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20th February 2015
METAL DISCOVERY: I gather, quite shockingly, you had some guitars and actual recordings stolen from the studio while making the album. How much gear and recordings did you actually lose?
(Michael Schenker on what he perceives to be the three stages of his life and career)
"...I feel like Iím in the final, third stage, and where Iím actually celebrating my generation of rock and the things Iíve learnt..."
Michael Schenker - live shot
Photograph copyright © 2014 Jay Hawkins
Interview by Mark Holmes
MICHAEL: Yeah, I mean, that was really a slap in the face. Out of nowhere, I get a phone call and, ďfour of your guitars, Michael, have been stolen and some music has gone.Ē Luckily, it was just performances and we kind of digested that slap, and we got up, and worked twice as hard, and it got that much better.
Official Michael Schenker Website:
Official Michael Schenker Facebook:
Temple of Rock (2011)
Thanks to Asher Alexander for arranging the interview.
Temple of Rock - Live in Europe (2012)
Bridge the Gap (2013)
Spirit on a Mission (2015)
MD: Have your guitars been recovered yet?
MICHAEL: No, Iíve not heard anything about it and I donít actually expect to ever hear anything, to be honest, because I think theyíll blend in with the rest of the worldÖ [Laughs]
MD: Wasnít one of the guitars a one-off, I think I read?
MICHAEL: Well, yeah, it was the Chrome, the Colour, the Yin Yang and the Strangers. And I think the Chrome was a one-offÖ you mean like just one of it is out there?
MD: Yeah, I read it was a custom built one-off.
MICHAEL: Iím not really sure, to be honest, because, by now, Iíve got so many guitars, I donít even know anymore what is what, and what is being sold and what is not being sold. Sometimes, I come up with a request and say I want a particular look of a guitar and then, in the end, I donít even know if that has been on the market or not; whether itís been manufactured for commercial sale. And so, sometimes, I donít even know, but I know what has been lately at the NAMM show and stuff like that. Iíve been with them for about ten years now, you know, and we have built so many guitars. But thatís what I had to do; when those four guitars got stolen, I had to look in my cupboard and there was a lot of choice that I could replace. And then, Elliott from Dean Guitars, he made me another guitar which is a black and red guitar, that is now probably gonna be replacing the Colour guitar. And then I have a hollow body which I wanted to use on this album, I had an idea, but I guess itís gonna be for the next one. Then I have a Yin Yang and then the very first guitar that they built me Ė itís like aÖ what do you call itÖ a reissue or something. Because the way I have bits and pieces on that guitar, like a magnet and a holder for the Howler and stuff like that, it kind of created its own little look, and so people kept asking for that guitar, so they started to make that copy, to copy that exactly the way it looks now. So, at this point, I have enough additional guitars.
MD: Basically, youíre not short of a few guitars!
MICHAEL: Sometimes, you know, the black & white guitarsÖ it has been so long now, I canít remember exactly what black & white was built when, and so on, and they all kind of look a bit similar. But there was definitely the Colour, the Chrome, the Yin Yang, and the Retro, and the Strangers that I used for maybe around three years for live shows. I think it was time to change anyway so, you know, maybe it was meant to be, so now I was forced to come up with a new selection!
MD: Over the years, your playing has been such an inspiration for so many other top playersÖ I mean, just in December last year I interviewed Marty Friedman and he was singing your praisesÖ so does it make you proud to know your playing has influenced a whole load of other well respected guitarists?
MICHAEL: Well, the funny thing is that, when I started playing, I was just in love with playingÖ you know, play and discover. I was just fascinated with what one can do with a single string, and I was having so much fun with that and I was just doing it right from the beginning. When I was sixteen and seventeen, I never really thought of how I would ever earn my money or not; I didnít think about that kind of stuff; I was just happy playing and everything else happened by itself. So, basically, I eventually started to make a living with my music and, out of nowhere, people were telling me: ďHey Michael, people are playing your style of music in America.Ē And I said: ďReally?!Ē It was because I hadnít been listening to music since I was eighteen and I stopped copying people around seventeen, and I was never really that aware of what was happening in the music scene.
