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Uli Kusch (Masterplan)

Interview with Uli Kusch from Masterplan
by Grigoris Chronis at 09 May 2005, 1:26 PM

For those who've never heard of Masterplan before let's just say that this is one of Europe's most kick-ass Teutonic Power Metal acts around nowadays and probably one of Europe's best, ever. With two albums released so far, through the German AFM Records label - Masterplan (their debut) and Aeronautics (out now) - singer Jorn Lande (Ark, Beyond Twilight, Millennium, Y. Malmsteen), ex-Helloween members Roland Grapow (guitars) & Uli Kusch (drums) and skillful musicians Jan S. Eckert (bass) & Axel Mackenrott (keyboards)… are all here to shake our foundations. Here's what Mr. Kusch had to say to Metal Temple.

Uli, greetings from Magazine! Congrats on your latest Aeronautics album. Really, what’s the feedback you’ve received so far from the music world (Media, fans)?

We can’t complain. Most of the journalists and fans are responding really positive about it.

Even if we usually regret some details here and there - done in the studio - I think Aeronautics sounds very fresh and exciting; on a level I was really surprised. I mean, how much more freshness can there be heard in the follow up of a two-year-old album? You seem to have worked pretty hard but also quite inspired!

We felt a bit of a pressure, I have to admit, after that success with the first album but that didn’t distract our process to work on strong material for songs. As always, in the beginning it’s kinda difficult to find a direction if you only have fragments. But the more you put yourself into it the clearer the picture gets. What’s coming out on the end has to be strong in some kinda way. At least it has to convince yourself and has to make yourself be a fan of what you are doing.

The first time I was listening to the Aeronautics album, my girlfriend - being unaware of what was playing at that time - said: What’s this? It’s a nice concept album. I was surprised to hear - not, of course, that it’s a nice album, I already knew this! - the word concept. Is Aeronautics a 100% concept album?

Absolutely not. Only two lyrics are connected to Aeronautics in a metaphoric way. The idea for the artwork and the title came very late and some of the lyrics were already written. Also the songs are too far from each other to find that album as a concept album in a sense of dynamic build-up like an opera or Queensryche`s Operation: Mindcrime witch in my opinion is not possible to top.

Would you ever imagine Masterplan creating an e.g. 100% love album \[Laughs]? You know, in the typical Whitesnake way!

When I was younger I didn’t like love songs so much and thought that ballads were boring. But nowadays I think that love is a very important part of our life and I can put myself really into a situation if I listen to the right song. Love can move so much and a love song doesn’t need to necessary be a slow song. Yes, I could imagine that.

Andy Sneap and Roy Z: two leading forces in Hard & Heavy productions of the last years. How did things workout with these two guys? Hope they didn’t shout to you a lot! You used quite a number of recording studios, I think.

I haven’t seen Roy this time and not for the first album cause Roland worked with him on his song-material only. Working with Andy is always great because he knows exactly what he is doing and gives great advice sometimes.

Just like women, the current one keeps you thinking about the previous ones! Was the Masterplan mission accomplished? Forgive me if I say that I like Aeronautics a little bit more.

As soon as you find enough distance from your previous work you might find things you didn’t hear at the production period and you think you’re gonna change this and that. But finally there is always something to point out and to make better or let’s say different. An album can show pretty much how you feel and what you wanna reach. That mission will never end in that sense.

I have the impression that every band featuring well-respected musicians already has a plus when releasing its debut album. So, the second album is - for me - the one to be named as critical, since the fans are not willing to hang on to each member’s individual reputation for a second time if the album itself isn’t good.

That’s right, and an important step for the band to prove their abilities. But one more important album to me is the third, when most of these collected All-star-projects die most of the time.

Masterplan on tour: We want full details! When, where, for how long and - most of all - what are the expectations?

