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Interviews   

Michael Schenker pays homage to a closing musical era


Temple Of Rock is a rock album aimed at paying a grandiose homage – hence its impressive number of guests – to what Michael Schenker describes as the “handmade rock era”. An era that will soon end and make space for a new one, which the guitarist doesn’t reject for all that. Let’s not give in to the simplistic divide between the old and the new generation of musicians.

For logistical reasons he actually explains in this interview, only one track from this album is played on the current tour. The album will be put forward some more on the upcoming tours, in accord with the spirit of the record, which, in Schenker’s opinion, was made to last.

Come and delve with us into the current affairs of the former Scorpions and UFO guitarist, whose impressive discography boasts over fifty albums.

« I [was] staying away from consuming music externally so I could express what I wanted to express. I call my body “my Temple”, and the music that I’m creating is rock music, that’s what I love, so I called the album Temple Of Rock. »

Radio Metal : You’ve released a new album called Temple Of Rock at the end of 2011. But while touring, you play classic songs from the Scorpions and UFO and only a few songs from this new record. Why? Did recording that album make you kind of nostalgic?

Michael Schenker : First of all, I made this album but I had no idea what I was creating, so I dressed as usual, I went in the studio and I decided to make a record, so I went to the demoing studio to put my songs down and I was looking for a guide vocalist. Michael Voss offered to help out and then I discovered that he had a great voice, so I asked him to help me and if he wanted to be part of this recording and to sing. He agreed and we started working on it. The next thing, Herman Rarebell and Pete Way heard the demo and they immediately wanted to do the drums and bass so I had a singer and a rhythm section. The next thing, Michael Voss did an intro to this record that I liked a lot and I said that we should have somebody with a big voice, like maybe some famous actor, talk on this intro. The next moment, I get a phone call to play on Captain Kirk – from Star Trek – William Shatner’s record. Ah! This is the guy we need for the voice. So we asked if he would do the voice and I agreed to make his record, so I had so many things developing so I thought it would be a great idea to involve some past musicians. So we made a list and most of them were available, so I ended up with all of this complexity out of nowhere. Down to looking at the album title, I realized that all my music, all these years, has always been from within myself and staying away from consuming music externally so I could express what I wanted to express.

I call my body “my Temple”, and the music that I’m creating is rock music, that’s what I love, so I called the album Temple Of Rock. That’s how all of this came about. When I wanted to start touring, and I was getting ready to tour, Michael Voss said he wasn’t available. So I had to sit back and figure out what to do next. Then I realized that I had Doogie White and Robin McAuley singing on this album too. So I asked if maybe Robin was available, which he was, so I put a line-up together for the stage and I asked Doogie, who was available for Europe and Michael Voss was available for Japan, and all three sing on the record. So I decided just to play one song in America with Robin McAuley’s voice from the new album, and only one song Japan. Basically in my set, I’m playing the most popular of Michael Schenker, so for now we stuck with one song from the new album, even with Michael Voss in Japan, because I see it as just as important at this point in time to play those classics or the most popular songs because this is what I’m doing right now, I’m expressing my past and including some new material. So at this point, for the reasons I just mentioned – even with Michael Voss, I could’ve used more but I didn’t want to, especially for Japan and only for four shows – I like to be economical about this.

I like to figure out how much I should and shouldn’t base on the whole big picture of my concept that I have developed after all of these coincidences occurred. Then in Europe, we’re touring with Doogie and he only sings one song on the record. I thought this would be enough for now because most of the songs were sung by Michael Voss. So it would be better for promoting this album if I choose additional songs when Michael Voss is available to sing the original versions rather than Doogie copying Michael Voss’s songs. So at this point this is how it worked out. But I think this album has a lifespan, it’s not just a throw-away album, it’s a very important album and I think it will also take quite a while for the album to really show its full potential. Our record company kind of made one mistake, they did not promote the album via magazines, they only did it via the Internet, which I was actually very disappointed about. The damage is done, but the album has so much stuff on it, so many musicians and so many weird and interesting things that are included that I think it will have a slow start but it will stay in for a long time as people discover what an interesting situation this album is. Now, finally, the record label guy woke up and realized the damage so he hired a PR guy in England. So we did some really good PR work in England and we had “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” become a hit already, it was being played for three months around the clock on Planet Rock in the UK. So it’s picking up really nicely over there, so it will take a while before it spreads with all of the important information since we didn’t do any magazine-promo. I think it will reach the people eventually, one by one, and I think it will just have a long life.

You’ve explained why you only played a few songs on the album, but isn’t that frustrating in a way?

No, because right now I have never really done a set world-wide with the most popular and classic Michael Schenker songs all around. There’s so much material, it’s already hard enough to leave songs out or to put songs in, it’s already very difficult because I’ve done over fifty albums. But the thing is that because this album will have a longer life, so eventually I will play more songs from this album, but I want to kind of build up towards it because I plan on doing a lot of touring.

You just said that the record label made the promotion for this album only on the Internet and not in magazines; do you know why they did that?

Good question! [laughs]

Do you think they maybe don’t trust printed press, only Internet press maybe?

I have no clue. [laughs] I just hope they don’t repeat that mistake.

So you think it’s a mistake?

