|Udo Dirkschneider - U.D.O. - Interview Exclusive.|
|Written by Mark Taylor|
|Saturday, 14 May 2011 05:00|
Do we really need to introduce the one and only Udo Dirkschneider to you guys? His legacy as the little guy with the huge voice speaks for itself, having spent most of the Eighties fronting hugely successfully Teutonic Speed Metal pioneers Accept, before starting a solo career that has spanned almost 25 years and 13 studio albums. With the imminent release of his new (and thirteenth) studio album 'Rev-Raptor' we sent Mark Taylor to the swanky surroundings of London's Imperial Hotel to meet the man himself and find out exactly what is happening in the world of U.D.O.
Herr Udo Dirkschneider thank you so much for taking the time to talk with Uber Rock today. How are you sir?
I'm fine thank you very much. Just had some lunch and I'm here in London at the Imperial Hotel to do some interviews and yes it's great to be back.
It's good to have you back sir, OK starting off you have a new album called 'Rev-Raptor' out soon in the UK can you tell us a bit more about that?
Well explaining 'Rev-Raptor' first Rev is the statement of being a rebel and Raptor is a bird of prey and the lyrics are about this character half machine and half human and he is normally a police robot and he's getting out of control, that's basically the story behind the lyrics.
In many ways a bit like yourself, half machine and half human (laughing)
Yeah sometimes (much laughter)
Who plays on the album? You've had the same line up for the last three albums actually haven't you?
Yes the line up is the same, Fitty (Wienhold) the bass player has been with us since '96, and Igor (Gianola - guitar) he joined in 98 and the youngest guy is the drummer (Francesco Jovino) he's be with us since 2004.
And of course you've still got Stefan Kaufmann the other original Accept guy with you.
Yeah we've been together for over 30 years (laughing)
I think I've been lucky with this line up in the first instance I had Mathias (Dieth) he was the only constant, oh and the drummer. You can also hear it, and ever since the 'Holy' album U.D.O's become a real band and not a solo project, I'm really lucky with these guys it's like a family going on.
Would you say that's more beneficial, is it more like a band now?
Yes definitely. I was never really into calling U.D.O a solo project for me it was always a band. People would call it a solo project but for me now it's a band. OK I could do an album and say I want this musician and that musician for the tour but for me its very important to have a constant band.
It's actually your third album in the last five years
That's pretty good going.
Pretty fast. Well, like Germans (laughs)
Yeah every year or year and a half we come up with an album, I don't know maybe we could sit around and see what happens next, but already when we come back from South America we have a meeting to start working on the next album, we always constantly keep going, you don't want to sit around and wait we're always working.
I've listened to the album, and I love it, there's some good head crunching stuff on the album with a great production, so lets start with who produced it?
Umm Stefan Kaufmann produced the album he's produced U.D.O since the 'Faceless World' album, he's being doing it a long time. You know what can I say about Stefan and I? We're like one person. When we start writing songs, we start with the lyrics first then when we have the story you know much better what kind of music to put around the lyrics maybe a sad song yes, maybe a funny song. Strange thing is its almost like we don't have to talk to each other you know, and that was like that also in Accept everyone writes Wolf, Peter and Stefan and I but that's a different story. (laughing) I'm happy with Stefan definitely.
The Album is out on May 23rd and there is an E.P. 'Leatherhead' out at the moment and there's a video for that which is fantastic
The E.P. is down to the record company they want to raise some awareness and to get people interested for the album, but the problem for us is when you put out an E.P. you have to come up with bonus material it's like different versions or different packaging so when you work on an album it cant be 11 or 12 songs you have to do 15, 16 sometimes for us it hard to chose which songs are the bonus ones you know.
Do you wish it could be like the old days when an album was only 40 minutes long?
Yes indeed, sometimes like when you have to put a bonus track on the Japanese version of your album you feel sometimes this song is maybe not as good as it could be. So perhaps a good idea maybe when nothing is happening between tours or making albums is to bring out a bonus album with all the bonus tracks on it. Then people will know the songs and you can perhaps play them live. We tried it once to play a bonus track live and people were like (raises hands in disbelief) no reaction. Oh what's this? Didn't know it. Never heard this song so.... but that's the way it is.
