Robin McAuley

Don't tell me you never heard about Robin McAuley! He is a pure legend, a person who put his incredible voice in the major success of M.S.G. (then-called McAuley Schenker Group and sings on a huge number of albums even nowadays. His latest involvement is a new KISS tribute album. With the change of the music scene in the 1990s Robin decided to stay away from active music business and went deeply into the computer field. But he might come back to serious music life very soon! Read on and see for yourself. Hello, Robin! How are you doing?

Robin McAuley: I'm fine, thanks. And you? Fine as well. So let's get started! How did you become a singer? As far as I know you were born in Ireland?

Robin McAuley: Yeah, that's right, I was born in Ireland. But I wasn't a singer back in the early days. I used to be a drummer since 9 years of age. I played drums in local bands for about eight (!) years and then at 18 years old I went to London on vacation to visit my sisters. I have three sisters living in London. So I went to a local club and saw a band there. I auditioned for them but I wanted to be a drummer. But they heard my voice and liked it a lot and pushed me to become a singer. Earlier I did some singing but it was hard for me to be a singer and drummer at the same time. So I spent three years in that band singing mostly covers, you know Top-40 songs and stuff. And that's when I decided to stop it and join a band that was doing all original material. It was Grand Prix, right?

Robin McAuley: That's right. Before me they had a Canadian singer. I thought they had Bernie Shaw, who later became a singer of Uriah Heep.

Robin McAuley: Yes, his name was Bernie Shaw. Is he still with Uriah Heep? As far as I know he is. Well, did you play with Grand Prix anywhere outside of the U.K.?

Robin McAuley: No, we never had a chance, we were not popular enough. However, we did some major tours in the U.K. like being an opening act for Iron Maiden on their Number of the Beast tour. I heard you were offered to become a singer of M.S.G. while still in Grand Prix?

Robin McAuley: Yes, that's true. We once played a gig in London and Cozy Powell, Michael Schenker and Andy Nye were in the audience. And some days later I got a call from Cozy, who asked me to come to Germany and join M.S.G. But I refused. I got a lot of bad press because of it. Yeah, I saw a clipping saying, "Who does he think he is to refuse to join Michael Schenker?"

Robin McAuley: Right, everyone around me told the same thing. But you know I was happy in Grand Prix and didn't want to quit the band. But then Grand Prix split and you had a very interesting project called GMT. What was it all about?

Robin McAuley: Basically all those guys were my friends. Originally we had ex-Grand Prix Mick O'Donaghue on guitars but he quit soon. The project also featured Phil Taylor of Motorhead. We did demos together but the project soon fell apart. Why? What happened?

Robin McAuley: Well, it was the problem with management. We had a guy who was acting like he was a manager. He was the one responsible for the disruption of the band. But still GMT tracks got released by "Mausoleum Records". How did it happen?

Robin McAuley: It was a totally unofficial release, we didn't know anything about it. But how could they get your demos?

Robin McAuley: "Mausoleum" was always around, they were interested in releasing an album but we never came to an agreement and the band split up too soon. And who was that guy Marcus Schleicher?

Robin McAuley: Our manager was from Frankfurt, Germany and he knew a guitarist in the city. He suggested him to us and he was great so he joined the band for a while. Back in 1986 you managed to release a solo single with two tracks, "Eloise" and "Don't Say Goodbye". The single is totally impossible to be found these days. Can you tell more about it?

Robin McAuley: The idea once again came from that manager. He asked me to sing that song of Barry Ryan "Eloise" and it had some success. The manager found a company called "RPT Records" that agreed to release the single. The problem was that some weeks later some punk band in the U.K. did their own version of "Eloise" and it became very popular. So my version kind of fell apart. What about "Don't Say Goodbye"? Is that your own song?

Robin McAuley: Yes. I wrote it back in Grand Prix but it was never released there. (The song can be found as a bonus track on the "Mausoleum" CD release of GMT "War Games" - editor.) You also did a cover-version of Led Zeppelin "Stairway To Heaven" with Frank Farian's band Far Corporation. How did it happen?

Robin McAuley: Well, Frank was my good friend. He wanted to record a solo album and invited me to sing on some tracks. I came down to the studio and recorded my vocals. The song was a huge hit in the U.K. and was also released as a single. So time has come and you finally joined M.S.G.

Robin McAuley: The band approached me again and asked me to come to Germany to audition. I decided to give it a chance although I didn't really want to join the band. So I went to Germany for a weekend and I was the last out of 17 singers they auditioned. They liked what I did a lot and I became the member of M.S.G. Throughout the whole history of M.S.G. your staying in the band caused the slight change of name. Was it your idea?

