MICHAEL SCHENKER Talks About Trying Out For THE ROLLING STONES, AEROSMITH, OZZY OSBOURNE
April 19, 2014, 2 years ago
Greg Prato from Songfacts (and BraveWords) spoke with MICHAEL SCHENKER (SCORPIONS, UFO) recently about a number of topics. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
Songfacts: How do you find that you write your best songs?
Schenker: "I just do it the same way over and over. I love to play. I play and discover on a regular basis, so when I bump into a great piece of something that I think, "Wow, I should capture that" - and it's usually just 5 seconds, 10 seconds long - I'll put it on the cassette recorder in its raw form and I'll just leave it there. When it's time to make a new record, I listen to what I have selected, and then that inspires me to write the additional parts to it. So I never really know what the song is going to be until the album's finished. On this album in particular, I was looking for more of a balance: Not too many mid tempos, but enough fast songs and many different elements in it that keep it going and keep it interesting. It's like putting a puzzle together and never really knowing what comes out at the end."
Songfacts: How did the songwriting work in the band UFO? Was it more of a collaboration?
Schenker: "Well, when I joined UFO, they were a psychedelic band. They were playing very different music. But I was attracted to them being British, since that's where the music that I fell in love with came from: Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Johnny Winter. Well, Johnny Winter was American, but a lot of the music that we were listening to at that point in time when I was 15 years old was coming from there. When I toured with UFO and Scorpions, the guitarist from UFO lost his passport, so in order to continue the tour, I had to play for both bands. That was when I was 16 years old. I opened up with the Scorpions and then I played with UFO for a couple of days. And that's when they asked me to join them. I always told the Scorpions that if a British band would ever ask me, I would go just to get to a country where there was the interest for rock & roll. In Germany it was dead. It was disco music and it wasn't very interesting what I was doing. So I was more than happy to go over there. They invited me over and I took the offer. When I got there I just laid down a riff and another one and another one, and Phil [Mogg] did his vocals to it and it just became a totally different band based on the pieces that I gave them, which every song was built on. I wrote that way right from the beginning, and it's still how I write today. But because I had just joined them, we were more in the mode of making a record, touring, making a record, touring, making a record, touring. Because we were doing everything in the short amount of time, we spent a lot of time at the rehearsal studio. Some very early songs, like 'Rock Bottom', were very spontaneous. We were just sitting there looking for an additional song, and when I played 'Rock Bottom', the riff, that's when Phil jumped up and said, 'That's it! That's it!' So we started putting it together and putting it into form. But in general, I would always come up with some riffs, give it to the singer and he would find something, too. Then we'd go into the rehearsal studio and work on it. That's basically how we used to write."
Songfacts: Is it true that you were asked to try out for THE ROLLING STONES back in the '70s?
Schenker: "Yeah. When UFO invited me, I came over. I was only over in England for a few months and then I get a phone call from someone asking me to audition for The Rolling Stones. I was very, very scared. [Laughing] I called my brother and told him and said to him, 'What shall I do?' I was very nervous about it. I never called back and I left it. I had joined UFO, I'm 17 and very shy and very sensitive in a country without any knowledge of English. It was quite a big step already. So when that came my way, I remembered images of The Stones in the paper. First of all, Brian Jones had just died. And then I saw pictures of The Stones looking at each others' lice. I mean, like, in the hair, looking for lice! The whole image that The Rolling Stones had, I was scared that it was a dangerous thing to be with them. UFO and Great Britain was a step that was big enough at that point in time."
Songfacts: Did you also try out for AEROSMITH a few years after that?
Schenker: "Yeah. That was when I was finished with UFO and Peter Mensch started managing me. They flew me to New York just to see what the Aerosmith situation would be like, with Joe Perry not being there. I went there, but we never really got to play, because Steven Tyler wasn't in any good shape. I was sitting for five days in a hotel, waiting. I wasn't in the best shape myself, and so it never really got to anything, other than when I started my first songs for the first MSG album (The Michael Schenker Group), I actually went in with Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton after that time, because Steven Tyler went to a hospital and he disappeared. I was getting ready for a solo album, and Joey Kramer and Tommy Hamilton, they wanted to do the rhythm section. So I went to Boston and we started to rehearse, and then Steven Tyler got better and they started Aerosmith. Then I got my next lineup with Denny Carmassi on drums and Billy Sheehan on bass. That lasted for a month. I almost got Geddy Lee and Neil Peart to help me out on that - we talked about it and they almost did it. We knew each other from the UFO days. We toured a lot together. And then I ended up with Mo Foster and Simon Phillips, who was with Jeff Beck.
Read more at Songfacts.
(Photo above by Joe Kleon)