Some dreams never die.
As a for-instance, consider the lofty dream to be a rockstar. It’s one held by so many, by people of all ages, and it’s one that’s been lived by Scorpions frontman Klaus Meine longer than anyone could hope. The 70-years-young singer has toured the world with his band for decades, shared countless stages with fellow legends and contemporaries, and enjoyed a career that’s produced 18 studio albums, innumerable compilations, and a handful of songs that will live forever.
And during that time, Meine has nurtured another dream, one even more obscenely optimistic and tragically unlikely than aspiring to rock superstardom. Born three years after the end of WWII, in the bomb-ravaged setting of post-war Hanover, Germany, Klaus Meine also dreams of peace.
It’s a lofty notion, sure, the prospects of which seem ever so unlikely. But you and I haven’t necessarily seen what Klaus Meine has seen. I, for one, didn’t have the chance to play onstage at the Moscow Music Peace Festival in August 1989 — alongside acts like Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue, Skid Row, and Bon Jovi — so I was never inspired to write an anthemic peace ballad after singing along with 100,000 Russians. But Klaus Meine was, and he did and, as a result, the fall of the Berlin Wall had an unofficial theme song in “Wind Of Change,” which ranks among the best-selling singles of all time.
The wind can shift, at any time, in any direction. It seems, sometimes, the wind is blowing us onward and upward and, sometimes, it’s blowing us right in the face. But no matter how strong the wind’s destructive force, it hasn’t been able to stop Meine’s shining hopes for world peace. He’s still dreaming away and, alongside bandmates and brothers Rudolf Schenker, Matthias Jabs, Pavel Mąciwoda and Mikkey Dee, he might be sharing these dreams in a city near you.
I caught up with Klaus before he embarked on another trek to share the Scorpions’ music with adoring fans and we talked music, ballads, touring, and watching bands grow up before your eyes, much in the same way the world continues to grow.
Here’s what he had to say.
— Scorpions (@scorpions) August 13, 2018
Kevin Tall: Hello Klaus.
Klaus Meine: Yeah, this is Klaus. Hi.
KT: How are you doing today?
KM: I’m great.
KT: What time is it over there?
KM: It’s 6 p.m., late afternoon. Where are you calling from?
KT: I’m calling from Tampa, Florida.
KM: Oh, Florida, from Tampa.
KT: Yes sir!
KM: OK, cool.
KT: The Scorpions are set to kick off the rescheduled dates from the ‘Crazy World’ tour that were canceled last year due to your laryngitis. How are you feeling these days?
KM: Well, I’m feeling good. Except for when we had to cancel the U.S. dates, everything went pretty smooth the end of last year, and also, the next couple of months, when we played the Hell & Heaven Festival in Mexico City or just all over the summer, all over Europe, from Paris to London, to Athens, all over Italy, you know, all over the place. It was a great and successful run, so, what can I say?
I’m feeling very good and I’m totally warmed up coming back to the States. And, of course, it feels very good, because it feels not so good to let people down; I had a really bad [case of] laryngitis last year and I had no chance. My vocal cords were showing me the red card and that was it.
So I feel very good about it, coming back and playing those rescheduled gigs. We added two more, one in Lake Tahoe and another one in Irvine in California. But, other than that, we’ll play all of the dates that I couldn’t do last year. And it was such an amazing tour. We started at Madison Square Garden in September last year and it was an amazing run. Chicago, up to Seattle, Los Angeles, all those places. And then, all of sudden, boom. But, you know, there’s nothing you can do. It happens, and it happens to many singers, because this little instrument called “vocal cords,” it’s a very sensitive one in your throat. Even if you try to treat it right, it takes all those hits with every other show and you push them very hard. When some virus strikes, there’s no chance and that’s it.
TONIGHT we ROCK Irvine, Cal-i-for-nia at @FivePointAmp ????
Photos: Tahoe On Stage pic.twitter.com/bumVoNcBlI
— Scorpions (@scorpions) September 2, 2018
KT: Well I am excited, personally, to get to see you at the September 14 date in Tampa. Seeing you guys here with Motley Crue in 1999 was actually my first concert at age 16.
KM: It’s the same arena.
