"Rock You Like a Hurricane", "Blackout", "Bad Boys Running Wild" "Passion Rules the Game"…the list goes on. Not only was Herman Rarebell the drummer for the legendary German powerhouse Scorpions, he was also the songwriter behind some of their biggest songs.
Today, Herman has his own outfit, under the moniker of Herman ze German and he's just released a new record called Take It As It Comes. I spoke with Herman when he was on a recent press trip to the U.S.
antiMusic: From what I understand, this record was first released in 2007. Is that right?
antiMusic: Are these exactly the same tracks?
Herman: Yes, these are exactly the same tracks. What happened in 2007 is I had a little company who released the record in Germany. You could have of course bought it as an export but it would have cost you probably $38 and I think that's not really fair for American fans. So I was looking for nearly two years for the right record company to do the distribution for this and I found it with Dark Star Records who is a very good partner. They're just as excited about the record as I am. This is very important for me. So they're 100 per cent behind me and this is the reason why we released it now in America. It has a different title in America. In Germany it was called I'm Back. And this version is called Take It As It Comes because we all believed the single on the album is "Take It As It Comes".
antiMusic: You did vocals on three tracks so you felt comfortable enough to show that you could sing. Obviously this is not your first solo record but, how come you got another vocalist to do the rest of the tracks? Was it a matter of not wanting to sing while drumming during live situations?
Herman: Exactly. I don't want to be behind the drums and sing every song the whole time. It's too much, you know. I much prefer to close my eyes and enjoy all of the drumming and have a great front man out there. And with Stefan Erz I found that guy. He's from Munich. He's a really good looking guy. He's a killer singer as you can hear and he's an excellent front man; an excellent singer.
antiMusic: Did you record many other songs for this record or are these the 12 that you had that you really wanted?
Herman: No no no. This time, I had the luxury, being the producer of the album, so I had the overview. I had 50-60 songs to choose from, which was really good form. Also I said to all the musicians in my band, if you guys have any great songs, please play them to me. And they did and I picked out of those songs, ones I thought were the best songs, that showed the most variety and to also make sure there were no album fillers on there. Every song is a good song. You can sing along or dance along to it.
antiMusic: Part of what I like about the record is that there's a bunch of styles represented here. It's not all like AC/DC. Was that something that you set out to accomplish when you began writing or were they songs that were just the result of different moods during the writing process?
Herman: No, I thought having different kinds of songs shows variety. This was the idea from Day 1, to have a wider spread.
antiMusic: Can you tell me about some of the tracks?
Herman: Yeah, Let's start with the first song, "Take It As It Comes". This is really my life philosophy. I think, you know, nowadays, you should Take It As It Comes. Don't get yourself in too hard. Look positive to the future and go forward and don't get depressed because of something. There's no point, you know. We all get depressed about different things now and then, and especially the recession of recent years. We have to ALL look forward and get out of this s***. So Take It As It Comes. You should say thank you to the Lord every day that you are alive, that you are healthy, that you can eat and drink. Think about 2/3 of this planet don't have this luxury.
antiMusic: How about "Don't Lose Your Trust"?
Herman: Well, "Don't Lose Your Trust" is a straight message to all my fans out there. Don't lose your trust in me. I'm still here. Okay, I'm 60 years old now but I still can deliver as you can hear. I still can give you in the years to come a lot of great rock and roll, so don't lose your trust in me.
antiMusic: (laughs). "Rough Job"
Herman (laughs). "Rough Job" is a…I have a few girls I know out there in Munich, working with those agencies where guys phone up and on the other side of the phone line you have a girl moaning, you know, "ahhh, honey, I'm cumming…Just pay for another minute" you know…that kind of thing.
Herman: And I went to that house, where the agency is and I saw how they work. They were cleaning the house, doing their washing, doing their ironing…
Herman: And during that time, they just moan on the phone, you know.(laughs) Looked on the clock, you know, that there's enough minutes to get from the phone company. And "Let Me Rock You", of course, very straight message. It's a fantastic song for live shows. "Your Love Is Hurting" is just one of those great power ballads where people put the lights on when we play live.
antiMusic: Yeah, right.
Herman: "Freak Show" was for example, one of those songs that Stefan Erz, the lead singer of my band, came to me and he gave me about a dozen songs and I picked this song out and said, "Stefan, this song is a killer song. We are going to do this song." And obviously he was very happy. We did this song. And I think it turned out great. And "Freak Show"… in Germany we have those freak shows in the afternoon. You know those talk shows where the mother is shouting at the daughter: "Why are you f*cking my boyfriend?" and the boyfriend answers: "But did you know your father also screws your sister?" It's like a real freak show and we have them in Germany, six or seven of them every day and millions of people watch this. And for me it's like a freak show. You know what I'm saying?
antiMusic: Yeah. Absolutely.
