Michael Schenker, born Michael Willy Schenker, Sarstedt January 10, 1955 is a German musician, composer and producer, known for being the lead guitarist for Hard rock and Heavy metal bands such as UFO, Scorpions and Michael Schenker Group. He is the younger brother of fellow guitarist, Rudolf Schenker, who invited him to participate in Scorpions in 1972 and where he soon joined the British band UFO, in the mid-seventies, where he carried out his professional career with outstanding success mainly in Europe and Japan.
Childhood and his first steps in music
Michael was born in the small town of Sarstedt, near Hannover in West Germany in 1955. At just 9 years old, he learned to play the electric guitar when his brother Rudolf Schenker bought a Gibson Flying V. To encourage him, Rudolf paid him a mark (German currency before the Euro) for every Beatles song he learned, motivating little Michael to practice four hours a day for two years in a row, to the point that he acquired great skill at such a young age. In 1966, at just 11 years old, he formed his first band with three schoolmates called The Enervates.
With this they covered songs by The Beatles, where Michael played the role of John Lennon, which by the way was the first and only time that he served as the main vocalist. In 1967 he formed his second group called Cry, later renamed Cry Express, with which he began his professional career.
This has the statistic of being the first beat group from Hanover and the youngest beat group from Germany. The musical quartet obtained a great reception from the public after their appearance on the television program Beat Club, but sadly this very popularity led the young Michael to excessive alcohol consumption. After the Schenker family intervened, since he was only 13 years old, the band lost fame to the point that they disappeared from the music scene in 1968.
In the middle of the same year, former members of The Mushrooms, Klaus Meine and Mike Grimke, were looking for new musicians to form a new band. Klaus became interested in Michael's talent, but was unable to hire him as his parents did not want him to participate in another rock band. Therefore, Rudolf intervened and after long conversations they accepted. Finally Klaus, Michael and company founded the band The Copernicus, which originally covered songs from Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, and later wrote their own material. After two years of activity, The Copernicus disbanded when Michael and Klaus joined Scorpions.
Arrival at Scorpions
In the early seventies Michael came to Scorpions at the invitation of Rudolf, after the arrest for drug possession of lead guitarist Karl-Heinz Heimberg, and along with him so did Klaus. With these new musicians in the band the members of Scorpions began the composition of the first songs, being "In Search of Peace of Mind" the first song he composed. With this and many others they sought support in different talent shows, but were declassified for "playing too much power." The opportunity finally came in 1971 after his songs were used as the soundtrack for the anti-drug film Das Paradise Kalte. This caught the attention of the record company Metronome, who offered him his first contract with the Brain Records label.
With the help of prominent German producer Conny Plank they released the debut album Lonesome Crow in 1972. This allowed them to play almost all of West Germany during the following months, opening for artists like Rory Gallagher and Uriah Heep. In mid-1973, the group received the opportunity to open the concerts of the British band UFO in various German cities. After seeing Michael's talent during a performance in Hamburg, he was offered the position of guitarist by vocalist Phil Mogg after the departure of Bernie Marsden. Although Rudolf saw the future of the Scorpions without Michael uncertain, he let him go on one condition; help in the compositions of new songs for the second album. For this reason, together with Klaus and Rudolf he composed the song "Far Away" and with his replacement, guitarist Uli Jon Roth, he wrote the song "Fly to the Rainbow".
Success and his time at UFO (1973-1978)
In mid-1973 Michael met with UFO in the city of London in the United Kingdom, whose arrival meant the band commercial success in much of Europe and Japan, after they fully adopted the styles of heavy metal and hard rock, leaving behind the sound experiments with space rock and psychedelic rock from his first albums. Hiring him caused several problems during the first months, mainly because of the language, since he did not speak English and they did not speak German.
Despite this, he was part of the recordings of the single "Give Her the Gun" released just weeks after his arrival. This new sound that the group took with the German guitarist, allowed them to sign a contract with the Chrysalis Records label in 1974. Together with Phil Mogg he created one of the most successful hard rock compositional pairs of the 1970s.
