Interview date

January 2007


Yann G

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Hi Roland, thanks a lot for accepting this interview for the french metal webzine http://www.auxportesdumetal.com/.
Your new album "MK II" will be released in February. Can you please tell us more about the new orientations of this album and tell us what are the main differences compared to the previous ones ?

Definitely the line-up ! The line-up has changed drastically I would say. Jorn left the band last year, we had the agreement that we go in separate ways because he was quite unhappy with the direction of Masterplan. Some little details he never liked honestly. I think he doesn't like compromising so much, but we as well you know. We didn't want to change too much. So we couldn't find the same way anywore. Therefore he said "Ok, I have to go". It was quite sad but finally, as I said many times, we're still friends.
That was Jorn and it was not easy to replace him, that took cupple of months to find some good singers. Most of them were not fitting for my tastes, they had good sounds, good singings, good melodies but it didn't work. At the end of July, Mike Dimeo added my as a friend under MySpace. I just said "It looks quite interesting" and then I was amazed, it was the singer I was looking for Masterplan. From my feeling he had the blues range and the blues feeling similar to Jorn. Not a copy because he has a higher voice.
So Mike Dimeo called me and asked the details, I told him about the tour that was already booked more or less with Saxon. Most of the stuff was already written, he just add to make lyrics and vocal melodies.

Concerning Uli, he came to my studio in Slovekia some days before he left the band. There were some strange reasons I can't really explain, about business, about money, about the mistakes he thought I did with the band. He blamed me for different things ... Since there he's then no talking to me. He took a lawyer, that's a rude story, he tried to destroy the rest of the band but anyway I decided not to talk to him anymore in a near future because I steel feel too much pain inside.

How did you know Mike Terrana, very famous metal drummer ?

For you he's famous, for me he's an old friend. He played on my solo album "The Kaleidoscope". The connection came via Mike Viscera, he gave me his telephone number. I was already a big fan of Terrana before with Yngwie. When I heard the drum solo, I said "Fuck ! Woah !! This is great !", it was like 13 years ago. Anyway he was always on my list of my favorite drummers. After playing on my solo album, he moved very shortly to Europe, in Holland because he had a dutch girlfriend. Then, they went more or less separate and he came to Hamburg. He's good seen in Germany because he feels that in America nothing happens for his kind of drum technique.
Finally, the first gig I was offering him was Gamma Ray. Lars Ratz from Metalium called me to ask me if I could make connection to him. He got the gig with Metalium but I guess it was the worst gig he ever had ! :-) And Axel Rudi Pell... and he's still with Axel Rudi Pell. Axel's not a friend but a colleague, we like each other. We did a track together for Japan, a kind of guitar duel, then he asked me if I knew a good drummer. I think they're still together on tour with Terrana these times.
After one week Uli left, he was on tour with Axel in September. When he learnt Uli had left the band, he told me "May I help you ?, Can I join the band, please!!! I want to join the band :-)) ?". I just said "But What's about with Rage ?". He replied that he spent really hard times and that he had so many really troubles with them. I said him that I wasn't sure to pay him as much as Rage and he replied he wasn't worried about that and that he wanted to become a member of Masterplan. He's now very proud, he says that "MK II" is the best album he played in these last 10 years.
DiMeo is the same, they are full of energy.

Before this new line-up, you composed everything "in team". How did you proceed with this new line-up ? Who composes what ?

We were like a little team : Uli, Jorn and me but normally we always worked separate. On the first album, Uli had his own songs and I had mines then we came together and we worked on all of them.
Basically, I like to work alone and when I have a song structure, I give it to the singer and to the other guys to see if they like it as well but they have to like it !!! :-))
I don't like the way of playing in the 60s-70s, you tried to convince youself keeping your time finding parts. That's what I learnt when I'm not going further with something, I leave. Don't finish it with a bad part. When you don't like something from the beginning, let's drop it.

But definitively we are a team. On the vocal arrangements, I ask Mike Dimeo "Try it", he says "OK...I try", I listen to and I say "Whoaa... that's cool !". At the end, "Warrior's Cry" was so good.

This new album contains some powerful A.O.R. metal like "Keep Me Burning" and also some speed metal a the Helloween style.

That's funny because I see "Keep Me Burning" as a totally Helloween song, very funny... "Call The Gipsy" is one of my favorite.

If I asked you to classify "MK II" in a category of metal, which one would you choose ?

