By David Iozzia
Herman Rarebell is a German-born drummer who has been rocking since the 1970s. Herman rocked like a hurricane from 1977 to 1995, playing on eight studio albums and touring all over planet Earth as the drummer for The Scorpions. Not only did he pound the drums, he wrote song lyrics for Scorpions classics like "Rock You Like a Hurricane," "Bad Boys Running Wild," and "Tease Me, Please Me." In 1982, he released a solo record titled "Nip It In The Bud." Following his departure from the Scorpions in 1996, Herman co-founded Monaco Records with Prince Albert of Monaco. There he produced records, drummed on a variety of musical projects, and released another solo record, this one titled "Sting Like a Scorpion." Herman would later release an album titled "The Rhythm of Art" with his with Claudia Raab, a well-known actress and saxophonist. He also participated in a project called Drum Legends with his good friend Pete York, the drummer from the Spencer Davis Group. Herman released a "soft" record with the Monte Carlo Pop Orchestra. In 2010, Herman returned to his hard-rockin' roots with a new solo record titled "Take It As It Comes." When I was offered an opportunity to interview Herman about his new record, I jumped at the chance to "run wild" with the "bad boy" ex-Scorpions drummer.
Herman: Hello Dave. Where are you phoning me from? I don't recognize the "732" area code.
Dave: Hello Herman. I'm in central New Jersey, almost halfway between New York City and Philadelphia. Where are you right now?
Herman: I'm in the Sheraton hotel in St. Louis. From here, I travel to Oklahoma for the Rock N' America Festival. Then I'm off to Los Angeles before I head back home to England.
Dave: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to interview you. I'm a life-long fan of the Scorpions and this is truly an honor.
Herman: It's my pleasure Dave. I appreciate it. As you know, I'm in the United States to promote my new record, "Take It As It Comes." I said to myself that the best thing to do is go out and play it for everybody, introducing it to the public before I try to tour in November.
Dave: Didn't your band, Herman Ze German and Friends, just play a one-off show in St. Louis?
Herman: That's correct. I just played a one-off show at a St. Louis club. We had a lot of fun. Last night, we did a big show for a rock radio station in St. Louis.
Dave: Other than you drumming, who is in your band?
Herman: James "Duke" Jackson is my lead guitarist, Joe Council is the bass player, and a guy called Timexx Nasty is the lead singer.
Dave: Isn't that the same lineup that you played with at the Rocklahoma Festival in 2009?
Dave: Timexx sings for a U.S band that I'm familiar with called Drivin' Rain, and Duke and Joe play in the U.S. metal band Strikeforce. How did you first hook up with these Missouri rockers?.
Herman: Duke has been a friend of mine for at least 10 years. When I came to America back then, he offered to play some shows. I said, 'Why not? Let's have some fun.' Duke said he had some friends. It was real easy; I didn't have to look around for musicians. Duke Jackson presented me with the perfect band.
Dave: Please recap the setlist from your St. Louis show.
Herman: I started with two Scorpions songs, "Another Piece of Meat" and "Blackout." Then I introduced two songs from my new album, "Don't Lose Your Trust" and "Let Me Rock You." From there, we did one of Duke's songs called "Fast As Lightning." We did the Scorpions song "Bad Boys Running Wild," the title track from my new record "Take It As It Comes," and another Scorpions song, "He's a Woman, She's a Man." We ended the set with "Rock You Like a Hurricane." When we went onstage, the club exploded. Everybody was on their feet from the moment we went on until the moment they left. It was a very good one-off show.
Dave: Following that show, on July 24, you played with the Michael Schenker Group as a special guest during their appearance at the Rock N' America Music Festival in Oklahoma City, OK. Please comment on playing live again with Michael.
Herman: It's always fun to play with Michael. Back in June, I played a show with Michael in London at the Empire Theatre. At the same show, he invited Pete Way and Paul Raymond from U.F.O. to join him. We each played a song. I played on "Lights Out" and Pete and Paul played on "Doctor, Doctor." We had a great time together that night, as did Michael and I a ways back when we spent a week writing together in my hometown, Brighton, England. I told Michael then that I would be in the Midwest promoting my record when he was in Oklahoma. That's when we made plans for me to join him onstage at the Rock N' America Music Festival.
