At 50, Scorpions still has a sting in its tail
Adoration is a hard drug to kick.
After 50 years and dozens of tours, German hard rock band Scorpions is back on the road, chasing its next high in stadiums across four continents for its 50th Anniversary World Tour.
“People in Asia love us! I remember when we came to Kuala Lumpur, the fans there were crazy, so we are looking forward to it,” said founding member and lead guitarist Rudolf Schenker.
Asked if he was worried about protestors – as religious and conservatives groups held demonstrations against Scorpions’ show in Stadium Merdeka in 2004 – Schenker gave a hearty laugh.
Not wanting to go where it was not wanted, the band had checked in with local organisers, the Livescape Group.
“The promoters told us there is no problem anymore, rock music is accepted. Now DJs are the guys they are not liking so much,” Schenker explained over the phone from his hotel in Tokyo, Japan.
“Our music is love, peace, and rock and roll. It is the headline of our life,” he said, dismissing naysayers who lump Scorpions with the outdated image of hedonistic rock bands.
Recycling his favourite line, he said Scorpions was meant to reflect post-war Germany’s new generation. “They are not coming with tanks making war, they are coming with guitars and bringing love and peace.”
Through music, Schenker intended to build bridges between generations, different ideas and philosophies.
Booming in his salesman like voice, he points out the success his band has achieved in reaching the next generation of rock fans: 80% of its Facebook fans were between 18 and 28 years old.
“It’s always great to see this kind of generations coming to enjoy the music … at shows we see fans coming with parents and their babies, well maybe not babies, but little kids,” said the 68-year-old Schenker.
Asked if smartphone wielding fans’ insistence on recording concerts live and posting everything mid-show was an annoyance, Schenker strongly disagreed.
“The new fans are fantastic, they are giving us a new feeling into the music,” he said, pointing out that having your phone out was the modern equivalent to holding out a lighter.
He added that the fact people kept coming to live shows meant that they still wanted more than the YouTube experience of other fans before them.
“That’s what we did with Sting Of The Tail (its 2010 album). We did an album the young kids got bitten by. They say, ‘I’ve seen them on YouTube, now I have to see them live, I want to go there and be a part of a rock and roll show’,” he said.
To not to disappoint fans, Schenker and the band make a point to rock their hearts out during live shows, “jumping and playing together like kids”.
“When you’re on stage, you are on stage because you’re excited. You want to give people the feeling they are standing in the spotlight … attitude is the gasoline of rock and roll,” he summed up.
Schenker counts his band lucky to be able to do a 50th anniversary tour, noting that only three other rock bands had done so before them: the Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, and The Who.
He concedes there was an element of nostalgia to Scorpions, but adds “a part is nostalgia, a part is today … that’s the trick!”
However, the Scorpions’ 50th Anniversary tour which followed a not-so-final farewell tour, had drawn some detractors, most notably Schenker’s own brother Michael. During an interview with rock journalist Mitch Lafon earlier this year, Michael had questioned Scorpions’ creative output, its treatment of former members and arguing that the band had not really reached its 50th birthday.
Asked about his brother, the elder Schenker gave a forced laugh.
“I tell you one thing: I love my brother, my brother is my brother, and whatever he says is fine with me and let him say what he wants to say. I have a band called Scorpions that knows what is happening and what really happened. I have patience. It is a very important point, not talking stupid things in the press and things like this,” he said, adding in as diplomatic way as possible, that he would explain this misunderstanding to his brother after the tour.
For the band’s coming performance in Malaysia, he reveals that there will be a big multimedia show, the “good kind with five, six cameras filming, a big live show with a lot of energy and some great ballads in our pockets”.
In addition to the multimedia spectacle was also a new member to the lineup, drummer Mikkey Dee, best known for his 23 years with British rock band Motorhead.
Schenker assures that the band will play its back catalogue from the 1970s, the essential hits and ballads and even make time for material from its latest album, Return To Forever.
Asked if Scorpions intended to keep singing and stinging, he admitted, in perhaps a concession to his age, that the band plans to go on a long break after the tour wraps up in Berlin, Germany on Dec 2.
“We want to be inspired by something that comes. If there is a project that inspires our creativity, we will go for it. If nothing, we will retire. We realise have to have the patience to wait for the right moment.”
Scorpions will be headlining the Rockaway Weekend lineup during the Malaysian MotoGP weekend at Sepang International Circuit on Oct 29. Tickets are available at www.galactix.asia/rockawayfest.