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When you're talking metal, one of the giants of the industry is Scorpions. The German quintet has been taking their melodic rock to their world-wide audience since the mid 70's. After several years, they are back with an excellent new record Humanity Hour One that is composed of classic Scorpions traits: well-crafted, memorable songs, guitars that will shake your house and the incomparable voice of Klaus Meine. The band just kicked off their North American tour recently and I was lucky enough to spend some phone time with the legendary founder/guitarist Rudolf Schenker.

antiMUSIC: Congratulations on Humanity Hour One. I love it. To my ears it's probably the best complete record since Love at First Sting. I've liked other records you've done since then, but to my ears, this is just a bit more complete record. Since this is your first record since 2004, why the wait, and how did the new record come all together.

Rudolf: I mean look, in the long history of a band, it's very hard to handle. So we have not only to deal with the band, we have to deal with the surrounding. I mean time is changing, and the beginning of the '90s grunge came in, or at the end of the '80s, you know, it was really a hard time. And the '90s, we did our part to survive. We did side projects like Eye II Eye, Moment of Glory, and the acoustic record Acoustica. Then rock comes back. Some how there was something in the air. But we wanted to finish the acoustic album because Christian Kolonovits who was the arranger and conductor for Moment of Glory, we had him in mind to do an acoustic album because the Asian market they were asking for an acoustic album for years. And we said, then ok, let's do this and then we go and tour and show the people we were still rocking and then come back with Unbreakable. Unbreakable was a good album. We like it very much. But we said to ourselves that we can do it better by having really one of the big producers who can lift us up. Who not always tell us yes, yes, yes. But who also says no, no, no, yes, no. We had lots of producers on line, but Klaus and me we went to meet Desmond Child and a few other guys. But Desmond Child came the closest to what we were looking for. First of all to make good songs, because he's an amazing composer and he is the guy who has the vision in his mind. And when he told us what he wanted to do, and what he thinks the Scorpions should do, we were convinced that we wanted to work with him. He said OK, I want to work with you but we can only start in October because I'm to finish Meatloaf. So we said, no problem for us because we have a lot of things to do around the world, playing live concerts. We came in October to Los Angeles with lots of songs, new songs and stuff but then Desmond Child, he presented us with his concept, called Humanity Hour One. And then he brought his designer with him, who designed the album sleeve and the whole concept convinced us. We said amazing. That's great. That's something which is more mature. And he said you know guys I do the overview, I do the vocals, and here's James Michael who will do the guitars, the bass and drums. It was a good idea because to really have two parts doing this album is very good. Every part is controlling the other part. In this case, you don't go too far, you're staying very close to what we are looking for. And we started doing this album, we started working with writers like Marti Frederickson, good friend of ours and Eric Bazilian, and Jason Paige. And then James Michael, he wrote also. And we put the whole thing together, and an album which really, it's a bridge between older Scorpions and new Scorpions. The Scorpions of today. Because we don't want to sell the same car, with the same model, every year. We want to go forward and make the styling more up to date, especially in the days where you work with ProTools and you record digital, there are more possibilities than you can work and have fun. I know when we did with Eye II Eye we went a little too far because it was our first album to work with digital, and for hard disk recording. But this time we said we want to do it in the right way. So in this case we really put something together where we built a bridge between the older style of Scorpions and the new one and we also tried to really balance the more, darker side and the more hopeful side of the songs on the album. In the end this whole album was just sounding like Scorpions and also the level of the songwriting and everything is high class. My favourite song is "Humanity," and it's important to us that also when we do this song, that when you have a concept album, call it concept album but in the old tradition, it's a concept album in the way of building something around human. Humanity Hour One, means human beings 10 thousand years on earth, what is done, what is happening and where we go. What is the situation that we have to go? And in this case we put a lot of stories together to give people a message, to give people some great songs. And the good thing about it, we started our American tour in South America and we started the tour in Manaus in the rainforest because Paolo Berrin, our promoter from South America, he came Spain when we were on the European tour and he said, you know guys, I have here a good idea. Because you're coming out with this record Humanity Hour One, and you're talking about global warming and all this stuff. You know it would be great if we could put the concentration, the attention of people to the rainforest. Let's make a concert in Manaus in the rainforest, and Greenpeace is in involved, and so we said ok, great. That's a great idea. We want to do it. But then let's do it in kind of like a live recording there and get this album out for charities to save the rainforest. And we did the whole thing. 20 thousand people were there, enjoying the concept. And we enjoyed it very much to be in the rainforest, and see the wonderful world that is really in a dangerous position because people are killing…over a million years, to kill it because of money. And it's the lungs of the world? And it's terrible. In this case, we were into it. We enjoyed it. Playing there. It became a part of Humanity Hour One. But what's important is, we don't want to preach. We want to give rock music for the people. We want to be mature but on the other hand, we want to make sure that the people who are getting great 12, 13 great songs and when there's lots of songs, when they listen to the lyrics they say, oh what are they singing about? It sounds interesting. Then they're going to the lyrics and they are making their own interpretations about the message and that is the good situation, comparing to a painter who is painting the painting and the person who is seeing the painting can make their own mind up. It's the basic idea of Humanity Hour One. So yeah, that's the situation.

