Master of Illusion... Michael Schenker Speaks Out
Michael Schenker si no stranger to the world of Rock , having once been the original guitarist for The Scorpions and recorded his debut album aged 15 for the album 'Lonesome Crow', the album that took him further with UFO and recorded his debut 'Phenomenon' in 74, in which he recorded the classic in later times with UFO 'Doctor Doctor' and 'Lights Out' which became the classic and the bands anthems. In total Michael recorded 9 albums with UFO spanning from 74 to 2002.
In-between the comeback albums he formed 'MSG' with Gary Barden in the beginning, Gary would leave and return in later years. Michael also formed McAuley Schenker Group in 87 and recorded 5 releases. He also went on to record his solo material and then formed 'Temple of Rock' with former member of The Scorpions Hermann Rebel and later on Francis Buchholz. The band originally featured Michael Voss (Mad Max) who later on produced albums for Michael. He has done so many albums and his contributions to Rock is outstanding, having influenced the likes of Lips (Anvil) and Kirk from Metallica just to name a few.
I managed to have a chat with him last week to find out more about his upbringing, his relationship with his brother and to find out a little bit about the new album 'Resurrection' released through Nuclear Blast and of course the forthcoming tour with week that hits the UK. It's going to be awesome and feature Robin McAuley, Graham Bonnet and Gary Burden. Here is what he had to say to the following questions.
Welcome Michael how are you? Thank you for talking to me, this is my 1st interview with you. I'd like to ask you some warm up questions firstly. So Id like to ask you about the 'Michael Schenker Fest', how do you all meet up to rehearse?
"Well thank you for the interview Jason. Well I live in the UK now so I drive to Scotland to rehearse with the band and it is our happy new place to rehearse (laughing). We do full rehearsals usually before a tour starts with the whole band. We have already started the tour, we have played the 'Loud Park' festival in Japan which is one of the biggest shows in the world, we also played 2 more shows in Japan. We will play in Spain and Germany and then we come back to play the UK for the very 1st time.
So what age did you learn to play the guitar and who has influenced you as a guitar player?
"Well I was 9 yrs old and and I was always into music, I would sing and banging on things and drums were once of my favourite instruments. I also played a little bit on my mothers piano and my dads violin and one day there was a guitar standing in the bedroom and I just played a long with it and I was fascinated ands I never stopped. When I had a new idea I would play on it for hours and I am still finding new ideas to this day. I have been playing guitar since I was born and I was born in 1955.
I made my 1st record with 'The Scorpions' in 72 with 'Lonesome Crow. (Ed: Do you have good memories of that album?) Yes I do have great memories of that record, and my whole life I love music. I never thought about the money I just focused on the music with the studio and make the studio soundproof and I designed The Scorpions logo and we had a big pa system and the band are still using the same similar style of pa now. I would always look forward to the next rehearsal."
Can you remember you're very 1st guitar?
"Well I always use to get my brother's guitars as Rudolf is 7yrs older than me and I would even wear his old suits (laughing) which was complete out of fashion. I would always get the worn out stuff from him but it was a great experience. We spent about 2 yrs together and been 7yrs difference between us there was never any real interest between us. I taught my brother the guitar and he paid me for it and that is how he learnt his guitar playing."
Which songs from the debut album 'Lonesome Crow' do you like and why?
"Well the 1st song I wrote was 'In search and piece of Mind' and I was 7yrs younger than the rest of the band and they were roughly all born in 1948 and basically I was writing all the songs but they credited them their self's and I never really never looked at it because I never was interested in who got what and what made money. I was just happy to play the guitar in a band and I only just now in the last 5 yrs I got ripped off by my own brother because 'In search and piece of Mind' was the 1st song I wrote and Claus did the lyrics and everybody got credited for it and I feel that was wrong.
I was 15 and they were a lot older than me and I had not much say in the matter but I wrote the whole album for the band. The whole band got credited for the whole songs that I wrote and not just me which I thought was wrong (laughing).
