‘Tales of Rock'n'Roll: The Michael Schenker Story'
Michael Schenker ... a name which still inspires grins of delight amongst fans of first-class hard guitar rock! The list of his successes is an extensive one, after all.
As a young man he lent his very special sound, together with his brother Rudolf, to the Scorpions, which later made the band one of the first real international hard rock stars from Germany.
In the 70s, he similarly helped the British rock legends U.F.O. to their definitive breakthrough, turning songs like “Rock Bottom” or “Doctor, Doctor” into hits everyone knows.
Briefly returning to the familiar fold of the Scorpions, Michael's collaboration helped create possibly their best their album, Lovedrive, which includes the perennial ballads “Holiday”, “Loving You Sunday Morning” and “Always Somewhere”.
In 1980 it was time for the guitarist to go it alone and form the first band of his own, the Michael Schenker Group, or MSG for short.
Since then, the three letters MSG have become a synonym for honest, hand-crafted and impelling premium hard rock. The band leader has consistently demonstrated the highest level of creativity and pluck, also presenting his elaborate compositions acoustically, with and without his band.
And now he is set to release his brand new album, Temple of Rock on Inakustik.
Exclusive Magazine recently sat down with Michael Schenker and discussed his upcoming new CD, his time spent in Scorpions and MSG, and all those rumors from back in the day!
Taking it from the top and what was it like for you growing up in the '60s in Sarstedt, Lower Saxony? Was it a musical hotbed? "There was about 3 to 4 bands in Sarstedt. Only 12,000 people lived there at that time. I fell in love with the guitar the moment I saw it standing there in our bedroom. I was 9 and I enjoyed figuring things out. Consistantly. When I was 11 I joined a band in Sarstedt. Then at 13 I joined a band in Hannover. At age 14 I hooked up with Klaus Meine and at age 15 Klaus and I joined the Scorpions."
You started playing guitar at an early age, after your older brother Rudy brought home a Gibson Flying V guitar. An instrument that immediately captured your imagination in reflection, what was it about that guitar that mesmerized you? "I borrowed my brothers V and played it at a Scorpions concert with my 50 watt and it sounded magic."
Together with Rudy you then played your first gig when you were just 11! Was that an early Scorpions gig, perhaps? What are your memories of that special night? "Yes, it was my first time on stage ever and it was with the Scorpions. My parents were going to see my brother play and took me with them. The Scorpions had a song in their set I knew how to play so I jamed with them."
You then played with the Scorpions on their debut album Lonesome Crow at just 17! What was all that studio recording time and talk of touring like back then for a 17 year old to be in the middle of? "I was actually 15 years old when we recorded the album. It was very exiting. To finally hear the songs on the radio was amazing. Touring was just as great."
Then, whilst the Scorpions were on tour for that first album, they opened for then-upcoming UK band UFO in Germany. Out of the blue, you were offered the position of lead guitarist (taking over for Bernie Marsden, himself a temporary replacement for Mick Bolton)! Was this offer truly out of the blue and how long did it take for you to accept it? "The offer was perfect. I had told the Scorpions that if I would ever get an offer from an English band that I would join!"
The Scorpions then replaced you with Uli Roth, a singer that couldn't even speak English. Did that surprise you? "No, I found Uli for the Scorpions to make sure my brother Rudolf had a great replacement so that he could continue his vision."
After leaving UFO and briefly rejoining the Scorpions in 1978 before leaving them again, you founded the MSG! Over the years its had various incarnations, but to this day is it still your musical high point? "MSG was created for me for freedom for musical expression and for personal development. I needed to be able to do what I wanted to do when I wanted in order to develop in my own pace. I am still developing and it is still getting better and better."
And now you have released your brand new solo album, Temple of Rock. The album brings together your past and present perfectly, and even includes some surprises. So why this album title and why now to release it? "At the end of my world tour with MSG in August 2010 I decided to stop accepting concert offers until I found a top management. Until then I had been managing myself and did my own little thing. Now it was time to step back into the machine again. Somehow I had the desire to do things in a bigger way but for that I needed management. While I was looking I started writing material for a new album. I found the management and started to record Temple Of Rock."
Temple of Rock features some of your contemporaries from the various epochs past such as Pete Way, Wayne Findlay, Neil Murray, Chris Slade, Doogie White, Carmine Appice and Elliott Dean Rubinson and Brian Tichy! Was it easy to round up such aficionafos? "It was not a plan. One thing let to another and by the end of the album it had developed like it did. With great help from my organisation we pulled it all together."
And former Scorpions drummer, Herman “the German” Rarebell, as well as the return of the Schenker Brothers on several of the songs, must have made you smiled from ear to ear. Did Rudy have anything to do with the writing of some of the lyrics? "All lyrics were written by the singers exept 'With You' which I wrote the music and the lyrics to. It's fun to play with Herman and it is always exiting when my brother and I find the time to do something together."
What was going through your head when you were recording 'Lover's Sinfony' with Robin McAuley, as that must have been a special moment for you both? "We decided that the music I had written would be very suitable for Robin. Robin came up with an amazing vocal. Well done."
Gary Barden has been replaced with a new voice on the microphone in Michael Voss. Why was this change neccessary? "Michael Voss is not a replacement. Gary and I Schenker/Barden MSG have been touring In The Midst Of Beauty for 3 years and it was time to do something new. Gary had a personal thing to take care of so I took this opportunity to do something else."
"With Temple of Rock I am entering a new stage of my life, a new level of existence," is what you recently stated. Can you explain this more for us? "Yes,I have entered a new stage in my life musicaly and in my personal development. Out of the blue around 3 years ago I started to enjoy playing live. I have also accepted management and want to do things in a bigger way. I guess my time of developing has brought me to the next level and here I am ready for it."
As you have been building the "external" Temple Of Rock for many years, the album cover is very inventive! Please tell us more about its concept and was it all yours? "We had several ideas but eventualy we decided to do something with that picture. I had the title Temple Of Rock. So the record company told me that they wanted to experiment with it and eventualy they came up with this."
'Is It True?' Fun Four:
a) Is it true that you turned down an offer to join Aerosmith after Joe Perry left? If yes, why?! "I think in general it was never meant to be anyway. I was just fishing around after leaving UFO and the Scorpions in '78/'79 accepting an invitation from my management to jam with Aerosmith. It was more of the same thing I had just left. I was trying to find my place and eventualy I found it with MSG."
b) Is it true that you turned down an offer to join the Rolling Stones? If yes, why? "I decided that it would be to dangerous and to much to soon for me so I did not even show up!"
c) Is it true that you turned down an offer to join Ozzy Osbourne after the death of Randy Rhoads? If so, why?! "I was in the middle of making a new album with Graham Bonnet."
d) Is it true that you asked Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson to leave Rush to help you form the MSG?! "They were friends of mine and I had visited them in a recording studio in London. I told them about my plans and at some point we talked about the possibility of Geddy and Neil helping out, but it never got to it."
Sadly, it was just announced today that your 3 Guitar Heroes tour has been postponed due to Leslie West's leg amputation. Any possible news on when the tour will now go ahead and if West will still be a part of it at that time? "Its being postponed to early 2012 and Leslie is getting ready."
Interview: Russell A. Trunk
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