Michael Schenker was becoming a rock star at an age when most of us are still trying to figure out what we want to do with our lives. The German guitarist was barely into his teens when he joined his older brother Rudolf’s band the Scorpions. He quickly joined British rock institution UFO before putting together his own band, the Michael Schenker Group.
He is a man of undoubted talent, but it’s fair to say Schenker’s reputation precedes him. He became well-known for his extreme thirst and raging egotism which proved a very bad combination for those in the same band, resulting in the odd heated exchange.
But those days are behind him now. With his latest album, Temple Of Rock slowly gathering steam, Schenker was about to hit the road. Shortly before he headed off for a world tour – including a stint in the UK – the Schenker I talked to displayed his famous eccentricity and was happy and funny.
Geeks of Doom: It’s been out a little while now; what has the reaction been like to the Temple Of Rock album?
Michael Schenker: Very very interestingly strange. There is something going on, I don’t know what, but the people who did react to it they all had a very positive reaction. But somehow, I don’t know what our record company did, but I think they had a problem with something. Somehow the album got totally ignored. I don’t know why; great musicians on there, great sounds, great songs, great playing. I don’t know what happened, maybe there was a problem between management, the record company, and media. Something must have happened that I’m not aware of. I am very happy with the album, but if nobody wants to present it out there and make people aware of it, then you can’t expect much.
I think we’re not done yet. I think what’s happening is it’s going to be a late bloomer. Somebody screwed up. Somebody screwed up somewhere and somebody was pissed off somewhere and so I think it will be OK, it will be a late bloomer. I think it’s underground, maybe people are talking about it, but it has not been at all been promoted whatever. But it will all work itself out in the end.
Geeks of Doom: So it’s a bit of a ‘cult hit’ as they say about movies.
Michael Schenker: [Laughs] Yeah!
Geeks of Doom: It’s a shame about that whole situation because like you said there are some great guest musicians on there, including your brother Rudolf – did you enjoy working with him again?
Michael Schenker: Yeah absolutely. Rudolf is always full of energy and ready to do stuff. It was great to work with all of the guys, everybody was putting their best effort into it. It was never a plan to have all these guys on there, it was never a plan to have [ex-UFO bassist] Pete Way on there either or [ex-Scorpions drummer] Herman Rarebell, it just kind of went step by step from one to the next. It started like two years ago or one-and-a-half, I don’t know, but I was rehearsing with Herman to put together a live tour and Pete was around and we invited him…then I was doing a demo for a new album and Herman heard the demo and he wanted to play drums on it then Pete heard it and he wanted to play bass. Then Michael Voss, the singer, I was only using his studio to do a demo there and then I found out that he had a great voice then I asked him if he could help me out with the vocals just for the demo. But he turned out so good we just kept working on it! Then as we were doing [the demo] it went like “what about some of the past musicians from MSG and stuff?” So we started getting in touch with them and we had Carmine [Appice, ex-Cactus drummer] [ex-MSG keyboard player Don] Airey, and Chris [Glen, ex-MSG bassist], and [ex-MSG drummer Chris] Slade…at the same time I was getting a phone call to do a guitar lead break on William Shatner’s album [Seeking Major Tom] and I went, “Wow, this is exactly what we need!” so we asked him if he would speak on our album and he agreed.
Geeks of Doom: Wow! And you have a world tour starting soon.
Michael Schenker: Yeah we start of course in America with Robin McAuley. I’m playing with different line-ups. See, the thing is I’ve got three singers on the album and I’m starting off with Robin McAuley [on] the Temple Of Rock Tour playing classics [by] MSG, Scorpions, UFO, McAuley Schenker. Then [I will be] going to Japan with Michael Voss and a different line up and then going to Europe with Doogie White. So basically all three singers that are on the album I’ll be performing with.
Geeks of Doom: Was there a reason why you chose each singer for particular regions?
Michael Schenker: No, I think something is in the making. I don’t know what it is, I think the universe is making something! [Laughs] I’m not quite understanding yet. It all turned out because of availability and not availability and coordination…so I kind of looked at the big picture and went, “OK, I’ve got Robin, Doogie, and Michael Voss here, they are all available different times so might as well use who is available when they are available.” And then coordinate with the other people their time schedule, so eventually I’ll be able to play with all three singers.
Geeks of Doom: In May you come over to Europe including four dates in the UK. How do you find English audiences?
Michael Schenker: The audiences are great! We played High Voltage [Festival] it was amazing. We did the whole UK tour with Black Country Communion and it was great.
Geeks of Doom: Do you like playing the big festivals as well as indoor shows?
Michael Schenker: Absolutely.
Geeks of Doom: Which do you prefer?
Michael Schenker: [Laughs] You know, when the stage is bigger and you have no room the sound becomes sweeter and you don’t rely too much on sound bouncing off walls. That’s the part I don’t like so much but of course at this time in my life it doesn’t really matter! I just enjoy playing, you know? I have done this long enough, I can adjust to the different ways of how the sound goes around in different sized places. I don’t play with in-ear monitors…I like to hear my amp and I like to feed off my amplifier and feedback and stuff like that.
Geeks of Doom: The Scorpions’ debut album Lonesome Crow is 40 years old this year.
Michael Schenker: Whoa! Mama mia! [Laughs]
Geeks of Doom: What do you remember that time? You were really young when you recorded it.
Michael Schenker: Everything! I remember everything! I remember the making; I was 15 years old when we were in the studio recording it. Then when it was finished I remember waking up one morning and hearing it the first time on the radio, that was amazing! On the same radio [station] I heard Led Zeppelin for the first time the year before! [Laughs]
Geeks of Doom: That’s really cool! Also, this year you have another Dean signature guitar coming out.
Michael Schenker: I’m actually working on two. One is a color guitar and the other is called Strangers In The Night…I am actually working on three! Strangers In The Night guitar and the retro [color] guitar and then there is the other one, I have forgotten the name for it. Like when you look through a little thing and you see many colors?
Geeks of Doom: Kaleidoscope.
Michael Schenker: Yeah, kaleidoscope. So these are the three new models that I am using right now and which I’m kind of promoting.
Geeks of Doom: And do you still get excited by that sort of thing when you’re asked to design guitars?
Michael Schenker: I’m excited about life in general! It’s kind of a great place for me to be right now so yes of course!
Geeks of Doom: You’re excited by life: I think that’s a good way to end. Thank you so much for your time, Michael.
Michael Schenker: Thank you very much.
Michael Schenker’s “Temple of Rock” May UK Tour 24 Hour Box Office: 0844 478 0898 www.thegigcartel.com
Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall (May 9)
Manchester HMV Ritz (May 10)
Glasgow O2 ABC (May 11)
O2 Shepherds Bush Empire (May 12)