Dave Woodhall talks to guitarist Michael Schenker.
Michael Schenker is one of the legends of rock music, as famous for his Flying V guitar as for the music he’s created with such bands as the Scorpions, UFO and his own Michael Schenker Group. Currently touring the world, he’s flown in to Britain for a couple of gigs including the Robin on Saturday 20th July, and even the current heatwave shouldn’t be too much for a man who has just done a series of dates in Brazil.
“It’s their winter, but it’s still hotter than it is here. Brazil is a fantastic place to play, in fact I’ve also just been to Spain and all the Spanish-speaking, the Latin countries they love melodic rock.
“Over the years there have been lots of places that have gone for the music, but the Spanish speaking countries, we’ve just been in France, the whole European tour it seems they’re all hot spots now. Over the years it’s been cycles, sometimes it’s less then sometimes it’s more again but for me it seems pretty much around the world is great wherever we got. There are always markets like Chicago where we did (UFO live album) Strangers in the Night, the East Coast, the West Coast, England, with this line up it seems as though people are having a lot of fun when they come to the concerts.”
With a tour of this size you must enjoy playing live.
“We started at the beginning of April, we’re now into July and not so many shows and we’re already suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
“I never really enjoyed going on stage, I never understood why I was doing it but I loved to play guitar and put things on record then maybe 2007, 2008 I suddenly enjoyed being on stage. And since then I don’t understand why I didn’t like it. I guess it’s a growing up thing.”
The Black Country, the West Midlands in general, is a big area for rock music. Are you aware of the number of bands who have come from here?
“Yes, it’s fantastic for this kind of music. It’s like the Scorpions, we all came from Hanover. I know Judas Priest are from there, and Black Sabbath and others. I know that the Midlands and the north are brilliant for this music.”
Pete Way, your bass player from UFO, lives in Birmingham. Are you still in contact with him and are there any plans to work together again?
“Yes, Pete still lives there I think. Maybe a year ago he was getting motivated and going in the right direction but somehow it’s like pushing against a wall. When the time is right, everybody seems to be doing things and progressing at their own pace in their own time, maybe I guess when Pete is ready we can work up again. He did an interview in Classic Rock and apparently he is getting better now so maybe we can get together again.”
You coined the phrase ‘handmade music’ to describe the music that began with rock pioneers such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. How does the modern scene fit in with this?
“I don’t really listen to music because all my life I have been playing so therefore I devoted myself to creating rather than consuming as I like to keep my energy for creating. So I don’t really know but in my mind what I’m hearing, and I know that because I am connected to lots of young people, that they can make music without even having much knowledge or knowing how to play an instrument. It seems they can create something without being able to play instruments. It’s like building a table or a chair by hand or then manufacturing by computer with it being cut out and mass-produced. Handmade rock is based on, you really have to work hard at writing and recording because the technology made everything slow, so everything was hard work but that automatically makes you constantly better yourself. On a computer I have all the tools to get it right without the musical knowledge. People come up with great new stuff, but it’s going to be different because of the present circumstances. Things will be done differently, if you put down something in a studio you have to play it over and over so you are exercising on a consistent level. It appears much easier and you don’t have the hardworking element involved anymore.”
Yet there are many new blues musicians around, to take just one example. Maybe the guitar is still going to be important.
“I’m sure it will. The guitar has the most combinations. It’s endless what you can create – you can bend it, you can put vibrato on it, you can play rhythmically, and you can combine and therefore it’s so versatile. It also gets into emotions and the blues is an incredible music for emotions.”
What set are you playing on the tour? What can the audience expect to hear?
“I’m playing the most popular songs from my involvement with a few bands. UFO, the Scorpions, MSG, something from Temple of Rock and from the new album but basically the best of Michael Schenker.”
You’ve had the same band for some time. That must be useful when you tour as often as you are currently doing.
“Yes, it’s evolved until I had three of the original Scorpions and that started to evolve into a good relationship. We stayed together and got more conscious so I decided to make a recording. We had time off from last October to April so I could write and put an album together which is released in November. It’s called Bridge the Gap, it’s recorded and ready, we’re working on the artwork now, it’s fast, melodic, all the things you expect from a Michael Schenker album. Then we’re touring the States in January and can hopefully squeeze some festivals in. We are Temple of Rock, getting stringer all the time.”
A Scorpions/UFO tribute had to be cancelled because it was scheduled for two days before your Robin gig. What do you feel about people playing your music?
“Okay. Maybe they should play after, not before me . As long as they have fun and enjoy it, there’s a good reason to do it.”
And how would you like people to remember you?
“As a spirit, on a mission.”
Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock play the Robin 2 on Saturday 20th July. www.therobin.co.uk