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We spoke to Michael about the tour and much more, including the identity of his favourite musician and ongoing enmity with his estranged brother...

andy rawll
Words: Andy Rawll
2nd November 2017

michael schenker

In the wake of phenomenal performances in Japan and most recently Spain and the Netherlands, the acclaimed Michael Schenker Fest is armed and ready to rock the UK to the ground with an assault of mad axemanship.

Boasting a band whose members are all drawn from MSG line-ups from 1980 to 1989, this is the first time that the band, featuring all three singers from this period, Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McCauley, has played the UK.

How did the shows in Japan go?

You know, I almost had to cancel, because I had completely lost my voice and couldn't have done the band introductions or introduce the singers. Somehow, one hour before the show, my voice came back and it was an amazing show at the Loud Park arena, which is an incredible place.

Then, at the second show in Osaka, my voice was better and it was fantastic too and Tyson, my son, jammed with us on 'Natural Thing' and we had a great time.

What can we expect when the tour lands in the UK ?

I'm allergic to performing exactly the same as what I've just released. There are changes to the set because people have now seen the DVD from the last tour, and it wouldn't be nice to come to a concert and see exactly the same thing.

Our new CD has just been mastered and there's a song that will probably be pre-released to promote the album, which is incredible and features all the singers on the same song. It's fun to try to figure out who's singing what. The progress is that Doogie is on the album as well, and joining us when we start the US tour next year.

Now I can actually do the most popular music of Michael Schenker, past and present and we now have quite a few classics from Temple of Rock, so Doogie can be his own man singing original songs.

I'm very happy to go on stage and have the opportunity to play my music with almost all the original singers, well not the Scorpions and not UFO, but all the major MSG stuff from the 80s. It's a lot of fun watching the band and the singers getting on so well. It's really celebration time.

You've now got Nuclear Blast as your new record label?

They're a fantastic record company and just the right calibre for this type of a thing. For all of December, I'm going to be flying around all the major cities doing promotions, which I previously had not done, but it's really suitable now as this album is a much bigger undertaking. It's quite a bit of work, but everybody's so happy doing this, which makes it so much easier.

When you did 'Tales of Rock'n'Roll' in 2006, you had Jari (Tiura) doing the vocals and guest appearances from the three guys. So are there similarities with the new album?

I did that one for a different reason. At that time, I had this concept album that was supposed to be instrumental and then I found that singer from Norway and then had the idea that maybe the other singers could add to parts of what I had written as a continuous piece of music. This one is different, it's like something that needed to happen at this point in time.

It all started when I played with Graham Bonnet in Japan, that's when it clicked and I realised that I wanted to play my songs with the original singers. Even though there's more than one of them, I had to go for the ultimate and ask all three of them to participate.

Luckily, they were all very happy to do it and even better we all still get on extremely well. I consider it as something that had to happen. It closes the cycle and just fits into my life and everyone else's perfectly. It looks very difficult, but if something is meant to be, it really happens pretty easily.

And yet again you have Michael Voss on-board as the producer for the new album.

We work as a good team as co-producers. When I came into the studio, he had no clue about what I had. I put down my backing tracks and we sent them off to the singers to pick what they thought was the most suitable for them and we ended with really unique stuff. Rather than each person singing three songs, we mixed it so at least three songs are sung by all four of them together.

There's one song called 'Warrior' that we'll probably use to pre-promote the new album online, supported by behind-the-scenes footage. It's so much fun to watch it and listen to it and guess who's singing what. It's mastered and it's ready and Nuclear Blast are really focusing on it and are really well-connected world-wide, so it's going to be great.

Do you have an idea when it will actually be released?

Yes, sometime between the end of February to the beginning of March, coinciding with the start of our US tour, when Doogie will join us. Our last show at Hull City Hall will be the last time that people can see this formation, similar to the DVD (2016's 'Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo') and then we get ready to release and promote the album and our first tour with four singers from February.

The set will be two and a half hours long. When people ask us to do the same thing in Europe, we have to see how we end up doing it and the set will change dramatically, so it's another great reason to tour the world one more time, with a new CD out, with a fourth singer and a completely different show.

On the DVD, I noticed that you're playing a hollow-bodied Dean Flying V guitar during the Assault Attack songs.

I just play around. Because of Dean, I have so many guitars, so I can decide on the spot which one to play. An interesting by-product of that is that have so many guitars on stage that I no longer have to tune my guitars, because I have all these guitars that are ready to play. I can also introduce my different models on stage.

The hollow-body has a certain sound that I wanted to include on the last 'Temple of Rock' album, but it arrived too late. It ended up that I decided to use that guitar for Graham's set, which starts-off with 'Coast To Coast'. I then chose the red and black model for Robin's set and the MSG stuff with Gary on the black and white one, and 'Rock Bottom' with the power channel.

I had some great guitars stolen, the chrome guitar, the yin and yang guitar, so I ended up with a different set of guitars, including a new kaleidoscope guitar, which will be on-stage with me again.

Over your career, you've had offers to join other bands, including Motörhead, which you declined, but you did play with Ratt for a time, as well as Contraband.

