news  ◊  interviews  ◊  articles  ◊  giveaways  trivia  ◊  reviews  ◊  concert Reports  ◊  home Classic Rock Revisited
˜Music that stands the test of time

  Within the First Hour of Humanity: An interview Klaus Meine  

Click here to buy posters!
Click here to buy posters & T-shirts!

by Jeb Wright

In 1980 a friend of mine gave me a cassette tape by a band he said I had to check out. I was 13-years old and new to the world of hard rock and I was taking in everything I could get my hands on. The album was by a band called the Scorpions titled Animal Magnetism. I plopped in the cassette and the opening notes of "Make It Real" blasted through my headphones. A while later the opening chords of "The Zoo" smashed into my skull and I was changed forever. I went to the local used record store and bought every used Scorpions album they had in stock. Soon I was an expert on the band and knew every song, lyric and guitar solo by heart. I discovered the band used to have a guitar player named Uli Jon Roth and another named Michael Schenker. I was memorized by every note. It is hard to believe that twenty-seven years later I am still cranking up albums by the Scorpions including the band’s latest offering Humanity Hour I, which will be released in the United States on August 28th.

The band has taken a new direction with the album and brought in outside songwriters, including Desmond Child, to collaborate with and take the band into the year 2007. Humanity Hour I is a daring release as the band changes their guitar sound and writes about more mature themes than can be found in most of their biggest hits such as "Rock You Like a Hurricane," "No One Like You" and "Rhythm of Love." Child has led the band to push themselves artistically and the result is a solid album that the band hopes will be another important chapter in their musical repertoire.

I was able to speak with Scorpions’ vocalist Klaus Meine about the making of the new album. We discussed why they went with outside writers as this is often seen as a sign that a band is tired and out of fresh ideas. We compared Humanity I with failed efforts of experimentation such as the disastrous Eye II Eye album from 1999. It became clear that Meine and the rest of the band did not hire Child to save them from oblivion. Instead they wanted to stretch out and bring the band to the modern day but still retain the Scorpions’ sting. The band worked harder on the making of this album then they have in years and they believe in the music and the global message it contains.

We also chatted about recent gigs with former guitar players Uli Jon Roth and Michael Schenker and how the band welcomes their past with the same reverence that they welcome their future. The Scorpions are showing signs of maturity with the release of Humanity Hour I yet they still remember the power that comes from rock ‘n roll. The rest of 2007 sees the band touring the world once again, reminding us all that there really is no one like them.  

Jeb: Humanity I shows the Scorpions moving in a modern direction. Your last album, Unbreakable, had a classic Scorpions sound. There was even talk that you would do the new album with Dieter Dierks. But you changed direction and used Desmond Child.

Klaus: You have to make a decision as to who will be the producer for the next album. Could it be someone like Dieter Dierks who would take us back all the way to the 80's or do you want to produce an album that presents the Scorpions in 2007? Desmond Child was on the top of our wish list. We met him last summer when we played a couple of shows in California. He was busy working with Meat Loaf but he was very excited about working with the Scorpions. He said to Rudolf [Schenker] and myself, "These days I seem to be working with icons." I looked at Rudolf and said, "I didn’t think we were icons yet."

When you work with a producer like Desmond then you open your arms and welcome him as a songwriter as well. We also collaborated with some of the other top writers in rock music. Desmond said to us, "Let’s make an album that is more mature and will hopefully take your career to the next level." It is not so much about writing songs about boys chasing girls or the other way around. We have done that and we still play those songs every night and it is still a lot of fun but he wanted the fans to take us seriously as artists. He suggested we make an album with a theme. He presented us with the idea of Humanity Hour I and we all liked it. In a way he was taking us to where we finished off with "Wind of Change."

We wanted to come out with this album with a global message. We wanted to also make a rock album. Our first priority is to entertain the audience and hopefully come out with something very powerful. We shaped the songs in that way. We just wanted to move on and not look back. We did Blackout, Lovedrive and Love at First Sting. We wanted to do something that would hopefully impress and surprise everyone that the Scorpions, at this stage in our history, could come up with something this powerful.

Jeb: As a lyricist, how challenging was it for you to write a theme album?

Klaus: It was very challenging. After all these years you don’t want to be characterized as a Spinal Tap, cartoon kind of band. There are a lot of bands that, I must admit, very successfully repeat the same kind of formula again and again. Some of these bands we really respect like AC/DC but we wanted to move on artistically. We want to stay excited about what we do and not just come out with another Blackout record, which would probably fail. People would say, "It is good but Blackout is much better." We had some great writers on our side. It was not so much about, "this is my song" or "this is your song." Instead, we all worked together and we were into it. We hopefully have made something that will be another milestone for the band. We went into the making of the album with that attitude.