Of course, because when you make a bloody album, you want people to know about it so you have to promote it, period. I don’t know what the problem was; I don’t know why they decided to do that. But it’s his company, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m just pointing out that it’s a big mistake. I want people to know that I’ve made a great record with great people on it and I don’t want to restrict the doors to get it out there. You have to promote the product, otherwise you might as well stay at home and play for yourself.

« I’m actually going out on tour playing the best of Michael Schenker […] as a celebration tour for the era of hand-made rock. That era […] will sooner or later die out, things already cannot be done the way they used to be because of technology. […]That’s not to say that the new generation has nothing to do with it, they will take on what has been created and they will create another temple of rock their own way »

There is a huge amount of guests on this album. Do you think this was what the album needed to really sound like an impressive temple of rock n roll?

You know, this album turned out to be kind of a summit. Michael Schenker is experienced; I’m experienced in the era of hand-made rock. I’m actually going out on tour playing the best of Michael Schenker, or the most popular of Michael Schenker – however you want to call it – as a celebration tour for the era of hand-made rock. That era of hand-made rock will sooner or later die out, things already cannot be done the way they used to be because of technology. People are already learning differently, people are already using it differently, so basically it’s one temple that has been created. That’s not to say that the new generation has nothing to do with it, they will take on what has been created and they will create another temple of rock their own way, with new tools and new technology. But the way I know it and the way I fell in love with it and what I nurtured for all of these years is that particular type of making, writing and recording music the way I know and the way I have done it for over fifty albums. So at this point in time, I’m kind of realizing that people from the same era, they are dying and disappearing from the scene. So I’m just celebrating and making a statement that that era was quite an exceptional era. I’m going out and performing my past, including my present development, mixing it all together and that’s our presentation.

« I do very little towards the outcome of the things I do. The universe is the driver »

This is your first world tour with Robin McAuley in 20 years. What are you feelings about that?

Oh, we had fun, it was great. Robin and I really never had a problem anyway because when we parted ways in 91, I wanted to open my own company and I wanted to do my own thing, and that was all that was to it. I have to say one thing: I do very little towards the outcome of the things I do. The universe is the driver, I just do my part. So when these things happen, whatever faces me, I deal with it as it comes and then I do what I think is the right thing and the best thing to do, so that’s how it all develops. I am not writing the whole script of my life, I’m just getting bits and pieces in front of me and I deal with it as it comes. So with Robin McAuley, I couldn’t have planned something like this, it just happened, it developed into this. I have done a couple of things with Robin before, in 2006, by the way. It was great! He has a great voice, he sings much better than he did 20 years ago for whatever reason, he looks great, he’s in great shape, so it was a lot of fun what we did in America.

Can you give us an update on the 3 Guitar Heroes Tour with Uli Jon Roth and Leslie West? Is is still going to happen?

It was canceled, then we talked with Leslie and we tried to work it out. He was trying to work it out, he was starting his rehabilitation. But we needed a tour-bus with a wheelchair access, and the only two companies that had that kind of bus were rented out. So we had no bus now, and the doctor told Leslie not to go on tour without the wheelchair access so he took the doctor’s advice, that’s why we postponed it indefinitely. We were still hoping that we could carry on and do it, but then we found out through the manager how much money was lost by doing this, how much money they had put in and all of that. At this point in time, I wonder if it will ever happen again. I have not heard anything about it since; I personally doubt it will happen again unless somebody figures out how to deal with the money that had been lost. I hope it will still work out and I’m sure I will get a phone call if it does so I just leave the door open for it.

You gonna be playing at the Nancy On The Rocks Festival in France with the Scorpions, how do you feel about it?

Well, I have been asked to appear there, so I said “yes” and I’ll show up. [Laughs]

What are your thoughts about the band stopping their career?

I guess they finished their era [laughs].

« When something tragic, like this, happens – it doesn’t happen all the time – you get pretty shocked, all of a sudden. People come from all over the place and want to interfere, so I just made a statement to ‘please, be quiet, I need to figure out what to do' »

You announced last year the passing of Bella, your children’s mother. On your website, you asked to the fans that they respect your privacy. Is it hard to get privacy, even on those circumstances, when you’re a famous musician?

When something tragic, like this, happens – it doesn’t happen all the time – you get pretty shocked, all of a sudden. People come from all over the place and want to interfere, so I just made a statement to “please, be quiet, I need to figure out what to do” you know?

And how did the fans react? Did you get the privacy you needed from the fans?

Yeah, because I had lawyers involved too. I guess with both my message on the website and the lawyers making the appropriate statement to the people who were interfering, the thing calmed down. But I also tried through my agent to set up a charity concert somewhere in the area. Whenever they’re ready, that’s what I’m gonna be doing.

A few weeks ago (NDLR : interview conducted on april, 20th) we heard about the passing of Jim Marshall. As a guitar player how did you react to this news?

Oh he died? I didn’t know! He died a week ago? Oh, I’m so sorry… I knew Jim, we weren’t really close, but I’ve been in his factory and I designed an amplifier there. But he’s Jim Marshall, you know, he created some monster, there. I guess we all have to go, but he was definitely an important person on this planet, for this era of music especially.

Interview conducted on april, 20th, 2012, by phone.
Transcription : Stan

Michael Schenker’s website : http://www.michaelschenkerhimself.com
Album : Temple Of Rock, available



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