For Masterplan‘s latest album PumpKings, they decided to cover songs that guitarist Roland Grapow had written during his time in Helloween. Grapow gives us the scoop on the album, a recent lineup change, his other projects, the metal scene in Slovakia and other topics.
Chad Bowar: You’ve had a lineup change since the last album. How did drummer Kevin Kott come to join the band?
Roland Grapow: As you know, Martin Skarupka is a member of Cradle of Filth, and sometimes their tour dates overlap with ours. When it happened the first time and we needed to find session drummer for our show, Rick introduced us to Kevin. Rick played with him in the band called At Vance. Later when Martin got very busy with Cradle of Filth’s new album and tour, we decided that Kevin should be our band drummer and Martin will play if Kevin cannot do this. We are very happy with this decision. Kevin is a very cool and easy going guy and great drummer. And yes, we have a good relationship with Martin.
What inspired the idea to record PumpKings?
I had the idea to re-record my Helloween songs a long time ago, even in the beginning of my work in Masterplan. When you write a song you have your own view on it; somewhere inside you know how the song should sound, how it should be arranged and so on. Of course, during the work on it with the band, your ideal picture of your creation will be changed due to many reasons. Sometimes these changes are for better, but in some cases you can be disappointed or disagree with them.
And this is a normal situation, because you are working together with other band members and the fans are listening to the result of collective work that includes hours of analysis of guitars parts, ways of singing, arrangement elements. Every song is the result of teamwork and compromises. That’s why I had the idea to re-record my songs that I wrote for Helloween, but to do it in my way, how I see them now.
How did you go about selecting which songs to re-record?
It wasn’t very difficult. I chose the songs which were most valuable for me. Everything that I write is more or less a part of my life. It is not a secret if I say that the song is a small story. So listen more carefully our new album and maybe you will know me better. (laughs)
How do the new arrangements compare to the originals?
How can you compare a big heavy notebook in 1993 with the light and slim machine of 2017? The same with the arrangements. They are new, more modern and clean. It is more about the sound, not so much about the arrangement.
How does Rick’s style compare with Michael Kiske and Andi Deris?
Before recording we talked with Rick about sound and the ways of singing. Of course, he was a bit worried, but I like how he sounds and we agreed that he should be himself. PumpKings has Masterplan’s sound, it is my sound and Rick is a great part of it. He didn’t try to copy Andi or Michi, he sang in his own way and I’m very happy with the result. The songs sound different, but they sound as I imagined to myself many years ago.
What are your fondest memories of your time in Helloween?
My favorite moments were in the beginning of my career in Helloween. I will never forget this feeling to come out to the stage with such a great band and in front of thousands of people. It was a dream of my childhood which came true. That time feelings overwhelmed me for every little thing. We are travelling in the dusty bus through whole Europe? Yeah! We are going to Japan and having three shows in a row without any free day between? Great!!! Many great memories!
You have a couple festival dates coming up. How many of the PumpKings songs do you anticipate playing during those sets?
I guess, there will be no more than 2-3 songs. I think there is no sense to play the same songs as Helloween does on their coming tour when Masterplan has its own good material.
Do you have any other tours lined up after that?
I have some ideas, we are in contact with some promoters, but no official statement yet. Probably it will be Spain, Russia, South America. We will see.
What’s the timetable for the next Masterplan studio album?
We are planning to release the new album in April, 2018. We have October/November booked for the recordings
Will there be another Level 10 album?
I hope so! I played just guitar, didn’t write any songs for it. I hope they would ask me again.
What else have you been working on production-wise recently?
I have many bands, including Lords of Black, some bands from Slovakia, Russia and Masterplan soon. I am booked out till January already
Have there been things you’ve learned while producing other bands that you’ve been able to apply to Masterplan?
Yes, of course. But I always learn something new and so many times I was sorry that I knew something too late that I couldn’t use some tricks in Masterplan’s former albums.
What is the metal scene like in Slovakia, where you currently live?
Slovakia is a heavy metal country! I’ve never seen so many metal fans and shows anywhere in Europe. Power metal is still very big here, and many new and young bands here as well,
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Thanks for the interview and hope to see you soon on the road!
(interview published August 11, 2017)