KT: Same arena. I mean, it’s had about five different names since then, but same building.
KM: Yeah, probably. It’s one of those big arenas, they change names like every other couple of years. I don’t know if that was the show you saw, when we played Tampa… I think it was the last time we came through Tampa that [AC/DC singer] Brian Johnson joined us on stage for ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane.’ Do you remember that?
KT: I don’t remember. It’s been about 19 years and I’m not 100 percent sure.
KM: It probably was later than that. With Motley Crue it was the end of the 90s.
KT: Yeah, it was 1999, you were with Motley Crue and I think Laidlaw.
KM: It was a great time [when] Brian joined us on stage and I jumped on his shoulder in the middle of the song. He took me, like Angus, into the arena. The band kept playing ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ and I was sitting on Brian’s shoulder, watching the show from the front of house mixer. It’s a great memory, so when I think Tampa, I remember a great audience, like always, and this special memory with Brian Johnson.
[Editor’s note: that was from a Scorpions show in 2003]
KT: The 2017 dates that were canceled were with Megadeth. I actually spoke with David Ellefson a couple of months ago and he said he loved playing shows with the Scorpions. Are you looking forward to doing some dates with Queensryche?
KM: Oh yeah, absolutely, because the previous tour we did, before the one with Megadeth, we had Queensryche with us all over the States. It was also a great tour. I think it must have been 2015, I guess. They’re great guys and with their new singer, it’s a great band and the package worked out fantastic.
With Megadeth last year, it was like ‘Wow,’ you know? ‘This thrash metal band and the Scorpions, will that work out at all?’ But it was, really, a successful tour with them. They are a headliner in their own right, you know? You could tell they were paying respect to the Scorpions. It worked out fantastic.
We played with them on a couple dates here all over the summer, a couple festivals, those big metal festivals like in Barcelona and some other places, they were on the bill as well. So it seems like we’re bumping into them a couple of times this summer. It was a great package, but for these rescheduled dates, for some reason it didn’t work out. But with Queensryche, we’re more than happy because that’s a very powerful package as well.
KT: Over the span of your career, do you have a favorite band to tour with?
KM: Favorite band to tour with? I don’t know, you know? It’s like, these days, it’s like all these special guest opening bands. I think when you really have one of these really powerful packages like Scorpions-Megadeth or with Queensryche. Other than that it’s like, here in Europe every other gig is every other country because one day you play in France and then Greece, Portugal, and Spain. And then playing festivals on these single gigs, we have different support bands, openers, along all the time. Who’s your favorite opening band? I don’t know, you?
I mean, I can tell you our favorite opening band back in the 80s was Bon Jovi. That was really like a band we picked before they hit the big time in 84. We took them out on the road for months and months and months all over the States and to Japan. It was a great band and what a career they made. I guess they had a great start with us back in those days, playing big sold out arenas, and what a successful band and what a career they’ve made. Amazing.
But that’s how they started. And there were some other big names that were playing with Scorpions in the early days. Thirty years ago, like the Monsters of Rock, when we played with Van Halen, Metallica, Kingdom Come, Dokken, you know, you remember that big package, going all over the States, playing all the big stadiums? That was fantastic.
KT: Absolutely. It’s got to be really special kind of to look at the music world and see artists that you might have toured with or played with when they were really, really young and their careers and then just seeing how it blossomed and progressed.
KM: Yeah, it’s amazing. But I’m looking back, also, like those years when we were the opening band. Like when we came for the first time to America back in ’79 and we played… first tour, we were the opening act.
I guess we played 30 minutes or something, then AC/DC played after us, and then the headliner was Ted Nugent. What an amazing package that was. And we toured all over the States, and this was, in a way, like… Scorpions, coming from Europe, being a German band, this is our first step, becoming a part of the international rock family.
It was a wonderful experience. We had such a great time with AC/DC, back then still with Bon Scott, and also Teddy. He was an amazing entertainer, you know? Crazy, crazy band and crazy stage personality. It was fantastic to watch him every other night with his Tarzan outfit. He was swinging on a rope, which was the entrance; that’s how he came onstage, swinging on a rope like in the jungle, baby. It was crazy.
