Interview with Klaus Meine (Scorpions)

Scorpions’ career is quite an exceptional one, having been together for over 35 years and releasing over 21 records to date. The worldwide popularity of this German band has never seemed to wither and if the only qualification for success is to be really nice people, then it is clear to see why. Upon their arrival at tonight’s venue, Manchester Apollo, the band spent over an hour signing autographs and posing for photos with their fans. This was great to see… a band who knew how to treat the people who put them where they are today.

With only 20 minutes or so available and two interviewers waiting to talk with the band, Metal Express Radio joined with Paul Flanaghan and began by asking about the new album Humanity Hour 1 and what was the thinking and motivation for the record…

Well, it’s the Global theme of Humanity, all those songs on the album are loosely connected with the theme and they are songs that portray or reflect more the darker side of the world and about all of us living on this planet and they are songs of despair and songs of hope. We were working with Desmond Child and we wanted to make an album that was more mature and not so much about boys chasing girls and this kind of thing. You know, we thought, we have done all this for many years, so we just wanted to make an album that’s more heavy with songs like “The Cross” or “Hour 1”… you know, this Armageddon kind of feel, and on the artwork you see this cyborg standing in front of a crater and in a way it’s all of us facing the future — where do we go from here and isn’t it time to turn back to the roll of humanity, to find more love and respect for each other in this world. So this was the theme, it’s not a concept album in a sense that all the songs are connected as a storyline, but the songs are very well-balanced out between those up-tempo Rock songs and, of course, some power ballads on the record too.

Working with Desmond was a very special experience and the biggest difference really was that we were working with some of the best writers in Rock music. It was collaboration, not only with Desmond, but also Eric Bazilian and Marti Fredrickson; so there was a huge pool of creativity and it was a whole new experience.

That was a bit of a departure from the norm as far as the songwriting goes, quite often the credits would read: “Schenker, Meine,” but on this album for the first time you were not writing with Rudolph at all!

We were all participating in other stuff, we were all putting songs together, but it was not in the same old way we were used to for so many years, like this is my song, and this is your song or we did this together, so it was a whole different set up from the beginning. I guess when you make the decision to use Desmond Child as a producer, you make a decision you want him as a songwriter too. I mean this guy is a genius, but this was not about looking for a cheap hit single, I mean especially Desmond, he was the guy who said let’s make an album that hopefully will put you guy’s on the next level. Let’s make an album that could be another milestone for the band, so that was the approach, it was much more to focus on the whole body of work, the entire album and hopefully it’s strong and people would be surprised.

Desmond in the past has had a reputation for making a lot of the bands sound quite similar, but on this album you managed to retain the classic Scorpions sound, yet move forward and have a more contemporary sound as well. Did you have to battle with him at times to retain your sound?

Yes! Sometimes there was a battle going on! Definitely, but I mean I think picking the producer was the first part of this decision. Do you want to sound like a band from the 80’s or do you want to make a Rock album that has a current sound and is up-to-date and still features the signature sound of the Scorpions, but at the same time sounds like 2007?

The thing with Desmond… he has his own ideas especially in the mixing process, but we definitely wanted this to sound like Rock, but at the end of the day we are all very happy that we made the decision to work with Desmond, but it was not all Desmond Child, of course, James Michael was the guy who recorded most of the guitars, Desmond was very much focused on working with me on the vocals and he tried very hard to get rid of my German accent, so I said, “hey come on I have sold million and millions of records especially in the U.S.A. — it’s my trademark, but it was funny!!

You have put out over 21 albums over 35 years in the business. Do you still find it easy to be creative in the writing process, or do you sometimes hit a blank?

We went through moments in all those years where you feel you need some time to recharge your creative batteries again. I think after all these years, in a way, it’s easier to write because you have so much experience, but we started in the last couple of years working with Erik Bazilian also Marti Fredrickson was involved way back; I think it’s almost 10 years ago with Eye to Eye in 1999. So we started at some point to open up and bring other writers in, but it’s not so much about running out of your creativity, but it gives you new ideas and you don’t get stuck in the “Bad Boys Running Wild” cliché. It’s good to have some new ideas from people who see the band from the outside.

Over the years you have penned many classic ballads ”When The Smoke Is Coming Down,” “Still Loving You,” and a particular favorite “Send Me An Angel.” Again on this album, there are some great ballads — “Humanity” probably being the pick of the bunch. Is it as easy for you to write the ballads as it is to write the Hard Rock songs, because they seem to come so easily?

Well for us it seems much easier to come up with these ballads and it’s not so easy to come up with catchy Rock songs, up-tempo songs that really rock, but at the same time have a great powerful melody, a great hook. It’s much harder to find another “Rock You Like A Hurricane,” but I think on this new album the track “321” is a great up-tempo Rock song with a very powerful hook!

