So it has come to pass, the 40 plus year career that the Scorpions have enjoyed is winding down. Now they are not going out with some extensive”farewell” tour and nothing to show for it, no. They have come out with a classic Scorpions metallic bang with Sting In The Tail and it does rock. Klaus Meine, the stalwart vocalist of the Scorpions, sat down with Metal Exiles in the UME offices for an in-depth interview that I will not soon forget.
Jeffrey Easton interviewing Klaus Meine.
Metal Exiles: When you started writing for Sting In The Tail, was retirement on your minds or was this another studio album?
Klaus Meine: It was just another studio record when we started recording it. All of the songs were written just like the other albums. It was a different philosophy unlike when we did Humanity with Desmond Child. That was a concept record but with Sting we went back to a more European sound, our Scorpions roots. With our Swedish producers, Mikael Andersson and Martin Hansen, they did not put their producers stamp on the album, they were more supportive of getting the Scorpions DNA out of us. We were not thinking of retirement but when the album was shaping up at the very end during the mixing our manager brought retirement up to us. He said, “Guys, how will you ever top this, this will be a very strong album”. With every album, you go out on the road for two or three years and then you go back into the studio. Where do we go from here, we are young at heart but Rudolf Schenker and I will be 62 this year. Scorpions are still a high energy running machine with every show and we want to keep it that way. When is the best moment to walk out? When the athlete comes back with a gold medal, how can you top that? All of us have the right feeling and we decided this would be the best moment to face the final curtain. We want to finish on a high note where you have people saying, “Why are you stopping now?” The question that was asked the most in the last ten years was “How long do you think you guys can do this?” and now it is the other way around. That is a much better scenario rather than in the next five years we have to slow down in front of our fans.
Metal Exiles: So you go out on your own terms.
Klaus: Yes, we are going out on our own terms. God bless the Rolling Stones and everybody that will walk this road forever. They have a touch of blues in their music and like B.B. King sitting on a stool in a club, which is fantastic, but for a hard rock band coming out singing “Bad Boys Running Wild” it is a completely different story and we stretch it quite a bit.
Metal Exiles: There is much more energy in a Scorpions show than in a Stones show.
Klaus: It is a lot of energy and we want to be remembered by our fans as a great live band and we do not want to wait until we find a situation where our fans say, “Aww they used to be such a great band.” We do not want to do that, we want to keep it up until the last show.
Metal Exiles: Lonesome Crow (debut record) came out when I was one years old so I pretty much grew up with the Scorpions so to see you going away and not being there is different but at least you are going out on the way you want.
Klaus: We go out the way we want. We come from a generation of bands like Aerosmith, Ozzy, AC/DC so in the next 10 years there will be more retiring, not just The Scorpions that will come to an end.
Metal Exiles: This album like you said is different from Humanity. Humanity reminded me of Virgin Killer and In Trance, where as Sting In The Tail reminds me of a cross between Savage Amusement and Crazy World. Was that the direction you were going when you went in to write Sting?
Klaus: The whole idea was to reactivate the Scorpions songwriting. With Humanity we had outside writers involved as well as Desmond Child, the album became Americanized, and we wanted to get away from that. We wanted to try to come out with some Schenker/Meine tunes and we know many fans who were expecting this. There were we did have some outside writers who were friends of ours but for the most part, it is much more of a Scorpions album in the old fashioned way. We were also looking for what made the Scorpions so big in the 80s, there is this big wave of classic rock music, and there is a whole new wave of young fans that come to see the shows. I guess that they see us on YouTube and made the decision that they like the band and they come to the shows. In addition, iTunes has a new game that has included Raised On Rock, which will introduce a whole new legion of fans to us. Also, Raised On Rock went to #1 on the Classic Rock Charts.
Jeffrey: This is a pure Scorpions album through and through and you guys have always delivered a message with your lyrics. Is there a message you wanted to get out this time?
