INTERVIEW AND LIVE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
Herman ‘Ze German’ Rarebell is a German drummer, best known for his long and successful career with the band Scorpions. Rarebell joined that band in 1977 and played on 8 studio albums, including; LOVEDRIVE, BLACKOUT, LOVE AT FIRST STING, and CRAZY WORLD. Rarebell was an important composer in the group’s history as he wrote many Scorpions songs like “Another Piece of Meat” and “Passion Rules the Game.” He also wrote the lyrics for some of the Scorpions biggest hit songs like: “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” “Blackout,” and “Bad Boys Running Wild.” Rarebell quit the Scorpions in 1995, after 18 years, before releasing the PURE INSTINCT album. Later on, he released a few solo albums and toured with his band, Herman Ze German. He also participated in the Drum Legends project with Pete York and Charly Antolini and formed Monaco Records together with Prince Albert of Monaco. In 2011 Rarebell released his autobiography AND SPEAKING OF SCORPIONS… and later on, in the same year, he formed a new supergroup called Strangers in the Night, together with Michael Schenker, Michael Voss, and Pete Way. In late 2011, Schenker released the album TEMPLE OF ROCK, which featured Rarebell, Way, Voss, Wayne Findley, and several special guests. In early 2012 Schenker, Rarebell, Findley, vocalist Doogie White, and another former Scorpions bandmate, Francis Bucholtz, toured under the name Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock. The band’s highly successful LOVEDRIVE REUNION tour finally landed in Finland in early May. In Helsinki, I had a chance to sit down with Mr. Rarebell, and here are the results of our interesting discussion. Read on!
Metal-Rules.com: I just learned that you’re going to release a new solo album?
What I did is just in the beginning of this year in March, I made another Herman Rarebell solo album, Herman Ze German solo album, called ACOUSTIC FEVER. It’s a solo album of mine, but I’m going to call it Herman Rarebell and friends this time.
What can fans expect from the album, and could you tell us who are the “friends” you do have there?
On this album, I’m playing all my classic songs I wrote for the Scorpions, for example, “Passion Rules the Game,” which will be sung by John Parr, you remember John Parr “St. Elmo’s Fire”? Then I have Bobby Kimball from Toto singing “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” I have Tony Martin from Black Sabbath, singing “Another Piece of Meat,” I got Jack Russell from Great White singing “Don’t Make no Promises (Your body can keep).” He’s a killer singer. And then I have Vossy, Michael Voss, who sings, “Loving You Sunday Morning.” I have Don Dokken singing, “You Give Me All I Need,” I have Gary Barden singing, “Falling in Love,” and I have Paul Shortino. He sings the song “Love Is Blind,” which I wrote many years ago. I also got Alex Ligertwood from Santana, he sings “Is There Anybody There,” and I also have Johnny Gioeli, who sings with Axel Rudi Pell, he is singing “Dynamite.” So, I have really some really killer singers on this album, and I’m very proud that they all said yes to me. Robby Lochner from Great White played guitar on the album. And I must say all those guys and also Dario Seixas, the bass player from Great White, were great. They have done a fantastic job for all of those boys.
When is the album officially coming out?
We are doing the album cover right now, and I’m planning to release it in the summer this summer.
Do you already know which label is going to release the album?
I think I’m going to use the same label again. I have a promoter in Germany, MFP (Music for the People), Thorsten Sohn is his name, and he’s setting up the tour for us in Germany and Europe. By the way, we’ll also play in Finland. And the tour starts on the 26th of November in Cologne, then there is Paris and there in Scandinavia. So, Finland or Sweden, I’ll let you know when I know more. There will be ten shows, and the last show will be in Hannover, the capital, on the 8th of December. This is what we have so far, but I also have just a good offer from Russia. So, probably after that, we go to Russia? When the album is called ACOUSTIC FEVER, the concerts will be all acoustic. We present all those songs acoustically.
So, who are you going to be touring in the band with you?
On tour will be Don Dokken, Bobby Kimball, and John Parr, those three. And Michael Voss will also be coming, playing guitar and singing my Scorpions songs which are sung by the others on the album. But we are only going to go with four singers on tour. I’m going to have my band, which you can see on my Internet site. My wife Claudia is playing saxophone, Arno Baum is the bass player, Chris Hasler on guitar, etc.