Also the song 'Leatherhead' a great head shaking number really infectious hooks to it I love it. It's only been on Youtube for a few days and the hits are up in the high thousands.
Oh really OK good
I don't know if you realise but in England we have a town called Leatherhead not too far from London
Oh really... Its also um we always have two meanings to our songs on the lyrics leatherhead can be the leader of a street gang someone not to be messed around with you know and also me leader of the gang you know. Always like our songs to have double meanings.
Another great track is the ballad 'I Give As Good As I Get' a change of direction for you?
The bass player Fitty is the ballad song writer, 70% of that song is written by the bass player, he has a studio and lives five minutes from my house which is good plus with all this modern technology with Skype and blah blah blah stuff I can call Stefan and I can sing something to him straight away, you know its good all this modern technology. A song like 'I Give As Good As I Get' is a song that ten years ago I would think I couldn't sing a song like this, but again I think that is also about Stefan he knows exactly where my range is and he goes "Come on you can do this".
I believe that's going to be the next single or next video? I look forward to that.
Yeah it's very interesting this video. On our web page you can already see the "making of" and see what we did with the ballad. The video is centred on just my face, it was very hard, no cuts just once take. It was like "OK here we go" (laughs)
I look forward to seeing that.
It's not the first time you've done a ballad though is it. In 2002 on 'Man and Machine' you did a ballad with Doro Pesch 'Dancing With An Angel'.
Yeah I've known Doro since before she was in Warlock, and we have a very very good relationship, and it was always a wish of ours since the 80's to do a song together. In the 80's you know we had big record companies and the fight started of who is bigger than Doro? Is it Accept? Or Udo? It was like we want a bigger picture and blah blah we were not going to do this then. Then when we did 'Man And Machine' we had this song and we felt it was the right song to do with Doro and this time I had my own record company a small record company so it was very easy and she was so professional. For a woman to remain in this business for so long and survive is very very good
Much like yourself a very long career
We're do a show together in Mexico at the end of April coming up. I'm really looking forward to it. Maybe we'll do 'Dancing With An Angel' I think on You Tube the song has over many thousands of clicks, which makes me think "OK...cool"
Well she's much prettier than you. (laughing)
Yes that might be the reason (more laughing)
Tell us a bit about your vocal range, in England we describe it as "a snarling pit bull terrier", but when did you realise you could use this voice in a rock band and go for it?
Maybe late '68 or '69 before that I was playing keyboards in my first band, but I wasn't a great keyboard player so I started singing more and more, but I never realised I had a special voice. It was just "OK lets do it."
Oh it's very distinctive
Yes? Oh back then it was like OK let's start doing cover versions then very early on we started to create our own songs. But the real breakthrough album for me was probably 'Breaker' with Accept. I think from there on you can hate it or love it there is no in between.
It was the album that put you guys on the European map though.
I think 'Breaker' really was the birth of Accept's true sound. We had a very good producer who knew how to handle my voice. So that was the first time I realised I perhaps had something special with this voice.
So lets talk about your days in Accept, (a fantastic band by the way). You formed the band with Michael Wagener you started out in '68 with the band; Band X.
And then in '71 we changed the name into Accept.
So why the name Accept, it's a bizarre name?
It was nothing special really I had an album by Chicken Shack and it was called 'Accept'. Which we thought sounded very international so "OK we take this one." That was it. You accept us you know very easy.
Accept were around before Thrash, and things like 'Fast As A Shark' wass 100 miles an hour so quite ground breaking stuff really.
A lot of people say it was also the first Speed Metal song you know. We never started out thinking when we were working on songs like that. Lets say 'Fast As A Shark' is Stefan Kaufmann, as at this time he was very much into his double bass drum kit and heavily influenced by Mick Tucker of Sweet but for us at that moment we never realised it was like the first Speed Metal song.
The Brain label released those early albums and were out a long time in Germany before they came out in England so I had to buy them on import and I can always remember the first time I played the 'Restless And Wild' album and it starting off with the scratching and the "Hi Dee Hi Doe" intro who's idea was that?