Dave: Headlining that festival on the same evening is The Scorpions. Should fans attending expect an onstage family reunion with you, Michael, and the current Scorpions lineup?
Herman: That depends entirely on The Scorpions Dave. If they invite me and Michael up to play, we'd have no problem doing it. So far though, we have no invitation. We won't go there and beg them to play. If they want us to, it will be our pleasure. In 2006, we did two festival shows in Europe with The Scorpions. Me, Michael, and Uli Jon Roth joined them in front of 55,000 in Athens, Greece, and in front of 70,000 fans at the Wacken Festival in Germany. It showed us that people really appreciate the classic Scorpions lineup.
Dave: As a rabid music fan from the United States, I've always been jealous of the music fans that attend the great European music festivals. In 2010, a recent surge continued in the United States when more music festivals were scheduled. How advantageous are the U.S. music festivals for European bands hoping for exposure in North America?
Herman: It's great exposure Dave. Bands like us who specialize in heavy rock and hard rock can find all of the fans in one spot. If you have something new to play, you can tell your fans that these U.S. festivals are the place to meet to hear the music they love.
Dave: Your appearances in the United States, as well as all of the press you're doing, is to support the release of a new CD on Dark Star Records, Herman Ze German's "Take It As It Comes." Congratulations on the release of that record. I'm really enjoying every listen.
Herman: Thanks Dave. The best compliment for me is hearing that from music critics like yourself. When I do my promotions, I ask people their favorite song and most people say all of them. What's yours Dave?
Dave: I'll pick "Wipe Out" just because of the memories it brings back from my past. I know it's not a song you wrote for this record, but I had such a smile on my face when I heard it.
Herman: This is an unreleased version.. The version on my 1980s solo record was the version the record company wanted. There was no drum solo. On the version from "Take It As It Comes," I do a little drum solo and there's real wild guitars at the end. It's my favorite version. I dug it up from my treasure box and re-mastered the whole thing. That's why it made it to my new record. I think it's a killer version.
Dave: At your MySpace page, www.myspace.com/hermanrarebell ,fans can listen to clips from four songs as well as purchase downloads. Where's the best spot for U.S. music fans to purchase a physical copy of "Take It As It Comes"?
Herman: You can walk into any Best Buy store to pick it up, and you can also order a physical copy online from Amazon.com. They can also go to my record company's website, www.darkstarrecords.com . They have a very special limited edition box set, where you get my audio book "My Life as a Scorpion" and my record "Take It As It Comes" for twenty dollars. Included in this package is a hand-signed picture of me. That's a good deal.
Dave: Until fans link there and give your record a listen, how would you verbally describe the musical direction to readers of this interview?
Herman: "Take It As It Comes" is a mixture of the hard rock elements I've used all my life and for the first time, saxophone solos that are so good that they couldn't be replaced by guitar solos. I'm very proud to introduce to the public my wife, Claudia Raab, who is the saxophone player. The whole album was a challenge because I didn't want to put any album fillers on this record. I think I achieved that as producer of this album. I had the opportunity to choose from 50 to 60 songs. Out of those, I think I picked the 12 best. Every song is a killer song. As producer, I think I did the best that I could do. I paid attention to detail. I didn't want any boredom on this record.
Dave: I'm comfortable calling the record eclectic. It's a mixed bag of straight- ahead rock songs, a power ballad titled "Your Love is Hurting," and a few instrumental tracks.
Herman: Having, as you say Dave, a mixed bag of songs was my aim. Being a drummer, I told myself that I'd need at least two drum songs on the record. Instrumentals also, which really feature the drums. What better song to take than "Wipe Out," a classic song that I always wanted to cover as a drummer? I also have my own song on the record called "Drum Dance."
Dave: As you mentioned earlier, Herman, the first cut and title track feature your vocals and the tenor saxophone of your wife Claudia Raab. Her work on that song is brilliant. I love the break in the song and how it leads into the saxophone.
Herman: Thanks Dave!
Dave: You state in the record's liner notes that this song describes your philosophy of life. Please elaborate.
