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SCHENKER, MICHAEL


MICHAEL SCHENKER "The Universe Is The Driver"


by Dr. Abner Mality

If anybody doubts truth is stranger than fiction, the long journey of Michael Schenker should change their minds. Nobody could come up with a wilder trip than the one Herr Schenker has been on. You're going to find out the details of that trip from the man himself in the interview below. From learning guitar sheerly by touch and instinct to becoming a teenage axe master...from being asked to join an international rock band when he was still high school age...from thunderous band break-ups and tormented battles with his own mind...and finally, to a healthy rebirth and a celebration of "hand made rock"....Michael's story is larger than life. It is one of THE great rock and roll tales of our age.

After being relatively quiet for a good length of time, Michael Schenker is back in action and he introduces us to his "Temple of Rock"....his newest band including ex-Scorpions cohorts Herman Rarebell and Francis Buchholz, masterful singer Doogie White and young keyboard/guitar hotshot Wayne Findlay. The first Temple of Rock album "Bridge The Gap" is a celebration of everything that made Schenker great back in the day. If you loved UFO, Rainbow and Michael's old MSG band, you cannot afford to miss it.

When I talked to Michael, I was bowled over by his enthusiasm and verbiage. The man can TALK! He is super excited about "Bridge The Gap" and can't wait to share it with the public. Yet for all the upbeat talk, there is an undercurrent of melancholy to the interview. Mr. Schenker knows the age of "hand made rock" that he pioneered has almost reached its end and he is fighting his last stand.

Here is one of the most interesting interviews to ever appear in Wormwood Chronicles...




WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:  Thanks for the interview, Mr. Schenker. I see it was your birthday yesterday so happy birthday!

MICHAEL SCHENKER: Thank you so much!

WC: You've worked with a lot of great musicians over the years. Would you say the current Temple of Rock band is the best you've ever worked with?

MS: It's probably the most fun! (laughs) It's like I can't really compare anything from the past with the present moment. The moment is always the best! No matter when the moment was. To compare a present moment with the past doesn't really work because the moment has different circumstances, it's a different time. Everything is what it is at the moment. But I must say being there, having Doogie White as the vocalist, having Herman Rarebell and Francis Buchholz as the rhythm section and having Wayne Findlay there, it's a really, really great chemistry! We started the first leg of the European tour when Francis joined and the feeling was present right from the beginning. When we got into the middle part of the tour, it got better and better by the minute. I had to quickly improvise a DVD and video shoot just in case something happened. In the middle of the tour, we arranged that but we still kept getting better and stronger. We got more offers for an additional tour...we got so many offers, we put together the second leg of the European tour. We had a window of six months until the second leg started and I asked the guys what they thought of making a record. YEAH!!! I made my mind up then and I was ready by the end of 2012 to give my stuff to Doogie. I said to him, think "Bridge the Gap", think melodic. He took that stuff and he wound up doing incredible things. I already knew he was going to do "Bridge The Gap"  because when Francis joined, we are making only the second record together in all these years. The first was "Lovedrive" with the Scorpions. I knew that was "bridging the gap" of all those years...we bridged the past with the now. I feel like we are celebrating an incredible era of rock. Francis, Herman and I disappeared out of the loop of rock and roll for very different reasons for many years. In my middle years, I focused more on personal development. In my early years, as I look back, it was all about my musical contribution to the world, my development as a guitarist and focusing on musical expression. My middle years I spent on personal development. Now I'm heading into my final phase and it seems that Herman, Francis and I have been preserved to do the same thing: to celebrate an incredible era of rock that that started with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and so many great players who have already passed away. I think about John Bonham. Where would we be without John Bonham? Ronnie James Dio, Gary Moore, Alvin Lee, Keith Moon, Jon Lord...so many great players! This is our tribute to them and their era!

WC:  You can almost hear in the record that people are having fun and are very relaxed. That's a rare thing to hear today.

