By Carl Begai
During Masterplan’s recent European tour in support of their new album, Novum Intium, I caught up with guitarist / founder Roland Grapow (ex-Helloween) to discuss the current state of the band, which went through some major line-up changes between the recording of the new record and Time To Be King from 2010. Not only did At Vance singer Rick Altzi replace original vocalist Jorn Lande, but somewhere along the way Grapow managed to pick up ex-Stratovarius bassist Jari Kainulainen and current Cradle Of Filth drummer Martin Skaroupka.
“I’m just searching for the best musicians,” says Grapow. “Jari contacted me three years ago on Facebook and mentioned that if Masterplan needed a bassist he was available. I told him no, that I wasn’t interested, but when Jan (S. Eckert) left I contacted Jari because if somebody wants to be a part of the band, they have experience, and he’s a nice guy I’ll welcome him on board. I knew Jari from when Stratovarius toured with Helloween and from doing a solo show with Stratovarius in Paris. I want good musicians, not egotistical people or troublemakers, and Jari is a great guy.”
Kainulainen is also cut from the same musical cloth as Grapow, making for an easy partnership. Skaroupka’s presence in the band both in the studio and on the road is harder to grasp given his black metal day job with Cradle Of Filth.
“I was recording a band from the Czech Republic who told me their drummer was in a famous band called Cradle Of Filth,” Grapow says of bringing Skaroupka on board. “I’d heard some of the Cradle albums because I’m always checking out different productions, but I kind of rolled my eyes at that. Then I saw some rehearsal room footage on YouTube – no tricks – and I thought ‘What the fuck? This guy is amazing.’ He’s such a tight and powerful drummer, so I invited him to come down to the studio. He told me it was an honour because he was a big Masterplan fan. I was like, ‘What?!’ But it’s true, he’s in Cradle Of Filth and he loves Helloween, Gamma Ray and Stratovarius. In fact, when Jörg Michael left Stratovarius, Martin was interested in playing for them.”
“The good thing is, now we have a drummer again who is also a great songwriter. That was one of the main reasons I asked him to join Masterplan. He came down with 10 songs on his Powerbook and played them to me, and I was amazed. He studied music, so it was him playing all the keyboards. He plays all the keyboards for Cradle Of Filth in the studio, so now we have two keyboard players as well.”
“We used one of Martin’s songs already, but it was written more for his band Inner Fear, which is closer to the Cradle style. Now he knows to write in more of a direction like ‘Crimson Rider’ in an Uli Kusch (former drummer) style. I’m really excited to see what happens for the next album. The songwriting is still mainly Axel (Mackenrott / keyboards) and me, but I don’t care if I only write four songs and someone else does seven. Everybody can take part in it.”
On a different note, Grapow commented on the complete absence of Helloween material from the Masterplan live set even though some of the songs he wrote for the band remain fan favourites.
“Somebody asked me a few days ago why we don’t play any Helloween songs and my answer was ‘Why should we?’ The truth is not too many people are asking for that.”
Even so, he hasn’t left Helloween behind entirely. Not yet, anyway.
“I’ve been in the business for 25 years, and I was thinking I should do something like a Best Of Roland Grapow album. I’ve asked AFM Records about that because I think I’ve written some good songs with Masterplan and Helloween, and my solo stuff. There’s enough material for a double album. AFM didn’t like the idea, and then I was thinking that maybe Masterplan could re-record some Helloween songs as a bonus CD. Songs that I wrote like ‘The Chance’, ‘Mankind’, ‘Time Of The Oath’ and ‘Still We Go’. It’s not a lot of work since it would just be covering songs. Nothing to rearrange, lyrics are done, we could probably have it done in two weeks. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea because it’s a shame that my history with Helloween has been pushed aside. They don’t play any of the songs that I wrote, which is a shame.”
For inforamtion and updates on Masterplan go to this location.