Proof of this are the first songs written by them; "Doctor Doctor" and "Rock Bottom" from Michael's debut album with UFO, Phenomenon, which quickly became the group's biggest hits. In 1975 the album Force It appeared on the world market, which attracted the attention of the US charts and caused a buzz in that country, not only because of their music, but also because of Michael's technique and his Flying V guitar.
During his six-year career with the British group, Michael was widely recognized in the specialized press for his talent, technique and staging as well as for his problem with alcohol and his angry temperament. This last defect provoked the ire of the rest of the members of UFO, mainly Phil Mogg, since he often left the stage in the middle of a song and caused the concert to be canceled. After the promotional tour of the 1977 Lights Out album, Michael left the band to settle in Hannover where, years later, it was discovered that he was part of a religious cult called Moon. When asked about his strange and sudden disappearance, he mentioned that he simply wanted to spend some time alone with his girlfriend.
In 1978 he joined UFO again to participate in the Obsession recordings. During that same period, relations between him and Mogg worsened while they were on tour in the United States, to the point that Michael preferred to retire from the band in November 1978 without prior notice to the band. Following his departure, Michael in a later interview mentioned: "Playing with UFO is like chocolate; great for a while but once you've had enough".
Return to Scorpions and Lovedrive (1979)
In 1979 Rudolf invited him to participate in the recordings of Lovedrive, the sixth studio album by Scorpions, where he recorded the guitar solos of the songs "Another Piece of Meat" and "Lovedrive" and participated as the third guitarist on the instrumental theme. "Coast to Coast".
Despite only being a special entry, Michael stuck around for the first few dates of the Lovedrive Tour. However, his passage within the concert series only lasted until May 20, 1979, since after the concert in London he withdrew stating that he did not feel comfortable playing other people's songs. After his departure, he traveled with his girlfriend Gaby to Marseille, where they began a fourteen-day motorcycle trip to the Spanish city of Barcelona. During that same year, his ex-group, UFO released the live album Strangers in the Night, which was recorded during the tour of the United States in 1978, days before his withdrawal. This album has been considered one of the best live records in rock history.
First term of Michael Schenker Group (1980-1984)
After the news of his departure from Scorpions reached the world press, artists such as Kiss, Aerosmith, Deep Purple and Ozzy Osbourne offered large monetary offers for him to be integrated into their respective line-ups, but without success as he rejected them all. However, he participated in some rehearsals with Aerosmith in 1979, a fact that only became known after the publication twenty years later, of the autobiography of the American band, called Walk This Way. With the idea of founding his own band, Michael summoned musicians Billy Sheehan, Denny Carmasi and an unknown Gary Barden, with whom they began the demos of the Michael Schenker Group project known worldwide by its acronym MSG. The history of his own band is marked by the constant problems among its members, which led to the exits of some of them. Despite the variable line-ups in each album of the group, it did not hinder the great commercial success in some countries of Europe and in Japan.
In 1980 the band debuted with the album, The Michael Schenker Group with the collaborations of Don Airey on keyboards, Mo Foster on bass and Simon Phillips on drums, as well as Gary Barden, who and together with Michael, became the main composers. After months of their debut, the second change of musicians appeared where Michael invited Paul Raymond, Cozy Powell and Chris Glen to release the second album, MSG in 1981 and the following year his first live album One Night at Budokan .
At the beginning of 1982 and by problems with the representative of the band, Paul Raymond and Gary Barden withdrew voluntarily. After that, Michael hired former Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnet to quickly begin recording the third studio album, Assault Attack.
While they were in the studios, he received a call from Ozzy Osbourne asking for help to complete the final dates of the Diary of a Madman tour, due to the sudden death in March of the same year of guitarist Rhandy Rhoads. The guitarist accepted, which caused the delay in the recordings and the publication of his own album.
Relations between Graham Bonnet and Michael Schenker were not good as they generally argued.
who after some conversations agreed to return to MSG, saving the presentation at said festival. In mid-1982, Michael's resentment towards Graham was still evident and as a consequence he decided to re-record Assault Attack with Gary's voice, however, the label did not grant him financial support and therefore, finally, in November of the same year it was released to the world market with the voice of Graham.
