German band the SCORPIONS are a hard rock institution. They have been around for 40 years and are one of the biggest arena rock bands in history. But it was recently announced that their latest album, “Sting in the Tail,” will be their last before the band retires. They chose to go out on a high note with one last album and a worldwide tour to follow.
Calling from LA on the band’s promo tour, vocalist Klaus Meine spoke about the new album and the impending retirement of the SCORPIONS.
Kelley Simms (SMNnews): When does “Get Your Sting and Blackout World Tour” kick off?
Klaus Meine: We started actually two weeks ago with two big shows in Prague and Moscow. The first show, we played to 15,000 fans in Prague. It was a great start, I think. We pick up the tour on the 7th of May in Leipzig, Germany, then go to Munich, Frankfurt, and all those big German cities where we’ll play big arenas. Most of them are sold out already. We’ll play a couple of shows in Europe and Greece, then we come to the U.S. We start on the 18th of June at the PNC in Holmdel, New Jersey.
KS: There are plenty of faithful fans that are going to be heart broken to see you go. But what led to the decision to call it quits after 40 years?
KM: I think it was when we realized at the end of the production for “Sting in the Tail,” that this album would be pretty strong. The old dream, whether you’re in sport, or a musician, you want to walk out of this when you’re on top of your game. So, when we realized this album was really good … it turned out to be a really strong and solid Scorpions album. I think our manager thought it up first. We thought he was joking. But, when you think that Rudolf Schenker and myself will be 62 this year … we’re young at heart of course, but with all of us getting older … that’s life. We realized that if we go on another tour for another two, three years, then what next? We go back into the studio, gone for another tour and album and keep going, we’re all pioneers and we stretch it a bit. We always use to say, as long as the Stones keep doing it, we’ll keep going. But they had the blues in their music and like all those great blues acts, you can go on probably forever. But when you’re a hard rock band, bringing “Bad Boys Running Wild,” I think there’s a point where you just want to go out in classic style. That’s when we decided it would be really great to finish things off with a bang instead of slowing down at some point in the years to come … slowing down in front of our fans. We want to remain in the collective memory of our fans as being a great live band. Right now, we pull this off every night and we want to keep it that way until the very end.
KS: The Sting in the Tail tour will take you into 2012 and possibly 2013. So you’re not done just yet.
KM: Absolutely. There’s still a long way to go. But all those games … coming back, and a reunion and coming back again, and saying goodbye one more time. We should have started this 10 years ago maybe. But this is not a scenario I think that would fit in this position. I think we owe it to our fans and to ourselves to go out in classic style. This is really what it’s all about. There’s still a long ways to go, and now is not the time to “cry the tears of tomorrow.” (It’s) for our fans to celebrate 40 years of Scorpions and to get the party started. And right now, we’re surfing on this wave of excitement with this new album and tour, we don’t have much experience with “riding into the sunset.” But when we played in Moscow two weeks ago, there were a lot of fans greeting us at the airport with flowers and presents and some had photo books saying “Remember the good times.” I tell you, I had a lump in my throat. For the first time, I had a feeling that it will be much more emotional when we face that final curtain than it feels like right now.
KS: Do you know when or where your final gig will be?
KM: We really don’t know. It’s hard to tell. And when you think that this band is popular in so many different parts of the world … and we just played in Moscow, and it’s hard to believe that we just played our last show in Moscow. Playing America this year, I think there might be a chance to come back in 2011 as still a part of the tour, because you cannot play everywhere at the same time. It’s hard to know. There might be one last show in New York, there might be one last show in LA, there might be one last show in Moscow or in our hometown in Hannover, Germany. It’s something that we really haven’t decided.
KS: The new album is definitive Scorpions. What was your mindset while writing it?
KM: Not thinking about the last tour or the last record, that’s for sure! (laughing). We played a lot of shows in the last two or three years off the record Humanity: Hour 1. And when we started working on the new album in early 2009 and in the summer, when we had our Swedish producers Mikael Nord Anderson and Martin Hansen with us. In between we were playing shows, and we had this set up where we all enjoyed making this album at home in the Scorpions studio. It was a really relaxed kind of setup, and the mindset was more, “Hey let’s try to reactivate the Scorpions DNA.” And with those Swedish guys, we had two producers who were not so much about putting their producer stamp on the band, but they were more into supporting us and getting this kind of Scorpions DNA out of the band. The mind frame was, “Don’t focus on what could be a hit single or this or that.” It was more like, “Hey, let’s play some songs, let’s write some great tunes and enjoy ourselves. Let’s have some fun with the music.” The whole philosophy about “Sting in the Tail” … we were not thinking about that this will be the last one. We were not going for the big message like we did with “Humanity: Hour 1.” This was about having fun, and in a way trying to go back to the ’80s as well.
