Masterplan - 2007

When you want to be called a big band then you should overcome all the problems that you may have. Masterplan proved that by releasing their new excellent album “MK II”. No matter why some people go and come, Masterplan is here offering us superb heavy melodic music. The mastermind and guitarist of the band Roland Grapow came to Greece for the promotion of the album so we didn’t lose the chance to meet him. You will read the basic parts of our conversation below.
Masterplan band 2007

Hi Roland… I’m so glad that I finally meet you. Congrats on “MK II”… we have named it as the Best Album of February in Grande-Rock.com.
 
R: Ohh… that’s very good, thanks a lot.
 
 
Although your new album will be released in few weeks, people wanna know what happened and Jorn and Uli left the band. First of all, Jorn said that he decided to leave due to musical differences with you and Uli.
 
R: Jorn left because he was unhappy with the direction we took with “Aeronautics”. He was always complaining about the vocal lines and said that were too heavy to sing and he also didn’t like songs like “Black In the Burn”, “Heroes” etc. so much. He mostly cared about his own future. I think he was more concerned about his solo works. Finally, we had a meeting and we talked seriously about the band and we said that we do not want to change our style and then Jorn said “OK, so I will have to leave”. It was not very easy but there wasn’t a fight or something, we are still friends and we asked him (back then) to do some last shows with us, ‘cause we couldn’t find a singer that could 100% fit the band and he agreed.
 
 
If I remember well, Jorn hasn’t been with a band for more than 2 albums…
 
R: Really?... (hahah) maybe that’s his rule. Are you sure about that?
 
 
Yeah, I’m pretty sure about that… I was hoping that Jorn would break this “curse” with Masterplan but…
 
R: You can’t keep someone who’s unhappy in the band ‘cause it doesn’t make any sense… you cannot make good albums in such a way. Jorn was always talking about his solo works, how great they are and things like that… but hey what about us? What about Masterplan? He never talked about the band. He was always focused on his solo work.
 
 
In 2003 I had asked you if you believed that Jorn was the ideal singer for Masterplan and you told me back then that he wasn’t your first choice… you had asked Russell Allen and Michael Kiske first … so did you ask those guys again or Mike DiMeo was your first choice this time?
 
R: No, Michael Kiske was not in our plans anymore. I didn’t want Kiske to replace Jorn in Masterplan. In the beginning, I thought that this would be great for the band but then Masterplan would have taken a totally different direction. I had also contacted Russell Allen but this guy never answered, I do not know…
 
 
Maybe he’s very busy, huh?
 
R: No… don’t think so… he’s not that busy… but he is famous for never answering his e-mails… so he never replied.
 
 
So, this time Mike DiMeo was your first choice for Masterplan?
 
R: No, we tried out two or three not famous but very good singers first. After some time, I found Mike DiMeo on myspace, his webmaster had added me there in the friend list and I thought that Mike’s voice is very close to Jorn’s and I thought that he would fit the band. I contacted him and I asked him if he was interested in joining Masterplan and he said yes.
 
 
Why didn’t you choose a not so famous singer and you asked Mike DiMeo who was also singing in two other bands?
 
R: I didn’t care that much to tell you the truth. I just wanted to find a good singer that could fit the band… and not someone that would wait at home for Roland to call him.
 
 
Aren’t you afraid that Mike DiMeo could leave the band more easily than any other not famous singer?
 
R: Yes, you can expect that. At the moment, it does not look like he’s leaving. I do not think that he’s too busy with his other bands… he’s making some gigs around New York and he’s recording once in a while ‘cause the bass player in the band (Interviewers note: he’s referring to the “The Lizards” bass player) is very rich and that’s his hobby.
 
 
Secondly, Uli made some comments about Jorn’s departure and after a while he also left… that was very strange indeed. I thought that you were very good friends. Can you tell us what really happened?
 
R: Well, to be honest, Uli and I weren’t so close friends as many think. We just respected each other as musicians. He left suddenly almost two weeks before the recordings of the new album. He started fighting with me… he was sending me e-mails and asking about money etc… but I cannot say any more details… I do not want to talk about it. We have a contract not to talk about it at all. I just wanna talk about music.
 
 
And tell me, why did you choose Mike Terrana to replace Uli?
 
