Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with Klaus Meine

Interview, questions and pictures by Marko Syrjälä 

Transcription by JP

One of my longtime favorite bands Scorpions came to Finland in last August to play in Ankkarock festival. I was lucky enough to have an interview with lead singer Klaus just before the show. There hasn't been too much talk about Scorpions in the last couple of years but things might be different in the future..?

In the recent years you have released a bunch of albums: MOMENT OF GLORY, ACOUSTICA, DVD's and Best Of albums, but it is four years since your last real studio album. Why did you made all these releases and when can we hear some new Scorpions music?

We needed a new…. some kind of new kick (snaps fingers) a new kind of inspiration. After our last studio album, (Eye To Eye, in 1999) the (fan) confusion was bigger than before to be honest. So this opportunity to work with the orchestra, The Berlin Philharmonic, that was not a new idea. They approached us in '95 …way before Metallica did their album. So we thought about this many times. In all those years we never had the right guy. So I think between '99, we found Christian Kolonovits a great composer and arranger from Austria. He did the right arrangements and everybody said, "This is great!"

So, the timing for us was great…to do the project and play at the Expo in 2000. It all came to us at the right moment and it gave us a way to use our very best material for a very exciting project. We learned a lot from this experience and it was very inspiring and motivating. So even though it was not a typical Scorpions rock album we worked with our best material and it became successful. It gave us a whole new world to work in.

 It gave you new life.

Yes, It gave us new life. So demand was on the upswing again and it created demand for an unplugged record. It (the demand) basically came from Asia and we had the same team. We had Kolonvitz and we built a band, an acoustic band, around the Scorpions and it gave us a lot of opportunities to work with different styles around our music, but you are right; It was quite a while ago since our last album. BUT…we did a lot of touring and then classic rock came back in America in a big way. So in the last 12 months we have played over 120 shows and over 80 in the States.



How was the tour with Whitesnake?

Klaus:. It was fantastic! But what I want to say is that really there was no time to start writing a new album. This might be the biggest challenge…

 …but the new album is still coming someday?

Of course! It's coming….

When? (Laughs)

Well, with the side-projects and adventures…we did it. Very successfully and we enjoyed it, but what we got out of it was that there are many fans around the world, not only in Finland but in places like …Scotland! They appreciate us, they like what we are doing and they say, 'thanks for the shows', and they know that we are playing with the best orchestras in the world…'Acoustica the DVD is very nice'…'we like it a lot'….even in America, but they say, 'the best thing for us is if you come out with a new rock record'.

So after all these project we did, it takes you right back where you come from. What are the strengths of the band? The strengths are 'Rock you Like a Hurricane" . BUT…the strengths are also 'Winds of Change' or 'Still Loving you' so you know…. It's like Bryan Adams said way back, years and years ago. He said, "You guys could have a very successful record if you had 'Rock you Like a Hurricane and 'Winds of Change on one record. It would be smash." (laughs) And he's right.


Have you already decided who is going to produce the record…Keith Olsen?

We haven't been in touch with Keith for quite a while…

Or Dieter (Dirks, ex-long time producer of the Scorpions) maybe?

Well .. of course…we recorded a couple of songs at Dirks studios and because…all the fights of the past…it's all gone, and everything is cleared up after so many years. So, we said let's go to cologne for a couple of days and work with Dieter and just have some fun. We recorded a song called "Because I Love You' and 'Bad For Good' which basically came out in America on the Bad for Good compilation last year. It was good and it was weird at the same time, (laughs) like a time travel kind of thing. We worked with Dieter for so many years and it worked. So we said, 'when we are going to do a new album, we might come back'. Right now, we will definitely do something with Dieter. I don't know if we will do the whole album but will definitely do something.



Have you written all the songs for the new album?

We have written a couple of songs. There is some new material… tons of new material actually. There are not so many songs fully worked out. We are in a session with an American songwriter called Eric. We wrote a couple of tracks a couple of weeks ago before we started to go back into the touring thing. But we said that after all the touring we did, last summer flip-flopping headlining with Deep Purple, we did three months in the States…then we went on a BIG tour of Russia in the fall and played shows everything East of Moscow, between Novosibirsk and Vladivostok (Editor: over 10,000 km from Central Russia near Siberia to the Pacific Ocean near China) We did it all!



What happened to that planned gig in St. Petersburg? Why it was cancelled after all? It did get a lot of attention in internet because you were going to play for Russian government …

No, the thing is we didn't cancel it. We were invited by the government to play at the summit and of course to celebrate 300 years of St. Petersburg. That gig was a one song performance for President Putin and all his guests from around the world…all the leaders from around the world. So we thought that when we were going to St. Petersburg we didn't want to play just for President Putin we wanted to play for our fans. So we tried to put up (organize) another show and with the promoter there was a possibility of doing another stadium concert.

So that was nice. We were to go to St. Petersburg and play this big stadium show for the fans and then go play this one song show as part of the celebrations for President Putin…and then the government cancelled it. The security in St. Petersburg is amazing as you can imagine…

 …of course it has to be. It's Russia (laughs)

So it was cancelled. We went a played this little gig with Luciano Pavarotti and other artists from around the world…Russian artists…so it was nice but…we felt sorry for the Russian fans…BUT…we played St. Petersburg last year, we did the big arena…we played all over Russia like nobody did ever before.



I was going to ask…you have kind of special relationship with Russia because you were one of the first rock bands ever and you still play there very often.

