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Michael Schenker, one of the greatest guitarists in rock is back with an outstanding album (“In The Midst Of Beauty”), returning to 1980, with the same lineup after 28 years. In an exclusive interview, the German sounds cheerful, and tactful at the same time. We talked about the new album, we tried to turn his darker pages, while on the background the espresso machine kept…soloing! Interview: Yiannis Dolas

Rockpages.gr: Hello Michael, this is Yiannis from Greece…

Michael Schenker: Hello, I am at a train station at a café, so it might be a little noisy…(the espresso machine rules!)

Rockpages.gr: So, you’ve got a new album called “In The Midst Of Beauty”, and you have an all-star lineup playing for that. Do you have any comments on that?

Michael Schenker: Well, I don’t know if they were stars when I played with them in the first place, which was in 1980, but it was more like a reunion type of thing. So, I guess they have become stars over the years, and now we are all stars, and you can call it all-star, but it’s more like a reunion thing…

Rockpages.gr: It’s a big thing coming back from the ‘80s with almost the same lineup and recording again in 2008, after a lot of things that happened for you, and for the others as well, and still deliver a great album. Do you think that for a band like yours, or for a band like Deep Purple, or Scorpions that are around for more that 20 years, is it hard to come up with a good album?

Michael Schenker: I don’t know! I like what I do, and I play the music that I like so it’s kind of easy to come up with good stuff ‘cause I am standing behind it, and I am a musician from my heart. It’s really enjoyable, and if you stand behind it’s not really that difficult.

Rockpages.gr: The touring lineup is a bit different, than the guys you’ve worked with. Is that a problem?

Michael Schenker: No, we’re just copying hard (laughs)! You know what, I think it’s the universe, I don’t think it has anything to do with me. It all comes to me based on what needs to happen…

Rockpages.gr: I’d say that the material on the album, most of the songs are up-lifting, and positive. Is that how you feel right now, do you feel positive, and happy?

Michael Schenker: Yeah, I feel positive… I am always positive, and up-lifting, but if my surroundings are negative, and try to pull me down, I have strengths, and I keep moving…

Rockpages.gr: Well, I think that’s very good for any human being…What happened with Glenn Hughes? He was supposed to play bass on the album…

Michael Schenker: Well, somebody asked him if he would like to play the bass on the album, and he said yes, and then when we came after it he said only if he could sing, as well. But, because we already had Gary (Barden) we said no.

Rockpages.gr: So, he didn’t want to play the bass.

Michael Schenker: No, he wanted to sing as well…

Rockpages.gr: I guess that was his miss, since it’s a great album…

Michael Schenker: Yeah...

Rockpages.gr: I was looking at some pictures on the internet from the last gig you played in Endimburgh and you look very healthy, and up for it. The question is, in the past because of all the troubles that you had, you have been very unreliable in concerts. People weren’t very happy seeing you playing live. OK?

Michael Schenker: (interrupts quite upset)I am not sure if I was the unreliable, because people don’t know the whole story. Very often a concert would get cancelled because of management, or agent etc. so, I don’t know what sort of rumors goes on out there but, I am sure that people don’t know what really happens…

Rockpages.gr: I don’t want you to take it the wrong way. I was going to say despite that people always come back to your shows to see you…

Michael Schenker: I play music from my heart, I am a honest player, and people who like my music they also know that I am that type of person, and it’s a certain type of people who I attract with my playing, and they probably … you attract with your spirit some of the people with similar taste, and similar outlook in life and stuff like that. I think that I have been reliable all my life, because I’ve been playing rock music since I was 10 years old, and I am still doing, and I am not getting worse, I am still improving, so I think I’ve been very consistent in my musical ability, and I don’t have to rely on other people, I only on myself. When I am relying on myself I am doing pretty good!

Rockpages.gr: What would you say are the most important albums you’ve done, so far?

Michael Schenker: For me every album is important, every move in life is important, every moment. For me when I was born it was important, when I day is important. Everything has got its place, and it’s one big picture. All the other bits, and pieces are just parts of the puzzle that connect the result and the end to who I was.

