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INTERVIEW – Rudolf Schenker, Scorpions, February 2015

| 12 March 2015 | Reply

INTERVIEW – Rudolf Schenker, Scorpions, February 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

Interviewing a really big star can sometimes be a double edged sword – as interesting as they can be when their guard is down, they’ve done so many interviews that they are usually masters of the art of delivering the requisite soundbites to every journalist they encounter. It gives good copy, but little uniqueness.

Scorpions - Rudolf Schenker 01

Rudolf Schenker of German metal legends Scorpions needs no introduction, and rest assured that whilst you may read similar quotes elsewhere, the man has a personality so huge that he is a force of nature, even down an international phone line, and all we could do was strap ourselves in and enjoy the ride.

I’m not going to try and paraphrase or translate anything – here is Rudolf Schenker, pretty much unedited, in all his mad, unique glory.
100% ROCK: Why have Scorpions never played in Australia?

Rudolf: Easy, because we were already one year and three months on tour, [my bandmates] said, ‘no, that’s too much.’ In this case, we didn’t play in Australia and now my friends [in the band], they regret what they did and now they’re coming and, ‘you want to play in Australia?’ I said, ‘see guys?’ Now it’s not so easy. We’ve been looking very much forward to coming to Australia on our fifty anniversary tour.

100% ROCK: Will you come?

Rudolf: We’re looking forward. We told our agency already, “Make sure that everything works out and let’s see, maybe it will be a possibility, hopefully. I mean, we have to play once in Australia. That’s a must and this is the best time, before we fade away.

I was only once in Australia when we played in New Caledonia, we had to stop over because we want to have our feet once in Australia. I was standing in the street, a corner street, on the Four Seasons Hotel overlooking the [Sydney Opera House]. It was a fantastic view and what can I say – a very good living place.

100% ROCK: Look, let’s get down to business. Otherwise I’ll waste all my time talking about how great you are – and we can’t do that.

Rudolf: [Laughs wildly] Okay, let’s go to business.

100% ROCK: Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way. Aren’t you guys supposed to be retired?

Rudolf: Exactly, and I tell you one good thing about retiring, it’s that you’re noticed. By being on the retiring tour, you somehow gets new fans. Our audience gets younger and younger. Out of six and a half millions, we have now, in the moment, we have eighty percent of the fans between sixteen and twenty eight years old. That means, these people, they’re writing to us and writing, ‘you can’t stop now. I haven’t seen you guys.’

I tell you one thing, but the main reason why we not retire, is because when we did this new album which we promised already when we were announcing the Farewell Tour, we said, I have a giveaway bonus track album that means leftover from the late ’70’s and beginning of the ’80’s because it was our most creative time. I was composing like a hurricane, and there were so many songs which couldn’t make it on the albums. Of course, we have now a great pair of producers, Mikael Nord Andersson and Martin Hansen. I told them, ‘look guys, go through the stuff and look what is the great stuff to work on?’

Scorpions - Rudolf Schenker 02

They went through the stuff and they found a lot of songs and we start working between our Farewell tour already on these songs, but by working on it, especially in 2014, what I found is by raiding my office and guitar room, I found a book done by my mother which was written because my father gave us a lot of money to buy equipment and my mother said, ‘you have to pay the stuff back.’ In this case, she had this book by writing down how much money we got from every club [gig] and she was putting it to have pay back and to have for pocket money.

This book was starting exactly in 1965 in the end of September. I went downstairs in the studio and said, ‘look, guys, here’s what I found.’ Our manager says, ‘what? Unbelievable. This is fifty years next year. I want to call the promoters and ask what the demand is.’ The demand was amazing. In this case, young audience demand from all the promoters for the fifth anniversary, what we said, ‘okay, but we can’t really do a bonus track album. We have to maybe split into a bonus track and new album.’

By working on the bonus track and new album, we changed a lot of stuff in the bonus track by doing new choruses, on only one or two songs, then doing new lyrics, some of them are old, some are new and writing new stuff. In the end it was ending up by nineteen songs because the creative zone was so exploding that we couldn’t hold ourselves. What can we do now, we said. We have nineteen songs. We nearly started saying, we’ll do a double album, but then, by thinking about it, our record company said, ‘stop, stop. We need bonus tracks for the Japanese people, for iTunes, for that, and for that, and for that.’

In this case, we only had the chance to put twelve songs on the album. That was the hardest thing to do. This album, Return to Forever, it’s the name which the record company cames up because every week we had a new title. Because we’re bringing out a new film this year, which was done [over] the last three, four years, by crews following us and also really taking stuff from the very early days filmed by Super 8 and this film, they call it, Forever And A Day. It’s a very good combination.

