Interview: Matthias Jabs – Scorpions
It is fair to say that no other German band in the history of hard rock/metal has had the success and global domination of the Scorpions. Since the release of their first album, Lonesome Crow, in 1972, the band has been on a mission to rock the masses, dare I say it, like a hurricane. And they have done that with studio masterpieces like Virgin Killer, Lovedrive, Blackout, Love At First Sting and Sting In The Tail among others. They also have a reputation for being one of the most energetic live acts in the world, which has been captured on live albums like World Wide Live and Acoustica. Now add to that his latest project and the most spectacular celebration of his MTV Unplugged In Athens career. To get his thoughts on the band’s career, the success of Love At First Sting and the latest MTV Unplugged CD/DVD, I spoke with lead and rhythm guitarist Matthias Jabs.
rock man: Congratulations for everything you have achieved in the last 4 decades, most marriages don’t last that long, what has been the secret of your longevity?
Matthias Blows: Yes, first of all I think it’s the friendship between the members because they have to like each other if they share a tour bus for many months and fortunately we all get along very well and the chemistry is right. Then secondly I would say it’s the interest in music and in the end also success, everyone is very determined in this band and everyone wants to achieve much and more and I think it’s a drive that keeps us going.
MR: You just released on CD and DVD a new live acoustic recording, MTV Unplugged In Athens, must you be very satisfied with the final product?
GM: Absolutely, I mean it was, first of all it was a fantastic time to prepare all the arrangements, I went to Stockholm to work with our Swedish producers and friends, so three Swedes and one German arranged 25 songs and it was a great pleasure . to start with, but then rehearsing with all the musicians and finally performing in Athens, great theatre, great atmosphere, great weather too and it was the first time MTV Unplugged had ever happened outdoors and in one of those spectacular looking amphitheaters. Going down to the city at night was just spectacular. Yeah we had a blast and musically it sounds great so yeah I’m happy with this product.
MR: You’ve previously released acoustic shows like Acoustica, how is MTV Unplugged different from that release?
GM: Yeah, we did Acoustica in 2001 and some of the songs are even the same because in the first place the band thought “Let’s not do our most popular songs again” because we have various arrangements for orchestra, electric versions of course, so we had many doubts about it but in the end, you know? We were also convinced by the record company and the public that we can’t do a show without Rock You Like A Hurricane or Still Loving You, but it’s a whole new approach, apart from the songs that we repeat, so to speak, but they still got a different arrangement. . But the idea was to write some new ones, mainly to do songs that we never played live and a lot of those songs from the 70s, some from the 80s, some from the 90s are songs that the band never did on stage, so this is a first and for the die-hard Greek fans it was a surprise, especially since it takes some time to recognize the song if it’s not announced, because the arrangements are so different, so it was a built-in wow factor for them. I think it’s worth doing even though we’ve done Acoustica before.
MR: What did Athens have that made it ideal for this MTV Unplugged show?
GM: First of all, we have probably the most loyal fans in the world who are from Greece, although we have great fans all over the world, but they are crazy about us, that’s one thing. The other thing is we were envisioning an amphitheater right off the bat like you find mostly in Greece there are some nice ones in Italy too but in Europe and then weather wise in September where can you go outside where there’s a probability of rain? like zero and the temperature is nice at night? And you know, we’re talking about acoustic instruments, you can’t have a big drop in temperature, if the sun comes out in the afternoon, it’s really hot, like in the fall, like the rest of southern Europe and then at night it’s a cold that massive tuning and the very expensive guitars that we have, we think that for the recordings the tuning should be stable. So all kinds of aspects, all of that ended up like Greece, they have all of that, they have good amphitheaters, they have the weather, and they have great fans, so basically, without a doubt, it was our initial idea and we stuck with it. .
MR: There are a couple of interesting tracks on this track list, can you tell me a bit about Delicate Dance, which is a real mix between Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and Love Is The Answer, a ballad with guitarist Rudolf Schenker on vocals? .
GM: Yeah, the initial idea was that we needed an instrumental, we knew we had 23/24 songs, a very long set, acoustic guitars means no long guitar solos, so a lot of things to sing for Klaus. So we thought we needed an instrumental and percussion solo as well, have at least two breaks for him during the show so he can get his voice back at least a little bit and it was also recorded back to back so we played 3 shows the first 2 they are recorded. So that was the idea and I was working on this instrumental, Delicate Dance and when I finished it everyone liked it so much they said ‘Yeah great’ and Rudolf had been working on an instrumental too but he thought mine is better, so he added. some voices to his instrumental [laughs] and then we had Love Is The Answer.