Robin McAuley: No, no, I opposed it. I thought fans knew and loved the band as M.S.G. and never wanted to change the name. I think at that time Michael wanted to have not only a singer but a partner as well so I became that partner. We were getting along very well and one day when we were recording "Perfect Timing" Michael called me and said, "I see your point, we won't change the logo and name. But the name will now be desyphered as McAuley Schenker Group." That's how it was changed. Robin, among all of my friends the period when you were in M.S.G. is considered to be the best ever.

Robin McAuley: Thanks a lot! I think it was more stable than other times. The band was really tight and strong, I guess. Probably the most famous record with you was "Save Yourself". Let's talk about it. The song "Anytime", how it was written? In the video there are black and white shots like in a movie. Was it really a movie?

Robin McAuley: Well, I have very personal feelings about that song. There are lots of stories about it. Many people took the lyrics as personally as I did. I just parted with a girlfriend and I tried to express my feelings in the song. I remember when we went to tour in Japan for "Save Yourself" I did an interview with a magazine and when I was telling her about "Anytime" that interviewer girl started crying. I said, "Oh, did I say something wrong?" But it turned out that she also took it very personally so you can imagine the impact the song had. About the video, those shots were not from a movie. The record company just wanted to make some type of story based on the lyrics and that's what you see in the video. My personal favorite ballad from that album is "This Is My Heart". And the video is brilliant! Was that big logo on which you were performing a computer effect or was it a real thing?

Robin McAuley: No, it was a real thing. I think that some people can relate to some songs and lyrics more than to the others. OK, let's talk about the video. It was made in Long Beach, California. We shot it during the night and were really exhausted the next day. Moreover, we had to go to San Francisco but me and bass player Rocky Newton couldn't do it because during the shot directors used lightnings and we were blinded with them so me and Rocky had to stay in the hospital for a while. The logo on which we were performing was not a computer-made one, it was the real thing made in a room where the shot took place. But the effect from those lightnings was very painful for our eyes. What about the song "Take Me Back"? It's a great track! Why it was only on CD?

Robin McAuley: It was the decision of the record company. At that time it was very popular to put something special on the CD since that format was the best available and vinyl was not. That's why out of all songs recorded we chose "Take Me Back". It was not a bad song, I liked it too but the whole band made a decision to take it only on the CD version. Was the situation the same with the track "Vicious", which was released only on the single "This Is My Heart" in 1990?

Robin McAuley: That's right. It was a nice song as well and we wanted to add something special to that single since the song was a big hit. You know, there were lots of songs written for the album "Save Yourself" and many of them were just thrown out. Do you know what happened to them?

Robin McAuley: No, no idea. I think Michael still has those demos somewhere. You see, when we composed songs we recorded just demos with music and no lyrics in them. After that we gathered together as a band, chose the songs we liked, took them to the finishing stage and that's when I wrote lyrics. So most of those demos were just instrumentals in very rough stages. In between "Save Yourself" and "M.S.G." albums you and Michael went to work on different projects. Michael worked with Contraband and you recorded a song for the movie "If Looks Could Kill". How did it happen?

Robin McAuley: A friend of mine, David Foster, who was responsible for the soundtrack for the movie invited me to sing a song there. He liked my voice a lot and together we composed that song "Teach Me How To Dream". I think the song is brilliant, it features an awesome piano sound! Who played on it?

Robin McAuley: There was a whole bunch of studio musicians. You know, when there is a soundtrack to the movie being made most of the people playing on it are studio musicians hired for the project. I remember that David Foster himself played piano, Michael Bolton's then-drummer was involved as well but other people I can't remember. OK, back to M.S.G. What happened to the band? Why the line-up from "Save Yourself" didn't last for more albums?

Robin McAuley: The problem was that me and Michael were living in the States while other members lived in other countries. Drummer Bodo Schopf, who is a great person and awesome drummer, lived in Stuttgart, which is in the southern Germany. Bassist Rocky Newton and second guitar player Steve Mann lived in the U.K. So it was very hard to maintain communication between all of us. Also before the "M.S.G." album was recorded I became good friends with ex-Kingdom Come drummer James Kottak and ex-Dokken bass player Jeff Pilson. When it came time to record the new album I simply suggested those guys to Michael and he was glad to have them in the band. What happened to the direction of the album? Why it was so much acoustic-oriented?

Robin McAuley: Well, unplugged performances became a hip and we simply decided to give songs more melodic approach with acoustic-oriented sound. It turned out great! The song "When I'm Gone" was released as a single and was extremely popular here in the States. Why so many versions of same songs were released on singles?

