we are doing here, the other two were done in my studio in Hamburg but I live here for 5 years. Jorn came here for the lyrics writing as well. So, he came here for a couple of weeks for the vocal session but also he stayed here for writing the lyrics. It's the first time he wrote 90% percent of the lyrics in my studio. Everything was very nice and friendly, in the good relationship that we have. The whole process was very calm and really relaxing, very nice.

So there were not any memorable crazy or funny moments from the recordings?
Oh funny moments not so many (laughing). We had some really nice, beautiful conversations because I have some trouble with my ex -girlfriend and Jorn was helping me at that time. That's why we have some lyrics like in “The Black One” and “The Dark Road” which are about my relationship and these troubles. I'm really happy that Jorn managed to reproduce this story very nice. That's why the new album is very personal for me as well.

I wish you the best, I hope every goes fine with these problems…Is there a special meaning behind the title of the new album?For whom is time to be king?
Jorn wrote the lyrics for the song “Time To Be King” and when he asked me what I think about the song title I thought that it would be great even for the album title. I think it is a nice message which shows the bands tradition. It shows the secure feeling we have in the moment, that we are happy with such a good result and that's why we chose this name.

In 2006 MASTERPLAN parted ways with singer Jorn Lande citing "musical differences" as the reason for the split. In 2009 Jorn Lande returned in the band and you recorded the new album. What changed in these 3 years that made possible his return? How did these “differences” disappear?
These differences were not so big. We just had some minor problems about some bass, drumming stuff which he did not like so much, melodies when they go too far in the German history or HELLOWEEN. He isn't such a big fan of these and we just had a long talking before he came back to the band. I told Jorn that whatever we do together is great anyway and so we don't need these little details of HELLOWEEN in MASTERPLAN anymore. We are still sounding like MASTERPLAN and people still ask me what is the difference to the other albums and why Jorn wasn't happy then and now is happy? So, like I said there are little things we changed and we kept all the doors open, we had the freedom to do what we want and I have a better relationship to Jorn because he is my partner now and songwriter. We have a very good relationship and it was not any trouble from the beginning, we worked together everything and from the beginning he had the freedom to tell me he didn't like this or let’s do it this way.

What about Uli Kusch; are you still in contact with him? What was the reason for his departure from the lineup?
There were some totally different reasons. Uli is very close to his family now, he has many kids with his wife and he lives in the countryside so, he is totally away from the Metal scene and music business. I think he basically left the scene just to have a normal job and standard income and that in music business is very hard to have. Especially when you have kids and you need to take care of others is really difficult. We don't have a close relationship at the moment but he wrote me last year, send me an email, it was very nice from him and I answered him. I think when we meet somehow sometime everything will be fine.

At least is there an open window for Uli to return sometime in the band ? You know many fans wish that.
Maybe. You can never know…

What are the differences in the music making with Mike DiMeo and Jorn in the vocals from your point of view?
It's a big difference.Mike DiMeo has of course lots of great ideas, he is a great singer, a very nice person and very easy to work with, but on the other side he didn’t get a 100% in MASTERPLAN's style and music, he is American and he has different music roots. He is more into Stevie Wonder and all this kind of singers instead of Metal, guys like Dio or Coverdale, and it's hard to work with someone who is not tuning to the style that you have or created because we are coming from the roots of HELLOWEEN and of course influenced by the older idols we had like RAINBOW. That's the biggest difference compared to Jorn. With Jorn we have the same idols and influences and so it's much easier to communicate with Jorn about creating a song.

Do you intend to make a video clip for any of the songs from the album? If yes for which song will you do it?
We are planning to do this and I guess it will happen in the next two weeks. We are just trying to find the best timing, because it is very hard to get Jorn and Mike Terrana to Hamburg in the right time everybody is busy somehow. We don't know exactly which song but i think it will be “Fiddle Of Time”or “Time To Be King” or “Blue Europa”. One of these three songs I would suggest for a video clip which are going to make in the next couple of weeks.

Can you tell us a few things about your tour plans?
We have some unusual tour plans. Normally we go on tour right after the release of an album, but we wanted to wait a little bit. So, we are going on tour hopefully on November, the touring agency is working now on the tour plans and Jorn agreed with it. Maybe we will make a European tour with 25 dates. We are gonna have as support 2-3 bands going on tour with us in Europe and MASTERPLAN will headline definitely.

