Michael Schenker Interview10th May 2022
There’s no introduction needed for this interview. Michael Schenker is a guitar playing legend. Having slung his fretwork into bands such as UFO and of course Scorions with his brother Rudolf, he went solo. Kevin managed to catch up with him for a chat. Here’s what happened.
How are you doing, Michael?
Hey, fine. Thank you. How are you?
I’m doing very well, the sun is shining and that’s all you need in life sometimes?
Oh, are you in the North? I think you have a sunny period. Not sunny here, kind of misty.
Yeah, I think we get one or two days a sun every year and this is one of them.
So many, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Through the COVID period, Michael, you’ve been very busy. And before we talk about your new album ‘Universal’ that’s coming out soon. You released an absolutely great album ‘Immortal’ in January last year?
Yeah. I used the pandemic time wisely!
I completed two albums and actually managed four days of live concerts concert in the UK !
I did a review of ‘Immortal’ (HERE) great album, with great feedback from your fans. So the next one, you’ve got ‘Universal’ coming out in May this year?
Yes, I think it’s May 27th.
Michael ‘Universal’ is also getting good reviews so far as well. Looking at some of the press notes that I’ve read. Who have you got playing on this one?
Well, kind of more or less the same people.
You know. it’s like people, when I’m doing interviews, a lot of them, they usually ask like ‘who do you have?’ You know, the people that are the drummers, bass players and keyboard players and singers that I have on this album, are actually the same kind of people that were playing on the Immortal album, and they were already part of Michael Schenker Fest and even Michael Schenker Temple of Rock you know.
Its like from nine years ago so basically that they are called ‘guests’ because when Ronnie Romero our main singer sang 10 songs on the album ‘Universal’ and but you know, there are great singers like Ralph Scheepers, he did such a great job on ‘Immortal’. I decided to to ask him again, and to sing at least one song and he did., he’s a great great vocalist.
Gary Barden ,every time I write something that invites a low end vocals. I look for Gary Barden because he has the best low vocal in the world, I like with the warm sentimentally of Gary and is such a great voice is lower frequency, lower level. And so on ‘Universal’ the song ‘The Universe’, I asked if Gary Barden could sing a little bit together with Ronnie Romero. And then of course, then we had Michael Kiske from Helloween. That was an idea from the head of Nuclear Blast Records, he said hey, ‘what do you think of Michael Kiske for this song?’ Okay, we check it out. We tried it and it was fantastic. You know, it’s like really, really good.
Barry Sparks he was a bass player in MSG in the late 90s. And so, he is not really new, but whatever I did in the late 90s did not really make it out in the music world because I was not part of the scene at the time. I was doing things on my own and Barry Sparks was involved in them already. He always emailed me and asked me ‘Hey, Michael, I want to be on the next album.’ I said, okay, and you know, he wanted to be the bass player on the tours as well. So Barry is a guest, but he is not a stranger.
The same goes for you know, Brian Tichy. He’s a Michael Schenker fan. The first time I jammed with him and Robin McCauley it was somewhere around 2012 at a music exhibition, and he loves to play! He has played on my records as long as eight or nine years ago, on the song that Doogie White was singing ‘When The Devil Knows You’re Dead’ So coincidentally, Brian Tichy was playing on that same song. That’s how I discovered him. Actually, that’s, that’s how I really discovered him how great he was! fantastic. So Brian it is not really a stranger either, you know, because he’s played on almost every album since with the exception, maybe of Michael Schenker Temple of Rock, where we had Herman Rarebell and Francis Bucholz the original rhythm section of The Scorpions. However later he was playing on Michael Schenker Fest definitely and on ‘Immortal,’ and now on this ‘Universal’ album.
Simon Phillips, of course, he was the original drummer of Michael Schenker Group first album produced by Roger Glover in 1980. So Simon has since played, you know, many, many times with me. He might have also played on the first Michael Schenker Temple of Rock where William Shatner was doing the intro speech.
