(c) Billy Hepburn
Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Michael Schenker Temple Of Rock and Lovedrive Reunion Tour – Vicar Street, Dublin – 22-04-2013
Photos by Stephen Brophy
Good afternoon Michael ,its an honor to have you speak to “Myglobalmind”this afternoon. I have been a huge fan of your music for many years.
Firstly how did you come to form”Temple of Rock”, and what is the difference between that and MSG?
Michael”Long story,basically its all to do with the era that we are in at this point in time. I started in my career all the way up to”Strangers in the Night”it was all a development period as a guitarist. Being in love with rock+roll,and focusing on excellence and becoming a great guitarist basically. Pure self-expression. From the very beginning that was all that I wanted to do. The middle part of my career i was more focusing on experimenting, more development and also developing on a personal level. I just realized on looking back that I had a beard during those years its very interesting..Now that I am back in the lube of rock+roll-no beard.I can see very clearly that the middle part of my life was all devoted to grow,and to battle and to be in the arena. Working on things,do you know what I mean?MSG basically developed for that. I got asked by Ozzy Osbourne and many different bands to join, but some feeling always told me”don’t do this “This will not fulfill you.”I thought that I needed to do something else. You need to do your own thing, at your own pace. I had the desire to do strange things that commercial bands would not want to do. Acoustic instrumental music for example, instrumental electric,all sorts of different things. When I was doing Temple of Rock, I just thought it was time for a new album. Just before I started to make a demo, I met Herman Rarebell and he came to one of the gigs in England. All of a sudden Pete Way was there, and Herman was there so we teamed up in the UK. We became kind of neighbors and we started to jam. I always wanted to play the “Strangers in the Night”material, as I haven’t played it for a long time.
We started working on a live project, the three of us playing”Strangers”, MSG etc. At the same time I went to make a demo with Michael Voss, and I asked him to help me with the vocals. When I heard him singing, I asked him to sing on the album and he agreed. When I was playing the stuff to Herman and Pete they wanted to do the rhythm section and I had a band. I still didn’t know what I was doing really but the demo turned out really good. Then Michael Voss did this great intro ,and I said it would be great if we had a famous actor with a big voice speaking on it. A few days later I get a phone call from William Shatners agent, asking if I would play on his album. He was doing a rock album,and I went”No way,this is the guy that we want”I asked him if he could do the speaking on my record. It was all shaping up incredibly, so all of a sudden I said”What am I doing here, there’s something more than meets the eye”. I realized that I was doing like a summit thing, like a cycle- a real experience.”What have I been doing all these years”, and put it all in one. I decided to add past musicians to it, and we made a list. Most of them were available , so it was shaping up as something incredible. That’s basically the difference the Temple of Rock is more like a summit, its capturing the past into the now. There are all those great musicians involved. I have always been writing my music from the inside out. To me my songs are always focused as I concentrate on pure self-expression as much as I can. Its a bit like Holy Scriptures you know?” With my body is a temple, that idea.
Are you a religious man?
Michael”I don’t know what that means. I have body, mind and soul and I am all of that. Its good to look after all three aspects in order to keep a balance”
What do you like most about what you do?
Michael”Its like this, to me its always about the now. Every section of the now in my past had a particular era to take care of in my life”
Are you proud of your past, of what you have achieved?
Michael”Well its all development, everything was special at the time when it was done because it was always the now. I don’t really necessarily look back. If I look back I had a great journey for sure. I like the now because the past has been done. I dealt with it and so my focus is more on the now that even in the future. I may have a blueprint of what is coming up,eg of what the tour is..the dates.I don’t know what I am going to be doing further down the road.”
Are you happy now? You seem to be very positive, very upbeat.
Michael”Life for me is about,…..I have two tattoos, one is “Born to be free,”and one is “Born to overcome”My whole life I knew that it was about overcoming. That is what I am focusing on. In general I love to play and discover, to learn and discover, that’s what I love doing. Yes that is what life is for to develop to that point. Out of confusion into more understanding that is what life offers.”
Do you have any role models or personal heroes in your life?
Michael”Obviously all kinds of people, that have a very healthy outlook in life, like saints. There are a lot of people that have a lot of wisdom. They treat others equally, with a live and let live attitude. Those guys for me are heroes.”
Do you sometimes feel that you have two sides to your character. Your true self, and how you are viewed by the general public?
There has been a lot of shit talked about you over the years, and the accessibility of the Internet in modern times can only add to that?
Michael”Yes,but that goes with life, the more famous you are the more shit you get. I am blessed and totally grateful because I am not sticking out like a sore thumb, and I’m not totally unknown. I am in a very comfortable place where I can enjoy lots of peace and still have…Its a very good place that I am in. I don’t go into a supermarket and see a big headline about myself, shit about shit, that doesn’t even exist, or paparazzi coming up and disturbing my peace. I don’t have that so I can walk around and have my peace. That used to happen though,and it would get on my nerves. When I was younger people kept running after me,and telling me “Schenker is God”I couldn’t deal with that, you know. I didn’t want to know about that.”
OK just to ask now regarding another of your former bands-UFO.You rejoined for the “Walk on Water”release,then left again..What happened?
Michael”No it wasn’t that I left again. That is not how it worked. We got together for “Walk on Water”, and were consistently having problems with management and its organisation etc through misunderstanding and stuff like this and Pete freaking out. Everything being loose it just didn’t work and I said that “this is too loose for me”, and I don’t know what to do with this. Phil then called me and said “Michael can we have the name UFO back because we need to work”I said go ahead,have the name, I didn’t ask for anything,and I just let them go”
Regarding what we touched on earlier, don’t you feel that recent changes in technology eg… the Internet have made it more difficult for well known musicians?