Desmond Child is a visionary. Working with him and writing with him was great. On the other side of the studio he is not the easiest guy to satisfy. He works you very hard. He gets the very best performance out of you. It was challenging in many different ways. We know after all of these years that if you want to come up with something that is not only good but is spectacular — like magic — then you have to be ready to go through a challenge. You have to prove to yourself that you can do this. You ask yourself, "Am I good enough? Am I really that good? Can I pull this off after all these years?" The answer is "Yes." At some point you go to the big producer guy in the other room and you go, "Okay Desmond, now let me show you what I can do."

Jeb: There are a lot of jaded, grouchy rock critics who say that bands go get Desmond when they can no longer do it themselves.

Klaus: I know that people think that maybe we are running out of ideas. It is not so much that. The whole world of music has changed. We made this album in an old-fashioned way, in that sense. We worked in Los Angeles, in the studio, for four months, working every day. We could have gone into our basement and made a cheap record and put it out on the internet and hopefully we would have a hit. We made it the old-fashioned way to convince the fans, and the new generation of fans who may be listening to our music for the first time, that this is very powerful music. We put everything into this.

We wrote a few hits and we know what we are doing. Of course we can do it all ourselves. We know what to do and we are definitely not running out of ideas. We are touring all over the world and that is still the biggest source of inspiration. But to make something that is outstanding and amazing you have to have a good team around you and you have to open up. Desmond has worked with artists that we really respect like Aerosmith and he really knows what he is doing. He lives for his passion and his music. Desmond is a guy that you can trust if you want to go somewhere else and you are ready to learn another lesson in the new chapter of this band.

Jeb: The song "Humanity" shows the best of what can happen when you collaborate with others.

Klaus: Desmond said that one is a masterpiece. It is a song that goes down well when we play it live. We started our tour in Europe and we are now in Mexico. We just played in the rainforest in Amazonia. There were 30,000 people coming to see the Scorpions. Our message to them was that we have to take care of the rainforest in this part of the world. This song makes a powerful statement. It has a deep message that is a global message. In a way it is the old message of make love, not war. We have got to get our shit together now if we want to make this world a more peaceful place for ourselves and for our children.

Jeb: The Scorpions are a band that plays across the entire world. You really do see, first hand, the different cultures. Once Desmond brought up the idea of Humanity I then you had to relate and be able to tap into that energy.

Klaus: You’re absolutely right — that is exactly like it is. The Scorpions really are, in the best sense of the word, global players. We play in Indonesia and Jakarta. We play in the Middle East and we play in Israel. We also played at the Pyramids in Cairo. We see the Arabs in the crowd rocking like a hurricane. They are not very different from the fans in Israel or the fans in Los Angeles or in Brazil. Scorpions’ music connects people and that is very inspiring. We connect to different cultures and it is a very wonderful thing to see when you’re on stage. Then you watch the news and it is a totally different world. We feel, as musicians, that we can add something to world peace. It might be something that is very little but there are a lot of people who take power from music. They need the kind of energy that rock music provides to make it through their life.

Jeb: Do you still think music can really change people?

Klaus: We saw it change people when we played in Russia in the 80's. "Wind of Change" was the soundtrack for the end of Communism and the bringing down of the Berlin Wall. We saw that rock music had a huge effect on the younger generation of Russians. They were tired of the whole Communist system. They were tired of being behind the Iron Curtain. We were breaking through the Iron Curtain with Scorpions’ music. We talked to young people back then and they told us that the time of the Cold War would be over soon. As a generation they didn’t want it anymore. I am not saying rock music did that but it was a part of it.

Jeb: If you listen to Humanity Hour I you realize that some of the songs are kind of dark. Yet you say that you want to convey hope.

Klaus: Sometimes we were fighting with Desmond when we were writing the album. He came up with the title "Love is War." I said, "No, no, no, the Scorpions can’t have a song where love is war." He said, "Think about it. So many young couples fall in love and after a couple of years they start splitting up and they go see their lawyers. At that point love is war." It really is a reality. This kind of feeling is more honest and it really gets the message across more than singing twelve songs with happy lyrics. There are some songs on the album that do persuade the dark side of life. "The Cross" and "Hour I" both do that. We balance it out with a song like "The Future Never Dies."

Jeb: "Hour I" really kicks you right in the teeth. That is a heavy song.

Klaus: We kick the show off with that song.

Jeb: "The Future Never Dies" is a song that draws you back to it. That is when you know you have something good.

Klaus: We know these days that people download single songs but we wanted to make an album where people could listen and enjoy the whole thing. The Internet Generation has many forms of entertainment. When we grew up, we just had records. We waited for the next album by Ozzy and when it came out we went out and bought it and went home and listened to the whole record. These days it is just different. People don’t have the time. They just pick out one song. It seems that people don’t care about song quality. They download a song on their iPod — it is just so different. As artists we still want to make an album where hopefully people go, "This is really cool. I like the whole record." There are songs that could be big singles on the radio but the album as a whole makes a very strong artistic statement.

