HAVE you noticed how more drummers seem to be getting involved in writing? Many people regard this as a very healthy thing. Drummers are becoming more than just the people in the back who keep the time happening. The obvious examples of this new-found role for drummers are Phil Collins and Neil Peart. Another man who should be included on this list of multi-talented drummers is Herman Rarebell.
Besides holding together one of the world’s most successful heavy metal bands, The Scorpions, Herman is a very proficient songwriter and lyricist. He has written or co-written most of the lyrics on The Scorpions records. He has also recently produced his first solo album under the name of Herman Ze German. The name illustrates Herman’s dry wit. He is a man who doesn’t take himself too seriously.
Herman’s soft-spoken and unassuming friendliness, and warm sense of humor are immediately apparent. For our meeting, Herman was dressed casually in sports coat and slacks—not in leather. Image is only for the stage. A man of few words, Herman nevertheless was willing to discuss anything and everything concerning his successful career in The Scorpions. Subjects of our conversation ranged from why he switched from double bass drums to single and then back to double, to his relationships with his recording and P. A. engineers.
Herman has found himself becoming more interested in maintaining a healthy body and staying in shape. The rock ‘n’ roll road has taken its toll on many a musician, and it seems that only the strong survive—not just the physically strong, but the mentally strong as well. Heavy metal playing is especially hard work as the drummer has to play full out for two hours or more every night.
The Scorpions are one of the most musical bands playing heavy metal rock. Unlike so many metal singers who tend to scream constantly, Scorpion Klaus Meine has a good singing voice, and he is not afraid to display his melodic tendencies.
The band has grown together as a unit over their 14-year existence. This is reflected in their playing, and it’s clear from the outset that Herman Rarebell is a team player. He is all business behind his drums. The music doesn’t require it, so Herman does not add many frills, but he is oh-so-steady on the beat. He is there to support the other players and not necessarily to glow in the dark by himself.
Hard rock is heavy-handed, and Herman pile-drives his band ahead with an energy and force that is incredible. Most people find themselves getting tired just watching him work.
The Scorpions first saw life in 1971. Guitarist Rudolph Schenker and singer Klaus Meine have been with the band from the beginning. Rarebell came on board in 1977. Bassist Francis Buchholz joined the band in 1974, with guitarist Matthias Jabs signing on in 1979. The lineup has stayed the same since that time.
The Scorpions started to gain popularity slowly in Germany, and then went on to conquer the rest of Europe and England. The States slowly submitted to The Scorpions’ brand of hard and heavy rock ‘n’ roll. After three years of supporting other acts all across the States, they finally secured their first headlining tour, and they haven’t looked back since.
The band has worked with producer Deiter Derks since their In Trance LP in 1975. In addition to that, they have been working with the same sound-reinforcement people for most of their touring years. One can feel a sense of loyalty within the band’s extended family.
A few years ago, Germany was not known for its rock ‘n’ roll bands. German artists have occasionally surfaced in the American charts, but never have they made any lasting impact until The Scorpions. They have consistently been in not only the American charts, but record polls all over the world. They have been called one of the most important hard rock bands of the ’80s.
Oddly enough, even though The Scorpions are all German and Herman himself was born and raised in Germany, he met and auditioned for the band while he was living in England. But I’m getting ahead of the story. Let’s start from the beginning with a young Herman Rarebell.
HR: When I was about four or five years old, I used to play in the kitchen on all the dishes, making a lot of noise. Everybody kept saying, “Shut up.” The next big encounter I had with drum playing was when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I went to a wedding, and there was this old drumkit standing there. They had a typical dance band playing, and I was sitting behind the drumkit. I had a natural feeling for it. That got me involved in drumming. Then, one year later, my mother gave me my first drumkit.
SA: So, your parents were supportive?
HR: No, my father wasn’t actually for music at all. My mother is a musician herself, so she bought me an old Trixon. Remember Trixon? I don’t know if they have them in the States. I had one bass drum, snare drum, one cymbal, and one small tom. I didn’t even have a hi-hat. That’s it.