In 1983 they recorded the last studio album of this early stage of MSG, Built to Destroy, which did not get the same reception on the music charts as their other albums due to the rise of Glam metal in the North American and European markets. After the poor results, Chris Glen and Gary Barden withdrew from the band to form their own project called Statetrooper. To save the band Michael hired vocalist Ray Kennedy with whom he toured Japan, but he failed to gain the previous popularity and decided to terminate the band in early 1984.
McAuley Schenker Group and Contraband (1986-1993)
After ending his own band in 1984, Michael settled for two years in Germany away from the press. In this space of time he met the Irish vocalist Robin McAuley, with whom he decided to return to the music market in 1986 with the band McAuley Schenker Group, which is practically the continuation of his first band, although with a sound closer to Glam metal combined with a Melodic hard rock, according to the sounds that prevailed in the market.
After a brief participation in some concerts in Germany, they decided to travel to Los Angeles, where they got a record contract with Capitol records. Their first albums Perfect Timing of 1987 and Save Yourself of 1989, allowed them to achieve great sales and good positions in the musical charts, but the constant change of members made this popularity unstable at the beginning of the subsequent decade. Around the same time, exactly in 1991, he participated as an unofficial member of the glam metal band Ratt, with whom he performed on MTV Unplugged. For his part, in 1990 with Tracii Guns from L.A. Guns, Vixen's Share Pedersen, Ratt's Robbin Crosby and Shark Island's Richard Black, created the supergroup Contraband that only lasted three years and that in that short time they toured the United States promoting their only album, 1991's "Contraband".
The reformation of UFO and MSG
In 1993, after the Contraband project separated, Michael decided to start a new period in his career. He first began his solo career with the album "Thank You", which would be the first in a series of acoustic albums. Secondly and in that same year, his former UFO colleagues called him to reform the classic lineup of the British group with a tour that lasted two years and that toured much of the world. In 1995 they recorded and released the album Walk on Water which again allowed them to tour mainly in Europe and North America.
In 1996 he took on a new challenge, to reform his own band, the Michael Schenker Group and for this he returned to work with producer Ron Nevison, publishing in that same year the studio work Written in the Sand, which did not receive a promotional tour as it should be, due to its participation in UFO. The following year and due to problems with vocalist Phil Mogg, he withdrew from the British band causing the cancellation of the last concerts, however and after reaching an agreement with the UFO manager, he returned but only to participate in the dates that they were reprogrammed.
On the other hand, in 1997 the live album The Michael Schenker Story Live was published, which covers a large part of his career both in Scorpions, UFO, MSG and in McAuley Schenker Group. He also recorded with a reformed MSG the work The Unforgiven in 1999, and The Unforgiven World Tour the following year.
In 2000 and after signing with Shrapnel Records, Michael reunited with UFO to start a series of concerts and the recording of the Covenant album, released in July of the same year. Despite personal problems between him and Phil Mogg, he remained in the English band until 2003 when he left after completing the promotional tour of Sharks. Similarly, he resumed his solo career with the instrumental albums Adventures of the Imagination from 2000, "Dreams and Expressions" and The Odd Trio, both from 2001. In addition, he began a series of works based on his first solo album, whose parts were titled "Thank You, Vol. 2", "Thank You, Vol. 3" and "Thank You, Vol. 4".
In addition to this and together with MSG, he released the records Be Aware of Scorpions in 2001 and Arachnophobiac in 2003. In 2005 he released the album Heavy Hitters which allowed him to meet with a wide variety of musicians, vocalists, drummers, guitarists and bassists. This studio work featured covers by artists such as Gary Moore, Black Sabbath, Cream, and Nazareth, among others.
In 2006, he was invited with MSG to the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany and in that edition he also participated in the special concert that Scorpions gave, where he took the stage to play the lead guitar on the songs "Lovedrive", "Another Piece of Meat", "Holiday" and on the instrumental "Coast to Coast". During the following months he scheduled a major tour of the United States and Europe, because of his alcohol addiction. After weeks of treating such abuse, he began the Michael Schenker & Friends tour only for the United Kingdom, receiving good reviews from the specialized press. For his part, in 2008 he met with Gary Barden, Simon Phillips, Neil Murray and Don Airey, and in the same year they released In the Midst of Beauty, which was promoted by an extensive tour with great success mainly in Europe and Japan.
