How the Scorpions found new energy with Mikkey Dee

Scorpions keep getting the last laugh. That arrival of earlier Engine head drummer Mickey Dee in 2016 helped strengthen the hard rock veterans’ resolve.

As guitarist Rudolf Schenker tells UCR, there was a time in his 20s when he encountered people on the street who asked him if he was still making music. “You must be doing something right,” they told him. “What do you want to do when you’re 50 or 60?”

The answer is pretty clear now. “I’m over 60 and the people who told me what to do, they’re grey, sitting in a corner enjoying their boring situation and I’m still on the road,” he laughs. “There’s some great chemistry with friends. Mikkey, who’s really a big part of Scorpions now, and of course, [guitarist] Matthias [Jabs] and [Singer] Claus [Meine] and [bassist] Pavel [Maciwoda]. We can’t live life any better than we do now.”

The German legends released Rock Believer in February and marks their 19th album. Schenker notes how Dee’s addition helped the band move forward while looking back at the Scorpions’ recent stint in Las Vegas.

Mikkey Dee joined the band in 2016. What does he bring to the group?
It was an idea from Matthias. Because we tried very hard to get James [Kottak] back to us. When you live in Los Angeles, it’s very easy to slip away. I think a very important part is that he always had to come from the United States, from California to Germany. When we started a tour and when we did promo and stuff. It is not so easy to fly such a long distance. It is very difficult to take. He also had problems family-wise. He tried to fix it all with alcohol and then we couldn’t play anymore. The other four guys are so locked in that sometimes we could ignore the drums when he played badly. We went through the concerts, but then we said, “Look, we can’t take this for granted [any] longer because it takes so much energy.” We brought him to Eric Clapton’s rehab on an island and we thought he was ready to rock again. But then he fell back into his situation. Matthias said, “Hey look guys, Mikkey Dee is now available.” Because Lemmy [Kilmister] died and [that’s] too bad. We love Lemmy and Motorhead because we were good friends over the years. So we said, “Yeah, why not? Let’s see.” We had a trial with him and it was a perfect fit. Because he’s a very up-tempo kind of drummer and he plays like me, [several] milliseconds before the beat. That makes the new album very much a driving kind of thing. We recorded our album in the studio together so there’s this live feel. [Dee’s energy] helped us sound more like a young band. It is Mikkey Dee who supports me and Pawel as bassist; he can play anything when you ask him. He was also locked in and with Matthias and Klaus – he can sing like a quiet bird, which is amazing in a career spanning over 50 years.

The band began the year with a residency in Las Vegas. What did you get from playing these shows?
It was our first time back in Las Vegas [after the pandemic]. It was already booked and we pushed it twice. We were happy because we had the opportunity to start our show by really practicing it without moving. We saw our lighting design guy who created an amazing, amazing light show that presents a band like Scorpions in a modern, new and inspiring way. We could build it without moving and play nine shows. The good thing about Las Vegas was that many people around the world came to Las Vegas because they were hungry for rock ‘n’ roll and the shows were sold out. I dont do that [normally] like to play in one place, but Las Vegas is different. That’s the good thing about it, because in Vegas there’s gambling, and I don’t gamble, but it’s fun to see all the nationalities and then play in front of them. The promoters were happy because they didn’t expect so many people. Here we are back again and we are happy to play again in front of our American fans.

Did you get a chance to hear Skid Row with their new singerErik Gronwall?
I heard him because my dressing room was very close. Before I heard his voice, Mikkey told me that Skid Row somehow saw him on YouTube. One of the Skid Row guys said, “Hey, that would be a great singer for us.” They tried him and he sounds great.

You knew the Skid Row guys early in their career.
From the beginning. They were managed by Doc McGhee’s brother. We had our eye on them very early on. One of their songs was “18 & Life.” They were a fresh new rock band, which is great. They’re not too far from the Scorpions, but now that the old singer left, the new one is a good replacement.

Both bands played on Moscow Music Peace Festival back then.
In ’88 we played 10 shows in Leningrad. We couldn’t believe how many people came from Siberia, from everywhere. Because we had to play five shows in Moscow and five shows in Leningrad. But somehow, Afghanistan and the whole political situation, the authorities in Moscow said, “No, we’re only going to give Scorpions 10 shows in Leningrad. At first, we were close to saying, “OK, should we cancel it? ” But then we said, “No. All the fans would be very unhappy – let’s do it and let’s see.” It was great. Our support band, Gorky Park, came on stage the first time we did soundcheck. They said, “Hey guys, can you help us? “Our manager promised us equipment and we have nothing.” We said, “Look, guys. Look at what you can find and what you want to use, and you’re welcome.” We became friends and we noticed that this band is a great band with great people. We did the 10 shows and a year later Doc McGhee became our manager. He knew how big we already were in Russia, and because he had something to do for the authorities in the United States, he did this Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell project and [what became the Moscow Music Peace Festival]. They found a stadium and we played under the Olympic torch. It was incredible. I remember we played before Bon Jovibecause in those days [they were] very large MTV band with a lot of good hits and songs. They played behind us because MTV said, “Look, we’re showing the whole show in the US, and we know they’ve got more followers than the Scorpions.” We said, “OK, no problem.” But the problem was that when we were done, the people were [were] leaving when Bon Jovi played. [Laughs] I recall John [Bon Jovi] said in the interview: “Promise me something: I will never play for the Scorpions!” But it was fantastic. It was pure rock ‘n’ roll. Motley Crue, Ozzy OsbourneScorpions, Bon Jovi, Skid Row and Cinderella Was there. I remember there was a government official there [got the crowd fired up]. Sebastian Bach came up with some very American sayings, something like “Fuckin’ rock ‘n’ roll!” You know, totally out of the way of what people [there would expect]. The whole stadium was full and the crowd was incredible.

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