Have you ever thought of making a MASTERPLAN Live DVD?
Definitely I am looking forward to, because many people ask me this for many years. Jorn 's biggest dream was always from the first album to release a DVD with MASTERPLAN. We have material from the past, even from the first tour we did with HAMMERFALL we have 50 minutes of video and it is in my studio and we never used it because record labels always say it's too early, too early, too early. Now things look totally different, the line up changed but we will surely release it somehow probably as a special DVD and hopefully we will make an up to date DVD from that to tour.

Now a question about power Metal; many say that power Metal is currently dying and only a few releases are worthy of the glorious past. Do you agree with this opinion?
Power Metal is dying? I don't know, honestly is hard to believe because when I see how the festivals are getting bigger and bigger, like ‘Wacken’ and others , people getting crazy about it they are coming more and more every year. What is dying is the sales because of the downloading problem, but the scene is still very big and very healthy. Lots of young bands come here in my studio from Slovakia, Czech Republic and Austria, I even recall a Greek band here two years ago. I think the scene is really good still despite the downloading problem. I don't think it is dying at all.

So is there a new band in power Metal that in your personal opinion can continue your legacy?
The legacy of what ?

I think if you see the melodic kind of stuff like HELLOWEEN and GAMMA RAY, MASTERPLAN are still something different because there is a lot of variations in our music. In general, there are many new and good bands at the moment. It is more the cool stuff like BULLETS FOR MY VALENTINE or something like this. Thrash is pretty big with bands like CALIBAN and of course older bands like EXODUS and TESTAMENT, they are really cool bands.

But what about power metal in specific? Are there any new bands, formed in the last few years, that can continue the legacy of these great power metal bands and produce really great material?
Honestly I don’t know any new bands. I don’t know any new band that is impressive, honestly. I don’t know so much about the melodic scene. I’m not listening so much the music we are doing you know. I’m listening more to other stuff; I’m a big RAMMSTEIN fan, and it’s funny because everything I’m listening has nothing to do with the past of HELLOWEEN or the MASTERPLAN stuff.

That’s not bad at all, it’s good to listen to a variety of stuff and different metal genres…9 years have past since you founded MASTERPLAN. Which moment do you consider the most difficult and which the best and most successful with the band?
There were many periods which were difficult in MASTERPLAN. I think it is the normal way of being musicians. In the beginning it was just a hope we had Uli and me, we created something new together , we had great songwriting already done before we were even thrown out of HELLOWEEN and then there was no record label supporting us. I was producing the band, I took the risk, gave all the money I had left from HELLOWEEN and I paid everything; I paid the musicians, I paid Jorn. And then in the end it was a great album and I just went to at the record labels and we found immediately an easy deal. Then it was a hard period but when the album came out and i saw the success it was the most beautiful period. Also many great moments during the “Aeronautics” tour and some great success and then of course sad moments when Jorn and Uli left the band. I think it was a very hard period. The “MK II” recording was in a very depressive feeling and I still think we really made a great album for this kind of pressure we had. Now I have great moment again with Jorn coming back and I see that people love the “Time To Be King” album a lot and I’m really happy and proud about it.

What were your expectations and goals when you founded MASTERPLAN? Now after all this years that you can see what the band has achieved do you believe that you fulfilled the first goals and dreams you had when you started the band?
It’s hard to explain. We were very surprised about the first album we made and the second we made it a little bit different and people got little insecure complaining. Then Jorn and Uli left and people said that the band is dying now, but then we came out with “MK II” and people said that this is was pretty good as well. Now Jorn is back and we have done “Time To Be King”. I think people get more in to a stable feeling that there is some certain quality of music coming from the band. The nicest compliment I always get is that people say we here a song of MASTERPLAN and we know is MASTERPLAN so it is some style we found. It’s really beautiful. This is MASTERPLAN, this is their style nothing else. The band gets now in the position that the fans can see that the band has delivered always good quality music. It’s really like we developed in a good way to the next level.

Thank you very much for the interview. I wish you the best for you and for MASTERPLAN and hope to see you live soon.
Thank you very much and hopefully we will be touring also in Greece.


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Edited 21 March 2023

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