Michael Schenker Says He Influenced Eddie Van Halen, Explains Why He Doesn’t Listen to New Guitar Players

Although probably not as huge as some other names in the world of all things guitar, Michael Schenker had his important share of influence. After playing in Scorpions and UFO back in the 1970s, Schenker kicked off his Michael Schenker Group and his solo career.

But, of course, a musician like him could be in the same basket as Eddie Van Halen, pioneering the whole modern virtuoso “shredder” movement. In fact, in a recent interview with Mitch Lafon and Jeremy White, he recalled Van Halen opening for UFO when he was in the band and only later found out about Eddie’s greatness. He recalled (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“We played the Starwood [former Hollywood nightclub], and apparently, Van Halen was opening up for UFO. I never knew that because it was a brand new band; it was five years before they broke through. And apparently, much later in life, I found out that Eddie Van Halen was a fan, and got influenced by me.”

Van Halen - Selland Arena - 03/25/1979

He also added:

“But that was remarkable, I never knew that. Because to me, it was another one of those support bands that nobody knew. But they were in the making of being big, you know, and so it’s quite remarkable. But I heard that people were saying that Eddie was doing some stuff [on which] you can hear my influence.”

“I love Eddie’s playing, you know, he’s for me, by far the best guitar player. And even though I wasn’t listening to music, you could never get away [from] hearing [it] anywhere… And so really, he was fascinating. I mean, he’s my favorite guitar player.”

Explaining things further, Michael also recalled how he never went actively searching for new music. Nonetheless, he got exposed to some stuff. Aside from Eddie, he heard Metallica, Yngwie Malmsteen, and others. He said:

“From the old days, it’s just Beck and Eric Clapton, of course, all the people that they had an effect on me when I was [in early teens]. But later… even though I don’t listen to music, I could never escape Yngwie Malmsteen. He was played everywhere, and also Metallica – I went to a boutique, trying on stage clothes, and there I heard the whole album. I went to [get tattooed], and I heard Iron Maiden.”

“That’s how I got introduced to certain music that I could not get away from… That’s how I discovered the – what’s it called, Metallica song, it’s a slow song, really, really good… [Jeremy White interjects] ‘The Unforgiven?’ [Schenker continues] Yeah, ‘The Unforgiven.'”

However, these days, as he explains, he rarely ever gets into new guitar players, offering:

“I have to say one thing though; I’m sure there is lots of great guitarists out there. But because I don’t listen to music, I don’t know. But, people like – when I heard Malmsteen for the first time, I was blown away. I didn’t know that was such a player who could play that class, you know? And then I found out later that he was a Michael Schenker fan as well! It’s crazy, you know, really weird.”

Photos: Robin Looy (Michael schenker-1448660150), Anirudh Koul (Eddie Van Halen 2007-11-10)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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