Four decades later, Schenker boasts a resume that includes more than three dozen albums as a solo artist and a member of the Scorpions, UFO and the Michael Schenker Group, known to fans simply as MSG.
Now 54, Schenker remains an iconic figure to a legion of loyal fans, who recognize the German guitar wiz as one of the earliest and most influential architects of modern heavy metal lead guitar. His latest effort, In the Midst of Beauty, is considered by most music critics to be his best work in years.
I caught up with the Mad Axeman himself by telephone today, when he was relaxing at home in Hanover while taking a break from his seemingly endless European gigs. He’s certainly earned a rest.
He told me today he wishes he had his business savvy when he was a younger man, but has no regrets about his music career. He treasures the freedom and independence that MSG affords him, and feels he would have lost himself musically if he had pursued opportunities to join Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple and Ozzy Osborne in the past.
Schenker also says he does not listen to other guitar players, preferring to be his own artistic influence. And the chemistry of a band, he said, is both all-important and ever-changing.
Well, he can tell it better. Click on the audio link to hear what Schenker had to say about his career, his legacy and his future.
For those that don’t know his music, here he is at a 2004 show with a previous MSG lineup:
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Schenker joined his brother Rudolf in the Scorpions in 1970, where he also teamed up with singer Klaus Meine, a bandmate in the group Copernicus. Schenker made his Scorpions recording debut in 1972 on Lonescome Crow.
He caught a break later that year when the Scorpions were opening for up-and-coming British rockers UFO, who asked Schenker to fill in for their AWOL guitar player. Then they asked him to join full time. Anxious to flee the then-stagnant German rock scene, he accepted.
Schenker, who hand-picked neo-classical metal guitarist Uli Jon Roth to replace him in the Scorpions, threw himself into his new band. His first recording with them was Phenomenon in 1974, the first of five UFO studio albums he would record over the following years.
But by 1978, Schenker’s relationship with singer Phil Mogg and other bandmates had become strained. He walked away in October 1978, last appearing on UFO’s 1979 double-live album, Strangers in the Night, which was recorded during his last tour with the band. Future reunions would be short-lived and, he said, troubled.
In 1979, Schenker briefly rejoined the Scorpions for their album Lovedrive, ironically replacing Roth. But anxious to strike out on his own, he formed MSG and went on to a revived recording and touring career.
The Scorpions, meanwhile, went on to international success with the addition of new guitar player Matthias Jabs.
But there are no regrets for Schenker, who has released or appeared on more than 30 albums since leaving UFO. He has made occasional appearances with former bandmates in both UFO and the Scorpions over the years, but continues to tour and record as a solo artist.
He plans to release an acoustic album this spring and hopes to tour the U.S. later this year.
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