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Man On A Mission: An Exclusive Interview With MICHAEL SCHENKER

By Shelly Harris, Chicago Contributor
Monday, June 13, 2016 @ 11:06 AM

"I’m more in tune with 'The Now' than I’ve ever been before, and that is all to do with growing up, and going through life, and developing into the person you are today."

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Live Photo By Geoff Ketler/Aces High Photography

Things seem to be looking good – maybe the best in years – for Michael Schenker, who, as any hard rock aficionado knows, is a true hard rock n’ roll guitar legend and an epic survivor too.

I’ve talked to Michael many times over the years about his career and history, but this time he’s located in England again, only now in the sunny and beautiful coastal resort town of Brighton. With one exception, he’s in a sunny mood himself, and game for talking about the new TEMPLE OF ROCK DVD and CD, On A Mission: Live In Madrid, his upcoming special summer tour, “Schenker Fest”, and, in general, what he calls the “third phase” of his career.

Michael has stated in the past that he considers himself a late bloomer (although he was also a child prodigy), and indeed it seems to be so. The new DVD displays the maestro in top form – better than ever in terms of his onstage enthusiasm and electricity – and aptly illustrating for anyone who might not yet know the melodicism and mastery that have made him one of the most iconic and influential hard rock guitarists of his generation.

However, he also comments emphatically and extensively on his currently strained relationship with his brother Rudolf of the SCORPIONS, mainly citing the fact that he felt Rudolf's version of how Lovedrive was made, per the liner notes of the Lovedrive 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition - and the credits on the songs on the album and others - weren't true to Michael's memory of the events or credits. In hopes a compromise can be reached or ruffled feathers smoothed over in the way that often happens in familial relationships, I will withhold Michael's detailed remarks on that, and skip to the good vibes:

KNAC.COM: Tell me about how the new DVD came about.

SCHENKER: The live DVD and CD was recorded in Madrid, Spain on the 19th of November, 2015. It was recorded in a special way. The record company had an idea – we were already putting things together for a European tour – and the record company wanted to do a special recording, and we looked at the schedule and the venues and it looked like Madrid would be the best place to do it. I always wanted to make a record in Spain anyway because the people are so good – they’re always in such a good mood and they’re always happy to rock around there! (laughs) Paris was also an option, but, writing-wise, everything was actually done toward Madrid, and we found a really nice venue, and so everyone was happy. So, we did our show there and it turned out excellent. We had a great gig and the audience were fantastic. We got one shot and we got it right.

KNAC.COM: It looked like you were really having such a good time playing that gig. I noticed that you played more SCORPIONS numbers than you normally would. Did you do that because of Herman [Rarebell] and Francis [Buchholz] being in that lineup?

SCHENKER: Yes, that was their heydays, and you have to present something from their perspective, So “Blackout” and “Hurricane” are perfect choices, and also it gives Wayne Findlay a chance to take over the lead guitar because I don’t like to play other people’s solos. So, that kind of gives him a spot, and it all works out. We’re all having fun on stage – we’ve been doing it four years now - recording – touring, recording – touring. And now we do this DVD and we’re taking a little break and recording a new record in 2017. In the meantime, I put together the Michael Schenker Fest which will start at Sweden Rock, and the idea is to move forward and create bigger shows and let the newcomers witness my past and future with the original singers. We want to turn TEMPLE OF ROCK into its own entity, with its own unique sound, so that Doogie [White] only sings TEMPLE OF ROCK material. And, having Graham Bonnet there and Gary Barden (of MSG) – when they call me, I can now go to the next step – instead of Doogie singing those songs, I can have the original guys singing those songs. On top of it, having Ted McKenna and Chris Glen, the original rhythm section from Assault Attack, and Steve Mann from the MCCAULEY-SCHENKER days, so we have a unique little line up there. We already have some offers from Japan and the UK, and we are hoping for many more. And eventually, when TEMPLE OF ROCK is ready, I will include TEMPLE OF ROCK through the whole show and basically present my past and my current [career and work] as originally as possible.

KNAC.COM: Well, the DVD and the CD actually does work as a very good taster for “newcomers” too; it works well as sampling of your entire career, not only with regard to the bands you’ve been in, but also with respect to some of the best songwriting from your career. It is pretty spectacular, actually.

