On the night of July 25, a famous battle cry will ring out over Mote Park in Kent: “Turn ze spotlight on ze people!” For the first time in a decade, the Scorpions will be back on a UK stage, as headliners at a brand new rock festival, Ramblin’ Man Fair. The German rockers are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and are currently in the process of ending their career. But when founding member Rudolf Schenker speaks to Classic Rock ahead of the show, he promises that the Scorpions will not go gentle into that good night.
What can the audience at Ramblin’ Man Fair expect from the Scorpions?
The people will get something very special. [Shouting] Have a party with us! Come and celebrate fifty years of Scorpions rock’n’roll! We’re very happy to come to England again.
Will this be the last ever Scorpions show here?
I hope not! England is a very important place for us.
The band’s very first UK festival appearance was at Reading in 1979. What do you remember about that show?
We got asked if we could do Reading Festival as a headliner after Thin Lizzy cancelled. It was fantastic, but I had an injury to my head. We were touring in America with Ted Nugent and I hurt myself when I was drying my hair.
How the hell can you get injured doing that?
I was drying my hair by wind – by headbanging. But somebody called from the door and said, ‘Rudolf, there’s a girl that wants to talk to you.’ I turned around still shaking my head and I put my head into a fucking wall. Seven stitches. So at Reading I had a bandage on my head.
Like on the cover ofyour Blackout album?
Ha ha. Exactly.
You also played at the first Monsters Of Rock festival, in 1980.
That was also fantastic. Rainbow was headlining, and Ritchie Blackmore was a good friend.
Are you still in touch with Ritchie?
I saw him at a TV show in Germany three years ago. We’re still friends. But I don’t see him so much because now we play different kinds of music. He’s on a different trip now. His music [with Blackmore’s Night] is like a reincarnation of the Middle Ages. And if he likes it, why not?
Would you like to see Ritchie re-form Rainbow?
Ritchie is too deep in this other music. I don’t think he will come back to Rainbow. And I think without Ronnie James Dio, it’s not the same thing.
The Scorpions have played at so many huge festivals: in the 80s, at the US Festival in California and Knebworth, and in recent years at Wacken. Is there an art to playing for a festival audience?
You have to give one hundred per cent, and try to make the whole show very compact. At festivals the people are on the field sometimes for two or three days, they are overpowered by music, and you have to stick out from all the other bands. You need full energy and the right songs to get to the people.
Which songs will you be playing at Ramblin’ Man? Obviously there are some classics that are nailed on: Rock You Like A Hurricane, Blackout, Coast To Coast, The Zoo. But what else?
We’ll play a lot of old stuff: Speedy’s Coming, Steamrock Fever, Catch Your Train and Top Of The Bill. And of course from the new album. We have a good mixture.
Should fans practise their whistling?
Of course! At Wacken in 2012 we took Wind Of Change out of the set. But this year we put it back in, and the whole crowd was singing and whistling.
Will you have time to see any of the other other bands playing at Ramblin’ Man?
I’d like to see Dream Theater and Blue Öyster Cult. The problem is there are so many interviews to do now. In the old days, the best thing about festivals was watching those other bands and having a drink.
Did you see old friends at Hellfest and Graspop?
I got to talk to Lemmy at Hellfest. He was very excited because Mötorhead are celebrating forty years and we’re celebrating fifty years.
So you make Lemmy feel young?
Ha ha! I love Lemmy. And the fact that he can go on stage now is somehow a wonder.
So how long can the Scorpions keep going? Are you still committed to finally calling it a day in 2016?
Everything is happening very naturally. When the tour finishes it will be the end of 2016. But we get asked more and more: can you play here? The Wacken guys said: “You have to come again in 2017.” I said: “Look, guys, let’s see how we go through these two years.” We will stop at the end of 2016. But if something else comes and we can’t refuse it, we may go on longer. I don’t know.
Is Return To Forever the last Scorpions album?
Yes. The record company already asked for two more, but we said no. We don’t want to get to the position where we turn this positive energy into a negative. But we’re still strong and energetic. It’s fun – and that’s a very important point.
You’re not feeling your age?
Well, Klaus [Meine] is singing better than ever. But Hellfest and Graspop were back to back, and I tell you, I feel it in my bones. When you have two big stages and two big audiences, you maybe do more than you can do – and you feel it after [laughs].
So you’ll know when it’s time to go.
One thing is clear – time is going by. So people have to think, when they see these great bands: maybe this is the last time.