Exclusive Preview: Fourth extract from <i>Scooter: Always Hardcore</i>

Words by Max Dax

Scooter: Always Hardcore is a new book documenting one of the world’s most successful—and polarizing—bands. Written, in close collaboration with the band, by Electronic Beats Editor-in-Chief Max Dax and Robert Defcon, we’re excited to be exclusively publishing a series of excerpts from the book. In our fourth and final edition, Baxxter and the boys “Go East”. You can also read the firstsecond, and third extracts. Above, left to right: Rick J. Jordan, H.P. Baxxter, Jay Frog, photographed by Christian Spreitz.

 

The Players:
H.P. Baxxter – founding member and singer/shouter of Scooter
Rick J. Jordan – founding member and keyboard player of Scooter
Michael Simon – Scooter’s current second keyboard player
Jens Thele – founding, but passive member and manager of Scooter and their label Kontor Records
Frank Lothar Lange – Scooter’s long-term photographer (ex-Bravo)
Kai Busse – ex-tour manager of Scooter

 

Frank Lothar Lange: We once flew to Moscow for a concert in a private jet that belonged to a Danish organ donor company. This was before the city had been cleaned up and become the gentrified metropolis it is today. I remember the flight clearly. The plane was a tiny eight-seat machine with two pilots.

Rick J. Jordan: It was a Cessna Citation One, a twin-engined aircraft designed for business travel. It wouldn’t have been cheap—it cost around twenty or thirty thousand D-Marks to take a flight like that—but it was pretty damn cool.

Frank Lothar Lange: In addition to Scooter and Jens Thele, the other passengers on that flight were me and my then editor at Bravo magazine, the late Hannsjörg Riemann. We were able to drink as much as we wanted on board—beer, wine, Jägermeister, anything really.

H.P. Baxxter: And we could smoke.

Rick J. Jordan: That’s the good thing about private jets. If you sit at the front of the plane like I always do then you are sitting right next of the minibar and you can just help yourself. There aren’t any limits on how much alcohol you can drink like when you take a commercial flight. You’re even allowed to use your mobile phone during the flight.

Jens Thele: On board we were served champagne and canapés. That certainly helps to reduce any fear of flying one might have—you can drink it away before you even take off!

Rick J. Jordan: At the beginning of our career as a band I still had a very bad fear of flying. It was so bad I can’t even describe it. You can try and rationally tell yourself that everything is OK, but when you have an irrational fear like that it’s really no use. When we flew in private jets I would always sit right behind the pilots so that I could keep an overview of everything that’s happening with the plane. I’ve always been interested in the mechanics of flying anyway—I can tell you what all the individual instruments in the cockpit are and what they do.  Having this knowledge allowed me to directly compare what I was feeling during the flight with what the displays were showing. It’s really very interesting to note the differences between your feelings and reality. For example, sometimes during take-off you might get the sudden feeling that the plane is dropping, but when you look at the displays you can see that it’s not dropping at all but rather just climbing at a slightly slower rate. Your body isn’t used to this sensation of vertical deceleration and so the brain thinks that you’re falling downwards. Another thing is when the plane goes through turbulence, you might feel like you’re being thrown around in the air but when you look there will be barely a twitch on the altitude display—maybe just a half a meter or so if anything at all. The best thing is that the pilots don’t even notice those sorts of things anymore—so by watching them I eventually developed the sense that flying is actually safe and that things just work. That’s how I overcame my fear of flying.

Frank Lothar Lange: After the landing in Moscow our plane was towed to a special docking position that was guarded by soldiers from the Russian army. When we disembarked from the plane we were picked up by a bus and taken to a special section of the Moscow airport.

Rick J. Jordan: We arrived in the Moscow private jet terminal and then stumbled directly into a bar, where more drinks were ordered for us. The first time we went to Moscow I think we even had an agent from the domestic secret services assigned to guard us.