Simon was supposed to go on tour with us in Japan, but all this COVID stuff, cancel, postpone, cancel, postpone and then finally cancelled.
On the new Universal album we have a very special song called ‘The King Has Gone’. You know, I came back in the morning in the studio, and Michael Frost was playing me what he did the night before, vocally, because he wrote all the lyrics and the vocals. He said, ‘Michael listen to what I have got here for ‘A King has Gone’? The song is a dedication and tribute to Ronnie James Dio, my favourite rock singer. And so he plays it to me and it sounds fantastic. And then he said to me, what do you think of using the original rhythm section that used to play with Ronnie James Dio? Tony Carey, Bobby Rondinelli, Bob Daisley, that would be great if you can get them, so we did and we had Michael Kiske on vocals.
Tony Carey he played an incredible synthesiser intro very enchanting and then Bobby, Bob and Michael bring it together and it’s really good.
So we never really know what’s going to happen, because we make up and develop this as we go along. You know the it’s very the spontaneous, being very spontaneous. I only write the music I don’t really know what goes on top of it, that all starts to develop while we are in the studio on a day by day basis. And that’s really good.
So it’s you know, they’re all guests, guests musicians on this album, but definitely not strangers, and I’m very used to working with them.
So you share the idea and then these guys take it away with you. Brilliant. Absolutely first class.
Ronnie Romero must be one of the busiest guys in rock just now, I would think he must have his phone on charge all the time!
So you’ve released ‘Emergency’ the first single from the new album and getting some air play just know as well. Are you planning to do more single releases from the album?
Yeah, yeah, we actually do. We are planning to release ‘Under Attack’ and ‘A King Has Gone’.
I think about some your long history and all the classics you’ve been involved with things like ‘Only You Can Rock Me’, ‘Love to Love’, ‘Attack of the Mad Axeman’.
I think what you said is very true about Gary Barden, for me the song on Immortal ‘Sangria Morte’ is an absolute classic song.
So who influences you and what inspires you?
Well, you know, I call myself a spirit on a mission, spreading and expressing the joy of music from a place of pure self expression. So when I was 18 years old, I decided not to listen to music anymore. You see, because the brain is like a sponge, we automatically copy anything the eyes see, or the ears hear.
So I knew when I was just very young already at 17-18 that my mission was to self express as well as I can. And just stay away from music, I don’t have a record player, I don’t listen at home to radio, I don’t listen to radio in the car. So for 50 years, I’ve stayed away from music and just creating it from within myself. And that’s how I write my music. And that’s why it appears to be always fresh, and fresh and fresh.
In the eighties a lot of guitarists, musicians have copied my style. And I heard from various different people like Dave Mustaine and Kirk Hammett and so on, in the 90s, they were telling me ‘Oh, Michael, you know, when I first heard your guitar, it sounded so original, so different, something I never heard before’. So that’s exactly what happens. You know, that’s how I became famous because I write from within. And there is no other place as your own self within. You know, nobody knows about what it looks like inside yourself. And so a person decides to write from within, rather than sticking and copying each other for years, years and years, and running out of ideas. If I go inside myself, its endless there’s always another new idea. You know, it just never, it never runs out. So I don’t get writer’s block or anything I just create over and over and always come up with something different.
So you’ve got a natural production line of great ideas that you just put down the music and it’s all totally new. And how good is that? That must be so fulfilling.
Yeah, it is as new as I can get it. But nothing is 100% But of course, much purer than then most of the things out there.
Excellent, Michael. So I mean, as far as a recording artist goes, you’ve got a track record, probably over 60 album releases, but playing lives important to you as well. And I noticed that you’ve announced recently a lot of dates in Europe and the US, so who’s your touring band for this one?
It was supposed to be Ronnie Romero on vocals and he will still be our singer AFTER the European tour which will have Robin McCauley on vocals and Ronnie will do the America tour and the festivals such as Hell Fest, Graspop etc so that’s going to be Ronnie Romero covering those shows.
