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Feature Interview: Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions

Scorpions band 2019 seattle

They may have been around since 1965 and have an average age of 63, but German hard rock royalty Scorpions are planning to tear Australian audiences a new one when they co-headline with Whitesnake in a few weeks.

The five-piece, perhaps best known for their 14-million-selling, 1991 power ballad ‘Wind of Change’, will have been on their ‘Crazy World’ tour for close to three years by the time they arrive for shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane on 19th, 22nd and 24th February respectively.

Founder member, 71-year-old rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker, can’t wait to reconnect with fans here, speaking of previous visits and chances to reconnect with the enthusiasm and vitality of someone a third of his age.

“We’re coming back because we love it so much,” he says. “I remember that in 1992 we had a fantastic offer to go to Australia, but my friends were so tired from touring after one and a half years on the road with the [original] ‘Crazy World’ tour, and we had a number one or number two hit in Australia with ‘Wind of Change’, and I said, ‘let’s get this done’. But we were tired and people couldn’t be convinced, and now we have the possibility. In 2016 we played some shows there with Def Leppard and we had a great experience there. That was the reason we said to our agents that before we go into the studio to make a new album, we would like to do another tour in Australia to heat up the market, then the offer to go and co-headline with Whitesnake came up.”

The two bands make perfect sense as co-headliners, having known each other for decades and recently having played monumental festivals together.

“We played with Whitesnake already this year in Brazil”, Schenker says. “We played Rock in Rio with the Chili Peppers, Iron Maiden, Muse, Imagine Dragons and our friends Bon Jovi, and [the festival] voted us the best act in Rock in Rio for 2019! That’s pretty good for a band that has been on the road for over 50 years.”

Founded in 1978 by former Deep Purple singer, David Coverdale, Whitesnake arrive in Australia on the back of the release of thirteenth album, Flesh & Blood, released in May. It’s been 12 years since they last played here.

“We get on so well together with Whitesnake as we have been friends for years,” Schenker says. “They are great people. I remember, in the old days, the headliners would try to fuck over the openers because they were afraid they would be better than them. Our way is different. We want to be the best; there’s no question about this, but we are friends and our bands, Whitesnake and Scorpions, have a crossover in fanbase. In the end, we have the possibility to convince the audience that the whole night was a great package and send them home happy. It needs to be the whole evening, the whole show, all the bands being fantastic. In the old days, rock and roll was a rough and tough kind of music, but, these days, David Coverdale is a gentleman onstage.”

‘Wind of Change’, which describes the breakdown of the former USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall, became, for millions, the political anthem that accompanied the reunification of Europe after 50 years of division. Schenker sees it differently.

“’Wind of Change’ became the soundtrack to the most peaceful revolution on earth”, he says. “But we didn’t see the song as a political statement; we saw it as a human being statement or a statement of hope. We hope that people – human beings – can find a way to live together in peace. As our planet becomes smaller and smaller, we need to have the right way to bring people together and not against each other. The reason we are on the ‘Crazy World’ tour now is like when we were on the ‘Crazy World’ tour 30 years ago. Then, it was crazy in a positive way, with the Berlin Wall coming down and two big worlds coming together and making some peaceful decisions, but now, we are looking at a crazy world in a more negative way. We are always two steps forward, one backwards. In the ’60s and ’70s we started travelling around the world to show people that Germans weren’t bringing war; they were bringing love, peace and rock and roll. That’s the reason we were one of the first rock bands to play in Russia; to show people that music is a very important part in life. Mozart said, ‘What would be the world without music?’ and he is right. Music is the best communication you can have.”

The permanent addition of former Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee in 2016 provided a welcome shot in the arm after James Kottak’s dismissal for alcoholism. The band’s live performance has benefitted in new and unexpected ways, Schenker says.