100% ROCK: Very cool.

Rudolf: We didn’t do it. It comes out from doing our parts around it. In this case, we had perfect solutions and that’s the situation which you see stuff like farmers… Fifty years ago, we was planting a seed and we were putting a lot of water, enough water and enough sun on it to let the fruit grow. Now we have the time where we taking all the great fruits and spreading it because we did the right things to the right times.

In this case, why we’re not stopping is because we want to celebrate the fifty year’s anniversary and doing it also touring-wise. 2015, 2016 will be the touring time to promote and to celebrate fifty years of Scorpions building the house brick by brick. That’s what we did and now we are here talking about this new album, Return To Forever.

Scorpions - Return To Forever cover

100% ROCK: Return To Forever sounds like classic Scorpions. You saying that it comes from a lot of songs that were leftovers makes perfect sense. It’s really a return to that classic Scorpions sound.

Rudolf: Exactly. That’s the basic idea. Going and showing people and, by all these ways of coming and going, I have explained in the ’80’s always, we are the rock – not we only, but rock like AC/DC, Scorpions, Metallica – we are the rock in the ocean where all the waves coming and going but the rock is still standing. Rock music and, that’s what the situation also gave us, was pushing us.

The young generation coming and wanting to see The Scorpions… In front of our stage we have people sixteen and twenty one, and twenty eight – of course, the older fans too, but they’re a little more in back. That’s great that we can help to really get this music done by head, heart, and soul really keeping up the spirit and working on the family of rock. The rock family is sending and not disappearing because the computer music is overtaking.

100% ROCK: There’s a few lyrics on the album about being in a band, and about being on the road, and about coming home after travelling and touring. Is this reflectiveness about winding down the band? Were you looking backwards a little bit and thinking about that when you were putting this album together?

Rudolf: That’s what I said. When we heard about we have a fifty year anniversary, of course we said, then we have to talk about it because that’s what we can talk about the best. That’s the reason why Scorpions went out in foreign countries. We went out by showing the people – Klaus and me we were born after the war – we want to show the people, a new generation comes out of Germany. We’re not coming with tanks and bringing war, they’re coming with guitar and bringing love, peace, and music.

Scorpions - Rudolf Schenker 03

Our devices mostly, The Scorpions have three feets they’re standing on. They are love, peace, and rock and roll. Love stands for love, peace means peace and rock and roll for rocking like a hurricane, that’s the message. Building bridges between religions, between different systems, between different generations. That’s the reason why we went to Russia, thinking about in ’82 already that we want to go there. Everybody thought we are crazy, but then we did in ’88. We came back and are playing ten shows in Leningrad.

Then one year later, playing a music peace festival and seeing the world is changing in front of our eyes. Klaus was [then] writing Wind Of Change – the soundtrack of the most peaceful revolution ever. By bringing us into the Kremlin, talking to Mr. Gorbachev because he was very overwhelmed that we did the Russian version for Wind Of Change. This is the way our Scorpions always thinking.

When I was forming the band, I was very much inspired by The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, thinking as a child, naïve, four, five friends travelling around the world playing music, I think, ‘I want to do this as well.’ That’s what I did. I was starting a band, always looking to get the best musicians, of course, but also people I can build a friendship with. This philosophy is still as a redline going through our career, through the high and lows. And here we are still standing and, not fighting for egos, fighting for division, we’re fighting for the music and for the way of playing music and enjoy what you’re doing.

100% ROCK: You guys were huge, not just America, but especially there through the crazy hair metal days of the ’80s. How crazy was a Scorpion’s backstage show back then?

Rudolf: Everybody knows it was a crazy time. It was really the most outstanding time. The record company was more crazy than the rockers because they had so much money because there was a time when vinyl left and CDs came, they were selling the old stuff again to CDs. It was a crazy life. Of course, it was really party and you can listen to the lyrics of Rock You Like A Hurricane. This song became an anthem of the ’80s because this was really the song with the lyrics ‘give her inches and feed her well!’ That was the whole situation of rock and roll. But we changed our slogan from then on because we’ve so many people… let’s say getting downhill by living this rock and roll too much…

100% ROCK: That’s a good point – how did you stay in such good shape physically and emotionally after fifty years of rock, and success, and money, and excess, and partying on the road? Surely, that crushes most people.

Rudolf: It’s hard! It defines the basic idea that the road, which I can tell you, the reason why I mention it, is four or five friends travelling around the world and play music. If you have friends in the band, when you see somebody is too much on a left or a right wing, you go and say, ‘hey, look, we have to be careful.’ Everybody was looking to each other and trying to get to hold the band together. When somebody was too much over driven by this life, we got him in again and was helping him. That’s what it is. You have to care about the other person too. That’s the reason why friendship is for.

