Michael Schenker - Autumn 2017

For more than 45 years, Michael Schenker has captivated rock fans with his virtuosic brand of hard rock, invariably leaving audiences spellbound after every performance. In March 2017 he released Michael Schenker Fest Live, a package recorded at Tokyo International Forum on 24th August 2016 where Michael was joined by 3 vocalists with whom he has worked with over the years: Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley. Now he is taking this show on the road, starting with dates in Europe and the UK this Autumn, followed by US shows in the Spring of next year. We catch up with Michael as he packs his bags ahead of the very first show in Germany to understand how he has managed to pull off such an ambitious project.

There are lots of exciting things happening for Michael Schenker at the moment and over the coming months. Before we talk about them, I would just like to reflect on the success to date of your latest release Michael Schenker Fest – Live In Tokyo. What has the fans’ reaction been to this incredible live package?

Great! I’m so glad I did it! When I saw the Tokyo venue, we actually got offered to play Loudpark in2016 which is the third biggest indoor arena in the world, but when I found out the Scorpions were playing the night before I passed on it and that’s how we got the other 3 gigs in Japan. We ended up playing Loudpark in 2017 anyway so when I saw that place in Tokyo, that beautiful hall there, it reminded me of Budokan and I felt like ‘wait a minute, it feels like we are revisiting the Budokan days’, you know! I didn’t ask any questions, I just immediately decided to finance it myself, arrange the crew and the film crew, and got the recording guys together and everything and just went ahead because I knew it was worth it. I just got everything together and gave it to the record company. Basically it was fantastic! People love it. Everybody is really pleased with the results! I’m very pleased with it. I edited it in Germany and the thing was done and the response was excellent!         

Let’s talk about the current tour. After recently playing a couple of shows in Japan, you’re taking the Michael Schenker Fest on the road for 9 European and UK dates, beginning in Germany on 25th October. This is quite a production. To pull off the very first show in Tokyo back in August 2016 was an ambitious project in itself but to undertake an entire tour is another beast entirely! How difficult has it been to organise this tour?

This is the first time we’ve done a Michael Schenker Fest tour. We did Sweden rock and then we did something in Germany so we kind of step-by-step came together. Eventually we played the 2016 Loudpark Arena. Then we got offered the other 3 Tokyo gigs instead and that’s how we bumped into that beautiful Tokyo venue. That’s how we got a chance to make the DVD. We basically started our world tour but there’s lots of things you don’t know because we’re moving forward very very fast . We started our tour in Tokyo Loudpark where we headlined the festival – even Gene Simmons was opening up for us! Then we played Osaka, and tomorrow we play Offenbach in Germany, then we go to Spain and head to the UK. I need to point out that the Michael Schenker Fest has never done the UK before so this will be the first time. It would also be, in this format, the last time because we are already moving forward in that after the UK we are, in December, going to go on a 14 day promotion tour for the new album that’s coming out. We started recording that in July and we have just finished it. I have just got the mix to approve I’m going to be promoting, flying around to 14 key cities to promote the album. It’s going to be released in early March and we have added Doogie White to it. So after the UK tour we will be focusing on promoting the new album, which has all 4 vocalists, and has turned out incredible and so much fun. There was one song that immediately stood out, a song called Warrior, which will tease out the pre-release and let the people in on what to expect. I guess it will come out when I start the promotional tour. We have footage from that which is unbelievably funny and the song is incredible because the singing performances are just amazing. We are starting a world tour in the US with the new formation and we will be going all the way round again because the new album will be out by then and we will have 4 singers! 

You say that this will be the last chance that people will get to see the Michael Schenker Fest in its current formation with the 3 vocalists from the 80s. You’ve done individual shows and now you’re doing a tour.  How much more difficult is it to stage a production for 4 singers compared to 3? 

My son is a master in coordination I think! It is a bigger undertaking, I have a new record company – I have signed a deal with Nuclear Blast, which is a really great company and they have very good connections worldwide. So everything is happening on a new level. We’ve already got a response from America who wanted us to tour there so we have already put a whole US tour together, 20 concerts with a bigger format, 4 vocalists which includes Doogie and is a longer show. I don’t know if we’re going to be doing this in the rest of the world! We shall have to see how everybody feels after 2 ½ hours on stage for 20 days! The singers will be okay but the poor drummer has to hit the things for 2 ½ hours but we will see! But because we have a CD coming out in March we are already booking again for next year for Japan and Europe. That will be the tour where we promote a new Michael Schenker Fest album. It’s called Resurrection. It was originally called Michael Schenker Fest in The Studio as a working title. The first song, as I said, is called Warrior, and it’s going to surprise a lot of people. It’s so great and having such a strong company behind us now. I was due to be doing everything myself but I was approached out of the blue by 3 record companies and they were actually competing to sign me. And I said ‘no, no, no, no, no’ until eventually a friend Michael rang me up and said ‘Michael! You have to do this! Nuclear blast is a great company!’ and I said ‘I don’t know. Let me think about it’ and I asked my lawyer and he said ‘Yes, I think you should. It’s time to move on now and move to the next level’. We need a bigger company behind us who can help us. My son is doing such a great job tour managing. He’s developed into a master coordinator and is the best tour manager I’ve ever ever worked with. This helps because the trust issue is much better instead of having different tour managers every tour. There are so many things that get lost, money gets lost, everything gets lost. It’s such a pain in the butt, you know. But we are now really established and we are well surrounded with professionals now. We are moving very fast and having a lot of fun.

