The Scorpions: The Best is Yet to Come
It’s been over four decades since guitarist Rudolf Schenker formed The Scorpions with vocalist Klaus Meine. The combination of relentless determination and ultimately friendship, earned the German rockers global success. Seventeen studio albums in and the “Get Your Sting and Blackout,” farewell world-tour in full effect, leaves Schenker optimistic and still hungry for adventure.
“I don’t know what next will be; it’s written in the stars. When you are open minded, things will come and you will follow this stuff. I think this is the most inspiring and effective way of living,” says Schenker by phone. Back in January, the band announced that the recently released, Sting In The Tail will be their final album and following a world tour, SCORPIONS–one of the most successful rock bands in the world will retire. But ‘retirement’ is such a permanent word, a term that doesn’t complement Schenker’s spunky and care-free personality.
After a lengthy, philosophical conversation with the legendary guitarist, I’ve come to conclusion that “The Best is Yet to Come.”
Beyond the Dark Horizon: I’ve been following the tour through your facebook page and l gather that you’re having the time of your life.
Schenker: Fantastic! What can I say, we have a 40 year career now and this tour has really been about celebrating around the world-Get your sting and then Black Out. That’s what we do. We have a blast every night on stage and now we are here in San Antonio, Texas and the people here from what I heard are getting crazy. Tonight will be a special night; a night to remember. That’s what we’re trying to do with the whole tour. We started March in Moscow and then we went through all of Europe, most places we’ve sold out, which means we’re playing before 25, 000 people and it’s really great to see that all the fans that have been part of our career and rock music are coming out to celebrate with us. It’s amazing.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What’s even more amazing is the fact that the story of The Scorpions has always been about friendship. What started as friends will end as friends. Friendship is the foundation.
Rudolf Schenker: That’s correct. That has always been the basic idea, vision and philosophy of The Scorpions. When I decided to start up the band, the inspiration came from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones’ British invasion, which basically was 4 to 5 friends making music and traveling around the world. For me, that was the kick that got me into playing guitar. When I got the band together, the first priority was to find good musicians but get people in the band that I could build a friendship with. So in the end, especially when you’re on tour for over a year then it makes very much sense. If you are creating music with someone together and you find out on tour that it’s someone that you can’t live with, it becomes terrible for the career and music. When people can’t build a kind of relationship with friendship, everything becomes meaningless. ‘Friendship’ is the most important thing about The Scorpions; it’s the reason why The Scorpions really have built bridges between generations, religion, countries and current events. This was also the basic idea when we went out on tour in foreign counties.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: And from the beginning you knew the band was bound for success?
Rudolf Schenker: I always knew. In the beginning, German media didn’t want to listen to The Scorpions because we were inspired by the English/American music. We went into different foreign countries like France and Belgium and we were like ‘Bang Bang Rock with the Gang.’ We were literally like a gang, going into other countries and really going on stage and not giving 100%, giving 150%. And that made us special and their media began writing highly about us; in England even. This whole reaction came back to Germany and the German media said “I can’t believe, this is our Scorpions from Germany and we have to write about it.” That was the whole idea for Scorpions and we always, especially in Russia made an impact. When we first started playing in Russia, we had a huge press conference and we said “Our parents came in with tanks and we’re coming in with guitars and love.” This is the message of The Scorpions. A year later, we were invited to play The Moscow Peace Festival, two nights with 110,000 people and sharing the stage with us was Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne, Cinderella-along with some Russian bands. That night we felt something in the air, we said, “something will change in the world,” — inspired, Klaus wrote the song “Wind of Change.”
Beyond the Dark Horizon: One of The Scorpions’ most powerful and moving songs.
Rudolf Schenker: Wind of Change became the anthem for the most peaceful revolution on earth. The reaction of that was being invited by Michael Gorbatschew to The Kreml. We are still the only rock band ever being invited in The Kreml and even talked to the leader of one of the biggest countries of the world. We had the opportunity to have a 45 minute talk with Gorbatschew. It was a powerful conversation about the world, music and everything. I mean that’s something where you can say, there is a career of band, coming from a place like Germany and being told in the beginning that we were doing everything wrong and in the end to find out that we did everything right.
