On the occasion of the release of his new album, “Revelation”, we put some tattooed questions to the legendary German guitarist of UFO and MSG.
Michael, your recording debut was way back in 1972 with the Scorpions album “Lonesome Crow”. But when did your adventure with tattoo art kick off?
Many years after that, in the year 2000, to be precise. And just think, it was by pure chance.
Are you serious?
Yes, one day I just got it into my head that I wanted to get a tattoo – I can’t even tell you why – so I went into this tattoo parlour in Phoenix (Arizona, where I was living at the time) and I got eight or nine of them there on the spot! Eight are clearly visible on my body, but the ninth one, an electric guitar entwined with an acoustic, that one’s on my leg so you can’t always see it.
Nine tattoos in one session? What came over you that you suddenly got this ink frenzy?
To be honest, I have never been able to figure it out myself. (musing) Maybe it was just a spur of the minute thing, something that had to be done right there and then. I have never had a tattoo done since and to this day I don’t feel any need to either.
I guess that tattoo phase of mine started and finished in one day nineteen years ago.
As I often say for so many things that have happened to me over the years: what’s done is done. Now we have to get on with it.
Of all the tattoos you have, one I find really curious is the Mercedes-Benz logo you’ve got on your right arm.
Yeah, though it’s not one I like to have on show so much. In fact I often cover it up with a strategic black wrist band! (laughs)
I love those cars and that tattoo is a bit like those little clauses written in fine print at the bottom of the recording contract.
Nobody notices never mind reads them, but you know they’re there. Nobody thinks of them as particularly important, but they are there and they count for a lot!
Have you ever thought of getting Mercedes to pay you for the publicity you’re accidentally giving them?
No, and I doubt they’d ever pay me anyway! (chuckles) You know, I’ve been playing Gibson guitars and using Marshall amps all my life, but I’ve never seen a red cent for those technical endorsements. And if I’ve never been paid anything by these two iconic musical brands, I don’t think I’ve got much of a chance with a famous car manufacturer for a little tattoo.
I’ve noticed that you also have a piece with the Yin-Yang symbol. Were you looking for something to do with the idea of balance?
That’s it exactly. All of my life so far has basically come down to a question of equilibrium. First the black and white guitars I played live on stage, then the stability that I got for years from playing in the Michael Schenker Group. Now I’m trying to do the same with my friends in the Michael Schenker Fest (the lineup also includes singers Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley as well as bassist Chris Glen and guitarist/keyboard player Steve Mann, ed.) and luckily enough, there is plenty of balance to be found there too.
Tell me the truth: did you really come up with the artwork for the cover of your new album “Revelation” which is coming out at the end of September?
Indeed I did. I just sketched it out in a rough enough kind of way, then painter/illustrator Zsofia Dankova stepped in and turned it into an exceptional piece of work. Especially in terms of the expressions of the various musicians portrayed.
I don’t know how to tattoo or how to reach certain artistic heights, but every time I pick up a pencil, I always have my own kind of vision.
Do you think anyone will get it tattooed some day? Or do you think that the artwork of “Revelation” would be a bit too difficult, so to speak?
I would love it if somebody got it tattooed as a backpiece because that cover is a lot more profound and introspective than it might seem at first glance. You know, so far in terms of ink they have dedicated all sorts of things to me: Flying V guitars, the three letters “MSG” of the Michael Schenker Group, my autographs tattooed on skin, and so on. Maybe it’s time to take it to the next level, what do you say?
Our conversation with Michael Schenker continues in a future issue of Tattoo Life. The new album from Michael Schenker Fest, “Revelation”, is coming out on the Nuclear Blast label on 20th September next.