As it turns out, it’s harder to kill a scorpion than once believed. After announcing plans to retire during their ‘Get Your Sting and Blackout’ World Tour, it seemed as though iconic rock group the Scorpions were on the final lap of their extensive race across the world and music history.
Then something changed in the minds of lead vocalist Klaus Meine, guitarists Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs, bassist Paweł Mąciwoda and drummer James Kottak. The members of the Scorpions suddenly came to the realization that maybe it wasn’t time for the band to say farewell just yet.
The Scorpions have returned stronger than ever with their eighteenth studio album ‘Return to Forever,’ which will find it’s way onto the shelves in North America on September 11. Not only that, but the group will soon embark on a tour of the United States with Queensryche.
Music Enthusiast recently sat down with frontman Klaus Meine to discuss their decision to revive the Scorpions, the making of ‘Return to Forever’ and the band’s future plans.
Music Enthusiast: The Scorpions had announced that the ‘Get Your Sting and Blackout’ World Tour back in 2011 would be the last time the band went on tour before retirement. Fortunately for hard rock fans, you’re heading on a tour of the United States. What made you change your mind about the future of the Scorpions and what are you looking forward to about this upcoming run?
Klaus Meine: I think we realize we had way too much fun. Its one thing to say and one thing to do, you know. I think we were pretty much at a point in 2010, we believed in a moment in time we would call it a day and go out for another world tour for three years. It seemed like a long way to go, but those years went like a flash. In fact, we saw so many young kids in front of the stage where ever we went and a whole new generation of Scorpions fans joined the party and it became more and more difficult, you know. Especially when promoters invited us back after the seventh show at Moscow, we were getting tired of all those goodbyes. We realized this not the end and definitely not too early when we have too much fun. We enjoy it way too much.
At the end of the day we played the last show in Munich during 2012, it was like “Ah! We reached the finish line after a long tour and around two hundred shows or something and we still standing on our feet. Well yes, this is good. It is over. Let’s see what life will bring.” It was not so much the split up or something, but I guess we wanted to stop this massive touring and to take a break out of this circle from touring and go back into the studio. Now it looks like we are exactly back in this circle. (laughs) I know, it’s kind of… I don’t know what to say. At the end of the day it was probably the band only believed it was the last tour.
When we had the MTV Unplugged offer in 2013 we said, “Okay, this sounds like a cool project.” Even though it is not the MTV we used to know from the 80’s all those years, over here at Europe it is still a powerful format to do MTV Unplugged. We did this and we spent most of the time during 2013 preparing for these shows at Athens, Greece, and that triggered the feelings and also opened the creative gates again because we wanted to present at least some new songs for that kind of show. By that we realized time that there was so much gas left in the tank, so much creativity and so I mean the answer is when you have this kind of demand from all over the world, you have to pick the places.
It is very hard to stay at home at watch the grass grow, you know? This is not a healthy thing at all. You know, when you are out there going 200 kilometers on the German autobahn and hit the brakes and say this it. You realize this is our life for what we did for so many years. Rudolph found a book from his mother from when she was the book keeper when he founded the band in 1965. He came to our manager and said, “Look what I found, come on now! You know it’s 50 years in 2015.” “So you want to quit now?” “No Way!” “Come on guys!” And so here we are celebrating our 50th anniversary. Rudolph started the band in ’65, it is a long road, a scary number. Five zero.
At the same time we are proud of it and that not many bands celebrate the 50 years. Just the Stones, The Who and Beach Boys and a few. We are still around and still going strong out there. And it feels like a lot of people and young fans are like, “Come on Scorpions! This is not a time to go. We want you to come back. When are you coming back?” And with this kind of feeling and what we see every other night in front of the stage playing in front of three generations, it is a privilege that we are still out there and our enjoying ourselves and we can do this. To celebrate the anniversary with a new album, who would have thought about that? I never! In 2010 we thought ‘Sting of the Tail’ was a great album, it was good moment to set out. But here we are and enjoying it very, very much.