I think we also play one show in Glasgow?.
Yes, I’ve got a ticket.
What’s the venue called?
It’s Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow.
Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s gonna be Ronnie on that one, but I think there’s one more gig he wasn’t available. So the upcoming tour which is Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, Italy, but Ronnie can’t do those gigs so I have to accept it. So we asked Robin McAuley if he can do it, and he said yes. Incidentally, these countries I just mentioned, which is our European tour, we did a tour with McCauley Schenker Group in 87 with Def Leppard, so, I guess the people in Europe are going to be happy to see Robin!
We do America, from September to October and then to Japan. So that will be Ronnie Romero and then hopefully we can get to Australia for the first time. South America is also knocking on the door. And I I’ve just been asked if I want to participate in a cruise event. And so we go wherever we can, it’s also my 50th anniversary until the end of the year and we’ll be continuing to keep working more and more shows.
When we think about the last couple of years where we’ve all wanted to go and see a live band and see great musicians like yourself and never getting an opportunity to do that again. Hopefully now say goodbye to COVID and move on with life again.
Over the years, Michael with musical journey through The Scorpions, UFO, MSG, McCauley Schenker Group, Michael Schenker Fest, Temple of Rock and your other projects, what has been Michael Schenker favourite era?
I yeah, I enjoyed actually everything, I mean, there was definitely an era in 90-95 that sticks out as a great story, I’d have gone for that.
But in general, like the last 12 years, I would say that each moment was you know great, starting with ‘In the Midst of Beauty with Gary Barden. That was really, really great. That was the beginning of being back in the in the music business.
Then Gary he moved to Thailand and I worked on Temple of Rock album with Michael Frost, Dougie White, Brian Tichy, Herman Rarebell, Francis Bucholz etc with of course Captain Kirk and that was fantastic.
We did a lot of touring. We did two studios, two live albums and and it was time to have a little break. Because we were doing the same shows the same venues over and over.
Then I had this idea about Michael Schenker Fest with the three original singers from the 80’s, Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, Robin McCauley and the current singer Dougie White .That was unbelievable. It was a lot of fun. Seeing 3 or 4 singers having so much fun together. I wished we could have toured more, but it was very expensive to put together.. But we could only select select the gigs where promoters were able to pay because people were coming in from Los Angeles from from all over the world, Thailand and so on.
But now in the meantime, I have done two great albums with Immortal and Universal and so you know, keeping it simple having one one frontman, one singer ,so now we can, you know, put a lot of shows together and to the world. And so I really have enjoyed the last 12 years with every thing that I did it was, everything had reasons why I enjoy it so much !
It must be really enlightening for you, when you when you have like three years, three singers that you’ve, you’ve, you’ve shared the journey with, and you can share a stage with them. And you might have your own thoughts about different memories that you have of each of them play around the world and record and also come together and every night for a tour, it must be great.
Well, you know, in the beginning it the fun part was the recording and seeing them having so much fun. And actually sharing a little clip from ‘Warrior’ you know, which was the first release for for Resurrection album for people to see how funny they were. I went like man, this was quite incredible. It was a really big undertaking, but because it was done so, so easily. At that moment in time with everybody being available without any problem and getting on so well. It was such a natural flow. I just started to realise like, wow, you know, and if I look back at what a big undertaking that was and how naturally, it all worked out. I mean, no stress, no problems, no arguments, no nothing. It was just fantastic. You know, really, it was it was remarkable. I don’t think it was something bigger than meets the eye. It was something that was meant to be but it’s because it was just too effortless. But it was so effective.
So great friends together sharing great music and great stages around the world, doesn’t get much better than that.
So back to the the new album ‘Universal’, Michael, when is it released and on what label?
Its on May 27th on Atomic Fire Records.
So many thanks for joining me today, Michael. Really appreciate your time.
Thank you for having me.