Klaus Meine talks about Greece and philosophy before the MTV unplugged in Athens

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The Scorpions once more made history bringing their acoustic guitars and their special friends over to Greece for three special live unplugged shows on Lycabettus theatre for the MTV Unplugged series. Who would ever had imagined that the music channel that steers gradually away from music would had this initiative involving the Scorpions and Greece? Surely, not even Klaus Meine was expecting this, as he is hanging on his telephone line answering Yiannis Dolas’ questions, giving Greece an apotheosis, and philosophizing…  

Rockpages.gr: How does it feel to play your songs unplugged?
Klaus Meine: Well, that is a huge challenge in so many ways… First of all, that means for the band, especially for the guitar players that you have to learn the songs completely new, because the arrangements are so different. I know that Rudolph (Schenker) said that with all those open tunings it’s a whole new dimension and it’s really a challenge. For a singer this is a challenge, not only because of the different arrangements, it’s a challenge because your voice is so up front… when you do a rock show with all those Marshal amps behind you turned up to 11 you are buried into a wall of guitar sound, but when you do an unplugged record with mandolins, strings and all that, your voice comes automatically so up front. So, this is a challenge, because as a singer you really have to come up with a great, strong performance. It’s a challenge in many ways, but I think that the days we spent in Athens turned out great!

Rockpages.gr: Yeah, that’s true. I was there on the first concert and the Greek fans didn’t seem to be “unplugged” at all, did they?
Klaus Meine: Hahaha! They didn’t seem unplugged at all right? Maybe because the sound on that amphitheatre… the sound on Lycabettus amphitheatre up there, on the mountain, with our sound system we said that we wanted to make a strong, powerful performance. So, all the instruments and the atmosphere of every song must come out powerful. Because, that was a concert! We played for two and a half hours, and we don’t want our fans to be bored, and play a show full of ballads, you know! We want to make a dynamic rock… well not too much “rock”, but a dynamic concert! And, since MTV is not a rock concert, it’s about music and a very special MTV production performance it has nothing to do with a big rock show that we used to know it, and our Greek fans used to know it. This is the band on bar stools, with no running around, no crazy moves, just sitting there on your bar stool, and playing and singing your song. Therefore, you need a powerful sound, and strong arrangements, and it has to be –from the music point of view- a strong performance. We mastered that pretty well.

Rockpages.gr: What were the criteria you chose the songs you played with?
Klaus Meine: When this MTV offer came in, since we made “Acoustica” in 2001, we didn’t want to repeat ourselves, we wanted to come up with a whole new set of music, and our intention was not to rely on the big hits, the big classics. If it was for us we wouldn’t even have played them! Later on, our label of course insisted that “Still Loving You”, “Wind Of Change”, “(Rock You Like A) Hurricane”, all those songs were going to be part of that show, but our intention was to hopefully put out a whole new show up on stage with songs we never performed live…. At least a lot of them… Songs with different arrangements, and some new songs. That was the intention. We made a list of songs that we discussed it with our producers, and our Swedish friends, Martin Hansen, and Mikael Nord Andersson, and Matthias (Jabbs) went up to Stockholm and they picked together songs out of the list we recommended. And then he came back with eight or nine songs, they came to Germany played them to us, we listened to the arrangements and we liked, or we didn’t like it, and we changed it… so, this way over the time of six months we built up the whole show… the whole set. I think we had in total thirty, or forty songs, but in the end we picked those 24-25-26 songs. It was three sessions, where together with another Swedish musician, Hans Gardemar, who came in heavily with the new songs’ arrangements, and when we listened back, it was part  of going back into the Scorpions history, going back all the way to the ‘70s… and the intention was to put up on stage songs that we’ve never performed, like “Born To Touch Your Feelings”, “When You Came Into My Life”,  “Passion Rules The Game”… we found so many tracks that we never played live, and that the attraction. And we knew that our Greek fans have a big heart for our early material and for those songs that are not so very well known outside our loyal fan base. I think we were right there because we picked so many songs for this kind of show and it worked out fantastic. “Where The River Flows” is another one we never played live, and on this show we played it with harmonica. “Born To Touch Your Feelings” with accordion came out so beautiful… even “Hit Between The Eyes” or “Rock You Like A Hurricane” with a mandolin… it has inherited almost a Greek touch. “Rock You Like A Hurricane” feels now like a Greek song! And it’s like a whole new dimension… and it was such a huge challenge for MTV to become part of this very special family of artists, that have been in MTV Unplugged over the years. It’s a great honor to be a part of that very illustrious MTV Unplugged family…

