Legendary German rockers Scorpions are back in the limelight with their new album “Humanity -Hour 1” which is the bands 21’st studio release. The album proves that although the band has already reached their respectable 35 year landmark they still have a lot to give to the fans of melodic hard rock and metal. The new album is produced by Desmond Child who is one of the most respected and successful producers in today’s music business. I had an opportunity to sit down with the band’s vocalist and founding member Klaus Meine just prior to the band’s triumphant performance in this years edition of the legendary Swedenrock. Here is what Klaus had to say about the new album and some other current topics in the Scorpions world…
Interview and pictures by Marko Syrjälä
Transcription by Andy Osborne
Hello Klaus, last time we met was three years ago at a festival in Helsinki, just after “Unbreakable” was released and you were playing in Ankkarock festival in Finland…
Right, wasn’t that in Helsinki?
You were living in Helsinki, that’s correct. So, anyway, here we are again talking about the new Scorpions album which is titled “Humanity – Hour 1”. After a few listen I would say that this album presents something what you haven’t done before. I mean, there are lots of modern elements and different songwriting on this album. You now had a lot of outside composers like Desmond Child and Marti Fredriksen working with you, what’s the reason for such big changes this time?
We wanted to make an album that was up to date, with a more modern sound to it without losing the Scorpion signature and I think it’s still there. A lot of people feel it’s a very good connection between the typical Scorpions sound but in a new way. It wasn’t so much that we were trying to experiment; we still wanted a Scorpions record but not so much a classic rock album like going back to the old days, the 80s. We really wanted a record that would sound like 2007. I think in the end, we have something very powerful between the music and the lyrics and everything. This is because it’s a musical collaboration not only with Desmond Child as producer/songwriter but also with some of the best writers in rock music like Eric Bazilian, Mark Frederickson and some more. People that we have worked with before; we’re back in the old family in a way. But this time, it’s not so much “this is my song, this is your song” this album is much more of collaboration, a huge pool of creativity where we all had the same goal. We wanted to make a powerful record and not only focus on a cheap hit single. This was much more in the old fashioned way; let’s hope in the end we have this nice body of work with no weak parts. And that’s a tough goal to achieve, but that’s what we wanted to do.
After all these years was it difficult to a record that way, with so many people around?
Yes, but I think after so many years it’s good to get some fresh blood. We’ve been doing that the last couple of years but nothing like this. We started to open up and having other people work with us and we thought it was a really good philosophy to open up. It’s also important that you see how people see the band from the outside and with Desmond, he wanted us on the next level in our career because we’ve been doing this for so long. We can’t write songs any more like “Bad Boys Running Wild,” you know? It’s stupid now. We used to put these fun songs out there and rock them like crazy, and it’s fun. But to be serious and write songs about boys chasing girls…there’s a new generation of musicians and they should do that. We should find something else, what we want to say and how people listen to us. Since we’re not changed we’re in a way that people expect we build a bridge with our music and make a connection. We don’t want to send a message with a finger up in the air, this is not what it’s about. We want to entertain the audience and make a kickass rock album, but at the same time we try to avoid stupid lyrics and try to bring something in that has a deep meaning and it will grow when people listen to it and bring their own interpretations about the songs and their meanings.
This album sounds almost opposite to “Unbreakable2 which was kind of “back to the roots” album?
You see, was Unbreakable really like that? It was successful in many ways because we gave a lot of respect back and a lot street-credit back from the old fans. Some people had thought Scorpions turned into a ballad band. We had some very powerful and successful ballads but we are not a ballad band, we are a rock band. This album was to show that the stinger is still sharp. We like to rock and what we want to do is rock the audience so in that respect the album was a success. For every rock band on this planet in days of downloading and the internet, the whole record industry is going through a big change. So you have to do something that is more than just a couple songs you throw in there. You try something with humanity with a global theme; we’re really trying to make something with more depth, it’s much more powerful that way. When you look at what’s going on and with traveling the world…we’ve played some concerts in the Middle East and we see when we play in front of the pyramids in Cairo that these people aren’t any different that the people in Israel. In the world of emotions and music people act very much the same. We try to make this connection and connect people with the Scorpions sound.
Like you just said you won a lot of respect back from your old fans with “Unbreakable”. Wasn’t it a kind of risk to change the direction again when you remember what happened in the past with album “Eye II Eye”?
Yes, but this isn’t “Eye II Eye” and we’ve learned our lesson from that album. It’s not a bad album but it’s not what Scorpions are about. There might be people out there who cannot find the Scorpions they want to hear in this new album. That may be true, I don’t know. But what we want to do is to move on with our career, we don’t want to be an artist of yesterday, because it would be the easiest thing to keep touring, keep playing the good old hits and play from the 70s, 80s and 90s without playing new records. That would be easy. We would save a lot of money, energy and time. This kind of production takes us about 6 months to a year to make a new record like this when you make a real professional and good record. This isn’t some home production recorded in the basement. It would be very easy to not do new albums and just live with the old hits. The difference is we want to still be in this kind of circle of touring and recording and just being artists. You want to be taken seriously for what you are doing and not become a caricature of yourself. So you want to be taken seriously as an artist and that’s why are trying to move ahead. We had some great albums in the 80’s and the fans can listen to those but we cannot simply come out with another “Blackout” or “Dynamite” so we move on. This is not about finding a new audience it’s about following the road from what we did with “Unbreakable” along with something that has a new approach and a powerful, up-to-date sound with songs that are simply great!
