Special thanks to Jim Markunas and Edward Hannigan of CWG Mazgazine for setting up this interview
In-person interview with Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs of The Scorpions
By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal
April 5th 2010, Universal Music Group, Santa Monica CA
Andrew: Would you say that 'Sting In The Tail' captures the essence of the Scorpions?
Rudolf: Yes, we agree 100 per cent!
Matthias: Yes. I think the essence of The Scorpions was created in the early 80s with albums like Blackout and Love At First Sting. To most of the fans those are their favorite albums. When we finished 'Sting In The Tail', we came to realize that yes it comes closest to Love At First Sting probably.
Rudolf: Not only Love At First Sting, but also Blackout, and I would include Lovedrive in there. The good thing about the whole album is, we are getting back to where we've come from, and by accident, the time is right again for classic rock. There was no big wave lately. The latest waves were grunge and alternative. Now, because the grunge and alternative guys can play their instruments, they are becoming like classic rock bands. You have Nickelback, 3 Doors Down, Green Day and even the punk bands, they are playing classic rock now! We are getting the essence. If you take the best songs from the 80s, from all the albums on one album, you have Sting In The Tail. That's the reason why we noticed and mentioned that this is going to be the last album and tour. We can't beat this again. That would be hard and even if we do it a bit better than this album, the people would not respond as strongly as right now, because the time is perfect. It's like a big wave. We are surfing on it and enjoying it!
Andrew: You would want to play the new songs on tour, while still trying to represent your entire catalog, this being the last tour. Do you think you'll be able to find the right balance?
Matthias: We've played a few shows on this tour already. In Europe we can play a bit longer, close to two hours and 20 minutes. Sometimes here in the States, due to the packaging when you have three bands for example, and the curfew at 11 o' clock, we have to cut the set down a little bit. But let's say we play two hours. Half of the set is already written in stone. That's all the classics. We have to play those, we want to play those and the fans expect us to play them. But in the other half, we have the possibility to play songs like one or two from the 70s, then take songs from all the albums, the most popular ones. A few of those are just nice to balance out the set and we've also played three new ones already. We might add a fourth or fifth one, depending on the album. If the album really takes off big time, we'll play five songs.
Andrew: While recording this album, were there any thoughts of it being the final one? At what point did you decide on that?
Matthias: It was after the album was finished already. The album had nothing to do with the thought that this is the last one. The idea wasn't brought up by us. It was when the management listened to the final thing. If was before mixing. The idea came from the outside, came from the management. We picked it up and thought yes it makes sense!
Rudolf: That was a good situation. We noticed already in 1984 that when time is on your side, everything goes automatically. You do something and in the end you notice that the puzzle finished without knowing that you are part of the puzzle. So in this case it was the same situation. During Love At First Sting we put all the pieces of the puzzle together and even when we started that tour, it was terrible with the worst stage sets. But the people didn't care. They loved the album so much that even when we played it only with amplifiers they loved it. Later on the stage set came in. It's the same here. We did the album, we enjoyed it very much and the management gave us the idea. We said ok, our age is not 24 and we don't want to die in front of our audience (laughs). In my age I went to many parties. And mostly I took the wrong decision by not going at 1 o' clock, I left at may be 6 in the morning. So like Joe Walsh says in the song 'Life Has Been Good To Me So Far', I couldn't find the door.
Matthias: ou can't leave if you can't find the door (laughs).
Rudolf: That's the situation when you make the wrong decision at 1 o' clock. Instead of leaving when the party is over, you think that may be there's a little more. So we don't want that now with The Scorpions! The first album we put out was in 1972, 'Lonesome Crow', and when we'll finish in 2012, we'll exactly have 40 years. That is perfect.
Matthias: That's a long time! The idea is to be remembered now when we are fit and young enough. The tour will be great and we would like to be remembered as The Scorpions with energy and power and not grow old in the spotlight.
Andrew: Tarja Turunen [ex-Nightwish vocalist] contributed as guest vocalist on the song 'The Good Die Young'. What made you choose her and what do you think of the end result?
Matthias: We met her three years ago at the Live And Loud Festival in Sao Paulo, at a few shows actually, but that was the most popular one. The idea always comes with every recording. It usually comes from the record company. They go, 'We would like to have a duet'. And mostly, it doesn't work out. But this time it worked out (laughs). We met her the other day and we were doing a German TV show together [Wetten Dass]. She's a nice lady, she looks good on TV and she sings well. I think it really adds to the atmosphere of the song. It gives it a mystical touch. It really pays off and the harmonies with Klaus in the chorus, the voices fit well together.
Andrew: I think you should take her out on the tour!
Matthias: See, that's the problem usually with her. She has her own career. While doing duets we are always careful, because then we have to depend on somebody. She's not too loud on the song but if we do a duet where the guest really plays a major role in the song and you can't take them on the road. If it's going to be a hit, may be people will be like, 'So, where's the person?'
Rudolf: Santana did the whole album with guests! (laughs)
Matthias: Yeah, but he took a whole bunch of people with him on tour.
Rudolf: We have an idea to bring her in by video during the shows. That would be good. We even formed a new version of the song, which will come out as a single in Europe where she even sings one verse and also louder in the chorus. When we have that one we will include it with the video.
Andrew: The video would be a great idea. Then you don't have to carry around a female singer!
Matthias: Yeah, no need of an extra ladies dressing room.
Rudolf: Yeah it'll be too much decoration!
Andrew: The Scorpions have been all about being a live band and you've been great at that. What changes did you come across in almost 40 years of live shows, and how did you adjust to them?
