Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Rudolf Schenker - Unplugged But Still Electrifying - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Rudolf Schenker is finding out that the world is not quite ready for Scorpions, his long running juggernaught of peace and friendship, to come to a halt. The band has just released their latest opus, MTV Unplugged, a DVD/CD set that takes a long and leisurely look at the German metal frontrunners' history.

I caught up with Rudolf on an early Monday morning, and at 64 he's still running circles around the rest of the planet - we used telephones, but I'm not sure they were necessary. Had Schenker stuck his head out of his German window, I'm thinking I could well have heard him from my California back door. His energy and passion crash down like mighty waves, and you can either join in, or get out of his way. I dove in.

I asked about the hesitance of the world to let his band come off the endless road:

Rudolf Schenker: "I mean, to tell you one thing actually, to go away slowly, but surely! Not too fast! 
"We did the last album, the last world tour, but we still can't stop immediately. You know, if you drive a car 280, or 300 Km fast, and you want to stop the car, you cannot stop immediately - if you do, you go like (makes a hideous and loud screeching noise). 
"what we are doing now is taking the energy from the success of the farewell tour. You know, I was looking forward to 2013 as a year when we could be enjoying life and stuff, and then MTV called and said, 'Hey guys, are you ready for MTV Unplugged?' 
"Alright! We said, 'Yes, why not? Because we had already had the offer back in the '80s, but we couldn't do it because we were too busy touring around the world, we were booked already. 
"So, in this case it was good that we didn't do it because now our experience is much better for doing MTV Unplugged. Outstanding!"

Not content to simply roll out an acoustic version of their live show for MTV Unplugged, Schenker and company went to the woodshed in preparation and came up with five new and unreleased gems for the night, which was recorded in an outdoor amphitheater in Athens, Greece:

Rudolf Schenker: "I'll tell you one thing - it came out of the blue! 
"First of all there was supposed to be a kind od Scorpions bonus tracks project, because late in the '70s and the beginning of the '80s you would always do eight, or nine songs on an album. We mostly recorded around fourteen, fifteen songs. In this case, from every year, from every album, we have five, or six songs left. 
"So, we were working on these tapes for a bonus tracks thing. When we started with the MTV Unplugged, to arrange everything, we thought, 'Hey, there are two songs here, "Dancing With The Moonlight", and also, "Rock 'n' Roll Band" - they fit perfectly into it! 
"Then Klaus mentioned very much that we had to have an instrumental, 'I need a break, especially for unplugged, the voice is very much in need of a rest.' So, he said we must have an instrumental, and I said, 'I have one!' 
"Matthias had went to our Swedish producers, Michael and Martin to work with them on the arrangements - I did not want to work on the arrangements, because I am too close to the songs, I had composed them. I had already done my parts of the arrangements. 
"So, in this case, Klaus and Matthias came back with an instrumental - I said, 'That's a great instrumental, fantastic! But, I thought that two instrumentals would be terrible, so I went to Thailand for a kind of creative vacation - to really get into the possibilities. 
"I had an instrumental I had composed on the 2002 Russian tour, Moscow to Vladivostok - through seven time zones, and we took two rides on the Trans Siberian trains. I found this song, "Siberia!" But, then I thought, maybe I can vocal stuff in it, and lyrics. So, that became Love Is The Answer, down there in Thailand. 
"Klaus heard these two songs, and said, 'Oh it would be a great thing maybe - I also have one song I can present by myself.' In this case, we have a part of the MTV Unplugged where everybody is presenting without the other guys, so this was the situation that inspired us for the MTV production! 
"The rest is older stuff newly arranged with some guests, and great musical inspiration!"

I then asked Rudolf why the band had chosen to do the filming and recording in the ancient land of Greece:

Rudolf Schenker: "We did a lot of stuff in our history! Worldwide Live in America and Paris, we did Tokyo Tapes, we also did something in Brazil - we did a lot of stuff around the world, but never in Greece! 
"In Greece we have lots of fantastic fans, and we mostly play in the huge stadium when we are in Athens. So, we promised the Greek fans, because they were mentioning, 'Well guys, you play everywhere, and why are you not doing it in Greece?' 
"In this case, we had always had a dream that when we finally do MTV Unplugged, we could do it under the Acropolis, in an open air amphitheater! So, when MTV came to us and asked us, we said, 'Yes, we want to do MTV Unplugged, but we want to do it outside, open air in Greece!' 
"To get the people in Greece to get us this old amphitheater, it was difficult, and we were afraid maybe we couldn't get it in time. So, our promoter had this idea to play in an amphitheater that was built in 1965, the same year The Scorpions were born! High on a mountain in Athens, and we said, 'Yeah great, that's a good idea!' 
"It is a fantastic amphitheater - we played there already in 2004. It was fantastic, fans were hanging out on the rocks there, and it was very good to look from there. Yeah, everything was perfect! 
"Greek fans are very crazy, and we were afraid that maybe the fans are being so crazy that they wouldn't sit down, and that's one of the rules with MTV Unplugged, is to sit down - the audience and the band. In the end, everything worked out, and the audience was fantastic, what can I say? We did the first MTV Unplugged ever under an open sky in front of 3,500 people!"