Robin McAuley: The problem was that radio stations refused to play songs longer than 5-6 minutes. So we had to cut songs and make edited and CHR versions. Before the full-length album "Unplugged" there was the EP "Nightmare" released only in Japan. Why you needed an EP with same songs when a full-length album was going to be released?

Robin McAuley: Mainly it was for two purposes; it was a souvenir for Japanese fans and second, we wanted to try out and see how songs looked in the unplugged version. So we recorded about five tracks in the studio. We tried "Bad Boys", "When I'm Gone" and some others. Most of the songs were easy to make unplugged since they were already stripped of technical effects in their original form. After the album "M.S.G." was released we toured all over the world and it was extremely successful. We tried to make the performances as unplugged as possible. While some bands use electric bass or real drums we didn't. Only acoustic guitars. They were plugged but only to make them sound louder. OK, we got to the biggest question that ever came to my mind and what many fans have. It is "Why you left M.S.G.?"

Robin McAuley: There were several reasons for it. No personal differences and no musical ones were involved. Michael was simply going to settle down a little, he wished to release a solo acoustic album so we just parted friendly. We exchange e-mails once in a while and we're still good friends. I also thought that for six years that we were together we could do more than three albums. I also wanted to release "Bad Boys" as a single but it never happened. Lots of people tell weirdest stories about Michael and his behavior. Can you tell me something about it? Why he is such a person?

Robin McAuley: How do you expect me to answer this? (both laughing) I personally think that he is German, maybe there are mentality differences.

Robin McAuley: Let's put it this way - you have your own view of things, I have my own view of things and Michael has his own view of things. Many times people tell me, "Oh, Michael is strange", they tell crazy stories about him, blah-blah-blah... I should point out that most importantly Michael is a pure professional. He practices every day, he literally sleeps with his guitar. I think the only problem with him, if it can be considered a problem at all, is that he is very unpredictable. He changes his mind sometimes too fast. But I can assure you that at least we had no problems on the personal level. So after the M.S.G. split up you left the music world for some years.

Robin McAuley: Right. I went back to school. I learned computer design, I was always interested in it. I learned it at college in Texas and that's what I do now for a living. In the late 1990s German record company "MTM Music" released the album of Elements Of Friction and you were the singer. How did it happen? Was it a one-time affair?

Robin McAuley: The whole project was made by Ricky Phillips. He is a brilliant musician and songwriter, it was great working with him. It was a one-time affair, that's right. Finally in 1999 your solo album "Business As Usual" came out in Japan. Why only in Japan?

Robin McAuley: The whole album was recorded in mid-1990s. Nobody ever believed that Frankie Sullivan could be such a great guitar player and I proved it on the album. We had lots of fun when recording the album. But there was one problem; we didn't have a drummer. At first I didn't want to put out the album that had no real drummer on it. It was drum computer on the album. Finally Japanese company "Big M.F." approached me and released the album. The reason why it remains unreleased anywhere else is very simple; nobody was interested. I asked several companies to release it in the States but when you get refuses all the time you finally stop doing it. What a shame!

Robin McAuley: I think so too. The album is very good. Robin, tell me the truth - do you regret the fact that you are not in the active music business anymore since the heavy metal and hard rock scene in getting more and more popular nowadays?

Robin McAuley: Well, here in the States it is not so good. Still in the year 2003 there was a tour in the USA with three singers including Glen Hughes and me. It was called "The Voices of Rock". We played about 20 concerts and the response was great. I also sing in commercials. Some time ago me and Ricky Phillips did a commercial for Buick cars and I heard it over and over on the TV in every city where I went to. Since you live in the States can you describe what is going on with hard rock music scene there?

Robin McAuley: In the 1990s it was as dead as ever. Nirvana, Pantera and other grunge and hardcore bands totally killed the hard rock scene. The media turned away from that music as well. But now if you look at the hard rock scene in California there are lots of cover-bands. There are cover-bands of Journey, AC/DC, KISS, Van Halen. You see, many of those bands do not tour a lot so young kids create cover-bands and play all their material. But media doesn't give a damn about it all. There is no support in magazines or on TV. Bands like Korn are very popular nowadays. Do you plan to record more albums in future?

Robin McAuley: Right now I'm working with my new band called Bleed. It is a very very heavy band but it also has great melodies in music. We recorded four songs and as soon as the fourth one is mixed we will shop for a record deal. So good luck and thanks for the interview!

Robin McAuley: Thank you! It's a pleasure talking to you! Bye!

Dead Ripper
(April, 2004)

Special thanks to Gina from Robin McAuley Public Relations
for the great chance to make this interview possible.

Robin McAuley official website

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