Jeb: Does the title Humanity Hour I mean there is going to be a Humanity Hour II?

Klaus: That is what everybody is asking. There might be. Who knows? Right now we are at the beginning of the world tour. It is exciting to play the new songs and they go very well with the classics. It is exciting that there is a whole new audience out there. There are many longtime fans but there are a lot of young kids. We just played in London and in Paris and there were young kids rocking out to songs that were written way before they were born. It is amazing. I don’t want to think about Hour II right now because Hour I is so exciting. It is very inspiring to see how much the audience enjoys this new music.

Jeb: The last time the Scorpions really stepped outside of the classic Scorpions sound was the album Eye II Eye. That album was not well received.

Klaus: Not at all. The difference is that this album still incorporates the Scorpions trademark sound and ingredients – even with all these people involved. Desmond really put his stamp onto this as well but you still recognize that it is the Scorpions. With Eye II Eye it was a different kind of sound. We were experimenting. Peter Wolf produced it. He played keyboards with Frank Zappa. He was very talented but it was not a very professionally produced record. For some reason the Scorpions’ sting was not shining through. The fans couldn’t identify with it. The album had no Scorpions DNA. People did not like the album because they could not connect with hit.

With Humanity I, we were not experimenting. I think we all learned our lesson — I know I learned my lesson. This album is truly a Scorpions record but it has a more current sound. It sounds very much 2007. A lot of rock magazines back in Europe said that a lot of rock bands that are just starting to make rock albums should listen to Humanity I because it is very cool.

Jeb: Even though the band is moving forward I have to bring up a connection from the past. You have been playing a few shows with Uli Jon Roth appearing in the band.

Klaus: We played the big Wacken Festival in Germany, which is the biggest heavy metal festival in the world last year. We did a show called A Night to Remember. We invited Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker and Herman Rarebell to join us on stage. We put 50 songs on the internet and we asked the fans to tell us what they wanted us to play. It was a hardcore audience. Again, we wanted to prove that this band is not a ballad band and that we like to rock. It was also a challenge that we threw ourselves into. There were sixty thousand metal fans there and they freaked. We filmed it and we will hopefully be putting it out soon. We enjoyed playing songs with Michael and Uli. A couple of weeks back we played some shows in Europe and we had Uli Jon Roth with us. We played songs from way back like "Dark Lady," "Speedy’s Coming" and "Fly to the Rainbow."

Uli is an amazing and legendary guitar player. Uli had a lot of fun playing on stage with the Scorpions. We played "In Trance." It was fun for us as we would play "Humanity" and then we would introduce Uli and we would play "Pictured Life." It is so cool to do that and the fans really loved it. It would be great at some point to do this in the States as well. It shows that it was an important part in the Scorpions history and it still works to go from the present to the past. It also shows that we are not just riding on the glorious old days. We have something new to present but it really is like going full circle.

Jeb: Do you feel Uli had to leave the Scorpions for the band to become what it became?

Klaus: Probably yes. Back then it was his decision, first of all. He wanted to play his own music. He had his own formula of writing songs. It was very exciting but we could see we were drifting apart musically. We remained friends and we could respect that he wanted to do his own thing. When Matthias [Jabs] joined the band then Rudolf and I could follow our own way and do what we wanted to do. It was the next step up for us. We had Lovedrive, Animal Magnetism, Blackout and Love at First Sting. With Uli we would have still been a very powerful band but I don’t think we would have survived the next ten years. We were just too different. We are all more relaxed now. Uli is more relaxed too. He can also enjoy this part of his life and his career. He loves to come back and play with us.

Michael Schenker is going through difficult times right now and we hope he gets back on track soon. But that is the story of Michael’s life. He was back at the Wacken show and a couple of weeks ago, MSG opened the show for us in London and Manchester. The fans just freaked. It was difficult for Michael though. We hope for the best and that he is alright soon. Uli is a very organized person and he is a great artist. When we play a show in Paris then you know he is going to be there. With Michael you never know.

Jeb: Last one: Which was the most enjoyable video to make: "No One Like You" or "Rock You Like a Hurricane?"

Klaus: Probably "Rock You Like a Hurricane." Both were great. I got to spend the night at Alcatraz and that was really exciting. There were Japanese tourists there in the morning taking picture of the electric chair because they thought that was where Al Capone was killed. To be in a cage with all those girls around us in "Rock You Like a Hurricane" was very cool. If you are just talking about fun then it would have to be "Rhythm of Love" which was filmed in Hollywood. Those days were a lot of fun. 

all content © classic rock revisited, 1998-2007, unauthorized reproduction  is strictly prohibited
about us           contact us

Buy Concert Tickets: Bruce Springsteen | andre rieu  | the cure bon jovi | mark knopfler