Have you ever thought about writing for anybody else? For example, “Maybe I Maybe You” could be sung by somebody like Andy Williams; it’s such a beautiful melody — have you ever offered your songs to anybody else?

Well if there is a request for a collaboration we are always ready, but with the Scorpions we are so busy, people ask me year after year when are you going to do a solo record and it’s like, man this is my solo record! I am so deeply connected with this band and I still enjoy it very much, so I don’t need to see my name on an advert, like this is Klaus Meine rocking like crazy or whatever. I am very much a team player and with this band it’s a lot of fun and we enjoy playing all over the world after all these years, and I think it is a privilege to come back to England and to see in the UK such a strong response. Just now when we got here for the sound check there were a lot of people out there, it was like wow man! It’s great, you know, and we have not been here for quite a while and I think when we played with Judas Priest people realized that this band is still rocking, so I do think that it is still a privilege that after all these years we can still do it. And for me, we are so busy… I mean now the album is out… we went straight from four Months in L.A. recording Humanity Hour 1 and then went straight into playing concerts, and from here we are on our way to Brazil where we’ll play a show in Manouse in the rain forest; its going to be crazy, we play a couple of shows there and then Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.A. Yeah everywhere!

Do you still enjoy the travelling side of the business?

I don’t enjoy the travelling so much anymore! I like it when we get there, when we’re on stage and everything, the fans and everybody having a good time, but the travelling part gets harder and harder. Take a look at our Web site and you will see the schedule.

Going back to your tour with Priest here in the UK… do you think it brought the fans attention back to the band? Do you think that worked?

Absolutely! We hadn’t been in the UK for a long time; we wanted to come here, but we did not want to play like the little clubs; we wanted to go to good venues and to go with a package and the Scorpions were always very strong when we supported whoever it was, but we were in the Special Guest slot — we like the Judas Priest guys and we played with them back in the 80’s in America so many times. So it was a great package, and for the fans it was fantastic! We played an hour set and we put all the best songs into this package and hammered it down, and we felt very honored to be a part of the Charity At The Royal Albert Hall that was also something very special with Ian Gillan & Priest, so we had a feeling and some very strong feedback from the UK, so hopefully with the new album we can come here even if it’s just for a few shows. But lets see how it feels and tonight I think is sold out. I do not know about London, but tomorrow will be good as well.

We get so many messages on the internet guestbook from British fans saying “can’t wait to see you guys” and it’s fantastic, so this is the best part of it and in the band we enjoy what we do and we enjoy playing the new songs that work very well with the classics. It works after all these years, and we realize that coming from Germany and going all over the world with our music it’s just very special history, and we will keep going as long as it feels good and as long our fans are out there. It’s amazing to have so many young kids in front of the stage every other night; it seems like a whole new generation that has discovered the Scorpions sound and it’s great! It’s very motivating, and inspiring.

You did the Monsters Of Rock tour with Kingdom Come back in the eighties… is that where you came across James?

Yeah! Yeah! That’s where we met James for the first time… our drummer Herman Rarebell said you have got to watch this drummer! Yes, he really is a fantastic musician; he’s a Pro and rocks like crazy, and he loves this band and has been with us for 10 years now! He is a professional collector of Air Miles, flying between L.A. and Germany. You know, he plays shows here and then goes back to L.A. — it really is amazing.

So what about Pawal? Where did you come across him?

We were looking for a new bass player in 2004 when we recorded Unbreakable — we had lots and lots of bass players for auditions and we had one Polish guy who works for the band. He said I have this guy from Poland! He is a fantastic guy and a great player, so he came for an audition and he was in, and he and James connected and they now have a great time playing together — he is a great guy, so we were lucky! I think this is a very strong, powerful Scorpions and you can feel it on stage when we play, we all enjoy it.

It’s been 35 years now since you released Lonesome Crow… did you ever think at the time when that first album came out that you would be sitting here 35 years later?

No way!! You know sometimes people say you have been doing this now for 40 years and that feels heavy to hear that number. It’s heavy on your shoulders, but in reality it does not feel that way. It’s like, we get up, we go on the bus, we go on the plane and go where we have to go and then we play, and like our manager Doc McGee once said when we met in L.A. I said “Doc you still look the same” and he said “same with you guys, you have not changed at all, you know what, it’s because age is not catching up with us… we are too fast” and I think there is some truth to that.

So what would you attribute your longevity to? Is it clean living?

