2015 Preview: Scorpions, Bryan Adams, Paul Weller & Seasick Steve

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The returning German titans, the Canadian hitmaker, the ex-Jam frontman and the grizzled blues hobo all have new albums out in 2015.

SCORPIONS

Albums, TV doc, headlining Ramblin’ Man… Some ‘retirement’ plan.

Five years after the veteran German band announced an apparently final world tour, Scorpions are now set to release an as-yet-untitled new studio album in February. The quintet from Hanover continue to disregard that self-pronounced death sentence and, with 2015 marking their 50th anniversary, it seems that next year they are set to be busier than most acts of their vintage.

Scorpions have already been confirmed as Saturday night headliners at the inaugural Ramblin’ Man Fair in July 2015 – their first full-length concert in the UK in eight years – and they will also be on the small screen with a historical documentary called Forever And A Day.

“It’s hard for me to say these words, but it was a half-century ago that Rudolf [Schenker, rhythm guitarist] formed this band,” lead vocalist Klaus Meine says, incredulously and laughing. “A fifty-year career is something to celebrate, I think? And after all these years we are proud to return with a new album that’s not only about nostalgia.”

The last part of that statement alludes to Comeblack, a collection comprised mostly of re-recordings, and 2013’s MTV Unplugged In Athens which introduced five brand new songs. Both of those were released after the band’s decision to split up. Which of course they didn’t do.

“In some ways we are going back to the eighties, but really this [the forthcoming studio record] is a brand new album,” Meine comments. “It will be the best of both worlds.”

That seeming contradictory statement is explained by the fact that it will be a mix of material shelved during the group’s heyday and new compositions. When asked whether that’s likely to be half new and half old material, the singer responds: “I’d say it’s more seventy or eighty per cent new, and the rest going way back to the eighties. But even though the older choices were never released there are some great songs.”

During the band’s promotion of the MTV Unplugged record, Rudolf Schenker had predicted to Classic Rock the possibility of another album, although he seemed pretty certain that if it came to fruition it would be Scorpions’ very final recordings.

“That’s very likely,” Meine agrees. “But the truth is we did intend to finish on a high note in 2010. But it’s one thing to talk about it and quite another when the final curtain comes closer. The demand from the fans [to keep going] was overwhelming. Right now on Facebook we have almost six million Friends. Which is a lot for a bunch of old farts from Germany.”

Like its companion album, the film Forever And A Day is also due in February. “We’ve been followed around the world by a film crew for the last couple of years,” says Meine, “but of course it also has lots of unseen historical footage – even some tour bus things filmed on Super 8. At the first screening the band members left, saying: ‘Wow. Where on earth did [the producers] find that?’ It goes into movie theatres first, and later on will be available on DVD and on television.”

And finally, at the time of this interview the status of drummer James Kottak, disgraced after being jailed in Dubai in April 2014, remained uncertain. “James has been in rehab,” Meine reveals. “We told him to do it for himself, and not for us. I hope he can be the friend, musician and family man that he was before.”

Scorpions’ new album is expected in February.

BRYAN ADAMS The Canadian roots-rocker teams up with Mr Blue Sky.

After reviewing his past influences on 2014’s covers album Tracks Of My Years, and his big 80s hits on the Reckless anniversary box set, Bryan Adams is ready to get back to waking up the neighbours again – with a new collaborator. Electric Light Orchestra majordomo, Traveling Wilbury and producer to the stars Jeff Lynne is working on Adams’s first set of all-new material since 2008’s 11.

“It sounds like Bryan Adams meets Jeff Lynne,” admits Adams, explaining that he and Lynne are “six tracks in” with “a bunch more” ready to do. “I’m going to say this with great trepidation, but if it comes together as I think it will it will probably be one of the best records I’ve ever made.” Adams is “a huge fan” of Lynne, and met him in the 80s. “He invited me over for a cup of tea,” Adams recalls. “So I went over, and it was very nice. And I said: ‘I’ll let you guys get back to work,’ and started stepping out the door. He said: ‘If you ever want to do a song together, man, let me know.’ And I’m like: ‘What!’

“So now we’re doing it. We’ve co-written one song together, and the rest of the songs so far are Jimmy [Vallance, long-time Adams collaborator] and I. And in fairness, Jeff has taken each song we’ve done and made them so great. It’s incredible.”

Not surprisingly, Adams attended Lynne’s 2014 ELO concert in London’s Hyde Park, and is now one of those encouraging him to play more shows. “I’ve been bugging him about it over the years, saying: ‘Man, you’ve got to go out once in a while. People will love it.’” Adam says.

How about a co-headliner, then?

“He doesn’t need anybody else. He’ll do his own thing. And it’ll be great.”

ETA: Summer 2015.

PAUL WELLER

From Marrakesh souks to Celtic folk to “fucking nonsense” with the Modfather.

