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Interviews   

SCORPIONS ARE NOT QUITE DONE YET


A year and a half ago, when we interviewed guitarist Matthias Jabs, we thought it was probably the last opportunity we’d have to talk to him as a member of Scorpions, given that the band had shortly before announced their decision to go on a farewell tour.

And yet here we are, interviewing him again. The band’s tour is getting longer by the day (it will probably last till 2013, Matthias confessed) and they’re teasing us with their new album, which contains re-recorded Scorpions classics from the eighties and covers from the sixties – bands, and more generally an era, that influenced them greatly. This album is called Comeblack, like a pun to say: “You think we’re not leaving for real? Well, this title will make it look like a fake comeback”.

Our questions were mainly focused on the nature and the composition of this new album. And because in 2010 the guitarist affirmed that the band is not really into duets (“We’ve never liked recording duets, even if that’s all record companies ask for, for marketing reasons, not musical”), we didn’t fail to interrogate him about the controversial “Still Loving You” cover featuring Amandine Bourgeois. As for their work on the covers, it was meticulous, the band going as far as refusing to record this or that cover, deemed too unconvincing.

With great honesty did Matthias talk about the issues only a band with such a reputation can encounter: when do stop? How and where? How to create a global setlist covering forty years?

A discussion which also covers the various projects the band wish to bring to life before turning over an entirely new leaf.

Interview.

« We said that Sting In The Tail would be our last studio album with our own songs. But we never said it was going to be our last project. « 

Radio Metal: During you career, you often tried to release some original live experiences: you played with an orchestra, you released the Amazonia DVD, and right know you’re working on an upcoming 3D live experience. Is it important for you to experiment new ways of presenting a live show?

Matthias Jabs (guitar): Absolutely. In terms of the 3D, this is a new technology. Scorpions have always tried to be in the forefront when it comes to new experiences and experiments as well. We were the first band to play in certain parts of the world, and now we also try to play a front role as far as technology goes. We know that a 3D television set is needed in order to watch it properly, but I think sooner or later, people will switch to 3D. It’s a great experience.

During this whole farewell tour, when did you find the time to record Comeblack and write those cover songs that are on this album?

That’s a good question! (laughs) We started in the springtime, like March or April, when we weren’t playing any shows. We selected the songs, and the real recording took place in August. Our last show in Europe was in Colmar, I think, on August 6th, and then we went straight to the studio and recorded the songs. Now the CD is coming out, and we’re going on the road again, because there are so many places where we haven’t played yet. Next step is France!

Is Comeblack going to be the very last record you’ll ever release?

I wouldn’t say so. When we announced our farewell tour, we said that Sting In The Tail would be our last studio album with our own songs. But we never said it was going to be our last project. As a complement to the last tour, we are going to release a DVD of the final show. There’s also a movie team with us. The goal of Comeblack was to record songs that inspired us in the 60s, when we started out. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, and now we have the freedom. I don’t know if that will be the only release. Maybe we’ll release something else next year, if we have the time to go in the studio, just to do something out of the ordinary. So far, we always wrote our own songs, recorded them and built a career on that. But as musicians, it’s fun to do something on the side. Scorpions never really did it. All the other bands do projects with other musicians and stuff. Now we have the freedom to do whatever we like, basically. So I can’t say it’s the last record. I’d rather say you should expect more projects to come on the side.

« We also tried to play a song from Led Zeppelin, who had a big influence on Scorpions. But then we realized that some songs cannot be touched and turned into covers. You just should not. Led Zeppelin have a certain magic, you don’t want to touch those songs. »

Why did you choose to select just a few of your songs for this record? There’s only seven of them.

Actually, we recorded a few more. You will hear some as bonus tracks. We recorded them over a short period of time, I think we did nine altogether. We also have “Big City Nights” and “Bad Boys Running Wild”, I think. I’m not sure about “Send Me An Angel”. We started to record it, then we left it, because we were running out of time. Maybe we’ll do something like that later. It was not that we don’t like the original recordings, but with today’s technology, the songs sound much more powerful. We just thought that if you listen to the old versions, you’re missing something. So just for the fun, we tried to record them again. We were still able to sing and play the way we were supposed to, and we had fun doing it. I hope the fans enjoy it, too. Personally, when I listen to bands I like, like AC/DC, for example, they always had a good sound, but I listen to the remastered versions. It sounds better in my car or here in my studio. I wish more bands would re-record their own stuff, so they would get an up-to-date sound.

You picked songs that you play on this tour. Was it on purpose?