R: Of course, Uli is a great drummer and I didn’t want to replace such a drummer with a not so great drummer… I didn’t want to have the same situation that we had on Helloween… (he laughs)… let’s try out this drummer…hmm he’s not so good, let’s try another and another and another one (laughs). Mike Terrana is a good friend of mine and I like his playing, his attitude… he’s crazy and has given a fresh air to the band. Uli was a very strict drummer, a classic German one. I like Mike Terrana’s drumming a little more, I think.
 
 
OK, so be it. Did you write the new songs of the album by yourself or Uli/somebody else helped you as well?
 
R: Uli has written some songs of the album, yes. When he left he asked, because he had made so much money from the band, if we wanted to keep some stuff that he had written and I told yes, but some other stuff that he had wasn’t fitting Materplan’s style at all.
 
 
I believe that the new stuff was written for Jorn’s voice. Do you agree with that?
 
R: Haha… I was asked this question by others as well… Furthermore, I was taking care about the melodies. Mike DiMeo was writing all the vocal melodies and the lyrics. When I heard some of the melodies I told him, that those melodies did not fit Materplan by any means… they were too bluesy or too much Riot. Then he told me that if I had some ideas I should let him know and we agreed to sit down together and do something about it. Thank God Mike is very open-minded and we worked together as a team. I told him what I didn’t like from the melodies and I tried to give him an idea of Masterplan melodies on songs like “Crystal Night” etc. So, we mixed my melodies, which are Masterplan, with his melodies and the result was very good, I think. Moreover, due to his blues singing, everybody automatically thinks that he is copying Jorn a little bit… but he’s not. At the end, Mike said that he was very proud… he had never sung like that in the past.
 
 
Although, two basic Masterplan members left, the sound of the band wasn’t affected at all… it’s like those departures never really touched the soul of the band… what do you think? Are you the soul of Masterplan?
 
R: Maybe I am… but, definitely, I was the producer… and I think that taking care of the sound details and the arrangements has always been the big key in Masterplan. Just keep in mind that I’m also the basic songwriter.
 
 
Do you believe that this is the perfect line-up for Masterplan?
 
R: I don’t want to say “perfect”… because we were “perfect” before as well. (laughs broadly)… it’s just different. So, we have a new album and it’s like we make a new beginning but it’s also the same band, the same style but with a different design.
 
 
Now that you mentioned “MK II”, tell me … what does it mean?
 
R: “MK II”?... I don’t know! It’s a band… it symbolizes that something new is beginning.
 
 
So, it symbolizes the second period of Masterplan… right?
 
R: Yes, that’s exactly… in the worst case, we will have a third one as well… (laughs)
 
Roland Grapow pic 2007

Can you make a comment about each one of the songs…?
 
R: “Phoenix Rising”: This is a beautiful “Intro”... I named it like that because of the situation of the band… you know coming out of the ashes…just like a Phoenix .
 
“Warrior’s Cry”: This is the fastest song we ever wrote. It’s quite amazing and the melody of the song is so beautiful. “Warrior’s Cry” is about us… like brothers fighting for the same thing.
 
“Lost and Gone”: The catchiest song of the album. I think that was the best song for representing the new line-up of the band. It can easily have some air-play, I think. We always have that philosophy when we are about to present one song of the album. It may not be the most representative song of the album but it’s the catchiest one.
 
“Keeps Me Burning”: Axel wrote this song… not the melody, the music. The melody comes from Mike DiMeo… and it’s one of my favourite songs.
 
“Take Me Over”: This is my girlfriend’s favourite song. It has a very aggressive beat which I like a lot.
 
“I’m Gonna Win”: This is the first song that I wrote last year. The melody came from my girlfriend. (interviewer’s note: he sings the melody). She helps me a lot.
 
“Watching the World”: Axel also wrote this song. This one along with “Keep Me Burning” and “Enemy” were the leftovers from “Aeronautics”, so he had already presented it to us.
 
“Call the Gypsy”: This is also one of my favourite songs. It’s really driving and it has my favourite solo as well.
 
“Trust In You”: It’s a nice ballad, very emotional. Mike’s voice is very heartbreaking on this song.
 
“Masterplan”: This is Uli’s song. We decided to call it “Masterplan” when Uli was still in the band. When he left, I asked him if I could keep it and he said OK.
 
