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Friday, July 20, 2012

Interview with Michael Schenker March, 2012

Interview with Michael Schenker

March, 2012

Most of you know all too well, what a huge fan of Michael Schenker's I am, having followed his activities since hearing 'Only You Can Rock Me,' back in 1978 by UFO and telling all my mates about it and trying to convince them to join me in seeing UFO at the Portsmouth Guildhall on the then 'Obsession' tour. I was 15.
There were no takers, so I made the mistake of not going and so wish I had, as that turned out to be the time Michael would play live with UFO again, until they reformed for the 'Walk On Water' tour in 1998. Yes, so thanks mates, I had to wait 20 years!
Fortunately of course, in between those year, I did get to see Michael play on more than a few occasions with M.S.G., yes, the Michael Schenker Group, twice with my all time drumming hero Cozy Powell (RIP), but also on other occasions too.

Anyway, here we are, it's 2012 and I no longer live in southern England, no instead in the Detroit suburbs and this was a night that I ventured out alone, to a venue I swore I would not go to again, since seeing Dio (RIP) there in 2000, but since Michael Schenker chose to play the venue for the third time running - I'd missed the previous two times. - I was not going to miss him live again and this time I was going to interview him, before the show.

After the band did their sound check and some meet and greets, Michael took a little time to chat with me.

My latest interview with Michael Schenker, was not in the best of locations …  - The last time was back in 2009, on a long distance phone call to Germany. - this time we're in a room, in the back of Detroit’s Harpo’s venue, during Michael Schenker’s then ‘Temple of Rock’ US tour, back in March, 2012.

It was also, while the opening acts were getting their sound-checks in, so every now and then, while Michael and I tried to talk, we were drowned out by noise. It was also clear that Michael was getting frustrated, as he kept getting up to go over to the door, to try closing it more, which of course made no difference whatsoever and was a lost cause.

Consequently the interview did not last long, but here’s what we did get!


AW: So Michael how are you?

Michael: I’m doing very well … Do you want a seat? I don’t know how this will go, as when the music starts and I can’t really close this door anymore and …

AW: Yeah, I know, we can’t hear a thing, can’t hear ourselves …!
I have a few questions for us to get through …
Michael starts dragging chairs across this room, which is really noisy and that look rough and that you probably wouldn’t want to sit on, as there was a big old oil blob on it …

Michael: A bit dirty …

AW: Yes, I‘ll probably get a big old oil stain from that or something!
So how’s it going Michael? How are you feeling?

Michael: I’m doing good, very good, very good … - Ed’s note: As we hear more noise outside.

AW: It’s all going well, so far so good.

Michael: Yeah.

AW: (Laughing) So …, what can we expect to hear tonight then? A good mix …?

Michael: Erm, a best of the classics, Michael Schenker classics, new material, UFO swapped with M.S.G.

AW: Excellent! The usual! –

Ed's side note: The noise outside just seems to get louder.

Michael: You know what, I don’t usually play … - Can’t hear Michael too well … - what I play with Gary Barden, I never played the Scorpions stuff with Gary Barden and so you know it depends on who I’m playing with. I mean right now I’m doing a complete cover of all my past basically.

AW: So ‘The Story of ‘again …

Michael: Huh?

AW: The Story of Michael Schenker’ again?

Michael: Well it’s a little bit different because you’ve got a different time right now and yes, it’s a good point, because I did this once before in 1997 but it was a different purpose too, but now I have different people involved. I have a different singer doing it. You know the past is the past, if you want to keep performing it the one way to keep it fresh and interesting is by having different people in the band, so you get different combinations performing the same songs and that kind of thing.

AW: No, it’s good and I’m kind of curious about how the concept of ‘Temple of Rock’ came about?

Michael: Well it was never really a concept, all I thought was it was time to make a record. I had no ideas, I just went OK I’ll put some songs together …

AW: With a lot of guest musicians ...

Editor’s note: Due to the outside noise (You should hear the recording!) Michael keeps asking me to repeat what I have just asked him. Probably why he made the interview so brief.

