From Release: Michael Schenker is a legendary figure in rock, one of the most gifted and influential guitarists of all time. His work with Scorpions, UFO and the Michael Schenker Group made him a hero to millions of fans and inspired a generation of musicians, including Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, Kirk Hammett of Metallica, and Slash of Guns N’ Roses. And with Michael Schenker Fest, an ambitious and unorthodox project featuring four singers with whom he has worked since 1979 – Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, Robin McAuley and Doogie White – the drive to create new music is based on the same ethos that has shaped Schenker’s whole career, ever since he recorded his first album “Lonesome Crow” with the Scorpions in 1970 at age 15.
While he was in The UK we gave Michael Schenker a call to talk about the new Michael Schenker Fest record ‘Revelation’, its creation, technology (or lack thereof), and more…
Thanks for your time again, Michael, it’s been about 18 months since we last spoke, so let’s catch up, how has the last year and a half been for you?
Fantastic, I mean *laughs* my short term memory is going a bit weird, well you know it’s busy especially we did the last concert in the UK in September and then we had commitments to do a second leg of the Resurrection tour in The States which we started in 2018 which for the second leg went to the 15th April 2019 so there was a seven month gap. Which I didn’t see any point keeping out so I called up Nuclear Blast and said to them I’m not going to sit around I’m going to write another album and they said “OK go ahead” so I did and now I’m doing promotion and releasing the album on the 20th September.
The word ‘Revelation’ is a very interesting one, what does it represent to you and why was this the perfect name for the new album?
Well because the album cover itself is basically all about my metal years then I decided to stay out of the machine and people hated me because of it and because they wanted to do big business with me and started to kind of hated me and torturing me and humiliating me and that’s what the album cover shows. Revelation is basically having come to this point in my life and having missed the middle years when I learnt everything about myself where I created a three dimensional Michael, I and especially after I found out a lot of stuff now back in the machine and focusing and getting confronted with stuff a can of worms has been opened and I’m starting to see things that happened and I’m revealing these things now and they are revelations, they are realisations, they are things that are all coming to the foreground now and when I was too busy in the past as a musician to focus on what was going on in the world around me *laughs* but having lived a life up to this point I can see clear looking back you know that has happened and there’s a lot to be revealed and once things are told to go but I’m back and full of life.
So that is that part in the beginning and the first part of my life I was basically just playing not expecting anything, not competing with anybody, not looking for anything, not looking for fame or success or whatever, and by the time I got I the strength people were saying Michael Schenker is God and I went “WHAT?” I was shocked as I only focused on pure self-expression and having fun putting notes together and that was for me the pleasure and instant reward and so and once Rudolf called me up and tried telling me “hey Michael they’re all playing your guitar style over here on this stage!” and I said “WHAT?” but the main thing is that I was very stage fright by the way and somehow I did all of this and this big impact I had on other people unconsciously I don’t take any credit for it because I wasn’t even aware of what I was doing I was unclear myself. So in the middle years by that time I said to myself ok, you have experienced fame do you want to stay in the lane of fame or do you want to be and artist and experiment with music. I hold my first record in ‘76 I ran away with ‘Light’s Out’ but I missed back into that because that is the same pressure and maybe now I have to write the shit that people expect from me. So anyway my main thing this was the entry into the second part of my life that was a battle learning more about life, learning more about myself and creativity that would never be good for Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, or UFO because I would have never made them any money because I was experimenting with music, they didn’t have to keep up *laughs* it wouldn’t have been good for them.
So basically the middle years were for me to learn more about life, who I am, and the result of all of that learning and breakthrough and being in the school of life I developed into a three dimensional Michael and in 2008 something said inside me “Michael you better be on stage” and I was shocked by that but I had the desire because of early stage fright but took that as a sign that I’d reached the third part of my life and it’s time to really carry on. Consciously what I developed and unconsciously what I put on hold in my middle years I’m making up for it now, celebrating it and because if I would’ve stayed with Ozzy Osbourne or UFO or whatever I would have probably would have developed just as a two dimensional Michael but because of my middle years I added a third dimension, I understand so much more about everything I realised and recognised three things about me from the past that I never would’ve found out about or seen or realised and I also over conceptualised and changed 180 degrees. I changed from a shy Michael on stage to 100% changed to the other side, and so now I can continue as a three dimensional. There’s a saying if you stay true to yourself everything else will come back to you and more, and that’s exactly what has happened to me. With Ozzy Osbourne there was a lot of icing but no cake but in the middle years I created the cake and now I put the icing on the cake and I enjoy a good cake.
With the new album itself, what if anything did you do differently this time around compared to your previous works?
Well I never really do anything different, at seventeen I stopped listening to other guitarists and stopped listening music because I knew the mind is like a sponge and would automatically reuse things, I wanted to get something fresh out of my own inside that nobody knew about and realising if I do that on a daily basis that I would create a lot of new fresh talent and have an original style, and so I have been writing always the same. However I used Resurrection as obviously the same four singers and what is it that I want to be doing with this one and what do I enjoy with Resurrection I want to have more of for instance. So one of that was I really enjoyed ‘Warrior’ and ‘Last Supper’ and I can imagine it and the video , and I had fun doing it and so I wanted more of that, so I said to Michael who is a, Michael Schenker fan, an 80’s fan, as I job I said to him Michael I need vocals to my songs and I need to have one man in charge to write for four vocalists and I said you should do that and he automatically writes lyrics and melodies for every song I put on the tale just in case we need something for backup you know, so he’s very good at that and he understands us because he’s a fan.
