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18/01/2007 – Interview with MASTERPLAN

German Powermetallers MASTERPLAN (official website) will soon release their third album. But this time things were a little different: Vocalist Jorn Lande (the band's secret weapon) left the band last year to pursue other goals, mainly under his own name. So the band needed a new vocalist, no problem. In the last months of 2006, drummer and co-founder Uli Kusch also found it better to quit and concentrate on his other bands, BEAUTIFUL SIN and MEKONG DELTA. Like with Jorn, the classical musical differences were the reason, only it was more painful than when Jorn left.

The colleagues in RAGE suffered from the same problem as their longtime drummer Mike Terrana thought he had seen and played it all. So, Uli left and Mike came in. RAGE have since recently found a replacement by the name of André Hilgers, who abuses the skins in the Melodic Powermetal band SILENT FORCE (fronted by D.C. Cooper, ex-ROYAL HUNT).

MASTERPLAN's new album will be called "MK II", indicating the renewed line-up and the new chapter in the band's history/discography. Fans do not have to fear, as the new material is like on the previous two albums, "Masterplan (2003) and "Aeronautics" (2005). You can read my review of the band's upcoming album at this location.

I had a talk on the 18th of January with guitarist Roland Grapow about the changes in the band, the new album and some other little things.

Masterplan logo

Hi Roland, congrats with the new album. It's inline with the previous two and I like it. :-)

R: thank you, I'm glad you like it.

And it's like you and Uli said some time ago, that it would be back to more to the point metal, like on the debut.

Indeed, but back then we had totally different songs. 6 or 7 were to be replaced as I told Uli I didn't want any of his tracks on the new album, except for the best and that was "Masterplan". Most of the material came from Uli and Mike DiMeo, but Axel Mackenrott also contributed with two new songs, like "Watching The World". "Keep The Burning" and "Enemy" are also done by him. "Warrior's Cry" for example is the fastest MASTERPLAN song so far. Normally it's at 160 bpm (like in HELLOWEEN), but for this one we added an extra 10.

MK II coverYeah, and it's also one of the best songs on the album. I see here on the promo that the recordings took place in the Grapow Studios. Are those the same as the Crazy Cat Studios?

No, since I don't live in Hamburg anymore. I moved to Slovakia - (Note by Tim: I hope I understood it well, so I also checked his MySpace page) -, and started building a new house there but one that includes a studio and that was finished earlier, for which I'm very glad. It's more professional now and it was great fun. The result is important. I had a good sound in Crazy Cat and I'm glad the sound is also very good with the new studio.

I've noticed you no longer made use of Andy Sneap's services. How come?

He's too busy, although I did ask him. Especially the new MEGADETH album was keeping him busy. He said "You don't need me. You have the necessary experience." He played some guitars and added some backing vocals on the first album. I wanted a secure feeling about the sound, so he came over to check the studio. The accoustics are fine, he checked the room and we also arranged the guitar room so that this too would produce a good sound. Placing the microphone a centimeter further would already give a different sound. I also learned a lot from Roy Z., whom I worked with for my solo albums. And Andy is easy to work with.

For the mixing and mastering you again asked the guys at Finnvox Studios to handle it all. Was this also part of the 'never change a winning team' procedure?

Indeed. I'm proud to have my name on the record, but I don't dare to mix anything yet.

Maybe you could work with leftovers and see what the result could be like.

Maybe later, yeah, when I have more time. When Mikko was mixing, I asked him to copy a song like it was, but he went outside and came back with an overboard which had extra options and after that he made me a copy for my ProTools computer. It was cool how he showed me all the tricks.

Masterplan - RolandYou're going to tour very soon with SAXON and on the 10th of March you'll be in Belgium, a gig I will surely attend. ;-) How was this tour set up? An agreement between the labels?

It weren't the labels who agreed on this. Harry Schmidt is our new manager and he also manages HELLOWEEN. He's a friend of mine and does not support Uli. But he saw SAXON playing last Summer, in August and talked to their manager. AFM asked me about the schedule to release the new album, "MK II". Two weeks later Uli left. So that was a panic period for me, luckily all went well.

Why exactly did Jorn and Uli leave? Jorn said he wanted to go for a more melodic direction, you and Uli wanted it more like on the debut...

The reason is musical differences. Jorn wasn't happy about the music, said it was too difficult to sing. He also kept referring to Dio, who's 65 and is still going. To be honest, I don't think Jorn will sing like this when he's 65. ;-) When Uli left, he was fighting for details. He wanted to change all, including the mix. It was too expensive for him. I didn't care. He wasn't willing enough to stay and play live, so I said: "If you don't want to play, then it's best that you leave." I wanted to keep the band together. You try to be nice and fulfill their wishes... I just didn't see any signs. For his other band, Uli was using MASTERPLAN ideas, a rough mix of the HELLOWEEN song "The Departed (Sun Is Going Down)". I asked him why he did this and told him to use his own ideas.

So you don't get along anymore with Uli, as I understand?

No. *dead serious*

Mike DiMeo and Mike Terrana stepped in as replacements. Can you tell how they got involved?

We had thought Jorn would leave, but it took time to find new members. Three to four months later I found Mike DiMeo, in the beginning of August. We met each other in September. Before him we tested two Swedes and 1 American. When Uli left, I called Mike Terrana, but I didn't have anyone else in mind. Mike is a friend of mine, who also played on my solo album. So I knew him. Since he left RAGE in December, it was easier to get him.

In order to play the last four shows with Jorn, could you easily charge yourself, knowing he had already left the band? Kind of like NIGHTWISH and Tarja, it seems.

We would have cancelled those dates or done it with a new singer, if possible. We asked Jorn and he agreed. But we still are friends, Jorn and I.

Any plans for a live album?

Yeah, we're planning it. But we're going to record some more to have enough material for a DVD. When we will be headlining for one and a half hour, we will record that too.

In the 'recent' past you released two solo albums, on which you tested your vocal skills as well. Any plans for a new solo album?

Not now, but maybe on the long term. It certainly won't be like Uli's (BEAUTIFUL SIN), but more Bluesy, Blues Rock. Mike DiMeo is a great Blues singer. And the rest of the band is also for this direction. I don't want it to compete with MASTERPLAN. I have Blues roots, although it's nothing big.

If you look back, which moments stood out for you? Which CDs were good, which sucked? Etc...

2006 was a very negative year for me. The real positive element is that I'm building a new house (which is getting finished more and more) between gigs and pauzes and that the studio was finished in time. I feel more free, I can go anywhere I want. I didn't care much about 2006, but I did appreciate the few gigs with Jorn and the festival in the Czech Republic.

Masterplan - band

With all these line-up changes, do you think there is still enough dedication? Nowadays you can't be sure anymore of a stable line-up.

You never know. Now we have the best line-up. Jorn never gave me a secure feeling. Uli.. strange situation. I thought we'd be together for our whole lives. But nothing is stable. Fans should appreciate the music, the work you put into making a record.

I've read on that you enjoy reading reviews about your works. Do you follow the advice that is sometimes given in those reviews?

Yes, but most of the times people are negative. You start thinking about it, why one doesn't like the record. He/She probably didn't really listen to it. Some people are just jealous and are only out to hurt you. When you're long enough in the business you have to get used to them or ignore them.

Ok, that's it for me, as our time is up. Many thanks for the interview. All the best with the tour and I hope to see you on the 10th of March.

Thanks. I hope to see you there too.

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