A short while I ago I was able to sit down with MICHAEL SCHENKER. This was our first conversation ever, so there was lots to ask him. From his new MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST album Resurrection (out now, Nuclear Blast Records) that features FOUR singers (Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, and Robin McAuley, as well as TEMPLE OF ROCK singer Doogie White) to how often he’s writing and coming up with stuff, we definitely had much to discuss. It was very cool to get inside the process a bit. Check it:
Amps: Wow, Resurrection is one monster of a record. Year after year, album after album, I don’t know how you do it!
Michael: Thank you. You know, it’s my life, it’s my inner world, and my favorite place to be.
Amps: When I first listened the two that stood out for me were “Everest” and “Messing Around.”
Michael: Ahhh, interesting choices. Fantastic! I hear different people’s stories about their first experiences with the album and it’s always interesting to see what songs they like best. Different people pick up on different things and it’s all about the individual and how they connect with the music. I’m having a lot of fun hearing people tell me what songs left an impression on them.
Amps: I really like what you did with “The Last Supper” because it starts one way then goes in a totally different direction.
Michael: Very interesting, thank you.
Amps: Putting a project of this magnitude together, with four singers who all have different schedules, how did you make it happen?
Michael: (Laughing) it’s a mystery. How do things in life work? It’s a mystery. I think there’s more than meets the eye. But we go through life, we do our things, we have our visions and desires. One group wants to become the most famous band in the world, and one guy just wants to be a great artist first and experiment. Everybody has a different combination of ideas as to how to move forward.
In my case I can see very clearly how my life design comes in three stages and I can see my development from the early SCORPIONS days through the 80’s when I could experiment and focus on learning from life. I liked having a few different lineups because I don’t keep people on retainer. When I start making another record and people aren’t available I have to find new players. But having said that I write and I do music from within. I don’t listen to music since I was 17, I don’t copy anyone, and that’s 43 years total that makes you an original player. Coming to the third part of my life I am now celebrating everything.
I had stage fright all my life, but in 2008 something changed and I really wanted to be onstage and in the loop of the rock and roll scene. The idea of combining and performing all my most` popular music from all these years with the original vocalists, that was basically it. Coming full circle and celebrating, and it’s as much a celebration for me as it is for the guys singing. I think when the time is right, it just happens. It’s a very powerful situation. We have people that have been involved in past music, all very, very unique singers, and exceptional, great musicians. You put them together and combine all these elements, and the chemistry, and the fact that each singer sings differently, what came out of it is a great situation. So now for the hardcore fan as well as the newcomer, this is not a normal album. It’s different, but it’s entertaining because of the different singers who are all connected to each other. It’s something that really cannot be planned. You have to live a life to put something like this together.
Amps: The record feels like a party, a celebration of the music. Like everyone is having a great time doing the songs.
Michael: I am so very happy with it. I wrote the music and I wanted to have a couple of songs where all the singers got to sing together. I was very attracted to that idea, and our producer Michael Voss-Schoen came up with some really great music and lyrics. The elements just show up, and you can’t plan for it. It just happens.
Amps: Over the last few years you’ve done some of what I feel is the best work of your career. “Vigilante Man” from the last TEMPLE OF ROCK album Spirit On a Mission is my son’s absolute favorite!
Michael: Thank you. Doogie kept calling me after we did the live DVD saying, “When are we going back in the studio??” And I had to say, “Doogie, we don’t even have a record company for it yet!” And he kept calling so I said, “Doogie, come join this Michael Schenker Fest album!” And that made the whole picture complete, it was just perfect.
Amps: Something like this doesn’t come along every day. With everyone’s schedules was it very time-consuming trying to get the songs finished?
Michael: It is not easy on the level of when you get offered dates, and everyone lives in different parts of the world. To get them all together is not easy, but it’s doable because it’s enjoyable and everybody loves doing it.
Because we’re not doing this every day together we do our best to get everything coordinated. My son is very good at that. And he makes it very clear and lets people know ahead of time that there is something in the works. Please hold that date open and we will tell you in a respectful amount of time whether it’s going to happen or not, so that you can continue booking your own things. Everybody gets treated very fairly, so there’s a lot of trust involved. We’re doing this American tour soon, and we have shows booked into 2019. We want to go where everyone can afford us because this is a much bigger undertaking. At the end of the day I have to sit with everybody and figure everything out.
Amps: How often are you writing?
Michael: My writing process is actually very recreational because that happens when I play and discover. Other people call it practicing. I play and discover, like treasure hunting. I will bump into some new and unusual elements when I’m playing, whether they’re five seconds or ten seconds long, I collect those pieces and then later they inspire me to write the next part and the next part. That usually will happen in a month and before I know it I have a lot of music done for the next album. But it comes from a bunch of ideas i collected over time. I love doing things recreationally. I don’t like competition; this is art. I just love having fun being creative. I love to just be in the moment.
Amps: Speaking of playing and discovering, the riff and hook for “Lord of the Lost and Lonely” is a treaure right there and some of the greatest work `you’ve ever done. Incredible song!
Michael: Thank you. I think Doogie left the planet and went to a different world when he sang that one!
Amps: What about outside of music?
Michael: I have a garden that I have designed some cool things for. The creative process is everywhere, and it can start with the way you make your bed (laughs)!
Amps: What would you like to say to all the MICHAEL SCHENKER fans out there in the world?
Michael: Keep. On. Rocking!! You have to, otherwise there’s nothing there.
MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST will be here in Philly on Sunday March 11 and I can’t wait. You can find a complete list of dates HERE, and I highly recommend you pick up Resurrection ASAP. I really enjoyed talking with him, and the guy definitely loves his fans, so get out and catch this tour!