Herman Rarebell is a hard rock drummer from southwestern Germany. He is best known as the drummer from the Scorpions from 1977 through 1996. After hearing Led Zeppelin, Herman decided to be a drummer, because he was fascinated in the way John Bonham played. With some encouragement from his father, Herman enrolled in the Music Academy at Saarbrucken to study drums and piano. This was key for Herman, as he was to become one of the important songwriters for the Scorpions. Some of the songs he composed with the band include: Rock You Like a Hurricane, Another Piece of Meat, Blackout, and many others. Herman was introduced to the band by his friend Michael Schenker after they both re-located to England from Germany. For the last couple of years Herman and Michael have re-united and continue to tour the world. They will be touring the United States in spring of 2015. Look for them to be in a city near you. I recently caught up with Herman.
H.R. Herman Rarebell
R.V.B. - Yes Herman?
H.R. - Yes, I've been waiting for you
R.V.B. - This is Rob Von Bernewitz from Long Island New York, how are you today?
H.R. - So far so good, I hope you have the same beautiful weather I have here in Germany.
R.V.B. - Well we had a real rough winter... lots of snow and lots of ice and my backyard is still covered with snow but it is warming up. We're in the 40's now and things are improving.
H.R. - By the time we will be in New York it probably will be ok. It will probably be springtime.
R.V.B. - Nice, you're doing a U.S. tour soon?
H.R. - Yes, I'm doing a U.S. tour with Michael Schenker. The tour starts on the 21st of this month, with rehearsal time in Los Angeles. The first gig will be in San Jose on the 25th. You can see the cities that we are playing on my website. The cities and venues are both on Michael Shenker's website.
R.V.B. - Oh great, I gather you will be in New York?
H.R. - Yeah, yeah, we come to New York to the Grammercy Theatre. It's all on Michaelshenkerhimself.com.
R.V.B. - Just a little side note. My wife was originally from Germany... from Braunschweig.
H.R. - Of course. Do you speak German?
R.V.B. - I'm German myself but I do not speak German, but she does. She came to the States when she was eight. There's a couple of things that I want to touch on. Congratulations on your new album.
H.R. - Thank you very much.
R.V.B. - It must have been fun getting the variety of talent that you had on there and recreating the Scorpions songs?
H.R. - Absolutely, it was really great fun re-doing all the songs again. As you know, most of those songs are over twenty years old, so for me it was a great pleasure to make more modern versions with all those great singers. It was really good fun doing this album.
R.V.B. - It does sound very good. When you were very young, what kind of music was floating around your house?
H.R. - When I started very, very young... we're talking 14, 15, 16, there was The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. They were my two favorite bands. Then I listened to The Yardbirds, which I liked very much. Then I went completely mad about Led Zeppelin. I must be the biggest Led Zeppelin fan around. (Haha) John Bonham was one of my idols. It was fantastic to see this band and hear this band. For me, most of the 70's were spent with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and some other bands. This is what I grew up with when I was a young man. In 1977 as you know, I joined The Scorpions.
H.R. - Yes absolutely, in 1971/72 I moved to England because I felt that rock and roll... especially heavy rock, came from England, and I thought "I had to be there if I wanted to speak the language properly." If you wanted to be in the scene, you have to go to London, and that's what I did as a young man. I lived in London, and the first German musician I actually met there was Michael Schenker. He played in those years of the early 70's in a band called UFO.
R.V.B. - I'm familiar with them and I saw them in the 70's.
H.R. - He was the lead guitar player and composer of the band. We met in 1974, and became friends because we were two German musicians who lived in London. So in 1977 in the spring, he said to me "My brother has a band called the Scorpions. They're looking for a drummer, so why don't you go over there and audition for them?" I thought I'd be the only one, but he didn't tell me that there were another fifty drummers also auditioning for the job. (Haha) To make a long story short, I got the gig and joined the Scorpions in May 1977. The rest is history with the things that happened in America, but this is how I came to The Scorpions.
R.V.B. - How did you pick the drums? - because I know you toyed with some other instruments also. How did you decide to be a drummer?
H.R. - Well, I fell in love with the instrument very early, when I was 13/14 years old. It was a passion that has not left me until this day. My dad said to me "Look, if you really want to become a musician, do me a favor and study music." That's what I did in Saarbrucken, which is my home town. It's in the southwest of Germany. I went to the Music Academy of Saarbrucken and I studied drums and piano. Later when I started to compose for Scorpions, I used piano as my instrument for composing. My advantage was obviously that I could also play the drums. I could compose a whole song rhythmically and with melody.
R.V.B. - Obviously you had great success, because some of the best Scorpion songs are the ones that you composed.
H.R. - I profit from this until this day. I'm very proud that I did that. I'm still working until this day, and I'm sixty five years old. I've played fifty years of drums. What is funny on the whole story is that in the last three or four years, Me and Michael Schenker teamed up again. We are playing all over the world again. He was the one who got me into the scorpions, so now we are back together. We are still a functional great team.
R.V.B. - That's great, I see a few years back you did an acoustic thing.
H.R. - I had the idea not to go out and play loud... just make it an acoustic tour, which I did in October of 2014, here in Germany. We also played a few days in Italy and once in Holland. So we played about ten concerts with 'The Acoustic Fever Tour"... that was the name of it. I think an acoustic tour is very good when you play in October and November, when everybody is a little bit mellow... it's near Christmas. In my heart, you know I am a rocker and therefore, I'm very happy that I go out now and present to the people what I play best... hard rock.
R.V.B. - There's a lot of heavy Metal fans out there. I also wanted to ask you about your passion about artwork, because I find this very interesting and a good idea to mix art with music together. Do you create art yourself?