I understand that some of the songs on the new album ‘Return to Forever’ were demoed for previous albums and we revisited and updated. What was that process like?
This is very much connected to what I just told you. When we started this final tour we always knew we had some material back from the 80’s and some of those songs were never released. Back in those days it was all about vinyl records and you had seven or eight songs on each album, so there were many left over. We knew we had some great stuff but they were unfinished without lyrics, working titles and all that. Here or there a great chorus missing, middle eight or whatever.
So back a few years ago when we with our Swedish producers in the studio, we checked those songs from the 80’s which was an amazing and creative time. This was supposed to be like when this tour will be over, and then we give this to our fans as extra with some cool stuff from the early days. This was our idea and we called it ‘Outtakes.’ After the MTV Unplugged project we went back into the studio for this so called ‘Outtakes’ project, and in the meantime everybody came with new material. So we went into the studio and picked up those 80’s songs, the best ones we thought and just finished them. I wrote lyrics to them, maybe Rudolf and Mathias wrote a new chorus and put those songs together and then we put in those new songs. So more and more happened in this recording session, especially towards the end of last year.
It turned out we had so much new material, so many new songs that this became much more like a new album than just going back to the 80’s. It’s a nice mix of 50/50, 60/40 balance between songs that are really like are from the mid-eighties and brand new stuff and it came more like a brand new album at the end of the day, which is great! We recorded everything from scratch so it’s not like we [previously] recorded those songs. We recorded them from scratch. You know, the whole vibe is there and I think it is a great thing to tell when you listen to this album what is new and what is like from the glory 80’s. It’s all meshed together that presents the Scorpions DNA in a good way.
I must give our producers Mikael Nord Andersson and Martin Hansen huge credit because since we worked with them as well, they did sing with us at MTV Unplugged and we really enjoy working with them. They also wrote some of the songs with us and participated with the songwriting as well. It was very inspiring and this album was not, “We were in the studio now for three months and we’ll get it done.” It was we were playing shows then came back and recorded a few songs and growing up. We recorded nineteen songs! “Hey guys, Are we doing a double record here or what?” (laughs) Not too bad for some people who were on their way out already.
I would assume that there’s still plenty of material in the vaults after more than fifty years. Is the plan to do something similar and revisit more unreleased tracks for another record?
Of course I don’t want to give much away right now. But later this year there will be a re-release of the albums ‘Taken By Force,’ ‘Savage Amusement,’ ‘Love At First Sting’ and ‘Blackout.’ They will be re-released later this year with bonus tracks and some stuff. It will be very exciting and that is all I can say about it right now. It is all part of the 50th anniversary package that will be released during November, but it’s too early to talk about it.
This will answer your question, “Is there more?” There is.
How long do you plan to tour to support the new album?
We started in May at China, which was the very first time we played in China. And they invited us back next year. And just 10 days ago or two weeks ago we played at South Korea at Seoul. And we played a lot of shows at Russia and places here at Europe, so this tour is shaping up very nicely and we do North America and Canada for September and October. We come back here and tour Italy and France and until the middle of December. Next year we will keep going with shows at Europe, with two here in Germany before we go back to China and to South America next year. And let’s see… coming back to the US means a lot. We know that fans expect us to play different parts of the country than what is scheduled now, so we will see if we come back for a second leg next year.
So I don’t know, my guess is we will be on the road with little breaks and pieces until next fall 2016. Or the end of next year, I have no idea. Since they are adding new places and coming up to the tour schedule, you know, it is hard to say right now. But right now we feel fabulous and we have a good time, we have a great new show, we have a whole new set of music like we had in 2012 in America. We have this 50th anniversary concert that takes us all the way back with some songs we haven’t played for a long, long time like “Top of the Bill,” “Steamrock Fever,” “Speedy’s Coming,” “Catch Your Train” and those from ‘Return to Forever,’ the new album. I think it will be a very effective show for our fans that haven’t seen us for long time now in America. It’s a great set with all the multimedia production and we are ready to rock with our fans in the US.
Thanks for your time, Klaus. It has been pleasure.