Black Swan and former Michael Schenker and Survivor vocalist Robin McAuley’s interview

Written by on December 6, 2021

Shake the World by Black Swan.

Robin McAuley is one of the most underrated Hard Rock of his generation. Hailing from Ireland and starting to build up his career with the band Grand Prix in the 80s, he gained notoriety in the latter part of that decade by being the vocalist of legendary guitarist Michael Schenker in their project McAuley Schenker Group, with albums such as Perfect Timing or Save Yourself being great pieces of Hard Rock that have been reassessed in recent years by longtime Schenker fans.

But Robin’s present is just as exciting and deserves to be praised because he has been one of the most prolific vocalists in the last couple of years. Not only he worked again with Schenker in the Resurrection and Revelation albums, both worthy entries in the catalogue of the German legend, but he has also started a Hard Rock supergroup called Black Swan with guitarist Reb Beach (Winger, Dokken and Whitesnake), bassist Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Dio and Foreigner) and drummer Matt Starr (Mr. Big), with their 2020 album, Shake the World, being an excellent record that deserves all the praise it has received so far, and an outstanding solo album, 2021’s Standing on the Edge, which shows him doing what he does best: high quality, melodic Rock songs.

And in 2021, his voice is as good as ever and still delivering quality new material, so I had the opportunity to do an interview with Robin and discuss a wide variety of topics, such as Black Swan, Michael Schenker, his solo work, touring, singing and a lot more. He was a very gracious man and this interview is certainly one of my personal favorites.

Big Disaster by Black Swan.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Robin. It’s a pleasure to have you here. How are things going with you?

Hi, Kevin. All good here in Los Angeles, thank you.

What can you tell us about the upcoming Black Swan album?

Very excited about the new Black Swan record due for release in the early part of 2022. The writing once again was very creative, and fun to be a part of. I believe this is an even stronger record than Shake The World, which I really liked.

How would you describe the creative process of this project?

As with Shake the World, Jeff and Reb got together and created the music. Once that was done, they would send the tracks to me for melodies and lyrics. Jeff and myself would run through the songs in pre-production, and make whatever changes necessary to the arrangements before recording my lead vocals.

Black Swan surprised a lot of Hard Rock fans that have been following you, Reb,, Matt and Jeff throughout the years. Considering that the four of you have multiple projects, is this going to be a running band or you may take time off soon?

It definitely sounds like a band and we are really excited about the finished product. With all our crazy schedules from Whitesnake/Winger, Foreigner, Ace Frehley, Rock Vault and another solo record from me in 2022, it’s going to be difficult but we will try to take this live. It’s too good not to. More on that as we enter 2022 and put all this Covid behind us finally.

A while ago you said that the debut, Shake the World, was your favorite album of your entire career. Would you care to elaborate on that?

Ha! I guess I did say that! Certainly the best vocal sound I’ve ever had on a record and I always believe that your latest recording should be the best you’ve ever did. Otherwise why bother, right? It’s a great record, great songs, fresh, and a killer performance from the whole band. I’m really proud of this record!

You have bassist Jeff Pilson on the band, who of course can also sing. Does having another vocalist in the mix can be a helpful thing when making music or it can be a problem?

Jeff is awesome. Incredible musician, writer, producer and engineer. He sings on all the backgrounds together with my son, Casey. He has a great ear and I can easily come to him when I’m unsure of a particular melody or vocal part.

Immortal Souls by Black Swan

If I’m allowed to say so, the entire Shake the World album is phenomenal, but Immortal Souls is my favorite song of the whole thing. I’m curious to know how that song came to be.

Thank you for your kind words, Kevin. Immortal Souls! I love Vampire movies, Vampire stories and all things Dracula (laughs). When I first got the music for this, something in what Reb was playing over the intro of the song sounded like wolves howling. It was very subtle and not something Reb was even aware of, but I heard it and it immediately inspired me to take the song in that direction lyrically. It’s really a love affair with a Vampire. Have you ever seen Underworld with Kate Beckinsale in the lead role? Well I need say no more except bite me already!!! (laughs). Great song and a KILLER Melody! Pun intended (laughs).


Black Swan. From left to right: guitarist Reb Beach, drummer Matt Starr, vocalist Robin McAuley and bassist Jeff Pilson.