Michael: Yeah, right, but I didn’t know that then … All I knew was, it’s time to make a new record and so I put the music together and once I had the music I said, OK, now what do I do? Maybe Michael Voss will want to write some stuff with me, maybe I go there, maybe he comes to me, he has a studio, he does things there, we have done things together, so I went to Munster(?), went to the recording studio, put my demo down …
Actually before I did that, I was already doing something with Herman Rarebell (Ex-Scorpions) and Pete Way (Ex-UFO) and we did work on a live project and I wanted to perform ‘Strangers in the Night,’ you know, because I hadn’t done that for a while and so Herman started rehearsing with me and Pete turned up at the same period and I was starting to put these songs together for my album and I went to Windsor with Michael Voss and I asked him if he wouldn’t min helping out putting some guide vocals on the demo and he started singing and I went like, ‘You can sing!?! Why don’t you do the album?’ He said, ‘Great!’ and we started writing straightaway and so we …
Then Herman and Pete heard the demo and they immediately wanted to do the bass and the drums and then from there, at some point I said, well I should invite some past musicians … So I made a list and most people were available and so we put that together and in the meantime, a phone call came in and William Shatner wanted me to play on his … In fact there was an intro that Mike Voss did and I said, ‘This is really really nice, I really like this intro, it would be great if we could have an actor, that as a big voice speaking there …’ and at the same time I was getting a phone call inviting me to play on William Shatner’s album and I was like, ‘That’s the guy!’

AW: There you go!

Michael: I said, ‘Ask him if he’ll do this voice, this intro for the album?’
He agreed an I played on his album and then one thing after another, it just came together and then we had to think of an album title and then I thought it was maybe time to make a statement about all my music, that I really create comes from within and that it’s ‘MY Temple of Rock’ and I called it ‘Temple of Rock’ and so on …

The record company came up with that idea, I had that picture which you know was like I’d kind of developed something and it was like an unusual positioning kind of picture and you know, it was a very cool shot and so we combined that with the rest of the stuff and so now it’s becoming like an icon type of thing … It’s just kind of living in the moment … The universe is the driver and you’re just in the train and you’re doing your thing, when you’re going to your destination anyway and so you do what you think you need to be doing and that’s how it comes about, step by step and it’s kind of interesting how it all works out and then I wanted to start getting the tour together and then Michael Voss was so excited about his own band, that he started signing another record deal and started to do productions and now I couldn’t go on tour with him, so what am I going to do now?

AW: Right.

Michael: So then I looked at the album and thought, well Robin McAuley’s singing, Doogie White is singing, maybe I can do something with Robin in America you know?

 So we checked it out with him and he said great, so I said well let’s put this together for this whole ‘Temple of Rock’ tour over here and Michael Voss was available for Japan and Doogie White was available for Europe and then Francis Buchholz came out of the woodwork so along with Herman Rarebell, I had the Scorpions rhythm section in Europe, with a Rainbow singer and so this was crazy! Then everything works out really good! So now I’ve got three different lineups so I can bring them all to the missing continents that they haven’t played, so I can just keep showing up and I do most of my solo stuff, although improvised, so people, even though they hear the same songs, there’s two aspects to the music. One’s just the songs and the other is the journey as a guitarist, so when I play a solo, I take people on a journey and that in itself is always just a little different, but now I have the different singers involved and then we present them there with the song that they sung on the album. ‘Before The Devil Knows Your Dead’ is becoming a hit right now in England and it’s getting power play on the ‘A list’ with Van Halen.
The only new artists getting played 25 times every week for the next three months so it’s really good.

AW: Wow! Brilliant! Yes, that’s really good and it’s interesting that as you say, you’re mixing it up with the different singers that appeared on the album and they’re playing each country, but it’s kind of one of those situations where I’m sure, you know you can never please all the people all the time …

Michael: Right, right …

AW: I’m sure people will be saying, ‘Oh why doesn’t he bring Robin over to England, why doesn’t he …,’ you see what I’m saying, because I remember Robin from the Grand Prix days …

Michael: Yeah and he was great on there …

AW: Right, but you know, did you get everyone that you really wanted to be on the ‘Temple of Rock’ album?

Michael: Basically, yeah.

AW: OK, that’s cool. I just wondered if maybe there was anyone that couldn’t do it for logistics reasons or time?

Michael: I think basically the list that we had, everyone showed up, including Don Airey.

AW: Right, right … It’s great, it’s a great collection of artists so congratulations on that!
I like it!

Michael: Thank you.

AW: It’s one of those album that it may not grab you straight away, but you certainly come back to it and I came back to it and the more you come back to it, the more you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I get it.’ (Laughing)

Michael: Yeah, right.

AW: So yeah, I enjoyed it and Rudy and Herman were involved in it, so it must’ve been great fun, getting you guys together again?

Michael: Yeah, it was good.

