In America, we take this German phrase
to mean “goodbye,” although a more apt
translation might be “until we meet
again.” Scorpions fans will surely hope
for the latter definition, but the current
album, Sting in the Tail [UMe], as well as
the accompanying tour, will be the band’s
last. By the time the marathon tour is
over, it will be 40 years since the Scorps
released their first record. Along the way, they have grown from a proggier, Hendrixinflected
rock band (with Uli Jon Roth on
lead guitar) to a lean, arena-ready powermetal
outfit with the addition of Matthias
Jabs in 1978. When Jabs added his fluid,
melodic leads to the aggressive, pummeling
rhythm guitar of Rudolf Schenker, the sound
most closely associated with the Scorpions
was cemented. It’s a sound that has been
incredibly successful for the band, with sales
of more than 100 million albums, sold out
tours, and landmark shows in Leningrad.
Schenker and Jabs talked to GP backstage
before a recent show in Tampa, Florida.
When did you know that this would be your farewell
album and tour?
Schenker: Some time between mixing
and mastering. We were very excited because
we knew we had a really strong record. Our
manager said, “Hey guys, how can you top
this? This could be a good way of really finishing
Jabs: Nobody in the band had thought
about retiring, but then we did the math.
The previous tour took two and a half years
and this one could be even longer. Then
there would be a break. Then you write
songs and then go into the studio again, and
it’s a couple of years later. Then you’re on
the road again. So we thought, maybe it’s
better to always be remembered as the Scorpions
where they jump around and they’re
in good shape. They’re fit. I would like to
be remembered like that. We want to finish
on a high note.
The new record has the classic ’80s Scorpions
Jabs: We worked with two producers
from Sweden, Mikael Nord Andersson and
Martin Hansen, whom we met a couple years
earlier. They approached us and said, “We
are fans from the early ’80s. We would like
to hear the Scorpions like we remember
them.” So they had a lot to do with the way
this album turned out. They had no problem
saying, “This is the Scorpions sound,
this is not.”
Schenker: The producers told us, “You
know what guys? The Scorpions are great
guitar riffs, great vocal lines, and great
melodies.” They knew exactly what they
wanted and what the Scorpions are all about.
And more and more we came around to this
idea of returning to our roots and playing
those kinds of riffs, even if a riff is close to
something that we had already done. The
’80s are back, and we were feeding off this
’80s vibe, because as you know, you can only
make good stuff if the vibe supports you.
Did you go back to your old gear for the recording?
Schenker: When you look into fashion,
you always see things coming back, but with
a twist. We wanted to bring the Scorpions
back with a twist. That doesn’t mean you
have to use the old stuff, like my old Marshall.
I mostly used Engl and Diezel amps.
I used a lot of different guitars—custom guitars
from Boris Dommenget and Gibsons.
On the song “Sly,” I played a fantastic guitar.
This guitar sounds unbelievable. It’s an
original ’58 Flying V. I have four of them,
one I got from Pete Townshend. It was on
the cover of his Chinese Eyes album.
Jabs: I kept it very simple. I have my own
amp now, the Mastertone. It’s hand wired.
I used this amp throughout the recording
and my Fender Tonemaster as well. I used
them in combination most of the time, but
sometimes, for leads, it was just the Mastertone.
I used a lot of guitars. There’s a
ballad, “Lorelei,” that we called the most
expensive song on the album because of all
of the vintage guitars on it. You hear my ES-
335 dot inlay from 1958. There’s a nice ’61
Stratocaster, the same one I used for “Wind
of Change.” Then a Telecaster from ’63, a
’58 Les Paul, and my ’56 Les Paul Junior.
That’s actually in quite a lot of songs because
this record is the first time P-90s were used
on a Scorpions record. Mikael, the producer,
convinced us to check out P-90s and some
of the rhythm tracks were recorded with
them. It was very punchy.
Schenker: I also used an old Gretsch guitar
for certain sounds.
That shows how much of the Scorpions’ sound
is in your hands, because I don’t hear P-90s and
Gretsches on this record.
