By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Last January, the internationally acclaimed German hard rock band The Scorpions announced that their new Cd, the 17th of their career, “Sting in the Tail” and world tour would be their last. After 40 hard rockin’ years, the band wanted to go out on a high note. With the release of “Sting in the Tail” they are certainly on track to do just that.
“Sting in the Tail” is without doubt one of the most solid releases of the bands career. Both fans and critics love it. The first week sales were very impressive.It debut #1 in Germany and Greece, #2 in Korea, #3 in Czech Republican #6 in Russia, and Finland. In the USA, it came in at #23, their highest charting position here in twenty years.
The Scorpions are about to began a massive final world tour which will last 2-3 years. They will have 80’s hard rock bands Cinderella, Ratt and Dokken opening shows for them through out the first leg of the tour.
Here at RockMusicStar.com, we caught up with Scorpions guitarist Matthias Jabs to discuss the bands new CD, upcoming tour and much more.
RockMusicStar: Your new CD “Sting in the Tail” had a very success first week in sales. It debut #1 in Germany and Greece, #2 in Korea, #3 in Czech Republican #6 in Russia, and Finland. Plus you had your highest charting position in twenty years in the USA at #23. How gratifying is this to you?
Matthias Jabs: It feels fantastic! At this point in our career, we really couldn’t expect anything like that. It is especially rewarding here. We landed here yesterday, coming in from Germany, and the first thing I read is that we are #1 on the classic rock charts. We haven’t had those experiences in the last ten years. We had successful albums all over the world, but not the high chart positions. It’s amazing if you really think about it.
RMS: Well, it’s an amazing CD, so it’s well deserved. Was there any time during the recording of the CD in which you thought, hey this Cd is really special?
MJ: Yes, it felt good overall. The way we recorded this Cd, was a little different. We started in May of last year; we got together with the producer team of Mikael Nord Andersson and MartinHansen in Sweden. We had some songs from recent albums that we didn’t use and we re-arranged them and wrote a few new ones. And then we went on tour in the summer and came back in August and really started working on the songs, and then we played a few shows again and then went back into the studio, sometimes in Sweden, sometimes in our place.
Because of this, it always felt fresh. We would work for a week or ten days then take two weeks off from recording and play a few shows. When we finished with all the songs, we invited people from management and from our record company to listen to the rough mixes. After, we heard the whole thing, we went WOW! And management said that we should consider calling this our last album, because it’s really a great one. This followed by a world tour, that usually will last 2 ½ years because we play everywhere. They said this will be a great way to end your career on a high note. So we thought about it, but not for too long. We decided that it was a good idea and made the announcement in January that this would be the last CD and tour for the Scorpions.
RMS: It’s a great way to go out. This CD may be the best studio release from the Scorpions, ever.
Maybe. The producers of this CD have been fans of the band since the early 80’s, and if you ask them or any of our fans what they’re favorite Scorpions album is, 95-99% will say “Blackout” or “Love at First Sting.” I think during the early 80’s the band finally found its sound and style. “Love at First Sting” was the essence of the band’s sound. I think that the new Cd comes closest to “Love at First Sting.” It wasn’t intentially done this way. But looking back, “Sting in the Tail” could have been the follow up album to “Love at First Sting” during the 80’s.
RMS: Yeah, I agree with that. As far as this being the bands last CD and tour, were you at all reluctant to agree to this, because you’re a bit younger than Klaus and Rudolf? You still could easily do this for another 10 -15 years.
MJ: No, not reluctant. It makes told sense this whole thing. But if I didn’t agree, it wouldn’t have made a difference I guess. (laughs) I can’t change their age. Because I’m younger, I would have never come up with that thought. But ask Klaus and Rudolf they would have never thought of it either, we would of just continued forever. But it took someone from the outside with a different perspective to tell us that we can’t go on like this. What convinced us was that we want to be remembered as a great live band that’s full of energy and healthy and fit.
That’s how we want to be remembered by the fans. Not growing old in the spotlight and limping around on stage. Blues musicians can sit in their chairs like BB King, and play until they are 80. I’m sure that I will always make music, but what comes next, I don’t even want to think of for the moment. I’d rather concentrate on the upcoming tour and enjoy it. What comes after? We will probably still have a lot to do together. But, we will not do what we have done that last 35-40 years and that’s do a CD and go on tour. We want to break out of this cycle.
RMS: Do you think The Scorpions will be inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame anytime soon? A lot of your fans think you deserve to be. Is it something that you care about?
MJ: I think it would be a very big deal. My feeling is that they will approach us. They are having an 80’s exhibition there and they asked us for some memorabilia and instruments. We are doing Hollywood’s Rock Walk on Tuesday on Sunset Blvd. It is a Guitar Center related one where you put your hands in concrete. But, I think the band being in the Rock n’ Roll Fame would be well deserved. I think that it will probably happen.
RMS: Let’s hope so. A question that I always wanted to ask you is about your unique guitar tone. It is such a big part of the Scorpions sound. How did you develop it?