AW: I know when you and I spoke before, you said that your philosophy was always to look forward and you don’t like looking back on things typically, so what are you looking forward to after the ‘Temple of Rock?’ Can you say that far ahead or …

Michael: Oh, I just take it as it comes you know? As time, as time is moving faster and faster and faster and the way I kind of feel and perceive things it’s like we’re basically building a roof, building the roofing on the ‘temple of rock,’ the way it basically started off with (Led) Zeppelin and Black Sabbath an stuff like this you know.

The foundation and then the 80’s, the bricks and the clay and stuff, we we’re building the place and now we’re doing the roofing! We do the celebration and in another few years, we can do this and we’re basically its celebrating building the temple of handmade rock – Editor’s notes: He’s losing me here, but the bands that were sound checking in the background, were getting louder and louder! – and it can only go so far and then the technology is going to be a new thing that will happen and people will take things to a different level, but handmade rock itself, the way I know it and where I’m coming from and what I treasure, we’re meeting different generations as far as three or four generations and in between, all sharing the same stage and so basically as that is happening, lots of things are coming up like you’re asking me, ‘What are you planning?’

Twenty years ago you can plan some things, as everything was still moving slower, but now it’s like – Michael gestures like a racing car or something moving really fast and gives me sound effects too! – everything is going faster and faster and more and more things come up and it’s like – Michael starts talking fast to express people talking gibberish, not making sense to express everything going so fast today. – ‘Why don’t we do this,’ or ‘why don’t we do that’ or ‘why don’t you try this’ or ‘why haven’t you done that,’ and so you know, it’s like you are just like an open aerial or something, just receiving this or receiving that, just constantly receiving more and more and you’re just kind of focusing on dealing with what comes out …’

At this point, a lot of what we said is hard to make out on the recording I have with all of the surrounding noise going on in the venue outside this little room we’ve been stuck in to try an complete the interview.
Far from ideal conditions … My chat later in the evening with Robin McAuley, Wayne Findlay and Elliott ‘Dean’ Rubinson (Bassist) on the bands tour bus was so much better, although sadly, none of that was recorded, wish it was! It was great!
Sadly also, every investigation I’ve tried since, to get in contact with Robin McAuley for a decent interview, has gone nowhere.

Anyway, back to what I could get from the conversation recorded with Michael Schenker.

AW: So, you’re doing quite a few dates with Robin, so do you think there’s a likelihood of a new McAuley Schenker album maybe?

Michael: Maybe, anything is possible …. You have to have … All the conditions have to right, if you want to make something up.
You will know when things are lining up for something to happen. It’s easy to figure out and understand.

 Now I get a little thrown, as it looks like Michael is getting edgy and wants to get out of the place, as the outside noise becomes  more and more repetitive … Actually it sound like someone with a big sledgehammer, constantly pounding something. It’s terrible!

AW: Good. So, as you said, you’re going to be touring Europe with Doogie and Japan with Michael and the tour dates remaining here in the States, I see on the set-lists that you’ve played so far, there’s a lot of UFO in the set …

Michael: Yeah, yeah … I actually wanted to go out and play UFO only, because I haven’t played it for a long time and so then when Herman came in, it was like OK, then let’s play the stuff that you wrote too and combine it with … I played on 'Lovedrive' and so, the set-list became bigger and then it turned into, as the ‘Temple of Rock’ developed it would lend itself to cover the whole past of Michael Schenker and call it ‘Michael Schenker,’ instead of M.S.G. (Michael Schenker Group).

AW: Right, right … So, I don’t suppose with that, that’s there’s any chance of ‘Try Me’ tonight, is there? – Pushing my luck!

Michael: Well we don’t play what we haven’t really focused on. You cannot play all songs and you know, maybe ‘Try Me’ is something for a UFO reunion or whatever you know, who knows?

AW: There you go. Well it’s funny because, could you contemplate working together with those guys again?

Editor’s note: The sound-check outside is getting bloody loud again, to the point where I’m having to ask Michael a question, two or three times and I have to ask him to repeat some of his answers!

Michael: Well, the universe is complicated and the universe is contemplating too and when it’s meant to be and the conditions are right, it will happen. Meantime, everybody does what they feel like doing. 


AW: Right … Have you spoken to Pete Way recently?

Michael: As recent as maybe a month ago or maybe two months ago actually. He is basically … You know Pete, he just needs to get his stuff worked out. I mean he can’t go to America, he has legal issues and he has to figure out what’s more important for him and work on those things and sort them out and then, come into the picture.

