The scene took place in one of these 600$-a-night hotels where the rooms come with a tray of macaroons and a coffee machine, and where you can order a coffee that will cost you no less that 6,50$. Which yours truly did as a matter of principle. It was also the opportunity to witness the traditional «who’s got the biggest» contest between journalists, who spent hours discussing who was the most old school and who met the more celebrities, and trying to demonstrate that their medium is the most wide-spread in France. To be honest, I probably met a good fifty of those «first metal medium in France» that day.
When you know that this will probably be your last opportunity to ever interview the Scorpions, you try to plan everything and to talk about every possible subject. Matthias Jabs I an accessible and friendly character. After only a few minutes, he makes you feel like you’re an old friend. The man welcomes you in his room with his inevitable cap on his head, offers you coffee and macaroons (which he can’t eat anyway because he’s allergic) et laughs with you about the weird fountain you can see from the window :
This interview was a good opportunity to dissect in minute details the various references of the new album, Sting In The Tail. More particularly, you will discover an unforgettale anecdote about «Sly» and the baby-boom that «Still Loving You» led to. Matthias will obviously reflect on the band’s recent decision to put an end to their career after a last farewell tour. Since they still have over two years of touring ahead of them, and because they’re in the middle of the usual post-album honeymoon, the guitarist doesn’t seem to fully understand what’s going on.
“There was a rumor at the time that said that there’d been a baby-boom in France because of “Still Loving You”.”
Matthias Jabs (guitars): When you have as long a career as SCORPIONS’, you have ups and downs, it’s inevitable. Remember that SCORPRIONS had mostly highlights! The 90s were a hard time for all the bands from the 80s, so to speak. Some bands were already finished at that time. We were lucky to have our biggest success with Crazy World and “Wind Of Change”. This album and the next one, Face The Heat, were very strong and sounded very well. We were also lucky that half of the 90s were good times for us. But when we released Pure Instinct in 1996, you could tell that the band was already a little confused. The times were confusing for all the people who made this music. We were labeled as being old-fashioned, and not “hip” enough, or whatever the crap was with music at the time. So when we released Eye II Eye, we were a bit insecure, ‘cause when you keep hearing that kind of stuff, it has an influence on you as a musician. We had the wrong producer, too, and we weren’t strong enough to tell any producer, no matter who he was, that we wanted to do things in some way, and that was it. Eye II Eye is probably not a bad album, but it doesn’t sound like SCORPIONS. And that’s why the fans don’t like it.Eye II Eye and Hour 1 were inspired by the music in fashion at the time they were released. As if you were saying to your audience: “this is what we would have been like if we had been born 10 or 20 years later”. Was this a way to question your abilities as musicians, or a sort of style experiment to see if you could have made it during another time or in another context?
No, I wouldn’t say so. But to a certain extent, every musician is influenced by what’s happening around him, by the music from the day. Humanity Hour 1 was produced by Desmond Child, who came up with a concept, which was his vision of the future. We followed the concept because we liked it. It was produced in America, and it sounds a bit American. With the new album, we didn’t want any foreign influence anymore. We just wanted to sound like the essence of SCORPIONS, which we found in the early 80s. If you asked people to name our most characteristic albums, 99% would answer Black Out and Love At First Sting. “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Still Loving You”, that’s the SCORPIONS sound. This time, we chose not to do any experiments and play what we like to play.I heard an Hour 2 album had been planned. Why did you dismiss the project? Did you realize that the compositions you wrote for the new album were too different from Hour 1? Did this take away the meaning for a sequel?
There was never an Hour 2 planned. This “hour one” is part of the concept, it does not mean “episode 1”. Desmond’s idea was to say that the human species in its intelligent form went through the first part of its history, like the first 20 or 30,000 years. Right now there’s a big change in history, and the human race is turning into something else, and we don’t know what. You could call that “hour two”, but there was never supposed to be a follow-up album.
“We’re not too keen on doing duets.[…] Imagine the song is a big hit: everywhere you go, you’ll have to bring this other person along. Just no !”
It’s nice that she’s singing on the song. We met her in Brazil a few years ago, when she was doing one of her last concerts with NIGHTWISH. There were our support band at the Live And Louder festival in Sao Paulo, where we met briefly. We’re not too keen on doing duets, even if the record companies always want bands to do duets, for marketing reasons more than musical reasons. This song wasn’t written as a duet. If you do a duet, all of a sudden you depend on another artist and their management. So this song works with and without Tarja. We played it last night at the Taratata show. We cannot have a song where we depend on her, because she lives in Finland and Argentina. And why should we go on tour and have Tarja with us all the time? It’s very nice that she sings on the track, and she adds a nice atmosphere to it. It’s an improvement, it sounds better with her than without her, but we cannot depend on her. Imagine the song is a big hit: everywhere you go, you’ll have to bring this other person along. Just no!The voice intonations on “No Limit” sound like Robert Plant from LED ZEPPELIN. Was this reference intentional?