This is all about the 80’s and about Michael Schenker in the 70’s as well and the later Michael Schenker I created as well, so basically from that Resurrection was born and I this time I wanted to have songs where everybody sings together on one song and we managed three songs because Ted McKenna passed away in the night of January and we had to focus on drummers and I wanted to have lots of guests on the album and we had to scrap the whole guest idea because of time and a investing a lot of work so we had to invest in drummers and Simon Phillips was happy to be a drummer in the studio he wasn’t available for live because he had his own commitments, Bodo Schopf from McAuley Schenker he offered his help and so we ended up with ten songs with Simon on the album and three songs by Bodo Schopf and then I took Bodo to The UK and we rehearsed the heck out of the live set because he had to learn thirty two songs and all together forty five songs but because we split it between Simon and Bodo it was a lot. For the guest musicians we bumped into the first song ‘We Are The Voice’ we started and we had never done a fast song with all singers so we got a bit stuck and it got a bit complicated and before we spent too much time on this I had a great idea which could actually work to our favour, I know that Robin would be a great singer for this song and he was more than happy, worked on it straight away and he was fantastic, he added a different dimension the album and it’s a different vocal and we have a surprise guest to an unusual song, so everything worked out by the time. We delivered the master on time, and everything on schedule and at the listening parties people say the listen to Resurrection and it makes them happy and they listen to revelation at it makes them want to party *laughs*. That sounds good to me, so we ended up in Los Angeles and made two videos and ended up on stage in Los Angeles and everything worked out.
In terms of your playing, how do you feel with technology as it is now that you’ve evolved as a player over the years?
I don’t use technology, at home I use a tape recorder, I hate technology I don’t use websites, I hate all of that stuff, obviously most people my age hate it, and you know I use my cassette recorder it’s straight forward I prefer a telephone that works straight forward too to be honest *laughs* but you have to adapt to certain things but you know. I put all my songs the old fashioned way on my cassette recorder in bits and pieces and when I come to the studio that’s all I have and I go there and put to action, I put the first original bits and pieces on the cassette recorder, the pieces of gold that I call it, but then I have forced myself to adapt myself to an R60 DuelL so I can put more guitars on it, so when I write I take the pieces from my cassette recorder and learn that riff and that is a piece of gold and that inspires me, I put that on an 8 track and that inspires me to write some other parts and complete it. Then when I go to the studio it’s a memory card I put in there and we just put it straight into the desk and then we look at the tempo of the first piece of music, we put a click track on and I put down my parts and that’s it. The only thing that I’m involved in and I enjoy actually is when we do arranging the song and because of cutting the parts it’s so easy to swap things around, in the old days we had to cut the tape with a knife and cut a piece of tape out of it and glue it back together it was terrible, but you know these are stupid obstacles that stop you from making music, so the cut and paste thing makes it possible to keep moving forward while you are making the music, you don’t get stuck by stupid impractical actions like having to cut and glue pieces of tape and stuff.
Also, another thing that I’m very grateful for, I used to spend time, like 75% of my time in the studio tuning, always Michael not in tune yet, I was going crazy you know and 75% I was tuning, now it’s the opposite I send such little time tuning and I can focus on playing music so I’m very grateful for that, but when it comes down to how I write music it’s analogue, it comes out of my hands the old fashioned way and what I create with my heart you cannot create with any technology. What you can maybe do with technology is you can fool people for a while, maybe for ten years until people realise that it all sounds the same, because eventually all sounds robotic. So the moment people stop using their hearts and get caught by the temptation of becoming a robot they’re already lost, because it’s done. So I’m fully aware of it because my number one priority and passion is pure self-expression and that does not come from a robot, pure self-expression comes from spirit and that is Michael Schenker.
Lastly let’s look ahead to the future, finish this sentence for me, in 2020 Michael Schenker wants to…
Michael Schenker wants to tour the world *laughs*
Including all the places that can afford us! People from Bangkok, people from Los Angeles, from Scotland, from Germany, from Italy, from Italy, it’s a big undertaking, I’m not joking, so it costs a lot of money and I tell you I can’t believe I’ve never played Australia, I can’t believe I’ve never been to Australia but I tell you one thing, I have a funny feeling Australia is going to be on the map because there’s no way that my life structure has been designed leaving Australia out, there’s no way. So I think it’s in the making, it’s all in the process.
Band members: Michael Schenker – Guitar / Vocals, Gary Barden – Vocals, Graham Bonnet – Vocals, Robin McAuley – Vocals, Doogie White – Vocals, Steve Mann – Guitar / Keyboard, Chris Glen – Bass, Bodo Schopf – Drums
Latest Release: Revelation (Out Now – Nuclear Blast)