Interview: Celebrating life with guitar legend Michael Schenker
Video provided by inakustikPR

One of rock music’s greatest guitarists, Michael Schenker, will release a new live concert recording on Friday, March 24, 2017. Michael Schenker Fest “Live” Tokyo was filmed and recorded at Tokyo’s International Forum Aug. 24, 2016. This historic concert was Michael’s brainchild and features guest appearances from some of the incredible rock vocalists that have worked with Schenker over the years including Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, and Robin McAuley. Michael Schenker Fest “Live” Tokyo will be available on 2 CDs, 2 CD/DVD combo, LP, DVD, Blu-Ray and digital.

Since recording his first album with the Scorpions at the age of 15 in 1970, Michael Schenker’s incredible life has had many highs and lows. Schenker has consistently grown over the years from the German Wunderkind that first burst onto the scene as a teenager to the experienced and highly-skilled guitarist we see before us on the stage today. When speaking with AXS on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, Michael credited these experiences as a necessary part to his development as a guitarist.

AXS: We have been listening to Michael Schenker Fest “Live” Tokyo all week, watching the DVD too. We are really enjoying it. It is guitar heaven! How did it feel getting to perform with all those guys again?

Michael Schenker: It was fantastic. We started about three years ago, we had Graham Bonnet opening up for MSG. Then we decided to have him do a couple of songs with us. I was playing all my original music from the past, all my most popular Michael Schenker Group music and I thought wouldn’t it be great if I could get Robin and Graham and Gary on stage with me and make The Michael Schenker Fest. I’ve been in celebration mode, it is the third part of my life. The first part of my life was unconsciously developing things in the 70s that were later used and commercialized by other bands in the 80s. In the middle part of my life I withdrew. Now I am in the place where I am consciously enjoying what I unconsciously created in the first part of my life. I can see the three stages. I can mark them all. The second part of my life was about experimenting and developing as a person. It was out of that, in the third part of my life, I understand things now. You know, who I am and what I did. People seem to be ready to receive it now too, the celebration is growing by the minute. It seems like it is picking up now and we are going to the next level. We are already getting offers from the UK and Germany for dates. We even have someone investigating a tour in the United States. It is looking really good too. So we will do this thing in Europe in October, November and maybe get to you in February or March. It is a huge undertaking and there is a lot that goes into putting the shows together. The promoters need time to do things the right way. But everything is developing and we are moving forward. I am so happy I decided to do the DVD. The venue in Tokyo was sold out immediately and it is such a beautiful venue, I am just so glad I did it. Because if I didn’t record it nobody would have, it would just be a memory or a clip on YouTube.

AXS: You can really see how much fun you are having performing in the DVD. Do you have a favorite song to perform live?

M.S.: I focus on lead guitar. I don’t even look at vocals to be honest. For me it is all about the art of lead guitar from the place of pure self-expression. That is what my passion is-to create new colors and they come from within, if a person chooses to look there. If you have something, an idea or whatever, unless you open it up it will never come out. If you don’t open up it will always stay inside yourself and no one else will ever know about it. When I was 17 I stopped listening to music and stopped copying things. I knew that I had a spring inside of me that was infinite. Pure self-expression is inside each person. I feel fresher than ever and I create fresh stuff because I come from a place of pure self-expression. Only I know these colors, you know your own colors. Everybody knows their own colors. Many people do not use their colors because they try to stay with the trends and are concerned about public competition. Art is not a competition. But some people do things for the money and fame, and I get that. I experienced that. I had a taste of it and let go of it. People strive to become famous and successful and then when they get there they realize there is still something missing. I was able to let go because I had a taste and it wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to be part of a rat race, chasing something. I wanted freedom to create and do things the way I want to when I want to. It was hard, but I left that whole scene behind me. I didn’t want to be part of a group of people chasing after goals I didn’t care about.

AXS: Between UFO, The Scorpions and your solo stuff you have had quite the career. What are you most proud of or what stands out as a favorite memory?

M.S.: I am just very happy in general as a musician. My whole life has been an incredible journey. I’ve been able to taste everything there is and as a result my life’s design, my life’s structure was meant to be in three stages. I think everybody has a custom-made set of circumstances, not everyone recognizes this. I am a very conscious person so I can see the steps very clearly. I could understand what was happening. I am very happy with everything that has happened. You have to have those challenges in life to be your teachers. Without them you might as well not even come to this planet. You have to have the challenges, they are the way to build muscle in your head. It is an amazing set up, this so-called world. The older you get you can look back over things with common sense and see how it was all put together, everything starts clicking. You can actually understand what happened in your life and why it happened. It is very interesting.

AXS: When you are on stage jamming away, lost in a guitar solo, is it all improvised in the moment or are parts composed in advance?

M.S.: It is a mixture of things. I keep the basic structures but there are parts of every song where I break out and have a bit of adventure. This is where you never know what is going to happen. My hardcore fans know this and it is always an exciting part for them, they understand the art of lead guitar. It is all me from the past but it includes all the emotions and feelings from today too. It is about being in the now and keeping the most memorable parts of a song together but also breaking out and creating some new sparks. There are a few songs where I can really do what I want and then there are other songs where I keep the middle solo the way it has always been played because that is the way it has to be. It is expected. In those songs I will put additional solos where I can do anything. Every song can have improvised solos and I try to add them whenever I can.