The Rudolph Schenker (Scorpions) Interview



Rudolph Schenker: Keeps On Stinging



By Shawn Perry

Sometimes, you have to ask yourself the age-old question: What keeps some of these bands going? You'd think after a decade or so, with perhaps a few million records sold, a castle in the country, and a little dinero stashed away, they might consider slowing down just a tad. But no! The Stones have toured more in the last ten years than they did the previous 20. Likewise for the Who and Paul McCartney. And the same seems to apply to the Scorpions, the brazen hard rockin' unit from Germany celebrating 30 years together.

The Scorps' pace is relentless as they venture into territories absent from most other's itineraries. When I spoke with Rudolph Schenker he had just returned from a short jaunt with the band through Russia, a place close to the Scorpions' heart. Back in 1988, they were the first hard rock band to play extensively behind the Iron Curtain. But the love affair doesn't stop there.

"We love traveling around the world -- we have many friends around the world," Schenker declares. "And now with the new album Bad For Good: The Very Best Of Scorpions out, we're doing the tour in America with Deep Purple and Ronnie James Dio."

Speaking by telephone from his studio near hometown Hannover, Schenker reflects back on the Scorpions' humble beginnings. "It was very hard for us to get outside of Germany. We had to work our asses off to cross the borders," he recalls. "When we started, we were the only band in Germany that played this type of music."

After floundering through most of the 70s, the band signed with Mercury and went on to make eight highly successful albums. "In the 80s, our style became popular -- heavy metal, hard rock, whatever you want to call it. We were part of the next generation behind Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin," Schenker says.

Of course, the Scorps' formula was easy to decipher: hook-filled melodies keenly articulated by vocalist Klaus Meine, punctuated by Schenker's commanding power chords -- all tickled by the spidery leads of guitarist Matthias Jabs. "We have the right chemistry -- Matthias, Klaus and me," Schenker enthuses.

The new compilation attests to the fact that the climb was slow and steady, but it paid off in dividends. Starting with the one-two punch of 1979's Lovedrive and 1980's Animal Magnetism, the Scorpions mounted a whole new campaign with tighter and catchier tunes like "Loving You Sunday Morning" and "The Zoo." But it was with 1982's Blackout that the group finally tapped into a wider audience. And with that, the Scorpions also scored their first Number One with "No One Like You," a song the group had been kicking around for many years.

"We were completely surprised," says Schenker. "In '81, we started working on Blackout. We went through the songs and when we came to 'No One Like You,' we somehow found the right key."

Schenker explains how prior to Blackout and their newfound success, Meine came perilously close to calling it a day. "Klaus had vocal problems before Blackout came out. He came up to me and wanted to quit, and I said, 'Klaus there's no reason to quit. You have to do everything you can to make it work.' And he did. And we went straight into the Top Ten."

With the release of 1984's Love At First Sting, the Scorpions gained a foothold on America. "This was a great time for us," Schenker explains. "We played the US Festival and Rock In Rio -- a lot of big shows. I remember we headlined the Madison Square Garden in New York. It was fantastic."

Following a two-year, self-imposed hiatus, the Scorps returned with 1988's Savage Amusement and scored yet another platinum record. The group embarked on an extensive world tour, making their first trek to the U.S.S.R. To say that traveling through the bleak region didn't have a profound and lasting impact on the cast and crew would be a vast understatement.

Schenker: "We saw what the situation in Russia was. It was very gray. The next year, we were invited to be part of the Music Peace Festival in Moscow. We were singing 'Still Loving You' and all the Russians were singing along. We noticed a change. The city was in a different mood from the year before. Klaus came up with the idea to write a song about it called 'Wind Of Change.'"

"Wind Of Change" would go on to become the Scorpion's biggest international hit. It preceded the fall of the Berlin Wall by three months and became an anthem for all those who had suffered from the oppression of the Eastern Bloc. It would also single out the Scorpions from the pack of 80s hair bands that were slowly dying off.

1990's Crazy World became the Scorpion's biggest-selling album. Along with "Wind Of Change," it also includes the rockers, "Tease Me Please Me, "Hit Between The Eyes" and "Don't Believe Her," as well as a second ballad called "Send Me An Angel." Schenker says this mix of rockers and ballads has been integral to the band's continued success around the world. "I mostly like the rockers. In America it's easy for us to play them because that's what the radio stations are playing. In Europe and Asia, it's different because when a Scorpions record comes out they are looking for the ballads."

Even though the band's ensuing popularity in the States has diminished somewhat, their work ethic remains intact. "During the last few years, we've experimented, like with Eye To Eye (1999)," Schenker says.

However, the guitarist believes that re-teaming with producer Dieter Dierks, the man responsible for most of the Scorps' biggest hits, for two new songs on Bad For Good: The Very Best Of Scorpions is a sign of things to come. "We found our old spirit again (with the compilation)."

Indeed, as the Scorps barnstorm America once again, that spirit will apparently spill over into the next year. Schenker couldn't be more excited. "Thirty years of Scorpions with two new tracks produced by Dieter Dirks, who produced our stuff in the 80s and 70s. We're doing a new album with him next year in the tradition of Blackout and Love At First Sting. We want to show the people that the Scorpions are still rocking."

June 13, 2002

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