Michael”I am very blessed to have my privacy.I don’t know about the Internet,I don’t inform myself on that level,you don’t want to open a can of worms.You don’t need to know(laughs),its self-protection.”
How hard to you push yourself with your music? Are you very driven and strongly motivated?
Michael”I have a way of enjoying , and I know what I can enjoy.Like play and discover for instance. There’s a difference between having to work hard to develop something,or you have an attitude where you love playing and you know that at any moment something will come out of the blue,and you make new discoveries. That is the energizer for me.”
Is music all encompassing in your life or do you have time for other interests or hobbies?
Michael”I love to create, that for me is recreation. I don’t score I just love to design things..anything. I live consciously that’s what I do. I am involved in anything that comes up in front of me.”
Why have you succeeded in an industry where so many have failed. How do you account for your longevity?
Michael”When I was seventeen years old I already knew subconsciously that I wanted to do something the way that I see it myself. I wanted to express myself and add my colour to the world. I knew that if I wanted to do that I needed to stay away from everybody elses colours. Also if I wanted to do this for a long, long time to stay away from consuming. To just create,as consuming takes energy out of you which you need to create. Some people may think”is it possible for you to never listen to any music”I don’t have a problem as I am playing it myself. I do hear things of course when I am walking around here and there but I don’t focus on it. It really depends on who you are and what you want to achieve in life. I just want to express myself and focus more on bringing the colour out of me.”
Are those dark times and periods now totally behind you, as you seem reinvigorated and positive?
Michael”I guess I am getting a break from them”(laughs)
Is there anything that you would like to try, not necessarily musically? Utilizing the natural creativity that you have illustrated through our chat today?
Michael” I am a spirit on a mission,I fell in love with rock+roll and am fascinated with what I can do with a single string.It is like a combination lock…There is so much that I can get out of a single string,it is fascinating.For me,I feel like I am celebrating the era of hand-made rock.The era that I first fell in love with was Zeppelin,Deep Purple,Black Sabbath,with the distorted guitar, the amplifier and pickup.The fascination for me was what you could do with that…how much emotion,and how much you can express is incredible.That was what I fell in love with.My dad used to be an architect and every time they finished building a house,and before they put the roof on they had a party.That’s what I feel like.Ronnie James Dio has gone, Gary Moore,Phil Lynott and all these great musicians have gone.The fact is there are going to be less and less people who are still alive ,so I just want to celebrate that era,Sooner or later it will just be a memory as there will be nobody left.”
Just checking the time Michael as I was only scheduled to have ten minutes and we are already over 17 minutes. Do you have time as I appreciate that on show days you will have a strict schedule….
Michael”Yes I have time to continue”
What are the plans for Temple of Rock.I have read that you will be recording another album?
Michael”We have just finished a new album in March, as I knew that we were going to be on the road. Also because this is a very unique lineup I decided to make a DVD out of this before something happened. To capture it quickly. Since then we have stabilized and become a real band . I knew that we were going to be on tour from April onward and then it would be September. I always collect material all the time, so it was just a matter of making up my mind that I wanted to record a record. I decided that I had better focus on writing , and finishing my stuff. Then go into the studio and record an album with these guys which we did and it turned out excellent. I am very happy with it, there are fast songs on there, but its not going to be out until November. The last Temple of Rock release was actually a mistake from a promotion point of view. The record company were only promoting it through the Internet, which was a big mistake. It is such a unique album with so many different musicians on it including William Shatner the Star Trek guy. It will have its own life, and its own momentum. I think people will keep rediscovering it. Most people don’t know that this album actually exists because of the way it was promoted. The new album is called “Bridge the Gap”and that will be released in November.
Its the exact current touring lineup playing on that then?
Michael”Yes it is”
With the playing of some old fan classics on the current tour, can I ask which of your albums that you have recorded would be a particular personal favorite?
Michael”It doesn’t work that way.Its all development, there wouldn’t be one with out another. Also when you develop its a new time in space, with different surroundings.”
Obviously you have done many,many interviews but who would you like to personally interview.Why,and what would you ask them?
Michael”Oh like Jimmy Page, Leslie West or Jeff Beck. I would probably not ask something, probably say “finally we meet after all these years. That is what I said to Jimmy Page , because I was getting an award and bumped into him after all these years. I quickly shook his hand and “Jimmy, we finally meet but I have to go to do photo sessions, and see you later.”
To keep inspired I love play and discover as almost on a daily basis ,and that’s always wow for me.”
What annoys you?
Michael”Probably lots of things, depending on my daily biorhythm (laughs)
What are the best and worst things about being a musician?
Michael”I don’t look at it that way. Its life it doesn’t matter if I am a musician a doctor or whatever. Life for me is about learning and discovering and you have a perspective and perception when moving on in life.To see those changes occurring is a very interesting phenomenon which makes me wonder “i wonder what happens next” The unexpected journey of life. You can predict certain things in the future, but you cannot predict the unexpected swing that life sometimes comes up with.”
Looking back at your life, is there anything that you would have done differently?
Michael”I cant, everything that I have done has brought me to this place. Its hypothetical, it doesn’t work”
Michael Schenker thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to chat with one of my musical heroes today,its been a pleasure.
Michael”I enjoyed it also, hope that you will enjoy the show this evening”