I didn't know that record made such a great impact, and I have made such a contribution to music and that 'Strangers in the Night' also opened the door for 'The Scorpions' in the U.S. and by that time I was 23 yrs old that I have been ranked as one of the top guitarist in the U.S.A., and number 1 in many European countries and in Japan and I am very grateful for that. I was then able to experience to be up at the top and I was given the decision if I wanted to stay up there or experiment with music to have peace and freedom and not to be in a machine and getting whipped been told that you have to do this and that.
So I left UFO and they wanted to keep me but I had a really hard time trying to get away from them. They got really angry about that because they thought they had the ticket to break it big in the U.S. but I needed to move on and do my own thing. So my middle years were I created my own band which was not suppose to be anything big,
I looked for an unknown singer but there was Peter who had big business in mind who was my manager and I think I made the right decision to have more freedom and I also had that with UFO, but when the songs 'Lights Out' and 'Strangers in the Night' became big hits they wanted more from me we later on had a big debate on who should do the solos on the record so I said goodbye."
How many did you do with UFO?
"Well I stayed with the band for 8 yrs and and as 'In search of peace and Mind' is one of my favourite lead breaks and I was only 15 yrs old then and I can hear the development with every step forward can you can hear it right up to 'Strangers in the Night' and even 'Love Drive'. In the middle years they helped me to understand much more about life and helped me understanding what I actually did.
Doing the MSG I have had the pleasure of playing so many good songs and we have just finished a new CD for MSG. We were going to play Loud Park festival in Japan in 2016 to headline and I asked them who the other headliner was going to be, they said 'The Scorpions'. I said I will pass on that!!"
What about the MSG band?
I got offered 3 gigs in Japan and one of the shows was in Tokyo and it was such a beautiful place and it reminded me of the Budokan and then I decided to to record and hire a camera team to record the show and I paid for everything out of my own pocket and I am glad that I did because it turned out excellent and it was a very happy experience. The big question was 'What Next??', Lets do a Michael Schenker festival in the studio and that became our working title. I later on came up with the title for the next album 'Resurrection' which was more interesting and the album is just getting mastered right now.
Tell me more about this new album Michael? What label will release it and when?
"Well the album will not feature 3 singer doing separate songs on the album, it will feature all 4 singers. It features also Doogie White with Graham Bonnet, Gary Barden and Robin McAuley and we have 3 to 4 songs were everybody sings together and it is so entertaining and when I played the songs to my partner she knew who was singing which parts of the songs. The producer Michael Voss said it was the best project he has ever worked on and and he also co produced the album and has done the last 3 studio albums for me since 2010.
He went the extra mile for me on this record and he went to Hawaii to record to record Kirk Hammet from Metallica who plays on one of the songs on the new record.
He also went over to LA to record with Graham Bonnet did Michael Voss and for Robin McAuley. He also came here to Stuttgart to record and that was basically it. Doogie is a great additional singer, we did 2 albums for 'Temple of Rock' and in 4 yrs and he can sing MSG songs too. I have not performed any song sin 30 yrs with McAuley/ Schenker stuff which was pretty much put in the freezer and the stuff with Graham Bonnet only now and then, so it is all fresh. With Gary he was the big star of MSG but it was nothing big and just to have fun and be creative. We didn't follow any trends we just wanted to play.
What we have been doing and what we are doing now for this tour in the UK with the 3 singers has never been done here in the UK before until now. After this we will be adding the 4th singer been Doogie White and a new world tour in the U.S. doing a 2 and half hour show and the CD release in which I will do promotion for in December 2017.
Our new record company 'Nuclear Blast' and they are a fantastic company to work with and they have some fantastic connections from around the world and they are going to be putting a lot of effort into this. I have been doing so many little things for so long that I have never release promoted myself and the things I have done, only since 2010 when I teamed up with Peter Noble and then started to promote myself, 2008 was my real comeback."
Why has it taken you so long?
"Well I always had stage fright and in 2008 I wanted to be back on the stage and I think it must of been my middle years that prepared myself for that. So in 2008 I started to establish myself year after year...all the way up until doing headlining shows with the Michael Schenker fest. The good thing is I do not have to stop the 'Temple of Rock' which is Doogie and myself and the funny thing is that you cannot plan anything like this but I have the opportunity to play current and past songs and new songs with 4 singers it is amazing!!