Herman: When you look at life nowadays, you really have to take it as it comes. You can't let yourself be influenced by all of the bad news we hear day-to-day. You have to live your life, go on, and think positive. Then, if we all pull together, we can get out of this recession. People moan all of the time. My advice is to take it as it comes, to live your life, to think positive, and to go forward. You can't dwell on the past because you can't change it. That's why I sing that song with all of my heart and soul. I really believe in that philosophy. So many people my age have died from heart attacks because they drove themselves crazy worrying. Be happy that you're here and that you're healthy. If you think positive, good things will happen.
Dave: Since you wrote the lyrics for many of my Scorpions favorites like, "Blackout," "Rock You Like a Hurricane," and "Tease Me, Please Me," I was surprised that Claudia and guitarist Thomas Perry were the principal songwriters on the record.
Herman: In the end, I wanted to take only killer songs on this record. I said to my musicians and my band that when people hear a song on the radio, they don't ask who wrote it. It's either a killer song or a shitty song. Plus, I didn't see myself as just a solo artist. I wanted to introduce my band, Herman Ze German and Friends, to the public. When you listen to my lead singer Stefan Erz, he's a brilliant singer. Claudia and Thomas are brilliant songwriters. By using them and other writers, I'm giving my fans and the public the best songs.
Dave: As the record's producer, did you purposely take a backseat as a songwriter on this record?
Herman: Not really Dave. I had plenty of songs that I'd written, but when I compared them to the songs Thomas wrote, I liked his better. I wanted to produce the record. I saw myself doing the overview, putting all of the musicians together, and being very hands-on so that I could make sure every song that made the record was good.
Dave: The Scorpions are a German band that recorded their songs in English. As a musician whose first language was German, was it difficult for you to write song lyrics in a second language?
Herman: No. I lived in London from 1971 until 1977. When I joined The Scorpions in 1977, I was the only one who had lived outside of Germany. My command of English was the best in the band. Rudolf Schenker asked if I could write some lyrics and I said yes. The first lyrics I wrote for the Scorpions was the song "He's a Woman, She's a Man" from the "Taken By Force" album. From then on, I started writing songs on subsequent albums. Even though I spoke the best English at first, everybody learned to speak it well. Being in the United States for so many tours, we automatically picked up better command of your language. To be honest with you Dave, my lyrics have always been inspired by real-life situations like 'the cat is purring and scratches my skin.' Do I have to say anything more?
Dave: Speaking of "Rock You Like a Hurricane," you modernized it on your new record. Some would call a reworking of that rock classic risky or sacrilegious. I'll call it gutsy and ballsy, and I love the result you've attained. How challenging was it?
Herman: Thanks Dave. It was a great challenge. I wrote those original lyrics with Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker. Modernizing the song was my aim, making it deep and dirty. I took kind of a Rammstein approach. I had to write another verse. Speaking the lyrics as I do on this version requires twice as many words. Instead of a guitar solo, we added a saxophone solo. But not a wild one. I wanted a quiet solo, kind of the calm before the storm, before the hurricane breaks loose. In my opinion, Claudia did a great job.
Dave: I agree. What type of feedback have you received from Scorpions fans on the reworking of "Rock You Like a Hurricane"?
Herman: I've heard things like 'How do you dare touch a song like this? You cannot touch the original. It's a fantastic song." It wasn't my intention to copy it. My intention was to make a new version and to have fun with it. We did!
Dave: Have you heard any feedback from members of The Scorpions?
Herman: Not for "Rock You Like a Hurricane." Rudolf has told me that "Heya, Heya" is his favorite song from my album.
Dave: I mentioned before that "Wipe Out" was my favorite and here is why. When I give a new record its first listen, I often ignore the liner notes and press release. I like to listen start to finish, uninterrupted, on a long drive in my car. Doing that with "Take It As It Comes," "Rock You Like a Hurricane" was a total surprise. "Wipe Out" was a bigger surprise. Since my drive with your record was on a hot and sunny summer day in New Jersey, and an ocean beach was my destination, hearing your take on the Surfaris' classic "Wipe Out" brought a big smile to my face. It's the ultimate beach song from my past. During the summer that the original was released, I was in the backseat of my father's car listening to "Wipe Out" as he drove his family to the beach.