KT: [Laughs] Not to be too indelicate, but you recently turned 70. I’m half your age and I get tired just walking to my car to commute to work in the morning; how do you guys find the energy and motivation to keep touring?
KM: I like 17 better than 70, that for sure. And I have to get used to it, to be honest, really. But how we can manage to keep up the energy, yeah, that’s a good question. That’s what I ask myself every other day.
Since we’re playing, at least the last 10 years I’d say, in front of three generations. Over here in Europe, or South America, Asia… not so much so in the United States, where it’s more focused on an ’80s audience. The majority of those most-loyal fans back from the ’80s. OK, a couple young ones, as well, joining the party, but it’s very different in the rest of the world, where you can see there’s a whole new audience in front of the stage. A lot of kids who never saw the Scorpions live. And they come and check it out and they go, ‘Man, this is cool, when are you guys coming back.’
So it’s wonderful to play in front of three generations and I guess this is the fuel that keeps us going. This is so motivating, to realize that, after so many years, our music is reaching out for the young rock generation as well and they like what they see. They love the songs, they know the songs, they sing along [to] all those big classics, from ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ to ‘Wind Of Change,’ ‘The Zoo,’ ‘Big City Nights.’ It’s amazing. It’s like we’ve such a huge catalog of music and this is what we bring to the party. It’s a lot of big classics, like the big hits, but also newer material from ‘Return To Forever,’ which was released in 2015. So we bring some new music onstage as well, and we go all the way back to the ’70s.
When you see all those young kids and they’re listening to songs like ‘Steamrock Fever,’ or ‘Speedy’s Coming,’ it’s crazy, but it works. It’s a very powerful set, and the addition of Mikkey Dee being our new drummer since 2016, also adds a whole new shot of fresh energy to the band, and it looks all these young kids go home and they say ‘This was a fantastic night, we had a great time, and when are those guys coming back?’ and that’s a huge compliment…
And that feels really, really, good, so yeah, I turned 70. My friend Rudolf will reach the same number in a few days, so what can I say? Welcome to the club. If this is what it means, getting old, I go for it. I really think there’s still some sting left in the Scorpion’s tail. But you really have to take a look around the corner, at the end of the day, and this is what all those bands in our generation are doing. They keep going. I mean, not all of them, but some of them, and they’re fantastic. Steven Tyler just turned 70 and when I see what they did in the last couple of days, playing all those big TV shows and promoting their Las Vegas residency, I go like, ‘Wow, fantastic!’ So we’re growing older, yes, but as long as we can deliver a great, great concert, it’s all good. It feels great.
— Scorpions (@scorpions) August 31, 2018
KT: That’s awesome. In touring the globe for so many years, it’s fair to say you’ve been witness to some incredible changes in society. I know on the ‘Big City Nights’ album, on the live version of ‘Wind Of Change’ you talk about being inspired to write the song by the 1989 Moscow Peace Festival. A couple of months ago, Matthias said ‘World peace will never exist,” when reflecting on the song. How do you feel about it?
KM: Well I have a more positive outlook into the future. Even though, right now, it doesn’t look like it, and we all can feel it’s all a bit on the edge these days, it’s more like society’s very much divided…
I don’t want to give up hope, and I believe in the young generation. We need the children of tomorrow. They will have the power to unite the world again. This is what we need. I cannot see that a young generation would want to go for separation, and I believe — I want to believe — that they go for a world where we come closer together.
Music is just one little tool, but music is important for all of us all over the world. In good times and in bad times. Music is the tool the musicians can work with and bring people together in the world of emotions. That’s what I see every night when we’re on stage. We just played in Tel Aviv. In October, we play in Beirut.
What I hear, what the feedback is from the audience…they sing the same songs with the same passion and they’re very much united in the world of music and the world of emotions. This gives me hope, that in the bigger picture, there will be, also, at some point, a new generation of politicians. People will be in charge from the young generation. And you can see it, like in Europe, in Macron in France, or in Canada [Prime Minister Justin Trudeau]. That’s the young generation. Hopefully they will do things different.
KT: Well, talking about the idea of ‘separation,’ you’ve said ‘It’s like the clock ticking backwards’ in regards to American President Donald Trump’s idea for a border wall. That was almost a year ago. What do you feel the situation is today?