That’s the reason why I wrote the book, “Rock Your Life,” where I tell people, don’t follow the money line–follow the line of your instinct. Go for whatever is fun for you by making your hobby an occupation. I think that’s the best, most important point of this message I gave in this book, which is out now in Germany, Switzerland and Portugal. It has a forward written by Paulo Coelho the big writer from Brazil. So this message is the message of The Scorpions and an example for people to believe in yourself and don’t believe in what other people are telling you to believe in. If this is the message that The Scorpions can give, then anything is possible. Together, really go for it and make your life an adventure.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: So basically aside from ‘friendship,’ the entire success of The Scorpions has been based on the notion of pure positive thinking-a philosophical approach?
Rudolf Schenker: Of Course! Everything is possible and can happen if you believe it. Most people don’t believe in anything. They believe in doing as less as possible and getting as much money as possible. That’s not the right way. It doesn’t bring you happiness but only keeps you looking for the next money opportunity. There’s always money; it’s always going to be there. There’s only one way and it’s follow your own instinct. You will then become stronger and build your personality up.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: How would the band get through confrontations or bumps in the road?
Rudolf Schenker: There were bumps in the road throughout the 90’s-when alternative and grunge music came into the picture. But, we we’re lucky enough that we did not follow the money line, by only playing in the places where the money was-like Europe, the United States and London. No, we went early on in the 80’s to Asia. We were building up the Asian market even when there was no market. In this case we played there and when the Asian market built record companies, we we’re already big there. While grunge was taking up the scene in North America and Europe, we played in huge stadiums in Asia. This is where you follow your instinct and this is why we would not come across too many bumps.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: You live a very positive and spiritual life; did religion play a role in your childhood? How did this awakening for a positive way of thinking come about?
Rudolf Schenker: What inspired me the most was Eastern Philosophy-yoga, meditation, gurus, Buddha and all the people who have a right picture of the world. They help give you the right inspiration of what is very important in life. Ours has just been here in a messed up world, more and more go in the direction of please, they please everything outside themselves instead of inside themselves. What they feed themselves is the rubbish that they can get their hands on. They have to get the best computer in the world, iPods, iPhone and everything but go to the cheapest markets to get something to eat. They do this without realizing the conditions of chickens in farms-they can hardly move and pigs are getting injections like crazy to grow faster. Their whole world is upside down and that’s the reason why nobody is ever satisfied. Then you switch on the TV and see a few films of people killing each other, commercials telling you to eat pizza and burgers when the ingredients contain chemicals.
This is a world turned upside down and where the people who achieve the most money are living in a glamorous world and present themselves every day in new outfits. So this is a situation where the world is cliché and the real stuff, nobody goes for that because it’s not interesting enough. This is the reason why I went very early on into yoga and meditation, to find out what the most important parts in life are and follow this line. But, not going to India and sitting there, no, I’m living in the real world and trying to connect my knowledge to other people who have the same thoughts and also give people across the world great music to enjoy with their life.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Understood and experiencing fame early on you had to learn balance.
Rudolf Schenker: It’s always been about balancing; because it’s really up to you how you view the world today. You can see it miserably or in a very positive way. There’s always a positive side to things and if you see the positive, the frequency of your mind goes up and then you’re not involved with all the bad stuff in the world. You begin to really build your own plateau of where you want to live.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Thoughtful of you to share your views by writing a book; do you plan to write another after this tour?
Rudolf Schenker: After this tour is done, I plan to travel and promote “Rock Your Life” in different countries. After that I think everything will come up by itself and fall into place. The idea for this book came from one second to the other. I was never even thinking about writing a book, it’s a biography kind of but more of an example of The Scorpions including the help of other people.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Many critics are throwing around the word “retirement,” which sounds so permanent but you obviously have lots of more journeys to explore.