I remembered seeing the bands' classic live album, Tokyo Tapes back in the late seventies - a German band singing in English to an adoring Japanese crowd. I asked Schenker why his band had such a worldwide appeal:

Rudolf Schenker: "When I started the band, I started on this naive thinking - I wanted to have good music, great musicians, but also, people I can build a friendship with! 
"It's the friendship that comes across from the stage when we play - people feel this, even over the music! 
"Also, because of Germany - The Scorpions coming from Germany, and their history of world wars. We always try to really build bridges between countries, between continents, between different systems, different philosophies - so, in this case, we really try to build friendships with our fans. 
"The whole vibe comes across. I'll tell you one thing - the unbelievable thing is that if you look now to the audience, we have so many young fans now! I have around five million Facebook fans, and the average age of 80% is between 16-28 years old! We have formed a whole new generation of fans, which are standing in front of our stage, and singing songs we composed when they weren't even born! In this case, we are very happy - and that really, I'll tell you one thing, that kicked our ass! 
"WE got through the two, or three years of tours, so when MTV called us, we said, 'Yes, we're doing this MTV Unplugged because over the Facebbok, fans are asking come here, come there, we want to see you, we haven't seen you, but we hear so much, we see your YouTubes. 
"In this case, it's fantastic! Rock and roll doesn't have borders - that's great! Our music, it has somehow become a timeless kind of thing!"

Alongside Rudolf Schenker for the last 44 years has been his singer and best friend, Klaus Meine. I asked Rudolf to define their friendship:

Rudolf Schenker: "Klaus had a band called The Mushrooms. I had The Scorpions already, and we played in the same area. Somehow, I saw him play in my hometown of Hildesheim.  
"I saw him perform onstage, and I said, 'Oh, I want to have a singer like this! Like him!'  
"So, when we played, and Klaus had played with his band in other cities, people came and told him, 'Oh, The Scorpions played here, they were great!' 
"We had already put our eyes on each other! So, somehow, I heard The Mushrooms had split up - I met with Klaus, and I said, 'Klaus, with you guys splitting up, what do you think about joining The Scorpions?' 
"He said, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I can't because I have to go to the army,' because in Germany it was a rule that when you were 18, or 19 years old, you must go to the army. I survived! I couldn't find a way of going, so this way, when Klaus came back, I said, 'OK, Klaus and my brother.' I took my brother and him into The Scorpions. 
"So, from then on, we were a songwriting team, and somehow we had the same dreams - we're kind of brothers from a different mother! 
"In this sense, it was fantastic to share the same dream, the same philosophy. 
"We became five friends going around the world, and playing in front of our friends! 
"Another thing is that Klaus is from the same planet like I am, from our astrological signs! He is a Gemini, the light side of Mercury, and I'm a Virgo, from the dark side, the moon of Mercury. In this case, the perfect combination - the same situation with The Stones, where Jagger is the Sun sign, and Keith is the dark side. Jimmy Page is the dark side, Robert Plant is the light! 
"If you have this, perfect! Paul McCartney is the light side, John Lennon was the dark, the moon sign. If you have a combination like that, it is the perfect thing for a writing team! It's fantastic, and that's how we became the writing team that we are.  
"We've shared the good times, the hard times, and that's what friends are for!"

Rudolf had mentioned his brother, guitar legend Michael. I told him that I had just seen and spoken with Michael, and he was looking and playing better than ever:

Rudolf Schenker: "Yeah - I know! He's now on the light side, hahahaha!!! 
"He was sometimes too much on the dark side, even when he was on the sunny side of life, he put himself too much into the dark side! 
"I heard his new album - it is fantastic, and he's doing better than ever! The combination with the singer is fantastic, and what can I say? 
"I'm looking forward - it was my plan in 2013 to do a Schenker Brothers album, but you know, things sometimes go different than you think! 
"But, I'm happy with what I am doing, he's happy with what he's doing. We met lately, two months ago I think, he came to my studio, and we were talking about the future, and what we can do - we said, 'Let's leave it open!'


Paul said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tony Conley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blogger said...

Do you need free Twitter Re-tweets?
Did you know that you can get them AUTOMATICALLY & TOTALLY FREE by registering on Like 4 Like?