Rudolf: In the early days, there was very much of a difference between countries, of course also continents, because people were acting different. In Japan we heard from the promoter that it's sold out. We were back stage in the dressing room. And there was no noise (laughs). Mr. Udo was the promoter and we said to him, 'Mr. Udo, you told us it's sold out!' He said 'Yes, it is!' We opened the curtain and looked that the place was packed but there was no noise, nothing. Everybody was sitting there and the moment we came out on stage it changed. Of course, South America is very spontaneous. No question about that, and also Greece. I think now, because of MTV and VH1, people know how to act to a rock concert. The only strange situation is in Russia where the girls bring flowers on stage. They run, put the flowers on stage and go back to the seat (laughs). So that's the different situation in Russia but for us, America is still the best place because it's pure Rock N Roll. It's a country where alcohol, rock n roll, buses, country, Harley Davidson and everything is adventure. That's perfect. In other parts, we played in Mongolia, we played the pyramids in Cairo, we played in Lebanon after the war and we've had some very outstanding kind of gigs. In Manhaus the rain forest, it was great to see how the people were reacting but I think The Scorpions have a very special fan base. We go on stage and they are there, even now after all these years and it's amazing, specially now. As we started our world tour already in Prague three or four weeks ago, two days later we arrived in Moscow and there were fans singing for us, also giving us presents and flowers and all that stuff. It's really great, specially in the internet days. They really connect and know what to do for their idols.
Andrew: The last song on this album, 'The Best Is Yet To Come' makes me curious. Is there a hidden message in the lyrics? Is there something more to come?
Matthias: We didn't do it on purpose. The song is actually six years old. It came in at the last minute for 'Unbreakable' but we didn't record it. In 2003 it was already there. But this time was right, and for the previous album Humanity Hour I that we recorded here in time, any other song wouldn't have fit in. It all had to do with that special concept. That's why, even though it's a very good song, we couldn't use it for that album. Now the time was right and it's pure coincidence. It makes some people think and wonder. You never know. It's a nice way to finish the record.
Rudolf: You can look at it in different ways. Ironically on one hand as he said, and on the other hand you have to always see the next step forward as a better one to make your life more interesting. That's very important. It's also a very true thing. You work in the studio, you try to make the best for the fans. Then you have the result and go on tour. The tour is actually the best! So you can see it in different ways!
Andrew: This is going to the biggest and longest tour you've ever done. What are you doing to prepare yourselves for it physically and musically?
Rudolf: Yeah we will hold for another eight years (laughs).
Matthias: Physically we are in good shape to begin with and while being on tour, you get fitter because being on stage almost every night, four to five times a week, is a good workout. So you keep fit. Musically it's not a problem. We are a band that doesn't rehearse very much (laughs). We like to rehearse in front of an audience. In the rehearsal room we are bored.
Rudolf: Perfection is boring!
Matthias: You need the audience for the excitement.
Rudolf: Yeah, you need that little bit. The problem is, if you go on the stage and you are perfectly rehearsed, you are boring! (laughs) The tension which is still there when you don't know whether you can make it or not, that is the spark the audience gets. This makes the excitement strong.
Matthias: We just played shows in Europe. It was a big venue in Prague, Czech Republic and the first show on this tour was three or four days before the album came out. We played the new songs and the audience reacted as if they already knew them for years. It was unbelievable and because of all the promotion we've been doing in Europe specially in Germany, we had no time to rehearse. We rehearsed the new stuff for like one and a half days! We went on stage and it worked fine. And you know, we are not exactly new in this business so we can deal with it.
Andrew: You'll be inducted into the Guitar Center Rock Walk tomorrow. How much does that mean to you?
Rudolf: Among all the awards we've got so far, this is the most outstanding one because the other ones are made by jury or by people because you had some hits or whatever. This one is a musical thing. We are the only German band ever to get this. To get it along side Jimmy Page and all the other people, it's unbelievable! When I think back, I spoke to Conny Plank, the producer of the first album. I remember speaking to him because he was our producer but he also wanted to have us in his company. We said ,'No it's too small. We want to focus worldwide and want to play in America'. He was laughing like crazy (laughs)! He said 'Do you know what kind of musicians they have there?' We didn't care. We wanted to play in America. So, we knew that we are already included in the rock family of musicians. But now, we know that we really are. So that's the point and that's the reason why it is very special.
Andrew: I think it's more special than the Rock Hall Of Fame because it's ridiculous that the RRHOF hasn't inducted you yet.
Rudolf: Exactly! But we will wait for that.
Matthias: It might be coming. They were thinking that we'll be on the road for another twenty years but all of a sudden, they realized, 'Oh we have to hurry up'.
Andrew: Do you think of any band out there that could be a worthy successor to The Scorpions in the years to come?
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Rudolf: One band is really fantastic. I remember in Holland, I was backstage on the monitoring desk with Tony Iommi and Jimmy Page, watching Rammstein. They are amazing and an outstanding live band. That's the only band I think that is very similar to the Scorpions, because they are also very gang-like just as the Scorpions have been. We made it happen because we discussed everything in order to go out of Germany and make it worldwide. I think that's the same thing that Rammstein is doing. They are the only band from Germany that can make it even bigger, I don't know. The problem is, sometimes bands like Accept in the early days did it too early. That's not good for America. In America, when you have success, you have to top that. If you don't do that, you are out.
Matthias: But they haven't been that successful lately. It was ten years ago or more when their big song 'Du Hast' came out. But it's surprising that they are so successful inspite of the German lyrics. They're big in Russia, big to a certain extent in America, very big in Germany of course. But I am surprised at that, because people don't even understand a word. I think they are under a different musical category and they are not the ones that can follow on our footsteps. They might be bigger in their own world but they are not international enough.