SA: What does your mother play?
HR: She plays guitar and she sings. She used to play for the American soldiers in Germany. After the war was over, she used to play for the bases there.
SA: Where were you born and raised?
HR: Saarbriicken, which is on the French border. That’s near Luxembourg/Frankfurt—right on the French border.
SA: Is that a good area for musicians?
HR: It is like Birmingham, England. It’s an old, working-class, industrial area, which always creates good heavy metal drummers, I believe.
SA: Did you ever take lessons?
HR: I was self-taught. I started listening to the Beatles when I was 14 years old, as well as to the Stones, the Kinks, and the Yardbirds. I listened to what those drummers did. Then, when I was about 20, I studied music for two years at the music academy in Saarbriicken. I studied drums there, but all they taught me was classical drums— you know, snare drum, rudiments and the cymbals, where you [slapping hands together] put your cymbals together. I got pretty bored with it after three years, and I moved to England in ’71. I lived there for six years and really got into rock ‘n’ roll.
SA: Did you play with a lot of bands once you arrived in Britain?
HR: Well, a lot of bands, but none of the bands were big. None of the bands made it. There was the occasional famous musician from other bands, like Lee Jackson of The Nice or Michael Monarch of Steppenwolf. But none of those bands ever took off. In 1977, I met Michael Schenker in a club called The Speakeasy in London. He told me that The Scorpions were looking for a drummer. I went for the audition in London, and they asked me to join. The next day, I was in Germany.
SA: That’s really a nice coincidence.
HR: I don’t believe in coincidences in life. I believe that certain things in life are meant to be.
SA: How did you develop your technique?
HR: Well, as I said, when I was about 20, I started really getting into the rudiments—the snare drum—so I learned all the mama/dada’s—the paradiddles. I went through the whole Buddy Rich school of snare drum rudiments. So, I have classical training on the snare drum. I don’t use any of that nowadays in rock ‘n’ roll. It’s more like a feeling. When I feel something, I play it. It’s good to know this technique, because then you can use it whenever you feel it’s necessary.
SA: I know people who never had any training, and looking back, they think of all the things they could do. Now, they’d have to retrain themselves and break their bad habits.
HR: I know. That’s true. I was a very heavy rock drummer then, and I had played already for six years—Kinks, Stones, Beatles, and Zeppelin material. When I went to school there, they taught me, first of all, how to hold the sticks differently. They said, “You’re going to play like this. This is the exact way, and you have to be 100% precise.”
SA: Did they teach you just the traditional grip?
HR: Yes, how to hold the sticks properly and the rudiments. I was rehearsing all those all day long, but it was boring. I couldn’t do that anymore.
SA: Do you do much practicing now?
HR: Yeah, on the road I do every day. I’ve got a small Ludwig drumkit, which is a 24″ bass drum, one 13″ small tom and an 18″ floor tom, three cymbals, and a hi-hat. My roadie puts them up in my dressing room every night. I usually do soundchecks, and after soundchecks are over, I play for an hour on the kit. Then, I go back to the hotel and change my clothes to do the show. But on the road, I try to play at least something between half an hour and an hour on the kit every day.
SA: That’s great. Many drummers don’t do that. They say that you can’t really practice on the road.
HR: When I’m off the road, I sometimes don’t touch the kit for two months. That’s sometimes very good, because it clears your head for fresh creativity. Then, when I sit down again after two months, I may be a little bit stiff in the hands, but my head is so clear. After eight days, I have the blisters on my hands, and everything is okay again.
SA: When did you start playing double bass drums?
HR: The first time I bought myself a double bass drum was when I was 18 years old. Cream just came out; you remember “I Feel Free.” I saw Ginger Baker playing double bass drums and I freaked out. I said, “This is a double bass from now on.” I went out and bought myself a Premier drumkit with double bass drums. I was always fascinated by Keith Moon playing double bass drums, too. When The Who came out with “My Generation,” it was the first time I saw double bass drums and that fascinated me.
