September 16, 2015 Interview – Herman Rarebell Legendary Scorpions Drummer
When Hard Rock/Metal fans conjure up a list of some of the most prolific drummers, chances are Germany’s Herman Rarebell comes to mind. Joining up as a member of the Scorpions back in 1977, Rarebell immediately made in impact, leading the band toward success as a lyricist and songwriter. A part of the Scorpions for eight of their studio albums and spending the golden era of their mega success, Rarebell has a lot of fond memories of those crazy times.
Since going on to writing, recording, and producing, Rarebell is still very much a mainstay in the Rock world with the recent release of his Herman’s Scorpion Songs album. Also spending time touring around the world with Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock, the drummer recently sat down to talk his time with the Scorpions, writing music, his time on the road with Michael Schenker, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – The Scorpions have become one of the most famous bands in Rock-n-Roll since their beginnings over four decades ago. When you joined the band in 1977, what was your expectations at the time becoming part of Scorpions?
Herman Rarebell – I always believed in myself becoming a huge Rock star all over the world, writing songs, and going on tour. I met with Rudolf and Mike Schenker, and it was the same philosophy, so it was the right kind of band to join. The same attitude in mind and the chemistry worked very well. As you know, I was lucky enough to share the golden years with the boys.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, absolutely. Like you said, you spent the golden years with the band. You were a part of the band for a total of eight studio records, and some might argue some of the band’s most important records.
Herman Rarebell – I feel that those were the most important records we made. When you look at the history, the selling of those records just proves my point.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that is very true. Now, besides being behind the kit, as you said, you are a songwriter as well. You wrote the lyrics for some of the band’s most legendary songs like “Rock You like a Hurricane,” “Blackout,” “Bad Boys Running Wild,” and many more. When you joined the band, was it decided you would have an intricate part of the songwriting, and were the other members well aware of your lyric writing skills?
Herman Rarebell – It happened when I joined the band with 1977’s Taken by Force. Rudolf ask me if I could write the lyrics for the song “He’s a Woman – She’s a Man,” because they knew that my English was the best at the time, because I had just lived six years in England before that. One day, when we did a promotional trip to Paris, the lyrics to “He’s a Woman – She’s a Man” came together and Rudolf and Klaus really liked the lyrics. From then on, I was asked on the next album, which was Lovedrive (1979), I started to get more involved. I started to write more lyrics like “Another Piece of Meat” or writing part of the lyrics for “Loving You Sunday Morning.” I became more and more involved in the album. When you look at albums like 1980’s Animal Magnetism and 1982’s Blackout, they are full of my lyrics and songwriting.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, they are. You just mentioned the Blackout record, that is one record fans turn to. Then there was 1984’s Love at First Sting, they are two records which were at the peak of the Scorpions. What was it like when these records were being made?
Herman Rarebell – It was amazing to see the reaction in the United States. It was amazing to see us, coming from Germany, could impress people in the US, especially on the lyrical side. I felt really good because I wrote most of the lyrics of those early albums. I said, “Yes, they speak the same language, they speak the language of the music, it is international, they understand what I am talking about.” My lyrics were mostly very sexual and Rock-n-Roll, because I lived that life at the time.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, obviously, what you write about reflects what you are going through.
Herman Rarebell – Imagine, we are five young guys coming from Germany in the ’80s, it was a wonderful time to have (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – One can imagine it was (laughs). Back in 1981, you had actually released a solo record Nip it in the Bud, when you were still in fact a member of the Scorpions. Was there ever talks of those songs being used by the Scorpions or did you reserve them particularly for your solo material?
Herman Rarebell – I reserved the stuff for my solo material because I thought it was too far away from Scorpions material, it was in a completely different direction. I always had great fun going into the rhythmic side of songs also. I put them aside and I had a very good partner in D.H. Cooper at the time writing those songs. I think it was good to do that at the time. As you know, later on, that album was redone again with different singers such as Jack Russell, Don Dokken, and even Steve Marriott, just to name a few American guys.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and the original version of that record is long out of print. It is difficult to find now.
Herman Rarebell – I know it is difficult to find because there is no more reprints. Maybe I should redo this again, reprint it, and put some extra stuff such as unreleased songs. After all, I just did Herman’s Scorpions Songs, maybe it is time to do Herman’s solo stuff. I have the original versions, and I would like to leave them, and I do not think I would like to replace this Steve Marriott with somebody else because that makes no sense. He killed that version and I thought he did a fantastic job. What I could do is give people new mixes of those versions, or extra tracks.
CrypticRock.com – You recently released a new compilation entitled Herman’s Scorpion Songs covering some of your classic tunes with the band. On this collection, you have a lot of great guests including Tony Martin, John Parr, Bobby Kimball of Toto, and so many more. It gives a fresh take on those great songs, and it sounds very high-quality; it is very good. There is also a new track on the record.
Herman Rarebell – Yes, there is a new song on there, “Let it Shine.” Basically when you look at the world right now, I think it is urgent we need a light in this world again because everything is getting very dark and everywhere you see war, people running away from one another, killing one another. I think it has not been this bad ever. This song is all about letting it shine.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and UnBreakable vocalist Al Crespo sings on the track for you.
Herman Rarebell – Yes, he is amazing, he is a great kid. I love this band and I think we have what it takes to go all the way, and to stay. I think those guys have a very good chance, if given a chance, in America.
CrypticRock.com – You actually have produced Unbreakable. You have produced bands as well as being a writer and performer. Do you enjoy working on the other side of the console in the studio, and what are some things you have learned as a producer?
