Posted on by Oran

From UFO to Scorpions, Michael Schenker is, by far, one of the worlds most revered Rock guitarists in the history of the genre. Following the announcement of his return to Ireland with the Michael Schenker Group this coming November, the legendary shredder checked in with Overdrive…

Photocredit Paul Bossenmaier

Sited as an inspiration and influence for countless guitarists all over the globe, including none other than Eddie Van Halen, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, Michael Schenker is, without question, Rock royalty.

Celebrating his 50th year on stage, the former Scorpions/UFO axeman will be returning to Ireland this November for two exclusive shows in Dublin [24th], and Belfast [25th], where his band, Michael Schenker Group will be performing a mix of classic hits from his discography, as well as tracks from the last years, ‘Universal‘ LP.

We spoke to Schenker about the upcoming shows, as well as his long career, and his unique approach to creating music…

OD – You are currently in the middle of some live dates at the moment, and you just performed at Rory Gallagher Festival in Co Donegal, Ireland this past weekend. Was this the first show of the Summer Festivals for you?

SCHENKER – Yes, it was one of the first few. We did the Monsters of Rock cruse at the start of May, so that was the second show of the Summer for us and it’s great to be back on Festival stages again.

OD – With regards to the setlist for these shows are you keeping it “Universal” heavy as it’s technically still within the promo time for the album, which only came out just over a year ago?

SCHENKER – There are some tracks from ‘Universal‘ but to be honest, I’m trying to include a setlist that captures the last 5o years of my career. This also includes UFO stuff also. I just wanted to create a show that reflects all that I have done. Of course, there will be some tracks from the last two albums also.

OD – You have said in the past that you perform from a place of “pure self-expression”, do you find that this mantra has unlocked a higher level of creativity in your writing.

SCHENKER – Yes, the way I create/write music is very much pure self expression. That has really been my mission for the last 50 years, and that’s what I was born to do, and that’s where the fun is. To strip back to the real essence of the music in its true form and bring it to the public. I can’t imagine doing it any other way.

OD – At what point in your carrier did you make that decision? 

SCHENKER – I subconsciously did it always. I was determined to do it my way. When I was around seventeen or eighteen years old…this was the moment that I really began to write like this. Just translating what I was feeling inside and creating music that truly represents what I feel. It’s a very honest and pure way of creating music, and it just comes as second nature to me now.

OD – With the forthcoming live dates this November, would I be correct in saying that Robin McAuley will be handling the vocals for these dates?

SCHENKER – Yes, that’s correct. It was supposed to be Ronnie, but he has something else to do, so he’s can’t make it. So, Robin got in contact with me and asked if he could do it, and that’s how it came to be. I’m not sure if Ronnie was doing Robin a favour, because he’s Irish (laughing).

Photo by Matthias Rethmann

OD –  Speaking of your discography, is there any particular album that stands out for you personally and if so, why?

SCHENKER – To be honest, it’s my whole catalogue. It’s the whole complex of my music writing that has developed in all of these directions. I’m still developing my sound. For example, take the concept of an album, yes there are many songs on a typical album, but for me I look at it as one body of work that just is part of a bigger picture. That picture is my whole career/discography.

There is no more important aspect of my career that is more important that any other, because it all comes from within. There’s always another chapter of development, or perhaps another challenge that I will set myself to achieve. There is always another piece to my development as a musical artist and that “piece” is part of everything that I’ve already created.

OD –  The timeline between ‘Immortal’ and ‘Universal’ was the shortest for MSG since the early ‘80s. Have you been writing new material, and can we expect something new coming perhaps in 2024?

SCHENKER – Yes, there will be some new music coming up. I can’t say when but there will be a few releases coming soon.

OD – With regards to the shows in Ireland this coming November, will there be any possible new music included in the setlist?

SCHENKER – That depends on when we are ready to record. I’m hoping that we will be ready at that point. I’m gonna be recording some new material this month (June), so yes, I hope to have some new stuff to include on the setlist.

OD – It’s no secret that you have had a huge influence in so many guitarists from Dave Mustaine [Megadeth] and Kirk Hammett [Metallica], and even Eddie Van Halen, over the years, yet you remain very grounded and true to your approach with music. Do you feel humbled when these hugely successful artists credit you as a source of inspiration?

SCHENKER – I actually found out about this stuff in the ’90s as people were telling me all the time. I don’t really get involved with listening to music and was oblivious to what these musicians were saying. (Laughing)

I think I stand out because I bring something new and fresh to the music. For example, I actually changed Scorpions and UFO completely, only because I was writing music and bringing ideas from within, and that was just a totally new, and fresh sound to what those guys were already doing. They hadn’t heard these ideas before, and that’s why many other people are drawn to what I do. It’s just so different and fresh.

OD – I understand that you don’t really listen to music in your personal life, and have said that you don’t own a record player, or a device to listen to music. Is this still the case and do you believe that it’s a fundamental part of sounding different from everybody else?

SCHENKER – Yes, I don’t listen to music. It’s the only way to do what I do. I look at it like protecting myself from any other kind of influence that would tamper with my own pure self expression. It can be a pretty hard thing to achieve at times, but I’ve managed to find a way that works for me.

The brain is like a sponge, and it just absorbs information, so I try to keep a clear pathway for my own inner feelings and ideas, and avoid as much interaction with other music, or popular trends etc. It’s human nature to copy or imitate but I want to avoid that as much as possible and stay true to my creative side.

Photo by Matthias Rethmann

OD –  Having played with the likes of UFO, Scorpions to mention a few, there is no denying that you’ve had a phenomenal journey to where you are today. You have been asked before if you’d ever consider writing a book about this and you’ve said no. Is this still the case?

SCHENKER – Yes, I don’t believe in books, because they can be filled with lies. People don’t make a different if they hear the truth or if they hear lies, so I won’t even waste my time!

OD –  Besides the accomplishments that you’ve already achieved in your life, do you have any bucket list goals that you would like to share, such as a collaboration with another artist or a special show in a particular venue etc?

SCHENKER – I live in the now, and whatever is meant for me will happen. I just take everything day by day.

Michael Schenker Group will perform in Dublin, Ireland Academy on Friday, November 24th [click here for tickets] and Belfast Limelight 1 on the 25th [click here for tickets]. Special guests are Night Demon. Tickets are on sale now via Ticketmaster, priced at €46.05 (inc booking fee) for Dublin, and £38.00 (inc booking fee) for Belfast.

Contact SD Entertainment for further details.

Universal‘ is out now via Atomic Fire Records.

Oran O’Beirne

www.overdrive.ie 2023