Rockpages.gr: What made you involve in music, when you were ten years old? What was that excited you?

Michael Schenker: I never really wanted to be on stage to be honest. I think I have always been interested in music, it always have been in my heart. Even before the guitar I was singing, and I was always playing with sounds, that’s where my interest is. When I was 14 and I heard rock bands, like Jeff Beck and so on, I was very impressed, and I felt like this was so great, I want to do something like that. You know, it’s just where my heart is…

Rockpages.gr: So, which guitarists would you say that were an influence to you?

Michael Schenker: Jeff Beck, Leslie West, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, all the obvious great ones that were there before I came…

Rockpages.gr: Plus, you had the chance to work with Leslie West, how was that?

Michael Schenker: We weren’t togethet in the same studio, but I’ve played with him on stage though. He is a great guy, his lead solo from “Theme From An Imaginary Western” for me is one of the best solos ever anybody has played. It’s great to get compliments from my master, sort of speak, so, you know it’s great that he is still alive, and he is still playing, I think once you are a real musician, you are always a musician!

Rockpages.gr: You said that Leslie West was one of your masters, but you’ve been a master to a lot of kids that listened to your music, and bought your records…

Michael Schenker: Yeah, that’s how life goes. In order to develop our own talent we need to have somebody …. Jumpstart and Leslie West, Jimmy Page I copied them, learned from them in order to create my own fantasy about sound and music, and that’s how it goes: first we are students, and then we become masters.

Rockpages.gr: All those years that you have been around in music, have you seen any of your students? Was there a guitarist that you listened to and reminded of yourself?

Michael Schenker: I have seen a lot of them, because I used to give guitar lessons too, one of a lot of things and I also get e-mails from students, and people that started playing the guitar because of me…

Rockpages.gr: What about UFO? You played with them several times. Now Vinnie Moore is in the band. Have you heard their new material with Vinnie?

Michael Schenker: No, I haven’t heard any songs, but I know Vinnie Moore is a great player, so it should be OK…

Rockpages.gr: You’ve worked with loads of artists the previous years, is there any of them that you’d like to work with again?

Michael Schenker: You know, I live life by the moment, and whatever comes my way, I look at it, and if I like it I do it. There are a lot of choices, and life is like a network. You list all your moments and deal with what’s in front of you. There is not much that I need to concentrate about, because usually things happen accidentally.

Rockpages.gr: So, what are your expectations for the future? You’ve just released a great album, you are about to tour Japan…

Michael Schenker: I would like to put really good work together, and do a lot of touring with Gary Barden, it would be great to reach all the places where we have fans. That’s what we are focusing on right now!

Rockpages.gr: Is there any chance you’re coming to Greece?

Michael Schenker: I hope so!

Rockpages.gr: Do you have a message for the Greek fans that are going to read this interview?

Michael Schenker: Yes, they have to keep rocking!

Rockpages.gr: How did you get stuck with the Flying V guitar?

Michael Schenker: It was actually my brother who played the guitar, the flying V, and I was on stage with him, I broke a string, and I needed another guitar so he gave me his to play, and I never gave it back to him!

Rockpages.gr: When you started playing in UFO, you were only 16 years old. How difficult was to adjust in a band with older people than you, from another country, whose language you couldn’t speak fluently?

Michael Schenker: I was a bit…introverted when I went to England, but I went there to do music, not to speak (laughs)!

Rockpages.gr: We’ve talked about your brother, Rudolf, who is in the Scorpions. How important do you think that Scorpions are, as a hard rock band from Germany conquering the world?

Michael Schenker: Great band, and they did quite a bit for Germany…

Rockpages.gr: …and you played for them as well.

Michael Schenker: Yes, I did!

Rockpages.gr: What about modern music? Do you listen to modern music?

Michael Schenker: I honestly don’t listen to a lot of music at all. I play music myself and I like to keep it fresh, and be able to enjoy it when I play it, so I keep my fair distance from music to make sure I can really appreciate when I’m making music.  

 

photos taken from the official Michael Schenker website:  http://www.michaelschenkerhimself.com 




 
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