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In Words: Masterplan

- Uli Kusch - Feb. 2003 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Uli Kusch - Feb., 11th 2003 - Oberhausen, Germany

Masterplan is a new band, but the members aren't newcomers! Mainmen are ex-Helloween guitarist Roland Grapow and ex-Helloween, ex-Holy Moses drummer Uli Kusch. The line-up is now completed by singer Jorn Lande (ex-Ark, etc.), bassist Jan S. Eckert (Iron Savior, ex-Mydra) and keyboarder Axel Mackenrott. But Uli was so nice to tell about the beginning of the band. "Actually it started while we - Roland and I - were still part of Helloween. Roland and I had a lot of songs, additional material which we couldn't use for Helloween and so we talked about doing a side-project. We both write all the time, so we had a lot of left-overs. So we started listening to CDs to check out singers. At that time we got fired." It was more or less the result of a misunderstanding. "We were sitting in the front lounge of the nightliner and talked about the side-project. Weiki was in the back lounge and thought that we separated from him and the others to talk about a new band. Anyway, when it happened we took the chance and started right away." There was already becoming apparent. And so it wasn't a surprise at all. A name was needed. On Roland's website they asked the fans to make suggestions. They got tons of names which they narrowed down to 100, then to 50 and the result was Masterplan. "We are quite happy. It's a name which don't limit us, coz it can be rock, almost everything and it's easy to remember." Im August 2001 they started arranging the songs and in September Uli did record the drums. On the album Janne Warman (Children Of Bodom, Warmen) played keyboards. Tapes were sent back and forth. The keyboard parts were basically ready and so Janne didn't have much influence on the result. Singer Jorn Lande was actually chosen for a tribute song. "Locomotive Music asked us to contribute a song for a Led Zeppelin tribute album. We asked Jorn and he agreed. When we asked him to join he was interested from the material, but only as part of a band, not as part of a side-project." Due to the fact that they got fired Masterplan became a band and so Jorn was happy to join them. The vocal parts were recorded in January 2002. Bassist Jan S. Eckert they asked to join and they songs make him do a quick decision. Jan later - after the interview - in a little chit-chat told me that the songs blew him away and the same days he called Piet to meet him to talk about the future. "I definitely wanted to do Masterplan. First Piet wasn't happy and I said that in that case we have to go separate ways. But finally we came over that I'll stay with Iron Savior, but if I should have to make a decision for one of the bands, then I would go for Masterplan!" Keyboarder Axel Mackenrott Uli knew from a Rainbow tribute band Catch The Rainbow and so it was obviously an easy decision. During that time and during the mix of the album it became more and more obvious to Uli and Roland that working with just 2 decision-makers was much easier.
Now the album is in the stores and the quintet is surprised about the fantastic critics. It seems that everybody loves the album. "I... We know that we did a good job, that the songs are strong, but still there were doubts." Their label AFM Records decided to release Enlighten Me as a single before the album got into the stores. A kind of appetizer. "The song is actually 4 years old and a first version was done for Helloween, but never made it. But the song was completed by Jorn's vocal line which changed the atmosphere of the song. It already was a good song, but Jorn made it something special!" Some about the rest of the songs. Then 18 months full of doubts and hope.
Now they are on tour, but when they played the first shows the album wasn't released and so it was a challenge. "It was very different from touring with Helloween, especially in the beginning, coz the fans didn't knew the songs. They were standing and watching calmly, but during the song they caught up the beat and started banging. Now the album is out and there are more and more fans who know the songs." But not just this is a difference compared to their former band... "Being part of Helloween was a good thing. I don't regret it, but after 18 years this is my first band, the first band I started! Even if I started Masterplan with Roland." Actually Roland made things going, he's the business man of the duo. In Japan the album sold 13,000 copies in the first week which is quite good. "But I can't tell you more about the sales figures, coz I have no information about it yet." They already get album into the charts and to keep it in the charts the album isn't sold at the concerts. A chart position helps to get the video on air, so it's important. To give the fans value for money and to make it attractive to buy the CD the five-piece released a double CD (for the prize of a 'normal' CD) which incl. a bonus CD with the video and an interview. Their way to fight against mp3.
This summer they will play some festivals like Bang-Your-Head, Wacken Open-Air and Bloodstock in the U.K. "We also got asked to do a few headliner shows in small clubs this fall. A co-headliner tour with another act which is on the same label, but we haven't decided yet." The club tour depends on the sales and if it should take place it'll be about 3 weeks at all.
On the other hand they think about starting to work on the follow-up. It's quite unusual that a drummer is on of the main songwriters. "I started playing guitar and I'm buying other equipment, coz in Aachen - where I came from - the musicians who were available weren't good enough or had no time. I developed my skills. While I did the Rainbow tribute I learnt a lot about songwriting, coz I had to get into the structures, etc. It's fun to record the old songs. In case of the Led Zeppelin cover I took the old recordings and played along to catch the vibe, the sound." The same year he did the Rainbow tribute Helloween did Jukebox and so Uli was happy to get back to his own songs resp. to play Helloween songs. "The song Soulburn is for me similar to Stargazer from the vibe, the atmosphere. Soulburn is a track which I enjoy playing, coz I don't have to think about what's next. With Helloween I was always pushing it to the limit, with Masterplan I haven't reached that level - just talking about the technical side of playing! Helloween is a lot fast double-bass drumming. Masterplan is different." And the variety makes it more interesting, at least for me. "When you just learnt something new, then you try to use it all the time. When I discovered double-bass drumming I played every possible beat during the next years. Now I enjoy the variety, to have the skills to do more then just that." Everybody in the band is very enthusiastic about it and Jorn Lande told me that he is really excited about this band. "The chemistry is right and even if Roland and Uli are the mainmen, we all have the freedom to write songs. At the moment it's just me, but I have no doubt that Jan and Axel will contribute soon. I'm really happy now. I mean we are at an age where you don't want to start again and again. This is the last band for me and if - I don't expect that, but... - it should be over, then I'll just do solo albums. No more bands!" When Jorn joined Masterplan he was still part of Ark, but then the chapter was closed. Like Jan Jorn has other musical projects like Brazen Abbott where he contributes his vocals to a few songs. The Norwegian singer's priority is Masterplan and it seems that this band has a bright future. A new band on the way to the major league of German metal. But only time will tell, even if I have no doubts that there will be a lot to come from the Hanseatic!

Claudia Ehrhardt


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