“Enemy”: As I said before, it was a song that we have heard before and it’s a good one.
 
“Heart of Darkness”: This is a beautiful heavy song which I like a lot, like “Black In The Burn”, “Bleeding Eyes” etc. I like this kind of stuff very much.
 
 
Do you believe that “MK II” is closer to your debut?
 
R: Yes, definitely closer to the debut than “Aeronautics”. We said that we wanted to go back to the first album’s stuff…but we didn’t want to copy it. And you can see that if you check out the songs… it is in the same heavy style of the debut album but the songs are different. I am still proud about our debut album, though.
 
 
If I’m not wrong this was the first time that you did the production all by yourself, right?
 
R: Andy Sneap asked me if I could do it, because he didn’t have enough time… he was meant to be the producer but he called me and said that there was a chance to do Megadeth’s mixing. I told him OK but all that I wanted was to take some time to check the recordings. Finally, he came to my studio and checked out some things. I still believe that the final sound result is better than before.
 
 
I think that he lost his job now…
 
R: Yeap, he definitely lost his job (laughs)…
 
 
So, do you have in mind to go on producing other bands’ albums as well?
 
R: Yes, maybe. When I have time, I want to produce some stuff, check out my equipment and get into the productions more, in the future.
 
 
Have you planned to do some gigs to promote the album? Are you going to participate in any Festivals this summer?
 
R: At the moment, we are ready to go on tour with Saxon. We will come to Greece in April. We are looking forward to playing to many festivals but the promoters still fear to book us… due to the new line-up and because they do not know the new album. I just hope that in the next 2-3 weeks something will change.
 
 
(At this point we had a long conversation about the army and stuff like that)
 
 
You have already released a video clip for “Lost And Gone”. Are you planning to release another video clip?
 
R: Not at the moment… If it were in my hands, I would release a video clip for the song “I’m Gonna Win”… just imagine a boat coming out to the shore… hearing the song in the background… that would be a terrific idea.
 
Masterplan Band pic 2007

What are the messages from the press and the fans so far? Do you believe that it’s a matter of time to accept the new members?
 
R: The fans should always be open-minded… and not say that since Jorn and Uli left the band we are not going to listen to them anymore. I think that they will be surprised by the new album if they like the Masterplan sound and they are going to be very happy. I do not think that this band is about the band members…
 
 
… It’s the name that matters in the end, right?
 
R: Yes, definitely. Nowadays, many bands are changing members all the time. The only thing that matters is to release good albums.
 
 
What are your expectations from this album and what should we wait from Masterplan in the future?
 
R: My expectations are that people will love the new album and the new line-up as well. I also wish the Masterplan’s fan base to grow bigger with this album. I would like to go on a big headline tour someday.
 
 
And some weird Questions now!!! Do you believe that internet has helped the bands become more popular or it has caused many problems?
 
R: The main problem is that due to the downloading, the bands and the artists are losing much money. It’s a matter of time that many bands stop producing music ‘cause they will not have enough money to go on and they will be forced to have day-jobs. On the other hand, people can get famous on the internet more easily or they can have more and faster information.  Yet, the downloading problem is the one that kills the music.
 
 
Which is the most overrated band today?
 
R: Maybe Trivium… they are not offering anything new at all… they just copy the stuff that Metallica, Maiden, etc used to release in the past. I don’t know why they are on every magazine nowadays. (i.n.: I totally agree… Alex take a look here cheeky)
 
 
What is missing from today’s music industry? What are albums missing? Is it that quality they used to have back in the 70’s and 80’s?
 
R: I think that we have too many bands on the market now. Too many bands are getting easy deals with labels nowadays. Quantity is better than quality… that’s how the thing goes.
 
 
Imagine that your girlfriend is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react?
 
R: My girlfriend does not care about those things… she hates rings and stuff like that. She has a very beautiful heart and takes care of everything… she even takes care of an “old man”, like me… (laughs)…
 
 
Thank you very much Roland. I wanna thank you for the music… please leave a note to Grande Rock readers… Take care!
 
R: I’m very happy to be back… with a new line-up and a new album. I was really frustrated with the Jorn and Uli situation before but we’re back, hopefully stronger than ever. I hope that the fans will enjoy the new album.

(special thx to Velis, my good friend & partner)