The 2010s and new projects
After some world tours with MSG, in 2011 he returned to the studios and published Temple of Rock, which was initially going to be an album of the band, but which he himself left it, at first, for his solo career. To promote it, he invited Francis Buchholz and drummer Herman Rarebell, former members of Scorpions, who together with guitarist Wayne Findlay and singer Doogie White founded the band Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock, thus pausing their original group. With said group he published two more studio albums and two live albums until 2016, the year in which he embarked on another musical project. In mid-2016 he announced on his website a special tour called Michael Schenker Fest, in which he returned to play songs from MSG and McAuley Schenker Group, with the collaboration of the former singers of the band, Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley, and with musicians Ted McKenna (drums), Chris Glen (bass) and Steve Mann (rhythm guitar and keyboards).
His first electric guitar was a Gibson Les Paul Junior that his father bought for him when he was 10 years old, after seeing play his brother Rudolf's Gibson Flying V and he was with it from the creation of The Enervates in 1965 until his entry, into Scorpions in 1972. It is in this same year that Rudolf gave him one of his Flying V guitars, after losing his Les Paul before playing in Hamburg. Although they had come to an agreement that he was only for that night, Michael kept it as he felt comfortable with it. Finally in 1973 and after traveling to London to join UFO, he returned the guitar to his brother and bought his first Flying V. During the 1970s he was recognized for his sound, for his crouched posture and for putting his guitar between his legs when playing. In turn, during the last years of the decade he acquired a half black and white Flying V, which to this day is his recognized brand within the music scene.
Since the nineties he has been with the Dean Guitars brand, which has manufactured Flying V guitars to suit him and according to the designs created by him. Of these, the Schenker Brothers V stands out, a guitar created in conjunction with his brother Rudolf in a limited edition of 200 copies worldwide. Other signature designs include the Custom Flames, the Retro, and the Kaleidoscope, and in 2013 he designed the Flying V Strangers in the Night, a guitar featuring the cover of UFO's live album, Strangers in the Night.
Throughout his career and in various interviews he has named various guitarists from the 1950s and 1960s as his great influences. However, he has always mentioned that Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore and Mountain's Leslie West are his direct influence and his great idols. In addition, he has stated that he feels great admiration and respect for his brother Rudolf Schenker, for being the great architect of his musical career.
In turn, he has been named influence by countless other guitarists such as James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Dave Mustaine, George Lynch, John Norum, Warren DeMartini, Slash, Paul Gilbert, Adrian Smith, Alex Skolnick and Marty Friedman, among many others.
Awards and honors
Throughout his career he has received countless awards and honors. In 1982 he was chosen as the best guitarist of the year by the British magazine Kerrang!. In 2010 he was awarded, the Marshall 11 "award, awarded to all the stars who represent the excess, spirit and abuse of Rock and Roll, whose presentation was awarded by Alice Cooper. At the same time, it has been included in the lists of the best. guitarists of the world by magazines such as Rolling Stone, Guitar World and Vegas Rocks! Magazine, among others.