So how much are you looking forward to be playing this festival here in the UK for the 1st time?
"I am really looking forward to this festival, I am having so much fun been on stage and I can't wait to be playing these songs on stage in the UK. We have just started our tour in Japan doing this years 'Loud Park' festival but I refused to play last years because of The Scorpions playing it too."
You said earlier that you have signed with Nuclear Blast records, could you tell me what the songs are called for the album 'Resurrection' also any other titles for the album?
"Well some of the titles I am not sure if any of the have been changed or are working titles as of yet. I really don't want to jump ahead here but I am doing another promo trip in December 2017 and everything will be clear by then. The album has been mastered and and I have to approve it by tonight in case any minor changes need to be made and that is it. The label are very well prepared for the release and we had a schedule which started in June and times when the album needed to be completed.
We have one song called 'Warrior' which seemed to be complete pretty much in a short time and when I put my 12 ideas for songs and the arrangements that song 'Warrior' stranded out and Michael Voss immediately had ideas and next day he sent me the lyrics with with melodies and I knew it was fantastic.
So we decided to have everybody singer in the band to be involved with that song. When we competed the song in Stuttgart you can see in the video how much fun the guys were having in the studio recording that song. So it will be the 1st song the hype the album but I am not sure when the video will be out but it has behind the scenes footage in the studio recording the album.
I had another title for the album which was going to be called 'Everest' and I think it would be a title for a song, I am not sure yet. We also have 'Night Moods' which could also be a song title and 'Warrior' was always going to be a title at the beginning."
Besides Nuclear Blast records who else did you approach for the forthcoming new album?
"Well I didn't approach them, they approached me (laughing). (Ed: Did you think it was the right company to be with as they have so many artists?) Well you know what? It was funny because I said I didn't want to do anything big, I feel more comfortable doing things smaller. I had 3 major labels that wanted to work with me but they were competing with each other and Nuclear Blast kept on going and I said no the them. In the end I asked my lawyer what should I do? Michael Voss in the end called me up and said please go with Nuclear Blast!!
They wanted me so badly so in the end I signed with them. So in the end I went with them and I knew I could do the things I wanted now, I had changed for the better and overcome my fears, I was ready to take on the world again. I wanted to be an artist again and not a business man. My label N.B have a great department for artist who have created the album cover and it looks great."
Looking back at the days with The Scorpions and UFO, would you ever consider doing anything with them again?
"Well I am kind of disappointed with with Phil Mogg from UFO because we were on stage at Sweden Rock festival and I was watching them from the side of the stage and Phil I saw on the big screen him lip sinking 'Blow Schenker off stage' and what an idiot he was (laughing) . What does music mean to him?? Music is not a computation, music is a joy of expression , what was his problem?? I may in the future do something with Claus from The Scorpions as we will be celebrating Lonesome Crow' CD soon as people change so you never know.
With my brother I just have to stay as far away as possible from him because he is a rip off he will call you and rip you off, that guy is a business man in musician's clothing. I am not sure if I should of open the can of worms but my sister opened the can and it has not stopped ever since then.
I know who Rudolf really is now and I just have to stay away from him and we only spent 2yrs together for the debut album. The Scorpions copied everything I did in UFO, it's amazing. I never wanted to make money and be a major star that is why I never notice anything and Rudolf used me to get to Claus because he couldn't really play the guitar and when I left I got Uli Jon Roth to join the band and I got them so much.
They are pretending that they are the makers of the universe and they have completely lost it and forgotten how it all started."
Well Michael thank you for doing this interview best of luck with the tour and the new album. I will see you in Hull and hopefully meet you after the show. Do you have anything to say to the people reading this interview?
"Yes thank you for all you're support, come and see the band live if you can. The new album is amazing and you will love it. Thank you Jason for the interview, see you soon.
Thanks to Noble PR for setting the interview up and also Michael Schenker for doing the interview.