The Klaus Meine Interview

After achieving worldwide success, the Scorpions have announced their retirement. Yes, you read that right. They’re throwing in the towel and heading to the beach for a well-deserved permanent vacation. Well, not for another couple of years or so. First, they have this record Sting In The Tail, which sounds a lot like vintage Scorps. Secondly, they’re hitting the road and they have no deadline. Who knows, this could very well be their own never-ending tour.

Yet Klaus Meine, the group’s one and only singer, is fairly adamant the final curtain is coming to a close for the Scorpions. No matter how much we tried to get him to admit otherwise (and believe me, we did try), he’s determined to round third and slide into home. Based on how enthusiastic he was about the recording of the new album and the farewell tour, it’s hard to believe he and the group will be able to part ways easily. Guess we’ll find out in or around 2012, a year we’re supposed to learn about a lot of other things too.

Nevertheless, the Scorpions are going to be around for a little while longer, so why not enjoy the party. A few days after this interview, the band received yet another notch in their belt when the five members — Meine, guitarist Rudolf Schenker, guitarist Matthias Jabs, drummer James Kottak and bassist Pawel Maciwoda — were inducted into Hollywood’s RockWalk. Meanwhile, Sting In The Tail is, at press time, scorching the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. It hit the Top Five on the German charts, becoming the most successful Scorpions album in the past 20 years. Not a bad way to go out at all.

~

Congratulations on Sting In The Tail debuting at Number 23 on the Billboard 200.

Oh yeah. Thank you.

Sting In The Tail is reportedly the final Scorpions studio album. Was it decided before or during recording that this was going to be the last one?

It was decided at the very end of the album. It was shaping up and everyone felt it was going to be a very strong album. It was our manager who brought it up first. We thought he was joking (laughs). But then when you think about it…if we go on tour for the next two or three years, then we go back into the studio, and then, at least Rudolph Schenker and myself, are in the second half of our sixties. We came to the point where we had the feeling that this might be the perfect moment to leave in class and style.

The truth is, whatever you do in your life, you want to finish off with something great, rather than when you are destroyed on the ground. We had the feeling this album is very strong; it will be a very strong final line we cross. To go all over the world on one last big tour, we can finish the 40 years on this crazy rock and roll train and walk away in class and style and remain in the collective memory of our fans as a great live band.

We hate the thought that in a few years from now, we’d have to slow down in front of our audience. We thought we owe this to our fans to ourselves to keep it going the way it is right now to the very end with a lot of power. After all, the Scorpions are still a high-energy running machine and we want to keep it that way to the final curtain.

You want to go out on top. Do you think other bands should do this?

It’s a tough question. I know for all these comeback scenarios we should have started 10 years ago. This is something we’re really serious about. It will be tough and much more emotional than it feels right now when it comes to the last couple of shows. Of course, we know that. I had a feeling of the emotional issue of this when we played in Moscow two weeks ago. There were a lot of fans waiting at the airport with flowers and presents. Some gave us photo books with titles like ‘Remember The Good Times.’ I had a lump in my throat. This will be much more emotional than we can imagine right now.

You went to great lengths to assemble a well-balanced Scorpions album — a little more old school than your last one (Humanity - Hour 1) — with plenty of anthems, ballads and rockers. How important were your producers Mikael Nord Anderrson and Martin Hansen in helping to shape the record?

I think they were very, very important because they didn’t so much put a producer’s stamp on the band. They were very much supportive in getting the best out of us, and finding this old Scorpions DNA that we’ve lost along the way here and there. With the last couple of albums...Unbreakable we sound back on track. Humanity - Hour 1, we recorded with Desmond Child in Los Angeles. It’s a different album. Many songwriters were involved. It was a conceptual album with a big humanitarian message.

We wanted to get away from all this. We wanted to make an album that’s closer to our European roots. We tried to work with the producers, to support us like, “Hey guys…” with the songwriting process and all that. It all came together. They were very important in supporting us in that way. Also, we wanted to work at home in our own studio, the Scorpions studio outside Hanover. And yes, I agreed to do the lead vocals in Stockholm, Sweden. Other than that, everything we did in a kind of relaxed setup. Since we had been touring so much and we had been all over the world in the last couple of years supporting Humanity - Hour 1, we just wanted to stay at home.

