Scorpions: Celebrating 50 Years of Rocking You Like A Hurricane
The Scorpions are absolute legends of rock and roll, whose iconic songs such as Rock You Like A Hurricane and No One Like You remain embedded within the memory of music aficionados from all generations. Now celebrating their 50th year as a band, the Scorpions are on the verge of unleashing Return To Forever, their eighteenth studio album, here in the States! A tour throughout North America is on the way, featuring stops at The Forum in Los Angeles and Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Highwire Daze Online recently had the chance to interview the one and only Klaus Meine, esteemed vocalist of the long running Scorpions, to discuss a brilliant career spanning half a century, as well as their brand new Return To Forever magnum opus. It our an honor to present to you the Highwire Daze Online interview with Klaus Meine of the Scorpions! Special thanks to photographer Jack Lue for the vintage Scorpions photos!
Is there any story or concept behind the CD title Return for Forever?
After this farewell tour restarted in 2010 we finished in 2012 and realized it’s one thing to say but never thought to really finish off. We realized, there is still some gas in the tank to keep going. We returned to forever, I guess in a way it’s an expression of an open end. We are here, out there, still out there on the road. We started the world tour in China in May, all over Russia and a lot of places here in Europe and now we’re ready for the U.S. again.
What inspired the lyrics to your first single, “We Built This House”?
It’s a relationship kind of story in the song, but at the same time it’s about the story of the band. We went all those years through so many highs and lows. We weathered the songs, hung in during alternative music back in the 90s. Our house, the house of Scorpions is still standing after all these years. We’ve checked out now and then, but we’re still going strong and we’re still around because it’s a solid foundation. A foundation of friendship and teamwork, we’re still around because we still enjoy this life. Our fans, this is what the song is all about – we’ve built this house on a rock. It’s very solid after all these years.
The first song on Return To Forever, “Going Out With a Bang.” Tell me a little bit about that song and what was the inspiration?
It’s a great opener. It’s a song that I wrote the lyrics with our Swedish producers, they collaborated with us on some of the songs on the album. This is one of them. It’s a great opener in the show, going out with a bang. It’s also about the band, this is like, more about the show – you gig off the concert, you go out there with a real strong opening of the show and rock the house. This is what the song is all about, it’s a great live song. It’s a fantastic song to open the show with.
How do you think “Return to Forever” compares to the classic Scorpions releases from the 70s and 80s?
I think this is real classic Scorpions in the sense that a few years back we said, let’s go back to the 80s because we knew there was some material sitting there, songs, I mean the 80s were a great creative moment, right? We knew there were a lot of songs that never made it to the record, that we never released. In those days you released albums on vinyl and there were 8-9 songs maybe. So there were many left over and we knew there was some great material, some great leftovers that needed a good chorus or hook – or maybe completely new lyrics and all that. So, in the making of what became “Return to Forever,” we went back to the 80s a few years ago and we picked some songs, we recorded some of them. And when we made MTV Unplugged in 2013, then we started writing again for that project. In a way, it opened the creative floodgates again for new material. When we picked out the “Return to Forever” album, last year, everybody came up with new ideas. So in the end of last year it turned out we had about 20 songs and it was a great mix of 80s material that we had finished and had completely recorded new, and also brand new songs that Matthias and myself came up with last year. So, how does this compare with the classic? I think it fits right in there because it has typical Scorpions DNA. So, when you listen to the album now it’s hard to figure out the songs that are from back in the 80s and which songs are brand new. They mix fantastically.
Do you still enjoy playing the old Scorpions songs after all this time?
Since after all these years, it’s a privilege that we still can play and perform on a global stage. It means we play shows in Moscow, Paris, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles or Toronto. It feels different every other night. The only other thing that’s the same, wherever we go, is that the fans sing along and those songs became legendary classics. They are all time classics like “Rock You Like A Hurricane,” “No One Like You” – pretty much wherever we go, the fans will sing along to those songs. “Wings of Change,” those power ballads like “Still Loving You” – they’re very popular all over the world. To go out there and perform those songs, I’d agree it’d be totally boring if you were playing the same gig night after night but fortunately we’re moving really fast. The Scorpions – we played in China, our very first show in China ever in early May. We’ve been all over Russia, St. Petersburg, Moscow. We played places here in Europe and just two weeks ago we played, headlining a festival in South Korea. We kick off the tour in Boston, then New York City. I know, it’s not so many shows in numbers and I hope we have a chance after this tour in the US in Canada to come back next year to hit some places we don’t play this year. We haven’t been there since 2012. We’re very excited to come back and play all those arenas in the States between the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Forum in Los Angeles.
When you joined the band back in 1969, how did you end up in The Scorpions and did you ever dream this would be a long time gig?