I don't know I think we were looking for something different to open the album, and then for some reason Dieter Dierk's mother came up with the song I don't know really what happened next but they put it on and it's Dieter Dierks singing at age twelve or something a German folk song, yes this is crazy so we put this in the beginning then we scratched the singing....
And then you SCREAMED!!!!!!
I don't know really why we did it but it was funny and everybody was laughing at the time.
The first time I played it I thought I had bought the wrong record here (laughing)
Maybe that was the reason we did it you know, maybe thinking about it you know to shock people a little bit.
Around that time you did a session for Radio 1's Friday Rock Show here in the UK. They went over to Germany and you did a session and recorded four numbers 'Son Of A Bitch', 'Princess Of Dawn' 'Flash Rockin' Man' and 'Fast As A Shark'. Do you remember much about those times?
Yeah, of course
Because that's what really brought Accept to England at that time. The Friday Rock Show.
Yeah Accept was quite huge in England at that time it wasn't known for a German band to be so popular. People were telling us "Oh England no, you don't want to go to England" and we were like "Why not?" I mean come on its fantastic here and also the Scorpions had the same success. For me I tried many many time to come back to England with U.D.O. I was here in 91 with the 'Timebomb' album then I came back in 2001 and did a couple of shows, then after that.....
I think you were meant to play here last year right at the beginning of January but unfortunately it got cancelled
No we never got any firm offers.
We were asking for gigs here this year and for a festival called Hammer?
It's just gone actually
Well they said they weren't interested in U.D.O. and we were like "OK"
Interesting maybe it's because Accept played it, maybe that was the reason behind that?
There's always Hard Rock Hell 5, which is played at the same venue (laughing)
Who know? Fingers crossed
For me it's not a big problem you know, I mean Accept are back in business with a very good album, I mean they had 10 years to write the album and so you would expect them to write a good album, you know.
Were you surprised by a new Accept album? It's been very successful
Yeah, it's been very successful of course there has been a very big hype around it, and they did a very good tour, and of course people wanted to see what they were doing We'll see what they do in the future when they don't have ten years to write an album.
Are you still in touch with your former band members? I mean have you been in touch to congratulate them?
Um that is another story that I cannot tell you at the moment (laughs) you'll have to wait a couple of weeks for that exclusive (laughs even more)
Back in Accept's days you did some very successful albums, then suddenly you went solo, why did you do that and what made you want to put out a solo album at that time?
After the 'Russian Roulette' album the rest of the guys wanted to be more commercial and they wanted to break the American market, I don't know, I mean we were already selling one and a half million records there, and they played me the songs and I said "guys I cannot sing these songs this is too commercial." But at that time you know there was always a lot of business people around and what can I say it was like they wanted to have another singer n with a more American style blah blah blah....
It was quite a big move on your behalf to go solo at that time, quite a big risk.
Yeah and so in a way the solo album was already written, the 'Animal House' album, as they wanted to be friendly at this time it was made very easy for me o go solo. It was like yeah OK you can use these songs, its OK we don't need them for the new album we want to do something completely different. So that was the start of U.D.O.
Amazingly its almost 25 years I think isn't next year your 25th anniversary as a solo artist?
Yeah I remember working on my second solo album 'Mean Machine' at Dierks Studios and they were at the same studio and you'd see their faces like this "argh." Two years working on the same album 'Eat The Heat' and there was nothing left from what I'd heard, it was all changed. Yeah then they came up with this album its got good songs but what can I say, is it Accept? David Reece is a very good singer but it's not Accept anymore. So they start touring in American six weeks and that was that.
One thing I wanted to talk to you about was cover versions. I don't normally like them but there is one that you did with Raven, 'Born To Be Wild', that sounds like you had so much fun on that.
(Laughing) yes when we were producing the album I think we were quite drunk one night and just did a jam session as a break from recording, we didn't plan to record that song and then I think someone pressed the record button (laughs)
Raven were another band like Accept, a huge influence on Speed Metal and they should have been bigger than what they were really.
Yeah that was a funny time I actually met them last year at some festival.
Yeah they don't really tour that much and never have in England maybe they don't get the offers?