Herman: In the 1980s, I was sitting in the Malibu, California, home of the Scorpions manager at the time. His doorbell rang and in through the door walked a musician named Randy Nauert, who played bass guitar on the original Surfaris album. Randy would end up playing bass on my cover of "Wipe Out" also. At www.hermanrarebell.com , I have a video of "Wipe Out" from 1984 with me drumming on Malibu Beach. Fans should check it out. Randy is in that video. There's a video of my Scorpions drum solo that I performed in 1985 at the "Rock in Rio" music festival. There's also a new video of "Take It As It Comes" where my wife Claudia is dressed up as a nurse.
Dave: I love the guitar work on the song "Heya Heya." Who is Horst Luksch?
Herman: Horst is a friend of mine that lives near Munich is the south of Germany. He's a guitar teacher in a little town there. We put that song together with Jens Peter Abele, who plays bass and rhythm guitar on that track.
Dave: Please tell us more about that song's tie-in to the charity World Vision.
Herman: World Vision, whose website is www.worldvision.org, is a fantastic organization. For a donation of thirty-five dollars a month, you can sponsor a child in the Third World. This money provides not only food, drink, and clothing to the child; it also funds their education. You can watch what happens to the children you've sponsored. Two of the children I supported are now doctors in Germany. They finished their schooling in Africa, attended universities, and are now medical professionals.
Dave: God bless you for doing that Herman.
Herman: It's something we all can do Dave because that support will cost you about one dollar a day. I can guarantee you and the music fans reading about World Vision that the money gets there. I went there myself; I saw the schools and the children.
Dave: Another track from "Take It As It Comes" is called "I'm Back." I hope it's prophetic, and that this record propels you to a return to music venues in the United States. I'd relish the chance to hear this record played live.
Herman: That's my aim as I promote this record now. I want to come back to the United States to play, possibly in October or November, or early in 2011.
Dave: For selfish reasons, I'm hoping to see you in a smaller venue than Giants Stadium. That's the spot you played in New Jersey with the Scorpions on the Monsters of Rock tour in 1988.
Herman: We're looking at headlining much more intimate venues. There's also talk of introducing my music to the public by opening shows for some bigger bands.
Dave: You're also promoting an audio book CD called "My Life as a Scorpion." Where can fans purchase it?
Herman: The online store Dark Star Records is the best place to go.
Dave: As a writer, I tend to hang on every word or sentence. I love the format of your audio book. It's more an informal interview recorded on tape than an autographical book being read. I enjoyed every minute of it. I highly recommend that all rock music fans, not just Scorpion fans, give it a listen.
Herman: I wanted to make it entertaining. I worked with a very creative voice impersonator who did a great job imitating Arnold Schwarzenegger. We made it seem like you were sitting with us in a pub in the Bavarian Alps, and Arnold, as The Terminator, keeps interrupting the conversation. My dear friend Pete York, the original drummer of the Spencer Davis group, conducts the interview. He uses the name Chris Squelch, and that's a play on words. You might remember Chris Welch, the famous music journalist from Melody Maker, the English music newspaper. We made it fun and entertaining. If you have to drive an hour to work, it's the perfect thing to play in your car. When you arrive at work, I promise you that you'll be in a good mood.
Dave: In that interview, Chris Squelch got you to admit that if you were going to be stranded on a desert island, you'd need to take a Beatles song, a Led Zeppelin song, a Rolling Stones song, and a Scorpions song with you. Pardon my poor imitation of Arnold as The Terminator, but "name the songs by title, or I will terminate you."
Herman: It would have to be "Paperback Writer" by the Beatles and "Good Times, Bad Times" by Led Zeppelin. That song had some amazing drumming on it. I'd have to take "Honky Tonk Woman" by the Rolling Stones, and "Passion Rules the Game" by the Scorpions.
Dave: In closing, as a lifelong rock musician, you've seen and done it all. You've also witnessed firsthand many changes in the music industry. If you could change one aspect of the music business of 2010, what would it be?
Herman: I would take all of the computers out of play. I'd highly recommend going back to hand-made music.
Dave: Feel free to close the interview with a message to your fans.
Herman: Thank you to all of my fans for all of the faithful years you've given to me and to The Scorpions. Stay faithful. I'll be out there to rock you like a hurricane again. I can't wait to play live again. I love you all and I'll be back very soon.
Dave: Thank you Herman; that says it all. And thanks for all of the time you've given me today
Herman: It's been my pleasure. Look after yourself Dave. I can't wait to read the interview and hear about any reaction from your audience. I'm curious what people would pick as their favorite song from my record.