This time next year will be the 30th anniversary of the Music Peace Festival in Gorky Park, the festival that preceded the fall of the Berlin Wall and was the inspiration behind the Scorpions mega power ballad hit, ‘Wind of Change.’
With over 100 million records sold around the world and 53 years as a working, recording and actively touring band—weathering tour cancellations through band member illnesses—the Scorpions are continuing their revamped “Crazy World Tour.” Bringing their massive repertoire of metal anthems and power ballads like “Wind of Change,” “Still Loving You,” “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” “Send Me an Angel,” and more, they return to Irvine once again, now at the FivePoint Amphitheatre, this Sunday, September 2, 2018.
Returning to America just this month with rescheduled tour dates, joining the Scorpions on these U.S. dates is Queensrÿche.
“I am extremely happy to announce that the Scorpions have rescheduled all the remaining American dates that we were forced to cancel last fall due to my severe laryngitis,” said singer Klaus Meine, per a press release. “I was so overwhelmed with all the love and well wishes from our fans when we had to cancel, that the band and I were determined to get back to the U.S. to make these dates up to our loyal and dedicated fans. We look very much forward to seeing you out there and get ready to ROCK!”
The band released Born to Touch Your Feelings (Best of the Rock Ballads) via Sony Music just this last Fall, with two new songs: “Melrose Avenue” and “Always Be With You,” along with an acoustic version of “Send Me an Angel.”
Speaking with band founder Rudolf Schenker via phone from Germany, he shared on what the band looks forward to in coming back to Los Angeles, what fans can expect from the tour, the “changing winds” today, and the hope that their music will impassion future generations of music lovers.
In my research, I read that you had received the Lower Saxony Order of Merit in Germany. So I’m wondering if I should I be referring to you as ‘Sir Schenker’?
“It’s not the same as the English one. You’re not talking to me like a Sir. It’s an honor, but it’s one which Lower Saxony gives to people who are doing something special.”
Are you excited to come back to L.A. and to the Irvine area to play once again?
“The old [amphitheater] was a great place to play and we are looking forward to seeing the new place.
We always love to come to California. It’s another home for us because we recorded a lot of albums there, have a lot of friends there, and it’s fantastic. It’s a special place.”
How many different studios have you recorded in Los Angeles?
“That’s a good question. There is the one from Keith Olson, Goodnight L.A. I tell you one thing, there was a few of them. I really remember Keith Olsen and Goodnight L.A. because he would come to our concert in Lake Tahoe because he lives there. But at Goodnight L.A., that’s where we did a part of Crazy World. But there were a few other studios … It was so long ago. As you may know, or if no, if you look at our website we’re traveling constantly and traveling around the world and sometimes—after all these years—you remember the outstanding moments. And then the other [moments] are going away because new things and new places are coming into your life … We are a band for yesterday and tomorrow and now and today, but not thinking too much about yesterday.”
Well, I can understand that, since you’ve recorded over 18 albums over 53 years, is that right?
“I think it’s close. I’ve heard the number before, and in this case, you must be right.”
Now you’ve got a recent compilation that just came out, yes?
“Yes. New recordings of old stuff. Comeblack was one of them. I don’t know if you count the live albums—live Tokyo Tapes and another one which came in the 90’s. So I don’t know if some people have these numbers that are including the live albums and some special recordings, or if they include also the unplugged stuff. So that’s a question. You know, there’s so much over the 53 years on the road. So much happening and so many things—you know—I’m not really into the past. It’s things we enjoyed very much and, if you’ve enjoyed the past very much, then you don’t need to talk any more about it.
There’s so much in the future which sounds very interesting, and that’s more for you as a creative person to get inspiration—to create new stuff. As we can see from the rock from the 80s, grunge came in and alternative—what’s happening is a full circle 360 degrees. Rock came back, with a twist. So this twist is very important, to not be the band of yesterday but be the band of today. And that’s the great situation we found when we did the “Farewell Tour.”