As a musician it’s important to create new music and try sometimes some different things, right?
Absolutely, we can throw in some new songs tonight with Uli Jon Roth as a guest and we’ll go all the way back to the early days. It’s exciting! This is what we do, it’s a long career but it’s a very important feeling for yourself; you walk out there and you know you have something that is modern and that really makes a whole lot of difference.
Speaking of promotion of this new album, do you have plans to film any videos for this album?
We just made a video for “Humanity.” MTV and other channels might play the songs but they are so focused on a very young audience so it’s tough. But fortunately we have the internet, we have YouTube! [laughs]
Like you just mentioned, a lot of bands that are getting older are trying not to show their faces to appeal to the younger crowd. They use animated videos and stuff like that and… How is it with you guys..?
Ha, ha!! But you can see our faces in the “Humanity” video without the big Beverly Hills touchup… “laughs”
WACKEN DVD, DESMOND CHILD AND SOME MORE…
Last year you guys played at Wacken Open Air and there was some talk that you would release a DVD from that show. Is that still going to happen?
Yes, that’s true. We’re still working on it and it will be out as a DVD and we just saw a rough cut of it and I think it’s fantastic, it came out great.
Although the concert was really great with all special guests etc included you still had some technical problems there with the mechanic scorpion… Is that part also going to be included?
Yeah, that’s might be the only part we will edit out. It was…
It’s was quite comical moment “laughs”
It was comical, it’s funny but watching it in a DVD its like alright, let me take a pee let me know when they’re back on stage. The Wacken show was great and we all had a lot of fun. It was a very powerful show and we promised it would be put out on a DVD and it will be. Just before the tour we saw a rough cut, this was the first rough cut and we might have to work on the sound part a bit.
What kind of touring plans Scorpions have for this album?
Since the album was released first in Europe we wanted to start here so America comes later this year or next year depending on the tour. But it was released here first and we wanted to start here in the summer and then go to South America and then to Canada and then I think there might be a couple shows in the US. Probably then we would do Asia next year. There might be some Asian dates in November but I’m not sure?
… and I think there will be some Russian dates too? You seem to be really huge in there?
Yeah, Russia is really good for us. Last night was just amazing to play in the palace square in St. Petersburg in front of…I think the official number was 250,000 people. It was amazing, I couldn’t believe it.
You were of the first bands from the West to play in Russia?
Yeah it’s almost twenty years ago that we played. In 1988 we played in Leningrad.
In the very first time, weren’t you guys scared to go there? I mean back in the days things were very different from now?
Yeah, of course we were scared, we had no idea what to expect. We figured out really fast that Russian fans really love this band. They came from all over, even Siberia back in 1988. It was different in those days. KGB was still around in the old Soviet Union Days. But we learned really fast that Russia really loves Scorpions.
Going back to your new album, the producer Desmond Child is really well known: he has worked with such names as Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, Kiss and so on. Overall, after all these years, wasn’t it a kind of risk to have him help out because it’s been a while since he’s been doing this kind of thing…?
Good point. When we met him last summer he was in the middle of producing Meat Loaf. That was a good sign that he was doing something and it showed he’s not a person who is living in the past. He was very active and he has an amazing team of people and he introduced us to them and they helped out in this production as well. Desmond was focusing on the vocals so I had the mastermind to myself [laughs] but I know there were a lot of people who thought that Desmond would make a pop record….I mean we’re not Sepultura or even Metallica. We’re the Scorpions and I think Desmond in many ways…there are many tracks on the new record that will surprise our fans because they are much harder than they thought Scorpions would be. Like “The Cross” or “Hour 1.” There’s all these kind of collaborations like when you’re working in LA. The first day we started working with our old manager Doug McGee. Billy Corgan did a song with us and it’s a pleasure to have him on the record and it’s also something people would not expect. It’s good to break rules and borders and break it up. That’s fantastic for this record and we could feel from the very beginning that Desmond was really serious about making a killer album and not so much focusing on having one or two big hits. It was totally not his…his philosophy was to make a killer record.
James Kottak, Matthias Jabs, Klaus Meine, Pavel Maciwoda, Rudolf Schenker
He also needs a good selling album at this point?
Yeah, I don’t know how successful Meat Loaf was or is. Is he popular here?
I think so. He was actually playing here on yesterday.
Oh wow. But Desmond is very active and working with a lot of artists. We just played with Motley Crue in Italy. Are they playing here?
No, today is the last day and you the very last band on this festival.
Oh, see I wasn’t sure, it’s closing today. Who headlined the first night?
Heaven and Hell
Yeah, Ronnie is my good old friend, I love him. It’s like Desmond said, “You guys might have German passports but I treat you and the record like you are part of the international rock family.” A lot of people thought this would be a pop record. Like “Love Will Keep Us Alive” is a little more on the pop side but in the context of the record I think it works brilliantly.
Okay that’s been twenty minutes now. Thanks Klaus.
MORE PICTURES FROM SCORPIONS SHOW IN SWEDENROCK 2007!