DATE OF INTERVIEW:
20th August 2009
METAL DISCOVERY: Hi, how are you doing?
UDO DIRKSCHNEIDER: Alright, thank you very much.
(Udo Dirkschneider on the inclusion of many Accept songs in U.D.O.'s festival setlists)
"It’s also my history, and I want to give the people what they want. That, I think, is the most important thing."
U.D.O. - uncredited promo shot, 2009
Photograph supplied by, and used with permission from, Mike Exley at M.E.P.R.
Interview by Mark Holmes
When legendary German band Accept split in 1987, vocalist Udo Dirkschneider contiguously pursued his career within the metal scene by forming U.D.O. After releasing four studio albums, the iconic German frontman reunited with his former bandmates for Accept's initial reformation, one that would last four years and three albums, before Dirkschneider resurrected U.D.O. with a revised lineup that remains largely the same in 2009. And this year sees the release of their 12th studio album, 'Dominator', a stylistically varied set of melodically catchy tracks that are undoubtedly set to become sing-along classics in their live incarnations alongside an already extensive back catalogue of anthemic compositions. With Dirkschneider in London for a busy press day, I had some time booked in to speak with him on the phone about the past, present, and future, including a discussion around the latest Accept reunion and his reasons for opting out on this occasion...
MD: How is your press day going?
UD: Er, yeah, it’s…quite busy! [laughs]
MD: Are you tired of answering the same kind of questions at the moment?
UD: In a way, of course you have the same questions, but you can make it a little bit more interesting on your own. [laughs]
MD: Hopefully I’ll have some different kind of questions for you! I caught most of your set at Rockweekend in Sweden last month - how was that show for you? It was pretty impressive from a spectator point of view and you got a great crowd reaction.
UD: Yeah, I mean it was very good, In Sweden, U.D.O. is quite well known and what we are doing on festivals is we do a more best of stuff. It’s different than when we do a normal tour. I mean, at festivals, people want to hear all this classic stuff, the most known songs, and they want to have a good time. And the reaction was, what can I say, very, very good.
MD: I had two members of the Swedish band Crucified Barbara singing along to ‘Metal Heart’ in the middle of my interview with them in the VIP tent when you started playing that song - is that a band you’re aware of?
UD: Yeah, but I didn’t see them.
MD: They played much earlier in the day. Ida and Klara said they have a club in Stockholm called Metal Heart.
UD: Yeah, yeah, I know this. [laughs]
MD: So they got quite excited when you played that song! You incorporated a lot of Accept songs in your set - do you feel the need to always include these to please the Accept fans at your shows?
UD: Yeah, I mean some people say “oh, you play too much of Accept songs”, but we don’t do this anymore when we go on tour with U.D.O. Then, we play maybe three songs of the real classic stuff. But, at the festival, I think people want to hear these songs. It’s also my history, and I want to give the people what they want. That, I think, is the most important thing.
MD: Yeah, I suppose definitely at a festival where you maybe have a shorter set and…
UD: Yeah, you have a short set and, of course, you do the best songs you have, put them in, and the reaction explains everything!
MD: Would you say your fan base is mainly comprised of old Accept fans who have followed your career, or would you say U.D.O. has its own audience too with new, younger generations of fans?
UD: Yeah, I mean we do U.D.O. for…
MD: Is it twenty two years?
UD: Yes, twenty, but with a little break in between. And now with the second time of U.D.O., we are now together for nearly thirteen years, and with a real steady lineup, just the drummer changing five years ago. So, I mean, we have already a lot of U.D.O. fans and, of course, they say yeah, they listen to Accept, but really U.D.O. songs and they’re U.D.O. fans. But what has also happened, let’s say the last three years, a lot of young people are coming to the concerts; a new generation. But it’s also interesting to see when you are on stage and you have fifteen and sixteen years old fans - they’re also singing all these Accept songs, and it’s funny!
MD: Such young people!