KS: Usually after every Scorpions album, it’s just an excuse to get out on the road. Is this still true?
KM: Absolutely. We don’t know any other way. With every record, we went all over the world and the Scorpions were always a live band. And when you want to feel the Scorpions magic, then it’s live. It’s always been a band that comes out best when you see them on stage. Once you’re doing it (writing) of course, then you start enjoying the creative process as well. And this time, we enjoyed it a lot. We could have kept going with those Swedish guys for quite awhile and it was not stressful. It was very inspiring and motivating. But you’re right, there was always a reason to say, “Let’s make a record and hit the road again.” And this was the same here. With this, it feels very special, especially right now when we’ve gotten so much positive feedback from our fans around the world.
KS: You’re such a great live band. But what do you still like about performing after so many years and why is it important to always give the fans a real show?
KM: There’s something for every live performer when you walk out and play in front of your fans. Especially when you see so many young kids in front of the stage singing songs written before they were even born. I guess it’s because of the internet … whether we play in Siberia or where ever, you can see it on YouTube a couple of hours later all over the world. And the young kids make the decision whether they like it or they don’t. Scorpions are still a band that deliver the goods at a live rock ‘n’ roll concert. And to walk out there and make this connection with your fans, that’s what it’s all about. It’s hard to describe in words. But this is what the main attraction is of every performer who walks out on stage, because it clicks between the audience. And once you’re up there on stage, the way this works on a great night, it’s simply magic. It’s like a drug, that’s truly what it is. And I know your next question is, “How can you ever stop?” (laughing). And you’re right. After all, this is our lives. But I prefer if people say, “The Scorpions sound great and why did they decide to stop?” as compared to “They should have stopped 10 years ago.”
KS: You’ve always been one of my favorite singers. And at age 61, your unique voice is still in excellent shape. But there was a time when you were having throat problems early in your career and Don Dokken substituted for you. Was that a difficult time period and did you think you would be able to sing again?
KM: I was finished. I had surgery twice on my vocal chords in ‘82. Mentally … I had closed the book already. And I went to the band and to Rudolf Schenker and said, “You should look for a new lead singer. I cannot do it.” This was the moment of my personal tragedy, and it was a moment of triumph of friendship when Rudolf said, “No way. We don’t look for another singer. We’ll wait for you and you do everything you can do for your voice, and you’ll be back.” And he was right. But it was a tough one. I’m very thankful to this day that life gave me a second chance … from ‘82 till now, that’s a long encore.
KS: What are your plans after the Scorps? Solo album? New band? Just taking it easy for awhile? What do you want to do, personally?
KM: Take a deep breath probably. And when I have the feeling that I need to smell the recording studio or whatever it is… and when I think that in 40 years, I’d never do a solo album, this is what comes next to my mind. It could be a challenge that waits around the next corner. I very much look forward to the next page in the book of life. Right now, it’s more about the 200 concerts coming up, and I have to reach the finish line first.
KS: Are you married or have any children?
KM: I am married. But for a rock ‘n’ roller, it’s not good for my image, but I’ve been married since ‘77.
KS: Most people say a band is like a marriage. But how do keep both working this well for so long?
KM: Well, I don’t know. This crazy rock ‘n’ roll life offers you “Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll” every night. And every band that hits the road … this is what it is. Especially looking back in the ’80s, we wrote many songs about it (laughing). But at the same time, it’s a very personal decision you have to make for yourself. “Do you want to live or do you want to die?” That’s simply what it’s all about. And all of us as a band have found a way to survive those crazy years and keep our lives in balance. And we saw relationships breaking up with friends and starting over with a new partner. I was lucky that I found the right woman that’s been with me from the very beginning, through the good times and the bad times. You should never forget where you come from or where you started, and you should never forget who’s there when you’re down on the ground. And that’s maybe the only secret, stay true to yourself. I was lucky.
KS: Any last words for your fans?
KM: I’d like to say thank you for all the support for so many years in America. I can’t tell you how happy we are right now with all the positive feedback on our new album “Sting in the Tail.” We’re looking very much forward to the tour and can’t wait to “Rock You Like A Hurricane” again.
By Kelley Simms
Photos by Marc Theis