We picked the favorites from the 80s, apart from “Wind Of Change”, which was originally done in 1989 but released in 1990. We were taking songs from the 80s, and the covers are from the 60s. Those are some of our favorite, which we also play live. People mostly want to hear those songs. When you’re in a band for a long time, the fans want to hear certain songs. Everybody has their own wishlist. We checked on the Internet, and we’re basically playing the top favorites, even if sometimes we like to play something totally different. Everybody would complain if we didn’t play those! You might have special favorite songs, and sometimes we receive e-mails from fans asking why we don’t play such and such song. But the times for being spontaneous are over, since we take a multimedia show on the road. For example, if we played a song like “Don’t Make No Promises”, from Animal Magnetism, it means we’d have no movie content. We would have to let the video director find something, and for that he would need ten days. Then we would be able to play the song. That’s how it goes with a professional show like this.

(About Sixties) »It was a great time for music. If you listen to “Children Of The Revolution”, that was a revolution in music, in clothing, in behavior, in everything. […] It was a time of big riots and changes, and it influenced all of us. People let their hair grow. Today, that’s normal, but back then, it was a sensation. »

There are six cover songs on the album. Since those bands are from the sixties, is this a way to say: “Without those bands, Scorpions wouldn’t exist”?

Yeah, partly. We also tried to play a song from Led Zeppelin, who had a big influence on Scorpions. But then we realized that some songs cannot be touched and turned into covers. You just should not. Led Zeppelin have a certain magic, you don’t want to touch those songs. But you are right, this is the music from the 60s that made us pick up an instrument and start a band, which eventually turned into Scorpions. It was our biggest influence. It was a great time for music. If you listen to “Children Of The Revolution”, that was a revolution in music, in clothing, in behavior, in everything. Much more so than today. It was a time of big riots and changes, and it influenced all of us. People let their hair grow. Today, that’s normal, but back then, it was a sensation. So yes, it inspired us.

How did you pick the songs? Did every member of the band choose one song?

At the beginning, we all picked songs, we had a lot to choose from. But the most important thing is that the singer can perform the song well. We had maybe fifteen to eighteen songs, and we made a rough layout, with a verse, the chorus, maybe a bridge or something, and then we would see if Klaus could sing it. Some songs he could sing very well, and on others, he was not so convincing. So we first picked the ones were the vocals were strong, then we really started recording the music for them. That’s how you have to do things; there’s no point if something is not really convincing. Since Klaus is a big Beatles fan, he always said he couldn’t sing any Rolling Stones songs. And I’m a big Rolling Stones fan, so I’m glad he could sing “Ruby Tuesday” so well! It’s one of my favorites on this album. We had to try out and see if it worked.

What’s the meaning behind the title of this record? Was “Comeblack” some sort of joke to say: “This isn’t a real comeback”?

Klaus had an idea for a pun. It originally meant something totally different. We all know the word doesn’t even exist, but it’s the same with Lovedrive, one of the first albums I played on. That one doesn’t exist either, there’s no such word in the English language. But it’s a strong title. We looked for other titles for a long time. For example, we thought about “Diamonds And Pearls”: diamonds for the old Scorpions covers, and pearls for the old 60s covers, or the other way around. Something very valuable, like a jewelry box. But then we found out Prince had already used the title. It’s very hard to find a new title these days, since millions of CDs have been released and all the titles are taken! So we went for a title that’s very different, because it doesn’t exist! If you leave the “l” out, you have “comeback”. There’s a little irony for those who like to think like this. But it’s definitely not a comeback!

(about « Still Loving You ») »I noticed that hard rock fans are very conservative people. They only like what they like, they’re not open-minded. They’re very restricted in what they do. […] If any change happens, the first reaction is always: ‘No! Don’t like it!' »

On this record you made a French version of the song “Still Loving You” with Amandine Bourgeois. Why did you choose France? Do you have a special relationship with France?

“Still Loving You” was a major hit in 1984-85. It was number one in France for almost a year, I think. It was a big song worldwide, but it has a special connection with France and the French audience. The record company asked us to do a cover with a French artist, and they chose Amandine. She sings very well. She came over to our studio and recorded with Klaus. We were very impressed. For the fans, it almost has a holy touch, it’s a song you just don’t throw away. But in this case, the result was so convincing, and she sings it so well, that we all agreed to go for it. The French record company knew that if the song had the French language in there, it would get played more on the radio. I think you have this restriction on your radios, there has to be a certain amount of lyrics in French. That was also the reason, I think. But for the band, it was an important thing musically. It’s like an homage to the French fans, who have been so faithful and loyal to Scorpions for many years – decades, even. It’s like: “Hello, thank you!”

In France, there are mixed reactions about this song. Amandine Bourgeois came from a reality TV show, and most hard rock and metal fans hate that kind of shows. I actually saw a lot of negative reactions about this song, even before it was released.

