Michael Schenker: "Portrait of a Spirit"|
By T. Ray Verteramo | Feb 13, 2015
"It is a celebration."
Michael Schenker Photo Credit: © Steve Johnston
Not the words you would expect to hear from an immortal influence having a mortal experience. But, sixty years -- and going very strong -- of glory, defeat, trudging through self-destruction, diva drama, angry women, ventures come and gone, triumph, and treachery have laid the ashes for the phoenix to rise. Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock in 2012, began as chance and experimentation gone viral and has now developed into a brick-and-mortar being that is poised to release the anticipated follow-up to its grand 2013 full-length introduction, "Bridge the Gap."
Classic rock set on a metal foundation, laced together with the pure energy and majestic six-string signature that is exclusively, unmistakably Michael Schenker is backed by some of Herman Rarebell's strongest drumwork in his career since Scorpions, Francis Buchholz' grace of bass, and Wayne Findlay's bold 7-string compliments. Crowned by ex-Rainbow Doogie White's vocals and lyrics, whose talents almost earned him a job with Iron Maiden, "Spirit On a Mission" is a rare instance where the sophomore effort compares or even trumps the debut.
"The Temple of Rock concept is a mixture of the past and the now," Mr. Schenker stated. "The idea is for The Temple of Rock / Michael Schenker platform to develop into its own entity. The first Temple of Rock album, which was successful around the world, we didn't know what it was developing into. Step-by-step, we had 'Bridge the Gap.' It's like a story and it continues. By the time we make the third album, The Temple of Rock will be capable of standing on its own feet and its own identity. We're just using the past in order to create a connection. The Temple of Rock, once the jump start is completed, will propel by itself."
But, "Mission," like the man, himself, could have ended in travesty. After the setback and heartbreak of having his studio robbed of equipment, tracks, and some of his iconic collection of guitars, according to their news release, the incident pushed them to work that much harder. The result is a dynamic, explosive project of rock and reality, a fiery page torn from the Tao of Schenker, "combining all the emotions that have been experienced and been part of, altogether in the now," he sagely explained. "It's a celebration of the year of my generation of rock that started for me, that I fell in love with, and so many other people that have already passed away like Gary Moore and Ronnie James Dio. I want to bring that incredible era in that time and put it into the foreground and celebrate it. And so, simultaneously, I'm celebrating my own progress, my own accomplishments from the 'school of Life,' that I have learned from. It's kind of looking back and looking at the now and combining it all."
"It's a celebration of the year of my generation of rock that started for me, that I fell in love with, and so many other people that have already passed away like Gary Moore and Ronnie James Dio. I want to bring that incredible era in that time and put it into the foreground and celebrate it. And so, simultaneously, I'm celebrating my own progress, my own accomplishments from the 'school of Life,' that I have learned from."
Yet, as well-received his namesake's Temple may be to the world, Schenker is still very cautious to remove the tank of his name and let it breathe its own air. "Everything happens step-by-step and you can't leave any steps out. It's already happening. When will it be completed? I don't know if it will ever be completed. But, it is developing its own entity. I think after 3 albums, I would imagine that there would be enough material we need."
"Spirit on a Mission" cover from Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock
The reluctance may not make sense on a musical level, given Temple's collective talents and accomplishments. However, in the art of seduction lies the real wisdom of his slow-hand, meticulous foreplay. "I know that sometimes when you bomb people with too much material, you might lose people's focus and interests if you give them too much in one go. So, you want to give them a little and develop in a slow, nice pace that people can develop with you. You don't want to go ahead and leave things behind. You want to make sure that it's part of entertainment and make sure you put it together in such a way that you enchant people."
Regardless of what his tempestuous history may read in the rags, the soul may have wandered, but it was never lost. Schenker knows what he's doing. "It's a step-by-step development. It's about being a human being, at least myself, I have developed step-by-step all these years and what I'm doing now is what I'm ready to do now. It cannot rain until the conditions are there for it to rain. So, there are many many steps before you can come to that outcome. Steps in between are just as important as the outcome."
"I have grown really into the philosophy that there's nothing more important than the moment. Whatever comes this moment, challenge or not, it Is. I like to put my energy into the now."