H.R. - No. unfortunately I'm not a good painter. My talents are really musical more. A few years back in 2004 I did a thing called "Art Meets Music". We showed paintings from Ronnie Wood... the guitar player from the Rolling Stones and a Swiss painter, his name is Roland Muri. What we did is, show the original paintings from those two painters in the hall where we played. People could buy those original paintings and we projected them with a camera behind the stage on a screen of 6 X 4 meters. People could see those pictures very, very good, and at the same time we put a show on... we played music to it. We didn't play heavy rock or hard rock. We had six dancers so it was more like an entertaining thing. We played funk music and groove music. We only did two events ad it was very good. Ronnie sold a lot of paintings and the same for Roland Muri. That was a great experience, what you said "Putting art and music together."
R.V.B. - Yeah, it's a natural fit almost.
H.R. - I think so too. We could have gone on with this art/music show but most insurance companies were not really willing to take the insurance risk. When you're in a hall, and you have twenty of thirty paintings from Ronnie Wood and Roland Muri, you're talking two million dollars worth that has to be insured every show. It was impossible for the promoters to make money, and the insurance had to be paid.
R.V.B. - Yeah, I can understand that. I'm sure there were security concerns also. So you've obviously played a lot of places in the world, and have had a lot of fantastic gigs. Are they any that stick out and you thoroughly enjoyed.
H.R. - The first big gig which made the Scorpions famous in the United States was probably the US festival in 1983 on the 29th of May. We played in front of 500,000 people. We were special guests... Van Halen was the headliner. Before us played Ozzy Osbourne and an unknown band from Los Angeles called Motley Crue. You know what happened to them afterwards. One gig which was one of my dreams, was to play Madison Square Garden and we sold it out a couple of nights. This was one of my dreams coming true. Another thing was when we played in Russia at The Moscow Music Peace Festival, which made a huge difference between the east and the west. In those days everything was still peaceful, which we can't obtain now anymore as you know. This was another thing which I will never forget in my life. Obviously all the concerts we did in Japan, when we actually broke big in 79. This was the first country where we had gold and platinum albums.
R.V.B. - Did you enjoy the Donnington shows?
H.R. - They were fantastic. There was another one, the Reading Festival. We played Donnington and Reading in 79 and I think in 1980. I live now in England... I moved back again. I moved back to England in 2008 and I live in Brighton since then.
R.V.B. - Oh I thought you lived in Germany?
H.R. - I go back and forth. Most of the time I'm touring. This year and the year before, I was constantly on the road with Michael, and this year there's a long tour waiting for me in the United States. When we finish in the United States, there will be festivals in May, and in June we go back to Japan again. In July there will be some more festivals, and in October, November, and December, there will be the next European tour.
R.V.B. - I see, where did you get the inspiration for writing "Rock You Like a Hurricane?". What was that all about?
H.R. - It's very easy, when you listen to the first two lines. "It's early morning and the sun comes out. Last night was shaking and pretty loud." That tells you the whole story. I was actually in my room partying with this girl. "Scratches my skin so what is wrong with another sin." All those lines came literally in the morning around five o'clock. I was sitting down and writing the words in basically ten minutes. All my lyrics, and all my rock and roll stories are all true stories, when I had lived on the road. "Another Piece of Meat" was written in Japan about a girl who had great pleasure going to kickboxing fights. So I said to her "Come on, don't put on a show, you're just another piece of meat". Those lines came out of real life. The same for "Rock You Like a Hurricane. Here I am, fuck you like a hurricane."
R.V.B. - (Hahaha)
R.V.B. - Now you put all of your experiences in a book finally... how long did that process take?
H.R. - The book came out in 2011, "And Speaking of Scorpions". You can also get it when we are on the road. What happened with this was, that I teamed up with a writer called Michael Krikorian. I told him my life experiences and stories, and he put it into words. Since he was American... and English is his mother language, it was much easier for him to write than me. We worked on the book for about a month, before we had everything together. When he finished, we got it printed, and so far the book has been quite successful. It's been selling since 2011.
R.V.B. - Your new song "Let It Shine"... what is inspiration for that title?
H.R. - When you live here in Europe, and you're only 500 miles away from Ukraine, you start thinking that maybe tomorrow this war could be in Germany... this war could be in England. You guys are 6000 miles away. before they attack you they would have to think about something. But we here in Europe, are directly in front of this war. I think, especially because I went to Russia in 1989 to play the Peace Festival, where everything was very peaceful... people wanted to have love and peace. I look at what's happening now... I think we need more light in the world. I think everything goes more and more dark. Everybody has more hate in their heart than love. I think "Let it Shine" is a song for peace, and I say to the people that it's time that we start thinking "Where will a war lead us all?" Nowadays, I think of a nuclear catastrophic scenario, and this is not necessary. We should sit at the table and talk.
R.V.B. - That's true, and a very good theory.
H.R. - There is no point in starting a cold war again... for what? Our young men would have to go in this war. If we don't watch it, we're going to get deeper and deeper involved in this, and the end will be war.
R.V.B. - Well, that's a very nice inspirational song.
H.R. - I hope you liked the song. For me, it's a very peaceful song, like 'Wind of Change" was. "Wind of Change" was a change in the Soviet Union where the people could live like the people in the west, who had freedom of speech... Democratic things and all that stuff. This song "Let it Shine" is for everybody to think about what we have. We have a peaceful world right now, at least where we live and where you live. You live in the States and I live in England. Imagine 500 miles away from here, women and children get killed... for what?
R.V.B. - Yeah I know, it's a shame. People should just stay inside their own borders and enjoy life. Well anyway I'm looking forward to seeing you in New York. Thank you very much for taking this time with me.
H.R. - My pleasure. Bye, bye for now.
Interview conducted y Robert von Bernewitz
This interview may not be reproduced in any part or form without permission.
For more information visit Herman Rarebell's website
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