So the tour is going to include four singers. What kind of setlist can we expect from you?
What we do in the show is that we play from each singer’s biggest hits; for example, with Bobby Kimball, we will play “Hold the Line,” “Africa,” and “Rosanna.” With Don Dokken, we’ll play “Into the Fire,” “Alone Again,” and “In My Dreams” With John Parr; we’ll do “Elmo’s Fire” and “Naughty, Naughty.” And then we will play, of course, classic Scorpions songs like “Blackout,” “Is There Anybody There,” “Passion Rules the Game.” John Parr, by the way, is singing that again. And “You Give Me All I Need.” Don will then come again and sing that song one. So, the show will be very interesting with a mixture between their hits and my hits.
It sounds that these shows are going to be really intimate events?
It’s going to be very intimate, and we expect a lot of women to come to the shows because they don’t like the loud stuff as much as the guys do. It’s odd in a way; it’s, you know. How do you drag a woman to the show, play acoustic? And you will be there with her, I know. “Laughs”
Okay, I will.
Everybody, believe me.
STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT
Okay, the current band you now have with Michael, how do you call it?
It’s called Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock because we are the Temple of Rock! “Laughs”
Before we go deeper on this Temple of Rock thing, I would like to ask something about the “supergroup” STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT you and Michael formed back in 2010? Wasn’t that the thing that started your collaboration with him?
Yes, that was the thing that started the whole thing. Actually, this is how Michael and I got back together again in Brighton because we both live there now, and on those days, we just decided to form a supergroup. And then we had Pete Way on bass. And you know Pete, and I don’t want to say anything bad about Pete, but we both know that he has a very strong alcohol problem.
Yes, I know about that.
So, in the end, it was not possible anymore to continue because of that. I love him, you know. We really tried to help him, both me and Michael. And we tried to send him to the clinic, you know. And I remember one funny conversation when he phones me up, and he said, “I’m in a day clinic now.” I said, “What does that mean, day clinic?” He says, “Yeah, I’m going there from 9:00 to 6:00.” And I said, “What do you do after 6:00?” He goes, “I go home to the pub,” And I said, “No, you have to go to the clinic,” And he goes to me, “I don’t like the clinic.” I said, “You are not supposed to like it.” So, then that’s when I realized it is very hard to help him. And the thing is that he stayed in my house in Brighton and I woke up at 6:00 in the morning, and I see him sitting there. And I said, “Wow! He’s awake at 6:00 in the morning” The reality was that he went down to the shop and bought, at 06:00 a.m., a few Jagermeisters and stuff like that… So what can you do?
It’s impossible to help someone who doesn’t want help.
To be honest, you know that, and I know that. So, I love him, and I told him, “Don’t do this, you are going to stop the show” We did a video, “Saturday Night” with him. And then we went on tour, the first tour In England, in 2011. And then already we had to get another bass player to back him up, because he was not able to play the whole gig, you know, High Voltage festival. In High Voltage, he came only on stage for two songs. And even that was for me a piece of art to play along with him then. So, after that, you know, we decided to get Francis in. Which was a great move, as you know?
How about Michael Voss? Why he’s not included in the Temple of Rock band then?
Well, his role was to be the singer, but Michael wanted to have a truly all-star band, which means he wanted to have two members from the Scorpions, he wanted to have the name singer like Doogie, who has a history with bands like Rainbow and Yngwie Malmsteen, you know. Also, all the promoters liked the idea, and it turned out really well. Doogie is a very good singer, and he’s a fantastic person, and it’s good fun to be with him. He has the heart at the right place.
TEMPLE OF ROCK
Overall it’s great that you’re now working with Michael again after all these years.
I’m working right now with him. He asked me to come to do this tour with them, and I was very happy to do this. It’s great fun for me. As you know, Michael and I know each other for 45 years now since we were kids. And I am thankful to him always because it was him who got me in the Scorpions, as you know. We both lived in England from 1997, we were known boys and the 75′, 76′ we met the first time and the spring of 77′, he told me “My brother has a band in Germany called the Scorpions. They are looking for a drummer. Why don’t you go for an audition?” What he didn’t tell me when I went to the audition that there were another fifty, sixty other drummers also sitting there at the auditions. I played three songs with them, and when I left, I got that famous sentence “We will call you” Okay, so I had more fun. I knew they were going to call. But anyway, they did call on the next day and said, “We like your drumming, and we would like you to be our drummer.” So, a week later, I was in Hannover. The rest is history.