antiMUSIC: Was it tough to get all the songs to fit within that concept or that idea? Did you have to write a lot more songs than that or were these the 12-13 that you went with and they all seemed to naturally fit?

Rudolf: We had around 20 songs, but the balance was a little bit out of balance for the Scorpions. It was more dark. The album was more dark. And we said no, we wanted more kind of "The Future Never Dies", "The Game of Life" things in it, and not only Hour One and more darker things. We wanted more of the Scorpions hopeful thing in it. Like we have a balance 50-50. because it was really important point for us. And then we were working on it and this is the result and we are happy.

antiMUSIC: What was it like working with Desmond Child? I mean he's a master at what he does and you wrote a lot of songs with him on this record. I'm sure he has a good sense of what Scorpions need to sound like but were there any times you had to say that's not quite what we need and had him make it more of your sound?

Rudolf: Yes that was the situation but Desmond also knows that we are not stupid. And we were coming up with some thought, he would say: ah, maybe you could be right. He's not somebody you can't convince, that his visions are so straightforward that everything which isn't fitting in his vision is not good. He is ready for correcting his vision a little bit left and right. So that's what we did when we worked with him. And it worked good because we were feeling not like somebody just gave us something to work with. The whole thing became our thing too. It was a kind of cooperation between Desmond, James Michael and us. It's a good way of really making a disk…the whole situation of message and why Desmond chose us to do this Humanity Hour One is because of our history. We already did things like "Wind of Change" for Crazy World. It was a little concept too. And he said you guys already were showing the world that you are not a band who is only about partying and writing lyrics about boys chasing girls. In this case it was a very natural communication and working with Desmond and following the idea and making the idea a Scorpions idea.

antiMUSIC: I talked with John 5 quite a while ago and he talked about working with Rob Zombie and other people but the project he kept coming back to was the new Scorpions record. He said it was one of the best Scorpions records he had ever heard. Did you have much contact with him and Marti and those people?

Rudolf: Marti we knew already from Eye II Eye and we know Eric Bazilian already from Unbreakable, you know. John 5, it was the first time I met him because he brought some files over and he had this great idea about this "Hour One" song and it was great, you know. It was fantastic that this new, upcoming guy who's a really great musician comes up and it's a really good situation. This kind of mixture I found out very interesting also with Billy Corgan. You know, when I was running into Los Angeles and I knew already before that he is a big Scorpions fan because I wanted him already as a special guest for the Moment of Glory project, with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra but they couldn't get in touch with him. In this case when I was in Los Angeles before we started Humanity Hour One, he invited me into his studio. He was so happy to see me and to talk about Scorpions and talk about he has all this pirate stuff and even some recorded from fans from the Tokyo Tapes and all that stuff and I mentioned that I wanted him for the Moment of Glory album and he said ah, too bad that that didn't work out. I said, look there is another thing because we have a song called "The Cross" And it would be fantastic if you can sing on it. And he said, oh I'd love to that, you know. And so by accident it was like this. Billy he mixed his album in the Village, in studio 1, and Klaus was singing in studio 3 in the Village. (laughs). So in this case it was so natural and then Klaus was also running into Billy and he said to Billy, whenever you have time, we are ready to do that. So, and Billy came one day with his headphones and there he was, doing his part, and it fit perfectly.
I like Smashing Pumpkins, especially his vocals, I like his work very much. He is a great musician, an outstanding kind of guy.

antiMUSIC: The record came out earlier in Europe. What has been the response and why was it released so much later in North America?