In 2012 he also received the Rock Guitar Legend award from Vegas Rocks! Magazine, whose ceremony was presented by David Coverdale. Two years later he was decorated with the Golden God Icon Award from Metal Hammer, which was presented by Joe Perry of Aerosmith. (video)
Lonesome Crow (1972)
Fly to the Rainbow (1974) (co-writer)
Force It (1975)
No Heavy Petting (1976)
Lights Out (1977)
Strangers in the Night (1979) Live
Walk on Water (1995)
Michael Schenker Group
The Michael Schenker Group (1980)
One Night at Budokan (1982) live
Assault Attack (1982)
Built to Destroy (1983)
Rock Will Never Die (1984) live
Written in the Sand (1996)
The Michael Schenker Story Live (1997) live
The Unforgiven (1999)
The Unforgiven World Tour (1999) live
Be Aware of Scorpions (2001)
Heavy Hitters (2005)
Doctor Doctor: The Kulick Sessions (2007) re-release
By Invitation Only (2011) re-release
Tales of Rock'n'Roll (2006)
In the Midst of Beauty (2008)
The 30th Anniversary Concert – Live in Tokyo (2010) live
McAuley Schenker Group
Perfect Timing (1987)
Save Yourself (1989)
"Unplugged" Live (1992) live
Thank You (1993)
Thank You 2 (1998)
Thank You with Orchestra (1999)
The Odd Trio (2000)
Thank You 3 (2001)
Dreams and Expressions (2001)
Thank You 4 (2003)
Schenker Pattison Summit
Schenker Pattison Summit – The Endless Jam (2004)
Schenker Pattison Summit – The Endless Jam Continues (2005)
Schenker/Barden – Acoustic Project: Gipsy Lady (2009)
Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock
Temple of Rock (2011)
Temple of Rock - Live in Europe (2012) live
Bridge the Gap (2013)
Spirit on a Mission (2015)
On a Mission: Live in Madrid (2016)
Michael Schenker Fest
Ronnie Romero – lead vocals (2021–present)
Steve Mann – keyboards, rhythm guitar (1986–1987, 1988–1991, 2016–present)
Bodo Schopf – drums (1987–1990, 2019–present)
Barend Courbois – bass guitar (2021-present)
Ray Kennedy (1984 touring member)
Leif Sundin (1995–1997, 2007–2008)
David VanLanding (1997–1999, 2011, 2012 touring member only)
Kelly Keeling (1999–2000)
Keith Slack (1999 touring member)
Chris Logan (2001–2004, 2006)
Jari Tiura (2006–2007)
Michael Voss – also rhythm guitar (2011–2012)
Doogie White – lead vocals (2012–2020, special guest occasionally)
Robin McAuley – lead vocals (1987–1992, 2012, 2016–2020, special guest occasionally)
Graham Bonnet – lead vocals (February–August 1982, 2016–2020, special guest occasionally)
Gary Barden – lead vocals (1979–1981, 1982–1984, 2008–2010, 2016–2021, special guest occasionally)
Don Airey (session 1980, 2008, 2011)
Paul Raymond – also rhythm guitar (1980–1981, 2011)
Tommy Eyre (session 1982)
Andy Nye (1982–1984)
Jesse Harms (session 1991)
Claude Gaudette (session 1996)
Seth Bernstein – also rhythm guitar & backing vocals (1997–1999)
Wayne Findlay – also rhythm guitar & backing vocals (1999–2016)
Derek St. Holmes – also vocals (1983)
Mitch Perry (1987)
Spencer Secombe (touring member 1991–1992)
Billy Sheehan (session 1979)
Mo Foster (session 1980)
Chris Glen – bass (1980–1983, 2008–2009, 2016–2020)
Dennis Feldman (1984 touring member)
Rocky Newton (1987–1990)
Jeff Pilson (1991)
Jeff Kollman (1998 touring member)
John Onder (session 1999)
Rev Jones (2001–2002, 2004–2006, 2009)
Stuart Hamm (2003)
Pete Way (2006, 2011)
Neil Murray (2008, 2010)
Elliott "Dean" Rubinson (2010–2011, 2012 touring member)
Francis Buchholz (2012–2016)
Barry Sparks – bass guitar (1996–1998, 1999–2000, 2020)
Denny Carmassi (session 1979)
Simon Phillips (1980, 2008, 2010, 2011)
Cozy Powell (1981–1982)
Ted McKenna (1982–1984, 2008, 2016–2019)
James Kottak (1991)
Shane Gaalaas (1996–1997,1999-2000)
Aynsley Dunbar (session 1999)
Jeff Martin (2001, 2006)
Jeremy Colson (2003)
Pete Holmes (2004–2006)
Chris Slade (touring member 2008–2009, 2010–2011)
Carmine Appice (touring member 2010, session 2011)
Brian Tichy (session 2011)
Herman Rarebell (2010, 2011–2016)