I was just helping out during a six-month period when I had nothing else planned. We were all on the same record label with same management, including Ratt, Vixen and various different bands, so from that they created Contraband. Warren DiMartini was a fan and he became a friend and he asked me if I could help out at that point, because their guitarist, Robbin (Crosby) had died.

It was a really weird experience, but I did it and Warren was very happy. Impact Record set it up while we were preparing everything for our third record with James Kottack and Jeff Pilsen, when the McCauley Schenker Group become MSG again, as I just wanted to experience a 50:50 partnership, which is why I gave Robin the 'M' in MSG.

I did that and in 1990 I moved to Arizona and became my own manager, built my own recording studio. For fifteen years I did whatever I wanted, MSG, UFO, Scorpions and even almost Deep Purple (before Joe Satriani secured the role), but I said 'No, Michael, no!”

I read that John Bonham is your favourite musician?

He is and I have a John Bonham badge right on top of my denim jacket, above those of the bands that I have been in. Yes, he's my favourite drummer and my favourite musician. For me he is the best, because he's playing percussion melodies on his drums.

Led Zeppelin knew how valuable he was and that was one of the main reasons that they couldn't carry on, as otherwise they would have destroyed everything they ever created.

michael schenker

Were you ever a drummer yourself?

No, but I have a very good sense of rhythm. I love rhythm. Drums are also my favourite instrument and I know what a good drummer is like. These days, I don't have to play with the best drummer in the world. One interesting thing that I've experienced, over a period of time, is that the simpler a drummer plays the easier it is for me to express what I want to say.

I've spent time with Carmine Appice and he's one of my favourite drummers, he's a fantastic, amazing musician. One of these days, I'd just like to do a jam, when he can do whatever he wants, because that's when he's the best. But when he has to stay within the structure of a song, he just can't, he gets bored.

Also, Simon Phillips, fantastic drummer, but the same thing, he plays almost too dynamically and it's often very hard to catch where he is timing-wise. He did a great job on the album 'In The Midst Of Beauty', even though the quality of the recording wasn't very good, because it was recorded at a cheaper studio.

Of course, he recorded the drums at his own studio and the quality was excellent. He played great on that album, but when we played live together on the 30th anniversary, with Neil Murray on bass, it was very hard for me as I couldn't get used to his playing.

The funny thing is when I played with Herman (Rarebell) it was the easiest. It was so solid, he never does anything else and plays the same thing, so I can rely on him, which means I can use his drumming as a plain canvas that I can paint upon, which is extremely enjoyable.

I can play with great drummers or with drummers that keep things very simple, I can see the win-some, lose-some aspect of both approaches. One of these days, I'd like to do a very experimental album with Carmine. I've wanted to do that for some time and so has he. We just need to find the time and space to do it.

You also worked with Aynsley Dunbar on the great Schenker Pattison Project albums.

He's fantastic, he's in between a complex player like Simon and a very simple player like Herman, but most importantly, he rocks. He knows what he needs to do in a rock band. At that time, we also had Tim Bogart with us on bass, which was really great.

When the Lovedrive reissue came out, you had some real issues with your brother on the album commentary and song credits referenced in that package. How are things now, with the passage of time?

Stay away from Rudolf! Far, far, far away. He's a man in musician's clothing.

No honestly, I have to stay away from him. I supported him all these years until a can of worms was opened and I stuck my head in it and couldn't believe what I found; it was one thing after another.

In reality, we only spent two years together in early Scorpions, between when I was 15 and 17 and that was it. He basically takes whatever he wants, so I have to stay away from him, even if it's just a phone call. He takes my ideas and puts them into practice. I'm not bitter about what he did, it's not worth it.

It's his life, if he's having fun doing it, everybody's responsible for themselves. I do what I do and I'm happy with it. Let me be happy and let him be happy, stay far away from each other and then everything is fine.

Unlike many other bands, you're not mentioning final tours or talking about retirement, which is very refreshing.

I like to be in the 'now'. I'm excited about the 'now'. We're getting ready to go to Germany, to Spain and the UK. With the UK, it's the first time ever with this line-up, and it will be the last time, because we are already changing after that with the release of the studio CD in early 2018. We're accelerating into the next gear and onto the next level and it's going to carry on moving.

We're going to be celebrating with four singers on stage, singing all original songs, which is an absolute pleasure for myself and I'm sure that the audience will appreciate that too.

So, don't miss it. It'll be the last time and the first time that we're doing this in the UK and after that it will be something new.


Guitar: Michael Schenker
Vocals: Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, Robin McCauley
Bass: Chris Glen
Drums: Ted McKenna
Keyboards/Guitar: Steve Mann

2nd November: (UK) – London, O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
3rd November: (UK) – Sheffield, O2 Academy
4th November: (UK) – Manchester, O2 Ritz
5th November: (UK) – Hull, City Hall

Tickets for UK dates are available right here.

Michael Schenker 2012-2017
Michael Schenker signs with Nuclear Blast and latest (2017-18) tour dates
Michael Schenker Fest DVD Review
Michael Schenker Fest Tour Dates 2017
Michael Schenker Fest DVD Release Announcement
Michael Schenker Interview - January 2016
Michael Schenker Interview - January 2012


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