Interview and pictures by Marko Syrjälä
Transcription by Andy Osborne
Legendary German rockers Scorpions are back in the headlines with the band’s 21’st album “Humanity -Hour 1” The album proves that although the band has already reached their respectable 35-year landmark, they still have a lot to give to melodic hard rock and metal fans. The new album is produced by Desmond Child, 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 before the band’s triumphant performance in this year’s edition of the legendary Sweden Rock. Here is what Klaus had to say about the new album and some other current topics in the Scorpions world…
Hello Klaus, the last time we met was three years ago at a festival in Helsinki, just after “Unbreakable” was released and you were playing at Ankkarock festival in Finland…
Right, was that in Helsinki?
Your hotel was in Helsinki, that’s correct, but the festival was a couple of miles away. However, here we are again discussing the new Scorpions album, titled “Humanity – Hour 1”. After a few listen, I would say that this album presents something you haven’t done before. I mean, there are lots of modern elements and diverse 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 significant 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. Many people feel it’s a perfect 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 a classic rock album like going back to the old days, the 80s. We wanted a record that would sound like 2007. I think in the end, we have something compelling between the music and the lyrics and everything. This is because it’s a musical collaboration with Desmond Child as producer/songwriter and some of the best writers in rock music like Eric Bazilian, Mark Frederickson, and others. 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 a collaboration, a huge pool of creativity where we all had the same goal. We wanted to make a strong record and not only focus on a cheap hit single. This was much more in an old-fashioned way; let’s hope in the end we have this nice body of work with no weak parts. And that’s a challenging goal to achieve, but that’s what we wanted to do.
These years, was it difficult to 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 have other people work with us, and we thought it was a perfect 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 anymore 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. Still, 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 interpretations about the songs and their meanings.
This album sounds almost opposite to “Unbreakable,” which was kind of a “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 much 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 the album was a success in that respect. 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 more than just a couple of songs you throw in there. You try something with humanity with a global theme; we’re trying to make something with more depth. It’s much more powerful that way. When you look at what’s going on with traveling the world. We’ve played some concerts in the Middle East, and when we play in front of the pyramids in Cairo, these people aren’t any different from 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 the 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 careers. 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 six 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 not to do new albums and live with the old hits. The difference is we still want to 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 we are trying to move ahead. We had some great albums in the ’80s, 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 sometimes try some different things.
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 modern, which makes a lot of difference.
Speaking of the 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, many 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. 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 great with all the special guests, you still had some technical problems with the mechanic scorpion onstage. Is that part also going to be included?
Yeah, that might be the only part we will edit out. It was…
It’s was quite a comical moment “laughs.”
It was comical, but it’s funny, but watching it on a DVD, it’s like, alright, “let me take a peek and 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 released on a DVD and it will be. 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 do 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 of 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 that there will be some Russian dates too? Because you are still a massive band in Russia.
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 one 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.
When you went there the first time, weren’t you guys scared to go there? I mean, back in the day’s things were very different from now?
Yeah, of course, we were scared. We had no idea what to expect. We figured out fast that Russian fans 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 fast that Russia loves Scorpions.
Going back to your new album, the producer Desmond Child is a well-known guy. 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 living in the past. He was very active, and he had an amazing team of people. And he introduced us to them, and they helped out in this production as well. Desmond focused on the vocals, so I had the mastermind to myself [laughs], but I know many people thought 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. Many tracks on the new record will surprise our fans because they are much harder than they thought Scorpions would be. Like “The Cross” or “Hour 1.” There are all these kinds of collaborations like when you’re working in LA. On 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 the rules and borders and break them 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 not his… His philosophy was to make a killer record.
I think that he also needs good selling albums at this point of his career?
Yeah, I don’t know how successful Meat Loaf was or is. Is he popular here?
I think so. He was playing here yesterday.
Oh wow. But Desmond is very active and works 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 are the very last band at 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 I think it works brilliantly in the context of the record.
Okay, that’s been twenty minutes now. Thanks, Klaus.
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