There's some great stuff in here, and I think Roland did an especially good job at taking us behind the scenes in the studio and in the music industry here.
Full audio and text highlights are below.
0:00 Helloween memories - shows in the US
2:00 Learning English
4:00 His studio in Slovakia
5:30 Working with amateurs in the studio
8:00 Tricks to make amateurs sound professional
11:00 Frustration with studio work
14:00 How he got involved in production
15:30 Thoughts on Yngwie's recent work
18:00 Yngwie's influence on him
18:30 Influence of Roy Z
20:00 Early involvement with Helloween
21:00 Taste in music
23:00 Future solo album?
27:00 Thoughts on current scene
31:00 Change in how fans view guitarists
32:30 Masterplan - Novum Initium
34:30 Jorn's departure
39:30 Kiske - recent work and memories of Helloween days
43:30 Masterplan - new lineup and future of the band
50:00 Selling his rights to Helloween songs
52:00 Masterplan - live plans
Interview Highlights (full audio above)
On touring the States with Helloween and not knowing English: If you see old footage or videotapes, there's something around interviews we did on the tourbus. I was always smiling and behaving like I understand, but I didn't. And Weiki was always talking, and maybe Michael Kiske, and Ingo - they had interviews. But I was always sitting next to Weiki and behaving like I'm part of the interview, but I'm not. It was very terrible. Then on the other side, we always had English crew members and also our management was from England, Sanctuary Management. Even the meetings, I couldn't even understand anything. So it just clicked shortly before I did the first solo album in '97, so after 5 years or something like, and then I was really happy to talk finally, like you remember - we talked already in '99.
I think I was the first class at school - I went to school in '66 -- and I was the first class after 3/4/5 years later, we were the first in Germany to have English. But I was so bad. My pronunciation was good because of singing and miming like Mark Farner [Grand Funk Railroad] from the Michigan area. And so my teacher said, 'Your prounciation is good, but the rest is terrible.' I couldn't build up any sentences. I knew a lot of words, of course, from lyrics, but even singing in my own band, Rampage, I didn't know what I was singing. i don't know what it was, just miming sometimes. It was really terrible times. It's not nice.
On living in Slovakia and running his studio there: Yeah, I moved here, in this fucking east part. I hate it here already, you know. But to be honest, I moved here because of my ex-girlfriend long ago, and one part was when I went separate from my ex-wife in Hamburg, I didn't have the money to buy another house. I needed my studio somehow, and I took it out of my old house, which belongs, honestly, to my ex-wife, and was a part of her family. So I tried hard to find something on the countryside in Germany, but then I moved here because everything was, in the beginning, very cheap here. And now I have this big building, and I have a lot of work here, because the east metal scene is pretty strong, and they don't have any good producers here, let's say. They have a lot of studios, but not really the knowledge.
Next steps as a producer: It's good, but I want to get on the next level. I would love to have more famous bands, to be honest, because I'm working here really with amateurs most of the time, and it's really hard. They can't even play drums, really, and not singing properly. The English is terrible - the pronunciation from these east guys, especially Hungarian bands, they can't speak English at all…
Like I said, these people can't even play, but they're sounding in the end like a real band when I'm finishing the editing and all the tricks I have to do, you know. But, like I said, you don't have to do it with real bands.
I showed once the difference between before and after to Mike Terrana, and he was telling me, 'You fucking ass! I'm rehearsing all the time, and these people can't play and are sounding like incredible.' So that's true, you know. People sometimes are inviting me to the show, and I say, 'No, I don't want to see you live. I know how you play. Don't worry - I'm not coming.'
Frustration at working with amateur bands: For me, it's definitely helping to make some money here, but also it's time-consuming and makes you a little bit frustrating because it's really sucking your energy out. But on the other side, of course, what should I do? I don't even have time to rehearse anymore because I'm working with these bands. But always when I grab my guitar in the studio, it's real. I'm too lazy to fool around with my kind of playing and try to make some tricks. There's even the possibility to slow down the system and you play it in like 20-30 beats less fast. You play the same solo or something like this, and then you speed it up. I did it for other people because they always want to play those crazy arpeggios or whatever. And then they're happy and smiling and satisfied, and I'm thinking, 'Okay. It's fucking fake, but it sounds good.'
Not relying on tricks for his own work: I had once Charlie Bauerfeind telling me, 'Let's do this kind of trick', and I said, 'No. I'm rehearsing two days and coming back', and I did it on The Dark Ride. I made the solo in 30 minutes. Done, and I was proud.
Feelings on Yngwie's recent work: I'm sometimes a bit frustrated to see my old friend, my old idol, which I'm not even hearing his music anymore (Yngwie Malmsteen), but his productions are getting worse and worse. I shouldn't talk about it - I see him tomorrow, by the way, on Saturday. We're playing after him [at Bang Your Head]. But I would love to mix his album, something like that. It's not about money, it's just I want that he's sounding good again, you know.
I think it's the budget. I don't know his situation. I lost the contact in '99, to be honest. I was a very good friend nearly to him. I was visiting him in Miami at his place, and he was in my home in Hamburg, and I was visiting him a lot of times on tour in Hamburg as well, and in London, and we went to dinner together. But he's the kind of guy who's changing all the time his phone number, and then you're out of contact. And since then, I didn't even see him anymore, and like I said, I was losing totally the interest because I had Jorn in the band and Masterplan was a different style, and I play different now a little bit. But I think the budget is a problem - the market, the downloading, and record labels don't have the budget anymore, so the money gets less and less. And I think he's trying to keep it in the way of the production. He's doing everything at home, which he did always, more or less, but I think when Chris Tsangarides came, he went to bigger studios for mixing. And now I think everything is mixed at home. Like I told you, it's no problem - I mix in my home studio - but you know how to do it. That's the problem.