SA: When you started playing them, what was the hardest thing for you to learn?
HR: The difference is with doing something different with your feet than you would do with your hands. But I practiced. I played the double bass drums from the time I was 18 until I was about 22. Then I went back to single bass drum again for about five years, until I joined The Scorpions and bought myself a double bass drum kit again.
SA: Why did you go back to one bass drum after playing two?
HR: I wanted to do the same things on one bass drum that I did on two bass drums. I think that double bass drums nowadays are a variation. They should be used tastefully in the music. I don’t play double bass drums all the time. In fact, when we go into the studio, I play single bass drum. For Love At First Sting, 1 used a single bass drum on the whole album. But on Blackout, on a song called “Dynamite” I used double bass drums.
When I play live, I like to use double bass drums in my solo, because they sound good there. I like to use them in certain parts of the music, as I said, when it comes to middle bits. When Matthias plays solos, I double them up. But if you use them all the time, I think they become boring.
SA: How would you define your role in The Scorpions?
HR: I would say that I’m the foundation of the band. I’m the heart in the band. I’m the man who keeps the basics together. It’s like when you build a house. I’m the basement. Without the basement, the whole house would fall in.
SA: How do you think the role differs for a drummer who is playing in a heavy metal band as opposed to other types of rock music?
HR: A drummer in a heavy metal band is very important. All the great heavy metal bands always had great drummers, starting with Led Zeppelin. It’s very important that the rhythm section, especially, sounds like heavy metal, which means solid playing. If you have other kinds of rock ‘n’ roll, the playing doesn’t have to be that solid. They can fiddle about much more. A jazz drummer or a jazz/rock drummer plays lighter, too.
SA: More top kit, maybe.
HR: Yeah, that’s right—where I concentrate my playing more, like backing up the voice. If I want to show technique, I do that in my solo.
SA: Getting back to that, when you’re playing live, who in the band do you listen to most?
HR: I have Rudolph Schenker, the rhythm guitar player, in my monitor system. I have Matthias, the solo lead guitar player, too. I orient myself on rhythm. I know every word that Klaus sings, so I don’t need him behind me, as well. But Rudolph is my main point. If he’s bad, I just turn him off. [laughs]
SA: I’m sure that he appreciates that.
HR: You can’t have a good night every night, you know. I don’t think that people actually realize the difference, but Rudolph and I do, because we know each other very well.
SA: At a live performance, the atmosphere itself is exciting, so the listeners may not hear things that they would hear at home on the stereo.
HR: That’s right. When they are seeing live excitement, they don’t even care anymore. If you don’t play 100% like the record, they forgive you because they say, “Well, this is live.” But we try always to play our songs live as we play on the album. Many people have told us, too, that we are very, very close. A lot of people actually say we are just like the album.
SA: There’s not too much improvisation in concert, then?
HR: No. We have it totally worked out. Sometimes on the guitar solos or on the drum solos, the improvisation comes in and we play all night. We just let loose and play longer.
SA: But you really are more interested in recreating what is on your records because of the audience.
HR: Yeah, because the people buy the album, and then they come to the live concert. They want to hear what they hear on the album at home. If people buy a certain album because they like “Rock You Like A Hurricane,” and they come to the concert and hear a version of “Rock You Like A Hurricane” that doesn’t even sound close to the version on the album, they’re going to be angry.
SA: When you’re recording, how much do you think about the fact that you are going to have to play the song live?
HR: Again, everything we play in the studio, we want to play the same way live. You can do that or come very close to it. We try to capture the momentum of the song. Once we have this, that’s the take that we keep. There are some bands who overproduce in the studio, and they can’t play live anymore. I never overdub any drums. I play the drums the way they are. I don’t even overdub cymbals. I just take them live. I try to make the first, second, or third take. That’s it.
SA: For The Scorpions’ music, you have to play pretty powerfully. Do you think that it takes away from your finesse?
