Micheal Schenker Fest: Rock And Roll Resurrection
The MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST studio album Resurrection has arrived – and what a monumental adventure the legendary guitarist and his fantastic crew has bestowed upon the world at large. In addition to Michael Schenker and the three M.S.G. singers Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley, you can also hear Doogie White (Michael Schenker’s TEMPLE OF ROCK) as well as musicians Steve Mann (guitars, keyboards), Ted McKenna (drums) and Chris Glen (bass). There are also some guest appearances from Kirk Hammett, Wayne Findlay and co-producer Michael Voss-Schoen. And with Michael Schenker Fest about to make their way to the States for a full on tour, expect to hear a whole lot from the new album as well as all the classic MSG tunes in what will surely be the rock and roll performance of a lifetime.
Highwire Daze Online recently interviewed the one and only Michael Schenker to discuss the just unleashed Resurrection, the upcoming tour, and other grand and glorious moments from a truly brilliant career. Read on rock and roll warriors…
What are you looking forward to the most about bringing Michael Schenker Fest to The States?
It’s the first time we are 4 singers and it’s a travel show. It’s the beginning of the release of our new album. I haven’t been to the states for a long-time, touring so it’s going to be fantastic.
How difficult has it been to coordinate everyone’s schedule first to do this new album and then to do this tour?
My son is doing a lot of the coordination and he is doing a very good job. Also, you have to take it easy and not force too much. The thing is, my organization is very straightforward. Everybody gets paid on time. People are being asked ‘can you please make a note on that date’ or ‘in the spirit of time and we will let you know ASAP if it is going to happen or not’ and then they immediately be told ‘okay you can book your own things’ or we say ‘Okay we are on.’ Basically, it is a trust thing and coordinates with the offers that are coming in and what the guy is currently doing. Sometimes you just have to dance and play around with it. For some reason, it has all worked out so far in a very positive way.
What has it been like to work with Graham Bonnet again?
He has still got a fantastic voice and he is doing a great job. When I hear the ad libs to Night Moods it is fantastic.
And I’m sure he has changed a whole lot since you last worked with him and now.
Yeah, of course. We all get older and wiser and things are much easier to deal with. It is a lot of work but the fun aspect is much bigger than the work.
When you look back, what do you think of your collaboration with Robin McCauley and did you keep in touch with him over the years?
No I don’t really keep in touch but I have been doing on and off a little bit here and a little bit there with Robin. Maybe we were hired by the same people for the same project and we ended up on the same song here and there. Since the 90’s, it’s a 38-year period, in comparison to that many years, very, very little. But, everyone carries on doing their thing. So basically, with Robin that started in 86’ and the idea was to take responsibility equally with me. It was like a partnership, 50/50, and I had never done that before.
After Gary left, I tried that experience. There were also more songwriters involved, we had American management. It became different than what I was used to doing even though I carried on playing my guitar the way I do. Of course, if you have other people involved in writing, but we had a lot of great songs out there in those days that had hit potential that made it quite far in the charts. It was more like a commercial period but the main focus for me was just to see what it was like having a partnership 50/50 and in the early beginning of 91’ we separated and we went our own ways.
What do you think made your work with Gary so successful and iconic?
The thing with Gary is, I just left UFO and with Scorpions helped open the doors for America for them and then had a big struggle getting away from The Scorpions because they wanted to keep me but my vision was to do something. I was 23 years old, I experienced the success at its highest level and I was grateful that I was given that experience. So I was able to make a decision if I wanted to stay up there and hold on to fame and be in the limelight, or just to drop out or just kind of be more low key and look for an unknown singer with a great voice. Experiment with music, do things at my own pace and do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it and how I wanted to do it.
I‘ve heard the new album and it’s fantastic. It’s definitely some of your best work. That cover art, I love it. Who did the cover art photography? How much input did you have on it?
The funny thing is after we finished the DVD I was thinking of the next thing. Then I was thinking of the next thing and Michael Schenker Fest in the studio came to mind. I had a really funny concept, I saw myself on a big table with everyone having a feast on the table. Being in a recording studio seeing the control room in the background and having big bottles of wine, beer and women with big bosoms and I was thinking of a big party.
I thought that was a funny. Michael Schenker Fest in the studio or maybe even a medieval type of feast. Like with big chunks of meat. As we started to develop and we went into the studio. The people and Doogie started to come up with his first song and he was – “take me to the church” and I was like “what?” I couldn’t understand what inspired him to come up with that? It was amazing but also all of a sudden the art department started working on the idea of Michael Schenker Fest in the studio and the first thing I got sent looked like The Last Supper. I got confused.