My brother once called me, early-80s, and told me that there are a lot of guitarists playing kind of like my style and, in the nineties, I started to hear things from people like Def Leppard and Guns Ní Roses and Metallica and so on. So I was never that aware of it but, of course, itís great. But, you know, it just shows, somehow, thatís out of pure self-expression. Instinctively, I knew already, when I was seventeen and a half years old, to stay away from music, not to consume because that drains you too. So music that I want to create, thatís where my passion is, and focus on how I see it; how I would do it, and to open up my world to the world, to add new colours that only you can express if you decide to open up your inside. And so, nobody can see what you have unless you offer it. And so, thatís what I did and the result is that you have your own style and it has an affect on people who understand music, I guess.
MD: You were already a spirit on a mission back in the day, and you didnít realise it!
MICHAEL: Thatís a good point, and I didnít realise it! The three stages of my lifeÖ the first stage of my life was my musical development and musical contribution to the world, created in the seventies for the eighties. But I was not really consciously there; it was all done unconsciously, without really understanding what I was doing. And the middle years was more the school of life, and experimenting, etc. Now, itís more like, basically, doing what I did in the first place but, this time, with awareness and thatís kind of interesting. There was the first section where I had no clue what I was doing, and there was the middle section that was maybe to learn and understand what I was doing, and the third section was to actually do what Iím doing with awareness. Itís kind of weird. I also feel like Iíve gone full circle. In my brain, I feel like Iím revisiting my youth. Itís like how people go out and they want to see those bands from many years ago, and Iím doing the same kind of thing in my head. Iím revisiting where I was. Maybe that is what it is; Iím going back there and now realising what I was doing then. Itís really strange!
MD: Are you still able to surprise yourself with your playing through the new music you create?
MICHAEL: Like I said, itís really weird but, around 2008, it was almost on a daily basis I bumped into new things. Itís really incredible. It seems like Iím experiencing from the level of progress and development as much as I did in the very beginning. Again, itís almost like a double life but one was unconscious and now Iím aware of it. So, somehow, in the middle years, because I was not part of the whole touring machine, the commercial touring bands of the eighties and stuffÖ you know, I did the ĎLovedriveí album with the Scorpions and that opened the doors for America for the Scorpions, then I gave my brother the black & white design as a blessing and he went and took over and I actually withdrew because the eighties were reallyÖ for me, my place was the seventies. And what I created was, more or less, for the eighties and so, at that point, I was able to do my own thing at my own pace and experiment with electric instrumentals, acoustic instrumentals, and do all sorts of different things, and also develop on a personal level. So it seems like thatís what my middle life was for; you know, it was more school of life rather than being in the spotlight. But, now, I feel like Iím in the final, third stage, and where Iím actually celebrating my generation of rock and the things Iíve learnt, basically.
MD: Maybe thereíll be a fourth phase that youíre unaware of yet!
MICHAEL: Yeah, maybe Iíll just call it all the final!
MD: You have the ĎMasters of Metal Rock íní Roll Fantasy Campí coming up next month, alongside Bill Ward and Glenn Hughes - what exactly is that all about?
MICHAEL: Yeah, that kind of stuff I usually donít do but, you know, it was explained to me what it is and I guess I go into a room with a bunch of people, I guess itís a band, and a bunch of songs they can choose from to jam with me. I heard that Slash did it and various other people, and they said it was fun, so I said, ďokay, Iíll try it out.Ē There was the same thing with the cruise. I didnít want to do that either; itís not what I want to do, but people then told me itís quite interesting. Eventually, I agreed to it and, I must say, itís a must; at least a one-time must. I met people there and they went there five times and I think it was only done five times, so they have been there every time. Itís definitely a one-time must because itís just so unique; itís unbelievable.
MD: Is that something youíd do again, though, playing another cruise?
MICHAEL: No, not necessarily. Iíve done it and itís a great experience but not something I want to get used to. But itís something I would recommend to at least try onceÖ [Laughs]
MD: Finally then, obviously you regard yourself as a spirit on a mission, but how would you describe your Temple of Rock bandmates in a few words?
MICHAEL: Well, I always believe thereís more than meets the eye, so everything that happens, happens for a reason. I donít know what the reasons are, etc, etc... I donít understand things that well yet. I always look at the now; at the most important time in life. The now is really the only thing that is there at the moment, so I look at what Iím surrounded by is there for a reason, so thatís how I look at things.
MD: Okay, thanks so much for your time.
MICHAEL: Thank you.
MD: Itís been a very interesting chat.
MICHAEL: Thank you so much.