MS: This record is really coming full circle. I'm infected by the feeling, I am re-experiencing what drew me to the music. I'm part of it! That's how life is made...closing the circle. That's what this felt like...very enthusiastic. When I was making this record, I wanted it to be fast, heavy, melodic and kicking. I didn't want too many slower or mid-tempo songs...I wanted to keep the energy going and add enough sparkle and sprinkle on top of it so it would sound fresh and exciting.

WC: The title is "Bridge the Gap". Is it bridging the gap between the classic and modern eras of rock and roll? Or is there more meaning to it?

MS: Everything! It has to do with Herman, Francis and I recording our second record together after all these years. It's bridging the past with the now. And also, we added seven string guitar to it. Wayne Findlay has been developing very nicely on the seven string. So we combine where it all came from with today's instruments and technology. It's a combination of everything we have learned through the halls of time. We present it now and it fits together with you just said. It's something for all generations....we'll be playing a lot of festivals with bands from that entire time span. So basically, even without knowing it, we're celebrating this period of rock. And before you know it, it will all just be a memory. I want to put this to the foreground and I want to look at it as such. This is what I fell in love with and this is what I want to do until I have to finally leave the world myself.

WC: Do you think this kind of classic rock is on a revival? The mainstream music scene today is very computerized and pop-oriented. It doesn't have the same spark. Do you think you can reignite some of the passion that used to exist?

MS: Well, things are going to be changing. Things have always changed, since the Stone Age. This is an incredible era. Sometimes I call it the era of "hand-made rock". This is a particular era that can never ever happen again because the external world is changing so much that it will effect how everything is done in the future. That future will not be worse or better, it will just be different. There will be incredible things coming to the forefront and new generations will put together incredible new things. But the era I pay tribute to was similar to the classical music era...the Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven era. That was a particular era of classical music...that sound was born in a particular time with a particular surrounding. The era of rock was born in the age of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, etc. That also had its particular surroundings and it lasted for a long time. But it is slowly changing. I will tell you, sometimes when I hear pop music today, it has really advanced. I don't know how they do it! It probably has a lot to do with new technology but it's quite incredible what they can do. But I'm not in that world so I don't know how easy or difficult it is. But I know that in the era of hand-made rock, you have to know what you're doing. You had to have been there when it was in its making. Anyway, I don't want to talk about something I don't know anything about. I am just in love with rock music the way I grew up with. Sooner or later, that will just be a memory and I want to celebrate it.

WC: Is there maybe one particular track on "Bridge The Gap" that stands out above the others for you?

MS: You know, for me, it's more like the whole album! I designed this album to be like a book that doesn't get boring rather than looking at individual songs. But if I do look at individual songs, i love "Horizons" because it's just steaming, it's a high energy cut, it has melody, there's a great solo in there. It has a driving force, it's pumping and it has great vocals. So that's one of my favorites. Then I love "Lord of the Lost and Lonely", it's a really great radio track. All elements of the band are in there. It's lots of melody in it but it's still very heavy. Then there's "Where The Wild Wind Blows", which has elements like drama, darkness and a very good performance by Doogie. "Neptune Rising" was basically a song I wrote for Wayne Findlay, who reminds me of an undersea god when he comes out of the ocean. He loves to be in the ocean and when he comes out of it with his crazy hair and beard, he looks like a Neptune! (laughs) The one thing missing is a trident so I asked my guitar company to design him a "trident" guitar. Wayne has developed very nicely on the seven string guitar and he's becoming an entity in this Temple of Rock. The Temple of Rock is basically using Michael Schenker as a platform and we're hoping that it will become its own entity. We hope it will stand on its own feet someday.  Herman and Francis are coming from their own epic backgrounds in the Scorpions and Doogie and I are veterans. Wayne is coming into his own and doing something only he can do, which is play keyboards and the seven string. So we are really laying ground for things to come in the future. I already have ideas for the next album using more seven string to get more modern elements into the song. We don't want to rely on our roots alone. In the rehearsal room, we want to be more spontaneous....playing a riff and then adding out stuff to it. That could be really interesting when we make the next record in 2015

WC: You answered another question of mine. I didn't know how far in the future you were looking with this product.. It seems you have it planned for a long time...almost beyond your own contribution to it.