AW: OK. Is he doing better, is he feeling better?

Michael: I’ve seen him in very good shape, I don’t know how he is right now and I don’t know if he is interested in getting his stuff sorted out, that is up to him. Nobody can really push him …

AW: No, I understand and know what you mean.
Another question I was going to ask, is something else that you have done before and I don’t know if you’ve had any talk of this or not, you recall when you did the G3 tour?

Michael: Yes.

AW: Any possibility of doing something like that again?  

Michael: Well we almost did it with Leslie West and Uli (Jon Roth) and then Leslie lost his leg and now he is in a situation where he really has to focus on himself and figure out what he needs to be doing, because it’s not a normal situation …

Ed: The noise outside is getting so bad, Michael is starting to shout and it’s clear he is getting irritated by the situation that we are in, where it’s hard to have this kind of a discussion.

AW: No, no, not at all …

Michael: So, unless at some point down the road, it’s another project that can happen at any time with the other people too, so you know, I never …..  I cannot predict anything, but I can tell you that there are lots of possibilities lining up. Even things that I never even thought of that are just like, ‘Wow! That’s amazing!’ You know?
People like you can make up new stuff you know and who knows ..?!

AW: (Laughing) Rumours you mean?! (More laughter)

Michael: Rumours, yes, you can make up some combinations or some ideas of maybe something that has never been, something not done before that people would love to see and people would love to be involved in and stuff like that you know? It’s probably all in the making and maybe people like you, here and there, they come up with that kind of stuff.
It usually comes from the fans, they request like, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be great to see something like this …’ and all sorts of ideas that you couldn’t even think of yourself happening.

AW:  You mean something like an M.S.G. tour with UFO tour, like a double header.

Michael: Well we already spoke of UFO, Scorpions and M.S.G. altogether on one tour, all on one bill.

AW: Yeah, really?

Michael: Yeah and all of that, is not that farfetched you know …


AW: No? Really? That would be fantastic! One to look forward to for sure!
So, when you’re done with this US tour … How many more dates do you have?

Michael: Well, I think this is our fourteenth and we’re about halfway through.

AW: Ah, right ….

Michael: Yeah, so about another fourteen or fifteen which takes us up until the end of March and then we go to Japan (With Michael Voss), then go back to rehearsal with Doogie, then do the final rehearsal … Basically all lineups have already rehearsed to about 95% ready to do it and then we do fine tuning.

McAuley Schenker line up in Detroit - March 2012

AW: Right, right …. Excellent! Well, I was enjoying your sound-check …. It was great to hear ‘Love To Love’ from you …

Michael: Yeah … - There's a big smile on his face!

AW: It’s funny, because back in the days, when Paul Chapman took over, I always said to my friends, that the first note of the solo, Paul Chapman always hit it wrong and you always hit it right!
Ed (Yeah, me!): Of course he always hit it right stupid, it’s his solo!!!!
What a stupid statement I made!

AW: Then every time I’d go to see UFO play and then I’d see M.S.G. play, I remember with Cozy Powell and I was trying to find my tour program from then, the ‘On The Rack’ tour and I couldn’t find it anywhere …

Michael: The what?

AW: The tour program from the UK tour …

Michael: Oh yeah, yeah, the ‘On the Rack’ tour! That was good … I remember that.

AW: Yeah, it was great! A great tour and of course Cozy Powell

Michael: Ah, so you’re from England then …

AW: Yeah, I’m from England originally.

Michael: Oh, you live here now.

AW: Yeah, I live here and my day job is in the automotive industry and I moonlight, doing this.

Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s good.

AW: Yeah, my wife plays keyboards and I play drums and a friend of our said you should invite Michael back for dinner and jam in the basement! (Laughing) –
Ed: Another stupid remark!

My wife would’ve loved to have been here today but we couldn’t find a babysitter for the kids.

Michael: Oh, that is a shame …

AW: Any particular message to send out to your fans Michael?

Michael: Keep on rockin’! That’s it!

AW: That’s it? That what I always say too! That’s my line! (Both laugh)
Excellent! Well thank you very much for your time Michael, I look forward to the show, very, very much tonight.

Michael: Good, I hope you enjoy it.   

My thanks to both Chris Green (Michael Schenker tour manager) and Felicitas Siegel at in-Akustik for setting things up and Michael and the band for a great show that night.

Show review link here:

Official Michael Schenker website:

 Record label:

Yours truly with Robin McAuley, after the show

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