A little bit speed melodic, a little bit progressive, a little bit blues like the ballads or the singings, hard rock A.O.R... That's all the things we are, we are this melting pot.
On the first album, we had more some Helloween elements.
Until now, I got good moods of this new album. When I listen to the ballads, I feel really melancolic. Mike sings so great.
When the album was finished, after all this negative pressure about Uli and all these frustrating things, we listened for the first time the mixed album with the band and I couldn't prevent my tears. He sings so nice, I was very proud of it, of myself and of the whole band.
I was very anxious about how people would consider the new line-up. When Jorn left the band, I was afraid that people considered the band half as strong. Uli then left the band, great, perfect... That's the worst people may think at this moment : the end of the band. The worst statement was "no more Masterplan song, let's wait for a new Roland Grapow solo album". I can't understand why people expect a solo album, I haven't played neo-classical things in the Malmsteen way since a while. Why are they expecting this now ? Do they think that all the songs were written by Uli or by Jorn and that I just played guitar as they wanted ? This is really unfair, this is such a midtrust about my person. But I think it's normal, people see just pictures and they think "this is the main guy". Maybe they didn't like my hair :-)

"I'm gonna win" really sounds in the german metal way, in the Axel Rudi Pell tradition. What do you think of this ?

That was the first song I wrote. Basically this is a melody my girlfriend was singing. She's always happy, a good person from Slovekia. When we went to the countryside, I told her "Why don't you record all your ideas in a machine ?" and she started to. I gave her a keyboard, a guitar, she's very talented I think. Finally, this song, after one or two weeks, she was forming the melody. But finally when she was singing it again for the New Year's Eve, we went to the kitchen, I brought my acoustic guitar, I was searching for the chords and I said "Whoa.. this is a fuckin' nice ballad !". On week later I started writing it, twice faster that we did it for the New Year's Eve.
You say it's a german song and she's slovekian, I feel it's more a east-song. We're really proud of this song, I had a little bit fear to record it because it maybe sounds too much pop but we love it. Many people like it.

You're going to tour with Saxon and Rose Tattoo. Are you proud to tour with such legendary bands ?

I'm not a big fan of Saxon but I saw them in 1982, in 1984 and I was really impressed. But I'm more proud to support Saxon than another band that is much younger like Hammerfall. I don't have a good feeling about them, I prefer to support bands like Saxon or Judas Priest. We're looking forward to supporting because we are such a new band and we have to find our new connections and that takes a while. I'm looking forward to see how Mike Dimeo will give more action on stage than Jorn. Jorn is a good singer but he should also animate the people more.
I was working with Helloween that is a great party band. I worked with excellent frontmen, Michael Kiske is the best frontman I ever had, this guy was God on stage, he was fantastic. Tobias Sammett is the perfect copy, he learnt everything of him ! I told Tobias 2 or 3 years in a festival "I'm fuckin' jealous, you took everything from Michael Kiske and transfered it into Edguy !". The crowd was crazy and jumping during Edguy show. We played with Masterplan 2 bands before and nobody jumped !

"MK II" is your third album. Will this next tour an opportunity to record a DVD ?

That's the next step definitively. We have to discuss with the label. We'll maybe show Mark I and Mark II.

Do you have a project of future solo album ? Maybe some elements you couldn't use within Masterplan that you plan to use in your future project ?

My studio's now finished so I can use more my ideas. Maybe I have some songs too much bluesy in the Stevie Ray Vaughan style I could use, even more heavy than Gary Moore did it. But I have nothing concrete, I don't want to do any neo-classical stuff because first you have to learn too much, secondly nobody cares. Ten years ago it was fine, I sold 22000 copies in Japan ! I would be happy to sell so much with Masterplan but the time was different.

As a guitar-player, can you please tell us which guitarists are or were your idols ?

Definitely, I have 7 or 10... Sometimes I forget one.
Let's start with Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth, a german guy nobody knows : Alex Conti, Zakk Wylde an absolute fantastic player not maybe at the drinking, Malmsteen.
I'm not too much into Steve Vai, for me he's a keyboard player on the guitar. Satriani is OK. Petrucci is good.
But I forgot John Sykes, he's fantastic. I guess I forgot some but they are my main influences.
I also like the guitarist of In Flames, it's modern and melodic.

If you had to convince a reader of the webzine to buy "MK II", what would you say to him ?

Whoo... I'm too bad for marketing... "THE BEST HEAVY-METAL ALBUM OF 2007 IS ALREADY OUT, Roland Grapow, not so serious like you think !".
I can say very proud that it's a fresh album with a new line-up and all the first reviews are very positive. Germany gave us the number one and we are back to the success of the first or the second album. Just check it out it's great and see you on tour !

Thank you for your time !

Thank you !