Interview_MichaelSchenker_ForBlog

MICHAEL SCHENKER: An EXCLUSIVE Interview!

 
ATTACK OF  THE MAD AXEMAN:
 
An EXCLUSIVE interview 
with 
MICHAEL SCHENKER
    There’s a reason why German guitarist Michael Schenker is considered a music  legend. He carved out a successful career as a hard rock pioneer with German  rockers Scorpions (1969-’73 and  ’78-’79) and British heavy rock band UFO  (1973-’78) as well as his own projects The  Michael Schenker Group and McAuley-Schenker Group throughout the ‘80s and beyond. His manic playing, songwriting skills  and knack for creating extremely memorable riffs has earned him legions of  devoted fans all over the world. And let’s face it – Michael Schenker is the  only guitarist that has ever made the Gibson Flying V guitar look cool. Many  have tried but only Schenker has succeeded. And now, with his latest project Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock, he  is proving once again that he still has plenty of fire, skill and energy. Even  though he has been a professional musician for nearly fifty years, he has never  lost his mojo.
    Schenker’s first claim to fame was joining his  older brother Rudolph’s band Scorpions in 1969. He and vocalist Klaus Meine joined the band at the same  time, although at fifteen, Michael was the youngest member of Scorpions by a  handful of years. He also just happened to be a unique guitarist and gifted  songwriter. He honed his skills with Scorpions for four years before leaving  the band and joining British rockers UFO. With UFO, Schenker became an
international sensation, steering the band away from their early Space Rock  leanings towards an edgy Hard Rock sound. UFO became a force to be reckoned  with, but by the end of 1978, he left the band. And to think he was barely into  his twenties at this point. Schenker rejoined Scorpions right after leaving UFO,  but soon realized he wanted to focus on his own thing. So he left – again – the  following year. The Michael Schenker Group was his next project, although he  moved away from the commercial sounds of his previous bands and embraced his  experimental side. For the next thirty years, he focused on various other  projects including a brief reunion with UFO, the McCauley-Schenker Group and  other endeavors. By 2008, he was ready to embrace his illustrious Hard Rock past and formed Temple Of Rock. The band has had several line-up changes over  the years but the most recent – and best – features Schenker joined by former  Scorpions members Herman “ze German” Rarebell (drums) and Francis Bucholz  (bass) plus guitarist/keyboardist Wayne  Findlay and powerhouse vocalist Doogie  White (Tank/La Paz/Rainbow/etc.). While on tour for their excellent 2015  sophomore studio album, Spirit On A Mission, the band was  approached about recording their live show using a new technology called 3D  Listening. The results can now be heard with the release of On A  Mission: Live In Madrid. On this release, you can practically ‘feel’  the atmosphere of the venue even on the normal stereo mix of this recording.  There’s even a version of the release that, with the correct audio equipment,  will make it seem as if you are there in the audience enjoying Michael and the  boys giving it their all on stage. The material during this scorching  performance spans Schenker’s entire career including Scorpions, UFO and, of  course, Temple Of Rock.
   Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat  with Michael Schenker as he prepared to embark on a series Michael Schenker Fest  shows, which feature appearances from three original vocalists he has worked  with over the years – Gary Barden, Robin McAuley and Graham Bonnet

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THE DAMNED Documentary: An EXCLUSIVE interview with director WES ORSHOSKI

Like Rock ‘n’ Roll in the ‘50s and the British Invasion of the ‘60s, Punk rock changed everything. It began as a musical movement in 1976, yet it became something much bigger. Punk infected every aspect of pop culture – from fashion to art. Punk became a badge of honor for the younger generation and a punchline to bad jokes told by their parents. Bands like Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, UK Subs, Buzzcocks and so many others climbed to the top of the charts in England and caused a stir around the world. The sudden rise of Punk inspired thousands upon thousands of amateur musicians to rise up and create a racket. It was a glorious thing. However, it is often forgotten that one particular British band was the first to release a single in England, the first to release an album, and the first to tour the U.S. If you guessed Sex Pistols, then you’d be wrong and should be sent to the back of the queue. The correct answer, if you paid attention to the title of this feature, was The Damned.

