Guitarist Michael Schenker Discusses the Advantages of Touring and Recording with Four Singers

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click to enlarge Guitarist Michael Schenker Discusses the Advantages of Touring and Recording with Four Singers
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Guitarist Michael Schenker toured and recorded with the Scorpions when he was just 15. He says he liked all the little things about being part of the band back then.

"I had a fantastic time," he says in a recent phone interview. His band Michael Schenker Fest performs at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 16, at the Agora Ballroom. "Honestly, when I joined the Scorpions with [singer] Klaus [Meine], I had so much fun with designing a logo and working on the new PA system and picking up mattresses to soundproof the cellar where we rehearsed. I enjoyed driving to the gigs and singing Beatles songs in the van. It was so much fun."

Schenker says he left the Scorpions and joined the London-based hard rock act UFO because disco music dominated the German music scene, and he wanted to move out of the country. After a few years with UFO, he'd leave the group to rejoin the Scorpions before launching a solo career and never looking back.

"I had my success and fame," he says. "I made a decision about whether to stay up there. I had lots of ideas. I made the decision to drop out of the limelight and find an unknown singer and just explore those things as a solo act. I took a step in the right direction by creating my own band and doing what I wanted to do. That was the time of musical experiments and focusing on life itself."

For Michael Schenker Fest, which just released Resurrection, Schencker recruited three classic Michael Schenker Group vocalists (Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, and Robin McAuley) plus Doogie White, who sings in Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock. The band also includes guitarist/keyboardist Steve Mann, bassist Chris Glen and drummer Ted McKenna.

"I write my songs like I always do," Schenker explains. "I don't need many cooks. I'm always responsible for the music. I let the singers make their own lyrics."

The album's first single, the Dio-like "Warrior" features a somber intro before escalating and allowing all four vocalists to show off their chops while Schenker delivers a gritty mid-song solo.

"I wanted to have two or three songs on the album where everyone is singing," he says. "I thought it was perfect for the whole band. It's great for fans to try to figure out who's singing too."

Another album highlight, "Take Me to the Church" starts with a bit of organ before the heavy metal guitars kick in.

"My idea was Michael Schenker Fest in the studio with a big table with food and drinks and women and partying in the studio," says Schenker. "When Doogie came up with the song, I went, 'Wow.' I thought, 'How is he coming up with that?' This is turning into something completely different. Everyone came up with something religious, which is really strange. I called it 'resurrection' because we're all coming back. That's how it all came about. I didn't have a title for [the song] 'Salvation,' so once I had that title, it was complete."

Schenker, who says the band's live show will be two-and-a-half hours of his hits, explains that he thinks of his life as series of stages.

"When I was 17 years old, I made a decision to stop listening to other music and stop copying other guitarists," he says. "I knew the art of lead guitar is pure self-expression, and that's what I focused on. Your brain is like a sponge that picks up everything that comes your way. Of course, you can't do that perfectly. In my middle years, I did what I wanted and got everything out of my system and that preserved me. I'm free now, and I can do anything. I can really enjoy it now."

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About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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