HR: Yes, definitely. It takes the fine finesse away. When I was at the music academy, I was doing very fine rolls. I mean, nobody hears that live, anyway. I just make my drumming very solid and I make all the rolls solid, too. If I do fast rolls, I do them basically at the end of the song when all the decay is just there or in the solo. But when I play inside The Scorpions’ music, I try to keep it simple, heavy, and basic, in order to lay down a heavy foundation.
SA: Since you play so hard, do you tend to go through a lot of drumheads?
HR: Yeah. On the road, I change my snare drum head every day.
SA: What kind of heads do you use?
HR: Silver Dots by Ludwig. I do an endorsement for Ludwig. That makes it easier, especially on the cost because they give me all the skins for nothing.
SA: What do you think about endorsements?
HR: I think you only should do an endorsement if you believe in the product. Actually, I bought a Ludwig before I endorsed them. I love Ludwig kits. I had many offers from different companies. They even offered me a lot of money to go with them. I mean big money—$50,000 a year just to endorse them, plus as many drumkits as I wanted for nothing—but I believe in Ludwig because they really withstand my pressure. I’m a heavy player, and I can’t afford for the drumkit just to fall apart in the middle of the tour. The stands have to be good, the bass drum, the heads—everything—and Ludwig gives me that. Plus I like the sound. It’s big and fat.
SA: Are you meticulous about the tuning of your drums?
HR: I like my drums to sound deep and fat. I like my snare to have a crispy, whippy, snappy sound. I don’t like taping my drums, because I believe in the natural sound of the drums. I have a blanket in my bass drum, but that’s it.
SA: How about for the studio?
HR: The studio’s the same thing. In fact, in the studio, I even put the front skin on the bass drum.
SA: So many engineers want to record the drums their way. When you go into a studio to record, how do you work with your engineer?
HR: I tell him what to do. I don’t make any compromises. If he doesn’t want to do what I want to do, I’ll get another engineer. I’m the drummer, and I know how my instrument should sound. If my instrument sounds good in the studio the way I tune it, the engineer should be able to make it sound like that over the speakers. If he doesn’t have that finesse, then I get another engineer. It’s very simple.
If the engineer has to use tape and all different things to make that drum sound good, then that’s not the way. The mic’ is just like an ear. If a drum sounds good in the studio by itself without any mic’s and if the engineer has good ears, he will know how to place those mic’s so the drum sounds exactly the same over the speakers as it sounds there.
SA: How do you mike your drums in the studio?
HR: I mike my bass drums with three mic’s. I put one in front, one from behind, and one on the side. For my snare drum, I have two mic’s—one underneath and one from the side. I have two big room mic’s about five meters away. Then, I have one mic’ on each tom-tom about six inches away.
SA: Do you change that for live playing?
HR: Yes. Live, there’s only one microphone in the front of the bass drums. The snare has two mic’s. But each of the tom-toms has one mic’, and two overhead microphones for the cymbals. Also, I don’t do the tuning every day anymore, because my roadie’s very good. He does the tuning for me. He knows exactly what I want. Plus, our sound engineer is a drummer himself and his assistant is a drummer, too. So, we have three drummers in the road crew, which is wonderful for me, because when I come to the gig, my drums are tuned perfectly. I just sit down and play.
SA: How do you tune your bass drums? Do you tune them the same?
HR: Yeah, low. Very deep so that I get this “pooom”—a fat sound.
SA: What is your current setup as far as sizes go?
HR: I have two 26″ bass drums. I have the 15″ and 16″ small toms. I have 18″ and 20″ floor toms, and I have eight cymbals, all Paiste 2002 and a 2002 hi-hat.
SA: Is the 20″ tom hard to tune?
HR: It is hard to tune, but once you tune it right, it sounds great. It really gets you to your bottom end.
SA: Do you do any session work when you’re not playing with The Scorpions?