The Damned was formed by Brian James (guitar), Captain Sensible (bass), Rat Scabies (drums) and Dave Vanian (vocals). Uncompromising and entirely unpretentious, The Damned were great musicians out to have a good time. Armed with a load of great songs (mostly penned by James), The Damned became one of the most popular Punk outfits in the UK. Signed to Stiff Records, they beat all the other bands to the record shops with their “New Rose” single and Damned Damned Damned album. Their popularity and desire to have a good time didn’t mix well with the other serious, politically-charged Punk acts, and they were essentially ostracized from the ‘Punk Club’ by various legendary managers who felt The Damned were over-shadowing their own acts (i.e. The Clash and Sex Pistols). The band soldiered on, but James threw in the towel after the second album. With Sensible moving to guitar and the band switching gears musically, The Damned fought back with a string of singles and albums that expanded upon their musical roots while still retaining the Punk energy and attitude. Sadly, with so many line-up changes and musical detours along the way, they began to confuse all but their faithful followers. The most surprising thing is that the band’s desire to explore these new musical avenues is what made them BETTER than many of their contemporaries. It seemed to work for The Clash, but not so much for The Damned.

Now celebrating their 40th Anniversary, The Damned remain the most under-appreciated of all the original Punk bands. The current line-up of the band includes Vanian and Sensible, both of whom are still as charismatic and entertaining as they’ve ever been. However, it hasn’t always been easy for the band. From old record label contract issues that drove Rat and Captain apart, to a constant stream of great musicians who have come and gone, The Damned’s story is a long and convoluted one. THE DAMNED: DON’T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD is an absolutely brilliant documentary that sheds light on the band’s history and offers an inside look at a band that deserves far more attention than they have ever received. It doesn’t matter if you prefer “Neat Neat Neat,” “Smash It Up” or “Grimly Fiendish” – this revealing film by photographer/director Wes Orshoski (Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son Of A Bitch) is as honest and funny as any music documentary you’ll ever see. By the time the credits roll, you’ll be cursing the screen and wishing it was longer. It’s heart-breakingly sad and soul-stirringly joyful. Toss in some insight from contemporaries and fans like Fred Armison, Chrissie Hynde, Lemmy, Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode), Mick Jones (The Clash), Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), Steve Diggle (Buzzcocks) and many others and you’ve got one of the best Damned documentaries you’ll have the pleasure of watching. See what I just did there?

Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with director Wes Orshoski about making the film, the band’s reactions to it and much more…

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ALICE BAG: An EXCLUSIVE interview!

ALICE IN HOLLYWOODLAND:

 

Although she is forever associated with the late ‘70s Los Angeles Punk scene, Alice Bag’s journey over the last forty years has taken her everywhere from East L.A. to Nicaragua and back again. To some, she remains the lead vocalist of The Bags, but there is far more to Alice Bag than a rare Punk single and an appearance in the documentary The Decline Of Western Civilization (as The Alice Bag Band). Her status as a legendary Punk pioneer led to a career as a highly respected educator, feminist activist, and author. Her critically acclaimed books Violence Girl (2011) and Pipe Bomb For The Soul (2015) have been warmly embraced by her longtime fans and those who were previously unfamiliar with her musical career. She has inspired generations of young girls and women with her outspoken and thoughtful views on feminism. While largely absent from the music scene over the years, Alice has taken the Punk esthetic and made a real difference in the lives of those she has inspired. She may not have sold millions of records over the years, but she has remained true to her cause, and in turn, made an impact that is still being felt.
Surprisingly, nearly forty years after she started her musical career, Alice Bag is finally releasing her very first full-length album. Anyone expecting Alice to dip back into the past and relive her glory days with The Bags will be sorely disappointed. Instead, Alice incorporates many of her musical influences into a cohesive collection of songs that range from edgy Garage/Punk nuggets to instantly hummable ‘60s pop gems. The raw, straightforward production adds a tense atmosphere to the recordings, allowing Alice’s emotions to run free. There is some darkness in her lyrics although they are far from hopeless – she allows the listener to fill in some of the blanks and react accordingly. However, the album is filled with wonderful melodies and inventive arrangements. At its core it is Punk, but only in spirit. Musically, it is a potpourri of influences reaching back to the ‘60s. Like any good album, Punk or not, it turns expectations into revelations. The album Alice Bag is a superb look at the modern world by someone who has seen it all. It is intelligent without being preachy and raw without losing its playful charm – a simple, heartfelt triumph that sounds better with each spin.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with Alice Bag about her album and her music career…

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KICK OUT THE JAMS! An EXCLUSIVE Interview with Director Tony D’Annunzio and MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer

The Detroit Rock ‘n’ Roll scene in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s was unlike anything else happening in the world at the time. New York was certainly tough, but there was an artistic flair that added a touch of respectability to it. The West Coast scene certainly had its moments, although the hippy-dippy flower-power movement took away some of its thunder. But Detroit? It was a hotbed of unbridled energy, attitude, and bravado. While Motown was in many ways the soul of Detroit, the Rock ‘n’ Roll rumble in the streets was loud and often frightening. But it was also invigorating and electrifying. It was raw and pure. It was Garage Rock with the power of Punk and Metal (neither of which were musical genres at the time!) yet it could also be artsy like the East Coast, and hippy-dippy like San Francisco and L.A. It was a melting pot of attitudes and ideas. And it was where the Grande Ballroom was born.
Unlike any venue before or since, the Grande was not just a concert hall – it was a meeting place for creative minds, disenchanted youth and people of all race, class, and creed. It may have promoted shows by local and touring bands, yet it also embraced the sexual revolution, psychedelia, the drug culture, and, most importantly, freedom of expression. The club Detroit bands like MC5, The Stooges, The Frost, The Third Power and SRC were regulars, while The Who, Pink Floyd, B.B. King, Led Zeppelin and many other major bands would always play there while on tour. The Grande became THE venue to play for every major Rock band once they had already conquered the East and/or West Coast. For some, it was even more important! The Grande was the brainchild of Russ Gibb, who some remember as one of the instigators of the ‘Paul Is Dead’ hoax of the late ‘60s (or was it a hoax?). Along with controversial counter-culture figure John Sinclair, they turned an old 1920s dancehall into something truly mind-blowing. Although the Grande shut its doors more than four decades ago, it remains one of Rock’s most iconic venues.
The power and glory of the Grande Ballroom may be part of Detroit’s – and Rock ‘n’ Roll’s – history, yet the larger-than-life venue’s tale remained largely untold. Director Tony D’Annunzio has addressed that situation with Louder Than Love: The Grande Ballroom Story. An emotional rollercoaster-ride of a documentary, Louder Than Love opens up the doors of the Grande and allows the main players to tell their story with passion and honesty. This is not just a documentary about a Rock ‘n’ Roll venue; this is a film about how music and art can make a difference in the world. Alongside members of the Grande’s inner circle and Detroit icons (Russ Gibb, John Sinclair, MC5’s Wayne Kramer, Alice Cooper, The Amboy Dukes’ Ted Nugent), there are also interviews with legendary artists like Roger Daltrey (The Who), Lemmy (Hawkwind/Motorhead), B.B. King, Don Was and many others. This is a story that needed to be told and Louder Than Love is a triumph in every way.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with director Tony D’Annunzio and MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer about Louder Than Love and the Detroit Rock ‘n’ Roll scene…
 

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An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with PETER BJÖRN AND JOHN’S Peter Morén

Swedish trio Peter Björn and John have created a musical universe that is constantly evolving. However, they’ve managed to retain their unique charm that made them press darlings a decade ago with “Young Folks”. What many didn’t realize is that that hit’s parent album, Writer’s Block, was the trio’s third in a career that has seen them stretch the boundaries of Pop music. While Top 40 radio’s Pop guidelines are pretty rigid, Peter Morén, Björn Yttling and John Eriksson treat them like elastic rubber bands, bending and twisting those guidelines into new and exciting aural avenues. They’ve even managed to carve out musical careers outside of PB&J while never lowering the quality control level on the albums they record together. And can you believe they even collaborated with Canadian hip hopster Drake a handful of years before he became a musical sensation?

Breakin’ Point, their first album in five years, finds PB&J offering up a collection of songs that are so instantly lovable that you’ll swear you’ve been in love with them for years. Every track on the album is a potential hit single – the melodies leap out and grab hold on the first spin. Their songwriting is based in classic ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s Pop/Rock, but the production, arrangements and inventiveness is thoroughly modern if not outright forward-thinking. They’ve sidestepped the experimental moodiness of some of their past albums and embraced their more playful side. This isn’t an album that tries to revisit their past glories – it creates new ones.

Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to track down band member Peter Morén, who kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about Breakin’ Point, PB&J and more…

 

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THE MONKEES’ Good Times: The SPAZ Review

It is 2016 and The Monkees are celebrating their 50th Anniversary the very same year I celebrate my 50th Anniversary as a Monkees fan. Way back in 1966 when the TV show first aired and the band had their first hit single (‘Last Train To Clarksville’), I was coming up on my third birthday and my brother was nearing his fourth. My parents sat us down in front of the television and introduced us to a quartet that instantly became our second favorite band (after The Beatles, of course). Mom and Dad often said that the thirty minutes The Monkees were on was the ONLY time during the week when they didn’t have to worry about us getting into any trouble – we were glued to the tube and thoroughly enjoying their zany antics and great songs.