SCHENKER: I did a lot of music and experimenting in my middle years, and that is what my middle years were for. The first third of my life was more my musical contribution to the world, unconsciously. That impacted other musicians, so I became a trend-maker – involuntarily, though, because I just enjoyed playing music! In my middle years I was focusing more on experimenting and getting things out of my system, and developing on a personal level. Now, in my third stage, I can consciously enjoy what I unconsciously started in my first stage, and the middle years are responsible for now consciously enjoying myself and having fun onstage, you know? I mean, the stage was never really for me … too much stage fright! But now it’s just too much fun up there, so now I’m ready to take things to the next level, a little bit deeper. After 40 -50 years of AC/DC, I think everyone knows the main chord structure, everybody owns a guitar- probably - by now. (laughs) People were educated in a more simple way in the 80s and 90s, so now, I think we can take all of this to the next level, and also – not to forget feeling part of the music. Not so much the technique, but there is also a feeling part – the spirit – that is very important. That is the part that nobody can copy, which means maybe more people are becoming interested in pure expression, because that is where the beauty is. If you open up yourself and let your own colors out – that nobody knows until you do so – that is a fun thing to do! As you play and discover, as I play and discover – like treasure-hunting – all of a sudden there is a piece of gold I find, and I go, “YES!!” And it’s exciting, and it’s a reward in itself. You automatically add new colors to the world, and people use those colors to make a trend out of it, or money with it, and sometimes other people decide they want to do the same, and automatically you become an original guitar player, just by the process of expressing your own colors. That’s how it works, and that’s why there’s so much music. Somebody told me I have been involved in over 90-something albums, and I never heard that one before! But he included even the hand-claps on somebody’s album. (laughs) But there is a lot of music out there that I have done, and so I’ve made a fair amount of statement how much I dislike the artificial commercial world, by releasing music in such a way that sometimes there were even no song titles, maybe just numbers, and stuff like that. I just wanted to mess around with the commercial side.

KNAC.COM: Even though you are known to be a master of technique, of course what always made you stand out most is the dynamics, the melodicism, and the emotion. And, you’re right, it’s those things that are hard to duplicate, if at all. But, I’ve seen you live with so many different bands, and so many different tours over all these years, and I’ve never seen you seem to be so joyful onstage as you were on that last tour, and that is reflected on the DVD performances too.

SCHENKER: Yeah, it’s just something that is developing, you know? I’m more in tune with The Now than I’ve ever been before, and that is all to do with growing up, and going through life, and developing into the person you are today.

KNAC.COM: And there’s a good thing about every stage, I know that to be true, so it’s not always a bad thing to get older. There’s a good thing that comes with that too.

SCHENKER: Each person is unique, each person has a different life design, and each person learns different things in life, based on what they need to learn, so we look at life in different ways, with our own perception and perspective, and realities, etc., etc., so we can’t compare. You know, I always say, I’m not racing anybody, and I don’t compare myself with anybody; I just enjoy who I am, and I enjoy my development. That’s basically all that needs to be done; it doesn’t have anything to do with anybody else. It doesn’t matter if I’m better or bigger, or anything else.

KNAC.COM: You mentioned the two big festivals in Europe this summer...

SCHENKER: Yeah, I play the one in Sweden Rock and then I do one show in Barcelona with just Gary (Barden) – then we’ll do Japan with the same lineup as Sweden Rock, and then we’re eventually moving forward to developing MICHAEL SCHENKER'S TEMPLE OF ROCK songs. And developing that more as we move forward.

KNAC.COM: And, are you looking to come back to the States with that too?

SCHENKER: Absolutely! Yes, with this new way of presenting my past, and that will also embrace TEMPLE OF ROCK. It’s a bigger effort, it’s a step up, and maybe that comes with bigger shows, but it involves much more than the past, because it will deal with more people … It will develop into something that will be doable, world-wide, eventually, and of course we will come to the United States as well.

KNAC.COM: And you said you are looking to release or record another album next year...

SCHENKER: Making a new album in 2017, maybe releasing a new album in 2017, but not yet sure. But 2017 is the time for another TEMPLE OF ROCK album.

KNAC.COM: You really are on a roll right now.

SCHENKER: Well, it seems like the most logical thing, at this point in time - to let people see and hear what happened 30 years ago in its original form, in the best way possible. For the people who did not see that 30 years ago, they can do that now. And then Doogie, with his great voice, will not have to sing cover songs; he can sing the original and current TEMPLE OF ROCK songs, which is its own entity. It is basically 360 degrees back to when I was 18. And that's basically what TEMPLE OF ROCK reassembles.

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