By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Michael Schenker is without a doubt one of the most influential guitarist/composers in the history of rock music. During his time with The Scorpions, UFO and MSG, Schenker’s melodic, unique and dynamic guitar playing was revolutionary, and truly different from anyone else.
We here at Rock Music Star, had the honor of interviewing Michael, over the phone. Unfortunately, due to time constraints we were only able to get two questions in. But, his first answer is rather detailed and surprising shocking, to be honest.
So here he is, the legend – Michael Schenker!
Rock Music Star: One question that a lot of my readers have asked me to ask you about is- The Scorpions, ‘LoveDrive’ record, which you performed on. There’s a lot of confusion on what your actual contributions were on that particular release. Could you just clear the air, and tell us what songs you performed on, and what songs you were responsible for from the Scorpions, ‘Lovedrive’ release?
Michael Schenker: Oh, yeah. The Scorpions ‘Lovedrive.’ They wanted to bring out a Scorpions set- a box. When I helped the Scorpions out on ‘Lovedrive,’ I had just left UFO. UFO was already an arena band, since ’76, and we had hits with, “Lights Out,” and, “Too Hot To Handle.” And then, we did, “Strangers in the Night.” The Scorpions were ready to make an album, but Matthias wasn’t capable of doing it, the Scorpions wanted to do it. Rudolf had found out that I had just left UFO, and asked me to help out. So, I said, “Ok.” So, when I helped out, the results were so good, they didn’t want to let me go. So, from helping out, they left Matthias, and they persuaded me to do the touring with them. So, basically, I opened the door to America for them.
All the management wanted only the Scorpions, so Rudolf sold it as a big break for America; they had never been to America at that point. They thought that they had to have me in the band. So, they persuaded me; I didn’t really want to, but, because it was Rudolf, and Klaus, I said, “Ok, let’s do it.” I took my black and white guitar- and after two weeks of touring with them, I realized I couldn’t do it. My part was not helping. I wanted to help create things.
The Scorpions had a lot of really rough material, and I was not interested in spending my next few years recording only rough music. I had a few peaks with UFO- we played arenas. I knew what it looked like up there. It wasn’t for me. I knew what it was like, and joining the Scorpions would have been more of the same, and going into the same thing.
Basically, since I was younger than all of the other guys, I was basically their little boy, and I was also very shy, of course. I couldn’t confront and tell them that I can’t participate. I knew how much they wanted that, but I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t my vision; I had my own vision, as a guitarist. I had to run away, and they would have found out where I was.
My brother cried on the phone- he was really embarrassed. So, I said, “Ok, I’ll do it.” I tried a second time, and I just could not do it. I could not do this thing. Eventually, they let me go, they got Matthias back, and I guess they promised him the world. But, Matthias must have been extremely pissed off. Basically, I was happy to get away from it, for getting out from being trapped, and being free again.
I never checked album credits for ‘Lovedrive.’ I was a member of the band, I had a contract with them, and I should have had a picture in there and stuff like that. So, when I was approached with that box, I found out- and was very disappointed- that there was no picture, that they never credited me for the intro of, “Holiday,” which was 45 seconds long, and also set up the song in a very beautiful way. They accepted the fact that I had left the Scorpions, and couldn’t do the thing with the Scorpions.
Rudolf, all of a sudden out of the blue, called me up from America, and asked me if he could play my black and white Flying V design. I was wondering why he was asking me that, but I said, “Ok, you can do that.” He also asked me if he could have the songwriting credits to, “Coast to Coast,” which- all the melodies- I wrote. I was wondering about that, too, but I said, “You can have it.” I was very generous, and gave him those two things, and I never really checked the ‘Lovedrive,’ credits because I was just happy to be done with it. I carried on in my middle years, doing my own thing. I disconnected from the scene. I’m at my own recording studio, and I have my own record label.
2008- I got the urge to be back on stage, and that’s when I started being back in the scene. Basically, I found out that the ‘Lovedrive,’ story was all lies based on desperation, because Matthias left the scene, very pissed off, and so, they wrote the wrong history, or the events of things. They just fabricated to make Matthias feel better. That was the first disappointment that I found out. Then, there was no picture of me in there. That was disappointing.
Then, I found out, nobody was credited for the intro of, “Holiday.” So, I put the pieces together- why Rudolf wanted to play the black and white guitar. To this day, he never misses playing, “Coast to Coast,” and the intro to, “Holiday.” So, he was fabricating those as his. Rudolf can’t really play guitar, but those were the easiest songs to copy, and to make it his. It looked like it was his work. Then, I found out on later releases of, ‘Lovedrive,’ after I did some research, that there wasn’t even my name mentioned.
So, I realized, they used my name when they needed it, when the advantages were there, and then it was distorted to make it look like they were solely responsible for the, ‘Lovedrive,’ success. They just left my name out. So, I realized why Rudolf wanted the black and white guitar design, and why he wanted to have, “Coast to Coast,” and why they didn’t credit me with the intro- it was the make it look like Michael Schenker was never really that important. After 30-40 years, I guess many people had forgotten how it all happened.
So, I’m very disappointed with Rudolf Schenker- my brother. He asked me to help him out, and he abused my generosity. Rudolf completely misused my generosity. He basically copied my image, trying to trick people, and make people confused. All of a sudden, this management wanted to sign up the Scorpions for America, because they heard about me having joined that band. I think Rudolf just wanted to make things look like, after I left, that I was still in there, somehow.