Yeah, Michael did a great favor for you, and it changed your life forever, but how much did you two keep in touch later on?
Not really, you know. I mean, we stayed in touch when, for example, when I went to the MSG gig. And it was like “Nice to see you,” we hug each other like old friends. But then he did his thing, and I did my thing. But the Scorpions, as you know, it was until 1996 until I finally decided to leave the band after they played me PURE INSTINCT. I decided not to continue in that direction because that’s not my direction. So, it was time to do something else, and I did that, you know. And I feel good that I did that because, musically speaking, I am very happy to be friends with Michael. He’s a fantastic musician and a fantastic guitar player, and I’m very happy to play with him at this time now. Because he’s completely clean, and you can hear that he’s playing unbelievable at the moment.
Yes, he’s in great shape now, but I do remember seeing different Michael as well…
I have also seen the different Michael, believe me, several times. So, I’m really glad how he is now, and I hope that Michael is going to stay like he is now.
I really hope that. Another great thing here is that you’re now playing again with Francis Bucholtz. How did he end up back in the picture after all?
After what happened with Pete Way, we looked at each other, and we talked, you know, and Michael said, “Why don’t we use Francis? It’s obvious.” And I said, “Okay.” So, I and Francis I, as you know, had a big fight. So, it was very hard for me to come over to them. We were sitting on the table like now and talked it out.
If I’m right, you two didn’t talk at all since his breakup with the Scorpions in 1992?
No, not a word. So, now we talked everything out. And I said, “Look, it’s just you and me now eye to eye. I’ll tell you what I think; you tell me what the situation was.” Now that we talked it out. And then afterward we hugged each other, like old friends, and we were both crying.
So, it was a great relief after all?
Herman: It was a relief for me, and it was a relief for him. We both cried, and we regretted deeply that we kicked our friendship in the eyes for many years. And all it really takes sometimes, if you go to court and do things like this, to sit down with your old friend and talk eye to eye, and then everything is cleared up. Here we are still fighting twenty years later and employing lawyers which cost a fortune. And it could have been all solved in one talk, and we did it in one talk. And even we got really pissed about this often.
Did you get any feedback from the Scorpions camp because of your re-connect with Francis?
Herman: No. They are still fighting… and they probably need another twenty years before they get it. And it’s so simple, my dear friends, when you reach this, just sit down and talk to each other, eye to eye. Then you can solve everything, and you don’t have to employ any more lawyers and go to court any longer. Even we have this thing in Germany, as you know. It was the hundred-year war, you know. You probably know about the thirty-year war, 1600, and then they had a hundred-year war. Even that war ended one time. Okay, millions of people died, and everybody regretted that women lost their husbands or their sons, you know. And that’s the same story after every war, once the war is over, then everybody was, “Yeah. Now we know better. We won’t do it again.” Until the next time, then you have five stupid people who can affect the whole world.
That’s so true.
Herman: Yeah, it’s so true, and this is why I think every war has to end, and if we don’t start by ourselves. How can we have a peaceful world? If you fight with an old friend for a song, how can you have a peaceful world? That wasn’t why a famous man under the name of Jesus said, “You have to learn to forgive?”
If you don’t learn to forgive, you fall away from religion and thinking, you know.
But the main thing, as you said, the main thing there was just to sit down and talk?
Yes, sit down and talk and say, “Look, a lot of shit going on. I want to hear your opinion. Tell me about it. Why this happened?” And then we talked, and he understood, I kind of understood, and it was okay. So, “I can forgive you for this. Let’s go on now and make some great music before the others get that next life, probably.”
NEW MICHAEL SCHENKER’S TEMPLE OF ROCK ALBUM
I have learned that you’re going to release the new Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock album with this lineup in the fall?
In fact, we just finished it, and as far as I understand from Michael, it will come out in November.
I know that the album will be called BRIDGE THE GAP, but would you tell us something more about it?
Well, we just played one song, “Horizon,” on soundcheck. The album is actually very vocal-oriented, you know, but it’s also a very heavy metal album, so I think people who like to go to Wacken, for example, will be happy with this album because it’s really, really heavy, heavy rock, you know.
