Chris Akin from "The Classic Metal Show" recently conducted an interview with guitarist Roland Grapow of German melodic metallers MASTERPLAN. You can listen to the entire interview below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On MASTERPLAN's new "PumpKings" album, which features re-recordings of songs Grapow wrote while he was in HELLOWEEN:
Roland: "When you leave a band a long time ago like HELLOWEEN and you wrote a lot of songs for them and for the fans, of course, it's kind of a 'baby.' I said, after so many years, HELLOWEEN isn't playing my songs live anymore, I call it for 'political reasons.' I don't even know why they're not doing it. They know; you should ask them. I felt a little bit the last couple of years that 'Okay, it's time to bring my babies home to a different kind of, let's say, 'house.'' The MASTERPLAN sound is a bit more heavy. Of course, I play a bit of a different style than fifteen-twenty years ago. Everybody knew I was playing Fender guitars. I changed a lot on the last session with HELLOWEEN, on 'The Dark Ride'. Since then, I kept this kind of style. That's why the songs are a bit more modern-sounding, but I didn't try to change them drastically. I just wanted to keep the same feeling and vibe, especially on the solo guitars. I still put my old Marshalls out and Fender guitars to get the same kind of feeling of what I had at that time. I think the basic difference is the vocal parts because it's a different singer [Rick Altzi]."
On whether his MASTERPLAN bandmates were comfortable with the idea of re-recording Grapow's old HELLOWEEN songs:
Roland: "I think not one hundred percent, no. There was some questions like, 'Do we really have to do this? Would it be better if you did it under your solo name?' And, I agree, but somehow, I felt, why not? It's the same, or would be the same, if Ritchie Blackmore plays DEEP PURPLE songs with RAINBOW. He wrote it. It's funny sometimes to read the comments on the Internet from some of the die-hard HELLOWEEN fans, they think it's totally not necessarily that I touch them or they even think, 'Why is he even touching HELLOWEEN songs?' They don't even see me as a songwriter. It's like a totally different feeling to other artists like Ritchie Blackmore or Yngwie Malmsteen. When they played in a different band, it's still the songs of Ritchie or something else. But they saw myself not in the same position, somehow. The funny thing is that nobody is mentioning Kai Hansen, who since he left HELLOWEEN [in 1988], he's [been] playing 'I Want Out' and 'Future World', he's playing it with GAMMA RAY, he's playing it solo, he's playing it with UNISONIC and nobody is complaining. It's funny."
On whether he was asked to take part in the recent "Pumpkins United" HELLOWEEN reunion that saw both Hansen and vocalist Michael Kiske rejoin the band along with its current incarnation:
Roland: "I think the same, like I told you before: They're not using my songs live. I think the other reason why I'm not part of this reunion tour is the same. I don't know about it. Nobody asked me. The same for [former HELLOWEEN drummer] Uli Kusch. Uli and me, we're still in contact, not so much, but we're writing here and there, email or Facebook. I was also in contact with the HELLOWEEN guys. I really searched for, two years ago, I met them in Finland at a festival. MASTERPLAN played there. We finished already. I met them in a hotel. I say 'Hey, come on guys. Let's talk.' They were running away from me again after so many years. The first time they saw me in Moscow after the first [MASTERPLAN] album we were promoting and touring and they were always running away in the lobby, like kids. It's like 'What's going on? We're grown-up guys.' Finally I met them and I talked to [HELLOWEEN vocalist] Andi [Deris] and the rest of the band for a couple of hours. Everything seemed really nice, like for me, a déjà vu, which I was missing, part of this friendship or whatever that was, but they don't see me like that. I have a different view of them. I'm the oldest guy of these guys. I told Andi, 'Come on, man. We're not living forever. We shouldn't fight or ignore each other.' I have huge respect for all of these guys. I was so happy I was part of HELLOWEEN. Without HELLOWEEN, I wouldn't be in the business. If Weiki [guitarist Michael Weikath] didn't call me at that time, I would still be a car mechanic and I'd be an old guy with heavy bones and pain, still working on cars, dreaming about my hobby I had a long time ago, being a musician. I have it, so I'm a happy guy, but they don't want me and Uli as a part of the reunion. I don't know what the real reason is, but nobody asked us.
"I was in the band for twelve and a half years. I was in the band longer than Kai Hansen. [Laughs] But now, Sascha [Gerstner, guitar], the new guy, I call him the 'new guy' and he's already fifteen years in the band, it's crazy. I think for the history, for the fans, they just released, also for this reason is this HELLOWEEN book last year or this year [2015's 'Hellbook'] and I'm also a part of it. It's nice to be mentioned somehow, but not for the reunion. It's funny. They're trying now to say it's a 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys' reunion, but this is nonsense because the drummer [Ingo Schwichtenberg] died [in 1995]. Ingo is not there. For me, it's something different, but I don't want to say it. People maybe have imaginations."
On whether he sees any similarities between "PumpKings" and former ACCEPT vocalist Udo Dirkschneider, who has been playing entire live sets devoted to his ACCEPT catalog:
Roland: "I'm glad you mentioned him because I forgot about it. He just did this and nobody is complaining, people are so happy he's playing these songs. Of course, there's ACCEPT live playing and are really successful. I love ACCEPT, to be honest. One of the reasons, Andy Sneap, my friend, a mixing guy, mixed all the albums and I'm a big fan of his work. I'm always checking it out. I know [ACCEPT guitarist] Wolf [Hoffmann]. Wolf was the photographer for my solo album. He lived where [producer] Michael Wagener mixed my album. I met Udo, all of these guys are nice people, really nice people. Udo played all the old hits. People love it. They go and want to see it. They call it 'the last time,' but you never know, but both are successful. You see the differences. If I would do it now, it would be, like, 'He only wants to make cash. He only wants to make money.' We don't make any money; those times are over. It's just promotion for yourself or my ego to say, 'I'll bring my babies home to the family.' That's the kind of thing, to be proud of my work and what I do. We're not selling albums so much. That's not the main reason. Touring, to be honest, Roland Grapow alone touring or MASTERPLAN with these songs, it would be a disaster. [Laughs] The difference is, if I'm part of this HELLOWEEN reunion, of course another ex-member, another history boy in the band. This counts. They have huge success now. You can even call it an arena tour. But if we go on tour, we have maybe fifty people in front of us, so it's not to make cash. There's a difference. [Laughs] That's why I was also thinking just playing in the future, as much as possible, festivals. Then you know people come, not only for you, but all the bands they like, then it's a more secure way of playing live and not losing money. That's the basic thing."
"PumpKings" was released last month via AFM. The album includes three songs from HELLOWEEN's "Pink Bupples Go Ape" (1991) LP, two from "Chameleon" (1993), three from "Master Of The Rings" (1994), one from "The Time Of The Oath" (1996) and two from "The Dark Ride" (2000).
Grapow joined HELLOWEEN in early 1989 as the replacement for founding guitarist Kai Hansen. Grapow was originally discovered in a Hamburg, Germany club playing with his band RAMPAGE by HELLOWEEN guitarist Michael Weikath, who kept Grapow's name in mind in the event Hansen would potentially leave HELLOWEEN. Grapow proceeded to complete the touring cycle for the band's classic 1988 "Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II" album.
Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch were dismissed from HELLOWEEN in 2001 by Weikath because of disagreements over the direction of the band's "The Dark Ride" album, which saw an increased focus on darker and modern metal elements. Grapow and Kusch formed MASTERPLAN a year later, securing the services of Norwegian vocalist Jorn Lande.