Scorpions - Rudolf Schenker 04

100% ROCK: For sure, mate. The past few years I’ve seen the band do all sorts of stuff. You’ve done the Humanity Hour 1 album which was a bit dark and a bit different. You’ve reworked old songs on Comeblack, you’ve done the MTV Unplugged In Athens album. With the end in sight, are you trying to cross off as many things off the band’s bucket list as possible?

Rudolf: No. I tell you one thing, first of all, the ’90s were a time which was really, for this kind of music, we were lucky that our philosophy was not playing where the money is. We had a different philosophy. Playing where the adventure and where we can really affect people to embrace us, like Asia, where most people didn’t want to go because they were not paid enough money – or Russia, where there was no market then. We went also to places where our master of money, the financier of our money say, ‘you guys are like crazy. [only] five hundred German marks to spend to play in Russia, it’s crazy.’

[But] we did it and we got a lot of things back. So in this case, when Grunge and alternative came, of course, we start to really, let’s say, experiment a little bit. Klaus is an amazing singer and he has a range and he was sometimes little bit underrated because, yes, there was maybe a little bit too much in the rocky ways and we had noticed it by not being so present to the Americans, they were much into the Grunge and stuff like this, but the Asian market was very, very, very strongly [supporting us].

We made twenty times platinum in Thailand, we made ten times platinum in Indonesia, over five times platinum in Korea. The whole Asian market, in Asia in the ’90s was the market where we could go and play the big stadiums. We played in big stadiums and we didn’t have to fight with the alternative stuff. We also was using the ’90s for experimental albums like Eye To Eye. Later on, of course, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestral was a great thing for us to do because, one of the best Orchestras in the world.

First of all, when they first made the offer in ’94, we were a little bit not sure whether we can do it or not, but The Scorpions are really famed, ‘let’s see what we can do.’ We found the right people in Christian Kolonovits organizing, and arranging, and conducting the orchestra. When we found out what our strengths and what our strong parts in our music is, then Acoustica came and of course, we were more and more unbreakable, already going into the rocky way by getting the offer from Desmond Shire to make Humanity Hour 1.

We said, ‘okay, we have to find out whether he can maybe give us another kick where we go through,’ but then we found, I’ve heard a rumble, I like it very much, the production. I said to our manager, I said, ‘Peter, please find out who’s the producer of this band,’ and found out where the producers are and we met them and he immediately found out this guys are the guys who can really get a new inspiration for us.

Micah here, we was one of the first albums [he bought], he was growing up to northern Sweden, his first album was In Trance and he knows the DNA of The Scorpions and he could give us the right direction to make the next album Sting In The Tail. Now we are on the right track. We know where we come from and where we have to go.

Scorpions 02

100% ROCK: After fifty years, Rudolf, do you have a warehouse somewhere with all your memorabilia, and costumes, and posters, and instruments.

Rudolf: We have a warehouse – it’s so completely full, it’s a disaster in it because nobody takes any care. We thought maybe we will have time, but the time we have to push it to 2017 to maybe make a clean-up the room and make sure that all the stuff is not rusting somewhere. We have a lot of warehouse. Our warehouse is like a crazy house because everything is in there. My guitar roadie is also a collector of Ducattis and old bikes and also of kid toys. If you come in our warehouse, it’s a different world.

100% ROCK: Some people would kill to go in there, I’m sure.

Rudolf: Maybe, sooner or later, we will film it and put it in our Facebook.

100% ROCK: Yeah, do that. Do it! I have one more question… After fifty years as a Scorpion, what does Rudolf Schenker really want to do when the band finally finishes?

Rudolf: I’m living today. As you can see, I already thought maybe after touring with the Farewell Tour, then I start doing the album with my brother [Michael], the Schenker Brother album. That’s the problem is, there is no time for. In this case, when somehow The Scorpions, especially Klaus – Klaus is the bigger one for [when] the Scorpions can’t play, because when he can’t sing anymore, then we’re in trouble as a Scorpion. But as long as we are playing, The Scorpions are powerful enough and we can still offer the people what the people expect from The Scorpions, we will play, then, after that, maybe I do the album with my brother, the Schenker Brother album.

100% ROCK: People will love that. You know that.

Rudolf: All right. I do it. Have a good one and hopefully we’ll see you on our Australia tour.

100% ROCK: Fingers and toes are crossed, Rudolf. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you for your time.

Rudolf: Thank you very much. Thank you. Bye now.

Scorpions Return To Forever is out now.

Shane

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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