Guitarist Michael Schenker (UFO, MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP, SCORPIONS) recently spoke with Alex Haber of Heavy New York. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the religious imagery in the cover art of the new MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST album, "Revelation":
Michael: "The whole MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST is something that lives based on a moment. You never know what's going to be the next thing. That's how it started from the very beginning all the way up to now. When we did 'Resurrection', I had a complete different idea about the album cover, but it turned out like 'The Last Supper'. All of a sudden, Doogie [White] was writing 'Take me to the church.' Everybody was coming up with some strange, religious kind of titles and stuff, [so] I said, 'Okay, call it 'Resurrection' in that case, and the instrumental, call it 'Salvation'.' When I do this, I don't think about album covers; I don't think about anything. What I did was this — we did our last show in the U.K. in September, and we had a commitment to America, a 'Resurrection' U.S. tour second leg. There was a gap of eight months, and I said to myself, 'I'm not going to just sit here and do nothing. I'm going to be creative, and I'm going to use this window to write a new album.' That's what I did. I write the music only — I don't write lyrics; I don't write the vocal melodies. My co-producer doesn't know what's going to hit him when I come into the studio and I say, 'Okay, click track 125 [BPM],' and I start playing my first bits and pieces. As I'm putting down my music, basically I am the architect of the musical part of the album... that's how it starts, and there's still no sign of [an] album cover; there's still no sign of lyrics. We don't even know yet who is singing. Then Doogie comes back, 'Ah! I'll take these two songs.' Then Robin [McAuley] comes up, 'I want to do this one.' It keeps going. Graham [Bonnet], I was very happy that he was insisting on writing his own lyrics and his own melodies, and he did a fantastic job. Very majestic... At the end of the day, everybody has done their thing, and it is what it is. Then we had a choice of three album cover possibilities. I had an old sketch from seven years ago, and out of all three ideas, Nuclear Blast wanted to do my sketch, which was me hanging on the Flying V. In the beginning, the painter misunderstood the concept of what the album cover should look like, and it was kind of upside down. Originally, it looked like they were hanging me — my own band was hanging me! — on my Flying V. I said, 'No, no, no! It's not like that. I'm hanging on the V, and the band is going to rescue me.' That was the idea, but I was so blown away by the painting — it was so beautiful — that I overlooked the fact that the singers on the front cover looked like they're glorifying me, [and] I'm the messiah and they're my disciples. That is not the point. The idea was, they were supposed to be fighting like the musicians, but the singers on the front cover, they look like they're glorifying me. It was a misunderstanding, and I overlooked it because it looked so beautiful, I didn't even think of it like that. Later, Graham Bonnet expressed [that] he was offended by it and so on, and I started looking at the album cover again, and I went, 'Shit! I'm not surprised.' The singers, they were supposed to be in rescuing-me mode, getting onto the ropes, taking the ropes off, getting me off [the guitar]. We had 'Resurrection'. Resurrection is after the crucifixion, but it is not meant to be biblical. It is just Michael Schenker's comeback — that was the resurrection... This album cover, it's like a fast backwards wind [sic], because my middle years, that's when I was slandered and tortured and humiliated because I didn't want to be part of the commercial money-making corporate machine. I wanted to be an artist, experimenting, and the business people didn't like that. They wanted to do different with me and so on, so I got poked a lot. I got fed up a lot, and that's what this album cover expresses. It could have also been called 'Purity And Passion Versus Greed And Corruption'... Hanging on the V with the ropes, by no means is it supposed to be looked at as Jesus Christ or a resurrection. I'm not nailed in. There are no nails; there's nothing on my head like Jesus had... It looks beautiful, but I [was] a little bit embarrassed when Graham pointed that out, [that] I'm the messiah and they're my disciples."
On his "experimental" post-UFO years:
Michael: "When I was 17 years old, I stopped listening to music. I stopped listening to other guitarists because I had this idea that I understood that everybody is unique, and if we would leave some of our uniqueness, we had a new kind of super-world. That's what I did, and that's created my own style as a byproduct. I did it unconsciously. I started off as a kid in the sandbox, no expectations, no competition. I didn't look for fame or anything – I just enjoyed playing my guitar. Then Rudolf [Schenker, SCORPIONS guitarist and Michael's brother] called me up in '81 or something like that, when they did their first tour with Ted Nugent — 'Michael, you wouldn't believe it. They all play your guitar style over here.' I did not know what I created there. I had no idea, but I was able to be allowed to taste fame, and I was able to make a decision: I didn't need fame. I wanted to stay as an artist. After 'Strangers In The Night' and 'Lovedrive', I carried on with my own vision, experimenting and stuff like that. The SCORPIONS asked me to help them with 'Lovedrive', and I'm sure they already had a plan to keep me in the band. But I only had a contract with them for 'Lovedrive'... When I got away from the SCORPIONS, I was so happy that I was free, and I started MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP. The SCORPIONS were completely pissed off, because I already had a hit in America in '76. I was only 21 years old. They thought I would open the doors for America for them, but I couldn't do it. I just left UFO — why should I go the same road again? I didn't want to go there again. I just wanted to help them with the 'Lovedrive' album. I don't even understand — instead of seeing that I helped them, they kind of started to be angry with me because they couldn't keep me. It's crazy. If I would have joined the SCORPIONS, OZZY OSBOURNE or stayed with UFO, we would have all failed, because my second part of my life was experimental. It would not have made any of them money. It would not have made any of them famous. They would have been stuck with my experiments, and I don't think they would have wanted that. They should all be happy that I didn't join."
On the roots of his estrangement with his brother:
Michael: "Rudolf completely distorted my personality as an icon by using the Flying V himself, and talked me into giving him 'Coast To Coast' and never gave me credit for the beginning of 'Holiday'... Instead of saying to me, 'Thank you for helping us with 'Lovedrive',' Rudolf started to curse me. Unbelievable, and UFO the same. Instead of seeing the good things that we at least got all the way to 'Strangers In The Night', they should be grateful for it, or that I give Phil Mogg the name back for free, he should be grateful for that. But you don't hear any thank you. Instead, they curse me and they battle me. It's crazy. People only see what they can't get or what they don't get, but they don't appreciate the beauty and the gifts that they received. They're blinded. That's what greed and corruption [do]... If I hadn't done 'Lovedrive', the SCORPIONS would have never had the breakthrough they did, and if I hadn't left UFO, the SCORPIONS would have never happened on any level like that. People have to rewind and remind themselves, 'Wait a minute. How did it all start?' They forgot all of that."
"Revelation", the second studio album by MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST, will be released on September 20 via Nuclear Blast. The album was produced by Schenker and Michael Voss and was recorded and mixed by Voss at Kidpool Studio Greven & Kidwood Studio in Münstertal, Germany between December 2018 and March 2019.