Frank Lothar Lange: Alcohol, cigarettes—everything there was free. Our baggage was unloaded and taken care of and none of us ever needed to show our passports or anything. When we subsequently entered the public area of the airport there was a pack of Russian media waiting there for us. I remember there was a guy from a Russian radio station who was live on air at the airport—when we came out he threw himself to the floor in front of H.P. and was yelling something in Russian into his microphone like a crazy person. I asked our interpreter what was going on and the translation was something like: “It’s unbelievable, it’s incredible! I’m here and standing in front of me in the flesh is H.P. Baxxter!”

H.P. Baxxter: We then got into two armored Mercedes S-Class cars and drove through the rush-hour traffic with a police escort into the city center. They had even blocked off the road crossings for us.

Rick J. Jordan: With incredible speed we rushed along the prospects and went directly to the city center. At first we were wondering why there were police everywhere, then it eventually dawned on us that it was all for us and that we were being escorted in a police motorcade. All the crossings were closed off to allow us through. We were being treated like official guests of state—in a major metropolis like Moscow! Nothing quite like that has ever happened to us again. This was during the Yeltsin period and everything back in those days was a bit like being in the Wild West, I guess you could call it the “Wild East”. Things were pretty crazy then. I mean, if your national leader is constantly drunk, what are you going to do if you’re a Russian? Eventually we arrived at the concert venue, which was a large steel and glass building constructed in that typical 1970s style. Over the top of the audience area they had installed a massive light rack and a net full of balloons that was hanging on thin steel cables. As the “highlight” of the show they released the balloons into the crowd but after they did that that the whole construction started swaying dangerously over the heads of the people in the crowd.

Frank Lothar Lange: To keep the around six thousand fans in check they had fenced off the stage with metal bars but when Scooter came on stage the audience just ripped down the fence. The security guards had to jump up onto the stage to protect themselves and they were using their truncheons to beat downwards at the fans to stop them from storming on to the stage.

Rick J. Jordan: Eventually the front barriers collapsed as well. We managed to bring the performance to an end just in time. We had to leave the venue straight away after that—it was all very chaotic, but awesome.

Frank Lothar Lange: The tour continued in a similar fashion in St. Petersburg. When we arrived there we were picked up from the airport by a convoy of black SUVs—typical Russian mafia style. When we then got to the concert hall H.P. and Ferris got into one of their loud and heated arguments, as was often the case. This time it was all because H.P. had two bodyguards escorting him while Ferris didn’t have any. All this carrying on didn’t bother Rick at all. Thankfully we managed to talk Ferris around to actually doing the concert.

H.P. Baxxter: The person behind these shows in Russia was a promoter who also owned several radio and TV stations and who knows what else. He booked the Moscow and St. Petersburg shows for us and let us fly there and back in his private jet. Based on the amount of money he had to throw around, I guess you could call him an oligarch. I remember we were having dinner with him one evening and when our tour manager asked him about a contact for future gigs he quite nonchalantly got out a roll full of one hundred dollar bills, took one out, wrote the phone number on it with a permanent marker and then gave the bill to our tour manager.

Jens Thele: Quite often you don’t find out exactly who is behind an offer for a show before you accept it and turn up at the concert venue. We have found ourselves in plenty of pretty odd scenarios but there was one that seemed really strange to us. The fee that was being offered was massive—at the time it was the biggest we had ever received. We guessed that it must have had something to do with a construction company. We didn’t see the organizers at all at the show, which was being put on in a small club, almost like a bar.

H.P. Baxxter: They had booked out a fine restaurant for the show. The line-up consisted of Snap!, a couple of dance acts and then Scooter as the headliner. It was a very exclusive affair—there must have only been around fifty guests in the whole place. They just sat there and ate their meals and enjoyed the entertainment.

Michael Simon: They certainly didn’t spare any costs for that show. There were pyrotechnics along with various technicians, dancers, the whole deal—and all of this in the city’s best hotel. We just did our regular set on the small stage they had constructed inside the venue.

