Having plenty of charisma and the special magic of teamwork on board, with their second album Aeronautics - being released on 24 January 2005 - Masterplan invite us to an artistic flight; timeless and yet exactly right for this here and now. A flight which does not appear in the shape of a full concept album, but which is all about fascination of flying. And which, for the territory of melodic metal, will definitely define a new measure…. So far the info of AFM Records, now the real story as I have a talk with Roland Grapow (guitar) and Axel Mackenrott (keyboards) about the new album, and lots of other musical stuff as well. First of all I go through the ten songs which will be on the new album..
Axel: "A real good opener, great atmosphere, good song to get into the album. On of the strong classical-like rock songs, perfect for the opening of this album."
Back For My Life
Roland: "This one is written by my colleague Axel, right next to me. The first time that he actually wrote a song for Masterplan. This one sounded great from the start and we directly decided that this should be the single of the album."
Martien: "As a single this is the perfect choice!"
Roland: "Thank you. Yeah, it has got a real catchy chorus, and it is not too fast and not too aggressive; so maybe perfect for some radio air play?"
Roland: "This is the first song that I had written for this album. It has some influences of the band I used to play in, which was of course Helloween. It is a real nice positive song, though, ha ha ha…"
Axel: "When I heard this song on demo the first time I directly thought about a song called Heroes from our first album. These two songs have lots of similarities and this kind of songs are really appreciated by our Japanese fans."
Martien: "I can imagine that your debut album sold very well in the land of the rising sun."
Roland: "Yes, it sold really well there. We were no.1 in the Japanese album charts!!"
I'm Not Afraid
Roland: "Being a songwriter this is one of my favorite songs on this album. I am really proud of this one, it has certain depth, it is heavy, it is mysterious and the chorus is actually very positive and simple. This song has it all."
Axel: "I agree, great song, maybe this is actually the first song that really hits you, if you know what I mean."
Martien: "Is there a connection between the title of this song and the famous and notorious TV-show Headbangers Ball?
Axel: "Does that show still exist?"
Roland: "In the USA it is still on. And the name of course has something to do with that show. But in Hamburg there is a club called like that, where I spend a lot of my free time….. Lots of bands play there, not famous yet, and it is kind of like a cult club in Hamburg nowadays. Jorn wrote the lyrics and it was a real surprise for me. Good rock title by the way."
After This War
Roland: "It is not about a real war actually, it can be about a fight in a relationship, or stress at work and when you get out of that situation you are after this war. It is a song written by our bassplayer Jan Eckert, together with Pete from Iron Savior. It was already released on an Iron Savior album, but this version is completely different, also a new text written by Jorn."
Martien: "Well, you could actually say that this album is complete team work, right?"
Roland: "Yeah, absolutely. The first album was actually written by 2/3 people in the band, this one is complete teamwork."
Into The Arena
Martien: Which is also a title of the Michael Schenker Group.
Roland: "Yes, I know, but it has nothing to do with that song whatsoever."
Axel: "This is my favorite song, Roland wrote it. Here you find what I really love about this band. It has amazing melodies, it is very dramatic and it has enormous musical strength. The entire song is rollercoaster ride actually."
Dark From The Dying
Axel: "This is the second song on the album that I have written."
Roland: "One of the highlights, it really fits into the album. The guitar riffs on this one go into the direction of Rammstein, in my opinion. Great keyboard passages as well and I play one of my favorite guitar solos on this track."
Roland: "This is a complete team song, first inspiration came from Uli, then I had the basic melody idea, which was followed by the lyrics of Jorn….. The first song written by all five bandmembers of Masterplan."
Black In The Burn
Axel: "The longest track and it is almost an opera."
Roland: "This is Masterplan at its best, so much dynamics, everything connected, great song."
Axel: "Talking about the songs I must add that we all contributed to this album, but that Roland and Uli are the musical directors. I offered my songs and I was very happy that everybody liked them, but Roland and Uli really make the difference, they construct, build and rebuild the songs until they are perfect." Roland: "The most important thing in this band is that we all have good ideas for songs, but then the actual work begins, you must add and you must cut and throw away things, that is how it works. And that process is something that you should do together, as a band. You can always improve songs, that is very important to know. You should never be satisfied. That is maybe the key."
Martien: "So, that is why it took so long (almost 2 years) to make a second album?"
Roland: "Yeah, it took a long time, but in the winter of 2003 we already started writing new songs."
Axel: "Actually, there were no real breaks. We have been on tour, we played on festivals, we were in Japan and then we got this European Border Breakers Award. Something always came along, so the first notes from the single Back For My Life came from an idea I had during the tour in Japan."
Martien: "Which role did Roy Z play on this album?"
Roland: "In fact, the same role as on the first album. I visited him and I presented him some basic songs and I hoped that he would inspire me, just like he did the first time. I need Roy to recharge my battery, his input is very important, he sees everything from the outside of the band and he is a producer, so he gave me a lot of useful tips again."
Martien: "Could you explain the title Aeronautics (which means as much as: the science or practice of motion or travel in the air)?"
