For some reason the weather cooperated with us and not a drop of rain fell all day (in your face, weather.com). We got on the bus about 5:30 with Klaus Meine, Matthias Jabs, Pawel Maciwoda, and me sitting up near the front. All cool, friendly guys who were very welcoming to this interloper in their midst. Matthias is a particularly easy hang, with lots to say and a quick-witted sense of humor. The conversation turned to guitar and I reminded him of our vibrato discussion from a few years back. When I mentioned his disdain for guitarists with a fast, nervous vibrato he once again did his hilarious impression of it, which sounds something like a goat sitting on a juicer. “It’s the kind of vibrato you hear a lot in music stores,” he says. “I actually own a music store in Germany, but I don’t have to spend much time there.” We talk about guitars and guitarists a bit and Joe Bonamassa’s name gets brought up. It turns out Bonamassa was in that very store a few days prior and had bought Matthias’ late-’60s Firebird.
(The Scorps, l-r: James Kottak, Matthias Jabs, happy fan, Klaus Meine, Rudolf Schenker, and Pawel Maciwoda)
We arrive at the venue, get situated, and then Rudolf leads the way to catering. It’s a surprisingly healthy selection and as we sit down he says, “bon appétit.” I respond, “danke,” which seems odd in retrospect. It’s not long before the band has to go to the I Love All Access meet and greet for fans who have bought the VIP package. With the new album blasting over the sound system the guys pose for pictures with everyone and each band member is gracious and friendly. As they leave, the fans each get autographed laminates, leaving every last one of them beaming. I’ve seen these meet and greets appear forced and uncomfortable, so this was refreshing to see the fans get treated with such respect.
Afterwards I hang out in Matthias and Rudolf’s dressing room. They both have guitars in there and Rudolf starts riffing on a Korina Gibson Flying V with gold hardware. He plays some chords, but spends a surprising (at least to me) amount of time playing leads. The bends and phrasing that characterize his “Lady Starlight” solo are there as well as a bunch of extended scale runs. Matthias is excited to show me a Strat-style Cort that’s on the couch. “This is my new signature model,” he explains. “People are always asking about my guitars, but the Dommenget Mastercaster is really expensive. I wanted something that was more affordable, but still really good.” He hits a few chords on the Cort and I’m struck by how loud and ringy the acoustic sound is. “It has great sustain,” he says. “The neck joint is really tight but they’re actually going to make it even better by removing the finish from the neck where it joins the body. That’s a Hendrix trick.” The guitar has a single humbucker, set at an angle, with his MJ logo on it. There is a mini-toggle and one volume and one tone knob. I notice that the tone control has a clear plastic disk stuck to the top of it. “That’s for splitting the coils,” he explains as he hooks his pinky under the disk and pulls the knob up. “You can never grab these knobs when you want if you have sweaty hands. This makes it easy.” He plays some more, effortlessly shredding through scales and arpeggios and always throwing in his killer bends and vibrato. When I ask about the neck profile, he insists that I try it and I find that it’s thicker on the bass side than the treble side. Matthias explains that it fits the natural curvature of the hand better. I hand the guitar back and he shreds some more. “Just enough to get my hands synchronized,” he says. It’s now getting closer to show time and we can hear Ratt laying it down outside.
Next up: the set.