This interview with Michael Schenker (Ex-SCORPIONS, Ex-UFO, Ex-MSG, now TEMPLE OF ROCK) was conducted on the occasion of the “Michael Schenker Fest – Live Tokyo International Forum Hall A” release. It will be available on 24th March 2017 in various formats (2 CDs, 2 CD + DVD Combo, Vinyl, DVD, Blu-Ray, digital). The “Michael Schenker Fest” consists of former MSG (Michael Schenker Group/McAuley Schenker Group) musicians. The legendary MSG singers Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley were brought together for this Japan tour. Michael was very communicative and in a good temper during this phone call.
Rock Bottom: Michael, you’ve been very successful with “Temple Of Rock” over the last 5 years. Now you have established the “Michael Schenker Fest” with former MSG musicians. How did it come about?
Michael Schenker: A Japanese promotion agency had the idea to engage “The Graham Bonnet Band” as the support of “Temple Of Rock” in Japan in 2015. They suggested that Graham should perform two songs with us on stage. After this tour I got the idea to tour with the original MSG singers again. Normally I play the old songs from the past with other singers. It was time for “The Michael Schenker Fest” and everything came together without really much planning. I got in touch with the “Assault Attack” line up with Graham, Ted and Chris. Gary was brought in, so we had the original line-up that came after “Assault Attack” as well. It was great to get Robin and Steve by chance. That way we represented the “McAuley Schenker Group” line-up. But I didn’t think that it would take such a long time for the promoters to build up the tour. We will play in bigger venues. The tour starts in October. We are planning to play in England, Spain, France, the USA and hopefully in Germany as well. But it is hard to schedule everything.
Rock Bottom: All the musicians have their solo careers. Was it a hard task to bring all the musicians together?
Michael Schenker: When things should happen, then they will happen. It seems that it was the right time for it. Of course, they have got their own career paths but their commitments are mostly sporadic. Robin for example worked in Las Vegas but he could take time off. They know when things are planned and they don’t have other activities then. It works.
Rock Bottom: Did all the musicians get along with each other?
Michael Schenker: Yes, from the beginning. It was pure fun. It worked well and they all got along with each other. When I met Graham in 2015 again it worked out well in spite of the fact that we hadn’t had any contact for a very long time. We started again where we left off many years ago. There was no feeling of a long break. It is always easy with my bands. It was the same with the UFO reunion when we recorded “Walk On Water” and we have had no contact for about 17 years. Maybe it has something to do with music [Michael laughs].
Rock Bottom: Did you have to rehearse quite a lot?
Michael Schenker: Of course we needed to rehearse. You can’t play live without rehearsing. I need to travel to Glasgow for the rehearsals now. The rehearsal room in Brighton doesn’t exist anymore. We vary the set from time to time. You have to do it step by step. I will play with Robin McAuley in Madrid as the headliner of the “Kalos Rock Festival” and we will play on the “Bang Your Head” festival [Germany] with all three singers. There are always a few changes for the next leg of a tour or the next concert date. Everything has to be rehearsed.
Rock Bottom: What can the fans expect from the new DVD/Blu-ray/2 CD “Michael Schenker Fest – Live in Tokyo”? Does it include bonus material?
Michael Schenker: There is a lot of material included. There are photos and behind-the-scenes footage. You can see how we travelled from Osaka to Tokyo and how we did our sound check. It is fun to watch. The concert itself was great. The fans really enjoyed this event and were very enthusiastic. I was very pleased with the choice of venue. It is, with 5000 people, just half the size of the Budokan, but it is such a beautiful hall. It is in the Japanese style. It has great acoustics, a good stage and the whole venue was fantastic.
Rock Bottom: You did some live-recordings and filmings in Japan. Why did you choose Japan for recording and filming again?
Michael Schenker: We have established a very good collaboration with the Japanese technicians. The fans are in a good mood and the technical conditions are very good. Everything is well organized and things are working very well. It was necessary for us to do the filming in Japan. Of course we shouldn’t do it all the time. Before our Japan tour we played in Spain [Barcelona] and at the Sweden Rock festival. Next time I record a live album I will do it in England. It started in England many years ago. It is our favourite audience because they have been with us for such a long time. I‘ve never done a live recording in England and I‘ve never done it with UFO. Okay, there was Hammersmith [MSG, Rock Will Never Die, 1984], but I was not happy with it. It was not my decision, it was more David Krebs‘ idea [former manager].
Rock Bottom: On this new live opus there are UFO-songs and the SCORPIONS-Instrumental “Coast To Coast” has been included as well. Why didn’t you play just MSG songs with the former MSG members?
Michael Schenker: I wanted to present all stages of my musical life to the audience. These songs belong to my musical career and they should be played.
Rock Bottom: Which singer had the best response from the audience in Japan?
Michael Schenker: It has nothing to do how well somebody sings. It has something to do with the time when a singer joined the band. The different generations of fans know my music from different periods and line-ups. The various singers made different impressions on the fans. My solo career started with Gary and I recorded “One Night At Budokan” with him. It was our beginning in Japan. Because of that he had a huge influence and a great response. Gary hadn’t been forgotten by the audience. With Graham Bonnet I‘ve had no touring experience. He was on stage with MSG for just fifteen minutes and then he left. We re-engaged Gary for the Reading festival in 1982. Because of that there was a special tension having Graham on stage again [Michael laughs]. A newer generation of fans knows my music due to my work with Robin as the “McAuley Schenker Group”. The main impression is from my time with UFO because it was my earliest and oldest period. Now in the third period of my life I celebrate consciously what I built up in the first period of my life unconsciously.
Rock Bottom: Will there be new material from “Temple Of Rock” or will you record a new studio album with “Michael Schenker Fest”?
Michael Schenker: It was my idea to record a new “Temple Of Rock” album in 2017 but we didn’t know that things would take that long. We started the “Michael Schenker Fest” and now we have to do it. You can’t stop it anymore. I’m used to working on different projects. It is good to play the old songs of my musical past with the original singers as the “Michael Schenker Fest”. But it was my intention that “Temple Of Rock” should stand on its own after three albums with Doogie because there is enough material available then. It is great to work with him. All these different projects stand on their own.
Rock Bottom: What about the idea to bring Doogie into the “Michael Schenker Fest”?
Michael Schenker: Right, this is another idea that has to be considered. It is up to the record company and organizers to coordinate and support future projects. Things have to evolve slowly.
Rock Bottom: All right Michael. Those were all my questions. I wish you much success with the album and tour! Thank you for the interview! Bye!
Michael Schenker: Thank you! Bye!