GUITARIST MICHAEL SCHENKER SAYS “AMERICANS USED TO INTIMIDATE ME”
Mark McStea of Guitar World spoke with guitar hero Michael Schenker, excerpts from the interview appear below.
Guitar World: Given that Michael Schenker Fest involves four singers, how do you decide which vocalist will get which song?
Michael Schenker: I let the universe do the work. I send the same pieces out to everyone at the same time and see who comes back first. I work on a first come, first served basis, so whoever responds first gets the song…”
Guitar World: There’s a very upbeat feel to the [new Michael Schenker Fest] album [Revelation]. Do you feel positive these days? I know you’ve had some tough times over the years.
Michael Schenker: At this point, I can see very clearly what happened to me. Everything had to be the way it went. The first part of my life, unconsciously, I was just playing around. I didn’t compete with anybody, I didn’t want to be famous: I just wanted to have fun.
All of a sudden, by the time of [UFO’s] Strangers in the Night, people are saying Michael Schenker is God. I’m thinking, ‘What!?’ I helped the Scorpions with the Lovedrive album, then I looked at myself and I thought, ‘I’ve experienced what it is to be successful and famous, so I have a choice now. Do I want to stay there and keep chasing the same thing everybody is chasing, or do I want to see this as one chapter, and focus on a new chapter?’
That next phase – where I started to play the black-and-white Flying V – Ozzy, Aerosmith, Ian Hunter – anyone who’d asked me to join them would have been very unhappy with me. They would have had to put up with my experiments…I intuitively knew I did what I had to do in those years. I was bubbling with creativity. I made too many albums, almost, but I got everything out of my system — the fame and status.
I think I made my musical contribution in the 70s, which everyone then used in the 80s. People would ring me up in the early 80s, saying, ‘Michael, they’re all playing your guitar style.’
“I said, ‘don’t worry about it. I have other things to do.’ I think my assignment was to jump-start things in the 70s…I always stayed true to myself…If I’d not had those difficult periods when I was trusting myself and my vision, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am now.”
Guitar World: Your solos are often very memorable…The break on [UFO’s] Only You Can Rock Me, is the perfect example of what a solo should do.
Michael Schenker: The funny thing is that it’s entirely improvised. I’m sure when I first played it, it didn’t sound the way it came out, but it sounds so structured and so well thought out. It isn’t, though. I just improvised it in the studio.
That solo is me without making any efforts – every nuance of it is Michael. Every note needs to have a meaning. Many people can play many notes, but it doesn’t have any meaning.”
Guitar World: What was the situation when you were giving guitar lessons some years ago? People regarded it as a sign that life was going badly for you, given the heights your career had reached prior to that.
Michael Schenker: “It was more therapeutic, a part of my middle years. I did so many self-improvement programs and stuff like that. I was thirsty for it. I ended up in the country I was most intimidated by – America – to do most of my work, which seems really weird in a way.
Americans used to intimidate me, but that was where I did all my self-improvement work. I had such a thirst to learn and know who I was. Because of that, I understood who I was. I wanted to learn to be social. I used it to invite people into my privacy.
It wasn’t so much guitar lessons, more about how they can become something individual or unique. I’d show them how I wrote songs – practical things. Sometimes I just talked. It wasn’t how to become famous, more about the whole Michael philosophy.”
Read more at Guitar World.
Michael Schenker Fest’s lates album, Revelation, was released on September 20th, 2019. For more information about the release, please click here.