Michael Schenker explains how Ralf Scheepers and Joe Lynn Turner ended up singing on his new album
Former UFO and Scorpions guitarist Michael Schenker was recently interviewed by Yiannis Dolas for Greece’s Rock Pages. Schenker was promoting his new album Immortal, which was released today (on January 8, 2021) via Nuclear Blast Records, and which features a number of singers including Ronnie Romero (Vandenberg, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, The Lords of Black, The Ferrymen, Sunstorm), Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear, Gamma Ray) and Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple, Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force).
The guitarist was asked why he ended up releasing a Michael Schenker Group album rather than a Michael Schenker Fest record to which he replied (with slight edits):
“Well, it’s Michael Schenker 50th anniversary “Immortal” performed by MSG. It’s Michael Schenker’s 50th anniversary, not Michael Schenker Fest 50th year anniversary.
My initial plan in 2019 was to invite guest musicians and friends to celebrate. It was dragging on and on. It’s very hard to get in touch with musicians worldwide and because it was dragging on and on I eventually realized “Michael, this album cannot be coming out in 2020”. So, I kind of decided not to do it. But, my agent told me “but, Michael your album with the Scorpions “Lonesome Crow” was released in 1972″ and I said “Ah, that gives me two years to celebrate!”. So, I had hope again and this time I decided to keep it simple and put together a compact band to celebrate the 50th anniversary with the Michael Schenker Group lineup that I have assembled with Ronnie Romero singing all the album.
Barry Sparks kept emailing me “Michael, I am a bass player”, I said “you got it”. Then of course, Bodo Schopf and Steve Mann… actually, I went on the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise and when I came back I spent four days in Miami and started writing and carried on when I came back in the UK.
As I was writing, I saw on TV that there was a problem. It was very bad news and it actually confused me as everybody else, because all the borders were closed and there were restrictions… I couldn’t use my usual route to go to the studio in Germany and we found a way through Holland. I finally ended up in the recording studio, put down my new material on a backing track and it was time for Ronnie to come in to record the vocals. And Ronnie went “Oh, sorry Michael, I can’t… I can’t go into 14 day-
quarantine, I have other obligations, blah, blah”. I said “Don’t worry we will think of a solution”. I said to my partner Amy, who is a bass player and has a very good taste… I don’t listen to music for 50 years, so I don’t know what’s going on out there… I asked her if she knew any singer, since Ronnie was not available. She said “Ralf Scheepers”! The next day we were recording, I couldn’t believe it! I was absolutely amazed, fantastic singer!
And then, on top of that we got a phone call… “I heard that it’s Michael Schenker’s 50th anniversary album… I want to make a contribution, I offer six songs on drums”! It was Brian Tichy, one of the best drummers in the world… and he is a Michael Schenker fan and he offered so many tracks on drums! And of course, Bodo Schopf… he was scared with the virus. He was supposed to do all the drums on the album.
The next morning I got a phone call from Brian Tichy again: “A buddy of mine is also a Michael Schenker fan and he wants to make a contribution… he is a keyboard player, his name is Derek Sherinian”. I said, “WHAT”? That’s a heavy duty keyboard player! He is a top 10 keyboard player… what am I going to do with him? I mean I have Steve Mann. I purposely put down all the guitars myself this time and just asked Steve to do some coloring, where he is very good at, so it doesn’t stick out too much as a keyboard thing. So, what am I going to do with Derek? “Well, you might want to do a jam with him” said Brian, “Like a guitar – keyboard jam”. I said “What? I’ve never done that before, how can that work?”, “Well, like Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord…” “Ahh…” And I thought that it was a good idea for the 50th anniversary to do something fresh, that I’ve never done before. It would be great for the fans to hear something like that. When I heard the result, it became “Drilled To Kill”, I was absolutely blown away. I never even knew that there was a voice like Ralf Scheepers. Fantastic! That song ended up like straight in the face and beyond my expectation. So, I started to think… WOW! What I initially thought, making an album with guests and friends celebrating the 50th anniversary, which I gave up on, all of the sudden started to come to life all by itself. I was like “this is crazy!”. I ended up with Ralf on two songs.
And then, it was time to call Ronnie again… “Oh, Michael, I am sorry. I can’t go into 14-day quarantine, I am sorry.” I guess he was in Bulgaria at the time. I said “Don’t worry Ronnie, we will think of something, we will call you back when it’s time”. I said to Michael Voss “What are we gonna do? Time is ticking? Do you have any suggestions?” He said, “Well, what do you think about Joe Lynn Turner?”, I said “Joe Lynn Turner? He is one of my favourites. Can you contact him?” He said yes and the next day we were recording! I couldn’t believe it! And he ended up with two songs.
Then, Michael (Voss) always writes lyrics and melodies as a plan-b for singers, just in case they need some help, or inspiration, or whatever… Actually, Michael worked on “Warrior” [Editor: he is referring to the song from the album “Resurrection” by Michael Schenker Fest] and one day he showed me what he’d done. And I went like “Michael, this is amazing, one of the best songs I’ve ever done in my 50-year career”, and it became “Warrior”.
So, the same thing happened again. I came back from the hotel in the morning and Michael said that he had done melodies and vocal for a composition that I did (Editor: he is referring to “After The Rain”) and he played it to me and I went “Michael, this is so beautiful, only you can sing it”. It came from the heart and it was like a personal message as well. I told him that I could not imagine anybody else singing it except himself, it was impossible. And then, there was another song that had a great title “The Queen of Thorns And Roses”, it’s an unusual song and what he did to it and also brought a very personal message, so I said “Michael, you have to sing this song, there is no other way”. So, he ended up with two songs in the album.
Then, it was time to call Ronnie again! Eventually, he started to be available, so he ended up with much lesser songs. So, what I originally planned in 2019 with so much work arranging and scheduling and didn’t work out, all of the sudden it happened by itself. I mean I am not doing anything and everything falls into place by itself! I was so happy that, all of the sudden, what I wanted actually came up from the people that should have been on this album. I could not plan anything like that. So, it’s all based on circumstances, it has to do with the virus and it’s such an incredible outcome!”
You can read the rest of the interview with Michael Schenker at Rock Pages’ website.