HR: No session work. I just finished mix- ing my solo album in Los Angeles. It will come out next year. It’s by Herman Ze German—like Germans speak, “Herman Ze German.” It’s probably going to be called Hot Sensations. That’s the only outside work I’ve done from The Scorpions since I’ve been with them. I have people like Steve Marriot and Don Dokken singing on the album.
SA: Is there a different type of music on the solo album?
HR: Yeah. It is a mixture between heavy music and kind of, I wouldn’t say black music, but it’s more rhythmic oriented— towards the heavy funk side.
SA: Why did you decide to do a solo album?
HR: I have many songs that would not fit The Scorpions’ style. That’s why I decided to do it. I didn’t want to waste those songs.
SA: That’s good, because that way you don’t have a lot of tension within the band. You can do it on your own. Where did you record it?
HR: I recorded all of it in a very small studio on an eight-track machine in the countryside of my hometown in Germany, Saarbriicken. A friend of mine has a studio in his basement, and that’s where we recorded it. I came over here to America, and I gave Michael Boddicker the tapes to mix. He mixed them down at Total Access here in Los Angeles.
SA: You still live in your hometown, then?
HR: I moved away from there to Hannover where the rest of The Scorpions live. But right now I’m buying a house out there again.
SA: Which do you prefer, going on the road or recording?
HR: Going on the road, definitely. I don’t like it in the studio because it’s too sterile for me. I like playing to an audience. I need the applause of the audience. I need the reaction. In the studio, you think, “Okay, this is fantastic,” but the next day you listen back to it, and you’re not happy. Then, you do it again or whatever. The studio’s just too sterile for me. I’m definitely a man who likes to play live. I don’t like being in the studio. I love it on the road. I really do.
SA: Your concerts have a certain theatrical flare. How much do you think about showmanship?
HR: Totally. Rudolph and I had this idea about the opening. It’s similar to a space- ship landing at the beginning of the show and lifting off during my drum solo. I think about showmanship quite a lot, because visual entertainment and auditory entertainment go hand in hand for me. You have to entertain. It’s not just good enough to play good music. You have to go out there and provide good showmanship, as well.
SA: How do you arrange your material?
HR: Rudolph Schenker always comes up with the basic songs, and then we make the group arrangements of those songs. Then Klaus and I sit down and write the lyrics for the songs. That’s how it works with us.
SA: Where do you get your lyrical ideas?
HR: On the road. I mean, where else would you get an idea like “Rock You Like A Hurricane”?
SA: Have you always written?
HR: I’ve written since I was 14 years old.
SA: What got you started writing?
HR: Just the inspiration, the ideas, and having melodies and loads of things in my head. I just write them down on a piece of paper, sing them to the guitar player, and say, “Rudolph, I’ve had this riff in my head for days now. It goes like, ‘do, do, do’—something like this.” Then he’ll play it, or I sit down at the piano and just play the notes.
SA: I take it that there’s a lot of your material on your solo album?
HR: That’s all my material. I wanted to get Dave Cooper, a brilliant guitar player, on the album. He lives in London. We wrote it together; I wrote all the lyrics on it and produced it. It was quite fun.
SA: How long did it take you to do all that?
HR: I wrote them during the last four years, on and off. Finally, it’s ready and I will release it.
SA: Did you find that, since you did it over such a long period of time, you may have gone back to something you already recorded and said, “Oh, I can do some- thing different on that”?
HR: Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly what I found out over the years. Listening back to it, I say,”Oh, I can do this and that… this, this, this and that.” I finally said, “This is the time to stop now. It’s going to come out, and then I’ll make the next one.” It was always a question for me of not having the time to do all those things.
When there was time off the road, I took holidays and just got my body back into shape. But I can’t lie around for too long. After eight days, I get really bored. That’s why I started working.
SA: What’s your schedule like with The Scorpions? Take a typical year.
HR: Well, let’s take last year. We were in the studio until January 20, finishing Love At First Sting. I left at six o’clock in the morning, and I played that same night in Birmingham, England, starting last year’s world tour of Love At First Sting. The band did not rehearse; we just went on stage and played. It was a horrible show [laughs], and all the British press was there the first night.