Herman Rarebell – I have produced before, as you know, but on this album with Unbreakable, it was really good fun for me because the band is very young and I like the way they approach songs. It was great to get into lyric writing to help them along there, because they had no experience with that. For me, it was a good thing, not only to produce, but also as a musician to give them my experience and show them some things that they have not learned yet. Working on that record was actually great fun. It was a new aspect of life for me, so I would like to do this again, especially with those boys. It was very enjoyable to see how they progressed.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, absolutely. As you said earlier, it is kind of a dark time right now in society whether it be in the United States or anywhere in the world. It just seems as if people are disconnected from one another with all the social media we have, but people do not communicate. It seems like people are not as connected.
Herman Rarebell – Yes, I know, and it is rather sad. Nobody is saying anything about it either. Everybody is watching it, but no one is opening their mind, and things are just happening. That is how they built the wall in Berlin one day, because nobody said a thing until the wall was there. Then everybody said, “What is happening, somebody built a wall in front of me?” That can happen anywhere.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, you are absolutely right. That division, that silence that people have with one another, can result in horrible things.
Herman Rarebell – Yes, it can happen anywhere. This is what I think, if we do not watch, it will happen. We must have our freedom of speech and freedom to do what we want, that is the most important thing, I think. What if somebody tells you tomorrow you can not do anymore music or write this anymore, I think that would be terrible. At least we have the freedom to do what we love.
CrypticRock.com – Right, exactly, you should have the freedom to pursue what you want to pursue, obviously, as long as you are not hurting anyone or yourself, then you should absolutely do what you to do and no one should have anything to say about it.
Herman Rarebell – For the video for “Let It Shine,” we found some great footage of Berlin where the wall was built. We went to the original wall, we went to the original museum, the Russian museum where all the tanks are there from the last war. I tell you what, it is quite impressive, especially when you see the rest of the world now.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds like a very educational experience. Seeing your vast experience, what are some of personal musical influences?
Herman Rarebell – I was a really big The Yardbirds fan, and later, that progressed to being a really big Led Zeppelin fan. I remember when I heard “A Whole Lotta Love,” it blew me away. Then of course, you have Deep Purple and all the Heavy Metal bands in the late ’60s and early ’70s such as Bad Company. Later on, I became a fan of Funk music. Nowadays, I listen to everything from Cream, to Ginger Baker, to Fusion music. I like to be aware of what is happening on the scene. Then, of course, you have YouTube where you have a million videos from people who start at the age of five who blow you away. I think it has become, musically speaking, very interesting nowadays.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it has. What is your opinion of the current Rock scene internationally? In the United States it seems like the record companies have a lot of bands that all sound the same. It seems very stale in that matter. There are obviously many original Rock bands, but it just seems like there are a lot of cookie-cutter sounding acts. What do feel about the modern Rock scene?
Herman Rarebell – Of course they are telling all the others, “Try to sound like this,” and they are beginning to sound very similar, you are absolutely right. I think that the Rock scene is good again though. I am very happy that young people are finally playing instruments again instead of letting the computer do all the work. I am glad they are going back to playing again, and some of those young bands are fantastic.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, you are absolutely right. Speaking of bands, you have been involved with Michael Schenker in Temple of Rock, and you have been touring. How are you finding people responding to Temple of Rock?
Herman Rarebell – It has been amazing actually. In America, it was so surprising this tour, most of the shows were sold out. I think a lot of Scorpions fans came and obviously UFO, from Michael’s past with them. Then obviously, his own fans, the MSG fans. I think the combination of that was very good to see. The three of us, Michael, myself, and Frances have the background with Scorpions. Then Doogie White with Yngwie Malmsteen and Ritchie Blackmore. Then Wayne Findlay has been with Michael for seventeen years now. I think that this band has a lot to offer, musically speaking, and people know that. When you come to our show, you see that we can deliver. It is like the old masters are back.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, Michael feels very home with Temple of Rock. He feels like he finally has his own band.
Herman Rarebell – Yes, absolutely, it is a band. I think the chemistry is the most important thing. The chemistry can take you all the way, and the chemistry in this band, I can feel it on stage every night. The feeling is right. We can deliver and we do not have to talk to each other much anymore. We know each other for so many years that we know what it should sound like. Michael knows all my drum fills and I know all his guitar licks. I know all these ticks, I know how he plays musically, and he knows the same for me. That is why we can play play literally blind on stage so to speak.
CrypticRock.com – That is great that you have that chemistry together. It really shows.
Herman Rarebell – Michael and I have worked together for thirty-eight years now, he is like my right foot, so to speak. We are the rhythm section of the Scorpions. Michael was in and out of this band since the early years, as you know. He was always involved in and out with Scorpions, and people know that. It is good fun playing with all of us together. It sounds heavy.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, I had one last question for you. My last question for you is pertaining to Horror films. CrypticRock.com covers Rock/Metal and Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-fi movies, do you have any favorites?
Herman Rarebell – I am a Science Fiction freak, I like that. I was reading all these Comic books of Science Fiction of visiting other planets, with different human beings on them. I always said to myself, we cannot be the only ones, little small planet, and we are thinking we are the only ones in this huge Universe. Philosophy my friend.
Crypticrock.com – Yes, certainly agreed. To think there is no other life out there is very close-minded.
Herman Rarebell – Naive, the word. As if we say it in Germany, “blue eyed.” I love the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). I love that movie. It is one of my favorites. Especially the music. The soundtrack gave me shivers throughout my body.