Herman: (laughs) And so "Heya, Heya", is another song on this album. "Heya, Heya" is a song about the native Indians. And you know there is one saying by them talking about nature, "One day white man will realize that he cannot eat money." And when you look at everything we do right now to nature, I think we are getting very close to it. And this is what "Heya, Heya" is about. It's like, for me, my favourite drum song on the album because of the sound. It's really huge because of the toms and all that stuff. I had lots of fun doing that song, you know. I really did. I did it with three friends and we did it for World Vision. World Vision is an organisation which looks after children in the third world. You pay $25 a month and for this your child will be educated, will have clothes, food, the whole thing, you know? And you can literally follow up in school. I have two children of mine who are now doctors in Germany. I've followed them now for over 25 years. So after school was done they went to university. The whole thing they can do with this $25. If you go to their website wordvision.com, then you will see what I mean.
antiMusic: Did you try out a lot of different rhythms on that song because that's really a unique rhythm on there?
Herman: It's an Indian rhythm which came to me kind of naturally. It is a song that was composed from two American guys, and a band in Germany called Geronimo played it in 1971. But they used a different beat, you know. I found this beat much more interesting.
antiMusic: Yeah, absolutely.
Herman: It's a killer beat. Okay the next song after "Heya, Heya" is a song called "Backattack". It's basically a wife who never expected the guy back again and he's coming back and saying, "You know, whatever is happening, you didn't expect me back but I am back now." Then I have two instrumentals. The famous "Wipeout". I made the same thing in 1984, my first album. And the version on that album was the one the record company wanted to have on there. The version I put on there now has a little drum solo in the middle and a very wild guitar solo on the end. And I think the drumming on there is killer and I prefer this version so I mastered it again new and put it out. And I think it turned out great.
Herman: And the same for "Drum Dance". It's just one of those great drum songs for life. And this is just a little taste. Of course when I play it live I play a much lengthier solo live but it will be in this speed. Of course there's a saxophone solo in there. It will be the whole instrumental as you heard it there. And then I stop the album with saying to my fans: "I'm back. Thank you very much for loving me all these years. Now I will be back with you again to love you, to work for you, to come out on tour, and to look forward to seeing you out there and stay with me until I just finally drop.
antiMusic: Sometimes songs have a way of transforming themselves when you get into a band situation. It sounds differently than when someone writes it by themselves at home. Were there any songs that came out differently than when you first started?
Herman: Oh yes, the song "I Am Back"…at first I had a very original version just me on piano singing it and then I had one version of it only with acoustic guitars. And then when I played it to Stefan, he said to me, "Oh please, please let me sing this. I can sing this really well. It is one of my favourite choices." So I said, "Go ahead," since he was so in love with it. And that's how this happened, you know. You go through a different writing process every time. For example, when I wrote "Passion Rules the Game", I heard the music first. I had absolutely no idea about the lyrics. And I played the music to Klaus Meine and he said, "Oh I have a good idea for this song. Why don't we call it "Passion Rules The Game?"
antiMusic: How do you usually write? On piano or guitar?
Herman: I write on piano, then I figure out the parts on drums.
antiMusic: Do you consider yourself a drummer or a songwriter, first and foremost?
Herman: Both. I'm a drummer songwriter. Just like for example, Phil Collins or Don Henley. There's many of us out there. Roger Taylor from Queen is a really good songwriter and drummer. So, it works. You know?
antiMusic: A lot of drummers try to pack in their rolls and fills and try to show off essentially, especially on a solo record, but one listen to "Take It As It Comes", shows that you have a lot of respect for the song itself and you don't try to get in the way of it. Were you always like this or when you were younger did you try to pack in everything?
Herman: When you are younger, for example, when you listen to the "Wipeout" version. I mean I think most people end up really showing off to all the drummers out there. Look at how well I can play! (laughs) Okay? The same goes for "Drum Dance". But when you work on a proper song, like "Take It As It Comes", I don't think it's important that you do a very fast roll in there to impress 100 drummers. It's much better to impress a hundred thousand people with the song.
antiMusic: Right. Considering this record was first made several years ago, looking back on it are you as happy with it now as you were when you first made it?