Then we played three weeks in England, three weeks in France, took two weeks off, and then we played March, April, May, June, and July in the States. We played two weeks in Japan in August, then came back here to play another two weeks, and finished in the beginning of September. We took off five weeks, and we started again in October and played until December 4. We took off the whole month of December and started again in January in South America, going back to Japan for eight more days in February. That’s the end of that tour.
SA: What do you do next, record?
HR: Make the next album. As you can see, there is not much time left for solo things. That’s why it took me four years.
SA: There’s not much time for anything, including a social life.
HR: No, there isn’t.
SA: That’s got to be hard to deal with.
HR: Well, that’s why you lose all your girlfriends. [laughs]
SA: Do you write your lyrics in German and then translate them?
HR: No, in fact, you know, I dream in English nowadays. It depends. I’ve been here now since March. When I go back to Germany and I hear German people speak German around me the whole time, I get back into that thinking. But now in the States, I’m the only Scorpion over here. I don’t have anybody to talk to in German anymore. I hear English all day around me, so I start thinking in English.
SA: What instruments do you play on your solo album?
HR: Just the drums. I’m not a good enough guitar player to put on the guitars. I got people like Dave Cooper to do that, and he’s a brilliant player, I can assure you. I got excellent singers. I got the best singers I could find for each song. When you do an album, sometimes the song is not suitable for a singer. So on my solo album, I made sure that each song was suitable to that singer. There’s a ballad on there that is sung by Steve Marriot called “Having A Good Time.” There’s another ballad on there that fits Don Dokken’s voice better. It’s called “I’ll Say Goodbye,” and he sings on that one. There are songs done by Charlie Huhn, who sang with a band called Victory before he signed with Ted Nugent. There’s a song called “Junk Funk,” which is done by Jack Russell from the Great White Band. I chose the singers individually. I said to myself, “Why sing if those people sing better than I do.”
I saw myself producing my own songs, which I’d written a long time ago. I just wanted to hear them the way I heard them inside my head. So, I picked different musicians. I got the bass player of Ratt to play four songs on my album. I have good combinations of interesting musicians on there.
SA: One of the luxuries about a solo album is that you get to work with so many different people.
HR: Yeah, that’s right. That’s why I wanted to do it. I just wanted to have an experience outside The Scorpions. We will never split because the marriage has been for too long now. We still get on tremendously. In fact, we get on better than before.
SA: Do you have ambitions in music outside of The Scorpions?
HR: Yeah, oh definitely. In the future, I’m probably going to go into producing. I really had good fun producing my album myself. I could experiment with different drum sounds, you know, and make sure that they sounded the way I heard the drums. I like producing a lot.
SA: You like producing more than you like recording in the studio, then?
HR: Oh, yes. I mean I like recording, as well. What I’d like to do is, maybe, if the drummer isn’t good enough, I’ll play the drums myself.
SA: Where do you see yourself at age 60?
HR: Age 60? Well, if I’m still alive, I’ll probably be involved in video or movies in some way, not necessarily as an actor, but definitely somehow. As I said, I’d like to start now with getting into producing. So, that’s probably what it’s going to lead to.
SA: What do you think about music videos?
HR: That’s going to be the future. That’s why I want to be involved in it.
SA: When you do videos, does the band think of the ideas for the video, or how does that work?
HR: The band has a great say about the videos. We always talk with the director about what we want to do. We tell him our ideas, he writes down his ideas, then we work something out, and then we do it together.
SA: It must be hard to find someone you like. It’s sort of like finding a producer to record with all over again.
HR: It’s very hard to make it visually.
SA: Speaking of video and record production, there seems to be quite a difference in the production between Black Out and Love At First Sting. Sting seems to have a cleaner kind of sound, especially with the drums.