MS: We have a brand new album out and I"m basically promoting that right now. As far as I can remember, I've never promoted an album like this in the United States. I just showed up and played little places to my heart's content and that's it. We are currently putting together a world tour that cannot start until March 2014. We'll be starting the tour in Japan then. I said to the guys, you know, I want to be in the States this time and I want to let everybody know our album is out. The album was released on the 7th of January. I want to take Doogie with me and introduce him as the new singer of this band. We'll put together some shows and give the audience a little teaser. We are getting the word out that we are back with the album lineup and touring the States on a much bigger scale. I want to go coast to coast  on a small tour with Doogie White and Wayne Findlay and we'll have Pete Holmes on drums and Rev Jones on bass helping with this. By the time we come back with Herman and Francis, we are ready to rock on a much bigger scale.

WC: That's something for everybody here to look forward. You've done so much in your career...is there any other goal left for you to accomplish?


MS: My goal is to listen to the universe. The universe is the driver, I just do my part and move forward in the moment.  We don't know what the universe has up its sleeve...I think there are gonna be a lot of surprises. I'm convinced of it and I'm excited about it!

WC: What record or artists made you want to pick up a guitar and play it?

MS: It was really the guitar itself! If I think about it, it was the guitar my brother got instead of a motorbike. He was standing in the bedroom, I was nine years old, my brother was just starting to work and he told me, don't touch that guitar! He went to work, I touched the guitar and I discovered what happened when you hit the string and put the finger on it. You got a note and then another note and I never stopped adding other notes! That's how it started. My brother came back and he discovered that I can play guitar. Rudolf had the Scorpions before he was even able to play guitar! By the time my brother found out that I could play and he had found some guys to form a band with, he asked me if I could help him with songwriting and he would pay me a deutschmark for each song I was teaching him. When I was 11, my brother was ready to perform his first concert with The Scorpions so they invited me to jam with them on a couple of  instrumentals. That was my first experience with The Scorpions on the stage.  My brother also got me into my first real band back then. He was six and a half years older than me. And then he introduced me to his favorite local singer. His name was Klaus Meine. I was 14 years old. When Klaus and I met, we formed a band called Copernicus. We were playing Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Rory Gallagher. Then one day when I was 15, we were rehearsing at the same place and the Scorpions didn't have a guitarist and a singer at the time so they asked Klaus and me to jam with them. So we jammed with them and then they asked, why don't you join us? So Klaus and I joined. We made the "Lonesome Crow" record when I was 15 and released it when I was 16.

Then we started doing a tour with UFO. They headlined and we were supporting them. They had lost their guitarist on a show, they didn't have their road crew or equipment...it was just the 3 UFO guys. They were playing psychedelic rock and they already had a following. The only way we could do that show is if I could help UFO by playing guitar for them. So Pete Way and I went to the dressing room and put a UFO set together. So I went on stage and played 45 minutes with The Scorpions and then I came off and went back on stage with UFO for an hour. We did that for a couple of days. Then the UFO roadcrew showed up, their guitarist finally showed up and everything went back to normal.  By the end of the tour, they sent me a message, they asked me to join.  I had told the Scorpions that whenever any British band asked me to join, I would. In Germany, nobody was interested in the kind of music we were playing. I was developing so fast, I needed to be where it was happening and that was in England. I already knew there was a guy who would be a perfect replacement for me so that my brother and Klaus could continue to follow their dreams and fill their vision to create one of the most successful bands in Germany. I found them Uli Roth. Uli Roth agreed to jump in and I joined UFO. Then I developed as a guitarist and made my musical contribution to the world later as a solo artist. And here we are today.

WC: That's an amazing story. You were self-taught. To become a master of the electric guitar, that makes your story very inspirational. What advice would you give to somebody looking to play rock guitar?

MS: Well, basically, some of it will depend on the motivation they use to become a musician. It depend on the personal reason. Nothing is right, nothing is wrong, just do your thing and stay strong. Whatever tickles your heart is the right thing to do. If you are an artist focused on musical expression or a consumer who enjoys music,
it's all good stuff as long as it tickles your heart. You know you are doing the right thing.