The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world








Legendary guitarist Michael Schenker releases a new studio album entitled "Spirit On A Mission" in the UK on Monday 23rd March.  Released by in-akustik, the album of all-new material features Schenker’s Temple of Rock band - ex-Scorpions Herman Rarebell (drums) and Francis Buchholz (bass), ex-Rainbow’s Doogie White (vocals) and Wayne Findlay (guitar, keyboards). The new album features twelve 12 classic rock guitar-driven songs that highlight Schenker’s distinctive and dynamic guitar playing, underpinned by the ferocious rhythm section of Rarebell and Buchholz, the same rhythm section that originally performed together on the Scorpions’ 1979 album Lovedrive


As Micahel tells us later this album feels like a celebration of everything he's done over the years, and over the next fifteen minutes we just get a glimpse of what makes Michael tick and where the passion comes from and with all there is to talk about its all done at breakneck speed, without either of us taking a breath... just the way we like our Rock and Roll...

Mark: Many thanks for talking to us today Michael it’s a real honour when I was a kid I got into rock by listening to my mate’s brothers collection: he had all the greats: Lizzy, Purple, Free, Sabbath, The Scorpions and UFO… You’ve played a huge part in Rock history so far? How are you today?


Michael: I’m fine thank you, thank you for that introduction!


Mark: The new album ‘Spirit on a Mission’ sounds like the best yet from Temple of Rock?


Michael: Thanks you. Yes, absolutely, you know, after ‘Bridge the Gap’ I already knew what I was going to do with ‘Spirit on a Mission, to take it to the next level. You know over the last three years we have been growing together and on a daily basis and on a weekly basis things have been unfolding.  With the making the DVD and the ‘Bridge the Gap’ album and now this one, I already know how to keep evolving for the next. So at the end of ‘Spirit on a Mission’ Temple of Rock is ready to stand on its own feet.

Mark: You had a very precise concept for this album I understand?


Michael: Yeah, I mean I also did for the first two. It’s like I suppose I want people to read these albums like they would a book, you know. When reading a book you don’t want to get bored and you want to be entertained right to the end of the book: and that’s what I am trying to do with the albums. And so the elements I was looking for basically everything was already there: for me it’s like the Summer-time, a time for celebration. I wanted to take all of these emotions from all of the years, and all of the experiences, and anything from within and combine it all into one thing. You know! And on top of that if there is such a thing as a thirty, or forty year cycle (we both laugh) then we are revisiting that because on here I feel like I am revisiting my youth! When I was twenty years old, it’s a kind of nice feeling. For me the present state is more about summing it all up and combining everything, combining the old and the new and adding more stokes to this album. ‘Bridge the Gap’ was a great introduction, and on ‘Spirit on a Mission’ I asked Wayne to come up with some riffs, and from that we have discovered this additional chemistry between Doogie and Wayne and I.      


Mark: Do you think that the recapturing of that youthful spirit has anything to do with your continued collaboration with your ex-Scorpions partners in crime Herman Rarebell (drums) and Francis Buchholz (bass)?


Michael: Well you know I think there’s more than meets the eye to everything. I believe that everyone has their own journey and that those journeys cross paths sometimes for a reason. If I look back at the first stage of my career, or my life, it was all about developing as a guitarist in the 70’s and the 80’s; and the middle part of my life was more like the “school of life”, experimenting, trying things that I couldn’t perhaps have down with a commercial touring band; and this stage of life is all about celebrating all that has been learned and accomplished to really sum it all up. And Herman and Francis and Doogie and Wayne are all part of that. I did not plan this, it all happened by coincidence, step by step, because the first Temple of Rock was just Herman, Pete Way and myself wanting to put together a touring project. When I was going to the recording studio to make the demo, I bumped into Michael Voss, who I asked if he could help me out with the guide vocals, but then I asked ‘why don’t you sing’; then I played it to Pete Way and to Herman and they wanted to lay down the rhythm section. Then I had Doogie singing one song and Robin (McAuley) singing one.


Michael: And then when it came to the tour Robin was ready for the States, and Michael in Japan and when it came to the European tour Doogie White was ready and able to help me out! And then when we got back and Pete (Way) wasn’t doing so well I asked Herman to ask what Francis was doing as we play so much Scorpions material; and that’s how things happen! And when we started playing together we clicked and thought, wow this feels good. So then I quickly put together a DVD in case something else happened! Next it came to ‘Bridge the Gap’ and this next step is just part of the continual development.

Mark: ‘Spirit on a Mission’ has so many great tracks: ‘Live and Let Live’ is probably my personal favourite as it just seems to sum up everything so well.  


Michael: It’s my favourite: ‘Live and Let Live’ is going to be the next single.


Mark: That’s a great choice. But there is so much more: tracks like ‘Vigilante Man’; ‘Something Of The Night’ with that trademark ‘howler’ sound and other tracks like ‘Saviour Machine’; ‘Rock City’, ‘Bullet Proof’, they all hit the mark! It’s the sort of album you listen to from end to end. You play the US from March to May and I hope to catch you at your final date at the Canyon Club in LA! You spend a lot of the time on the road, what is it that keeps you out there? Is it that you love to play the new material?  