Is it a completely different style from what you have done before?
Well, for me, I did this style at the beginning of my career, many, many years back in the early ’70s. You did just hear “Horizons,” so that’s the album style. “Laughs”
That song was much heavier than anything on TEMPLE OF ROCK?
It’s much heavier.
Who was producing the album this time?
The album was produced by Michael Voss again, together with Michael Schenker.
Did you also do writing for the new album?
No, it was all written by Michael and Doogie, which is okay for me, because Doogie is a great singer? And I think it’s important for him to express his own words, you know. I can play heavy metal very well because that’s where I come from. And I think that everybody who loves heavy metal would be very pleased with this new Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock -album.
And the album is going to be out in November?
It will come out in November, so I was told. So, don’t hold me on this. This is what I was told by the record company and by Michael, so let’s see what happens?
I think you have never done one interview about Scorpions, so do you mind I do ask only a few things about it as well?
No, you can ask me anything you want. I’m here now.
Okay, I did read your book, and I do know the history. So, let’s start with the present things. First of all, what do you think about their decision not to retire, although they did say that they’re going to quit after the latest tour?
Well, they made a lot of good money on the last tour. And so, they decided to continue making money, you know. It’s that simple.
Is it all about money?
It’s all about money for them, that’s all it is, you know, it’s sad. I saw them last year in Munich, and it was like putting money in the music box, and they are playing it down without any emotions, and then they walk off the stage and… it’s all about money. And I told them, I said, “I don’t like it when you lie to fans and tell them that you quit.” The only reason they did that was that then they can sell more tickets, you know. But even the dumbest friend knows by now, you know.
Yeah, yeah. So, I just heard that they just booked strings of shows to Russia for the fall?
That I don’t know, I don’t know about the tour, but they want to go.
I remember that you’ve said how you disliked albums they did in the ’90s, like PURE INSTINCT, but do you have any opinion about albums they put out later on?
Well, I think, you know, from UNBREAKABLE, they went in the right direction. The last one, STING IN THE TAIL, was a great album, and I told that to Matthias. You know, he has a guitar shop in Munich, and we met socially also a few times, and I said, “Look, you have to go back to the direction that made the former Scorpions great melodic hard rock. You’ve got to defense that, and you will have a successful album” I don’t know if they listened to me because I said that. But the last album proves my point. And I phoned them up again, and I said, “Yeah, finally you are on the right track now again” And it’s a good album, and you can see it on the fan’s reactions. People came to the show because it was a good album but also because they told fans that it was going to be their last run. That is something I would not have done if I would have been in the band. I would have been totally against them because I know a lot of people did that, but I think that you should be honest with your fans. Especially our fans, some fans have followed us for over thirty years long. You know, you can tell them, “Look, we are out now, and then we want to stop,” and then you stop. They don’t have a money problem, so?
Yeah, yeah. As a fan, I have to say that the worst thing they have released was that horrible album EYE II EYE. How was your reaction when you first heard it?
I phoned Rudolph, and I said, “Why did you do this?” I said, you know, “Can’t you hear any more?” ..and he says to me, “You are just jealous because you are not in the band anymore.” “Okay.” I said, “Wait, what will happen with this album.” I said, “The fans are not stupid, and they are not deaf.” But now they are back on track, and I wish them all the best!
That album was horrible, yeah.
Yes, it was.
The setlist on this current TEMPLE OF ROCK LOVEDRIVE REUNION tour is a great mix of LOVEDRIVE and Michael Schenker Group and UFO. Somebody mentioned in a way that this is the tour that never happened back in the day. So after Michael played on the LOVEDRIVE album, did you plan to make a full tour with him back then?
Yeah, of course. We even had plans to have him in the band permanently then, as you know. And he played on the album. He played great stuff, as you know, “Coast To Coast” and “Lovedrive.” He plays on my song, “Another Piece of Meat.” So, he played all those really killer songs, and “Holiday” he played as well. So, I think you know, and it would have been nice to have him in the band. But then he just decided, “No, I’m not going to go back to you. I’m going to make my own band, MSG.” Which he did, and we had Matthias coming in and out of the band, so after the third time when Michael left, and Matthias came back. Matthias then said, “Look, this is the last time when he’s coming to take my place. You have to make up your mind and choose. It’s either me or him” So, then I said, “I know Rudolf, he’s your brother, but we can’t go on like this. One day he comes to the show, the next day, he’s not” that was old Michael. You know? So, then we talked to him. I remember the conversation, and we said to Michael, “Make up your mind.” He said, “Well, boys. I want to go on and do my own things. I want to do MSG.” And we said, “Okay, fine. At least now we know.” And then it was the best thing anyway to get Matthias because he was a total team player. Integrated into the band, and we had one direction. Which made the band, as you know, very successful?