When [we started our] Facebook page, we had there in the space a million followers. And we noticed that that 80% of this 1 million were between 16 and 28 years old. That was the situation where we were wondered why we had so many young kids in front of us. We came out with an album called Sting in the Tail which had this kind of twist. We played our kind of classic rock, but we had done a modern and up-to-date influence in it which is very important … to be sensitive enough with your “antennas” to catch this difference. If you have that, then you can be like the Stones, or Metallica, or maybe some other bands that have the same situation …
If you move into the routine as a rock band, you lose it and then you’re repeating your yesterday again and again. And then you start to be not interesting anymore. For the older [fans], yes, but [maybe not] for the young [fans.] America and Canada are the only two countries where we have an older fan base now because the Americans have this kind of rock radio—Classic Rock radio—which means, in the end, when you’re recording your new album they’re still playing the older stuff. But with the rest of the world, if you’re playing a new album—if you’re recording a new album and you’re releasing it—then they’re playing your new stuff. And the new stuff comes to the young kids and they’re going ‘Yeah! That’s great, I want to see them!’
And also YouTube, as it came in, also gives younger people the possibility of seeing what’s happening on stage [now] with the band. Then they see that the songs are great and the presentation is great. So when we come back to America, we have a lot of great multimedia show, including songs from yesterday … We have the attitude and the energy. Attitude is the fuel of rock and roll. If you play rock and roll and there is no attitude—well, you could still play it perfect, but perfect is boring. So people might say, ‘Yeah, that’s great, but somehow the spark is missing.’ That’s the attitude. And that, we have a lot of it, especially now after Mikkey Dee [formerly of Motörhead] came into the band. It was too bad with [former drummer] James [Kottak.] And we tried to help him—hopefully a lot—but we couldn’t wait because we had contracts. So, in this case, we had to get Mikkey Dee while James needed more time. We have a new chemistry. Chemistry is very important to the band.
When I started the band the Scorpions, for me it was important to not be alone on stage and make music. When the Beatles and The Rolling Stones came in that was the right time. I said, ‘Yes, four or five friends traveling around and playing music,’ that was the basic situation I was looking for—the right chemistry and good musicians I can build a friendship with … Going out of Germany, playing to the world just out of post-war. Klaus and me, we are post-war generation. After we came into different countries we said, ‘It’s a new generation growing up in Germany. They’re not coming in with tanks and making war, they’re coming in with guitars and bringing love, peace, and rock and roll–and rock and roll from Germany. So it altered the headline. I was creating love, peace and rock and roll–love stands for “Still Loving You,” peace for “Wind of Change,” and Rock and Roll” for “Rock You Like A Hurricane.”
That’s what we can bring to the world, and that’s why we called it—well, 30 years ago our album Crazy World, and now the tour again—”Crazy World.” 30 years ago it was crazy because the world changed so completely, politically, in one direction. And now we have the opposite, with a crazy world starting again … We wanted to give a little reminder about ‘Wind of Change.’ Everybody was happy with the changes. We changed in one direction [then], which is not bad, but we have to think about turning things around in a positive way. That’s why we make music. Because music is a very important part of building bridges between generations, between religion, between different philosophies, etc. So when we play on stage as the Scorpions, we see how happy people are worldwide and we know that [it isn’t] for nothing. We do it for happiness, rock and roll, and peace.”
“The world is closing in
Did you ever think
That we could be so close, like brothers
The future’s in the air
I can feel it everywhere
Blowing with the wind of change”
– Wind of Change, Crazy World
In terms of timeliness of the subject matter and post-cold war change happening 30 years ago, what would you see happening if your song “Wind of Change” —with everything that’s happening politically in the US and around the world now— was released today?
“The situation with ‘Wind of Change,’ we were ‘a part’ of it. We went in ’88 to Leningrad and did ten shows. We were one of the first rock and roll bands coming to Russia, and all of Russia came to the shows—they were coming from Moscow, coming from Siberia, coming from everywhere in Russia! So, one year later [in August 1989] we did the Music Peace Festival, including Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Ozzy Osbourne. This was the time when we went to Gorky Park with the musicians, with the army people, with journalists, and other people—in one boat—the world together on one boat! I said, “Look Klaus, that’s amazing! One year ago, the world was different.” So Klaus, as the great lyric writer he was, of course, was inspired by the moment and the reasons why we were there.