KM: When you follow the latest news… What can I say? I don’t just want to make, over and over again, these kinds of political statements. But as a private person, I follow the news, and when you just follow the news right now, today, it feels like it doesn’t look good for President Trump, really, with all the latest news. But who knows what comes next?
KT: That’s fair.
KM: It’s getting more and more bizarre and it’s hard to believe. This is the world we live in today, and looking to America…
I mean, if somebody said, ‘Klaus, how do you feel about America today?’ My view of America has not changed because we have the most loyal fans in the world in the United States. We would never forget how important for us, in our professional lives, the American audience always was and still is. We’ll never forget that, therefor my view hasn’t changed of America.
America always meant, especially for Germans, when it comes to Berlin, when it comes to supporting Germany right after the war, with the bridge where they brought food to the people in West Berlin… Up to now, it’s been always a very close friendship. President’s Kennedy’s visit in Berlin, I see it every other day on television; people will never forget. From George Bush, Obama to Trump, sometimes it’s hard to believe.
But life will go on and there will be other people in charge. And I hope the clock is not ticking backwards anymore, so there will be a change at some point and people hopefully believe in working together and coming closer together instead of building walls and building a checkpoint, like in Europe, where you have to show your passport at every border when you travel here.
We grew up like this, and then we saw a change where people really joined together. And this family looks like, in Europe, this idea of a united Europe is in danger. I think Germany is still holding up that we are solid about it and still supporting this and I support the European idea with all my heart. I think it’s very important that we are together and we are not divided. So, again, I know Matthias has a different view on this; maybe it’s more realistic, I don’t know, but I believe in the future and I believe in the young generation and I believe that there will be a time where we all come together again in a better way for a peaceful future.
KT: Alright. I’ve always really loved the kind-of social message behind ‘Wind Of Change,’ but don’t worry, I won’t make you talk about politics anymore.
KM: [Laughs] OK. The thing is I like to talk about it, you know, but I don’t feel a sense like of being a political band by any means. But of course, a song like ‘Wind Of Change’ being a peace anthem and so connected with this historical moment in time, it became a song that is so connected with this historical moment in time. And I can see it in the audience wherever we play. And I saw it in America last year. My feeling was, where usually people sing much louder during a song like ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane,’ but this time ‘Wind Of Change’ came pretty close. And I thought the fans were not thinking about the Berlin Wall.
— Scorpions (@scorpions) August 25, 2018
KT: Rudolf Schenker said the band is ‘still waiting for a moment for inspiration,’ to work on another album. Last November you put out the ‘Born to Touch Your Feelings’ compilation. What was the mindset behind packaging all the ballads together and what are your feelings about recording new material?
KM: I mean, the mindset was like, a phone call from the record company. ‘Hey guys, come on, what you think?’ Like, ‘Another compilation. Great.’ But what made us agree to it was the fact that they wanted a couple new songs. We went back into the studio, we recorded a couple new songs, and it was not, in a way, like ‘Let’s go in and make a new album.’ We went like, I don’t know. At that time, we’d just released an album with, altogether, 19 songs, including all those bonus tracks, and we were like ‘Jeez, what else you want, another record? Come on.’ We gave you one. What did it make out there?…
It’s difficult times, with all the streaming and Spotify and all that. It’s a whole new game. To go into the studio, like in the old days… It’s just a different time. And for this ballad compilation, we recorded a couple of songs and it’s great, but at the end of the day, it’s all those ballads — and the Scorpions have a few of course, and some of them became really successful, and some of those are classic songs — but at the end of the day, an album like this doesn’t make a difference.
It doesn’t make a difference in America at all. Who’s waiting for a new ballad album? I know, and all of us, I guess, know, if the world needs another Scorpions album, it’s gotta be a rock album. So if we have this album in us, if we can deliver, we’ll see. We’re pretty much on the road until the end of the year; maybe next year is a good timeframe to write a couple tunes, come together, and we’ll find out if we’re ready for another record. It would be wonderful; it’s not that we don’t want to do it. It’s just, you have to feel it and you have to see a reason to put it out.
