Provence & Côte d'Azur: The legendary musicians themselves talk to The Riviera Times
One last curtain call for the Scorpions
An artwork of five elements that could not be more different: the Scor-pions founder Rudolf Schen-ker, lead singer Klaus Meine, guitarist Matthias Jabs, drummer James Kottak and bass player Pawel Maciwoda. Each one of these legendary musicians reveals his secret thoughts to The Riviera Times at an emotional time in their lives - their last world tour.
Rudolf Schenker is the "helmsman" of the rock band; he founded the Scorpions in Hannover in 1965. They then went on to become the most famous German band in the world.
Punctuality is said to be a virtue of kings, and it also seems to be a virtue of the Scorpions. The 63-year-old guitarist welcomed us on the dot on two occasions: at a hotel terrace in Nice and in his dressing room just before the concert in Nice. He was also not afraid to share his philosophy on life with us.
THE RIVIERA TIMES: The early days of the Scorpions bare some resemblance to those of our sister title, Riviera Côte d'Azur Zeitung: here, no one but the readers wanted a German language newspaper. And a German rock band that sings in English? No way! At the time, it surely must have seemed that there could be no future in it?
RUDOLF SCHENKER: Exactly. My parents said, finish learning your profession, become a technician, and if possible an engineer. But what you have in mind will not work. That of course was a challenge for me, because I found it boring to follow the usual paths. And from what others say, it all comes to nothing in any case. But if you pursue your own thing, if you have talent, and if the chemistry is right, you can do anything. That has always been my principle.
You say the only things that limit us are ourselves. Where did this insight come from?
I believe that we unconsciously know everything already, and if you feel this in life then it plays a big role. My father was a civil engineer and when he went to his building sites I would go into his office and secretly look at the yoga material he had lying around. What I read in that Hata yoga book was somehow already known to me, simply a feeling, and it was wonderful. Then when the Beatles and the Stones came onto the scene, it was clear to me that this was my thing - four or five friends, flying around the world and making music. I was training as an electrician and one day a trailer coupling fell on my foot, breaking the middle part of it. That was the sign! From that moment on I began practising the guitar like crazy. I was about 15 or 16.
So did the band start then?
Yes. And our early years were the best time because it was more relaxed and less organised. Everything was always changing, as in nature. When the roots start to harden, it becomes difficult because you have to find a way to help the sap rise to the branches to create something new.
The early years were the crazy years, and an adventure. But when success comes, everything becomes incredibly settled. The managers and the record companies come along, and suddenly everything has a structure. It is still great because of the success, but you do miss the freedom a bit, the carefree life. To return to your question: either this idea was already in me or it was inspired by yoga and the philosophy of the east.
At 15, did you want to make music to improve the world or were you set on being rich and successful?
If it had been about money, I would never have done it. When my parents went to Tabu, a dance club, I would creep into the living room to use the only radio we had and search for stations that played rock music: Radio Monte Carlo, Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg. That created an atmosphere that you can't imagine now. Elvis Presley represented "black music" to my father, even though he was very progres-sive. He also didn't want to buy me a motorbike, but then he got me a guitar. By listening to Elvis and Little Richard I got to a point where I thought, 'there is something!' The music was all in English, and I couldn't speak a word. It's interesting for the development of the band that neither Klaus nor I could understand English, but we got the right message from the music even without words. It was a form of community; we wanted to create a new world with a new way of communicating. We wanted to party and have some adventures. This is what I was looking for: a few friends, a rock 'n' roll gang travelling round the world and ripping things apart.
So, it had to be the world?
Yes! That's why I found the name 'Scorpions' so good because in German it's written with a 'k'. We write it with a 'c' but Germans were still able to understand it. My father made the first poster, and it was fantastic what he got out of that, the creativity by hand.
