Interview with Michael Schenker (MSG/UFO/Scorpions)

Michael Schenker
Photo credit: Steve Brinkman

He’s one of the all time greats, playing with legendary bands the Scorpions, UFO and MSG. He’s back with a new album, Spirit on a Mission, due out next year and Mick Burgess chatted to him just before the start of his UK tour.

You’ll soon be over in the UK for a 9 date tour. Are you looking forward to playing for your UK fans again?

Absolutely. I love playing in the UK and I always love to tour and visit places I’ve played many times and some places I haven’t played before.

The first night of your tour is up here in Newcastle. You’ve played here many times in your career from the City Hall to the O2 Academy. Do enjoy playing up here?

I have played there many times and it is always great. I love the City Hall; it is such a legendary venue and a great hall to play. Newcastle is a fantastic place for Rock music. It is like no other place and is a great place to play.

A few years back you weren’t in a great place musically or personally but the last few tours you’ve done you seem to be really enjoying yourself. What did you do to pull yourself back on track?

2002 was probably the worst time in my life. I went through a divorce at that time and it took me a long time to recover. In 2007 I decided I wanted to get back into Rock and Roll and I did an album with Gary Barden, the original singer in MSG called In The Midst of Beauty and that was the beginning of me moving forward again. That got me back on track and I haven’t looked back since.

Your current lineup includes Francis Buchholz and Herman Rarebell, your old band mates from the Scorpions. How did they become part of your musical life again?

It’s a long story and it happened step by step. Nothing was planned but it really happened when I was invited to play some shows with the Scorpions and Herman was there too and we got reacquainted. Later Herman came to one of my shows in London and he came up on stage and jammed with me. I found out he lived in Brighton near me so we started working together with Pete Way my old mate from UFO. Pete wasn’t too well at that time so I asked Herman about Francis and if he’d like to play some Scorpions songs together and we got in touch and he was more than happy to do it. We did a tour together and a live album and then recorded Bridge The Gap and are working on a new album which is due out in March 2015 called Spirit on A Mission. We are working really well together and it’s great to be with Herman and Francis again.

On vocals you have former Rainbow singer, Doogie White. You’ve had a fair few singers over the years. How would you say Doogie stands up to the likes of Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley?

Doogie is an incredible singer. He has a great Metal voice which links in well to where I am at the moment. The new album is going to be very heavy, fast and melodic and Doogie has the perfect voice for that. He’s done a fantastic job. What is also great about Doogie is that he can sing the songs from my UFO and Scorpions days as well as the MSG material really well.

Wayne Findlay is the final piece in the jigsaw and he’s now been in your band the longest. Does his versatility on guitar and keyboards allow you the freedom to express yourself fully on the guitar?

Wayne really does help me as he’s the foundation of the band. As I have Wayne in the band I can use more 7 string guitar to get a heavier sound which I couldn’t do without him. We’ve co-written songs together and he is becoming a very substantial member of the band.

You’ve had many different lineups over the years from the time of your 1980 debut album. Has the movement of members in and out of the band kept things fresh for you?

I don’t know as I don’t really plan for it to be like this. Some of the musicians need work and I can’t put them on a retainer so if I’m not working then they need to move elsewhere which is fine. When I start working I’ll get in people who are available. It’s possible with this line up that everyone is staying together for some time as I think everyone enjoys it and the chemistry is great. This is a new chapter for me and maybe this is how it’s meant to be.

One of your classic MSG albums is Assault Attack with Graham Bonnet but he only lasted one album. Would you like to work with Graham again on a full album at some point to fulfill that potential shown on Assault Attack?

Funny you should ask that as I’ve been asked to have Graham as my support band for my next tour of Japan so I hope he’ll come up on stage and sing with us. Maybe we can work together on a record again at some point, who knows?

You recorded your first album with the Scorpions in 1972 and have recorded dozens since then. How do you go about choosing the songs to play on tour?

We have a new album out next year so I think it would be good to play a new song from that. We’ll play a few songs from our latest album Bridge The Gap and we have the must play songs from across my career that people always want to hear and then I’ll look at the classics that we haven’t played on previous tours and hopefully we’ll have a well-balanced set that we enjoy playing and we know that people will enjoy seeing.

A while back you had a bit of a disaster. Someone broke into your recording studio and stole some of your guitars. How precious were the guitars to you?

These guitars have been part of my history and have been on stage with me at a very special time of my life. That was just terrible along with all of the music that was also stolen. I lost half of the album and we had a lot of catching up to do but we managed that thankfully and we are moving forward. It was a smack in the face but life goes on.

You appealed to your fan base to help track them down. What was the response like?

The fans have been great. They get in touch if they think they have seen something on Ebay and we check it out and check serial numbers. The police are on the case too so hopefully I will get them back.

You are currently recording new songs for an album tentatively titled Spirit on a Mission. How far into the recording process are you?

We wrote 14 songs for the album and recorded 12. The album is going to be heavier, faster and more melodic than before. We don’t have any song titles confirmed as yet as we are still using working titles but when they are ready I will let everyone know.

Has Doogie been your main writing partner on the album or do you all chip in with ideas?

Everybody in the band has contributed to the album. What I wanted to do was get everyone in the studio and work together like we used to do but I think that can create obstacles so now everyone sends their ideas to me and I edit them in with my ideas and build up songs from there. This way we have a combination of chemistry that moves much faster to creating a song. At one time in the early days there was so much destruction in the studio and nothing would get done. Now I want to be focused and get things done and be musically creative. The basic concept comes from me and I collect the other elements from everyone else and create the songs that way and that works out really well for me now.

There was talk about you doing an album with your brother, Rudolph. Is this just an idea at the moment or have you started writing together for this?

It’s still an idea but there’s more to it than just doing it as we need to have the time to fit it in and we are both so busy doing our own things. We are definitely talking about it but how and when it will be done is another story.

What have you got planned for 2015?

The UK tour will take me up to just before Christmas then I’ll be finishing the mixing of the new album which will be called Spirit on A Mission and that will be out in early 2015 and we’ll be touring around the world for most of 2015.

Michael Schenker’s UK Tour starts on 10th December in Newcastle.


  • 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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