"My art is also inter-related of who I am. And so I think the more we can understand about art, the more we can understand the person who is creating the art. Because it's a spiritual expression – but, it's not always easy to read what it means."
"If I look back," he says, "I see my life in three stages. The beginning, the first stage of my life, was dedicated to the development as a guitarist and to my music contribution to the world, creating an entity for the 80's. And then the 80's, the 'Lovedrive' album with my brother that opened doors for America, for the Scorpions. So, my brother took my black and white Flying V [laughs], took over, and I withdrew into the 'school of Life.' I experimented in development more and more musically and having my own face, without being in a touring machine that was looking for fame and success from me. I was hungry for learning to play on a personal level. And then 2008, somewhere around that time, all of a sudden, I felt the urge and really enjoyed being on stage, which never happened before. So, I knew that time that I should be back in the world of rock and roll now and The Temple of Rock is that group where it is happening."
It is very curious that it has taken over 50 years for a man, who was officially proclaimed a Golden God Icon by Metal Hammer last year, to come to peace with the stage. "I once went to a metaphysical program where a millionaire couldn't understand why he couldn't enjoy his millions. Then it was found out that his money was based on hate. He brought in all his money going, 'I will show you!' He had some trouble with his uncle or something and so basically was looking into why he couldn't enjoy his millions that he had. So, then the coach was telling him, 'Well, why don't you make peace with that person and then see what will happen?' And so, he made peace with that person and he was all happy and he was able to enjoy his money. For me, it was kind of like that." He elaborated, "When I was doing my music development and contribution in the 70's, I always said that I didn't even know what I was doing. I was just being myself, I wasn't looking for anything, it all happened by itself. Then I went through the 'school of Life' and all of these things I learned, all of these things opened up for me, these understandings, etc. etc. and now they make it possible for me to enjoy all of this. It's a bit similar, you know?"
Michael Schenker Photo Credit: © Steve Johnston
"When I have ideas and stuff like this, I never try. I just put them on a piece of paper to clear my mind and keep it open for receiving more and more insights, ideas, etc. etc. and deal with them as they come. It's something to be able to receive as much as I can," he said. "So, really I don't really like to go too far ahead of time. I don't like to go too far back, either. I go back to maybe, if I have to for minding about something, just for gathering information, or I go forward to make a blueprint of a possibility."
"I don't know how the world works, but I can say and I can feel that it's all related. It's the mind, body and soul, it's all related to each other."
And in this "school" where he is doing his homework, but knows may never graduate with a Masters, it seems the faceless, merciless teacher he describes as, "Anything that blocks you and keeps you from moving through it," keeps showing him over and over that the most beautiful gifts come in really ugly packages. Fortunately, the one thing that has always worked in his favor is his insatiable curiosity. "It's like first it was all about play. I love to play and discover. I don't want anyone to teach me anything, I just want to find out for myself. Guitar playing was the same thing. The guitar was standing there. The moment I pressed the string and I put another note to it, I thought, 'Wow, this is great!' And it never stopped. On the guitar, I could always play and discover something new. Always play and discover and when I discover, I go, 'Wow! Another thing!' I get that excitement. So, at some point it's like – I don't know how the world works, but I can say and I can feel that it's all related. It's the mind, body and soul, it's all related to each other. Everything needs to get attention to develop and if it's balanced, it's probably the best way."
So, with Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock ready to unleash "Spirit On a Mission" to the public (March 20th—Europe, March 24th—US, April 3rd—Japan) booked solid to tramp through the States and Japan through the end of July, 2015, it would seem the "Golden God's" golden times are still ahead. But, the man would disagree: It's now. "I have grown really into the philosophy that there's nothing more important than the moment. Whatever comes this moment, challenge or not, it Is. I like to put my energy into the now. I don't want to waste any energy on something that may happen in the future. You don't want to insist that it has to happen because it's going to be a big letdown. But, just leaving things loose in the future and being present in the now, that gives us more energy to enjoy in the moment, rather than waste it, spreading it all over the place, in front or behind."
"Now is all we have."
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Wayne Findlay, Michael Schenker & Francis Buchholz Photo Credit: © Jay Hawkins