“We were fighting very hard to get James back into the band,” he says. “We were hoping that we could keep him in the band, but after bringing him into a rehab kind of place to get him away from drinking, people were telling us that he needed more time than we could give him. Matthias [Jabs – lead guitarist] said that Motörhead had been friends with us since they opened for us in 1974 in Blackburn, England. When we got the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, they were there and we became friends. When Lemmy was very sick, I went to his dressing room to see him and I congratulated him for 40 years of Motörhead being together, and he congratulated me for 50 years of Scorpions being together. We were close, and when Lemmy died around Christmas, Matthias had the idea to ask Mikkey Dee. I called him, and he has always been a Scorpions fan. I can tell you, when Mikkey Dee was on the drums during our first rehearsal, I had to kick my ass again because it was a very strong attack he takes and he makes me a more effective rhythm guitar player. The right riff with the right edge is the way I play, and this is the way he plays his drums. We always have fun when we play every show. It’s fun to be onstage and kicking each other’s ass – people can see that and they are impressed. They can see that, even though those fucking bastards are 70 years old, they’re still rocking like a hurricane!”

For Mixdown

Interview: Paul Van Dyk

paul van dyk

If there ever was such a thing as a DJ royal family, German superstar Paul Van Dyk would probably be considered the king. Having sold over 4.5 million albums worldwide, consistently been voted the number one DJ of all time by industry magazines, and been in the business longer than most, he is a bona fide legend of the DJ-ing and electronic music world. An album of new material is in the works for early 2014, before he graces our shores to play Future Music Festival in March.

Hi Paul, what can fans expect from your show at Future Music Festival?

I have a new album in the pipeline, so there will be a lot of new music, but people always ask me to play some of my music that I’ve done in the past, so it’s going to be a very intense combination of both. The other thing is, of course, the way I perform and play my music is somewhat different because I use keyboards, computers, and custom-made mixers on-stage, and all sorts of different things that enable me to actually play very, very lively.

What can you tell us about your new album? What does it sound like?

Well, it’s electronic music and it consists of a lot of collaborations with people I really admire, as well as people that are up-and-coming and very talented. I can’t wait for it to be out and about. Some of the collaborations are in the early stages, so I can’t tell you yet!

How have you managed to stay at the top your game for such a long time?

Well I’m very passionate about it, and I’m not bending my back towards whatever is the latest trending sound whatsoever. That authenticity is what I believe people appreciate about it. The other thing as well is I’m not just pressing a button and raising my hand to the audience. I’m entertaining people in a much more intense way, by playing instruments and I believe that’s a very successful element of why I’m still around.

What’s more important to you, putting out albums or performing shows?

They come together; you can’t really take them apart. From the very beginning I have been a recording artist as much as a DJ or musician or performer or radio presenter. All these things always came naturally to me as one thing, so I can’t take these things apart at all.

How important has it for you to change and evolve throughout your career?

It’s always been a normal process for me. It’s not like I’m sitting down with a marketing team and saying I need to change this or that, or only wear green, or only wear red. To me, music and the art-form of electronic music comes in a very natural way. I’m always interested in something new, so my music and the way I perform always evolves. For me, electronic music always had something to do with breaking boundaries on the creative side, and on with people using new technologies as well. A lot of my production gear and stage set-up is always evolving as well, so it’s not something I strategically plan, but it’s more like an artistic progression.

How do you keep on top of all the new technology available to you?

Whenever there’s something new, I read about it and try it. In terms of production technology, there are so many possibilities these days, and I’ll find out about things and learn about them. What I do is never about resting on what I have achieved; it’s always about looking forward towards the next element that can enrich the performance or production. My set-up is like a mobile studio and everything is necessary, and I can actually construct a track completely live, going from channel to channel by first programming some drums, and adding a bass-line or some strings. That in itself is a very creative tool. I also have a custom-made controller that enables me to do all the levelling that is necessary completely organically, which is something that is very special. I also have a mixer, and there are only three of them in the world; it’s kind-of like very organic media mapping if I want to; if I feel like I need the top left corner button to do something, I can just quickly do it. That in itself makes it a very lively way to bring the music across, and that is what I enjoy about it.

Do you write a piece of music with a collaborator in mind, or finish the track and find a vocalist to suit?

It depends. If I’m actually working specifically with a vocalist from the beginning of the track, then of course it’s a planned thing. But it’s usually during the process that I develop or imagine a sound or feel of what the voice is like, and develop an idea that can bring that process to life.

What are you most looking forward to about coming to Australia?

The shows, of course. The audience in Australia is always very open and excited about new music. Whenever I come to Australia these are the memories I take back home. It’s very energetic, very powerful, and in a positive way, extremely crazy. I’m really looking forward to it.

PAUL VAN DYK PLAYS FUTURE MUSIC FESTIVAL MAR 1-10. http://www.futuremusicfestival.com.au/