UD: Yeah! [laughs] Of course, that means in a way they didn’t know what Accept was but when the heavy metal fans are very much into a band then they start searching what they did before, blah, blah, blah….and then, of course, they find out there was already a long history.
MD: Congratulations on the new album, ‘Dominator’, it’s a great record.
UD: Thank you.
MD: How pleased are you with the final recordings, and do you see it as a progression in the band’s sound and song writing from ‘Mastercutor’?
UD: I think this is definitely a step forward again. There is so much different stuff on this, you know. ‘Mastercutor’ was much closer songs but, on this, I think it shows the whole range of U.D.O. and what we can do. Yeah, what can I say, this is a mix of all U.D.O. stuff; what we ever did. And yeah, I’m very satisfied, and very pleased with the new album - especially songs like ‘Whispers in the Dark’, especially for me, my voice, I can now also sing more with a deeper voice, so my range is going wider.
MD: Yeah, I thought that was quite different. Do you think your voice has matured with age in that way then?
UD: Yeah, so I mean, for me, it’s good to know that I can handle also now the deeper voice, and that means I can do a lot more things.
MD: Musically, there are a lot of different styles on the album - like you have the all-out metal tracks like ‘Speed Demon’; kind of melodic hard rock with ‘Doom Ride’, and then you have the fun songs like…I have to say, I’m addicted to this song, ‘Devil’s Rendezvous’…
UD: Yeah! [laughs]
MD: It’s a great, really catchy track. It kind of has overtones of Helloween’s ‘Dr Stein’ in the melody of the verse as well.
UD: Yeah, maybe.
MD: Was it a conscious decision to vary the styles so much on the album?
UD: Er, no, when we start writing songs we start off with the lyrics. So we had this title, ‘Devil’s Rendezvous’, and when we’re writing the lyrics and we started already singing some melodies blah, blah, blah. And then we were sitting there and, okay, they had “The devil’s, the devil’s, the devil’s, the devil’s…”, and then the melody came. And then we said, okay, this is more like a swing, and then we were finger snapping [laughs], and then I said “okay Stefan, wait, wait, wait, get the guitar”, and this song, in fifty minutes, the whole song was done.
MD: Wow, that was a quick one then.
UD: Sometimes that happens. Like we had also a couple of songs with Accept that were written in ten minutes, - really in the rehearsal room, you know, boom, boom, boom…done. Not a hundred per cent, but in a way, eighty per cent. For example, the song ‘Burning’ was written in ten minutes.
UD: Yeah, it was really like a jam sessions and then, okay, that’s it! [laughs] And also a song like ‘Restless and Wild’ was also another song….”dum-da-da-dum-da-da-dum-da-da-dum”. Okay, the lyrics weren’t complete when we first played there. We started with first doing the music and then singing something on top, but this song was also written very quickly.
MD: U.D.O. had an EP out, ‘Infected’, just two months prior to the release of ‘Dominator’ - was that purely a label decision to release the two so close together, or did they consult you about that?
UD: It was the idea of the record company. In a way, the idea to promote the album with this EP is okay, but when they came up and said “we need a lot of material for this EP”, we said “okay, we can re-release ‘Cry Soldier Cry’, the Russian version to a re-mix, and then we have left ‘Trainride in Russia’ recorded live in Moscow”. And then we said “okay, then you want to do ‘Infected’ as a song to represent, in a way, the ‘Dominator’ album”. And then we said “come on, two more songs for 2,222 EPs…we don’t want to lose two songs just for two thousand EPs”. And then in the end after a lot of talking they said “let’s make a compromise”; we said “okay, we’ll put these two songs on but someday later on, maybe next year, maybe then we’ll have to put these songs on the internet for free downloading or stuff like that; we don’t want to lose these songs.” And then you always lose already a song for Japan as it’s always they want to have a bonus track. So, I mean, in a way, you can say it was more an idea of the record company.
MD: Yeah, it’s kind of strange these days where CD sales have gone down; it seems a strange decision to put out two records by the same band so close together.
UD: Yeah, but what can you say! [laughs]