Some tales of rock ‘n’ roll… a meeting with the “mad axeman”
Interview with Michael
Schenker on the 21st of April 2006
Interviewing Michael Schenker is an offer you cannot refuse. The legendary guitar player started his fame by founding The Scorpions with his brother Rudolph, moved to London to make the best records of UFO’s career and went on in the beginning of the eighties with his own band Michael Schenker Group. Time waits for no one and suddenly we realize that even this ‘later career move’ started already 25 years ago. For this event, Michael recorded an exceptional album with new songs. He did not want to rely on an easy solution and release a kind of synopsis of these years, but invited all the singers that have been part of his band in the past and now and offered them some brand new songs to write lyrics on and sing. This very special initiative can be found in the shops now under the name of ‘Tales Of Rock ’n’ roll – 25 Years Celebration’.
Late April we settled down in Holland to talk with the man in a hotel room. He was very friendly and served us some drinks as a true gentleman, followed by a very special conversation.
The writing process for this album started about two years ago as a concept album for UFO, isn’t it?
Maybe even longer. What happened was that I had a recording studio and I had like two acres of property and a first class studio where we recorded unplugged with Pete Way and everybody wanted to help him, including myself and Jeff Martin was there… in case you wonder why the album was recorded with them, it was meant to be that way, they were just there at the right moment. I was writing a concept album for UFO and Pete was temporarily playing manager, which is very unusual, but he did. He is a sweet guy though. Then… Phil Mogg didn’t showed up. So I put the record aside and then a demo arrived with a vocalist that was amazing to me (Finnish Jari Tiura – Vera), I knew that this person needed to write this concept album. At that point I didn’t know about twenty five years of MSG, it was just a concept album. But it never turned out as a real concept album, because then you need a story and ongoing lyrics. And then four or five months later he said “I have a good idea for tales of rock ‘n’ roll”. Usually when you write, you don’t know what to write about, unless you get inspired. By telling them “just think about tales of rock ‘n’ roll” it won’t take longer than a day and you have a tale. It made everything so much easier. But the problem was that I had to wait for a whole year before they (all the different vocalists) were finished.
Michael decided that most of the songs should be sung by Jari Tiura, but every ex vocalist of his band should cooperate in one song. It resulted in seven vocalists on the album. Jari sang thirteen of the nineteen tracks. Gary Barden sings ‘Life Vacation’, Graham Bonnett sings ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’, Robin McAuley sings ‘Tell A Story’, Kelly Keelung sings ‘Big Deal’, Chris Logan sings ‘Dreams Inside’ and Leif Sundin sings ‘Angel Of Avalon’. That was not the easiest choice to be made. It took blood, sweat and tears, and above all: a lot of time.
Michael continues: “Just an example: there was a complication with Gary and Leif. They were working on the same song.”
And you did not know?
Miss-communication! It adds to the delay. There is another thing. There is a song called ‘Revolution Mind’ and Chris did totally, complete new lyrics to it. And without telling you, you would never know that these are the same songs. Why am I telling you that? Because some people say: “you got to change your style”. I don’t change my style, I am what I am, I just do what I do. But you know what… the finest thing is that it happened. I didn’t plan it, but now it will be the answer to a lot of betrayals and proposals. We are born to be free and the musicians that have been in and out of the band was never due to a kind of fight or compromising, it just happened. If somebody is still available when I need that person, he will show up.
So you met Jari by coincidence?
Yeah, by demo. I was writing this concept album for UFO, and that’s another thing what people always ask me: “you write music for this person or for that person…” well, I have been writing music with David Coverdale, I wrote music with Graham Bonnett… the funny thing is that someone says “How come this song ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ sounds like ‘Assault Attack’? And I said: “Because Graham Bonnett sings”. And it is supposed to be like that. How come ‘Life Vacation’ sounds like the two first records of MSG? Because Gary Barden is singing. There is a lot of UFO in this record too. In fact, there are a lot of answers on this record that I have been asked for so many years and it is about time that people start to realize that it is educational. And occasionally we have two songs with the same backing track, but two singers added their own influences doing their own thing and then you will not know it is the same song.
Can you tell anything about your new Dean Guitar Schenker Brothers endorsement?
I even don’t know how much I sell, I am not really interested, as long as I have a roof above my head and it is warm and comfortable, I am fine. But Rudolph asked me: “Did you ever had an endorsement for guitar?” I said “No”, and he said “I think it is about time”. An explication of the deal and the divided tasks of firms and involved companies followed… “Dean makes the guitars and we talked to them about the offer. They printed it with a laser beam and prints like I have never seen on a guitar and it actually became a piece of art. Everything about that guitar is right. They put some effort in the special technical rarities I asked. As a kid I always wondered why they made the best looking cars, but I never understood why they did not do that with guitars.”
What about the show which was recorded for WDR Rockpalast?
It was fantastic. Actually we did two shows, one in Frankfurt and one in Cologne. It was Holger (manager) who came up with the idea. He is fabulous in marketing and advertising things, I am very happy to have him. They did a very intelligent mixing. Ain’t it funny, I did the Rockpalast in 1980/1981 and now so much later again. Holger flew everybody from the States just to do this and he can tell you when it is going to be broadcasted. It was a good taster for the people, those two shows in the beginning of April and in May we start a long European tour in Turkey.
This tour starts at the fourth of May in Turkey and they will play gigs in
Bulgaria, Germany, the Netherlands, UK, France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy,
Croatia and Austria.
The night from Sunday to
Monday May 15th, 00:30 ~ 2:00 H (CET), German broadcasting station WDR
Fernsehen (www.wdr.de) will broadcast a live show from DOOMFOX and MSG
MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP recorded at the “UNDERGROUND” in Cologne April 3rd
Aren’t you afraid that people are going to think it is a ‘best of’ if they only judge it by the title?
It is a celebration album, I didn’t really think beyond all kinds of significations. I think that the people and especially the hardcore fans, exactly know what it is. If you want to open new doors, you don’t have to do something like this. I bet, in ten years from now, this will be a classic one. I just do what I feel is right. For example, life is basically infinite. Unfortunately not our earthly life, but the invisible things. It is infinite. If you draw energy from that infinite, it just keeps you going and going and going. It never stops. It is an infinite spring. I can always sit down, as long as I speak to my creator, I will always come up with ideas. But I have to be humble (laughs).
Yesterday I talked to another musician and he said “At eighteen you are not strong enough to deal with massive success”… You must have experienced these feelings intensely, because at very young age you moved to London to play in UFO with great success…
I agree, absolutely, 100%. You cannot jump from school, being six years old, to the highest degree in college. You have to go through the steps, there is no way out. Unless you are extremely intelligent and you can skip a few. It is like Rudolph and I sometimes say to our mom: people told me so many times that I am a genius, that I now think I am a genius. (laughs) And my mom told me what my dad said to this “You know what happens to geniuses, they are a bit screwed up”. This is very true. You have to be in balance. Being a genius is like an arrow that goes full speed, but there is something not developed. So, you win some, you lose some.
We kept on talking for a while about philosophical and personal things, but of course our time was limited and so we had to say goodbye for now to the multi-myriad musician and look forward to his next gig with Michael Schenker Group with old and new material, which will be at Graspop. So long!
But we are not common people either, you know that!
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