If, in this age of anxiety about Russia’s encroaching influence on the world, you find yourself hearing the Scorpions’ Wind of Change a little differently, you’re definitely not alone.
"People notice this meaning now much more," said Rudolf Schenker, the German hard rock legends’ founding guitarist. Their 1991 hit was inspired by, and remains synonymous with, the end of the Cold War. "Now, when we play the song, people are really in it, because they notice that we have another wind of change here. Thirty years ago, it was a positive wind of change. Now we have a negative wind of change. And I think that’s a very important point."
The Scorpions might not be the first guys we should turn to for modern geopolitical analysis. Then again, they have been rocking the world like a hurricane since 1965, give or take a failed farewell tour — that’s a lifespan almost no other hard rock band can match. They’ve seen every perspective the world has to offer many times over.
And so, as the group returns to Tampa for the first time since 2010, it makes sense that Schenker, 70, sounds excited to chat about everything under the sun from a studio in his homeland.
"We have the same energy and the same fun and everything like we had in the ’80s, except that we of course are not partying like crazy like in the ’80s," he said. "You have to go back to the bone, because what’s the bone? The bone is the music, and the music is why we are still doing this. I didn’t begin with the Scorpions because I wanted to party like crazy. No, I wanted to make music with four other guys and build friendships and go around the world and make music."
It’s a bit harder than it used to be, despite access to private jets and the ability to set their own schedules playing arenas around the world. You might recall the Scorps were supposed to play Tampa last fall, before a last-minute bout with laryngitis felled singer Klaus Meine.
"We know our singer, and we know the situation when we are in it, and we have to say, ‘Look, this is not possible. We don’t want to cheat the people. We want to give them 100 percent,’?" Schenker said. "We are very happy that Klaus can still sing like in the ’80s when we give him the right breaks. So if we want to have a good show instead of saying we want to play as much as possible, that’s good."
It’s kind of uncharted, what they’re doing. Only a handful of bands can say they started in the mid-’60s and still fill arenas in 2018. How long is that? Try this on: The Scorpions’ current drummer is Mikkey Dee, the longtime drummer for Motorhead, who joined after the death of Lemmy Kilmister. Dee was born in 1963 — just two years before Schenker started the Scorpions.
"You see people like (AC/DC’s) Malcolm Young, like Lemmy, that are dying," Schenker said. "This music, it’s really based on a few bands, still — Aerosmith, Scorpions, Kiss."
Schenker says the band’s legacy in America is somewhat different from the rest of the world, particularly Europe. Here, songs like No One Like You, Rock You Like a Hurricane and Still Loving You are relegated to the dustbin of classic rock radio. Worldwide, Schenker said, they’re treated like any other rock band.
"When we play in Germany and in France, we have lots of young kids in the front rows, and the older ones are mostly in the back," he said. "We don’t want to be a band from yesterday. And that’s the situation why we’re still standing, why we have demand of people wanting us playing. After America, we go to Australia and New Zealand and China, and that’s fantastic."
That brings us back to the modern world. When the Scorpions released Wind of Change, "we wanted to show the rest of the world, there’s a new German generation coming out," he said. "They’re not coming with tanks and making war; they’re coming with guitars and playing love, peace and rock ‘n’ roll."
And America’s role in the "negative wind of change" of 2018? Schenker would like to see America living in peace with Russia and China and Europe. They’re a family, and yes, families bicker, but you can’t "have the world in peace when you can’t get the family in peace," he said.
"What you can do as an outsider and a musician, you only can remind the people, ‘Look, guys, please behave yourselves and try to make a better world and try to let people live in peace,’?" Schenker said. "We try to build bridges, and that’s bridges between generations, between religions, between all these different continents. That’s what music is all about. What would be the world without music?"
Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.