MJ: I keep it simple. I don’t put any effects between my guitar and amp. My guitar goes into a cable that goes into the amp and there is a microphone in front of the amp. The tone comes from my fingers. Our producers asked the same question. Whatever guitar I play, I still get the same sound. If you use foot petals and all that other crap, it gets lost. Your true technique will never shine through. But, I keep it simple and that’s my well known secret. Thank you very much for the compliment. I also play a lot too! I played most of all the lead guitars on the Scorpions albums. The last one, “Sting in the Tail” I even put down the rhythm tracks and then I worked on the overdubs and guitar arrangements. I did the leads last. By time I play the leads, the song already has its sound.
In case you are interested, I developed my own amp over the years. I road tested it the last two years on tour. So it’s reliable. I use it now in the studio as well. It’s called Master Tone. It’s my own brand, my own amp and does exactly what I like.
RMS: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as a member of the Scorpions?
I think that the most important part is that when I joined, my sound like in “No one Like You,” the double harmony leads in the intro or solo is something that I was already doing prior to joining the band. I did this in the local bands that I played in before joining the Scorpions. So I brought this in to the band in addition to what they already had. I think that since I joined, the band sounds like a unit, one band. Then all of a sudden, we started becoming very successful.
To this day, I use my leads to just enhance the songs, not to over play and show off. I think that that’s the most important part. The job of a lead guitarist is to keep the level of the song, not play something that doesn’t belong there. I’m always trying to enhance the song with whatever I do. That why, I think style wise why sound much more cohesive since I joined.
RMS: Though out the years, you never succumbed to any guitar gimmicks or fads like so many other guitarist. You always stuck to your sound and style.
MJ: If everyone else is doing it, why should I? I’m not in a cover band ( Laughs)
RMS: That’s for sure.
MJ: Of course, I experimented with various techniques. During the late 70’s and 80’s as well. I’m capable of doing most of them. But to me, it’s much more important to stick to my own style while serving the song.
RMS: You said you don’t want to think about this right now, but do you think that you may want to do a solo album after the Scorpions? Maybe even an instrumental one?
MJ: I’ve thought of it and been asked about doing one for twenty years. So far, I’ve just been just focused on the Scorpions 24 hours a day and nothing else. Just like the other members, no one in the band has done a solo album. But, I can imagine various things. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I’ll let these thoughts grow while I’m on tour for the next two to three years.
When the Scorpions are really finished, I’ll have a much better idea of what is right for me to do. In the moment, I don’t want to waste too much energy on this right now. But I think there must be a way, to do something better than a solo album. But, I don’t exactly know what that is now. But we will see what happens.
RMS: Is there anything that you still want to accomplish while in The Scorpions?
MJ: Well, it’s sad, but we haven’t played Australia yet. So we have to fit that in. Because it’s the five continent tour, so we have to play there. The biggest achievement will be to stay healthy and enjoy the tour and everything else will come automatically. If you look at everything with a very positive attitude things will happen. I think our new album proves this. We had just a wonderful time in the studio, stress free. I think you can hear it.
RMS: Back to the new CD.” Why didn’t you use Desmond Child, the producer of your last Cd “Humanity Hour 1” for “Sting in the Tail”?
MJ: Desmond is known as being a hit producing producer. We went with him three years ago in LA. But he made us follow his concept too much. He put his producer stamp on the Scorpions too much. But I like the album; I liked what he had done. But the Swedish guys Mikael Nord Andersson and MartinHansen, were who we were originally going to record the last Cd with, but decided to go with Desmond. But it was their turn now. They wanted to do what we wanted to do and not bend it out of shape. It was more like a unit, a band with seven people rather than a producer and a band.
RMS: Was it at all uncomfortable working with Desmond?
MJ: No, not for me. I think it was more uncomfortable for our singer Klaus because Desmond is so particular about his lyrics. He liked me and my guitar playing and we didn’t have any problems. I mostly recorded with James Michael anyways, our co-producer. But it was hard working with Desmond because lyrics are his main thing and the Scorpions are a guitar band. You have to play attention to that and the results will be a lot better.
RMS: One of the songs I find very interesting on the “Sting in the Tail” album is the title track. Klaus has a very distorted and harsh vocal in the bridge of the song. Whose idea was it for him to sing it that way? I think it’s really brilliant.
MJ: It was Klaus’ idea. He came up with it when we were doing some recording in our studio, which is very close to where Rudolf lives. Klaus and I live on one street within crawling distance of one another. So we took a car everyday to our studio and it’s a twenty minute ride. So when you’re in the car you try to use the time to come up with ideas or get inspired. He had the idea while driving, but it was just noises and not words. It then turned into “Bang, bang, rock will again.” He had the sound in his ears and that’s what came out.
RMS: It fits really well in the song.
MJ: It’s like a sound effect, but it’s just voices.
RMS: It sounds like it would be a strain on his voice.
MJ: No, he actually sounds better than he has in twenty years. We open the show with that song, at least so far. We have played a few shows already to test everything out for the tour.
for more on the Scorpions www.the-scorpions.com