Well as a singer back in the Eighties and coming through that period of time when I lost my voice, it was always clean living after that, and when you manage to get through this, for me, it was like a second chance as a singer and as an artist, so you have to look after yourself. There is still time — the party ticket is always on the table every night, maybe not tonight because we are on our way to London, but it’s like that whereever you go you now, “Do you want to go to a party?” Especially when you go to the East, like Russia or Eastern block countries — it’s like amazing so there’s always time for a party, but I have to take care of myself and take care of my voice, and the fans deserve a great show, and it’s only fun to be on the road and on a tour like this when your instrument is in good shape. If my voice can’t do it then I hate it! Then I say “Why can’t I be like a bass player?”

Will you be playing many tracks from the new album on this tour?

Well, we start the show with “Hour 1.” We do “Humanity,” “321,” and we will see — maybe we will do another one, but we have to find a good balance between the new stuff and the classic Scorpions and also the stuff we will be playing with Uli Jon Roth tonight, having him as a special guest in the show, so we want to play some songs with him that we normally don’t play. The set is a little different, so with him we have songs like “Speedy’s Coming,” “Pictured Life,” “Fly To The Rainbow,” and all that stuff you know, so the set is different. We have to find a good balance.

Uli is on the tour and Michael is the support act tonight…

Yes! Yes!

Are you going to get him up on stage as well?

Well yes I hope so… it would be great, but with Michael you never know! I mean it’s up to Rudolph — I mean if Rudolph and Michael could work something out it would be fantastic! I would love it, everybody in the Scorpions would love it, but you never know… we are happy when he just show’s up you know.

So how did Uli become involved again?

Well, two years ago we played a show together in Colmar, France, and after so many years Uli could not imagine playing with us again. He lived in England for a long time, so we were not really in touch with each other — then this show came up and I think it was the French promoter who really put it together and we were surprised at how much he enjoyed it, and for the fans it was fantastic. We all had a great time… we then did Wacken Festival last year in Germany where we had Uli, Michael, and Herman Rarebel, so it was really like a family reunion and we played for almost three hours, I think, it was a great show; there were 60,000 diehard Hardcore Metal fans and right now we are working on a DVD of that show, which will hopefully come out soon. After that, the door was open and the French promoter said when you come back again this year it would be great for you to do Paris for a couple of shows and could Uli be in the show. With Uli, it was uncomplicated… he said he wanted to do this, he loved it, it was great, so we played a couple of shows in France and we did a big festival in Greece. We were headlining; it was just amazing and the fans in Greece went nuts!! So, of course, it would be great to have Uli and Michael and kind of have this reunion here and there, but since they have their own business and their own bands going on it’s difficult! With Uli it is very uncomplicated, but with Michael it’s a little different and difficult, so you cannot make plans, but for the fans I would love it, so let’s see tonight and if it works out it would be great.

What was Mathias feeling about this? It must be a bit like seeing your best friend going out with your ex-wife; seeing somebody you have replaced coming back.

Yes, Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth… they are both very powerful guitar players and very special, but they both have their very own style, so as for them playing together there is no problem with Mathias.

You have had most of your commercial success really with Mathias!

I mean with Michael he was stuck in his own problems back in the 70’s with UFO, and then he came back to the Scorpions for a moment then Mathias joined. You’re right, then we went to America and then we really started to become successful all over the world because we were a very powerful unit, there was no egos and fighting and so on, but they both had their own interesting careers. But after all these years it’s great when they come back, I think it’s great here in the UK to have Michael play with us, to be in the show with his band and then we play with Uli in our show, I think it’s fantastic and there is a lot of people who want to see it.

How did it feel when you looked over to your right and you saw Uli there? Did it feel like no time at all had passed?

Yes, it could have been the Eastern Plaza Hotel ’78 in Tokyo.

It must have been fun revisiting some of those old tunes again. Did you just sit down and say how about this song and this and that song?

It was just trying to figure out which song would work. I guess there is so much material, but there is so little time really to go through it all, we are so busy we tried to find a set where everybody is happy and it works.

So wasn’t Herman able to come along on these shows?

He just released an album himself, so he is pretty busy promoting his record and there is just so little time. I mean last night when we played we wanted to play even more songs but it was like there is a curfew and so we had to stick to 90 minutes.

Did you get a chance to see any of the other bands last night on the bill?

No I haven’t seen anybody, not even Michael! He played, but I did not see him.

So what are the band’s immediate plans for the future after these dates and your Brazilian shows? Is it going to be pretty much tour, tour, tour, now?

Yes as I said we go to Brazil, this Manouse show will be very special — it is like a big venue and Greenpeace are involved, and from there we go to Mexico, Canada — Montréal and Toronto, actually we do all over Canada this time: Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and then down the West coast for a few shows in the U.S.A. — from L.A. to New York; and then we come back next year to the U.S. to do a major tour.

Special thanks to Paul Flanaghan for co-hosting this interview and for transcribing it afterwards

For more on the Scorpions visit the Scorpions website


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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