KT: Yeah, it’s got to be natural.
KM: Just to put out another record, it doesn’t mean too much, you know? I don’t know. You really have to have the feeling, have the right setup, have the right producer, the right motivation, to feel the passion, to feel ‘I have a couple of songs I wanna release now’ and to go back into the studio. And hopefully, this moment will come next year. But let’s see.
KT: In a previous interview you’d said you were nervous about presenting ‘Wind Of Change’ to Matthias and Rudolf. How does it resonate with you today?
KM: It puts a big smile on my face. Of course, I wrote so many lyrics for the music Rudolf came up with in all those years. Here and then I came up with the music myself.
But with ‘Wind Of Change,’ it was different from the very beginning, because deep inside, I had a feeling. Personally, for me, it means a lot. I can’t explain, really, why, but I had a feeling when I played this to the band, I hoped they like it as much as I did. But, of course, I had no idea what the song would become. I was nervous about it, yes. I was nervous that they would turn it down, just because of the whistling, maybe, or maybe the fact that it had a commercial touch; it was definitely not a rocker. It was just a little song that came from Klaus.
But when I look back, of course, it’s an amazing story from our Russian experience in the late ’80s and it became such a milestone classic. It’s great that we still have songs like ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ or ‘Still Loving You,’ we have the best of those worlds. The peace song, the love song, and the big rock anthem. So I just see, every other time in America at sports events, they play that song almost everywhere. So this song will be, when we’re long gone, there are a couple of songs that will still be around, and those three — ‘Still Loving You,’ ‘Wind Of Change’ and ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ — will definitely echo for a long time to come.
KT: You’ve said ‘chemistry’ and ‘friendship’ have been integral to the band’s success. With the core of the band having been together for 40 years, how does it feel to take the stage with these guys every night?
KM: You don’t want it any other way. It just feels like family. It’s really like an old couple. You know everybody in the band so well, and even with the young kids in the band, like Pavel Mąciwoda on bass, when Mikkey Dee joined us in 2016, it’s like, we opened the door, like ‘Hey, welcome to the Scorpions Family.’ Especially with Rudolf and Matthias, it’s about friendship, it’s about teamwork.
What made the Scorpions, and the reason we’re still here today, is that we always had this kind of feeling and respect for each other. Other than that, I don’t see a point why, after all these years, why we should be out there, still playing shows all over the world. Yeah, good business, ok. The Stones are still doing it also. But it’s got to feel right, and it still feels good.
I mean, we have our ups and downs as well, like in a marriage. You have good days and not-so-good days, maybe, here and then. Or different opinions on ‘Should we do this song or should we do something else?’ ‘Should we do a video for this song, or who should be the director?’ Whatever, you know? All these artistic discussions, that we’ve had for all of our lives now, but that’s part of it, and it’s good. But the chemistry is right and it works.
There’s a whole lot of respect for each other and everybody can do his thing. That feels good. I know when I’m on stage and I feel this — not a wind of change, but more than a wind behind me, a rush of air, it’s better to say, maybe, that I know it’s Rudolf, sprinting like crazy from one side of the stage to the other, and I better keep up with his tempo, because he’s still in the deadly sting form, which means he’s spot-on.
You’ve got to keep up with this guy, he’s crazy. He will turn 70 in a couple of days and I don’t see anything that breaks him down. He’s always positive and he always wants to walk this extra mile. Even if I would say ‘Come on, Rudolf, are you sure about this?’ ‘Come on, come on, we’re gonna do this, we’ve gotta do this!’ It’s been, always, that way. And now he turns 70 as well; it’s pretty crazy, these old dudes still going crazy out there.
KT: Well, Klaus, I don’t have any more questions for you, but I want to thank you so much for taking some time to talk to me today. I’m looking forward to seeing you guys on the road.
KM: Alright, Kevin, I hope to see you out there and we’re looking very much forward to coming back to Tampa and make it up, for the lost shows, the ones we couldn’t do last year. We’re ready to rock Tampa and the rest of these dates like a hurricane again. Of course, what else?
KT: Alright, thanks, Klaus. Take care
KM: Alright, thanks, Kevin. Thank you. Bye bye then.