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The Scorpions’ Rudolf Schenker on His Farewell Tour, Retiring, and Remaining ‘Humanlike’

After selling more than 100 million albums, rocking you like a hurricane, and ushering in the winds of change, Germany’s Scorpions are saying auf Wiedersehen. The hard-rock legends released their final album, Sting in the Tail, in March, and are kicking off the North American leg of their farewell tour, titled Get Your Sting and Blackout, tonight at the PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey. Founding guitarist Rudolf Schenker spoke to Vulture about ending the band on its own terms, playing countries where no rock band dared to travel, and injecting people all over the world with the Scorpions’ glorious stinger.

Why are you stopping now?
We made a decision at the end of the album [Sting in the Tail]. Our manager came up with the idea and he said, “Hey, guys, you know, this is a really good piece, how do you want to top this? This would be a really good possibility of saying good-bye.” We thought at first it was a joke, but if you think about it, Klaus [Meine, vocals] and me are 62, add three years on the road, 65, then making a new album, 67 … Now we can say we’re doing a last tour and giving the people a complete picture of the Scorpions. How often did you go to a party and you had a feeling around one o’clock to leave but then you met one of your friends, who says, “Let’s have one drink together,” and then it’s five o’clock, and the next morning you said, “How stupid I was to not find the right moment to leave.” I think that’s the most important point. We want to make a decision when we finish, not the people.

The first song on Sting in the Tail is called “Raised on Rock.” Was rock and roll a good parent?
Of course! I remember very, very much the first time I heard rock music, the “wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boo” on the radio. My insides called me and said, “Rudolf, this is something outstanding!” And I went on the rock-and-roll scene, which made me buy a guitar, but not learn guitar, because I was too insecure. Eddie Cochran and Little Richard, there was always one guy in front, but then when the Beatles and Stones came, I said, “Yeah! Four, five friends traveling around the world playing music, that’s what I want to do.” In this case, music was my first love, no question about it, but then finding the right people and traveling around the world and playing in places where nobody played before, this was my dream. My life couldn’t be better.

The Scorpions were called the “Ambassadors of Rock” by MTV.
That was our point! We did [concerts] where other people did not want to play. In the eighties, we played in Bangkok, where no record companies [existed], and in Asia and stuff. All the bands went to America, England, and Europe, because that was where the money was. We said, “Where is the adventure? Where is the place that we can inject people with our stinger, with our music?” We had the whole Asian market — ten times platinum in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, all these places. So when grunge and alternative was big in the Western world, we played in all those places in Asia. We play music not because we want to make the big money, but because we want to build bridges. We want to show the world that there is a new generation coming from Germany, not coming with tanks, coming with guitars and playing music.

The last song on the new album is “The Best Is Yet to Come.” What do you plan on doing with all your time off?
Whatever comes next has to be the best, because if you don’t think about it this way, you’re only getting downhill. I think life doesn’t know any kind of ages. Life knows only you are motivated, you are creative, and you want to do something. If you have a [belief] that the best is yet to come, then it will come. For me, it’s a way of creating new music, maybe doing an album with my brother. I wrote a book called Rock Your Life, which is released already in other countries, so I could promote that. There are lots of things to do.

You lived the dream. You were on top of the mountain. What did you see while you were up there?

There is not much to see up there because everything down there is very small. You don’t have to stay up there. By seeing where the best place is, then you have an orientation of where you can go. You can see the best place from the top of the mountain, then you can go there. You don’t have to stay up there, because up there is very lonely, and I don’t want to stay lonely. I want to stay somewhere where I can be very effective and very musical and very humanlike.

Photo: Tonya Wise/London Ent / Splash