I can understand, to a certain extent. A long time ago, I noticed that hard rock fans are very conservative people. They only like what they like, they’re not open-minded. They’re very restricted in what they do. The good thing about it is that they like what we do, and they stick to it. But if any change happens, the first reaction is always: “No! Don’t like it!” Sometime later, they like it anyway. I remember when we went on tour in England in 1979. We were playing “Holiday” as an acoustic song, with acoustic guitars. And the promoter said: “You can’t do this, the audience is going to kill you”. We played it acoustically anyway, and people had tears in their eyes. So it’s always “no” first, and then later, when you listen again, it’s not so bad. But I can’t really tell; I just like the young lady and she has a very good voice. I know she comes from something like the French Idol; we have those shows as well. But why shouldn’t we give a young talent a chance? You should also think about that. It’s difficult enough for young artists to get a proper chance these days, so if there’s an opportunity for a band like us, who’s already successful, to help a young artist, I think it’s a very good thing.

« We want to be remembered as a band that’s very active on stage, not just standing there playing. I’m sure I’ll still be able to play the stuff when I’m 85, but the question is, would I want to run around that much! […] I think some bands should have already stopped. »
.

You declared that you wanted to stop your career because you didn’t want to fade out, to disappoint your fans. Do you feel that in a few years, you won’t be able, physically, to play live with the same impressive energy you have on stage right now?

I don’t have any problem. I’m the youngest of us three Germans, but Klaus and Rudolf are 63. But the Stones are still on the road, and they’re doing great. Our idea is to be in top form until the very last show. We don’t want to stretch it too far. At the moment, we’re in form, we’re fit. We want to be remembered as a band that’s very active on stage, not just standing there playing. I’m sure I’ll still be able to play the stuff when I’m 85, but the question is, would I want to run around that much! I think it’s a good decision. We’ll play all 2012, although we haven’t yet decided on the final show. I think it will happen at some point in 2013.

At the opposite, some bands don’t want to stop and will play until they die. We can barely imagine guys like Lemmy and Ozzy stopping their career. What do you think of that?

I think some bands should have already stopped. It’s not always great to see them. I’m not really excited when I see somebody who was much better twenty years ago. Some bands don’t have the energy to convince me now, they should have stopped some time ago. For Lemmy and Ozzy, of course, it’s their life. But for us, it’s also our life, but we want to end our career on a high note.

What bands do you have in mind when you say they are not convincing on stage nowadays?

I don’t want to mention any names, because I don’t want to put anybody down! It’s my personal opinion, therefore I don’t want to tell you. It would come across as meaning I don’t like them anymore. I just think we’ve seen enough of them.

At the beginning of this tour, you told us that you couldn’t picture how you would feel at the end of this tour. After a year and a half, do you start to realize?

A bit more, yes. But I still cannot imagine what it means not to play live with Scorpions anymore. Even if we’re on a break right now, and I’m at home, and the next show is not before November 4th in Geneva, knowing that there will be shows is different. But if you sit at home and there’s no show with Scorpions anymore… I still don’t know what that will feel like exactly. I can think about it, but I don’t know what the real feeling will be like. Will we feel emptiness, or will we be so busy doing other things – projects, the film, whatever – that we’ll always see each other on a regular basis? I still can’t imagine but I’m getting a bit closer.

You chose to extend your tour and play in other French cites than just Paris and Lyon. Do you think that nowadays, bands tend to forget that France isn’t just Paris?

Bands depend a lot on promoters. We don’t pick the cities, we want the promoters to suggest where to play. If they say: “Let’s play Paris, Lyon and somewhere in the south first”, that’s one thing. But if they go: “The band is really popular, I can suggest other cities”, we have to trust them, because they know the market much better. We love to play anywhere and everywhere, but sometimes we’re told not to play in a certain place, or to go to another, and we follow the advice, which makes total sense. I was a bit surprised that after this tour in November, the promoter already suggested other shows for next year in France. It’s another six or seven shows, I think; I haven’t counted yet! But they think it’s worth it, and that came as a good surprise.

We spoke last year and you told us that for the very last show, you would like to play in Germany for free and invite the whole world. At the time, you said it was completely impossible. Since then, have you thought about it? Does it still sound impossible to you? Have you talked about it with you colleagues?

It was my personal idea, but there’s no promoter in the world who would like to do it! (laughs) It was a naïve idea from a musician. I don’t know if we’ll play the last show in Germany, I only said that because the band started out in Germany. It would also be attractive for us to play the last in Greece, or in Brazil, or in Paris, or in Los Angeles. We haven’t decided yet. It would just make sense to play in Germany and get as many people as possible. Usually, if it’s for free, it will be impossible! We need somebody to actually do the show; we need other people, and usually, they don’t work for free!

Interview conducted on october, 20th by phone
Transcription : Saff’

Scorpions’s Website : www.the-scorpions.com



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