MR: If you’re talking about classic 80’s records you can’t get past Love At First Sting. In 2014 you celebrate the 30th anniversary of this iconic album, do you have anything planned to celebrate this milestone and why do you think this album has become a jewel in the crown of your catalogue?
GM: I mean, it’s got the songs, it’s got the right energy, we were flying really high in the early ’80s and some people say it was our most creative moment like Blackout and Love At First Sting and you know, it’s really the moment. we achieved headlining status and multi-platinum sales and all that. In the meantime, there’s outtakes from those two albums and early in 2012 on tour we took a break and looked at those leftovers, if you will, and there’s some really interesting material, so we’ve completed them, we’ve got them as a base. tracks, you know, they didn’t have lyrics written, they were just demos but really good ideas from that particular moment. In the meantime, we have some basic tracks and we want to finish them, maybe by the end of this year.  and release them in the beginning of 2015, because Rudolf founded the band in 1965 and called it Scorpions, when it was still like a school band, so if you take this as the beginning, all of a sudden, I know it sounds strange, but then we have 50 years of Scorpions and we could release those shots next year.
MR: Love At First Sting has so many great songs like Bad Boys Running Wild, Rock You Like A Hurricane, Big City Nights and Still Loving You, at the time you were recording it, did you know you had something special on your hands?
GM: Yes, to some extent. Songs like Rock You Like A Hurricane, but you get feedback from the outside, our agent in the US was crazy when he heard it on the phone, and we hadn’t finished it yet, and songs like Still Loving You or Big City Nights, but especially Rock You Like To Hurricane and Still Loving You, which turned out to be two of our biggest songs, people on the outside said, “You’ve got something special in there.” As a musician, I don’t remember ever thinking that way, because if you’re still in the process of recording and creating things, you don’t think that way, at least we don’t, we’re too focused on the songs and how to play. and he sings well and once the material is released you get a more neutral perspective and if it’s successful you’re like ‘Oh now I see why’. [laughs] but while you are near him you don’t think that way.
MR: If I can take you back to 1991, you had a worldwide hit on your hands with Wind Of Change, at that time, were you surprised by how widespread the success of that song was?
GM: Yes incredible. I mean, first of all, at first the record company people came in, we did some pre-listening in the studio and they said “yeah, okay, but take that whistle off” and in America they released it. [laughs] We didn’t even consider the song to be important, it was too different from anything we had been doing. And then we played the first show of the European tour, right after the launch in Brussels and a French TV crew came and filmed the song live with a camera and made a video, without asking us, of the song and the video. It went to number 1 while we were playing in the States and we were like “Oh this is amazing” and all of a sudden the song took off and we didn’t do anything for it. So obviously, you know, that’s what a hit is all about and since you’re from Australia, I have to mention that it even charted in Australia and we made the mistake of not going to Australia because we were already on tour. and at the end of the tour it was like one of the longest tours we’d ever done, like two and a half years, and then someone was like “Okay, now you can go to Australia” and we were like “Oh, next time” and we didn’t we did and still feel like it was the biggest mistake. Because that’s missing in our career that we’ve never played in Australia, I think it’s a shame.
MR: Of all the albums you have recorded, are there one or two that stand out as personal favorites and why?
GM: My personal albums, I think Blackout is one of my favorites. Blackout and Love At First Sting, we mention those that are my favorites now, because it shows how the band went from professional. yes but you know? so and so successful, you know? with those albums we made it big we have a different, we sound more, although we sound young and energetic, suddenly we sound more mature, I don’t know if that’s the right word, but we sound like the world class suddenly. That’s when we really took off in the 80s, I also have to mention that I really like the Sting In The Tail album that came out in 2010, our last studio recording, it’s also an album that I’m totally happy with, because like all the songs and that’s not the case on other albums.
MR: When you play your last show and put your guitars away for the last time, how do you think the pages of music history will remember the Scorpions?
GM: Definitely as the most successful international band from Germany, that’s already a fact. I don’t see anyone who can follow us and because we are one of the few bands that can play in almost every country in the world. Yes, I think the most successful international band from Germany comes to mind, the rock band.
MR: Again, congratulations on the MTV Unplugged In Athens release, on behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock, I’d like to wish you all the best for the future and thank you so much for all the years of great music you’ve given us.
GM: Yes, thank you very much.