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Scorpions’ Rudolf Schenker: ‘We Have to Keep the Flag in the Air’ for a New Generation

Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

We had the chance to speak with Scorpions guitarist Rudolf Schenker ahead of the band’s headlining North American run with Megadeth starting in September. In the first part of our interview, we discussed the impending “Crazy World” tour and touched on some of the crazy elements of our world today. Here, Schenker spoke about the band’s 2012 farewell tour, which wound up being a false alarm after starting off with the genuine intention of hanging it up for good.

The guitarist explained what happened on this tour that made them reconsider retirement as well as a couple of events that helped steer the Scorpions back to the road and the studio. For a band that has been around for 50 years with over 100 million albums sold worldwide, is there anything left to accomplish? Schenker answered that too, so check out the chat below to dive into it all.

In 2012, the Scorpions embarked on a farewell tour and I love your quote that’s on the cover of the documentary. It says “You have to say goodbye to see how welcome you are.” Do you think the band would have the same spark that it does today if you hadn’t done that farewell tour? Did it re-energize the band?

The farewell tour was 100 percent a wakeup call. Sometimes people think that the bands will play forever, but what’s inside is that you might be afraid that the next album can’t be as good as Sting in the Tail was. The decision was made by the situation that we had a fantastic album out, Sting in the Tail, which brought us back to — we found out later that the younger generation, the music became a more sharpened thing which attracted a younger audience.

That was the situation which kept us thinking about something that was unbelievable. Because of the Internet and everything new that’s in the game — the music had a new vehicle for promotion, especially for the young fans. We had fans at the show who were in their 20s which was very unusual and we were having this fantastic tour around the world. So many people came and it was successful. We said, “Okay we want to stop” but on the other hand we booked our vacation already. The last concert was in Munich and even our documentary was made to focus on retirement.

Our last concert was Dec. 12, 2012 and on Jan. 12 of 2013, MTV called us about the Unplugged production. We said, “Let’s wait a moment, MTV Unplugged?” We always wanted to do it but somehow it didn’t work out because we were always booked when MTV came to us. The momentum started here where we had time, a great production team and we said, “When we do it with our people and we’re not doing it in a small studio in front of 15 people, but doing it instead in Greece in the open air in the theater in Athens in front of 4,000 people.” We did it and it was a big success and then the 50 year anniversary came the next year, so it was clear we can’t say no for 50 years.

So in this case, we started saying, “Maybe it was a mistake that we did the farewell tour.” On one hand that we set it up like this and on the other hand it was a wakeup call as I said before. And we still have too much fun together! So to not stop was the right direction. Somehow, we wanted to go but people didn’t let us, especially with the young generation. It’s a little bit different than the United States. In the U.S. classic rock music is treated in a special way. In Europe and Asia and Russia, there’s no classic rock music separation. When we put an album out, it goes to radio. The radio listeners are young and old so now three generations of people are coming. That means we have a lot of people coming and it was fantastic for us — the young kids in front of the stage, they’re kicking our ass to songs that were written before they were even born.

So that was a completely different situation that made this very, very attractive for us. We felt younger; we didn’t feel that we had peaked, we peaked again. That was the point for us to say, “Okay, f—k it, we’ll go for it.” We don’t know how long. We don’t know… whatever. When we announced the farewell tour, we didn’t know how long Klaus could sing — how long can we jump? How healthy are we? We never thought that we can do tours and be healthy and Klaus can sing — we have no problem and that’s fantastic.

On the other hand, as you know, people are dying. Aerosmith is doing a farewell tour now [note: members have yet to confirm], KISS did three or four already, but this music can’t stay forever. I’m so happy that the Rolling Stones can still play! They are the pioneers of this music. Jerry Lee Lewis is still playing concerts.

There’s not many people from the old generation. I remember I once played with Chuck Berry and now he is dead. In this case, it’s great that there are bands — I ran into Joe Perry recently in Japan when we did the Classic Rock Awards and I told him, “It’s great that you guys are still doing it because it’s the last bit.” Lemmy died. Even some people from the grunge bands are dying now. I think for new generations, we have to keep the flag in the air for this music and I think that’s a very important point that entered our mind by really going through it; by being awake and seeing what we give the people.

With 50 years of the Scorpions, what is there left to accomplish? What’s one thing you’d like to do with the band before you eventually retire?

It’s mostly the new generation. When you always play in front of the same crowd, it’s very easy to get bored. But if you see there’s new fresh blood in it, that’s one thing. The other thing is that the world is moving faster than maybe 30 or 40 years ago. There will be something in the air sooner or later where we say, “We want to do this and this and this” because there is nothing really — I could say we want to play on the moon, but that’s stupid to say because it’s impossible for us because we’re too old already; maybe you can do it.

I think new things will come up where we say, “Yes. That’s something we get inspiration from.” At the moment, we’re very happy with what we’re doing because to play rock music for 50 years, coming from Germany, a country that didn’t believe a German band could play rock music — when we would talk about German music, it was always classical music. Rammstein did it after us as well as Accept, but we were the pioneers in this way. I think that’s great already.

When we went to Russia for the first time in ’88 — I wanted to go to Russia in ’82 and I mentioned it to my friend and they said, “Why Russia? They have nothing.” I said, “Look guys, we want to show the Russian people after all this that in Germany a new generation is growing up. They’re not coming with tanks and creating war, they’re coming with guitars and bringing music and love and peace.” That was very important to go to all the different countries, even in the ‘80s when the most money was in America, Canada and Europe, we went to Asia, to Russia… and we were building up our playground. We had the feeling that we wanted to show the people — that’s the reason why “Wind of Change” came as the soundtrack for the most peaceful revolution on Earth.

When we played on the Music Peace Festival [in Moscow], we were thinking, “What has changed between one year before when we played 10 shows in Leningrad, St. Petersburg now? There had been so many changes and we said, “Hey, there is something in the air! There is something happening!” And “Wind of Change” was written. Not by watching TV and buying a newspaper and going, “Oh, that’s a good thing to talk about.” No! We were a part of it! That’s something very special and that’s what’s rock ‘n’ roll is normally all about: to present the moment in time, to be a part of it. We were a part of that; a historic, strong movement and that was fantastic.

Thanks to Rudolf Schenker for the interview. Grab your copy of Scorpions’ latest album ‘Return to Forever’ at Amazon or iTunes. See the list of all the upcoming North American dates below and snag your tickets here.

Scorpions + Megadeth 2017 North American Tour Dates:

Sept. 14 – Reading, Pa. (Santander Arena)
Sept. 16 – New York, N.Y. (Madison Square Garden)
Sept. 19 – Laval, Quebec (Place Bell) – Support TBA
Sept. 22 – Toronto, Ontario (Budweiser Stage Amphitheater)
Sept. 23 – Chicago, Ill. (All State Arena) – Support TBA
Sept. 26 – Denver, Colo. (1st Bank Center)
Sept. 29 – Spokane, Wash. (Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena)
Sept. 30 – Seattle, Wash. (Tacoma Dome)
Oct. 03 – Reno, Nev. (Grand Sierra Resort)
Oct. 04 – Oakland, Calif. (Oracle Arena)
Oct. 07 – Los Angeles, Calif. (The Forum)
Oct. 08 – Phoenix, Ariz. (Talking Stick Arena)
Oct. 11 – San Antonio, Texas (Freeman Coliseum)
Oct. 12 – Dallas, Texas (Pavilion at The Music Factory)
Oct. 14 – Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (BB&T Center)
Oct. 15 – Tampa, Fla. (Amalie Arena)

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