Most of you are familiar with the legendary rock band the Scorpions. In 1979, they released Lovedrive with lead guitarist Michael Schenker, bassist Francis Buchholz, and drummer Herman Rarebell. The trio parted ways until recently. Now, the three musicians are back and perhaps better than ever in Schenker’s latest project, Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock. They are joined by Rainbow’s Doogie White on vocals and guitarist/keyboardist Wayne Findlay of the Michael Schenker Group. They kicked 2014 off in a strong way, releasing Bridge The Gap on Jan 7. Already receiving praise online from fans and critics alike, Schenker is looking to promote the new material before the world tour, which starts in March.
In order to get the word out about Bridge The Gap, Schenker will bring White and Findlay with him to the U.S. to play the new songs to his fans. I was fortunate to catch up with the legendary German guitarist and talk all things Bridge The Gap. In addition to discussing his practice routines and the new record, Schenker gives advice to up-and-coming guitarists and unveils his future plans for 2014. Check out what Michael had to say below:
What was the writing/recording process like for this record?
I was basically thinking of a heavy, fast, and melodic album. I wanted it to be interesting and upbeat. I knew I wanted the album to be titled Bridge The Gap before I even started getting ready for the material. We had a six-month gap in between European tours so we decided to make an album. In January, I finished the material and sent it to Doogie and said, “Think melodic, and think ‘bridge the gap.’” Doogie took it and I carried on with all of the arrangements. I got a special studio for the drums, the bass, and we did Wayne’s seven-string guitars and keyboards.
We finished by the end of March and by April 4, we had the first show of our second European leg in Russia. I knew the LP wasn’t going to be released for another seven months, so I decided to put the record away so we could get into touring mode. At the end of that second European leg, we took a listen to it with fresh ears, and we knew how we could improve the album immediately. We then added additional stuff to it, mixed it and mastered it. It sounded much better.
How long were you guys in the studio, the second time around, before the release?
When everyone first heard the record, they all made their own comments. Then our engineer and producer made all of the changes based on what everyone else’s perceptions were on what should be done differently. It was basically a short, fine-tuning process.
Has your writing process changed at all over the years?
The writing process for myself is always the same. I am always playing and discovering something new on a regular basis. There is typically a period of about a year in between albums. As I play and discover, I bump into little bits and pieces that I capture. When it is time to make a new record, I listen to everything I have accumulated and it inspires me to write the missing parts to it. It is a step-by-step process. I usually introduce the bits and pieces and you don’t really know until the end of the recording what everything is going to sound like.
If I’m not mistaken, there was only one solo planned out on this record and the rest were improvised. Is that correct?
Yes, that is correct. The middle section of “Lord Of The Lost And Lonely” solo is the only thing that was actually planned out. Everything else was improvised.
You allow your fans to interact with you through various meet and greets. This is a great way to get feedback directly from your audience and biggest fans. How has everyone reacted to the new material?
The reaction to the new album is incredible. Everything has been really great so far.
I’m sure you guys are excited to hit the road and play all of these fantastic songs. As of late, you guys look like you are really enjoying yourselves on stage, almost as if you are having as much fun playing live as ever before.
Absolutely. In my early years, I never really liked being on stage. I always felt a bit uncomfortable. In the last five years, I have developed a real liking for being on stage. The funny thing is, Herman, Francis and I did one leg together in the Scorpions for Lovedrive in 1979. All three of us disappeared from rock ‘n’ roll for various different reasons. Here we are now, releasing our second album.
When we started our first European leg in 2012, with Doogie on vocals, the chemistry was just incredible. I wanted to capture it on DVD as a memory. It kept getting better and better and the audience loved it. It was just great. We were getting more and more offers in Europe so we ended up doing a second leg of the European tour that year.
In order to promote Bridge The Gap, Doogie, Wayne and yourself will be touring the U.S. What are your plans as far as touring with Francis and Herman?
The tour in January is like a new album release promotional tour. It is to showcase some of the new songs to the audiences and the press. We wanted to be here when it came out. After this, we are doing a world tour with the album lineup, which starts in March.
It sounds like you guys plan on touring quite extensively for this album.
Absolutely. We will be going and going until it is all done with (laughs).
Do you write at all while you are on the road?
I play and discover on a regular basis. There is always something that I like, capture on the cassette recorder, and put away until the touring is complete.
You have developed your own distinct sound and style over the course of your musical journey. The same riffs that you put away on this cassette recorder are the same ones that influence countless musicians around the world. Do you have any tips for young guitarists looking to play music for a living?
Different people have different motivations. Since I was 17 years old, my focus has always been on my own expression. I stopped listening to music and focused on myself. If you focus on pure self-expression, you keep the uniqueness that only you have. Every single person has a uniqueness inside, and until you decide to express it, nobody knows what it is like. If you continue to purely express yourself, you will develop your own style.
Those are some wise words. Self-expression is definitely a great way for an inspiring musician to find their groove. Practice is also just as important. What is your practice routine like as a band?
It’s fairly simple for us. As a band, we get together when it is time to tour and we rehearse until we are ready to perform.
What’s next for Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock?
This lineup is called Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock. As stated before, I will tour with Doogie and Wayne in the U.S. in January to promote the release of Bridge The Gap. Herman and Francis will join us for our world tour in Japan this March. We are sorting out festivals in Europe and later in the U.S. around autumn possibly.
I already began getting ideas on the next album. We may add more seven-string guitars to it, and we might write collectively in a rehearsal room. It’s a great chemistry and it would be great to bounce ideas around and see what comes out. But for right now, we will be touring Bridge The Gap until we are ready for another album.
Michael Schenker will play at B.B. King Blues Club on Jan. 22 and the Starland Ballroom on Jan. 24. Bridge The Gap is now available. For more information, go to michaelschenkerhimself.com.