Herman: Oh more. It has really grown on me. Because don't forget whenever I do radio interviews, I'm hearing it all the time and I hear it in the car. It grows on me because I know this record was really made for the United States. It has a United States sound. It has all the rock songs for America. This was my plan. The record company at the time Mausoleum Records, they decided to release it in Germany first. And I said to them at the time, it's too American. They said, "bah, we have no connections out there. Let's try Germany first." But the record originally was made for the United States. This was the market I aimed for when I did it.
antiMusic: You were part of one of the greatest bands in hard rock/heavy metal history. When you look back at that time was it more enjoyable for you, when you were just starting to break…the first few records when you were having to work at it every minute while you were building your audience, or later when you were playing to stadiums…
Herman: (laughs) Well obviously it's more enjoyable to play stadiums, you know what I mean? It's fun of course to play a club but I prefer a big stadium. Simply you have a better atmosphere, you make maybe 15 thousand people happy there where in the club you're lucky if maybe you have a thousand people in the club and then it's really packed.
antiMusic: What was the most enjoyable Scorpions album you recorded, maybe not just for the songs themselves but for the overall experience?
Herman: Well I liked all the early albums we did, you know, starting from Tokyo Tapes, Love at First Sting to Animal Magnetism, Blackout and then also Lovedrive. So I like all those albums, you know. And I think they are really what the Scorpions are all about.
antiMusic: Absolutely. You've played with Michael Schenker several times this summer. What was that experience like, having not played with him, I don't believe, for a couple of years?
Herman: We've played with each other on and off for the last 40 years, so for me and him it's nothing new. (laughs) We go back a long time, you know what I mean?
antiMusic: Yeah yeah
Herman: So when we see each other, it's just a question of you feel like playing or not. I think we're going to do in the near future something together anyway.
antiMusic: Ah, excellent
Herman: The Scorpions are doing their farewell tour now and when everything stops, I think you're going to be surprised about new information to come out of this band.
antiMusic: I was just about to ask you that. Can you see any collaboration with Rudy or Klaus in the future?
Herman: Well I can see a collaboration right now with Michael Schenker cause we talked about this already. So there's a possibility there and as I said, let's see what the future brings. Take It As It Comes. (mysterious laugh)
antiMusic: Absolutely. You played at the US festival in '83 in California. I would imagine at the time that was one of the biggest crowds you had played for?
Herman: This was the biggest impression for me of America, and also of course, Madison Square Garden. Those two shows have stayed in my mind. In Europe I would say, the concert with Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, when we did The Wall. In 1990, this was a show where we opened up in the flesh. This was amazing. Then to play in front where the wall was before, in Nowhere Land, where they had all the mines before, suddenly we do concerts, 380 thousand people sit there now and watch us perform.
antiMusic: That's amazing.
Herman: It really was amazing. It left a big impression on me. Of course the concert at the Moscow Music Peace Festival with Jon Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and also with Ozzy Osborne with all the bands there. Skid Row was there. Everybody was there at this festival. This left a big impression because this was about really the time of the wind of change. You could literally feel it in the air. The Scorpions got invited in '89 to go to the first concert in Moscow in Gorky Park.
antiMusic: Wow that must have been something.
Herman: Yeah, it really was.
antiMusic: What were your memories of the US Festival, playing with I think it was Van Halen on that same stage?
Herman: Well I just remember that we had an amazing reaction there. I think this festival made the band big in America. Word of mouth went from there all over America and then when we followed up a year later with the album Love at First Sting, with "Rock You Like a Hurricane" on there. "Rock You Like a Hurricane" became a Top 10 hit in America and until this day is one of the most played songs in your country.
antiMusic: Do you think the sound of Scorpions, looking back, changed very much with the decision to replace Dieter Dierks with Keith Olson?
Herman: Well, I think, what Keith Olsen did was make it more commercially acceptable, by the commercial radio stations. A song like "Winds of Change" was suddenly played everywhere. Not just Classic Rock or Rock stations. It was really played everywhere. This was not done on purpose. The song is just such a commercial song.
antiMusic: Yeah. Exactly. Did it seem strange recording with him after all this time with Dieter?
Herman: No. Not at all. I think after the period with Dieter, the band definitely needed some fresh air, some fresh input from another side. And as you know we did one album with Keith and then we did one album with Bruce Fairbairn. I mean Dieter is still our favourite producer but working with Keith was a good thing and also working with Bruce Fairbairn was a good thing. Two great experiences.
antiMusic: That's all the questions I have for you, Herman. Is there anything else you'd like to tell me about the record that I didn't ask?
Herman: Well I'm very happy that everybody likes it so much. And I think I really want to push "Take It As It Comes" and see if maybe if I can have a chart hit with this because it's a very commercial song and you can sing along with it. And my wife does a killer solo in the end, a saxophone solo on there. I think she fits really well to it. And I have a video of it on my website so if you want to check it out, you're more than welcome.
Morley and antiMusic thank Herman for taking the time to do this interview.