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DailyBoom Your Old School Music Authority

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Exclusive Interview: Robin McAuley Talks Schenker Fest, 'Rock Vault' & That New Side Gig with Jeff Pilson & Reb Beach


Robin McAuley has been a steady fixture on the hard rock scene for close to 40 years now and if you think that he is ready to slow down you'd be completely wrong. He has spent the last five years performing several nights a week on stage in Vegas while also touring the world once again with Michael Schenker (the McAuley Schenker Group- or MSG first shot to fame in the states back in the '80s). Add to that a sweet side project with Jeff Pilson and Reb Beach and you've got an incredibly fruitful career. 

I had an opportunity to chat with Robin this week and listened as he grieved the loss of a bandmate, anticipated the release of new music and reflected on what keeps him centered in that crazy rock and roll world. 

DailyBOOM: So tell me, how are you? What have you been up to?

Robin McAuley: I haven't had new material out myself in a while, but I've been very busy.  I spent nine hours recording just yesterday for the new Michael Schenker Fest cd. The deadline for that has been overshadowed by the fact that we lost our drummer, Ted McKenna, in a freaky routine surgery just a few days ago and it has really devastated everyone. It's the most routine, piece of cake surgery (hernia repair) usually but he hemorrhaged and they couldn't stop the bleeding. He was just the nicest dude, an absolutely gentle, kind man. A powerhouse drummer and a force to be reckoned with up there behind us, just so easy to work with. God rest Ted McKenna. 

We've been out there with Schenker Fest for almost three years now, it first began at the Bang Your Head Festival in Germany and we're scheduled to do that one again this year. We've toured Japan and did a live DVD out of Tokyo that got a great response. Then we toured in support of our Ressurection album, again in Japan, then also Europe, the U.K and the states. We're scheduled to kick off our U.S. dates for this year on April 15th at The Whiskey in Hollywood. It'll be chaos and I think that's the whole idea (laughing). There's a lot of people in the band so it'll be a cluster (laughing) and that's what we want. 

(Photo: Paul Bossenmaier)

DB: You're still working in Vegas too, aren't you?

RM: I've been working with Raiding the Rock Vault for a solid five years now. It has been voted the best in Vegas for five years in a row and that show keeps us really busy. We do five nights a week and it has an ever-evolving lineup. When I'm in town and not on tour, then I'm there onstage five nights a week Saturday through Wednesday. You get into an automatic mode when doing a five night a week show and you really have to stay on top of things. Your voice is a different kind of instrument and you're totally reliant on your health and the conditions around you, so Vegas is not an easy place to work. The air is very dry and it's windy, plus the casinos are very smokey. You get into a routine and you know what you have to do in order to maintain yourself to do this job, but I choose not to live in Vegas. Instead, I live in California with my family, so I drive home on Wednesday nights and roll in at around 3am. 

People think I'm crazy for driving but there are no late night flights into Burbank and if I flew into LAX and then had to drive from there it's still going to take me four hours to get home. Driving is almost like detoxing for me, I don't mind the trip through the desert. One of my brothers will usually call me from back home in Ireland and we have a good old chat. I also listen to talk shows and wonder if some night I'll stumble across some sort of alien being while driving (laughing). It hasn't happened so far, that I know of, so I guess I'm of no interest (laughing).

DB: A little birdie by the name of Jeff Pilson told me that you're working on a project with him and Reb Beach. I think I need some details on that (laughing).

RM: Ah Mr. Pilson, the crazy Jeff Pilson (laughing). Maybe about 2 months ago he said he had this thing going on that he wanted me to do and I said, 'Nah' (laughing).  He said, 'Please do it' and then he told me that Reb Beach is in it and that he thought that it was something that I should do. I then asked what he was doing in it and he said that he would be producing it and co-writing. I procrastinated a bit and then we got together and I wondered how we were going to do this. Reb is in Pittsburgh and he has Winger shows, I've got my stuff and Jeff, of course, he has Foreigner, but we're deep in the hole. We've made it all work and we're almost done,  with a release date scheduled for later this year. It's really, really good. One of the most fun things and probably one of the very best things I've ever gotten into. When we heard the material we realized that it's great. 

I'm absolutely stoked, hyper even because Reb and I managed to talk Jeff into playing bass with us. He wanted to take a backseat on this one and we basically said sure, take a backseat on this just bring your bass guitar with you (laughing). He agreed to play and at the moment it looks like we'll have Mark Schulman (Pink, Cher, Stevie Nicks) playing drums. We do have a band name but it has to stay under wraps for now. The material is just great and I can't wait for it to come out. 

DB: How will you orchestrate this when like you've said, you're all already ridiculously busy?

RM: One of the biggest difficulties is to have us all in the same place at the same time but we have pledged to make it all work because it has to see the light of day (laughing). We have discussed it at great length though because we all have our own things to do. I hate that it's referred to as a side project because it makes it sound secondary or meaningless and I believe that it's a lot more than that. We've put a lot of work into it and so it really does mean a lot. Reb Beach is just a son of a bitch guitar player, he's just awesome. Jeff Pilson knows how to work on a level ten all the time. He's always on ten and ya know, I've known him for a very long time. Not many people know but Jeff was our chief witness when my wife and I got married. I've been married for 25 years and Jeff and I go back even way before that because he did an unplugged tour with Michael (Schenker) and myself. 

DB: How do you do it all and still have so much positive energy just bouncing off of you?

RM: I love waking up to a good day. Life's too short. My family is my core and my foundation. I'm Irish and come from a very large family and that has always been my backbone, it's family first. Knowing that I have such a solid family is what allows me to step forward and not only do what I do but also really enjoy it. It's great to do what I'm doing because I know that I have a great family to come home to. We make more than the best of our downtime and personally I would be lost if I didn't have someone to come home to. I've always been like that, going home to a great one-bedroom place would depress the shit out of me (laughing). I couldn't live like that. The family balances my work and my work makes me grateful for my family.

Schenker Fest will hit the road this spring with about 25 U.S. dates coming your way. Grab your tickets here.