Flash forward five decades, and if my folks were still around they’d be happy to know that I predictably spent 30+ minutes glued to my CD player as I threw on Good Times, The Monkees’ first studio album in twenty years. And then I went back and listened again. And again. You see, I wanted to give this an honest review and not base my opinion on one listen. So, I listened to it a fourth time, a seventh time, etc. And so, here goes…

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HAIRCUT 100: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with guitarist GRAHAM JONES!

 

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Favorite Shirts:

HAIRCUT 100 Revisited

Haircut 100’s debut album Pelican West remains one of the truly great albums of the ‘80s. Inspired by everything from Jazz and Latin music to ‘60s Pop and Post-Punk, the 1982 album was a breath of fresh air at a time when pretentious ‘Popstar’ posing was more important than making music. From Bob Sargents warm and crisp production and singer/guitarist Nick Heyward’s Pop smarts, to the inventive horn arrangements, Pelican West was an album inspired by many styles embedded in the past, yet sounded modern and fresh. The band’s ability to embrace their influences while also creating their own unique sound is what makes Pelican West a timeless album. It is not rooted to a particular time period, so you can still play it thirty four years later without feeling that the album has dated itself. You can’t say that about other career-defining albums from this time period including The Human League’s Dare, Culture Club’s Colour By Numbers, Duran Duran’s Rio or any number of so-called New Wave classics.

Initially lumped in with the British Jazz Funk movement, Haircut 100 were a true musical phenomenon formed by Heyward and bassist Les Nemes. Guitarist Graham Jones completed the original trio. The band grew into a sextet with the addition of percussionist Marc Fox, drummer Blair Cunningham and horn player Phil Smith. The band’s first three singles – “Favorite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl),” “Love Plus One,” and “Fantastic Day” – became radio hits all over the world, and even earned airplay on the then-still-fresh MTV. To many, this fresh and seemingly wholesome band came out of nowhere and became a sensation. They may have been treated like teen idols in the UK, but other countries – including the U.S. – focused on the music. The album itself was filled to the brim with great songs, many of which could have easily been a hit had they been released as singles (I’m looking at you in particular, “Lemon Firebrigade”!). When the band released the Pop-tastic post-album single “Nobody’s Fool,” it was obvious that Heyward’s songwriting skills were still top notch.

However, the band’s massive success proved to be their downfall. Faced with the enormous pressure of writing a follow-up album, Heyward quit the band in the midst of recording sessions. Nick pursued a solo career (the lushly-produced North Of A Miracle contained a few of the songs the band had been working on prior to his departure) while the rest of the band soldiered on. By the time the sorely overlooked and quite wonderful second Haircut 100 album Paint And Paint was released, the band was down to a quartet (Cunningham had also left the band). The band quietly broke up a short time later. Though they have reunited in some form or another over the last decade for live shows, no new recordings have emerged.

Now, with the release of the Deluxe 2CD Edition of Pelican West – featuring additional non-album tracks and remixes – being reissued on Cherry Pop, Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to catch up with H100 guitarist Graham Jones and send him off a few questions in hopes of discovering more about this classic album…

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PET SHOP BOYS: Spaz reviews the album SUPER!

   Super, the 13th studio album by British duo Pet Shop Boys, is a prime example of why the Electronic/Dance act will never be part of a nostalgic ‘80s package tour – they are too busy moving into the future to live in the past. When they scored their first big hit 31 years ago with “West End Girls,” PSB were a delicious mixture of smarmy Pop and then-modern Electronica. Vocalist Neil Tennant’s deadpan (and slightly campy) vocals and Chris Lowe’s melodic, percolating Euro/Electropop backdrop made for some exciting records back in the day, earning them worldwide success and hits in every corner of the world.  By the ‘90s, their star had faded a bit in the U.S. although they still released innovative and exciting albums that were snapped up by audiences In vastly different time zones than the States. Thankfully, PSB have continued to make fresh, forward-thinking records over the years. They’ve kept on top of Dance and Electronic music trends and have embraced them wholeheartedly.  You’ll still find elements of their ‘80s and ‘90s sound on Super but you’ll be sorely disappointed if you’re looking for “West End Girls 2016” because Neil and Chris have moved on.

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