Rudolf Schenker: Correct and that’s the reason why I was a part of the “Dakarr Rally” at the beginning of this year in South America; it’s the most dangerous rally in the world. I was asked by Volkswagen because they read my book and said, “Hey, you like adventures this is something for you.” It was an adventure and I said yes immediately because I had a good feeling about it. My manager told me “Rudolf, you’re crazy, we have a whole world tour planned in front of us-this is dangerous!” I replied by saying, “It’s not dangerous, It’s helpful,” and it became one of my best adventures and things that I’ve ever done. So there will be so many things coming up for me; things that I still have no idea about can come up. In this case, there really is no retirement.
As for The Scorpions, after we completed the Sting in the Tail album, our manager said “Hey guys this would be a great piece to end your career on a high note.” At first we thought of it as a joke but after much thought we figured out that he’s exactly right. Right now we can run, jump and really deliver what our fans are used to seeing in ourselves. Going out this way, we won’t disappoint anyone. We have always been a band that gives 150%. It would disappoint us if in a few years, we we’re unable to deliver to the people. So in this case, it’s the perfect time to really give the people a great album and tour. The “Sting in the Tail” album is really an essence of what The Scorpions was like back in the 80’s. It’s sort of like a best of The Scorpions 80’s era but with new songs on it. And we have a fantastic live show; an 80’s rock show with a twist. We have 3 huge screens and movie media. Sometimes you have a feeling that we are part of the film and we have an outstanding set list that has really been pleasing the fans-with the new stuff, the classic stuff and hits. So we have everything and now what is the most important part and the reason that we could make this album, “Sting in the Tail,” is that there is now a union for the 80’s. Somehow the 80’s are back, what’s helping us has put us in a situation that we’re coming back here on a wave with twists and with a good base of feelings. People are really enjoying what we are doing.
One of these last concerts, we would like to record for a DVD at a very special place. We’ve played in front of the pyramids in Cairo, we’ve played in Manaus-the main city of Amazonas in the jungle in front of 40,000 people. We’ve played at some very outstanding places and we want to film one of these outstanding places and eventually release a DVD.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: When writing material for “Sting in the Tail,” how did the band go about channeling that successful 80’s vibe that The Scorpions are highly known for?
Rudolf Schenker: It was very easy. After our previous album, “Humanity: Hour 1,” which very much had an American polished kind of sound and was a concept album with a message about humanity-the message was to be careful. After that the damage was done and the financial crisis came in and we said that we did not want to do a Humanity Hour 2 because there was nothing to say anymore. We wanted to do a fun album that we are really based on. We we’re raised on rock and we thought, let’s do something!
I was very close to calling the album “The Rock,” but then we thought that was too boring and we really began building the album based on our history. What was helpful for us were the two Swedish producers, which we called and said “Hey guys we want you to produce our album and we want to do it in our studio in Hannover, please come over.” They came over and said, “We love the studio and want to do the job but for us it’s very important that we have the essence of The Scorpions back again-great guitar riffs, vocals and melodies.” These guys kicked Matthias and my ass very much to get out as much as we can give for The Scorpions sound. Just working with these guys was very helpful. They pushed us to the extreme because they are Scorpions fans and they know what to expect from The Scorpions.
Also, looking back at our raised on rock situation, all these things just started to spill forth. Everything that we are saying on this album it wasn’t only on the conscious level but it also painted a clear picture of what we did in our career. For example, the song SLY-what is the song SLY really about? It’s really a song that we created in ’85 as “Still Loving You.” In France it was a big hit. We sold over 2 million singles in France alone. Many couples made love to the song, Still Loving You and that is the reason why it created the baby boom. Many couples ended up getting married and had kids; they even named their kids SLY. We always really try to connect ourselves to the feeling of The Scorpions sound with the feeling of our lives.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Where do you see the future of Rock n Roll? Do you think there are any bands today that can possibly hold up that torch that The Scorpions have held for 4 decades?
Rudolf Schenker: (A long pause of silence) Believe in yourself. Follow your instincts and look for people that have the same vision and ones you can build a friendship with. That’s the basic line and everything else will come by itself. It’s a very important point and yet most people want success immediately. But you have to give space. Space is a very important part of living. If you want to have everything immediately, you will not have patience and you will get nothing. You will always change your direction and as soon as you find out that you’re not getting what you want, ‘you go this way and that way’ and then you end up running your whole life away, away from what you really want.