For better or worse, Michael Schenkers reputation precedes him. Born in West Germany in 1955, the wunderkind guitarist joined elder brother Rudolf for the Scorpions 1972 debut Lonesome Crow, then split for UFO and a run of de-facto solo projects.
As he rightly points out, his influence is towering: without Schenkers melodic pyrotechnics on classics like Another Piece Of Meat and Love To Love, heavy-mob acolytes such as Dave Mustaine and Kirk Hammett might never have become the players they are.
Among the rock press, meanwhile, Schenker is infamous for semi-coherent rambles that leave them with not a lot to write about. Todays conversation begins inauspiciously, with a shaggy-dog story about his move to Brighton threatening to swallow our entire allotted time. But, with a hard nudge, we finally get him on point.
How pleased are you with the Michael Schenker Groups new album, Immortal?
Oh, Im absolutely blessed. It feels like a gift from heaven. Yknow, like: Michael, this is what we give you for staying true to yourself for fifty years and being Michael Schenker.
Whats the significance of the albums title?
Its from Mark Steiger, the head of Nuclear Blast in Germany [Schenkers label]. He said to me once: Michael, if you wouldnt have been, Nuclear Blast would have never been, and all the other thrash metal categories would have never existed. Ive been doing all these Australian interviews, and they told me the same thing: if I wouldnt have been, then thrash metal would have never been.
Dave Mustaine told me that what he heard on [UFOs third album] Phenomenon, hed never heard anything like that before. Kirk Hammett said the same thing. And the reason is because Im going to the inner spring of infinite creativity, being Michael Schenker
[Hopelessly tries to interject]
I am not chasing fame. In the eighties, lead guitarists copied what I did, and later, apparently, it led to the new school. Every generation, I have given something that was fresh. If everybody takes from the trend, it will eventually burn out, it will be dead. Most people are after fame, money, success, instant gratification. It was never important for me. What was important was the now, the moment, and to be happy as an artist.
I couldnt have done that with Ozzy Osbourne. I had to decline Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and Phil Lynott, Ian Hunter, Motrhead. So many asked me to join them as their number-one choice. I was tempted. But I always have to remember: Michael, you left the Scorpions and UFO because you had your own vision.
Whats on your mind at the moment?
I must say, 2020 is a cluster of problems in my life. Not just the virus, but my partners mother dying of cancer. So many complications. I was getting ready for the biggest Japanese tour ever. We would have sold out the Budokan. We had to cancel.
Id prepared for that for a whole year. It was a slap in the face. It puts an empty spot into your life. Making an album, going on tour, thats the way its been, all of these years. All of a sudden, its: stop. And that is difficult.
You and your brother Rudolf have fought for years. Has the pandemic brought you closer?
The thing about Rudolf is simply this. In 2015 I found out about the Lovedrive story lies and I was so disappointed [Schenker argues that the reissue and sleeve notes of the Scorpions 1979 Lovedrive downplayed his contribution]. It opened a can of worms.
All of a sudden I found out all of these strange things that happened in the period of time since I left the Scorpions. I couldnt do the touring with them because Id finished with UFO, and I had my own vision. Im a kid in a sand box. I play and discover. I dont compete. I dont chase anything. I dont chase money. I never have. Im an artist and
But, given whats happening, isnt it time to forgive?
It has nothing to do with forgiving. Let me just finish. I love Rudolf as a brother. But social distance is needed, so I dont get tricked into any further inconvenient situations.
At sixty-six are you worried about catching the coronavirus?
I have a mask on, every time I go shopping. Sometimes I tell people off: Oi! Two metres! I dont want your bloody virus! And I dont want to give it to you! I have gloves on, mask on, my spray with me. To answer your question, of course Im worried. I dont want to end up in hospital and, yknow, bye bye Michael!
Have you ever watched the notorious video of you performing drunk?
I dont watch anything. I dont want to know anything. Especially if I did something stupid or bad. Which one are you talking about?
A solo you played at the 2007 Rock & Blues Custom Show.
Well, of course, I had transition times, and I had ups and downs like every teenager had when they were sixteen, discovering what they couldnt do it at home and getting screwed up. Everybody gets screwed up. As a baby, we start making mistakes, right? You start trying to stand up, you fall over, you dont know better. Then you become a toddler and you start pulling on tablecloths and everything collapses. Thats what life is, you go through crises.
During lockdown have you ever come close to falling back into bad habits?
I was so busy over the whole period. But I have to say that mentally it is definitely a strain. But I want to make sure that I stay the way I developed from 2008. I dont want to lose that stability. So I do whatever I can.
Thanks then, Michael
[shouts] Take care and keep on rocking!
Immortal is out now via Nuclear Blast.
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