'80s - Scorpions
'Yet Another Sting In The Tale!'
A stunning surprise package is boxed and tied and ready for unwrapping: Scorpions, Germany’s most successful international music export, are poised to “sting” once again and are planning a frontal attack on the musical artery of rock fans all over the globe with their new album Humanity – Hour I. Thirty-five years after the release of their debut album, 'Lonesome Crow,' Scorpions believe they have reached a new creative high in their impressive career with their just-released new album.
The band - Klaus Meine (vocals), Rudolf Schenker (rhythm guitars), Matthias Jabs (lead guitars), James Kottak (drums) and Pawel Maciwoda (bass) — enlisted acclaimed songwriter/producer Desmond Child (Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, KISS) and producer James Michael to work behind the boards on the album, which was recorded over a period of four months at several Los Angeles studios.
Known best for their 1984 anthem "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and the 1990 ballad "Wind of Change," the German rockers have sold over 22-million records, making them one of the most successful rock bands to ever come out of Continental Europe.
Is it true that it was you yourself that first set out to find a band back in 1965 and that the first incarnation actually had you as lead vocalist? Rudolf Schenker "That's exactly right, yes. In '65 we were called The Nameless because we couldn't find a better name. And then in the beginning of '66 I had this idea to call the band Scorpions. And everybody agreed. And so, in this case this was the band where Wolfgang Dziony was still on Lonesome Crow and he was singing parts kinda that he loved. And I was singing more the kind of stuff from The Pretty Things. So, in this case we were splitting, I would say."
Just where did you come up with the name, the Scorpions? "The Scorpions ... it's a great name. Because the Skorpions is written in Germany with a 'K.' If you put a 'C' instead you are still understandable for the German market, but also international. You already have an international name. Somehow I had always in mind when I start playing music - and being a fan of Pretty Things and Rolling Stones and stuff like this - I had in mind to do the same things as these people. I only had to find the right people around me that were sharing the same dream as me. So, in this case, I was already from the beginning looking for something which helps me and stays until the end or whenever."
"Scorpions is a very strong name ... and is strong anywhere. The tail is really like the needle of the turntable and yeah, you also know you have Scorpions all around the world. Not only the animal but of people who are all in this kind of sign. So, you have many things in one name and also the numerology of the Scorpions is 39, I think. It's a very good name, a powerful number. Rudolf is 30, Schenker is 30 ... and it starts with the 'S.' I was born in Schwetzingen with an 'S' ... all the important things were starting with the 'S.' So, in this case it was always very well connected and had the meaning somehow behind it."
Looking back did you ever think in your wildest dreams that the Scorpions would still be the powerhaus unit they are today some 35 years later? "I don't think that much about it. The first thing is that you go for it and you have a feeling in your stomach that it is the right thing. Even if sometimes you start really saying that maybe you are wrong - which is always normal. But the power always after this 'Maybe I was wrong?' was another strong push behind me that forced me to go further."
"The being where you want to be, of course, there were difficult times. We were becoming bigger and success turns you around like in 'Hurricane' which is the reason so many bands break up when they've had success. The chemistry breaks down because the people are then not really building the band in the right way like they did at the beginning. In the beginning my philosophy was, of course, friendship. I was already into playing guitar. I was a big fan of Elvis Presley, Little Richard and all this stuff. I got a guitar from my parents, but it was really boring! To play soccer on the field with all the friends was so much better!"
"But then there were The Beatles and The Stones and all these other bands. Liverpool kinda started and there was the right kick for me. Because there were these five friends traveling around the world and making music. So then I really start to take the guitar from the wardrobe and start playing and trying to get people to play with me which I can build also a friendship with."
"And this was the situation that turned out in the end to pay off, because when you have success and the friendship is not strong enough then it turns into a terrible disaster. We didn't have to go through this terrible disaster because we were solid from the beginning. With Klaus and me as the beginners of this kind of career later on when we started 'Lonesome Crow' it turns out to be a solid foundation that whatever's around us we can get through it. And find other people to share the dream with us."
