Catching Up With Michael Schenker
Michael, let’s talk a little bit about Bridge The Gap, this is the first time you have recorded new music with Herman Rarebell and Frances Buchholz since The Scorpions 1979 album Lovedrive. After the tour and ultimate recording of the Live DVD Temple of Rock-Live In Europe in 2012 was this lineup something that you knew would work well together in the studio?
By the time we got to the point of the recording of the Live DVD which was the last leg of the European tour I knew. At that moment Pete Way was not doing too well physically and I had asked Herman if Frances was up to touring within Europe with (vocalist) Doogie White. Frances jumped into rehearsals with us and almost from the start there was something happening that was really, really powerful and strong and joyful. You could almost from the first show that everybody was really just enjoying playing with each other again. That was the real reason around recording the DVD at that time because I knew I had to capture this on DVD. There was actually almost a 6 month gap from the first leg of the tour to the second leg of the tour and I basically asked everyone if they would be interested in recording an album together. I started writing right away and then basically handed the music off to Doogie to get started on the lyrics.
Was there a particular story behind the title of this new record Bridge The Gap?
I came up with the title even before I had one song completed. I basically told Doogie to “Bridge The Gap” and think melodic. That’s what he took as inspiration for this record and he came up with some amazing results. The album was done and didn’t even play it back to the guys until after we completed the second leg of the tour. I decided to put it away and then after the tour was completed we all knew that while listening with fresh ears we made some changes to improve the end results. Because of that I think it came out much better. In most cases musicians don’t have the time luxury to be able to walk away from a project and then be able to go back to it with a fresh perspective.
On the 2011 album Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock the core lineup included Michael Voss on vocals, Wayne Findley on keyboards, Pete Way on bass and Herman on drums. But it also included a lot of contributions from others like Robin McAuley, Doogie White, your brother Rudolph, Leslie West, Don Airey, Paul Raymond, Carmine Appice, Simon Phillips, Chris Slade and Brian Tichy. Is that the future of The Temple of Rock as a band to have multiple contributors or just focused on a core unit without many changes?
This all started one night when I was touring with MSG and played Shepherd’s Bush in London UK and unexpectedly Herman and Pete showed up at the gig. They both got up and jammed a song with us and went over very well. Right after I got off the road we talked about going out and touring together. We talked about playing music from throughout my career. Also at the same time I was ready to enter the studio with Michael Voss to help me in the studio and ultimately I asked him to sing on it and he agreed. From there I took the demos to Pete and Herman and they were both blown away by them. They offered themselves as the rhythm section for the record and then I got a phone call from William Shatner’s agent indicating that he had agreed to record the intro for the record! I also ended up playing on “Seeking Major Tom” his third solo record from 2011. I then thought about inviting some friends from the past and they all agreed to play on it. As luck would have it they all just happened to be available. Everything was step by step and it just worked. I’m using Michael Schenker as the platform for Temple of Rock but I want to encourage others to be involved in the creative process but right now this lineup is a band at the moment.
Now you’re starting a US tour on Jan 9 in Las Vegas. Now it will be you along with Doogie White and Wayne Findley along with Rev Jones on bass and Pete Holmes on drums. Why are Herman and Frances not playing in North America?
Because I really wanted to get out on US soil and promote this album heavily. These are my US players and it’s just the best way to promote the record to my US fans at this time.
How many new songs from Bridge the Gap will fans hear on this tour? What will the remainder of the set list consist of?
Right now “Neptune Rising”, ‘Where The Wind Blows” and Horizons. The rest of the set consists of Scorpions, UFO and MSG songs.
More than any other musician I can think of Michael you have taken more time and gone to great lengths to revisit different era’s of your career as an older and somewhat wiser rock veteran. Whether its UFO shows in the mid to late 90’s, to getting back with Gary Barden and the original MSG band within the past few years, to touring with Robin MacAulay with that version of the 90’s MSG or playing special shows with the Scorpions. Let’s face it you have a lot of fans from different and combined parts of your career. Is this a conscious decision on your part as your growth as an artist is to embrace the past?
Yes. As I look back on my life to where I am now I can see very clearly that my musical life has been highlighted in three stages. The first stage was about development. The early Scorpions records and UFO albums. The second stage was all about creating MSG and what I wanted and how I saw myself as an artist at that time. The middle years were all about overcoming obstacles and additional growth and the personal development still continued. The third stage started around 2008 and I grew this incredible desire to play live, more than ever before. I couldn’t understand why because in the past when I was younger I didn’t like being on stage. All of a sudden I’m realizing that I need to carry on the tradition of the bands I grew up listening to like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. So many great musicians have passed away and sooner or later I will be just a memory. John Bonham, Ronnie Dio, Jon Lord, Keith Moon, Gary Moore, Randy Rhoads. This incredible era of rock that started with those guys is something I want to celebrate by staying out on the road and visiting these special eras of my career. My past is part of who I am and have always tried not to over expose myself by doing an album and touring then another album and even more touring. I’m happy and in a good place right now.
What is your relationship like with the members of UFO currently and would you ever revisit the possibility of another tour with them?
Sure why not? I never say never. We get along fine. I’m not closing the door at all.
What do you think of Vinnie Moore as a contributor to the current incarnation of UFO?
Funny you should ask that questions because I made an effort very recently to watch a recent UFO performance from a European festival and it was very different for me for sure. I’m not here to judge an expression of music from anyone. It’s not a question of right or wrong just do your thing and stay strong. Some folks like the old band and still others enjoy this era of UFO. As long as the band mates themselves are enjoying it who am I to question it?
Your signature Gibson Flying V black and white guitar has been replicated by Dean Guitars as a Flying D. That relationship goes back almost 10 years now. Do you foresee any other guitar changes or any new Michael Schenker guitar models?
Basically Dean came up with the concept and I approve it. My ears will confirm that when I hear any new model or enhancements they want to add.
You auditioned for the Rolling Stones in the 1970’s following Mick Taylor’s dismissal, you auditioned for Aerosmith after the departure of Joe Perry and Ozzy called you first following the death of Randy Rhoads, and you briefly replaced Robbin Crosby in RATT in 1993. Those stories alone could constitute entire chapters in the life of Michael Schenker. Any plans for an autobiography at some point?
Not really right now. A book for me is something I may look at before I die. I still think I’m in the middle of my life and I’m not done living it yet!
Do you have a favorite Scorpions record, UFO record or MSG record?
For me I live in the moment. Ask me two days from now and I just might give you a different answer. I get asked that all the time and it’s like asking which child you love more. It’s been one big fanatic journey and I’m still traveling through it.
On January 10 you turned 59 years old. You don’t seem to be slowing down at all. What does the future hold for Michael Schenker?
Thanks for the reminder! I think I have been well preserved for the finals of my life. There is a beginning and an ending to everything including my music. I can tell you this I will be playing at volume 10 and full steam ahead until that end.