Let The Music Do The Talking #9 : Michael Schenker

#interviews #scorpions #msg #michael-schenker

"I am technically hopeless"

In the notes of your last album Temple Of Rock, you say that the distorted guitar is for you "the most enjoyable and the best possible way to express yourself". But you also add that "hand-made rock will never be the same again due to invention of new technology". How do you feel exactly about this "new technology"? Is it something you can't relate to (and just have to cope with) or is it something you think your sound or even your playing can benefit from?

I am sure I benefit from it automatically. Things are easier in the recording process, take less time etc. But I cannot really take advantage of it personally because I am technically hopeless - plus I enjoy what I am used to and with what I fell in love with in the first place. It's the playing itself that I enjoy.

I may be wrong but even though you're often referred to as a "technician", you don't really seem to consider yourself as one - for instance, instead of talking about your pickups or strings, you say that the combination of the V and the 50-watt Marshall "just works" for you and that it is your particular chemistry with them which accounts for your special sound which is all about emotion and not technique. Listening to this incredibly developed solo of yours in "Rock Bottom", I was wondering how you build such a long piece of solo? Is it intuitive, driven by emotion and feeling as it were, or is there a part of purely intellectual construction?

Pure improvisation.

You once said that you are "definitely a solo artist" and that you created MSG in opposition to "monster machines" like Scorpions (or even The Rolling Stones, Ozzy Osbourne or Aerosmith whose offers to join you declined if I'm not mistaken) to express yourself fully and experience total creative freedom. You also said that your first musical influences were not guitar heroes like Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix or Rory Gallagher but mainly the instrumental band The Shadows. Why is it then that you don't release more solo instrumental albums? Is the voice a necessary vehicle for your own guitar work?

I have made about 5 acoustic instrumental albums, 2 or 3 electric instrumentals, 4 cover albums improvising the heck out of it in the solos and that was my desire being fullfilled. Now I like to go back to where I came from and express together with vocals. I loved the singer/guitar sharing together. It's great like Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Well balanced sharing, not too much playing, just enough to enjoy, like chocolate.

Speaking of guitar hero, Leslie West seems to be a huge influence - the V guitar, the solo from "Theme for an Imaginary Western" which you say is your all-time favorite solo - and lately the "3 Guitar Heroes reunion" (with West and Uli Jon Roth). The interaction between two different guitar playing such as Uli's and yours seem pretty obvious - but isn't it more difficult to play with someone like Leslie whose style, though different, is "akin" to yours? In other words, in such a context do you have to adapt your playing to make a dialog possible?

We each play our set and at the end we play together. Should not be a problem.

You've had your share of hard times. In the liner notes of your album In the Midst of Beauty, you wrote “In the midst of beauty, the beast is always waiting and ready to attack" - which struck me as a rather frightening statement. You also said that the lyrics (written by Klaus Meine) of your first composition "In Search Of The Piece Of Mind" (on Scorpions' Lonesome Crow)" used to sum up your state of mind back in the 80s - and they are pretty gloomy too.... And despite all this, today, you seem very serene about it, peaceful and philosophical about the cycles of life and recurring personal crises, even saying that you enjoying your present life much more than 20 years ago. No joke intended - this might just be a silly question - but after all this do you feel related in any way to a kind of blues tradition, where virtuosity and torment seem to be inseparable, ou do you think it is just a cliché?

I don’t mean all the lyrics just the title - In Search Of Peace Of Mind. I don’t even know the lyrics itself. Anyway, life is a journey, a consistent learning experience to develop. As we go through our journey we all encounter battles and beautifull experiences. That's how it goes.

Michael Schenker's official website: http://www.michaelschenkerhimself.com/home.php