I think they are living in America now, crazy all English musicians moving to America what you want to do that for? (laughing)
Another thing I wanted to talk to you about is Heavy Metal fashion. Everywhere you look these days at festivals its camouflage trousers and combat gear, but you started that really on the 'Restless And Wild' tour. Most bands were wearing spandex, jeans or leather trousers and you come out in army fatigues. What gave you that idea?
Well the idea was to do something different. We were touring and I think it in Hamburg that we went into a military shop and I said I'd try this one and this one and this one so I came out of the dressing room and everyone said, "that's it". And I'm like "you're crazy" as they had all the long hair, but yeah I guess that's was the day when the camouflage look was born.
It's become very iconic in many ways
Yes in many ways, but it was not so easy you know, the management came out and said, "Oh we can't believe you cut your hair" but at that time the band was looking completely different to all that spandex and stuff. But you know we had some problems in some countries with the military stuff. France, Poland you know, they would say ah this is some German Nazi band and we were like "ah come on were not a Nazi band they are just stage clothes" it was a very hard time. But in Germany it was easy and England. Scandinavia was also good but those other two countries you know it was not easy, but as you say now it's fashion.
What do you think now when you see young guys wearing the camouflage trousers, the heavy metal guys? Do you sort of think to yourself that's because of me that is I started that?
(Laughing) I don't know, you see it very often the guys in the camouflage gear and I've tried many time to get away from it - but no chance. It's like my image so...
Do you still wear all the camouflage on stage then?
Yes. Not the whole camouflage thing, normally I'll have a black shirt on with the camouflage trousers with of course the boots, the military boots. The military boots are very important for me on stage.
I can't imagine you in platforms (laughing)
For me on stage I need the heavy boots.
You've done your solo career you moved away from Accept, but you did do a tour with the guys back in 2005, and even before those dates you announced that this would be a short few dates and that was it.
Yeah at this time we had finished recording the U.D.O. album ' Mission No. X' and then some guy from Rock Hard was calling me on the U.D.O. tour saying can you maybe do a festival tour with Accept. I didn't really want to say "no" so we started talking. And then it was like OK but we don't want to do anything of the latest albums just play up to the 'Russian Roulette' album and do all the classic stuff.
Did you enjoy it yourself?
Ummm. Yes (long pause) but not always. I mean U.D.O. had been booked to play a festival in Germany called Bang Your Head, and they were not really happy that U.D.O. was doing a festival show, and I was like "come on guys U.D.O. is not dead" and after this festival I will carry on with U.D.O. it was clear from the very beginning. For me I think at this time it was like closure in my heart it was still beating (laughing) it was to play this festival with U.D.O. then the next day play Graspop with Accept, it was like I suddenly knew I wanted and liked U.D.O. more. Nothing happened you know, we had a lot of fun on that tour talking about the old days blah blah blah, but I don't know how can I explain it, it's just the feeling wasn't right you know so then after that festival thing...yeah.
It was great though for fans like myself because I never saw Accept play originally and I was a massive fan but I was only about 13 or 14 back then so I made a trip to Bilbao to see you play at a festival there so I've finally seen the classic line up together and I really did enjoy it.
Yes after that then I went straight back on tour with U.D.O.
When you go on tour what sort of percentage of songs do you do because I know you still play some Accept songs with UDO tracks?
For the last four maybe five years we only do four Accept song maybe one in the encore but most of the songs are U.D.O. Let's say out of 20 songs its 16 U.D.O. its getting less Accept
Can we see you in the UK sometime soon?
The management told me we are booked for three shows one in London and I don't know the others yet but well see. It will be great shows I know that.
I look forward to that. Fellow German band Scorpions have just retired. How long can Udo and U.D.O. keep going for?
Um I don't know, as long as I feel healthy and my voice still works. As long as it remains a fun thing to do. You know I don't know is there is an end really
Are you surprised that all these rock greats from the 80's like Motorhead keep going and going and going
Yeah, I know Lemmy and Micky D and we meet up at festivals and we talk, but not about music anymore (laughs) its like children, and yeah I have a nice garden, and (laughing) It's sometimes very funny you know, but always when you look on the billing for the big festivals these days you will always see these classic old bands
They're the ones who can still sell the tickets
Yeah a lot of journalists ask not just me but other people, you know, "what will happen when you are not there?" There are a lot of good young bands about but what I miss with a lot of the younger bands is there is no personality on the stage.