Axel: "It deals with a lot of things, but mostly the lyrics are about flying, especially in songs like Crimson Rider and Falling Sparrow, and the connection between the songs is about seeing everything from a bird's perspective, from above. On the other hand we are thinking in elements again, just like on the first record. On this one we mostly deal with two elements; the plane leaves the earth (first element) and moves in the air (second element). Furthermore it is about flying on your own strength…"
Roland: "Or you can see it as a positive message that we create something new, we lift up from something and move on to the next level, also musically speaking. We would like to "overfly" all musical boundaries. We want no limits, but we limit ourselves because we say that we like this and that we dislike that. But as we in the band all have a wide taste and we accept a lot from each other we are able to reach a great audience with our music. I hope so, at least. We offer a lot of musical difference and most people appreciate that variety in our music. We do not want to do the same thing over and over again. Then you must listen to AC/DC or the Stones."
Martien: "Jorn wrote all the lyrics for this album, why?"
Roland: "Yes, he asked me if he could do all the lyrics for this one. He wanted to write stuff which was easier for him to sing, as I wrote lyrics for 5 songs on the first album, which were probably not easy for him to sing, so…. He feels much better singing his own words."
Martien: "In my opinion the lyrics on this new album are a bit more simple, cliché kind of like then on the debut album; do you agree, or?"
Axel: "Well, Jorn uses a lot of similar sounds and he kind of uses typical rock sentences like roll the dice, and that sort of stuff, but that is what he wanted. The lyrics on this album are much closer to him. I even had offered him different lyrics to sing on my two songs, but he is the guy that has to sing the stuff on stage, so.. He must feel comfortable with the lyrics."
Roland: "On the first album if you listen to songs like Crystal Night (about the Nazi time) or Kind Hearted Light, a song that reflected feelings about how we were kicked out of Helloween, without attacking the band, you could also say that these lyrics are kind of cliché rock and roll like. For me it was kind of nice that Jorn wrote all the lyrics, I could concentrate on the music."
Martien: "So the teamwork on this album was very important, how was this in your Helloween period?"
Roland: "I have never played in a band where you could talk about teamwork. Helloween had absolutely no teamwork; that band consisted of 5 individuals that came together when all band members had written some songs and then everyone tried to get their songs on the record. There was no feedback, no nothing, the songs were recorded just as they were written, no improvement whatsoever."
Martien: "Is it not frustrating that you write a song that you really like and the rest of the band dislikes it?"
Roland: "Well, that actually happened with a song called Heroes, from our former album. Jorn said it sounded like Helloween too much and Uli also had problems with it, but I really believed in that song and when it was recorded everybody liked it, and when we played it in Japan the crowd sang along, geil!! I learned that from Michael Weikath, he sometimes offered us demos that I thought, my God, but something was missing which would make that demo into a great song. So, never give up on a good song, give it a chance till the bitter end."
Martien: "Jorn is ofcourse a great singer, are you not afraid that he will leave Masterplan for an offer he cannot refuse?"
Axel: "I think that Masterplan is The best platform for Jorn to be."
Roland: "Well, in our line of music I would not know where he would be better of. He was not that famous before he came to us and Jorn is not the guy that presents himself that much. He makes soloalbums, but he does not seek the publicity, he goes with the flow and he is very happy in our band. He could do everything with his voice; he really has the potential. John Farnham is one of his favorite singers by the way."
Axel: "On tour when he is fooling around he imitates persons and he can imitate almost every voice. He sings Elvis and you really think that the King is standing next to you."
Martien: "You have just released the EP and next month there will the new album, is that not a bit too much (financially speaking) for the fans?"
Roland: "We would like to achieve something with the release of the EP ofcourse and it is not expensive, only 6 Euro, so, and you get a lot of bonus material."
Axel: "The EP is a real good instrument for us, how do people feel about the new songs, what can we expect? I think it looks good, because we already sold 7,000 copies of the EP in 2 days."
Martien: "The extra songs on the EP, which will not be on the album, were they not good enough for the album, or?"
Roland: "They were good enough, but they are not completely 100% new Masterplan style. Killing In Time for example is too far away from our music. But actually the record company decided this, we had nothing to do with that. We were not interested in endless discussions about that sort of thing, just like we did in Helloween times…. We trusted them and it worked out fine."
Martien: "Tour plans already?"
Roland: "Nothing specific yet, but we are thinking about April/May with a AFM Records package. We will be the headliners and we will probably take along Circle2Circle and Pure Inc. We can play for 1,5 hours then and we can think about putting an optimal show together. We are really looking forward to that."
Martien: "So, last question, which is your favorite band at this moment?"
Axel: "Difficult to say, I listen to a lot of music. I learned a lot from Jon Lord and I really liked Jan Hammer."
Roland: "Also, difficult to say, I like a lot, old and new, I like Nickelback, but also Limp Bizkit. My old guitar heroes are still Michael Schenker, and from Helloween times Yngwie Malmsteen, but in fact I prefer songwriters, they are important to me!."
Martien: Gentlemen, thanks for your time and good luck with the album and the band, see you on tour!"
Axel/Roland: "Thanks a lot."
Interview by Martien Koolen
Images borrowed from www.master-plan.net, the official Masterplan website