Rockpages.gr: Did it ever cross your mind that you would be recording a live show for the MTV in 2013 in let’s say in 1993?
Klaus Meine: Not at all! Not even a year ago! No way!!! Hahaha! It came like a surprise. When this offer came on earlier this year no one expected that! It came out of the blue. When we were asked we were excited about it. We thought that if we do it right it would be another milestone for our career. Fifteen years ago… No, back in the ‘80s we talked about it but it never really worked out. Those days we were touring America and MTV Unplugged was about to start… it such an historic format. Who would have thought that we record it in Athens. It’s a historic very first time in the series of MTV Unplugged that is under the open sky! It is the very first time! Usually they do it in the studio, with just a few hundred fans around the stage. This time it was a few thousand fans and it was beautiful under the Athens sky. It was fantastic!

Rockpages.gr: I think this was a perfect match… playing a live show under the open sky in Greece. As it’s another perfect match for the Greek fans attending a Scorpions show…
Klaus Meine: It’s always a great match! And, I must tell you part of the decision to go to Greece was the fact that we have a very active fan club in Greece over the years and like whenever we have a show in Thessaloniki, or Athens, it was our fans saying: “come on Scorpions put out a DVD! It was such a great show in Karaiskaki Stadium! It was amazing, and you don’t put that on MTV! Shame on you!” Hahaha! You know, this was part of the decision. We know that we have so many diehard fans all over the world but, in a way we know that our Greek fans are very special and finally we wanted to give them something back. And this was the right moment to go, the MTV Unplugged! Let’s do it in Athens, and let’s take it to the whole world and show the world, especially now that Greece is  getting through some rough times economically, and politically. Go there and show the world this is a great country, this is a country with people that have a heart for music, for art, it’s great there, it’s a great country and we want to support it, especially in rough times.

Rockpages.gr: I suppose not only the hardcore fans, but everyone who’s been to any of your latest shows would have expect Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth, or any other past-Scorpions member as a special guest on those three unplugged nights. Instead of them, you had other special guests. How did you come up with that?
Klaus Meine: We had out Scorpions family, Uli, and Michael, Herman, they were all part of the show we did in Wacken. So, we did this… and I don’t think you should repeat yourself and bring the Scorpions and family again and again. I know that our fans in Greece would be very excited if we had all those guys back, but this time I think the point that you should understand… we all thought about bringing guests from the hard and heavy kind of field… from Lemmy to… I don’t know all these rock guys you know? From Lemmy, to Slash, to Bon Jovi, or God knows… artists that come from our hard and heavy kind of family. For this project though MTV Berlin was in charge, so they were looking for artists that are happening on MTV format, like young German artists. And we liked the idea to also support some young and up and coming artists from Germany and present them on a worldwide level. Because nobody in Greece knew these artists and nobody knows them outside of Germany. So, this was about giving young and upcoming artists the chance to present themselves in an international level. And with Cathe, a young singer from Hamburg, I thought it was great to sing “In Trace”, and it got great feedback from our Greek fans. And the same with Johannes Strate, from Revolverhead, a young German band, on “Rock You Like A Hurricane” was so strong, and our Greek fans were going nuts about this… this… I could almost call it a Greek version. I think Johannes did a great job as well, and then Morten Karket is a pop singer, probably very much unexpected, but MTV like it very much. We met Morten when we played Russia last year. He is a great guy, and of course a world famous, legendary singer. He was the first one who called me and said: “I want to be a part of this MTV Unplugged project, and I would love to sing “Wind Of Change” with you”… so, there it was! I think overall, the whole Scorpions performance and the very few selected guests would work for which ever reason. This was very much connected with the MTV and it made sense. And as for us, we enjoyed it, and I think from that point of view we had a good time with those guests, and they did a great job.