He was trying to fool the fools. 30 years later, he plays the Gibson Flying V. Rudolf just tricked people. I’m just putting the pieces together after- the Scorpions are finished, then the Scorpions aren’t finished forever and another day. I can see that Rudolf was playing with the band. He was really fooling them and misleading them, complicating and distorting things all for the desperation of success, which is a very, very sad story.
For me, I need to stay away from Rudolf. I never knew I had a brother that was that desperate- just basically a wannabe- and a wannabe somebody who can’t really play, but wants to be famous. I’m discovering this disappointedly, that Rudolf is one of those people. But, I guess he needed to experience it.
On the positive side, I have come to the conclusion that, he really needed that kind of success, and the universe had put a brother into his life that made it possible for him to taste that kind of success, and to find out that it’s leading him nowhere. But, at least he had the experience, and he knew now, what shows really tasted like. When you explain to somebody, what shows taste like, you don’t really know unless you taste it. So, at least Rudolf had the chance to experience what it was like up there, and knows now, based on a real experience, that a rat race is a rat race, and it does not lead to happiness. I knew that a long time ago, so that’s why I did not need to be a part of that circle.
But, anyway, my thought is, based on pure motivation, I love to create. The first part of my life- I’m looking back now and realize, very clearly- my life comes in three sections. The first part of my life is the music contribution in the 70s, that I created, that was put together for the 80s. The 80s made it commercial, with one snare drum and one base drum, and made it more accessible and more understandable for the wide mass, and that’s what the Scorpions did. Other people watered it down a but, and simplified it for more people to get into it, and maybe have hope that they can play instruments themselves, by having the 80s.
My assignment was for the 70s, and the 80s was for people like Herman Rarebell, and Rudolf, and people like that to simplify it. Later, I found out, that Rudolf was telling me in the 80s, “Michael, you won’t believe it! They’ve got your guitar style over here!” I said, “No way!” So, I never knew what I created in the 70s, because I was just having fun. I used the music as a screen to put my guitar playing on it. I used it for self-expression. I created a style, and put these notes together, which is lead guitar playing. I use the music, that I fell in love with, as a screen to paint my real self-expression as a lead guitarist on it. That’s really where my thing comes in.
Only in the middle years, did I find out that people like Metallica, Guns n’ Roses, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden- these kinds of bands- became trends off of that stuff that I had created. I realized I had become a trend maker instead of a trend follower, but I was never aware of it. So, the middle years were basically understanding who I was in the first part of my life.
So now, in the third part of my life, since 2008, I can consciously carry on, and enjoy what I started and take it to the next level in my third part and enjoy it.
The point is, I’m disappointed in Rudolf’s approach, but at the same time, I’m kind of glad. I’ve supported him, by the way, for all of these years, through his success. I said, “Hey! As long as Rudolf is happy, I’m all there.” I didn’t know about what he did. To be honest, it’s not really that important. I’m just disappointed. He experienced what he so desperately wanted to experience. I’m just happy doing my thing. So, I always said, “Everybody got what they wanted.” I had my freedom of expression, and after a compromise, I was able to carry on as being a free maker and having fun, being able to freely express and find new treasures that can only be found from within, and continue my search and continue to self-express. So, I got that reward, and I was perfectly happy with that. Rudy got his reward.
The Scorpions, today, are not the Scorpions. The Scorpions are made out of four different eras- Michael Schenker- Klaus and myself were the first Scorpions. 50 years of Scorpions hasn’t actually happened yet. That will be in 2020. But, the Scorpions were celebrating ’50 Years of Scorpions,’ before they even hit it. They have to wait. When we made the first album, Rudolf was 16. The Scorpions- that was just a name, playing cover songs and dance music for people to dance to.
The first Scorpions were Klaus Meine and myself. I wrote the first song, “In Search of the Piece of Mind.” I wrote much of the first album. It was credited to all of the Scorpions because I was too stupid. I was only 15 years old, they were all over 20. So, they already abused me back then. I wrote all of the music, and they credited themselves for it. I was 15 years old, and created and made international recognition. The Scorpions were riding on that.
I joined UFO, they used my name for the first album- it said, “Featuring: Michael Schenker of UFO.” And then, I came back, and basically became a jumpstart- including UFO. I jumpstarted UFO, too, turning them from a psychedelic band into a rock band. That’s how it went. My vision was to become a great guitar player.
So, I helped two rock bands who wanted to become rock bands. I was in and out, whenever needed, to refuel them and then to carry on with my own vision. Rudolf’s vision was to become part of a big band, and my vision was to become a great guitarist. I was always under the impression that we both reached what we were looking for, and we did. I’m not bitter about it, I’m just disappointed that Rudolf had to go that way, that’s all folks.
RMS: I appreciate you clearing that up, after many years. I’ve always wondered. You have influenced so many people, and if it wasn’t for you, rock music would sound a lot different than it does right now. Your contributions are just immeasurable.
MS: The main thing is, the specialists, or the people who know- they know anyway. But, you can only fool the fools. There’s a lot of fools out there, but, what goes around comes around. The past has to be presented correctly, otherwise I don’t have to bring my children to school to learn about the past. By being confronted with the truth of what was created in the past, I would have otherwise never found out about it. I guess it’s time- universally speaking- that the truth be revealed, and that the new people find out about the truth.
For more on Michael Schenker, please visit www.michaelschenkerhimself.com
Thank you to Chip Ruggieri for setting this interview up. Also, to Dana Kaiser for transcribing it.