[Klaus] also felt, and then we felt, that the moment was ‘change.’ So this power of inspiration came into ‘Wind of Change.’ That’s the reason the song went worldwide. In the Top Ten, even in the US the Top Three or Top Four [in the charts] because of the moment, and the song became the soundtrack of the most peaceful revolution on Earth … And being invited by [former President of the Soviet Union] Mikhail Gorbachev in ’91! This whole thing is one story. So, you can record a similar song—and maybe you get the information through TV or whatever—but you’re not a part of [that experience.] The message may not be as strong. [You have] to be a part of something to get the energy out. That’s the reason why the Flower Power and Beat [generations] and everything was so strong. It was part of the time … Rock and roll, more or less—especially later in the 80’s—became more commercial … like to sell a car. The energy and power of music … if you have a message behind it, it’s much stronger because you are part of this message. And this is the power of ‘Wind of Change.’”
When we were on the ‘Crazy World Tour’ (the first one) in 1991, in America, ‘Wind of Change’ was not the most favorite of the people. It was ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane,’ ‘Dynamite,’ ‘Big City Nights.’ The message came to fans when they were growing up … they are reflecting on the song much differently than it was 30 years ago. Because they understand the message [now] and the power which was built together with the time and with the message. And that’s why they’re singing the song like crazy, as well.
But to answer your question, no, today now there must be a younger generation to say something. Because they’re feeling more than we feel because they are more sensitive to the change in the world, and therefore they have the power to put that energy into a change in the world.
So we are ‘old farts’ reflecting still the time of yesterday, and musically today, but not as much as the young do. Maybe you do rap, or whatever you do, and you want to change something. And sometimes there’s nobody there to [receive] the message … [but] there are maybe young kids coming out and saying “Here, people, now you have to stop! We have to change something, and do something! …”
In general, what do the fans have to look forward to visually and in the playlist for the new tour?
“We have songs through the history of the Scorpions, and that means starting from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and ’til now. So we have a great selection so far … the reviews of Europe, and in Mexico and Russia are everywhere. As I said before we have a multimedia show, we have great lights, and a big video [presentation], but the most important point is the attitude and also the songs. So we have a lot of stuff to offer from our history… And … a perfect singer. We are very happy to have Klaus.
The last tour we had to cancel because we had problems and he had a problem with a virus. When you fly commercial, it’s very easy to get a virus, especially after being 150 percent on stage and your energy is weak. So when you’re on flights it’s easy to catch something. So, in this case, what we did on this tour in Europe and in Mexico, we are now using a private plane … everybody in the band is trying to be as healthy as we can … So far the whole tour in 2018 has been great and Klaus has been [healthy.] We try always to learn what we can do better to give 180 percent to the audience.”
I’m recalling the time when you played with the Berliner Philharmonic, and I was one just wondering how was that process of arranging the songs for that for you and for the band?
“I tell you one thing, that was fantastic. You know that was exactly the time when grunge and alternative were still happening. Are we fought okay we have to change ourselves 180 degrees. So, when we started this project with the Berliner Philharmoniker Orchestra, one of the best in the world—they even turned down Pink Floyd—they said when we do a crossover project we only do it for a band from Germany, like the Scorpions, which was fantastic. We tried for four or five years to find the right musical director. In Christian Kolonovits, we found somebody … [Kolonovits] was writing the right arrangements, and he was also able to force the Philharmonic into a high performance–they were afraid they would be playing elevator music … So this project was for us, when we heard in the Friedenskirche in Berlin where the Berliner Philharmonika rehearsed very often—when they played their arrangements, tears were in our eyes and the hair was standing [up] like crazy because it was so so interesting to hear the compositions in this powerful way.
We believed again in how we compose our songs. But going through the 90’s when we thought we had to change we [now] thought, ‘No, the music is great! We only have to bring into the music a twist.’ So that’s what we did after the Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra project. We came out with Unbreakable. And that was fantastic, to go back to the essence of what the Scorpions is all about.”
Today, August 31, is Rudolf Schenker’s birthday. Happy Birthday Rudolf!
The Scorpions will play the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine, California, on Sunday, September 2, 2018, a 7:30 p.m. For ticket information visit Irvine Tickets. To stream and download the album Born to Touch Your Feelings (Best of the Rock Ballads) across all digital platforms, go here.