Rockpages.gr: So, “The Best Is Yet To Come”… it’s a song title, but is it a statement as well for the Scorpions? What else should we expect from the band?
Klaus Meine: I don’t know what to expect, because last year it felt like 2013 was going to be the first moment in our lives where we would be taking it a bit easy. Then, the offer came from MTV and the madness kept going. A German journalist asked me this question: “Klaus, how does retirement feel?”, and I said: “if this is retirement, I think it’s great!”. I don’t know what to expect. We started, as it’s widely known on the net, working on an album with tracks from the ’80s. Tracks we haven’t finished, songs we never released, and we started working on this album in 2011, and we stopped working when MTV Unplugged had priority. And, we might pick it up next year. There is also some songs on this show, like “Dancing On The Moonlight”, “Rock’n’Roll Band”, there are electric versions of course, and there is some more, you know? And some new songs we played, we’ve just written in 2013 like the songs we played in Athens…

Rockpages.gr: You’ve been in Greece so many times, what’s your favorite thing?
Klaus Meine: I think it’s the people you know? We always have a good time there, and we feel so welcome there, and this goes back to the ‘90s. Whenever we had concerts in Athens, or Thessaloniki we always felt welcome. We have some friends in Greece and when we touchdown in Athens they always come to see us… we feel very much connected. And, I guess it’s people you know? It’s the beautiful country of course… I spent some time again this year in Cape Sounio, it’s such a beautiful spot down there, and people are so friendly. Greek food is amazing too, I mean this is what comes all together! You people live in the beautiful spot in the world you know? That’s why every time we come to Greece we have a good time. People know how to enjoy life, and that’s what it is. Unfortunately, these days it’s only yellow press that comes out in the news and the media. This is also part of reality, but there is much more to Greece, and as Rudolph says, “this is where democracy was born!”, and he is right. And so much culture! Such a huge heart for art and music, and that’s how we feel, and that’s why we feel we have to comfort with our Greek audience.

Rockpages.gr: Scorpions have been involved unintentionally with the raise of French population, thanks to “Still Loving You”, the changes in Europe with the fall of the Berlin Wall with “Wind Of Change”, the rain forests in the Amazon. Is there something else really important that you would like the Scorpions to be involved in?
Klaus Meine: Something we are always involved in is connecting people with music, to build bridges with music. We played again this year two shows in Lebanon, Beirut, last year we played at Tel Aviv, in Israel. We played at the pyramids in Cairo, and when you see what happens in the Middle East… all of us would love to see peace! And finally, all the aggression and the fighting would stop. All the aggression that moves from generation to generation and it seems like it’s such a devilish supper you know? We would like as musicians and as people to see peace in the world. For us in Europe, the Middle East is round the corner, and much more for you in Greece. What I could say as a musician, as an artist, and as a person is that I hope for us and for our children that we can live in a more peaceful world. That all this crisis… that we find the right people to deal with in a respectful way, and find a good way of working with each other and not fighting. And that’s what matters. That doesn’t mean I am going to write another song about it! That’s not the point, but what do you want to be involved in? People all around the world hope for a more peaceful world. People in America after September 11th, and all these terrorists threats around the word… all these bombs, and all this aggression and violence… I hope that our kids, and their kids grow up in a more peaceful world where people respect each other, and respect each other’s culture… I think that’s important for the future of this planet! That all of us can survive, and have a better life! This is like speaking as a father of a son. I really hope that my son can live his life in a better world, a more peaceful world, and his children one day can make world a better place. I think that’s a complicated world that is getting more and more out of balance in so many ways, and I think that this is what all of us should take care of and find a way that we find a balance. We don’t have to agree with everything that anybody is doing, but we should find ways to treat each other with respect and that all of us can live free and a better and peaceful life, that’s what it’s al about!