You mentioned taking it to the next level and this absolutely is taking it to the next level. How things evolve to the point where Doogie got involved? 

Yeah, it’s funny because everything I do is based on the circumstances. I never really know what I’m doing next. I make a step forward and then I can already see something on the horizon that inspires me. So basically, Doogie and I with Temple Of Rock were due to take a break because we toured for 4 years and did 2 DVDs and 2 CDs. It was time for a break because 4 years constantly, we needed to get away for a while. So everybody agreed and then basically I put this thing together (Michael Schenker Fest). We planned to do the next Temple Of Rock album in 2017 and when it came to 2017 Doogie kept ringing me up asking ‘Ŵhen are we going to do the album?’ and I said ‘I’m not really sure, I’m not sure if we have a record company to do it right now’. But when the DVD was done (Michael Schenker Fest Live) I thought what shall I do next? I started saying ‘Michael Schenker Fest in the Studio! That’s the thing we need to do!’ but I realised that that would be the best way to carry forward the Temple Of Rock at the same time because Doogie and myself are the main song writers in the Temple Of Rock. It’s about the guitar, songwriting and Doogie. That way I could involve and have Doogie. Now Doogie gets to sing the Temple Of Rock stuff which is current, and Gary, Robin and Graham sing the past. With a new album coming out we have some material that’s going to be very interesting where they sing together. It will be very entertaining. It’s something you don’t plan ahead of time, it just comes up based on the next steps that are in front of me.

With a European and UK tour underway, a US tour in the new year and a new album in the spring, you and the 4 vocalists seem to be getting on famously! Is this the case and if so, has this been a surprise to you? 

Even in an interview for behind-the-scenes on the live CD, the interviewer said ‘well, this is incredible: 3 singers – this could have gone so wrong!’ But I never thought about that! That’s so weird. I never thought it could go wrong. That never crossed my mind. It was interesting when he said that, and if I think about it now, yes, of course! I don’t think like that in general. I had an idea and I thought let’s call the guys up and see. And they were all very happy to do it. I always say that if something is meant to be it always just rolls forward. It comes and goes quite easily. If something is not really meant to be you have to force it. Everything was prepared for this moment. This is the third part of my life, the celebration time, and it’s perfectly fits in. Graham Bonnet stuff I never performed any songs from that album. Robin McAuley, for 30 years I never touched any of those songs. They have been in the deep freezer all this time! It’s pretty remarkable after all these years we have the Michael Schenker Fest and there is material that hasn’t been performed for 30 years. Somehow it feels like everything has been set up for now, and to let it explode. With Assault Attack, the record company had problems promoting it and that record got lost. We only played 15 minutes of it live and Graham was gone and never seen again. It’s almost as if everything was put together in order to have this at this point of our lives. It’s fantastic for the hard-core fans to really explore what we used to do with all the originals and it’s fantastic for the newcomers to see and get a chance to experience what it was like 30 or 40 years ago. It’s unbelievable to have four original singers. You can’t plan anything like that.          

Tell us more about the first single Warrior.

It’s more like a teaser. Something that’s been put together as a kind of trailer for the promotion. It could be the first single but we’re not that far yet. Now we are starting to discuss with the record company what the songs are all about, how the songs fit in to the promotion of the record. But Warrior is definitely one of the first teasers. I think it will be the first single because we did a lot of video shooting in the studio. I think the Warrior song is going to be accompanied for promotion purposes with video footage of us in the studio making the song. There’s really lots of fun stuff there because we’re all getting on so well and I’m laughing my head off sitting there at some of the stuff they did! It’s like a big family. I can’t understand why it happened but it’s happening! I’m not sure when the first clips will be available but I imagine if I start my promo tour in December for 14 days, it must already be available. But it was a great song for all the singers to participate in. You will see all four singers performing. 

As our conversation draws to a close it’s with huge anticipation that we look forward to the UK shows and the new album in the new year.

For a taste of what's to come in the Michael Schenker Fest shows, check out the trailer for the Michael Schenker Fest Live package. To find out more visit www.michaelschenkerhimself.com.