Michael Schenker still alive and playing?
Twenty-five years ago Michael Schenker released his first MSG album. After staying with UFO for 8 years and making 5 studio albums and 1 super live album he decided to start a band of his own, and as we know with lots of success. During the first 5 years of the MSG Michael continued to present talented band members, like e.g. Graham Bonnett, Cozy Powell (both former Rainbow) and Ted McKenny and Chris Glenn (former Alex Harvey band). Later on Schenker formed the McAuley Schenker Group and his musical direction changed into rather typical American mainstream rock. The year 1992 marked the end of the McAuley Schenker Group and Michael returned to UFO for a short while, before reactivating MSG. The last MSG album was called "Aracnophobiac" and was released in 2003. Now he brings out a brand new album (for review see our archives) called "Tales of rock 'n roll - 25 years celebration" and it is really already 25 years ago since I heard "Into The Arena" for the first time….man I am getting old!
It is Friday 21 April and I am in the lobby of the Golden Tulip Hotel in Weert (The Netherlands) when Michael enters the hotel wearing a huge pair of sunglasses, accompanied by a huge manager and of course because he is a rock star he is 45 minutes late!
I am second in line to interview the mad axeman and I truly hope that he is in a good and talkative mood… Here we go.
Martien: Michael, the entire new album is filled with great and "fresh" guitar melodies and solos. How do you still come up with new ideas and where do you get your inspiration from?
Michael: The entire music I make comes from an inner source, which is an infinite source actually, it never stops. But you must always keep enjoying what you are doing, just like Frank Sinatra, enjoy what you do, till the end, till you die and also important, do what YOU like and what YOU want. In fact it is a gift from god that I am able to do this… But let me give you an example. Imagine you a have a box of chocolates and you eat that box completely in a minute or ten, then you do not like chocolate anymore for the first five months or years to come. So, if I want to enjoy myself with my music I have to be careful not to overdo it, or otherwise I do not like what I am doing anymore. So, I would say: watch out for overkill of any sort!
Martien: Do you have any guitar players that you admire or that you see as a role model for you as a guitar player?
Michael: Obviously without any doubt the people from the late sixties and early seventies, like Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, etc. I discovered Jimi Hendrix much later as I like melody in guitar playing and Hendrix did something completely different. All those guitar players in that period became famous and they influenced me a lot. When I was 17 I used to love "Since I've Been Loving" by Led Zeppelin or some Leslie West stuff, that was unbelievable and it is still great music. After that, you know…..
Martien: Did you ever study music or are you a complete auto-didactic?
Michael (after a long silence): There are people who copy and imitate and that can sometimes be positive. I personally get my inspiration from the creator. Music comes from your center and that is pure individual. It is hard work; you need a lot of discipline. My brother Rudolf is rather lazy as he only plays the rhythm guitar and some people say that it is a funny thing to say. But, you know I practiced a lot and I was no.1 in England and Rudolf was no.3, so he is a life artist, he reaches his goals with not much work and that is a special feature that only a few people have. I am not lazy, I like to work, but you cannot be the best guitar player in the world. You can be the best tennis player in the world because they work with points and you can win something.
Martien: Will there ever be a Schenker/Schenker album?
Michael: Yes, we are planning to make a Schenker/Schenker album soon. Thanks to Holger, he is a great guy with lots of great ideas and contacts, so…
Martien: The new CD is supposed to be a concept album, but in what way then?
Michael: Yes, you are right, it was supposed to be a concept album, but it is not. I always said that it was a concept album for me, it was a musical concept. However, somewhere in an interview someone told me that a concept album should have a theme, so…. The album was in fact written for UFO, which is why Pete Way and Jeff Martin play on the album, and it was supposed to be a real concept album. However it developed through external circumstances because of the influence of my new singer Jari who came up with other ideas and asked me: do you like this or do you like that? And then at a certain time he just said: well it is just tales of rock and roll actually and I knew from the start that it was so cool. The idea was really cool because I knew that every singer would have problems with writing lyrics. But now I could say to them: Tales of rock and roll, see you later, no problem!!
Martien: Was it not very difficult to get all the singers together for this album?
Michael: Absolutely, that was a nightmare and I am NOT a patient guy, you know, ha ha ha…
But, you know I play what I like and if you do not like it then fuck you. Take it or leave it! When I talk it is like my creator talks and interviews are always very interesting even after 25 years of MSG. The questions still change and some of them always come back.
Martien: Do you have a MSG album that you dislike after all those years?
Michael: No, because I do not make compositions that I do not like, they are not released. Every time I make a new record there is a challenge for me that makes it interesting to release a new album.
Martien: Will there be a new MSG DVD soon?
Michael: You should ask Holger that. I know nothing, I do not like the sales figures or the merchandise and so I became rich, ha ha ha…
Martien: Do you still like touring after all these years?
Michael: Yeah, you must have fun and you need money to survive.
Martien: The music business has changed a lot since you started playing the guitar, does that not bother you?
Michael: I do NOT care about that! I never listen to music, so…..
Martien: How do you feel about the fact that people download your albums for free from the Internet?
Michael: I never know how many records I sell, if I sell and why and how, so…..
Martien: You really do not care????
Michael: No, it is simple. People who download the music are of no interest to me, let them. People who connect with me would do the same thing as I do. Talent is one thing, but you have to develop it.
Martien: Last question, will Germany become world champion soccer in 2 months time?
Michael: Yes, I think so, Klinsmann is a good guy, and he did well the last game against the USA. In fact when I was 11 I had to decide if I wanted to become a soccer player or a guitar player.
Martien: And may I say that you made the right choice!
Michael: I hope I did. I think so because you can longer survive in the music business. As a sportsman over 35 you are old and done, so. Yeah, I made the right choice.
Martien: Thanks for your time and see you in Tilburg on 18 May.
Michael: Thank you and I promise that the gig in Tilburg will be better than my last one there a couple of years ago!!
Interview by Martien Koolen