No way. When I met Rudolf in 1965, well, that’s hard to believe but I joined in 69, 70 and no – I had no idea, not in my wildest dreams I would think that one day we would celebrate our 50th anniversary, [laughs]. Very few bands around, The Stones, The Who, The Beach Boys I think – not too many. In that sense, it’s something to be proud of, I guess. But I wouldn’t in my wildest dreams think this would be such a long journey. But, we were just a young band. I had my own band, I played with Rudolf ‘s brother Michael in a band and we shared the same rehearsal place and when the Scorpions realized – Rudolf was a great talented young guitar God, but far away from being a singer. So he realized it would be time to have a real vocalist in the band. When the lead guitarist of the Scorpions in the late 60s version, when he left the band he called his brother Michael because Michael was 15 years old but he was already a super talented young guitar player – fantastic. The Scorpions had no real singer, so me and Michael joined the Scorpions. It was then exactly in the early 70s when we started writing all of our own material for the very first time. Until then, throughout the 60s all the bands in and outside of Hanover, the clubs we played it was all about playing covers. We played Zeppelin, The Who, some Kinks, and all those bands. But when Michael and me joined the Scorpions that’s when we started writing our own material and in 1971 we recorded our first album.
There are quite a few Scorpion tribute bands out there, bands covering your songs, have you heard any of them that impressed you?
Yes, there’s a great cover band called In Trance. They are based in Quebec. It’s a great band. There’s another cover tribute band in Spain, they’re called The Stingers. There are many more, but those two come to mind first and they’re great! I mean, when you watch them on YouTube it’s like, scary. [laughs] Wow, man! It’s amazing. They do a great job and sometime they play songs we never touch live. It’s wonderful to have these bands around and to pay respect to the band. They have a very busy life touring in the clubs and they’ve become very popular on their own for what they’re doing and their live presence, the music they play and the songs they play and how they present their version of Scorpions. I think it’s fantastic.
What advice would you give a young rock band seeking out a record deal today?
I would say go to the clubs. Play live wherever you can get the experience to be a live act. I think that’s the most important thing, even before you look for a deal. Go out there and play. Just try to figure out what it’s like to play in front of an audience and what it’s like to entertain the audience no matter if there are 50 people or 5000. For this kind of music, it’s all about being a live band in my view. I would say first thing is to find your own DNA as a band. That means to be a tribute band, it’s a nice thing but if you have a chance to find your own style and write your own songs, music, find your own expression – that’s very important when you make your first album and then, go out there and perform your music live. Build an audience, a fan base. This is what we did and it’s the most fanciest thing, especially these days in terms of all the downloads and the internet and where every artist out there is selling less units than back in the glorious 80s. If you have a live audience and have something to offer on stage, this is what is important and where people come to see you because you’re unique. They want to hear your music and see you live. This is what it’s all about.
What goes through your mind when you read that The Scorpions has been around for 50 years, half a century?
I don’t think about it. I take a look at the front row every other night whenever we play and I see a whole new audience. Young kids who are singing along to songs that were written before they were even born. Believe me, that’s very motivating and inspiring. That doesn’t bring me close to the thought of “we’re doing this for 50 years.” To tell you the truth, sometimes I’m out there and I see all those kids and sometimes what I think, you came to see us? That’s amazing. It really is. I think it’s a wonderful thing if you make a connection to a whole new audience and to play in front of three generations, to have the loyalest fans who grew up with our music back in the 80s and they’re still following us around. They’ve realized that there’s a whole new generation of fans out there with the same kinds of love for the band. That brings those generations together, it’s just a wonderful thing if you can do this and build those bridges with your music. Yeah, five zero, it’s a scary number but again, it’s something you can be proud of – it’s a number that scares me but then I look over and see my friend Rudolf and go, he’s out there for 50 years. For me, it’s only 45. [laughs]
Do you have any messages for your fans who are about to come and see you here in the states?
I would like to say thank you for all your lovely support for so many years. We were a young German band when we came to the United States in 1979 and we rocked the world series of rock as a young opening band in Cleveland, OH. We went on the road with AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Aerosmith – all those great bands. For us, we had a chance to go all over the US and it was really like when we rocked The Forum in LA or MSG in NYC, then you’re on top of the world and all your dreams are coming true. The fact that we’re still out there, playing big arenas in the US and we still can count on our fans, it’s simply a wonderful thing. I’m very thankful, it’s a huge privilege. So that’s a lot and we’ll rock you like a thunderstorm? No, like a hurricane of course! Again and again.
Scorpions 2015: Rudolf Schenker (Rhythm & Lead Guitars, Backing Vocals), Klaus Meine (Lead Vocals, Guitars, Tambourine), Matthias Jabs (Lead & Rhythm Guitars, Backing Vocals), James Kottak (Drums, Backing Vocals), Paweł Mąciwoda (Bass, Backing Vocals)
(Interview by Ken Morton – Vintage Scorpions photos by Jack Lue)
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