My mother was the daughter of a civil servant. My father was exactly the opposite, a type of rogue who opposed the Gestapo and Hitler. He initially wanted to join as it was interesting for young people. But then he realised what a load of bullshit it was and completely changed his mind. Pressure was put on him; someone from the Gestapo visited my grandmother at least once a week. He jumped from a bridge onto a moving train and so on. I have mixed origins. I got stability from my mother, while my Dad helped me to ask myself: what is life about? I then decided against stability and against being a telecommunications technician. My mother was sad at first, but then she managed our cash ledger. And then I pushed it ahead. My father thought it was all good, also with the young people - and the philosophy you should see life as an adventure which we totally adopted as a band. The 1970s and 1980s were simply a blast.
If you are on the right track and in tune with yourself, then you have a power that is indescribable. It was nothing at all to do with lots of money.
So what is this farewell tour all about?
We are serious about this. Look at bands like Deep Purple, who are now only able to fill a fraction of stadiums when on tour. We don't want to be in that situation. We made an album, Sting in the Tail. Our manager heard it before it was mixed and he said: "Watch out folks, how will you be able to top this album? This would be the right one for a farewell tour." Then I just knew it was exactly the right thing to do. You have to make the decision yourself, you have to be the driving force - we were able to win people over with a return of the 80s. We experienced a synergy effect: the 80s were back, and we said we are listening.
And young people also find out a lot through the internet. They say many bands were influenced by the Scorpions, whether it's Metallica or newer bands like Nickelback and Green Day. So their fans ask: who are the Scorpions? And then they do a Google search and watch us on YouTube and discover that what we do on stage is really cool and want to go and see us. So we have an incredible number of young fans coming to see us live, which is a blast!
You still have 40 more concerts this year, including one in Monaco on 3rd Au-gust. You must need a lot of stamina?
It is strenuous, but you go with it, not against it. The worst thing about rock 'n' roll is the partying. You don't want to sit there like a bore, so you join in. And I am the type who doesn't do things by halves. That's why my guitar is also black and white; I am either one way or another. Being on stage is not that strenuous.
When you are on the road, the time difference - that really takes it out of you.
What happens after 2013? Do you fear retirement?
No, absolutely not. Recently we played at a charity football match in India to raise money for earthquake victims. There were many new groups at the event, including a Bollywood band and a local one, and I was asked if I would play with them, even for just one song. So I took the musicians from the Bollywood band, who were very good, and the singer from the local band, and played Rock You Like a Hurricane. That was enormous fun. And now they want me to be a juror for rock bands there, because they're extremely hot in India. What I mean to say is that there are so many challenges when you are open and follow your instincts, and ask yourself what you really want. Do you want to just go to Jamaica and drink Pina Coladas with 80 per cent rum, or do you still want to achieve something?
Do you believe in fate?
I have a good example: the Scorpions experienced a creative low in 1981. Our manager at the time sent us to the Côte d'Azur, to Grasse Saint Jacques. He had called us from there saying "everything is so wonderfully blue", referring to the lavender blossom. So we went there to get new inspiration from the surroundings.
Our mood improved, but Klaus Meine seemed more sombre day after day. He had problems with his voice and finally lost it completely. Klaus said: "find another singer", but we told him to take as much time as he needed. In the meantime we were forced to concentrate completely on our music again. Klaus looked for a therapist in Vienna.
After two operations he got his voice back and it was even stronger than before.
But that's not all: during this enforced break we further deve-loped our Black-out album, which in 1982 raced into the US top 10, was named the best Hard Rock LP and went platinum. Yes, I believe in fate.
Your book Rock Your Life is a guidebook, not a biography…
Yes, exactly! As a rock group we inspired a lot of people to do something with their lives. Our motto "stop talking, do something" applies to everyone. This is what I want to convey with the book. The danger point is when you are comfortable in your career, emotions freeze over. Rock your Life has been a bestseller in Russia and Hungary for a long time. If I had written about drugs and sex, it would still have been a big success, but I didn't want to do that.
To read The Riviera Times' full interview with the Scorpions, buy your copy of our July edition now!
Aila Stöckmann/Petra Hall
Anne Morris/Katie Williams