Paul Weller has already completed work on his 12th studio album. Set for release in April 2015, Saturn’s Patterns was co-produced and partly co-written with Jan ‘Stan’ Kybert, who mixed Weller’s previous album, 2012’s Sonik Kicks, and features the core of Weller’s live band (guitarist Steve Cradock, bassist Andy Lewis and keyboardist Andy Crofts). Most of the drum parts were played by Ben Gordelier of The Moons. Although Sonik Kicks’ star sidemen (Noel Gallagher, Graham Coxon), are absent, the new album captures a band on form. “Ben’s done a brilliant job, Andy Crofts has done some amazing backing vocal arrangements,” says Weller. “They’re great musicians to play with.”

While impossible to pigeonhole, the new material has been influenced by an eclectic mix of artists old and new: “I really love the Syd Arthur, Baxter Dury and Erland And The Carnival albums. The older I’ve got, the broader my tastes have become, and that’s had a bearing. I’ve stopped putting music in brackets, really. All great music, regardless of what category it’s in, is great music. It transcends compartments. It’s there to inspire us. Like Robert Plant’s records; one minute you’re in the souks of Marrakesh, the next you’re in a Celtic folk song. Put all of those apparently disparate influences together and they make complete sense.

“There are some – in my opinion – really great love songs, and some of it’s quite abstract,” he says of Saturn’s Patterns. “I’m enjoying having fun with words, really. Over the last few years it’s suited my frame of mind to write like that, not always have an agenda or definite article to write about, just see where the words go. Sometimes they might be fucking nonsense, other times make complete sense. Whatever they mean to me, they’re going to mean something else to someone else anyway. I like that. That’s what good art’s all about, really.”

Weller plans to tour the album in the UK first in March and again in November, as well as fitting in tours of the US and Europe, and will also play alongside The Who in Hyde Park on June 25. “They’re pretty formidable,” he admits. “We’re not trying to out-gun them, are we? Hopefully we’re there to complement them. I’ll just go on, do what I do, and people will either dig it or not.”

ETA: April 2015.

SEASICK STEVE Take his blues music or leave it, he says.

“We mastered it a couple of months ago and I’m still listening to it,” Seasick Steve says approvingly of his seventh album, Sonic Soul Surfer. “It feels like I just got my toes sunk down in the mud somewhere where I want to be.”

The 73-year-old bluesman played with John Paul Jones and Jack White (his US label boss) on 2013’s Hubcap Music, which also had an outside producer. “I’m not really used to that,” he reflects. “This one’s back to what we do, because it’s always just me and my drummer, Dan Magnusson, playing, apart from a couple with my friend Luther [Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars].

Sonic Soul Surfer is a record that goes beyond the songs about his early hobo days which have dominated earlier albums, and tackles his whole life. “That’s what I want,” he says. “I don’t want to bore people. But people gotta judge, man. And if they don’t like it, that’s their right.”

In 2015 Steve plays his first full UK tour for four years.

ETA: March 23, 2015.

ALSO IN THE PIPELINE…

On the back of seemingly endless speculation, Iron Maiden will be up to something in 2015. All involved are tight-lipped, but who knows what’ll happen. Reissues? Christmas single? Eddie goes solo? Who knows… Also on the delightfully vague (ie far from official) spectrum are Guns N’ Roses. Axl and co. will be touring, we know that much, and a follow-up to 2008’s Chinese Democracy has also been hinted at for 2015. But this could just be the stuff of myths; like Santa and the Kraken…

Plans are more tangible for Whitesnake, whose 12th studio album, their first since 2011’s Forevermore, is due in April. Heavy metal goliaths Slayer follow 2009’s World Painted Blood with a new LP currently pencilled in for an early 2015 release. It’s also their first record without co-founder/guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who passed away in 2013. “Everything that people liked Slayer for in the past is on this record,” says guitarist Kerry King. Also returning are rap-metallers Papa Roach, with new album F.E.A.R in January.

Muse have confirmed album plans with producer Mutt Lange (Back In Black, among many others). Rumours of a “heavy” new record seemed even more credible when the band were confirmed as Download headliners for 2015. Mike Portnoy’s rock’n’roll trio the** Winery Dogs** (completed by guitarist Richie Kotzen and bassist Billy Sheehan) have an album out in the spring, and progressive metallers Tool expect to release their fifth LP in 2015.

In terms of tours, Fleetwood Mac lead the charge of big-hitters playing big shows in 2015, with songstress Christine McVie rejoining the band for these dates after 16 years away. The Who will round off their monster 2015 tour with a June show at Hyde Park, and we wonder if Pete Townshend will still “hate The Who” after that many people have cheered adoringly… Progressive-minded Scousers Anathema playing a series of acoustic shows in cathedrals up and down the country promises to be pretty magical, with the band joined by ex-members Darren White and Duncan Patterson. And of course AC/DC have hinted at a tour. The Black Ice run had a giant train, so for Rock Or Bust maybe we can expect… a really big rock? Or hundreds of baseballs shooting out into the crowd for Play Ball? Don’t know about you, but we plan on being there to find out.