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Guitarist Michael Schenker's back and ready to rock

Former Scorpions and UFO guitarist Michael Schenker comes to Tyneside having put his problems behind him. SIMON RUSHWORTH reports

Guitarist Michael Schenker
Guitarist Michael Schenker

Former Scorpions and UFO guitarist Michael Schenker returns to Tyneside riding the crest of a creative wave.

A decade ago Michael Schenker, by his own admission, was a shadow of his former self. Hamstrung by personal problems and a professional crisis of confidence, one of rock’s most admired guitarists was facing regular criticism from fans and music press alike.

“2002 was when a decline set in,” admits the reflective German. “It was the worst period of my life. I was divorced and the effects on me were devastating.

“The rot set in for a few years. If I am honest, it probably lasted until 2006 or 2007. That was when I knew I had to get back into the groove of rock ’n’ roll.

“When In The Midst of Beauty (the 2008 Michael Schenker Group release) came out, that was when I got everything together again – the clue is in the title of that album. Since that time, I have felt great about my music and my playing.”

Those who witnessed Schenker’s most recent Newcastle show – and even the gig prior to that – will readily concur that the Teutonic powerhouse has, indeed, rediscovered his mojo.

With Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock he is a musician reborn and a third album in three years is coming.

Bridge The Gap, released in 2013, captured a lifetime of key influences and live experiences but Schenker insists he’s no longer interested in listening to new music – apart from his own.

“Growing up I was influenced by the obvious guitar heroes - Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Leslie West, Johnny Winter and Rory Gallagher,” he adds.

“But the truth is, for a long time I have not listened to a lot of music. In the late 70s I was blown away by Eddie Van Halen because he introduced something new into rock music.

“Yngwie Malmsteen was another because of the speed he played. However, after a while I found his sound too repetitive. But the truth is I have always wanted space in my head to allow me to express what I want.

“Influences are good up to a point but I want to create my own music and that means having a mind that is not cluttered.”

And that’s the key where Schenker version 2014 is concerned. Fully focused and ready to rock, the lean, keen riff machine is one of live music’s must-see acts all over again.

With new album Spirit On A Mission due to drop early next year there’s no hint of Schenker holding back and there’s a promise of at least one song from the upcoming record in his Newcastle set.

“The new album has had a difficult birth because, at one stage, we had five guitars stolen and some of the music too,” adds Schenker. “But now it is finished and will be released early in 2015.

“It is an album I could have written as an 18-year-old. Perhaps there are similarities with my early work with UFO. But the fans will be the judge of that, not me.

“What I will say is that Spirit On A Mission is an album that is fast, energetic, heavy and full of melodies. I had a vision of what I wanted it to sound like and I am happy to say it has come out just the way I wanted.”

* Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock play Newcastle O2 Academy on Wednesday, December 10.

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