I think there was a clear philosophy about this album: we just wanted to have fun with the music. We wanted to keep it really fresh. Like, I was driving to the Scorpions studio and I had an idea in the car. I get there, get together with Rudolph. He came up with a good riff. We recorded it and later in the evening, I recorded the vocals. And we listened back the next day and said, “This song is cool.” In the last 10 years, we would have said, “OK, this is a great demo. We’ll do this for real in a couple of weeks.” This time it was, “it’s for real now. Let’s get it real fresh and not so polished. Let’s have some fun, let's have fun with the music.”

So, that’s sort of how you used to do it back in the 70s and 80s?

Yes, for a good part of it. The way we wrote the songs, this was very similar. With Dieter Dierks being the producer back in the 80s, we also spent hours in the studio playing the songs again and again and again and again. It was a little different this time. But for the songwriting process, I think it was very similar.

A little more spontaneous?

Yeah.

You have some really strong ballads on the album. There’s “The Good Die Young,” which is the first single.

Yeah, it’s the first single. You will not find a big message on this album, but still in this song, the lyrics are not the same, easy rock and roll kind of lyrics. It’s more inspired by when I met a friend and he said, “Klaus, what are you doing next?” And I said, “I’m going on another world tour. What are you doing?” And he said, “I’m going to Afghanistan for the next eight months.” In between the lines I could hear, “Well, let’s hope I come back home alive.” This is the scenario that inspired the song, “The Good Die Young.”

When you take a look at it, that’s what it is — an antiwar song. I think it comes across very well. It’s the only song where we have a guest vocal appearance of Tarja Turunen. She’s a great singer from Finland with an operatic voice. She was the singer with Nightwish.

I saw a video clip of her performing with you on a German television program.

That’s right.

You have others — “Lorelei,” “Sly” and “The Best Is Yet To Come.” Is that a hint that better things may still come from the Scorpions (laughs)?

No, no (laughs). That song was around for quite a while. Of course, the running order of the album was made after the decision. I put it on last and all of us agreed that it should be the last song with an ironic twinkle in the eye (laughs), but it also finished the album on a positive note. I mean, hey, it’s not the end of our lives when we close this last chapter on the Scorpions. I’m looking forward to a new page in the book of life and there might be another challenge waiting around the corner.

You have what’s been described as a two-year, five-continent mammoth tour coming up. There are dates scheduled in Europe and North and South America. And I see you announced plans to tour Asia, including Japan where you have a very strong following. Any plans for a live album or DVD when this is all done?

We might record some shows on this tour. It would be stupid not to get some footage of this final tour. Yes, there might be a DVD of a couple shows or one special concert. I don’t know. There are no plans yet for any special shows to be recorded. There are no plans for what will be the last concert. We don’t know.

It’s still a long way to go. That means we play about 200 concerts in the next two, two-and-half years. There might be the one and only show or a couple of shows where we say it would be great to finish. For America in L.A., New York, Chicago, or in Moscow or in Hanover, home sweet home where it all started — we don’t know yet. It would be nice to have some footage.

Any plans to invite former Scorpions members to sit in? Or perhaps play an entire album on stage?

We started doing shows where we invite like Herman Rarebell, Uli Jon Roth, and Michael Schenker. We did that for the first time at Wacken a few years ago, which is one of the biggest metal festivals in Europe. And we recorded that. Of course, it would be great, they are always welcomed to join us. It depends on their schedule. They’re all so busy with their own projects. It would be fantastic if we do that here and there in the U.S. since we’ve never done it here in America. I know there are a lot of fans — it would be very special for them if they could see us with old band members sharing the stage together. So, we’re open to that, but there no plans right now. We would enjoy it as much as they would.

When this is all said and done, do you personally have any plans? Do you want to make a solo record? Write a book? Sail around the world?

(Laughs) Yeah, after 40 years with the Scorps and no time out, it would be something to make a solo record. That definitely comes to my mind. I will always be a songwriter and I will always be involved with music, one way or the other. Right now, it’s more about to reach the finish line and then let’s wait for what life will bring.

After so many years, a solo record would definitely be something at some point. It would be a lot of fun. I just did a side project in Germany with a German band Edguy. They also play in America. I don’t know how popular they are over here. And this guy Tobias Sammet is doing a side project. It’s called Avantasia and he’s inviting other artists. Rudolph Schenker did this a few years ago. So I did a song with him, like a duet. It’s been a lot of fun, doing things like that. I’m more than happy to do stuff like this in the future as well. It’s a whole new page in the book.

There are so many accolades and milestones in the Scorpions story — from being the first German heavy metal band to conquer America to playing the Kremlin to receiving the Echo lifetime achievement award last year. Is there anything else the Scorpions can achieve?

What comes to my mind is the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. That would be something. It would be the icing on the cake.

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