With Uli Jon Roth, it was the same thing. He also had his own thing in mind. And if you want to be successful as a band, you need to be a team player.
In my opinion, Uli is maybe too much of an artistic person to stay in any band permanently?
He’s a good artist, he’s a real artist, but a fantastic player, you know. In fact, we do some shows with him in South America in June. The first show is on the 13th of June in Monterrey. Then we have the 14th of June in Mexico City, then we do have a show in Chile and then three shows in Brazil. Those shows will be a part of the LOVEDRIVE REUNION -tour; that’s how it was announced there. Yeah, but Uli comes on stage with us. We are going to play three songs with him, and one will be “We’ll Burn the Sky.”
THE FUTURE AND TOURING
Like you said earlier, this lineup is going to tour again once the new album is out. I just thought if you have plans to expand the setlist, I mean, there is a lot of great material in Scorpions back catalog?
Well, when we play a show, we always do “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and “Blackout,” of course. And maybe next time when you come around, we will play you some other of my stuff, maybe we will do…. maybe we will do “Passion Rules the Game,” for example?
That would be great, but how does Michael like playing Scorpions songs he didn’t originally play on? I mean, I interviewed Michael a couple of years ago, and then he said that the reason he didn’t want to join Scorpions or Ozzy’s band or Aerosmith was that he didn’t want to play other people’s songs?
Yeah, but it’s great that he is accepting that thing now in a way. Well, he likes to play the Scorpions songs he played on, and he doesn’t really want to play on songs, you know, he has not played on. As you know, when we play “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” Wayne (Findley) does the solo, and when we play “Blackout,” Wayne does the solo. So, basically, I think he’s quite happy with this mixture. When we play MSG, Scorpions, and UFO songs, we play the greatest hits from our life. The classics, you know. Now, for him, this is history. I mean, the thing is, he plays all the songs he played on LOVEDRIVE, so we play them. And because I wrote the lyrics on “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and “Blackout,” it was obvious that we had to play those songs too. I haven’t got him yet to play “Passion Rules the Game,” but wait and see! “Laughs”
You told us about the upcoming South American dates, but do you already have other things confirmed for the future?
In fact, I have been asked yesterday by Michael’s management if I have time in March to go over into Japan, probably four or five concerts again. Remember the last time when we went to Japan. Michael Voss was the singer, and Elliot “Dean” Rubinson was the bass player. We had four sold-out shows. We played in Osaka, Nagoya, and two nights in Sun Plaza Hall in Tokyo, where we only sold out one night with The Scorpions, as you know. And the fans really went completely crazy. The show was very similar we are doing now. We played nearly the same set, a mixture of MSG songs, UFO songs, and the Scorpion’s songs, and the reaction was really fantastic, you know.
Like you just mentioned, the previous Japan tour with Michael, sometimes it’s confusing when he has so many different line-ups; I mean, like when he recently toured in the U.S, he had an entirely different band then. Is that just a financial issue, and do you see that there’s a chance that things might change in the future?
It is about money because when he tours in the U.S., he uses a U.S. band, and that’s simply because of all the costs for visas and flying everybody back and forward. But now, since we have such a fantastic reaction in Europe, the promoters in the U.S are thinking about booking Michael with this lineup because they know that we… Francis and I, we bring in all the Scorpions fans to the shows. And as you now can see in Finland, in England, we recently had a tour in England. It was completely sold out, and that’s because half of the audience was Scorpions fans. And if he plays alone, then he misses that other half.
So you do see that this is now THE BAND because you’ve been touring together more than one year already, and as you said, there’s a good demand for this lineup?
Exactly, this is the band, and everybody tells him, “Stick to this band because this band is the band. This band will bring you the most people.” And he knows it, and he sees it every night… and the promoters know it, and every time he gets a booking request, the promoters say, “We want that certain line-up.”