Do you think that's because of the video age? In the old days you had to listen to music but today its YouTube and MTV and bands go more for image.
Yes, for me young bands don't really see it as work in progress you know and they need to find their personality but you have to work on this. But that's exactly what I did, now when I see old videos from say '79 and compare it to now, looking at how I moved on stage and then with the camouflage gear and short hair, it was like people said to me "when you came onstage you looked like a murderer. (laughs) but meeting you in private you're like a completely different person." When I go onstage it's like a curtain comes down, it's like something clicks I cannot really explain it you know. Sometimes when I go offstage I cant remember what happened. I think with a lot of young bands now they have the lawyer first then all the best equipment around them but working on the "whole thing" is different, that's my opinion anyway. I had a record label and I was looking and talking to young bands, and after about a few hours it was like "OK guys I wish you all the best but I don't want to sign you". Its completely different thinking and young bands who have success I always say success is when you can stay in this business for 10 years or 20 years it's not two years, and then you're gone. Also a lot of young bands go for like two years then split up create a new band and nothing really continues, I also think this is the story with record companies these days they simply don't support young bands these days
Back in the 70's with Accept it was two or three albums before you found your identity
Yes, a lot of things came from selling a lot of albums in the 80's, and its not that important anymore. For example I know a your German band that was signed and they were telling me the record company wanted to give them 8,000 Euro in advance. So I said to them what do you want to do with this? And they said they wanted international production, so it was like "YES OK" thank you very much (laughs) Another thing for me is modern technology, where some bands come out with a really great album then you go to the show and they cant really do it (laughing) but there are some bands out now who really do get me excited.
OK so what new bands at the moment do you like?
For me I hope they have the right people around them a band from Germany called Kissin' Dynamite, a type of Guns 'N Roses, slightly glam rock band, they have very good songs they are very young maybe 18, 19 or 20 years old and their singer is fantastic as is their guitar player. I'm sort of like a father figure to them and I know this band can make it so we will see. I'm behind them and I'm very much in contact with them and on our last tour in Germany they did four shows with us, and the real Heavy Metal people were all sitting there arms crossed, and it was like OK entertain me, and it takes two maybe three songs and they have these people going mad, and that's the way you have to do it onstage. It was the same for me in England when we came over to support Judas Priest you know.
I heard that you had a really tough time on that tour in England because you weren't really promoted were you?
Yes that was a really tough tour you know. In England there was no hand clapping, nothing it was like in a church between the songs and then at the end the people would stand up. Judas Priest said to us it worked (laughs) some people stood up for you and then some of those people said it worked and that they liked us.
It must have worked because within a year or two you were back playing the same venues but this time headlining.
That was the most important thing to us when we supported someone; you have been given the chance to show the people what you can do, so you have to really keep going. It was the same with our first American tour with Accept where we supported Kiss. I remember the first show was like to 20,000 people and I remember doing the soundcheck in the afternoon and it was like "OK (laughs) where am I?" (laughs more), but it worked you know Kiss would teach us more about entertainment and what it was like in America. you have to do it a little different than in Europe, you know.
One thing you did have in Accept if I can say it, was the "dance moves" or rather choreography you know using the flying V's.
Yeah that's what I mean about these young bands it's about creating something that in a way makes you unique. I know it's very hard these days because almost everything has already been done. Take for example Rammstein they put everything together that was already there presented in a new way, like Kiss did the fireworks, but they just went and did it bigger (laughs) I was talking to them at some festival and they come from East Germany and they were very big Accept fans and I said guys everything you do is about entertaining and they said that is the whole point of doing what we do.
Herr Dirkschneider I could sit here all day and talk to you but you're a very busy man so all that's left to say is a very big thanks and all the best for the release of the new album 'Rev-Raptor' out on May 23rd via AFM Records.
OK, thank you.
And you won't have to wait long to find out what the album sounds like either here at Uber Rock as we have our album review online for you this coming Monday. In the meantime enjoy the video to U.D.O's lead track from the album 'Rev-Raptor' a song which we have now found out is not in fact about an English town but about being a gang leader.
Ladies and gentlemen we give you the awesome 'Leatherhead'.