Klaus: We wanted to go with no message this time, we just wanted to have fun with the music. Especially after coming off of this big humanitarian message with Humanity Hour 1. We just wanted to go back to straightforward rock n roll, let’s have a good time. Still there is a song called The Good Die Young. It is a song about the soldiers in Afghanistan and we wanted to dedicate it to the people who stand up for a more peaceful world. It is an anti war song but with this album we did not want to go with a big message we just wanted to enjoy ourselves.
Metal Exiles: This is your last album but the last track is entitled The Best Is Yet To Come. Is there a reason for this?
Klaus: This song has been around for quite some time and we recorded it before we thought about this retirement thing. When we put the album together we put that at the end for an ironic twist. We wanted to end with a positive note and even if we end the chapter of The Scorpions after this next tour for the next few years there might be a new page in the book of life.
Metal Exiles: Sting In The Tail debuted at #23 on Billboard, which is the highest charting record in the U.S. since Face The Heat. What is it about this record that people latched onto that they have not in the past few years?
Klaus: it is in the songs I guess. It is also the fact that we worked at home with producers that did not exactly produce but became part of the gang.
Metal Exiles: They were not oppressive.
Klaus: Yes and they challenged us as Scorpions fans, they were very good at what they did and it was a very relaxed atmosphere. With the last album, I had to focus on my German accent because Desmond Child was not happy with the way I pronounced certain words. I told him “I sold millions of records in America with my German accent”. Therefore, it was different this time. Last time Desmond wanted everything perfect, this time we wanted everything our way. Humanity Hour 1 is a great album but for some reason it did not click with our audience. Now with Sting In The Tail we come into America with an album that goes up to #23 and all over the world it is charting high. After 40 years, it is something that you do not expect. You have all of these bands on the road for years that live on their history and nobody would expect that they would come out with something that can top their past. With this album, we were not trying to top our history but we wanted to put out a record that our fans would say that “this is the album that we were waiting on.”
Metal Exiles: You guys have been inducted into the Rock Walk on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood at the Guitar Center. It is not the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame but is still a great honor. What are your feelings on this?
Klaus: It is a great honor to lay our hands down into the cement in front of the Guitar Center on the Sunset Strip next to all of these great legends. To me it is the icing on the cake, you cannot ask for anything more.
Metal Exiles: You guys are about to embark on your final tour and you have always been known for the enthralling live show. What can we expect from the final Scorpions run?
Klaus: We have a played a few shows already and we kicked off the show with Sting In The Tail, played Raised On Rock and The Good Die Young and of course the big hits as well. We also are playing some of the things we have not played in awhile like Animal Magnetism for example which went down well. We also might have our friends Michael Schenker, Uli Roth and Herman Rarebell here and there joining us for a night to remember here in the U.S. There are no plans right now but since we are talking set lists we would play No One Like You with Herman on drums, We Burn The Sky with Uli and Another Piece Of Meat with Michael. You go through different times of your career and pick out the songs that are connected with those artists that mean the most.
Metal Exiles: The Scorpions have almost always drawn the ire of the censors with your album covers, even Love At First Sting was banned for awhile. Did you guys ever purposefully go out of your way to make the covers racy to get attention or did you just like great art?
Klaus: Back in those days (the 70’s) it was RCA, our record label then, went over the edge with Virgin Killer. Today when you think of child pornography on the net, you would never do something like that. We never did this in the sense of pornography, we did it in the sense of art. It is about the song and the label was pushing the idea because they wanted to get the controversy to help the album sale and you cannot get better promotion that that. Looking back from the band point of view it was never an album cover that we took home to our parents and said, “Look what we just released..” There was always mixed feelings about it and even 30 years later it caused a scandal at Wikipedia because the site for that album was blocked and even the FBI was getting involved. All of that after so many years, can you believe that?
Metal Exiles: You also have In Trance with the exposed breast.
Klaus: In Trance, Lovedrive, Animal Magnetism but so much of it was connected with the time. Hipgnosis did a few of those covers, which kept us on the controversial side, but we also worked with Gottfried Helnwein for Blackout and Love At First was done by the legendary Helmut Newton. I did not know that one was banned.
Metal Exiles: To appease some stores they had to issue a band shot album cover for Love At First Sting.
Klaus: In the 80’s, we came close to working with Andy Warhol but due to some business reasons we were unable to. Could you imagine Helnwein, Newton and Warhol?
Metal Exiles: You have always had great covers but it seemed like for a while right after you released an album here in America you had a collectors item.
Klaus: We never did it on purpose, we just did not know it would be a problem in America, it was just sex and rock n roll. It is odd that in America that some of these covers were a problem because in the 80’s when we would tour here we always had boobs flashed to us at the front of the stage. Nowhere else in the world, just here. We just did not think it would be a problem to put out a record like Lovedrive in America. (Deadly Sting: The Mercury Years was banned at Wal Mart and Pure Instinct was banned as well.)
Metal Exiles: I know you have conducted many interviews during this press weekend but is there one thing that you have not been asked that you want to get off your mind?
Klaus: Nobody has asked me how my voice has held up talking so much. (laughter) With the media stuff, we are doing many interviews, getting up early and we have a tour coming up.
Metal Exiles: How do you maintain your voice after all of these years?
Klaus: I try to treat my voice with a little more respect and try to keep it in a good balance. After so many years, I am a lucky person and that I survived my lost voice during Blackout in 1982.
Metal Exiles: What did you do differently after that?
Klaus: I did not play six shows anymore after that and just took care of myself. There is a bad word next rock n roll called discipline, you have to be on the safe side to make it through a tour. When everybody throws a party, the poor singer has to take care of his voice. Now I do all of the parties I missed back then, it is my turn!
Metal Exiles: With the final album in Sting In The Tail, you now have bookends on your career with Lonesome Crow as your debut. From the start with Lonesome Crow to the end with Sting, what do you think of your progression as a band do you think that progression saved your careers?
Klaus: With Lonesome Crow, we were just a young band trying to find our way, trying to shape an artistic style to find the Scorpions DNA. There was a ballad with In Search Of Peace Of Mind and a psychedelic rocker with the title track, I’m Goin’ Mad was a great rocker with Michael Schenker playing great solos. We were just a young band with talented guys with no idea on where to go from here. We brought in Uli Roth who had a Hendrix influence and Rudolf and I became a songwriter team. When Matthias Jabs joined the band, we found our style, fast riffs but great melodies along with the power ballads. I think from Lonesome Crow to Sting In The Tail we influenced many musicians. This Is our legacy, to leave many rock classics like Rock You Like A Hurricane to Wind Of Change, which became the soundtrack for the end of the Cold War. Our final final album shows that The Scorpions still burn for the passion of Rock N Roll and we love it. We are still a live band and many of the songs on the new album can be played live. With this record, we want to go out on the road and nail it every night.
Metal Exiles: What will you do when the last tour is over?
Klaus: Pick up the pieces, I do not know. Right now, it does not make sense to make plans for the end. We are young at heart but when we come home from this, we will be 65 but we can say we have been all over the world and have fans from every country. You cannot ask for more than that. There will hopefully be another challenge in the book of life, I never did a solo album in all of those years. I am sure life will not be boring and the golf courses of the world will not see us too soon.
Metal Exiles: That is a relief. The Scorpions have indeed had a great career and when you look back what the best impression of what you people have done for the rock world?
Klaus: My best impression of what we did, because we grew up in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, we had a chance with our music to build bridges with our music. When we played the Moscow Music Peace festival, we said our parents came with tanks but we come with guitars. The people from our shows were always closer than the ones in the eight O’ Clock news. We raised the voice of rock loudly for a more peaceful world.
If you never had the chance to see the Scorpions live this is it, your last chance, do not let it pass you by and make Sting In The Tail YOUR rock album must have of the year.
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