Yeah! And we are going to play there again in September!



How did you come up with the idea to play in Russia in the first place? It was really strange thing to do in the mid-80's.

It WAS totally strange. Maybe because we were a German band and we were never allowed to play in East Germany, the old DDR as you probably know.



You were sort of banned?

Yeah, we were banned. They wouldn't let us play there. So we started with all the success we enjoyed with the western world in the 80's, so we were already touring in the east and played shows in Budapest in Hungary and the promoter said, 'You guys have so many fans in Russia, you should go and play there.' And we said, 'We'll go, no question! So he arranged it and we played in 1988 the first shows in Leningrad and a year later was the Moscow Music Peace Festival. Throughout the 90's we played some shows in Russia but we always played Moscow and St. Petersburg. And then, last year after we played two shows at the Russian palace, the Kremlin, a guy we know…who owns an internet company, he said…we were in his office and there was this big map of Russia. He said, "Do you know how BIG Russia is?" and we all said, "Yes of course., and he said, "You have no idea'. He said, 'Look at this, you have played Moscow and St. Petersburg. You should go all the way!" and we said "all the way? (laughs)



 Yeah. You did live broadcasts from every show on that tour?

Yeah, on the internet, from Germany from Samara and Omsk and cities you have never heard of before…that WE had never heard of before (laughs) some of them were bigger than Helsinki! (laughs). There are millions of people, we played Samara, Ufa many cities all over Siberia… Novosibirsk, Celabinsk, ….



Were you ever scared to play in those places?

No. I mean, we are a very good organization. We had bodyguards everywhere…security guards and bodyguards. We had no chance to go out of the …


Did you always get paid? That is the rumour that when working with Russians you don't always get paid…

You know…we got paid. We played EVERY show. We had a big jet…other wise we couldn't make it. You know there was 3000 miles between Krasnoyarsk and Vladivostok, maybe more …I don't know. When you are in Valdivostok you are an hour from Tokyo! (laughs). So we went all the way, it was exciting it was a big adventure. We felt like pioneers again AND…the great thing was we played all summer in America. We played EVERYWHERE in the States for three months and then we went to Russia and we played EVERYWHERE in Russia…and it was like the 80's…except for playing everywhere in Russia. Back then it was the Soviet Union and it was a different thing but what I want to say is…both poles America and Russia are very much a part of our lives.

Of course we have many fans in Europe and we like to come to Finland and whenever Eric Thomson the promoter gives a call (snaps fingers) we are there!



Yeah, you played in Oulu? (a city in northern Finland) in 1998? Or was it 1999?

No …was that the festival with Motorhead…?

Nummirock festival. No, THAT was '99.

Yes! That was '99.

But you were also in Oulu in 1998?

Was that 1998? It seems like a long time ago.

Yeah, yeah, it was five years ago.

Klaus: Time goes by.



A couple of words of your former band mates. What kind of relationship do you have with those guys? First of all: Herman. I heard he has a new band and is making a tour soon. Am I right that Herman was a guest player on "Eye to Eye"…he made some things for you?


No? Really?


No? I thought he was credited with some cymbals or something….for one song..


Ok, no.

No…maybe…. (thinking back) Yes! Yes, yes, yes, yes…I remember something. Yes. You are right. You're right. But yes, we have a good relationship with Herman. I just talked to him a couple of days ago. When Rudolph had his birthday he invited all the old drummers and we had a jam session. It was fantastic. Even Johnny, the drummer who played on the first Scorpions record. So we had a great, great time. We have a good relationship. He has a new band now and he has just sent me a copy of the new CD.



Is there a change that you might go over some new songs with him in the future?

Klaus: Ummm… you mean playing?

No, writing.

Oh , yes. There is a chance. Herman is very creative guy and we wrote some great stuff together. Yes, there is still a good vibe and he is a great guy. He is a creative man.

 Francis? (Referring to ex-bass player)

With Francis? No way. Francis… no way.

Ok, let's keep going.

Unfortunately…as for what he is doing, I have no idea.


Ok, next one..Uli? (Jon Roth)

Ummm…Uli lives in England and we are not so much in touch. There was a festival…they wanted all the guitar players, Schenker, Uli Roth, they wanted us to join together for a couple of songs. It was last year, but it didn't work out. I think he is doing great and when I look at Japanese magazines like Burrrn and I see Uli and I say, "Ok, yeah! " (laughs)



 Michael? (Schenker)

Michael, Michael: I just saw Michael. We played in Phoenix, Arizona, that's where he lives now. When we came through with Whitesnake he came to the show with his band, all the musicians and we all had a nice talk that night and unfortunately it didn't work out that we jammed together but on that tour with Whitesnake we had some special guests. First Brain Johnson, who joined us onstage for 'Hurricane' in Tampa….

I have heard about that!

You heard about that?

Yeah, I read about it.

…. Vince Neil came on stage in Las Vegas and in Detroit Ted Nugent joined us.


Yes, it was very cool.

Ok, I now we have to stop but I have one last question. I have to ask, do you, yourself know how many best of records you have released? (laughs)

(laughs) I have no idea. Because so much of that is record company business. I really have no idea. Sometimes I sign albums I have never seen before! On an international level…


Yesterday I saw some guys from EMI and they were saying that you are still on EMI, but now you are on BMG? You just made a deal a couple of weeks ago?

No not a couple of weeks ago, but we did make a deal with BMG and the new album will be on BMG.




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