Schenker: This is exactly the point that
I have always made. I found this out in the
early days. In 1975, we played in Belgium
and Uli wants to know how his guitar sounds
from the crowd. He says, “Can you play a
little bit on my guitar?” So I play the guitar
and the bass player says, “Hey! It sounds
like you’re playing a Flying V!” It’s the hands
that make the sounds. I don’t care about the
technical stuff. What’s important to me is
the attitude, the drive, and the feeling.
The lead tone on “Raised on Rock” is a big, wide
sound. Are you doubling that in octaves?
Jabs: Yes. It’s doubled in octaves but you
hear the octaves very little. That’s one of my
Explorers, the white one with black stripes.
It has a very full tone. I like the sound of
doubled leads. The solo in “Rock You Like
a Hurricane” was doubled, and all of the harmony
intros are doubled too, so that’s four
tracks. I remember winning a steak from
Dieter Dirks, the producer, because it was
like three minutes to 8:00, and if we finished
the double of the solo by 8:00, he would buy
me a steak. It was the time of no digital
recording, no editing. It had to be played
perfectly start to finish. So I went for it, and
I made it.
How come you aren’t playing any pre-Lovedrive
tunes on this tour?
Schenker: In Europe, we play “We’ll Burn
the Sky” and “In Trance,” but in America,
the real breakthrough was with Lovedrive and
then Animal Magnetism, Blackout, and Love at
First Sting, so we concentrate on those
albums. We did some research on our website
asking the American fans what they
wanted to hear. That’s how we came up with
this setlist, but you can’t please everybody.
Jabs: We haven’t brought the old members
to the U.S. yet, like Uli Jon Roth, Michael
Schenker, and Herman Rarebell. We’ve done
gigs where we played five songs with
Michael, five songs with Uli, maybe three
songs with Herman, so it’s like the full history
show, which would be appropriate for
the end of a farewell tour. So we’re saving
the moment for a bigger event coming up
So you think it’s possible that you’ll do shows with Uli and Michael and go deep into your catalog?
Your rhythms always have this incredible sense
of the pocket. Can you describe what it feels like
when you’re locked in the groove and also what it
feels like if the groove is not happening and you’re
Schenker: I remember in the early days,
when we were looking for a new drummer.
When the drummer was in the groove, I was
always smiling. When something is in the
pocket, it drives me. It gives me an outstanding
power, like I’m surfing on a wave. When
the groove isn’t right, I feel lost a little bit.
It’s very hard work and it’s somehow not
fun anymore. I remember in the Blackout tour
in ’82 we tried 15 different lighting designers.
Why? While on stage, I felt that the
lighting designers were either too slow or
not on rhythm. There was one guy where I
thought, “That’s great.” It was Roy Bennett,
the lighting designer for Prince. Whatever
he did let me get back into the groove
Any idea what you’ll do when this tour is over?
Jabs: I don’t want to make plans now.
It is too early. If I start making plans, that
means I’m occupying myself with that
thought when I really should concentrate
on what I’m doing right now. What I do
after this tour will be music related, but
aside from that I’m not sure. I have to find
out what I would really love to do. I don’t want to go into the studio and put out a
solo album just because I’ve never done
one. I would only want to do that if the
music is so good that it’s worth it. And if
it’s never good enough, then I will not do
it. It’s an interesting period in my life. I
was so young when I joined the Scorpions.
I had gone to school at a university for two
and a half years and then I immediately
joined this band. I’ve been so busy since
then that I’ve never had time off. So I’m
really looking forward to having an open
vision of what I want to do. Whatever it
is, I will love it.
Schenker: It will be good to do something
else. I might do a Schenker Brothers
album with Michael. We have 500 hours of
Scorpions film, we have the back catalog—
there is plenty to do. Right now the tour is
the most important thing and it’s going great.
This is how we want to be remembered. We
never wanted to give 100 percent. We want
to give 150 percent. That’s how you create
a vibe that really gives people chills. The
magic comes when four or five people are
playing together—not perfectly, but in a way
that is so different that you’re creating something
special. That’s what it is. That’s music.
Everything else is plastic.