We had the rare opportunity a while ago to see live on stage two members of the classic line-up of the legendary Scorpions –Herman Rarebell and Francis Bucholz- playing along side of Michael Schenker. With the invaluable help of the Greek Fan Club of Scorpions, we sat down with Herman who was a real gentleman and asked every single question of ours while he enjoyed his dinner before the show at a traditional Greek tavern.
Interview: Sakis Nikas, Dimitris Kazantzis
Rockpages.gr: First of all, how did you decide to collaborate once again with Michael Schenker?
Herman Rarebell: As you already know, Michael and I have been working together on several projects lately. We both live in Brighton, England…we first did a project together called Strangers in the Night with Pete Way on bass and Michael Voss on vocals. The truth is that we found it quite difficult to work with Pete because he has a very big problem with alcohol. I mean, we all like to drink a beer but Pete is another story. In 2011 we did a tour in England where we opened some shows for Black Country Communion. The highlight of that tour was our appearance at the High Voltage Festival…it was a terrific experience for us. With the same line-up, we did a Japanese Tour where we played two nights in Tokyo which was a really special moment for me because we played at the Sun Plaza Hall where “Tokyo Tapes” was recorded. My career with Scorpions had started a little bit earlier with “Taken By Force” but Tokyo was always a very special place for me. The funny thing is that back then we had only sold out one show with Scorpions. Now, we had sold out two nights (laughs)! The fans are still very faithful there…like in Greece! After that tour, Michael Voss had to return to his own band, Mad Max, for a tour and Michael decided to call Doogie White for the European Tour while we had Robin McAuley in America. So, we started rehearsing with Doogie and Francis (Bucholz) in Brighton and we had the classic Scorpions rhythm section.
Rockpages.gr: You had played a few years back with Michael at a few selected Scorpions gigs. But this is really the first time that all three of you share the same stage after many years. How does it feel for you...do you see it as a small reunion?
Herman Rarebell: You are right…it’s the first time since the early 90s and it sounds really good! But, it’s only natural…Francis and I had played together in Scorpions for lots of years.
Rockpages.gr: Many Scorpions fans regard this as an one-off opportunity to have a taste -or a bite since we are talking about Scorpions- of the Lovedrive era…
Herman Rarebell: (laughs) Exactly! We are playing lots of songs from that album…the title track, “Another Piece of Meat”, “Coast To Coast” and “Holiday”.
Rockpages.gr: Michael Schenker’s latest record is “Temple of Rock”. What’s the feedback that you have from it so far?
Herman Rarebell: Michael is not happy at all with the feedback. He expected a much bigger impact and he basically blames the record company about it and all the people who worked behind the promotion of the album. I think that the best promotion is to go out and show our job directly to the people like we are doing on this tour. But on the other hand, in order to get the attention, you cannot play a two-hour show with only new songs. That’s why we decided to play all our classic rock hits…songs that people want to hear and are associated with. It’s the same all over the world. You can play a show with new songs and when Michael starts playing the riff of “Rock You Like A Hurricane” everybody is on the feet and screams (laughs)!
Rockpages.gr: Herman, being the composer of many classic Scorpions hits, what was the secret behind the success of the band and how important was Dieter Dierks’ role?
Herman Rarebell: I believe it was the combination of a strong team of composers: Rudolf, Klaus and myself. We created some classic music and of course the chemistry was very good. Dieter was very important; he was our producer. Francis and Matthias added that very special element to the whole chemistry. When a band member leaves then immediately the chemistry is no longer there. It happens with all the big bands.
Rockpages.gr: Would you please describe to us the whole experience of playing in front of a huge crowd at the US Festival in the early 80s?
Herman Rarebell: It was the most unreal experience! It was the first time that Scorpions has played in front of 500.000 people! The people responsible for taking us there told us that we cannot take the car because it will take two days to get there (laughs)! We got there by a helicopter and the first person that I’ve met there was David Lee Roth who was completely drunk! I already knew Eddie Van Halen who was a big fan of Uli Jon Roth and he always said to me that he was his biggest influence. My answer was always the same: “Yeah, I can hear it” (laughs)! But, Eddie is a great guitarist…one of a kind. We did a lot of tours with Van Halen; the last one being in 1988…the Monsters of Rock Tour. Our career in America started right there at the US Festival. After our show, everybody was talking about us. It was the time that we had a single out “No One Like You” and it was a really big radio hit. In 1984 we had a Top Ten Hit with “Rock You Like A Hurricane”.
Rockpages.gr: Honestly, Herman, did you ever expect that you would achieve such a commercial success in USA? I mean, you were a rock band from Germany and it was really difficult to break that market...
Herman Rarebell: When we went to EMI, our label in Germany, and told them that we want to play in America, they laughed at us and told us: “They are waiting for you there, right?”. All the big bands in America were either from the States or from England. But we were committed and I remember telling them: “When we will play in big stadiums in America, I will have your name on the guest list so you will come and see us”. Many years later he said to us…the president of EMI in Germany…that I should have listened to you (laughs).
Rockpages.gr: You left in the mid-90s from Scorpions. What do you think about the albums that the band has released since your departure?
Herman Rarebell: I hate them. The last one (“Sting in the Tail”) is really good; “Unbreakable” was at the right direction. I kept saying to Matthias and Rudolf to stop experimenting with music and write songs that the Scorpions fans would expect from them…nice melodies and nice hard rock. One of the reasons that I left from the band was the album “Pure Instinct”. I think that was a really bad album that was followed by an even worst record “Eye II Eye”. I remember telling to Klaus during the pre-production of “Pure Instinct” that I wouldn’t play on this one because I didn’t like any song. I was pushed out from the writing team since “Face The Heat”, a record which I think is very strong…I like it a lot.
Rockpages.gr: Given the fact that you and Francis remain active musicians and you were part of the most famous line-up of the band, why haven’t Scorpions asked you for a reunion, at least for a few shows?
Herman Rarebell: Well, Klaus, Matthias and Rudolf are still on a legal battle with Francis. So, they cannot be on the same stage and then, the next morning, accuse each other in the courtroom. I don’t have such a problem with them…the legal problems with Francis started in 1992 when Francis was fired from the band. I hope that they will resolve the problem and I really tried over the years to bring them together again but no one listens to me. It’s a silly thing because we are not young anymore and we are at end of our career.
Rockpages.gr: You have also released an autobiography. What can you tell us about it?
Herman Rarebell: It’s the only book in the world that tells the whole story about the rising of the Scorpions. It was written especially for the fans; in there, there is all the information that a fan wants to have about the band…how we started, how we got to America, how was the situation in the early 90s with the grunge movement and of course why I left etc. When the other guys decided to go on a different direction with “Pure Instinct”, I didn’t like that at all…and when someone listens to the album, he immediately understands that I was right. So, what they asked me to do was play drums on songs that I didn’t like and not be a part of the creative team after all these years. I felt like a hired drummer.