You have played with some amazing guitar players throughout the years, with Michael Schenker obviously being the most notorious, but Reb Beach is an incredible guitarist in his own right. What do you think makes the vocalist-guitarist dynamic so iconic in Rock?

First and most important to me is melody. Of course it’s also important to have the amazing skills Michael Schenker possesses, but he also has so much passion in his playing. I have performed with him enough times to see and feel the passion in every fiber of his being when he immerses himself in his playing. Truly amazing to watch and hear his delivery.

Reb Beach also has that strong sense of melody and passion in his playing. When you hear the new Black Swan you will hear even more of Reb’s brilliance. He really gives me great inspiration in the writing process. A singer’s dream really!

Naturally, most people know you because of the McAuley Schenker Group back in the late 80s and early 90s. Why the records you did with him were called McAuley Schenker Group instead of the Michael Schenker Group moniker he was using at the time?

Wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve answered this question! The name change was entirely Michael’s idea. He felt he wanted to move forward and wanted a partner to share the running of the band. Part of that for him was the name change and he suggested McAuley Schenker Group. I thought it was a terrible idea but that’s what happened.


Robin McAuley and Michael Schenker live in the 80s.

I have read that there was some pressure by the record label at the time to make Michael a lot more radio-friendly and accessible. Did that make the recording sessions of albums such as 1987’s Perfect Timing or 1989’s Save Yourself more complex or demanding?

Absolutely it did. Radio play together with MTV and VH1 exposer were very important for any band to get the tour. Great videos on MTV and VH1 brought the band to a wide audience and when you combine that with heavy radio play then the demand is there. Writing radio-friendly songs was key. Big choruses, memorable lyrics and a great video. No pressure at all (laughs).

What was to you the best part of playing with Michael during those years?

He’s Michael Schenker. One of Rock’s greatest guitarists and I got to write, record and perform with him. I see nothing wrong with that picture.

And of that particular period of your career, is there a song or two where you go “We did something really special right here”?

I think we wrote a bunch of really cool songs. Some songs like Anytime and When I’m Gone. I actually wrote with others but Save Yourself, which I wrote with Michael, we have played recently on the Michael Schenker Fest tours… that is still one of my favorites. I also wish we had had the chance to perform songs like Neverending Nightmare with full orchestra. I always thought that would’ve been really cool. Michael’s acoustic playing on that song is amazing.

Save Yourself by the McAuley Schenker Group.

The title track of Save Yourself is a particular standout moment of mine. Any interesting anecdote about the making of that song?

It’s been a long time but LIVE it still kicks Ass!!!

After 1994, we don’t hear much of you. Why did you leave the music business or at least recording new music? And what prompted you to come back in recent times?

The industry changed regarding 80’s Rock music around 1994. I recorded a lot of songs on tribute records during that time but Grunge and Alternative was the flavor of the week.

You worked with Michael once again in recent years with the Michael Schenker Fest project, specifically in 2018’s Resurrection and 2019’s Revelation. How did you get yourself involved in those projects?

Michael’s lawyer contacted me and asked if I’d be interested to tour and record alongside Gary Barden and Graham Bonnet. The answer was easy… YES!!!! This was a great time and the fans loved it. Shows lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes. Sometimes longer. Amazing singing with those guys every night. As we went along Michael added Doogie White from his Temple of Rock period. Really a great time!

What were the main differences of playing with Michael in the 80s compared to now?

I suppose as we all get older we have a different set of priorities as individuals. We have all followed similar yet different paths. Yet once we got back together the main priority was the job at hand and we addressed it professionally and brought it all back to life with anew mind set.

What do you think makes Michael such an iconic and memorable guitarist?

His style is Michael Schenker. He has influenced so many other guitarists and continues to do so. He plays as well, if not even better, today than ever before. Always top of his game.


Robin McAuley and Michael Schenker.

Focusing on your recent albums, I want to congratulate you on your solo album: Standing on the Edge is definitely one of the best Rock records of 2021. Can we say that this album is an honest reflection of your musical sensibilities?

Considering that I wasn’t in a hurry to record a solo record, I’m really pleased with it. Stuck in the midst of a pandemic and very limited studio access, it was challenging to say the least. I approached it by giving a little taste of most of what my musical past was about. Grand Prix, Survivor, MSG etc. The next one will have a different approach. I love what I do and don’t care much to be pigeon holed into any direction. I like to have an open mind regarding songwriting. My voice is still in pretty good shape and I also want to try different styles.

