Scorpions Producer Reveals Five Facts About New Album
Scorpions will release Rock Believer, their 19th album, in February.
The record arrives 50 years after their debut, Lonesome Crow. As the band began working on material for this next chapter, its goal was to return to the sound of classic Scorpions albums like Blackout, Love at First Sting and Lovedrive. The album's first single, "Peacemaker," sounds like they're on the right path.
Producer Hans-Martin Buff checked in with UCR to share five facts about the upcoming Rock Believer.
1. Every member has his own style in the studio.
Part of being a producer is working with each musician’s personality. For Buff, this task was relatively easy. “Klaus [Meine] is probably the easiest singer I’ve ever worked with,” the producer admits. “From the very first day that I recorded vocals with him, he’s just completely open to suggestions. … You go in, and he’s very to the creative point and very accommodating. If you say, ‘Can you try that again and try this?’ and maybe even, ‘That lyric doesn’t flow into that lyric, should we try something else?’ he’s totally open.”
With guitarists Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs, the focus was on getting the right sounds. “They’re both picky in the way that they know what they don’t like,” Buff notes. “They enjoy looking for what they like. I think that Rudolf is a bit more set. He goes, ‘Okay, that’s cool. Let’s do that.’ Whereas Matthias, who does more, he does fills and solos, extra rhythm guitars and stuff, he searches a long time for what he needs. Then it’s just nailing it.”
Meanwhile, Mikkey Dee, who recently joined Scorpions after years in Motorhead, proved to be the life of the party. "Mikkey was a joy,” the producer declares. “It was my first time working with him, and I didn’t know what to expect. He’s bigger than life anyway as a guy. He’s really friendly. He’s one of those people that you’re just part of the family, and I really appreciate that.”
2. The band had some doubts about "Peacemaker."
“Oddly enough, there was a lot of discussion [about “Peacemaker”],” Buff admits. “Is it too short? Is it us? It’s so to the point, but it’s also the best of what they can do. It’s [bassist] Pawel [Maciwoda] and Mikkey at their best, driving things. It’s Rudolf doing his [imitates guitar patterns] type of thing. I think what really lifts it though is the great guitar licks that Matthias came up with.”
Buff credits the guitar parts for elevating the song “from a funky album track to something that’s really special.” The producer also praises Meine’s uplifting lyrics: “Klaus is one to better the world, as we know. [The way] he fits that into this rockin’ song is really awesome.”
Watch Scorpions' 'Peacemaker' Video
3. Rock Believer couldn’t have been made by anybody else.
The new Scorpions album was recorded mostly live in the studio. Although they'd recorded live together in a room in the past, the sessions for Rock Believer were the first time they utilized the method with the intention of using the recordings on the final album. Beyond that, there was a special bond that was visibly evident as the sessions progressed, which Buff believes gave the band a distinctive energy.
“A band is like a marriage,” he explains. "It can be both types of a marriage. It can be that you’re looking for the smallest common denominator, where nobody’s going to freak out. Or you actually pull the same string until something really special happens, because you trust each other. I think that was the truly special thing for me.”
Buff noticed the camaraderie among Scorpions members from the first day he arrived. “From the get-go, even when they weren’t recording together, but just when they were in the room together, they were enjoying each other’s company,” he notes. “They were talking about whatever they did at home. They don’t live far from each other, but they would be together every day for almost a year, and they really liked it. It was the same in the studio. When they were recording together, there was that sense of familiarity.”
The producer says he "saw friends creating in the studio. It was something that couldn’t have been created by somebody else in there. So if I would have replaced one of them with a studio musician, it wouldn’t have been the same.”
4. The band wanted to revisit the feel of its classic albums but not replicate it.
Scorpions looked back at LPs like Blackout, Love at First Sting and Lovedrive, gleaning inspiration from their past. Greg Fidelman, who was originally going to produce the album, even planned to take things further, hoping to incorporate some of the same gear the band used in the ‘70s and ‘80s. That idea was dropped when Buff took the reins.
“We decided to not do that,” the producer explains, noting that the band's “sound has evolved sonically” since that era. “So, it’s not like a copy of the ‘70s and ‘80s approach of what they [did then], it’s just capturing them. That’s what’s different.”
As Buff points out, trying to directly copy that ‘70s and ’80s sound wouldn’t have made much sense. “It’s not like we tried to turn Mikkey into ['70s Scorpions drummer] Herman Rarebell. That wouldn’t have worked, and he wouldn’t have gone for it -- and we just didn’t want it. There was talk about how do we get to that [original sound], and then in the end it was just, like, we do what we do.
“But having said that, from the beginning, it was clear that they were going to make a rockin’ album. No whistling, no CIA involvement.”
5. There are several epic Scorpions tracks on the LP.
Scorpions fans yearning for epic-sounding songs should be happy with Rock Believer. Buff points to "Call of the Wild," "an epic [Led] Zeppelin-esque type of thing with endless solos and everything. It’s just awesome. It won’t be the one that will make the writers rich, but I think that’s the one that will make me get speeding tickets, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Another highlight, says the producer, is “Seventh Sun,” which "really developed as a conscious effort to bring this type of heaviness to the album that is kind of like [Blackout track] ‘China White.' That’s just a prime example. In the demo process, it had a much quicker melody line with some sounds, and the demo really didn’t go anywhere and nobody was really interested in it. I had this idea and presented a loop of a slow groove and wrote a riff with [their guitar tech] Ingo [Powitzer], and used that demo and put it on there and changed the tempo so it fit.”
From there the song continued to change: Schenker brought the melody heard in the verses, Meine delivered the chorus and lyrics and Fidelman, who was still involved at the time of the song’s writing, made riff suggestions. “It was like a chain letter,” Buff says, “trying to fulfill that ambition of being really, really rockin’.”