HR: Yeah. Well, Black Out was an album where I went in, and the producer and the engineer taped the whole drumkit. On Love At First Sting, I nearly killed them both, because they tried the same thing again. I said, “No tapes.” 1 would not record unless they had the sound I wanted. I said, “You can get this sound without tape.” So, we fiddled about and fiddled about, and we got the sound without tape. I, personally, like the sound much better on Love At First Sting than on Black Out. It’s clearer.
SA: I guess you always have that war between the engineers and the drummers.
HR: Well, not any more. Now the engineer I was working with in Germany realizes that we can get a sound without taping the drums. I said at the start that the drums sounded great in the actual room where we were standing, so I couldn’t see any reason why they shouldn’t sound great again on tape.
SA: Do you always record at the same studio?
SA: What kind of surfaces are in the studio?
HR: The room I have is like a room with four stone walls. I use a little wooden stage, and that’s all there is to it. It’s like a big garage.
SA: Really hard surfaces.
HR: That’s right. It’s kind of a hard sound.
SA: On a personal level, what are your plans or desires for the future?
HR: To be happy.
SA: Do you think that you’ll be traveling as much?
HR: No. I don’t think that we have to travel as much anymore as we used to in the last five years. I think, in the future, people will come to us. I mean, instead of doing, let’s say, 150 concerts in the States, in the future, we will do 50.
SA: Just hit the major markets.
HR: That’s right. Instead of doing 50 concerts in Europe, we can do 20. That way it will be less live playing. That way we will have more time for our personal lives.
SA: That will be a refreshing change.
HR: After 20 years on the road, yeah
SA: You might find that, after a while, you miss the road.
HR: But if I really would miss playing terribly, I would just phone up my agent and say, “Come on, book a tour for me for about two months. We’ll go to the clubs and small halls. I just want to get out there.” At the moment, I don’t miss the road because I’ve been out there for eight months. I’m quite happy to have this little break right now. Then again, I know myself. In about two weeks from now, I know I will have to go out again.
SA: Would you describe yourself as a person who has a lot of energy?
HR: Yeah, I normally have a lot of energy.
SA: Do you get a lot of young drummers coming up to you on the road asking all sorts of drum questions?
HR: Yes, all the time. Drummers seem to be the people who are very interested in small things, like “How did you get this?” and “What bass drums do you use?”
SA: They really get into the technical aspect of it.
HR: Yeah, and that’s good.
SA: Do you notice a difference in the American kids who come up to you from the people in Europe or Japan?
HR: No. Drummers are the same everywhere. They want to know the same things in every country around the world. There is a difference in the audiences. American kids are the wildest in the whole world. We love America. We really do. America is rock ‘n’ roll.
SA: You’ve played in big arenas. Do you like that better than small clubs?
HR: Yeah, because it’s not as hot as a small club. But sometimes it can get really hot because of the lights in the big arenas, especially when my drumkit goes up in the air, which makes me very close to the lights.
SA: Since the music is so loud, do you have any problems with hearing loss?
HR: Pardon? [laughs] I’m always doing this joke. I say to people, “Did you hear that the best drummer in the world lost his hearing?” They ask, “What’s his name?” I say, “What?” [laughs] No, I haven’t lost any of my hearing, and my monitor systems are loud.
SA: Where are your monitors placed?
HR: They are about a meter behind me. I mean, it’s loud. I like to feel my drums going right through my body.
SA: Your live sound is so clean that you can hear everything so well. How long have you worked with your engineer?
HR: Eight years. He’s been with us from day one. He knows me inside and out. He is a great guy, too. His name is Achim Schulze.
SA: It sounds as though you have a good crew.
HR: Oh, yeah. We always work with the same people. We have the best people. I really love everybody. I miss everybody. I look forward to going back to Europe, now.
SA: Do you have any advice for young musicians?
HR: They should be aware of not signing away their publishing too fast. Whatever they do, they should always talk to a lawyer about it.
SA: How about drummers specifically?
HR: Well, if you really want to achieve your goals and your dreams, there’s an old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” That’s what it is. But if you don’t have the talent, you can practice as much as you want, and it won’t make any difference. But practice is always the key.