By Kevin Elliott
If ever there was a Mount Rushmore of metal pioneers, there would be the usual suspects — Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden — and there would certainly be debate about who was left out. Given that much of Hannover, Germany’s Scorpions veneer is defined by stadium-ready rockers (“Rock You Like A Hurricane”) and that ubiquitous ballad (“Wind of Change”), many would make the case that they aren’t exactly a metal band in the true sense of the word. For years I’ve been guilty of having the same perception, that was until I took the plunge through the band’s extensive and ever-shifting discography.
What you’ll find in digging is that, much like Maiden and Priest, the Scorpions, though distinctive thanks to the heavy accent of crooner Klaus Meine, were a band that rarely compromised. They dabbled in proto-doom with their debut Lonesome Crow, psychedelic speed metal with In Trance and Fly to the Rainbow, ’70s excess in Lovedrive and Animal Magnetism, and classic tracks that cemented them as ’80s radio icons in Blackout and Love at First Sting. Yet, after 50 years, it never seems they have been rightfully acknowledged as masters of metal and a force among their peers.
Thankfully this current tour — their “out-of-retirement again” tour — which not only serves as a celebration of their half-century as a band, but as a vehicle for their latest album Return to Forever, fans will have the chance to catch up and see what they’ve been missing all these years.
I had the rare opportunity to sit down and speak with Klaus Meine in anticipation for their upcoming Columbus show at the LC Pavillion on September 22nd.
So the last tour that you did was supposed to be your final tour, what prompted you to go out on the road again?
Klaus Meine: When we made that announcement in 2010 we were maybe just tired of the touring cycle. We were still playing 100 shows a year in 30 countries. It seemed like a good time to stop. We wanted to leave on a high note. But we found that emotionally it was a really hard thing to disconnect from. And the demand from our fans around the world, kept us going. We realized we still have a lot of power and creativity and we enjoy it too much to give it up. In 2013 we got together and started being creative again, we dug up some old songs from the ’80s, but we were also very impressed with the new songs that are now on Return to Forever. So it became a new record more than it was revisiting old material.
Who is playing in the band for this tour?
KM: It’s Rudolph (Schenker), Matthias, and myself, who have been together for 50 years now. James Kottak is our American drummer and he’s been with us since 1996. And now we have Pawel Maciwoda from Poland on bass, and he started in the band when we got back together in 2013.
Have you ever thought of asking Michael Schenker to join you again?
KM: He’s very successful with his own career. It’s great to see him doing so well. But no, that’s never been something we would entertain. Hopefully at one point during this tour we might do something special with him, but our schedules will have to match. We are always open-minded about things like but right now, nothing is planned.
What inspired the new album, Return to Forever? Is it difficult to get inspired these days?
KM: No, it’s just inspiring to write and be creative with this band. With this record we wanted to make something that really tapped into the DNA of the Scorpions. So it was nice to revisit some of that material from the ’80s as a start and then go from there.
Over the years too, you’ve survived through so many different styles and periods of hard rock. Is there an album or era that is your favorite?
KM: Not really. I always have favorite albums, like Lovedrive and Love at First Sting. But it’s so hard to pick one album.
Are you going to be playing a little of everything?
KM: We go all the way back to the beginning on this tour. Lots of stuff from the early ’70s, songs we haven’t played in a long time.
KM: Yes. One of my favorites, so yeah. It’s a great mix of all of our material, with a few of the news songs in there as well.
“Wind of Change” is undoubtedly one of your most well known songs — is there a current social issue going on today that you feel strongly about enough to write another song similar to that one?
KM: There are a lot of things going on around the world these days that are just as serious. Our experience and what we saw in the Soviet Union and the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Being German, growing up in a country that was divided, that was something that we were directly connected to in a very natural way, so that’s where that song came from. I don’t think I could sit down and try to write a song about something today that I didn’t have a connection to, you just wouldn’t do that. To try to repeat that wouldn’t be genuine.