Scorpions inflict deadliest sting yet as lead guitarist Matthias Jabs helps cause a devastating Blackout



By Steve Newton

It’s a hard road, and often a long one, that leads to success in the world of heavy metal. With the exception of a few bands that luck out on their debut recordings because radio is good to them, most hard rockers fight an uphill battle to establish themselves and then very often fade into semi-obscurity or cult status because they can’t get any exposure.

Scorpions used to be one of those “cult” bands. During the 1970s they released six promising but inconsistent albums that showed a lot of potential but didn’t allow it to be fully developed. Lonesome Crow (1972) was mainly a showcase for then 16-year-old Michael Schenker‘s budding, inspired rock meanderings, and the albums that followed–Fly to the Rainbow (’74), In Trance (’75), Virgin Killer (’76), and Taken By Force (’77)–were highlighted by raunchy tunes like “Speedy’s Coming”.

A live LP from 1978, Tokyo Tapes, captured some of the excitement that is Scorpions on stage, yet it sounded like there was something missing. Considering the band’s current popularity and improved, more polished releases, it’s quite possible that something was lead guitarist Matthias Jabs.

Jabs joined the band just before their last album of the seventies, Lovedrive, was released. And though that record featured a guest appearance on three songs by ex-member M. Schenker, it was also evident from the interplay between his brother Rudolf on rhythm guitar and the newly-arrived axeman that things were looking up for the German group.

Animal Magnetism and the latest release, Blackout, furthered Scorpions’ name to the point where they now have a hit single in “No One Like You”.

But whatever the reason for it, whether it be the addition of a new guitarist or just the eventual reward for years of struggle and dues-paying, Scorpions are beginning to sting. Their new album sold over 140,000 copies in its first week of release in the States, and the band is now promoting it on a grueling world tour with Iron Maiden and female headbangers Girlschool.

I talked to the band’s drummer Herman Rarebell recently, and asked him about the new album and Scorpions’ musical development over the years. (He and the boys will be at the Pacific Coliseum Wednesday, July 21.)

What is the heavy metal scene like over in Germany?

Well, it’s cooled down a bit because we have a new thing in Germany called the New German Wave. So all the bands in Germany at the moment sing in the German language and play typical German music. It’s not very heavy–more like the new wave thing that was happening in England about the late ’70s.

Scorpions have been together now for ten years. How has your music changed, if any, over the years?

I think the major change happened when we started to make Lovedrive, because before that we had two directions in the band. We had a guitar player who was very Hendrix-oriented, and therefore we could never focus on one style. We had two styles. When he left and we did the next album, the band was in one direction. And since then the band has become known worldwide.

How does your current lead guitarist, Matthias Jabs, differ from your previous ones, Michael Schenker and Ulrich Roth?

Matthias is totally a player for the band. Michael was the same, but with Ulrich it was “Ulrich Roth and the Scorpions” or “the Scorpions and Ulrich Roth”. You need a guitar player who works with the band, in one direction. I think Matthias does that. You can hear it especially on Blackout.

Why did Michael Schenker quit Scorpions in the first place?

In 1972 or ’73 he had an offer from UFO. And in those days Scorpions didn’t earn any money and they were in really bad condition. And he took the offer because it was a really good one. And he quit the second time [after appearing on Lovedrive] because he wanted to make his own career with his own band.

Do you think he’ll be playing for you again sometime?

Maybe as a guest, you know, on an album. But that’s all. I don’t think any of us would consider working with him again because the band is as it is now. We’d like to keep it that way.

What’s the title track of your new album about?

It’s about a geezer who goes out and gets drunk and gets so out of it that he can’t remember anything anymore. He can’t even remember the places he went, or that he fucked a chick. Nothing.

You know, one of those days when you wake up in the morning, and you see a body there next to you, and you go, “Hey, what’s happening here? How did she get in my bed?” A total blackout, you know.

What’s that sound of breaking glass at the end of the song?

That is supposed to be the guy getting so out of it that he falls through a window.

Who were the group’s influences during the formative years?

I think out main influence of the past, of the late ’60s and early ’70s, was Led Zeppelin. Before that, for me, it was the Yardbirds, and obviously Jeff Beck. And the Kinks and the Beatles.

What do you think of Canada’s heavy metal bands?

I think there’s a lot of good heavy acts coming out of there. Triumph, and Rush, and lately Saga is a pretty good band. There’s a lot happening over there, especially with heavy metal.

To hear the full audio of my interviews with Scorpions members Klaus Meine from 1988 and Rudolf Schenker from 1992 subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also eavesdrop on my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Derek Trucks of Tedeschi Trucks, 2012
J.D. Fortune of INXS, 2006
Fernando von Arb of Krokus, 1984
Gary Holt of Exodus, 1985
Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, 1992
Scott Ian of Anthrax, 2012
Gary Lee Conner of Screaming Trees, 1992
Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, 1985
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 2003
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton of Arc Angels, 1992
Marc Bonilla, 1992
Mike Smith of Sandbox (and Trailer Park Boys), 1996
Dewey Bunnell of America, 1983
Robert Randolph of the Family Band, 2003
Keith Strickland of the B-52s, 2008
David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 2005
Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, 2003
Todd Kerns, 2016
Bill Payne of Little Feat, 2002
Tommy Shannon of SRV & Double Trouble, 1998
Alejandro Escovedo, 1997
Billy Duffy of the Cult, 1989
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Alex Van Halen, 1995
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

…with hundreds more to come

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