What are you looking for when making a song? And what makes a great song for you?

If only I knew (laughs). Great melody, catchy lyrics. Whatever the style. A good song is a good song.

Do You Remember by Robin McAuley.

I think Do You Remember is one of the finest Rock songs you have ever done. Can you walk us through how that song came to be?

Written by Tommy De Nander and myself. I knew Tommy had written with the great Jimi Jameson (Survivor) and because I was singing with Survivor for about six years I asked him to send me some music. We co-wrote two songs on Standing On The Edge. I wrote the melody and lyrics on Do You Remember and everyone agreed it should be on the record. It’s really nice song. Thank you!

You haven’t done a lot of solo work in your career and you’re usually working with other songwriters in groups. What are the differences of making a Robin McAuley album and making one with Grand Prix, Michael Schenker or Black Swan?

Solo is just that. Your head is on the block as opposed to blaming someone in the band! (laughs).

Standing on the Edge by Robin McAuley.

When promoting Standing on the Edge, you mentioned that at first that you didn’t want to do a solo album. What changed your mind?

I needed to stay busy during the Covid pandemic and I was bored with house cleaning (laughs).

And after the reception that the album has received, are you keen in doing another solo album? If so, are you working on new material?

Already working on material for a follow up.

Of course, your voice is as good as it has ever been. When I was doing research for this interview, I saw another interview of yours where you mentioned that you have a technique to keep your voice in shape, which is “singing not shouting”. Would you care to elaborate on that?

They say the voice matures with age but over time you develop techniques that work better for you. How to project without shouting or damaging your vocal chords. Better breathing techniques to increase stamina. Pitch is really important, obviously, but I’m not into screaming and so that’s not something you’ll hear from me very often. Every singer does what’s best for them. It’s important to know your capabilities and to make what you do sound great whiten that vocal range.

How do you think you have evolved as a singer throughout the years? What do you think you have learned in your career as a vocalist?

Only that some things I do, sound like shit, so I stick to what I know works for me. I hope that’s the right answer (laughs).

A few years ago, Michael Kiske, who is the lead singer of Helloween and who was out of the music business for a long time, said that Rock and Metal fans have a lot of memory because they still appreciate and cherish songs and albums you did twenty or thirty years ago. Did you feel a similar way with your longtime fans when you started to make new music in recent years?

Rock and Metal definitely stand the test of time. Led Zeppelin to name just one!!! If fans like you for a certain style then sometimes they are not so open to something new, especially as a band. However if they like your voice, then they like your voice and are sometimes interested to hear what else you’ve done. Just saying!


The music business has changed a lot throughout the years. How do you think it has changed for better and for worse?

Artists come and go as do record labels. We all need each other when we need each other. It’s not what it was since we can use the convenience of iTunes or sell online. I think it depends on how much you need a label for, etc.

Considering your return with Schenker, your solo album and Black Swan in recent years, do you feel that you are making up for lost time? Because you’re even more prolific now than back in the eighties.

I didn’t actually lose any time. I gained so much in my life in fact. I got married to a beautiful girl from Vienna, Gina, in 1999 and we have twin boys, now 22 years old. We have been married for 28 years. She recently just got her Nursing License and we are so proud of her. We put family first always.

She has relentlessly supported me in my music even when I performed five nights weekly in Las Vegas since 2013, performing some 1500 shows in that time. Due to Covid-19 we had to take a break but we are scheduled to return early 2022. Raiding The Rock Vault has been voted Best Of Las Vegas for six consecutive years.

Make It There by Black Swan

What are your goals right now as a musician?

To continue making great music for as long as my voice allows.

Any tips for a vocalist starting out?

Your voice is your instrument. Take good care of it and it will serve you for many years.

I think I have taken enough of your time, Robin. Once again, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Any last words for our readers? Where can we follow you on social media and buy your music?

My pleasure to chat and answer your questions best I can. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram. Also on Facebook. Black Swan updates and solo updates, plus whatever else I can get involved in. Please drop by and say hello and if you like something leave comment or a Like.

Thank you, Kevin, and thank you, MusikHolics, for reaching out to me and taking the time. God bless you all and your families. Stay well and Merry Christmas.

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