Then Michael (Voss-Schoen) was writing lyrics that was called The Last Supper and I called the record company and asked them are we still doing the Michael Schenker Fest in the studio? Because things are shaping in a completely different direction here, I don’t know what’s going on. The idea of the feast and stuff like that, I don’t think it’s suitable anymore. Then I was looking at what else could I mean, this is shaping up in such a mysterious way. What else could I call this album? Now that it’s shaping up that direction and so I kind of analyze my life a little bit. I realized basically that my life comes in three sections. The first was up to Strangers In The Night. And then basically I made the choice, started to move out of – into a new universe, basically but completely gone in a different world around 1992 through 2005.
Then in 2008, all of a sudden I wanted to be on stage after having stage fright all of my life. I took that as a sign, so I realized it’s like a comeback. It’s the resurrection but it’s not just in context with myself, it’s actually everybody. It’s like a comeback altogether. Then with four singers in one go. It’s like a Resurrection of each individual of showing up together again. So I thought that would be a good title. It’s a bit like a Jesus story in a way, but in the musical sense. There was betrayal, the last years of Michael Schenker [laughs] so you have a little bit of similarity there. But it’s musical, in a musical sense. Not in a spiritual sense.
The first single that has come out is called “Warrior.” Is there any story or concept behind that single, and what made you decide to release that one first?
Yeah, it was really, really remarkable how that happened because I never wanted to do that three songs each singer and that’s it. I wanted to have them do at least three or four songs where all four singers would sing together. The second piece of music that I put out there in the studio and started to put together and guide drums, bass and keyboards and stuff. When I came into the studio the next day Michael (Voss-Schoen) first said, “Michael, I put something together. Some lyrics and some melodies for this song,” and he played it for me and I went “man this is fantastic! This is perfect for all the singers to participate!” I was so happy that this came together right in the beginning because it’s a real great song, it’s heavy.
All the singers are singing so great. It’s a fantastic chorus line. So I said to Nuclear Blast, “man this is fantastic. We should get this song ready straight away. First of all, because everybody’s singing on it and it’s a perfect song that opens the door to the rest of the album and it’s really enjoyable even without the video. For the hardcore fan, guessing who is singing. It’s like additional entertainment.” So it was really good that it worked out that way because it gave the record company and everybody lots of time to get this song ready to work the album. I’m very glad that it got established very early as we started to record this album. I’m very pleased with “Warrior,” it’s a fantastic song.
You must really be looking forward to playing a lot of these new songs live.
Absolutely. I have a set list together already for months. It’s well balanced. I’m making sure there’s something for everybody. There’s classics, classics, classics, there’s enough new material that will be everybody singing their set and their highlights of their lives. Then it’s also the 40th anniversary of UFO and who knows, maybe Phil shows up one of these days and sings a few UFO songs and joins us on the Michael Schenker Fest. It’s the 40th anniversary of Strangers in the Night. Also, in 2019 it’s the 50th anniversary of recording for Klaus (of Scorpions) and myself, and I wrote my very first song In Search Of The Peace Of Mind on Lonesome Crow. So, maybe Klaus decides one of these days to sing that song and come on stage and join the Michael Schenker Fest – it would be fantastic because it’s the very first thing we ever did together. It would be great. It’s just an idea, just little dreams. Maybe it can happen, maybe not. But I at least put the ideas out there and let the universe decide on what needs to happen.
Do you have any messages for your fans who are reading this right now?
Yep. You have to keep on rocking, otherwise no more rocking. [laughs]
2018 MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST
Featuring 3 original M.S.G. singers Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley plus Doogie White (MICHAEL SCHENKER’S TEMPLE OF ROCK)
03/06/2017 The Fillmore – Silver Springs, MD
03/07/2017 Carnegie Music Hall – Pittsburgh, PA
03/09/2017 Berklee Performance Center – Boston, MA
03/10/2017 Irving Plaza – New York, NY
03/11/2017 Theatre of Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA
03/12/2017 Club Soda – Montreal, QC CANADA
03/14/2017 Royal Oak Music Theatre – Detroit, MI
03/16/2017 Agora Theatre – Cleveland, OH
03/17/2017 Concord Music Hall – Chicago, IL
03/18/2017 Pabst Theater – Milwaukee, WI
03/19/2017 Cabooze – Minneapolis, MN
03/22/2017 Neptune Theatre – Seattle, WA
03/24/2017 Events Center – San Jose, CA
03/25/2017 The Grove – Anaheim, CA
03/26/2017 Marquee Theatre – Phoenix, AZ
03/27/2017 House of Blues – Las Vegas, NV
03/29/2017 Cervantes Ballroom – Denver, CO
03/31/2017 Vibes Event Center – San Antonio, TX
04/01/2017 Bomb Factory – Dallas, TX
04/03/2017 The Ritz – Tampa, FL
(Interview by Ken Morton)
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