Yngwie's influence on him: I was finding these videos on the market, these kind of guitar lessons, and listening to him all the time, and I thought it was cool. You hear already a little bit the influence on the Pink Bubbles album - the 'Chance' solo was totally a Strat with a Marshall, and I was thinking a little bit in a naïve way the Yngwie direction.
How his taste in music has evolved over time: I think that I was very into it because in the 80s and 90s it was still this kind of guitar hero thing, Paul Gilbert and all these crazy Racer X guitar sounds and harmonies. I really liked it at that time, but now I'm not even impressed anymore. I can't even listen to it anymore. It's too boring for me. For me, it's about the song, the sound, you know. I'm more impressed about Zakk Wylde or John Sykes and Brian May, and Michael Schenker still and Uli Roth are my favorite guitar players, to be honest. And I love Eddie Van Halen - this kind of energy you get out of your instrument. It's not about scales and playing fast all the time. It's not important for me.
New bands and old styles: I still like Kiske. He's still the master of this kind of style, and Geoff Tate, and I still like them. But I hate when younger bands are starting like this. Then I think, 'Come on, guys. It's over. Don't do this anymore. This is just for the old stars. Nobody needs to sound like Michael Kiske now.'
Changes in the way fans view guitarists: Guitar playing is not really impressing anyone anymore. It's like you play a solo, and people go, 'Okay, let's get a beer.' But when some singer is really cool and screaming, 'Hey, come on people - clap your hands!' people are reacting. So you can't do it on the guitar...I had the feeling like 15 or 20 years ago that guitar players were something special, you know. So many people were just watching you. In America I remember they're throwing coins because they're hating you, or they're spitting on you and all these kinds of things. It's not happening anymore. It's boring. I think it's different now. People are just enjoying more the whole band, the whole sound.
Masterplan - Novum Initium: It's definitely because of the new lineup, and the idea came from the new members of the band. So I was very busy in the studio editing something on the Masterplan album, and then I just sent them a mail, 'If you have an idea, please let me know.' AFM Records needed immediately in November already an album title, so after a couple of hours we had 10 ideas, and I liked it somehow that everybody had more or less the same idea about the new lineup and that we have a change, and we should point the finger on it. In the end, I liked the idea. It's better, definitely, than MK III.
Lineup changes and songs for the album: The songwriting was already still with the intention that we have the same lineup, to be honest. Axel and I started like two and a half years ago, and then we thought Jorn is still in the band, Jani is in the band. Then we found out in July last year that Jorn is not paying any attention to our mails, not answering, so it was a kind of terrible situation. But I really had the feeling already that something was happening, because when somebody is not even writing you once in a while, then I think that it's a lack of interest definitely, you know. So in the beginning of August, I just contacted Rick. So everything was written from the music side. Not from the vocal melodies and the lyrics.
On Jorn Lande: So at that time, when he came to Hamburg for photo shooting and video shooting, he said, 'I'm leaving Ark now, so I want to be a permanent member.' At that time, we didn't know he would be a member. He was just doing the record for us, and we hoped that he would be a member, but at that time he didn't even show it, really, 100%. But then, at that time, some friends of him were telling me, 'Be careful. He's never staying longer than one or two albums with a band', and it was the same with us. So we did two albums and then he was complaining about everything, about the songs, about the tuning of the songs were wrong, and this and that, everything's too heavy for him for live, blah blah blah. And in the end, we said, 'Okay, we can't hear him anymore. He's talking all the time just negative', and this was not really good for the band as well.
Jorn's growing popularity: But then, at the same time when he joined Masterplan, he started to sing on all these side projects. I don't know if it's just a money thing or if he thinks he gets more famous. But now he stopped it, especially in the middle or beginning of last year. I didn't see him on any projects since then. So he's concentrating now on his solo albums, and I guess he's realizing it doesn't help him. I don't think it's good for someone, especially a singer who has such a unique, great voice like he has, to sing like 3 or 4 albums a year. If you count the last 10 years, he was, I guess, on 50 records already.
You get more special when you have like every 2 or 3 years coming with an album, and people are hungry to hear him singing, because they're missing new material. And if you're always just presenting an album every 3 months, that's too much. It's overkill.
Kiske's increased involvement in the scene: But the main reason for Kiske, I know, definitely is money. He's not interested to sing in every band, you know. But that's about surviving. If you get an offer and somebody gives you two or three thousand dollars or whatever, then you do it, because you have to pay your rent. That's the difference between 80s and 90s - you have to do more like these things. And even if a small band asks me for a solo part, I do it as well if they send me like 300 euro, I do it. 350, normally I take. It's sometimes fun, sometimes not, because the solo part is not good for me or not inspiring. But then, if I would be singer, and somebody gives me this great amount of money, what they normally get, like Jorn or Kiske or even Russell Allen, then of course, everybody has family or something to pay, you know.
Future of the new Masterplan lineup: When you have like Jorn, when somebody's complaining and always thinking he knows everything better, and there's no passion, no heart in it, it's just about something is negative all the time for him, that's not working. And I think now we have a lineup, I can say I don't have to tell them, 'But you have do this or that. You have to stay longer than 5 years' or something. I think we're pushing it in a way playing live now, and everything seems to be natural. You can't plan everything, but I think it looks pretty good that we're staying long together. And I'm looking forward for the next album, to be honest, because then, songwriting will start from the beginning with all the members.