You mentioned this solid foundation, but there have been many band members coming and going over the years. So how have the Scorpions remained so true to their original core music nearly 35 years later? "That's the reason I mentioned Klaus, because Klaus and me being the solid foundation means that friendship is the way. Especially in music as one way you are looking for friendship and then you are also looking for success. Sometimes this means you are working against each other, especially when you go for the future and you both say, 'OK, where do we go from here?' There's always two opinions and perhaps you're not going for the best way that you want to go for, but you're going for the way you think the band should go for. And so your ego becomes bigger and you start saying that they have to do whatever you say. And so you go for that and so the whole thing explodes!"
"And so if the band goes for 35 years of course the friendships in the band get pushed, but you only get into a band when you can say that you only want to be in that band with people I can build a friendship with. The friendship sometimes breaks up for different kinds of reasons. But that's the reason I mentioned Klaus a few times because this was a solid foundation to let the band keep going on even when some of the friends left and new friends came in."
Now, all these years later, what is your honest opinion about the situation back on the Lonesome Crow tour - when you opened for UFO - and at the end of the tour they asked your brother Michael to join them as lead guitarist? "My true feelings were half the crying eye and half the laughing eye. In one case because I know my brother and I know his talents I know that he went and never learnt a job ... he was doing some hours of work to get his money for his new amplifier ... and then to get the offer from UFO to go to England - where we never thought we could go - it was a challenge for him. OK, I know it was really hard for me, but on the other hand I knew it was very good for him."
"And another thing that I told him was that I wasn't going to turn this whole thing into a disaster and say f**k it I'm gonna go and do something else. No, I said what he can do we can do too! And so this was a good antenna for me to find out what the business was like in England. The band did management by themselves because management weren't really allowed in Germany ... and in this case it was a good kind of way to find out how the business was running and how we can use this knowledge to make the Scorpions as famous in Europe and Japan and in other places."
What was the bands thinking back in '76 when the 'Virgin Killer' album was released featuring a fully nude prepubescent girl on the cover? "I pushed the band to really stay behind it because it wasn't the idea of ours it was the idea of the record company and a journalist; who was a very good friend of ours. So, I told them it was the best way to push the press people into a position of having to really think about it. Because we found out that the people that were writing about the Scorpions in those days never went through the lyrics or whatever."
"Ulrich Roth composed the song 'Virgin Killer' ... and I remember when we did this session in our rehearsal studio in the basement of this school and Ulrich starting singing these high-pitched lyrics. I told him that what he was singing was great and that 'Virgin Killer' was a great title and that we have to use it! So, we used it and out of the lyrics came the line that time was a virgin killer. That means everybody comes in through life with a very naive, and a very great feeling to do something and time is killing your naivety, killing your emotions because you really have too many blocks to whatever you want to do."
"So, in this case when they came up with the cover - the record company and the guy - I said that it was a great thing. Because many people were not going through the lyrics they were only making some stupid kind of comments. But when you said to them have they looked at the lyrics as we're only using it as a symbol of the lyrics they started to think differently. So, hopefully then they go through it differently and then we get through the whole situation."
"So, of course it was planned to really get the people into this position. We met the girl some 15 years later and she never had a problem with it. So, in this case we didn't hurt anybody and more people went through the lyrics so we get more attention. And this album became the first gold album we ever had in Japan. Because the Japan people never have a problem with this kind of stuff!"
"And we would never do it today as today is a completely different time. You can see on the internet what they are doing with this kind of stuff, but in those days it was somehow on the border of being acceptable. We were also a rock 'n roll band, we were artists. We had everything on our side. We were young guys ... doing stupid things!"
