Guitar hero Michael Schenker goes acoustic and his fans are fine with it



By Steve Newton

When Michael Schenker was only 15, he met up with Scorpions singer Klaus Meine. Just a year later, he was laying down the white-hot guitar licks for the Scorpions’ debut album, Lonesome Crow. But Schenker’s early musical accomplishments were not without their price, as the teen guitar wizard quickly became caught up in the self-destructive side of the rock life, a.k.a booze and drugs. It’s something the blond axeman has been dealing with for some time.

“Every time I would practise and write songs, I would be totally straight,” explains Schenker with a thick German accent, “but I would always go on-stage with a few drinks, and then most of it would be done after the concert, just finding the way back to bed. And I used to think that music was the reason for my drinking, you know, but it was just the way I was—I was using drink to escape.

“Two-and-a-half years ago I stopped, though, and I feel absolutely fantastic. Life has become extremely sweet, and this world has turned into a beautiful place. It took me 34 years before I was able to see the other side.”

Schenker’s conversion to the level-headed lifestyle wasn’t the reason behind the McAuley Schenker Group leaving their Marshall amps at home and going acoustic on a tour that brings them to 86 Street next Thursday (March 19). After recording the latest MSG album, Schenker and Irish-born vocalist Robin McAuley were approached by their record company about going back into the studio and cutting some existing tunes as acoustic B-sides.

“We didn’t want to do it, in the beginning,” says Schenker, “because it sounded like a rush job. But Robin and I decided just to start it, anyway, and it was fascinating. From that moment on, it went so well that we decided that instead of just talking to the press for the European and Asian promo tour, to actually play for them. That was a lot of fun and got a great response, so we decided to take it out here in America.

“If somebody would have told me two years ago that in two years I’d be playing acoustic songs on stage, I would have said, ‘No way!’, but it’s quite unique the way it’s worked out.”

Before forming MSG—and between gigs with Scorpions on their Lonesome Crow and Lovedrive albums—Schenker made a name for himself with UFO, the British-based band whose six records—including the classic Phenomenon and the live double-album ear-burner, Strangers in the Night—were monuments to the power of electric guitar. But the 37-year-old rocker claims that his long-time fans haven’t been disappointed with his efforts on the current “Unplugged” tour.

“When people come back after the show to comment on it, you just see their eyes sparkling, and it really comes from the heart. It’s nice to know that they receive what you actually give, you know?”

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