Rudolf: Because the mood was mostly, the perfect timing world-wide would be now. But our shows in Europe we are already signed with the new album. But the new American management which is working for us now, the contract was signed later. In this case, everything in America and Canada was behind, so that was the reason.

antiMUSIC: You've been a band since the late '60s and have released so many records. At this point in your career, do you find it's easier to write songs or is it becoming increasingly difficult come up with new riffs or things to write about?

Rudolf: It's never something easier. It's like surfing. Either you are on the wave that is easy or you're not, and it's not easy. You know, it's all biorhythms. You have also as an artist, you have a kind of biorhythm where you are more or less creative. Nobody…it's like breathing in and breathing out. There's always a time for something. Sometime you are very, very strong and powerful to create something. And sometimes you feel, what is this all about? So in this case, you can see it with rock music. In the 90s it was grunge and alternative and these fantastic singers and you found out some of these young kids who started with grunge and alternative, they are being influenced by Scorpions, Aerosmith and AC/DC. They played some stuff from us and then they went out of the shadow of their idols and started to do their own thing and came up with grunge and alternative. So in this case, for hard rock and classic rock it was a bad time. But it's normal. You can't always just eat caviar or watch strippers or whatever. Even if the best stuff is there. You have to change some time to really get you more, get something else. Especially the younger generation who are listening with a brother or a father and listening to Scorpions. The kids want to find their own music. Now it's different. Now young kids they really don't like the new stuff, not everybody, but they're finding out, Oh there's bands like Scorpions and they're listening to this stuff. And it's great that we have a big world of different music. I mean the '60s and '70s, especially the '60s and '70s, they were the more creative part of this kind of music, no question about this. But the music, is not getting…there are new bands that are really good. Like I really love to listen to bands like 3 Doors Down, or System of a Down, or maybe Green Day, or Smashing Pumpkins' new album ….it's great…or Nickelback. New bands are great. And I think it's maybe not so exciting like the '60s and '70s because rock music is more commercialized now. They're doing commercials and all these things. In the '60s and '70s it was really very bad to do commercials. Today it's easy. It's even good for some band to have a commercial because it makes the band even more hits.

antiMUSIC: You've worked with Matthias for a long time now. How do you about working out your leads and who takes what part of each riff?

Rudolf: It's you know, whoever comes with the best idea, he's doing it. That's mostly the way, you know. Sometimes, we go into it, I have an idea, and I present the idea to him and he changes the idea to his idea, changing it a little bit around, and stuff like this. So we try to make the guitar work interesting and that's what's really important.

antiMUSIC: You've released some pretty interesting record covers in the past. Covers from the 90's onwards have been not so controversial. Was this an intentional thing on your part? Were you tired of the controversy that some people might be talking about more than the actual music?

Rudolf: It's not very interesting anymore. You know why? Because in the old days, don't forget, the album sleeve was very big. It was great to hold it in your hands. And then the CD came, and (laughs) you have this nice, great, outstanding cover and it's not coming across so well because it's not so big. In this case, you're losing not interest, but also after a while, it's hard to really find outstanding ideas again. You know, especially outstanding ideas who are…if you see an outstanding idea which presents big, it's much stronger than when it's small. In this case, when the CD came we were more focused onsaying, okay, we want to have good music, okay, the album sleeve is still important but, if we won't have this great, amazing idea then we won't die.

antiMUSIC: You recently played with Uli Jon Roth and Herman Rarebell. What was it like to play with two of your old friends?

Rudolf: Uli Jon Roth we played with like three months ago in a big festival in Germany, with Billy Corgan. This was funny. It was fantastic. 60 thousand people. And the people went crazy. They went completely crazy, but it was fantastic. So then the other one was at Wacken, the biggest heavy metal festival in the world…it was fantastic. My brother, Uli Jon Roth, and Herman Rarebell. It was really a night to remember and it will come out in Christmas, before Christmas as a DVD.

antiMUSIC: Excellent. I know you have a tight schedule so is there anything else about the record you wanted to mention that I didn't ask you about?

Rudolf: No I think we covered everything. We are looking forward to tomorrow's show in Ottawa and you know I can only say we are ready. We did last night in Toronto I think between 14 and 16 thousand people were there. It was a fantastic crowd. It was like always a great venue. And we're looking forward to tomorrow and we are ready to rock. Rock you like a hurricane (laughs).

antiMUSIC: Excellent. This was a real thrill. I wish you all the best with the new record.

Rudolf: Thank you very much. See you. bye.


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