No, it wasn’t. Actually, most of these things were very spontaneous. We had two Swedish producers for this album. The keyboard guy recorded the vocals, he’s very good at that. Sometimes, with the guitar guy, we recorded overdubs, with my guitars and Klaus’ voice. In both cases, they were very spontaneous and made us feel very good. Some of the stuff was recorded only once. We recorded this album much faster than I can ever recall. Things were just flowing.Correct me if I’m wrong, but the album had already been composed when you decided to end your career. What were you thinking after you realized that this would be your last album?
I still don’t know. I’ve been in the band almost 32 years. It’s been our life every day – and will be for the next two years. Try as I might, it’s unimaginable at the moment, and that’s why I give up. I’ll just concentrate on the tour. Nobody really understands what life will be like when we don’t do SCORPIONS anymore. It’s impossible to imagine.The beginning of “Raised On Rock” somehow echoes “Rock You Like A Hurricane”; we can even hear the line: “I was born in a hurricane”. And then we have the arpeggio on “Sly”, which really sounds similar to the one in “Send Me An Angel” or “Still Loving You”. Actually, “Sly” is the acronym of “Still Loving You”. Am I putting the finger on something or is this completely coincidental?
You’re right about “Raised On Rock”, it’s a bit like “Rock You Like A Hurricane”. Intentionally. And “Sly” is indeed the acronym of “Still Loving You”. It comes from a true story. In 1985, a young couple here in France had a baby. They showed me the picture and said they had named her Sly, after the song. There was a rumor at the time that said that there’d been a baby-boom in France because of “Still Loving You”. I heard that a million times, so it seems to be true! This couple showed us the picture, and three years ago, when we played at the Olympia, the girl was there with her parents. I told the story to Klaus, and he made lyrics out of it. So the girl exists! And musically, Rudolph has a certain way to do his arpeggios, so we are aware of the similarities. It’s a bit ironic, we do it with a smile!
[So you’re responsible for many couples getting laid because of “Still Loving You”?!
Certainly! And mostly in France!Let’s imagine that you had decided to quit before making the album. Would you have written it differently? I guess that there would have been a lot more pressure on you…
I guess so, yes. If we had decided beforehand that this would be our last album, there would probably be songs where we would have mentioned it. I’m sure we would have written it differently. My colleagues will turn 62 this year – I’m a bit younger –, and at the end of the tour they will be 65. After that, can you see them going back to the studio to record a new album, and then go on another long tour? The idea was to conclude our very long career with dignity and class. We want people to remember us as a great band, with fit and healthy musicians. We don’t want the public to think: “They used to be great, but now they really look old”.
“Maybe we’ll stretch the tour, make it as long as possible, but once it is over, it is over. The “KISS effect” started ten years ago. Now you have farewell tour one, farewell tour number two, number three… We don’t want to make a joke of ourselves. We are serious.”
I’m sure we will resist. Maybe we’ll stretch the tour, make it as long as possible, but once it is over, it is over. The “KISS effect” started ten years ago. Now you have farewell tour one, farewell tour number two, number three… We don’t want to make a joke of ourselves. We are serious.I mentioned KISS, and actually their album Sonic Boom was very well received by the critics and fans alike. Obviously it was a good thing for them and the fans that they didn’t quit after all and took the “risk” to do another album. Have you thought to yourselves: “Maybe we’re missing out on many more great records…”?
At the moment, nobody knows what we we’ll do at the end of our career. It is too early to really think about it. I think within the next two or three years, when we’re on tour, things will come to us and become obvious. Maybe it will be a musical project with other people, maybe it will be something else. Everything is imaginable, but we have no concrete plans. All we have to take care of at the moment is the release of the new album and the tour. We’re going to play all around the world. We’re going to Frankfurt tomorrow to do some more promotion, next week we’ll be going to Austria for a big TV show, then we go straight to New York and Los Angeles, and right after that we’ll be playing shows in Belgium. We were playing in Moscow yesterday, and flew to Paris at 4 a.m.! This is going to take all our energy, and it’s way too early to think about the rest. I mean, do you know what you’ll be doing in three years?!No, I don’t! A farewell tour like this one is the last image that you are going to leave to the audience; I can imagine that in order not to have any regrets, you must figure out every single detail and reference you want to make…
We want to have great shows, but it’s still in development. We’ve only played two shows so far. There will be a huge production and very nice visuals. But we can’t take it everywhere. We won’t take it to Paris, for example, because the Olympia is just too small. We have giant screens and modern technology, it’s very nice. I have the feeling that the show in May won’t be our last show in Paris, so hopefully we’ll come back to a bigger place – like Bercy.Speaking of this massive farewell tour, why did you choose to start it in Germany rather that end it in your homeland?
