DATE OF INTERVIEW:
MICHAEL SCHENKER'S TEMPLE OF ROCK
11th January 2016
The ever-influential and innovative fretboard talents of Michael Schenker remain a relevant and potent force well into the twenty first century. And the prolific, hard-working German guitarist shows no signs of slowing down as January 2016 sees Michael take his critically lauded Temple of Rock outfit back on the road for a string of UK shows. With a powerhouse band that features ex-Rainbow/ex-Malmsteen vocalist Doogie White; drummer Herman Rarebell and bassist Francis Bucholz (both ex-Scorpions); and guitarist/keyboardist Wayne Findlay, it'll be a tour not to be missed for all discerning rock/metal fans. Armed with an arsenal of both classic tracks and newer material that will include UFO, MSG, and Scorpions songs, alongside Temple of Rock compositions, he'll be hitting the road on 20th Jan, when the tour commences in Bilston's Robin 2. Ahead of the shows, Michael spoke to Metal Discovery about the dates, as well as recent and forthcoming activity in the Temple of Rock camp. On a day that started with the devastatingly sad news of a creative genius, we commence our chat by exchanging a few words about the legend that was, and is, David Bowie...
METAL DISCOVERY: How are you?
(Michael Schenker on the forthcoming Temple of Rock UK shows)
"The UK is always one of my favourite places to play. This is where it all started, when I was 18/19 years old."
Michael Schenker - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2013 Tallee Savage
Interview by Mark Holmes
MICHAEL: Yeah, good, you?
MD: Very good, thank you. A very sad day, of course, with the news of David Bowie’s passing.
MICHAEL: Yeah, absolutely.
MD: Was he important in your life at all; did he influence your musical career in any way?
MICHAEL: Yeah, I mean… [singing]… “There’s a starman…”… you know, there are a few particular albums that are just incredible. And still my favourite music; it’s just amazing.
MD: Timeless music, as well.
MICHAEL: I actually thought that David Bowie could be one of the last ones left. I mean, I didn’t know he had cancer, but I can’t believe he died that early.
MD: I know, it's so incredibly sad. You’re about to embark on a nine date UK tour, in a week and a half, so do you still get a feeling of excitement before hitting the road?
MICHAEL: Yeah, absolutely. But, you know, everybody’s all over the place right now, finishing off the DVD. I’m gonna go and mix the album tomorrow; and Doogie is doing some edits somewhere near Mannheim… so, we’re all over the place, getting that done. I leave for Birmingham on the 17th, so we’ll check all our gear and everything, and then we are starting to rock!
The UK is always one of my favourite places to play. This is where it all started, when I was 18/19 years old. When I left Germany, I wanted to come to England… and I didn’t care which band - it just happened to be UFO. I wanted to be where people understood what I was doing; it was not possible in Germany. And I got really excited when UFO asked me to join and, so, I went over there and started touring with them straight away. We went up north to Newcastle, Sunderland, Glasgow, and stuff like that. And, so, that’s when I was 18 years old, and that’s where everything started to go forwards. So, it’s always a lot of fun playing in the UK.
MD: A few years ago!
MICHAEL: Yeah! [Laughs]
MD: I read an article towards the end of last year where you said you have something very special planned for the UK tour. Is there still something special planned? Can you reveal anything about this yet?
MICHAEL: Well, you know, it’s like this, let me just tell you what’s happening here. First of all, we are releasing a single… we have just released a single; a double-A side - ‘Good Times’ and ‘Rock City’ – and that’s being played at Planet Rock. So, we start the tour on Wednesday the 20th and, on 31st, we do a headline festival, Giants of Rock, where Ian Hunter is gonna be, etc. And, then, we finish the world tour in Scandinavia at the beginning of February, on the 6th, I think. Then, the next step is that the Temple of Rock needs to look for their own record deal, because we are still basing everything on my old solo deal that I have had since 2008, with in-akustik. So, you know, Temple of Rock needs to get their own record deal now, so that we can take this whole thing to the next level.
We are releasing the DVD in the meantime; we have a live DVD that’s gonna be out in April, so that will keep people busy while we are seeing what we can do. And, then, we hope to release another album in 2017. And, so, we don’t really know, if we get a suitable… it’s about a suitable deal, you know, for Temple of Rock. It’s not necessarily an easy thing to do but we have an established group now, with ‘Bridge the Gap’ and ‘Spirit on a Mission’ and, in order to take us to the next level, we really need a serious deal going, then we can go to the next step.
Depending on how long that’s gonna take… you know, we’re gonna be seeing on what comes up, etc., but if, for some reason, it all takes longer than expected, then I will put something together… that will… you know, if I get bored… [laughs]… if it takes too long, I’m definitely doing something. I have an idea, but I don’t want to talk about it now. I’m not gonna keep quiet, that’s for sure! But, I’m hoping we can really find a suitable deal for Temple of Rock. Temple of Rock is developing really nicely, and developing its own unique sounds and the third album, I think, will really have a place for Temple of Rock, with its own identity and entity, etc, etc.
MD: ‘Spirit on a Mission’ is already an incredible album.
MICHAEL: We want to move on beyond that and let’s hope the stars are on our side!
MD: We spoke last year, just before the new album came out, and we talked about your gradual realisation about how you regard yourself as a spirit on a mission, “spreading the joy of music from a place of pure self-expression.” So, do you feel more like a spirit on a mission when on tour rather than in the studio, spreading the joy night after night, to different crowds of people?
MICHAEL: No, I’m always a spirit on a mission, regardless if I’m in the studio or on tour, because it’s about spreading the joy of music. If you do it on a CD or you’re doing it live, it’s all the same. You’re spreading the joy of music and I do it from a place of pure self-expression because that’s what I decided when I was 18, to self-express, and that’s what I love doing – putting notes together the way I feel and the way I see it, and having fun with it, you know. As a lead guitarist, especially, what you can do with one string is infinite. And, if you take it from your own point of view, it’s endless, how you express yourself.
MD: I guess when you’re doing that at live shows, it’s a more immediate thing, where you can see the joy on people’s faces.
MICHAEL: Yeah… [laughs]… and I’m enjoying it these days! I never thought it was possible that I would have fun on stage. Many years ago, I had stage fright and was so nervous before going on stage, and I would never have thought that it would turn into the opposite. I had to learn in the middle years and go through experiences that would enable me to get to this point and, now, I just carry on making my musical contribution until I can’t anymore.
MD: You talked about the live DVD earlier, which was filmed in Madrid, I gather… so, when you’re in those kind of filming situations at a show, do you get nervous at all and a little more self-conscious?
MICHAEL: No, actually… [laughs]… I had a pretty good day! I didn’t have to make any repairs, and I was jumping around and doing high-fives, every other second, with the audience! [laughs] I don’t know… it was just great. Actually, for the last few live albums, I haven’t done any repairing. Somehow, I’ve been fortunate on that level. The stage was a bit small, unfortunately. Everybody overlooked the side of the stage because of the camera crew and everybody there, you know. But, it ended up intimate.
I liked it because, now, I’m so used to playing big places and small places and, for a while, you play a bunch of small places where you have direct contact with the audience and then, all of a sudden, you play a bigger place where there’s a gap in-between and you have to develop some kind of momentum and, all of a sudden, you can’t do that anymore because all of the people are gone… you know, five metres from the stage, so you have to kind of do it a different way. But, I got so used to playing with the audience right in front of me, so I ended up doing as much high-five as I play songs… [laughs]
MD: [Laughs] Brilliant!