You’ve recently spent 4 months in the studio with producers James Michael and Desmond Child working on your new concept album Humanity - Hour 1. Please tell me more about the actual theme/concept that runs through it and why the title? "It was also a little bit more including the mixing, but we were already on tour and so we had to make our final comments from Kiev and from Kazakhstan to let them know what we did and did not like by the internet! So, in this case it was a little different, but it was Desmond Child who came up with the idea of 'Humanity Hour 1.' He told us we could make a more measured album because there was a need for a soundtrack for a more peaceful revolution at the time. And that we could give another message because the world is in bad shape. So, in this case he came up with the album cover and the booklet concept and we were all very convinced. We had a lot of songs and so we started doing this from scratch. And in this case it was a very collective kind of creative team which also had in mind to lift up the collective consciences of the people."
"But, in the first point the album became very dark. But with the Scorpions standing also for hope in this case we had to write more songs to give the whole album a more optimistic feel. Bringing songs in like 'A Game Of Life' where the future never dies. So, in this case we worked more than 18 songs out and that means time. And at the same time we were making sure we were building a bridge between the older sounding Scorpions and the up-to-date Scorpions. So that we're not getting too big that we don't reach our old fans again."
How did the recording process go? "We were working in two different studios. In one where Desmond Child and Klaus did the vocals and Desmond doing the overview, of course. And then James Michael doing the drums and guitars. So, we really worked hard to get everything in the right way. We had the right attitude from the start and quickly got the right mix out of the songs to make this concept album."
What else did Desmond do for you guys?! "It was really very good working with Desmond, who also has vision. He put Klaus under his own control of his vocal chords, because he didn't want to encounter the risk of Klaus maybe after working for 6 weeks in the studio by singing, that maybe his vocals f**k up! He also gave us a personal trainer! He knows when you work four or five months in the studio that you can then go out on the road and you won't be fit. He wanted that we really go out on stage not like a bunch of old men ... no, that we're really having the right attitude on stage by really being as powerful as we can be. So, everything is really very planned and it was a great experience for us to work with all the people and learn a lot for our future careers and our next albums. Because Klaus and me we are working as a songwriter team for these many, many years and it is important that you really find a way out of your routine and getting new information on what you can do and how you can do it to get new ideas out of yourself in a different way."
With this new album titled Humanity - Hour 1 are there already plans for a sequel, perhaps? "That's written in the sky because it's a very, very good way of being motivated to think this way. It's not saying yes or no ... it's in the air. We will see by how much going through this whole new world tour."
Tell us more about your recent Live DVD We started this American tour in Manaus because our South American promoter Paolo Berrin came to us in Spain - when we did the european part of the tour - and mentioned that it would be fantastic if we could play in Manaus in connection to and supported by Greenpeace. Giving more attention to the rainforest around the world. So we agreed to do that and to make it a charity thing. So, we recorded the whole thing. We did this by inserting cameras everywhere on and off stage. I think there were 30,000 or 35,000 people there. And we put it out as a charity DVD for Mexico and Brazil first and the money goes into saving the rainforest. So in this case it was great to see how this message was growing and how natural it was. And if this tour goes maybe for another few months, then naturally this kind of thing grows. And 'Humanity Hour 2' is somehow in the sky ... you can see it, you can feel it already. So, of course we would do it."
Lastly, what will your audiences on tour going to be witness to this year? "In the '80s we did big productions but somehow in the '90s we learned to use a stage with great lights and our energy and our history. So, I think this combination which we used the last 10 to 15 years really worked very, very well ... and that's what we're doing at the moment. We're coming on stage and we have our classic songs like 'Rock You Like A Hurricane,' 'Big City Lights,' 'The Zoo,' 'Still Loving You,' ' The Winds Of Change' and so on. Of course, we have also the new stuff like 'Hour One,' '321,' 'Humanity' and 'Game Of Life.' So, we make the right mixture and we create them with ourselves without any gimmicks. And if you can deliver that it's more than just being on stage without attitude and having the best light show and the best gimmicks in the world. That we already found out to our cost because the energy gets to the people ... and the people don't know when they leave the concert why they've enjoy it so much! It's the energy ... it's more than anything else."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk