Scorpions: Hope For Humanity Yet: An Interview With Klaus Meine
This summer here in America, the Scorpions came back on the radar but actually, they never really were off of it entirely -- having sold more than 70 million records world-wide tends to have that effect . Few rock fans could ever forget a band as huge as the Scorpions who has now been around longer than most people realize (formed in 1969), and who have had massive hits like "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and the "Wind of Change."
This August saw the release of their new album, Humanity Hour 1, and UnRated Magazine caught up with vocalist Klaus Meine during the band's first North American run in support of this album, and asked how things have been going on the road thus far.
"Very good!" Meine replied with enthusiasm. "Actually, since the album was released in Europe at the end of May we've been touring all over Europe . And the album just came out in North America at the end of August; we're back with the Universal family. And so we started the second leg of the tour in Latin America with shows in Brazil , Mexico , then we went up all the way to Canada . Then we're been doing a few shows between L.A. and New York City before we go to Asia and then come back hopefully next summer for a real tour in the U.S. We have a couple shows in Asia coming up in October, we start in Korea and we might go to India."
Meine added: "Yeah and Brazil was very exciting playing in Sao Paulo and we played for the first time in Manaus - in the rainforest, capital of the Amazonas, and there were 30,000 people. It was a show we did together with Greenpeace to support the issues of rainforest and global warming and it was an amazing, amazing show. So we've come a long way and just a few days ago played a sold-out show in Los Angeles at the Amphitheater and it was fantastic."
When asked if even after all these years it's ever still touching to see the huge concert turn-outs and the adoring response to their music and showes, Klaus seemed ever humble.
"Yeah it's amazing, I think after all these years it's a privilage. It feels like we've gone full-circle because there's a whole new generation of rock fans who come to the shows. And we've sold out [concerts] over there, either in shows like in Paris or London, but over here in the United States it's the same thing. These people are long time Scorpion fans and there is a whole new generation of rock fans out there and it's so inspiring and motivating to see how much fun they have, and they love the new album. They rock to "Humanity" but they also sing along to songs that were written way before they were even born like "Rock You Like a Hurricane," "Blackout," all those. It's great and I think it's a privalage that we've survived alternative, grunge, everything, and we're still here going strong and we still share the rock and roll dream - Rudolf, Matthias, myself, together with our American drummer James Kottak, and our new bass player Pawel Maciwoda from Poland. We enjoy ourselves going out there and we want people to leave and go, 'Man! We didn't expect that! The Scorpions they've still really got the sting!'" Meine chuckled.
"The Scorpions are really, truly in the best sense of the word, global players because we really play like I just said from the rainforest in Brazil to Mongolia we go everywhere, everywhere there are fans. Of course Russia , places like that. But to get such a good response to the new album that's fantastic. And if the radio picks it up and plays it because we know in like the last 10, 15 years whenever we came for shows through America they played, of course, the classics, they played all the big hits, and it was hard to put anything new on the radio. And now it's different."
And the theme of the new album is a little dark something that takes some people a bit off-guard from what they've come to expect from the Scorpions.
"It's true, you know, because we were working with Desmond Child and a lot of people were afraid we were making a pop record with Desmond but it turned out to be an album that's more mature, an album that has this dark edge. I remember Desmond saying there's no point in putting 12 heavy songs on the record, you know, and we were trying to keep a good balance. We wanted to portray the darker side of life and songs of hope. There's a common theme the humanity theme running throughout the album. And songs like "Hour One" and "The Cross" with an Armageddon kind of feel, and you're right, they are dark. For a lot of people they didn't expect this coming from the Scorpions, but it gives the record a much more current sound. But there are songs of hope like "The Future Never Dies," it's a good balance. We tried to just reflect on what's going on in the world right now, how we see it and Humanity Hour 1 -- there are a lot of people asking 'How about Hour 2?' And you see this cyborg or android on the artwork standing in front of a crater, and that's what it is for all of us it's like where do we go from here and isn't it time we turned around to find the road back to humanity, to go back to more love and respect for each other in this world. So it's an old message."
Meine goes on: "We know we cannot change the world - music - hardly ever changes the world. Even though in the late 80's we saw a big change in Eastern Europe with the Iron Curtain coming down and the Berlin Wall, and rock music had a very strong impact on that. But you know, since September 11th the world changed so much and we try to put out positive energy and we try to connect people with our music especially when you come to places and play shows like in the Middle East - like in Israel or Beirut or at the Pyramids in Cairo, and the world of emotions and the world of music are very much connected. People sing the same songs and people go home and go 'Wow, I had a great time tonight!' And it's great to see, like on the Internet - the Scorpions website, people from the Arab world, from Egypt writing to Israelis saying 'Next time the Scorpions play the Pyramids, guys, you've got to come over here at watch! It's cool.' You know, that's fantastic, and that's the wonderful effect that music and sports have. And as artists we try, I mean we want to have a good time and we go out there and rock like a hurricane, of course, but at the same time making the new record there was no point in writing songs about boys chasing girls after all these years."
Asking Meine, now a veteran in the rock world, how his views have changed over the years, he replies in very a well-rounded and conscientious adult way.
"I'm just more confident about expressing my feelings, and I'm much more aware of what's going on around me, what's going on in the world. And it's interesting, it's like back in the 80's how exciting it was, all of us I guess, watching MTV 24-hours a day when it first came out and it was like, 'Wow, you saw that video!' And we were like so excited about it and these days, besides the fact that MTV became really boring and there's nothing really interesting to watch anymore, but besides that I think the focus, for myself like now on tour, turn on the TV and the first thing I want to watch is CNN or locally what's going on in the news. Or I want to watch BBC web news. I want to see what's going on in the news because you travel so much you just want to keep in touch with what's going on, also politically it's very exciting, we were here for the last elections, we were touring America when John Kerry was running against George Bush. Now is another election year coming up next year, and for me it's very interesting, and I try to keep in touch and I want to be informed. Where is American moving next year with the elections? Where do we go from here, and what it means? Because where America is going this is where the world is going in many ways and many issues. For me personally, that changed a lot, and so it affects your song writing, and growing older doesn't mean we lose our energy when you play on stage but it means there are so many different issues these days that are just much more important than watching the latest video."
Understandably, all American's were greatly affected and changed by 911, but Meine explained that 911 really did change the entire world, not just America.
"I think so, very much. The whole crisis in the Middle East goes on forever, and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so many issues just carry. When I wrote "Wind of Change" it was a moment of hope - the east-west conflict was gone, that's what our generation grew up with, we grew up in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. When that was gone the outlook was like we're joining together and we might live in a more peaceful world, and 911 changed all that. Totally and completely it is a different world. And as artists, like I said, in the world of music and the world of emotions, being up on stage and you see different cultures in front of the stage joining together singing, they're happy, having a good time - and they're close together. But then when you go home and watch the news it's a whole different story. The reality is very far away from when you see people singing a song in the concert. It's so different. And all we can do is send out a positive message to the young people, the young generation, and hopefully the people who are growing up now -- they'll try to change, and hopefully the world will survive. Hopefully for all of us, and more importantly for our children, there will be a more peaceful world."
With touring as far and wide as the Scorpions have thus far in this calendar year, and plan to 2008, one can't help but wonder if they actually have any time to write while on the road.
"While we're touring it's a lot of like collecting ideas, and once we have a break then we go into a studio and we work on songs. But now we had a long run of producing this album in Los Angeles for four months, we started almost a year ago in October. We left L.A. in March, the album came out in May and then we went out on tour, we were constantly moving, there was no break what-so-ever for a long time. After New York City, Boston, we fly home and we haven't been there since early August, and then we move on a couple weeks later to Asia . But this is what we do for many years, and we enjoy it, and it's great to get the amazing feedback on this record. And it feels good to be back in America and see so many fans who have followed the band for so many years, and so many new ones. A lot of kids and a lot of teenagers; they want to see a rock band like the Scorpions, and I think they get the message, they understand about this humanity concept. They're the first ones to react very strongly to an album like this."
On Humanity Hour 1, Smashing Pumpkins vocalist Billy Corgan makes an appearance on the song "The Cross." Just how exactly did Corgan pair up with the Scorps for this collaboration?
"Because Billy is a Scorpions fan, he grew with our music in Chicago, I guess. And Rudolf Schenker - he met him some years ago I think, and now in L.A. accidentally we bumped into him again, and went out to dinner with Billy. And it turned out we were working in the same studio - he was mixing his Smashing Pumpkins come-back album in one studio, and I was in the same building just on different floors working on vocals with Desmond Child. And so we bumped into each other every other day, and so Rudolf had worked it out between him and Billy, and Billy said, 'I would love to do something and sing a part on this song.' And I said to Billy, 'If you're good about it just come up and we'll record your part.' He's a great guy. And he said actually that on his new album there's homage to the Scorpions, his "Tarantula" song, the way it starts, the guitar, is very much like a Scorpions kind of intro. And we love the guy too, I mean, he's an amazing artist, and I love the way he put it out. He enjoyed it a lot, and what a great artist. We love all the Pumpkins stuff. Very unique, we love him."
Unfortunately, on this run of their American dates the Scorps won't be playing in Chicago but Meine vows they'll be back in the Windy City soon.
"I know we missed out of the Chicago-area this time, but since this was just a short mini-tour we wanted at least to come over here and play a few shows, do some media and support the release of the new album. There was a show planned for Chicago but then unfortunately it dropped out. Everyone felt that was really sad because Chicago 's always been very special for the Scorpions, and we hope to come back there next year and come back for a big show. Chicago always has been very special to us, we have many fans in Illinois and in that part of America in the Midwest, we tried to play there, but it didn't work out. If it were up to us we would come to Chicago every other week -- it's one of the most exciting cities in the world."
Playing everywhere from arenas to rainforests throughout the duration of 2007 and into 2008, the Scorpions have still got their sting - and you'll love the pain.