07.05.2005 (Saturday) @ Dynamo Open Air 2005 (NL)
13.-15.05.2005 (Friday - Sunday) @ Rock Hard Festival (GER)
15.06.2005 (Wednesday) @ Osaka (J)
16.06.2005 (Thursday) @ Tokyo (J)
25.06.2005 (Saturday) @ Bloodstock Open Air festival (GB)
03.07.2005 (Sunday) @ Bospop (BEL)
22. or 23.07.2005 (Friday or Saturday) @ Earthshaker festival, Geiselwind (GER)
6.08.2005  (Saturday) @ Gates of Metal (S)

We’re gonna play as much as possible off from the new album and hope to get a great feedback.

Summer Metal festivals are a strong point for every band. After the legendary Monsters Of Rock festival, you think countries like Germany (Wacken Open Air, Bang Your Head etc) and Sweden (Sweden Rock) are on top now? Why do you think Britain lost the scepter, after the glorious 80s?

I have no idea. England brought out some of the most important, inspiring Metal acts ever and it’s just weird why the mark died. I’m not in the record industry as a strategic salesman but if I would be I would try all I could to bring that back to life again.

Japan is known as a really strong market for all bands. Are you satisfied with the Japanese market and fans, so far?

Also in Japan that market situation is not as good as in the mid 90’s.But compared to other acts we are selling good enough to build something up and get invitations to play midsize venues at least in the rock capitals like Tokyo and Osaka.

Uli, you’ve been working with Roland Grapow for many years now. We all know him as a musician but a summary of his human side would be of deep interest! Do you consider him something more than just a partner? Anyway, it’s been proven that there’s some chemistry between you two.

I feel a special bound between us. Without talking much about it we know what we wanna reach together and we think we know how. It’s great to share experiences and make them together in a constructive way. We’ve not always been friends and had our ups and downs but in the end we are very proud about all these years and have some kinda reason to celebrate Masterplan. :-)

Jorn Lande is another curious situation. I strongly believed Jorn would end up as the another session band for me vocalist, in his eyes. Still, it seems he’s a permanent member of Masterplan? He’s a busy man, you know… and I love his voice!

Yes he is. And sometimes we are a little afraid about the offers he gets. But I think he was the missing link in Masterplan, and he appreciates it and knows how important it is not to be alone these days. I trust him as a musician and wish that this will last very long.

To avoid speaking on behalf of the entire band, do you think that you‘d be playing a different kind of music if you were born e.g. in England or the U.S.A.? I must force myself to think of you playing in a band like e.g. Tygers Of Pan Tang or Motley Crue!

Maybe. I never thought about that. I could have also ended up as a carpenter. I describe myself as a musician and if Metal would have not existed I might have been a pianist playing in Hotel bars…

From the Speed / Thrash chaos of Holy Moses in the late 80’s, to the technical Power Metal of Masterplan. I always believed it’s a good thing for a musician to extend his horizons through different kinds of music (not just in Metal) both as an artist but also as a fan.

That’s absolutely what I think!!!

Speakin about your musical CV, many people hardly know about a release dating back in 1993 with a band called Axe La Chapelle. What was that all about?

The band were musicians from my hometown Aachen that I knew from the very beginning. After I left Gamma Ray, I joined that band and recorded an album called Grab What You Can. But except for some local gigs not much more happened because at this time no one was interested in Heavy Metal but in Grunge. So when I got the offer from Helloween, I took that chance.

Uli, what’s your opinion on the latest Judas Priest reunion? I mean, are you fond of this kind of original lineup summoning? Are you planning to attend any of their upcoming concerts?

I was a big Priest fan myself especially between Defenders Of The Fiath and Screaming For Vengeance. That reunion is great but I haven’t heard any new songs yet. If I have the time I will maybe go to a gig.

Also, the mighty Black Sabbath will tour Europe this summer. The previous question applies for them too.

I never liked Black Sabbath much. But of course they were an important band and inspiration for many musicians.

Uli, thanks a lot for your cooperation and spare time! We’re looking forward to seeing you and Masterplan on your upcoming tour!

Thank you.


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