Jens Thele: There were a few models there who kept coming up to the stage to dance while all the men at the tables just sat there and watched the spectacle.

Rick J. Jordan: It was only later that we figured out that the event was an anniversary celebration for the Russian internal (domestic?) intelligence service, the FSB. The Scorpions played on Friday night and we played the day after.

Jens Thele: We get these highly paid shows once or twice a year—they’re usually in Eastern Europe rather than in Germany. Since the American a-list stars have also started embracing this market, the offers are becoming a bit less frequent. This whole thing of playing private shows like this is a rather new development that’s only taken off in the last few years. They don’t get much coverage though. Sometimes you might find out by accident in the newspaper that some star has played a show for an oligarch somewhere in the East but most of the time you don’t hear anything about these shows at all.

Michael Simon: The show we did at Sevastopol on the Black Sea was pretty amazing. We were flown there on a private jet that time as well and at that stage I’d never been on a private jet before—those things certainly don’t come cheap! When we landed there were 3 S-Class Mercedes waiting on the tarmac, out of which stepped bodyguards clutching radio devices, just like in a spy film. We then drove to the hotel where beautiful half-naked women were just walking around everywhere. We decided to go for a swim in the pool first before doing anything else and the whole time we were being watched by these bodyguards in black suits and sunglasses. There were some very nice cars parked around the compound too—there were a couple of Challengers, probably the most expensive planes you can get.

H.P. Baxxter: The host of the party in Sevastopol didn’t show himself while we were there. It was his birthday but nobody knew who he was. Most of the guests were models who had been flown in from somewhere and had then been driven to the venue in buses. They didn’t seem to stop dancing at any point throughout the party. The host had paid for all these guests to be there and bands to play but he was nowhere to be seen. He was presumably just watching the whole thing incognito. When you find yourself in such a situation you naturally ask yourself what is going on. I personally couldn’t make any sense of it at all. Instead of being the welcoming host and meeting all these people who had come for the party, he just stayed in the background somewhere. I don’t know who he was but he must have been someone important. The security arrangements were pretty serious—the whole area was cordoned off, with armed guards all over the place.

Michael Simon: I didn’t see any other bands but there must have been some others. There was a fashion show with all these MTV Fashion models but we didn’t really catch any of it because we were  busy backstage focusing on our warm-up ritual. We did notice however that everywhere you looked there were people standing around holding Kalashnikovs. That’s not to mention all the cars parked around the area—Bentleys, Jaguars, Ferraris, you name it.

Kai Busse: You get quite a shock at first when you come into a place and there are all these heavily armed security guards standing around. We never got to see the face of the host of this event either. I asked the booker who he was and he told me that he wanted to remain anonymous. Ultimately it didn’t matter to us who this guy was—the contract had been signed and the money was transferred into our account without any trouble.

H.P. Baxxter: In this kind of context we play a pared-down set. In Moscow we only played for about half an hour. In Sevastopol we played eight or nine songs at most.

Michael Simon: We played that show on a small platform that had been constructed, but that was about the only thing that was on a small scale. There were fireworks that must have costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. At first nobody was dancing when we started playing because all the guests were inside the tents that had been erected for the party, which were all spread out across this massive area in the forest.

H.P. Baxxter: I wanted all the people to come up towards the stage while we were playing so I made an announcement over the sound system: “All the ladies to the dance floor!”

Michael Simon: After H.P. said that all these women came running out of the forest, they were all covered head to toe in jewelry. We just stood there and couldn’t quite comprehend what was going on. In these moments you feel like you’re in a film—everything is so absurd, you feel like someone must be walking around with a camera filming everything and James Bond is about to drop out of the sky and land right next to you. ~

 

Scooter: Always Hardcore is published in German and is out now. Scooter’s exclusive 20th anniversary performance takes place in Hamburg on December 5th and will be live streamed on our site.

 

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