We might end it in Germany. We don’t know where and when exactly, but my idea is that we’re going to end our career in our hometown. That would make sense, because that’s where it all started. The promoters don’t like this idea, but I would like us to give a show in a big stadium and invite the whole world for free! To me, that would be the nicest way to end the tour. The promoters and our management didn’t like this idea at all when I mentioned it to them, but I think it’s great!
“The promoters don’t like this idea, but I would like us to give a show in a big stadium and invite the whole world for free! To me, that would be the nicest way to end the tour.”
I’ll tell you a little story, it happened years and years ago – I think it was in 1992. We were flying to Tokyo, and we had this “access all areas” backstage passes. I remember the number on my pass, it was number 182. I told the tour manager that I didn’t need a pass, because we were simply flying to Japan, and I asked him what the number meant. He said it meant it was show number 182, and I was like: “Wow, all these shows already during the tour…” For us it was show number 182, but to all the fans in Tokyo, it was show number 1. So we’re always giving ourselves 100%, we give everything we have, because it’s important for the audience.SCORPIONS have already invited previous band members on stage a few times. Considering what this tour represents, is this likely to happen again?
Why not? We still have good contacts with most of the former band members – most of them, not all of them. We’ve done this a few times in the past: there’s a DVD from Wacken, we’ve done it in Strasbourg, Uli and Michael were in England, Herman was also there in Greece… Herman lives in Munich now, we meet a lot. It would be easy to do it, but we won’t do it all the time. We’ll do it whenever it’s right for them, because they have their own plans as well.Should we expect a few surprises on the set-list? Like some songs that are hardly ever played?
We will probably change the set-list as we go. For the first two shows, we played three songs from the new album, and we’ll probably add one or two more. There’s also all the big songs that we just have to play, because the fans will be disappointed if we don’t. That’s something like ten songs. If you add the four new songs, that doesn’t leave a lot of space. We have something like 25 songs on the set-list. Sometimes we play “Dynamite”, sometimes “Can’t Get Enough”… We have to make a choice, because otherwise we would play for hours.Let’s talk about the latest message you sent to your fans via the album: the last song from Sting In The Tail, “The Best Is Yet To Come”. What is “the best”?
We’ve had this song for like 6 years, so it had nothing to do with the end of our career! We intentionally chose to make it the last song on the album to make people wonder. It’s a bit ironic, but the song had been there for a long time. We wanted to record it for the previous album, but then we got the offer from Desmond Child and we went to America to record Humanity Hour 1 instead of the songs we had planned. Some of them went on this new album, and this song is one of them. It was nothing intentional, just a form of wicked humour!
“The worst will probably be the day after the last concert.”
No. For us, two and half years is not that long, the last tour for Humanity Hour 1 was just as long. That’s normal if you want to play all around the world. We could play two months in South America, six months in the US and three months in Asia if we wanted to. That’s something normal for us, we’ve been doing this for more than 20 years now. And as I said before, I don’t know how we’ll feel at the very end of this tour. Touring makes you fit. The traveling part can be tiring, but playing on stage almost every night is almost like a sport. We will probably be fitter then that we are now!Does the end of Scorpions mean the end of your careers as musicians?
No.If you could keep one positive and one negative memory of your whole career with SCORPIONS, what would they be?
It’s probably not what you want to hear, but to me, the best thing is the fact that we’re here today. We’ve had a long career, and now we can go on tour with our last album. That’s the best moment, so to speak. The worst will probably be the day after the last concert.Yesterday you were playing at Taratata and of course, you played “Still Loving you” and “Wind Of Change”, because, I suppose, you were asked to. Although it is undeniably a wonderful ballad, aren’t you tired of having to play this song only to satisfy the general public that only knows this song and “Wind Of Change”? Don’t you sometimes think to yourself: “Damn, to hell with the ballads, I want to show them what rock’n roll is!”
The audience makes all the difference. Yesterday they wanted us to do a medley of our most famous songs. It’s fine with us. As long as the audience wants to hear those songs, it’s fine. We hardly ever play without an audience, like in the rehearsal room. Why should we play the songs to ourselves? Without an audience, we wouldn’t play those songs.After decades of playing concerts, there has to be one song that you can’t stand playing anymore…
It’s the same answer: if the audience is there and acts crazy, I’m happy to play any song on stage. We will have something like 200 concerts on the upcoming tour, so we will have to play the songs 200 times. That’s not a problem if the audience cheers for these songs.Do you have any regrets?
Nothing to mention. If I could do it again, I would do everything the same way. There’s no point in thinking about it, because you can’t change it anyway! The past is what it is, and thank God we don’t have many things to regret.
Interview conducted in March 2010
SCORPIONS website: www.myspace.com/officialscorpions
This post is also available in: French