Over The Top is one way to describe the SCOOTER charts history both at home and abroad, earning them the accolade of Germany’s most successful chart act since records began. Even though the news of their #1 album in the UK rankings has long since penetrated the media world, causing considerable amazement in some quarters, the SCOOTER crew appear relatively underwhelmed by the whole phenomenon. Which seems to be the ideal strategy for maintaining their high altitude flight, beyond the reach of any radar wave interference.
In total, SCOOTER can look back on more than 400 weeks (and counting) in the German charts, the equivalent of eight years, pretty much half of SCOOTER’s 16 year band history to date. SCOOTER are one of a very few German acts to have shaped the musical landscape at home and abroad for well over a decade, without losing any of their energy or freshness. You either love SCOOTER or you hate them - either way, their style is the antithesis of boring!
Over 30 million sales and more than 80 gold and platinum awards all over the globe underline their extra-special status.
Let`s take a closer look at this phenomenon: Back in 1994 the worldwide party nation was celebrating rave culture in the underground as new techno clubs sprung up everywhere, whilst the charts were dominated by mindnumbing Euro dance and mainstream singles. At that time, "Hyper Hyper" could not be considered a commercial track by any stretch of the imagination, and yet Scooter took the charts by storm, launching techno into the overground overnight. Eight years of graft with "Celebrate The Nun" and other projects and remixes were finally about to pay off. Songs like "Move Your Ass", "Friends", "Endless Summer" and "Back In The UK" proved beyond all doubt that Scooter were more than just another "one hit wonder" of the early 90s. "How Much Is The Fish?", "Maria (I Like It Loud)", "Nessaja", "One (Always Hardcore)", "Weekend", "Jumping All Over The World" and "Jump That Rock" to name just a few, continued the hit tradition of this remarkable formation. Many an interview begins with sheer wonder at the longevity of the band’s career, coupled with the question: "what is the secret of the group’s success?" "Find out what you are unable to do and then go and do it!" is one of H.P.’s favourite quotes, which has become something of a mission statement for the combo. "You can’t afford to lose your curiosity or a certain healthy naivety, otherwise you might as well pack it in on the spot. If the element of fun is gone, it doesn’t make much sense. And you need to stay credible. We do everything by ourselves in the studio and our fans respect that." Baxxter’s fondness for unconventional methods can drive his colleagues to distraction, however. "He comes up with the maddest ideas and then we have to see how we can build a song together" is how Rick J. Jordan describes their way of working, a twinkle in his eye. "But that’s why I love him, it’s a real inspiration and you can be sure there’s something worthwhile in there, once you get used to his style." His lyrics may, at first glance, focus on whipping up the crowd into a frenzy, enacting battles with imaginary M.C.s (and winning), embracing the "Scooter phenomenon", but H.P. has come to delight in sprinkling literary references and hidden messages among the more apparently simplistic shouts ("Respect to the man in the icecream van", by way of example, is a tribute to The KLF). Baxxter is Scooter’s enfant terrible, and has been the focal point of the band, in terms of sound as well as vision, over the past 13 years. Keyboard player and sound engineer Rick J. Jordan is, in contrast, the calming influence of the team. Explaining how they work in the studio, Jordan notes "I try to sort the creative chaos and add in my own ideas into the production process". Responsible for sound design and audio engineering, he is also the team’s "musician" with over 30 years of experience with piano and keyboards and a knowledge of classical music theory to back it up. He has even created a virtual symphony orchestra and has enthusiastically paved the way for Scooter’s excursions into musical genres as diverse as rock, classical and Celtic folklore. The third founder member of the band, Jens Thele, is more in the background, taking care of the group’s business affairs. As the mastermind and managing director of KONTOR Records, he introduces Scooter to the international market and brings his visionary expertise in marketing and concepts on board. It did not take the newest member, Michael Simon, long to spot this:
"When Jens joins us in the studio towards the end of the production phase, his input is absolutely invaluable, both in terms of his A&R talent and his years of Djing. He can add that extra special something, an unexpected idea or suggestion how to improve a track. You really notice that music is an important part of his life".
Michael Simon, one of Hamburg’s most sought-after house DJs in Hamburg and, like Rick, keyboarder in the band, is no stranger to the group, nor to their faithful followers. Back in 1997 he went on tour as support act for Scooter with his "Shahin & Simon" project, and he has remixed Scooter tracks, as well as releasing productions on Kontor Records. With a diverse musical background, covering house, techno and hardtrance on the one hand, plus Hip Hop and R´n´B on the other, it did not take long for him to find his way into the Scooter project, proving to be a born programmer of beats. His boundless enthusiasm for what’s going down in the clubs means he can always bring the newest sounds into the studio.
Live and Direct Scooter’s working ethic is marked by clear synergy and impressive results. Beyond this, what also makes Scooter what it is, is their live performance. The live show is probably the area of operations in which they truly demolish any preconceptions or clichés about dance music. The stage show is a potent cocktail of punk, rock´n´roll and quite deliberate delusions of grandeur. "We believe in the bigger picture, spectacular stage sets and theatrical effects. I think we would really miss the fireworks and lightning flashes if we didn’t use them" admits Jordan. "Even our warm-up backstage has become something of an institution in its own right, I wouldn’t swap it for anything.." A souped up 3000 watt "ghettoblaster", a full-on sound system backstage, various trance- and house mixes, not forgetting one or two long drinks, all go to make the Scooter pre-show ritual what it is. In the hour before the curtain goes up, Scooter focus all their energy on this point in the day. "On the afternoon before a show, i often get engulfed by a sense of lethargy, as if I could never get up on stage ever again. Ten minutes before the show starts, I’ll be running round in circles, that’s how nervous I get. I mean, you never really know - is it going to work or not? Then, when it begins, you just give it your absolute all. I guess that’s my own personal rhythm." A true "night owl", if Baxxter is asked to do an interview before midday, then that counts as the middle of the night for him. "I love the mix of studio work and playing live, it’s certainly never dull. In fact, it’s always exciting."
44 singles, 18 albums and no end in sight.
Just how do Scooter manage to keep coming up with new ideas, re-inventing themselves after so many years of single and album releases? It’s a question which pops up time and time again. The answer? Simple. Hard work! "The closing phase of an album production can often lead to us spending over 12 hours a day in the studio. A song needs time to develop, ideas need time to mature" Michael points out. He has quickly come to learn that other engagements such as festivals or promotional dates can interrupt the creative flow. "If you have been out of the studio for a while, on tour, doing interviews, or even just on holiday, you can easily get the feeling that you have to start from scratch, as if you’ve forgotten everything you’ve learned", H.P. Baxxter observes. These are the common hurdles in the production process. "Of course, at the same time, it’s a chance to develop artistically, to try out new things". The band’s penchant for quoting other musical sources is, on occasion, a bone of contention. Whereas sampling is an accepted phenomenon in Hip-Hop, the use of song fragments or samples in techno and dance music is still frowned upon by some. Not that this has unduly concerned Scooter. They have stuck to their guns and have never been afraid to dip into other styles or musical currents to enhance their own creations. "Strictly speaking, classical luminaries such as Karajan, Callas and Pavarotti all base their art on interpretations of existing works, without having surrendered anything of their brilliance or individuality" notes Rick, with a hint of irony. "Sometimes that’s what makes our songs so special - the confrontation of new and old."
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