Your latest UK tour starts in early November. Are you looking forward to coming over to play again?
Absolutely. We recently did a few festivals like Sweden Rock which was great but it started when in 2016 when we got an offer to headline Loud Park in Japan and I asked who was headlining the other night and they said the Scorpions, so I said I`d pass. No seriously, we started off at Loud Park and that is the third biggest indoor arena in the world. We had Gene Simmons open up for us. We then did a few shows in Japan and we recorded the Tokyo show for a DVD. When I saw that I thought, that`s it. I had to do some more show. I financed it myself and went ahead and arranged some shows as Schenker Fest and it`s working out fantastic. This will be the first time the Schenker Fest show will have been in the UK. It`s been quite a while since I list played in England so I`m really happy to be doing this.
What sort of format will the show take? Does each singer have a few songs then the next one comes on?
Yes, at the moment each singer will do a few songs then there`ll be an instrumental and the next singer will come on. I think that it works really well and people seem to be really enjoying it as it gives them the chance to see some of the great singers I`ve worked with over the years together in one show.
What about the end are all three singers going to get up together?
If the crowd allows us to do an encore which I hope they will, then I have something special lined up but I don`t want to give too much away. I had much more in mind for the end but everyone agreed to a 90-minute set so I had to figure out how to fit everything in. If the curfew is less strict in some places then we may get more time to do some more songs so I do have a B-Plan in case we can play longer which I hope that we can do. We are ready to go out and make it exciting for everybody.
As far as the setlist goes how have you decided which songs to do?
I have decided on the songs we`ll be playing and there`s plenty to choose from. When we`re touring around the world we have to be sure that we don`t repeat ourselves. We can`t please everybody but we hope that we have chosen plenty of songs that people want to hear and we`ll be changing things round as the tour goes on.
What about Lost Horizons? Is there space for that in your set?
Well, I`ve done it with Doogie and with Herman and Francis over the last four years. There`s a fine line of what to do and what not to do. We`ll be focussing on Gary, Graham and Robin and the most popular music of Michael Schenker. You don`t want to leave out UFO songs so there`ll be a couple of those too. As far as the Scorpions goes I did four years of Lovedrive, Holiday and all of that so this time I`m just using Coast To Coast as the link between two singers.
You only did one album, Assault Attack, with Graham Bonnet and did part of a warm up show in Sheffield before it fell through back in the early `80`s. Did you feel like there was unfinished business with Graham?
I was always disappointed not to be able to tour Assault Attack with Graham. It didn`t end how I`d planned it so certainly there is unfinished business and I`m so pleased to have the chance to work with Graham again. I played a few shows with Graham in Japan last year and that was the first time in years that we`d played on stage together. It was great to do that so I am looking forward to doing this tour with him. It will allow do what we had planned to do when we did the Assault Attack album and finally play the UK together.
Joining you on the rhythm section is Chris Glenn and Ted McKenna both of Sensational Alex Harvey Band and band mates back in the early `80`s. Was it important for this tour to work to have these guys in the band again?
When I wanted to work with the three original singers I thought of who I wanted the band to be and immediately I thought of Ted and Chris who were the rhythm section on Assault Attack and I wanted Steve Mann too who was with me in the McAuley Schenker Group. He`s a great choice and is a great musician. This really is a great band to play with.
The one person missing from these shows is Cozy Powell. How much do you wish he`d still been here to be a part of this tour?
It is such a shame that Cozy is no longer with us. He was such an important part of the band but that`s life. I`ve lost a few friends recently including David van Lending who used to sing with me and Elliott Rubinson the owner of Dean Guitars who also played bass with me. It`s crazy that these people have died. When David Bowie died I couldn`t believe it, I thought he`d get to at least 200 years old. That`s why I wanted to celebrate my music with the band members who helped make it. I want to enjoy life.
Did you think about asking Paul Raymond to be a part of the tour or is he too busy with UFO at the moment?
He played with us on the second album but I don`t want to interfere with UFO as it`d be too much of a pain in the butt you know. I actually had 50% of the name and I gave it to Phil Mogg for free just so we could get on with our own thing. I don`t want to compete with anybody. It`s music and we should just enjoy it. Maybe in 2020 it`s going to be 50 years of Michael Schenker`s recording history so maybe I could get Phil Mogg to sing a couple of songs and Klaus Meine too. There`s a bit of speculation for you. Things change and develop and all of a sudden and people wake up and want to do things that they said they wouldn`t do before so who knows what could happen?
When you joined forces with Robin McAuley for Perfect Timing in 1987, why did you decide to change the name. Were you wanting this to be a totally different project to the Michael Schenker Group?
I was just looking for a singer to share responsibility with 50:50. I wanted to work with Robin then I realised his surname was McAuley and started with an “M” and I thought, wow, we could use his “M” and keep the logo and everything.
It`s just as well you didn`t pick Robin Zander?
Ha!! Yes, that`s true.
You had done something with all of your past singers on Tales of Rock and Roll in 2006. Are you hoping to do something similar and do an album with all three singers?
We will be doing Michael Schenker Fest in the studio. We were actually in the studio in June and we have just completed the album and I have just received the masters for approval. We`ll have an album out hopefully at the beginning of March. It`s a fantastic album. It`s not going to be three songs here and three songs there with just one singer. There`s songs where three or four singers sing together. We also have Doogie White on the CD with Gary, Graham and Robin so I can continue Temple of Rock as well. I can do the past and the present.
Do you have any song titles you can tell us yet?
We`ve got a song called Warrior that will be the teaser before the album comes out so people can hear what the album will be like. I can`t wait for it to come out and it will be coming out on my new label Nuclear Blast. This is going to be the biggest undertaking that I’ve ever done and will involve eight people in the band.
Do you have anyone else on your album?
I have Kirk Hammet on the new CD. He`s a Michael Schenker fan and he plays in the biggest band in the world. I asked if he`d like to do a guitar battle with me and he was really into the idea. Michael Voss went over with the parts I`d recorded and took it over to Kirk to put his guitar parts over. It was actually recorded in four different locations, Munich, Stuttgart, Hawaii and Los Angeles.
Looking forward to 2018. What are your plans for next year?
After this tour we`ll change everything and will go out with FOUR singers.
We`ll be doing a new world tour starting in the US in March with the four singers and we`ll have a new CD out and we`ll be adding songs from the new CD to the tour. There`s a lot to look forward to.
“Michael Schenker Fest” featuring original MSG vocalists Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley, tour the UK in November.
Dates include O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire (Nov 2), O2 Academy Sheffield (Nov 3), O2 Ritz, Manchester (Nov 4), and Hull City Hall (Nov 5)
Interview By Mick Burgess