Michael: Exactly, you know I always thought that the Temple of Rock was just initially using Michael Schenker as a platform to put together this concept. We started the Temple of Rock with the most popular music of my back-catalogue, but as we started to do things like the DVD and play concerts and then the first album, then ‘Bridge The Gap’, we were developing all the time, and even though were still using the Michael Schenker platform by the third album, we thought that by then Temple of Rock should be able to stand on its own two feet: to have its own entity. So slowly, gradually, things will change; the live performance will change, but gradually, step-by-step. Nothing too fast, but I can see that by this third album Temple of Rock has enough material to really cut it live. There are of course songs we must play!  I hope we will always play ‘Rock Bottom’; I love that song because I love to play that solo! But in general now it’s all about Temple of Rock.


Mark: It’s a great concept and hopefully we’ll have many more years of Temple of Rock to come! Back in 2010 we last saw you at the Rock in America Festival and later in Phoenix – great shows and it was great to see you up on stage with The Scorpions at the Festival. In the Scorpions 50th Anniversary year are there any plans to get together again for maybe a one-off date, or a few guest appearances? 


Michael: Oh we always catch up! (laughs) We’re both out there on the road. The main thing is, you know we are all still young and there are many years to go, and anything that makes sense will happen. It’s like if the conditions are right for rain it will rain! So anything that is meant to be will happen. I just keep going, moving forwards and making music.

Mark: It sounds like you have the same attitude I have, what will be will be and let’s take every day as it comes.


Michael: Yes, absolutely.


Mark: You’ve been there through all the great decades of rock and seen bands come and go what does the future hold for Rock bands?


Michael: Well I mean my generation of Rock and the music we loved and created sooner or later is just going to be a memory. You know, Gary Moore has passed away, Ronnie James Dio, a lot of great musicians… But I still believe in Rock and Roll, I want to try to push this to the foreground one more time and hopefully this will be a great time, bring back memories, bringing together the old and the new so, give everyone a great night out. But as to what will happen in the future and how this whole thing is gonna develop I have no idea! It’s not something I can foresee, I can only tell you what I’m doing and what I understand. I was born into this generation, this is my place and I do my part.


Mark: You do indeed. Taking it all the way back to your early memories of music, what was it that first made you decide not only to pick up that guitar, but that you needed music to be your life? Was there a defining moment, a certain event or a gradual progression?


Michael: It was basically that I was always into music; I was either singing along or banging on things (laughs) so the desire to do something was always there from the beginning, but I guess it started when my brother who is 6 years older than me, so he was 16, and I was 9 years old he got a guitar for his birthday, and when he went to work I had the curiosity to, you know, wonder what I could do with it! And so I discovered that if I put a finger here and a finger there it went ‘boom’ and I thought this is great and haven’t stopped since! So that was when I was nine years old, but the main thing that happened was, when I was about 14 and I heard bands like Zeppelin and Purple and Sabbath, that sound of distortion – that distorted guitar and the lead guitarists of the late sixties when they did their thing that was it! I knew exactly what was happening and from that moment I knew what I wanted. And when I was 17 years old I stopped copying people, listening to music and I just started creating and that is still where my passion is.


Mark: And that passion is all so clearly still burning today. For someone who has already achieved so much solo, with Scorpions, UFO, MSG and now Temple of Rock do you have any unfulfilled musical ambitions? Something maybe that has always been in the back of the mind but fate has never allowed it to happen?  


Michael: Well, I just live in the moment and that is the only thing that is important to be. I mean I have blueprints, like I said I already, I have an idea about the next Temple of Rock album, and we commit to touring, and we know what we are doing in 2015. But in general I just let everything unfold as I go and I deal with things as they come up.  

Mark: ‘Spirit On A Mission’ as we said earlier is out on 23rd March, it’s a great title for an album that I understand came from a quote you gave in an interview about the last release?


Michael: Yes, I was asked ‘who I wanted to be remembered as’ and I said as a spirit on a mission spreading the joy of music from a place of pure self-expression. And when it was time to come up with an album title, that came to mind straight away.


Mark: It’s a perfect quote and wonderful album. I think we have time for one quick question, an easy one we’ve saved for you. What is the meaning of life?

Michael: What is the meaning of life? (laughs) In the States I visited ‘The Forum’ which was a three or four day course and after going through all that the answer that they came up with was meaningless! That life was empty and meaningless or something like that! (laughs). Anyway I have no idea you know! I see life with the Universe as the driver, the train is going somewhere and I’m sitting in a compartment of that train doing my thing. The train is going somewhere, but I have no idea why I’m there or how I got there but I trust the Universe for the way things happen and why they happen. You know it’s inconceivable for my little brain! So I just take it as it comes and learn, pick up all these bits and pieces that maybe give me a better understanding to be closer what’s going on.   


Mark: That is a wonderful answer; you have really got me thinking now.


Michael: (laughs)


Mark: Thanks you so much for talking to us today Michael, all the best with the album and the tour.  


Michael: Thank you so much. Take care, bye-bye.



Michael spoke to Mark Rockpit, February 2015





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