Interview by Marko Syrjala & Luxi Lahtinen
pics by Marko Syrjala
Udo Dirkschneider is a living legend. He’s one of the founding members of Accept, one of the most important bands in heavy metal history. Together they released a series of classic albums like “Balls To The Wall,” “Restless and Wild,” and “Metal Heart,” which sold millions of copies worldwide. After he left Accept in the late eighties, Udo started a new band called U.D.O. They released four very successful albums before Udo decided to reunite with Accept, but just a few years later, Accept broke up again, and it was time to regroup U.D.O in 1997. Now, Accept’s voice has once again returned with his brand new album called “Thunderball,” and I was lucky enough to talk with the master himself before their show in Finland in October 2004.
Well, first of all, welcome back to Finland once again. How has this current tour been going so far?
The tour? Very well, I have to say. We are just in the middle of this tour, which we started at the beginning of last March in Brazil. Then we did a lot of Eastern countries and Russia and Ukraine. Then we did a lot of touring in Germany and nearly everywhere in Europe. We did a lot of festivals last summer, and now we are doing a Scandinavian tour. After Finland, there will be three more shows in Scandinavia, and then we have a little break, and still, we have some more shows in at least in Israel and Lebanon, which is going to be our first time there, and we’ll see what’s going to happen on there? (laughs).
Right, that might be interesting? (laughs).
Definitely, then at the beginning of next year, we have to do three more countries in Europe. France, we didn’t in the spring? So we have France, Spain, and Portugal to do, and then we go to America for a couple of weeks or months (laughs). Is it still open a little bit?
Are you going to do the U.S tour alone or together with some other bands?
I don’t know yet. We are working on it now, and there has been talking about doing something together with Doro? Maybe we do something together with Saxon and Krokus? I don’t know yet for sure? There are a lot of possibilities, and we now think about what we want to do? After America, we have to go back to South America again, and then we are doing the second part of our Russian tour, so? I think this tour will go on until March next year or something?
So this tour will be more than one year from start to finish?
True. But of course, there have been some breaks in between.
That’s good for you?
Unfortunately, we have some breaks sometimes (laughs).
Well, this tour must be one of the extensive tours so far in U.D.O history? If you compare this one to previous U.D.O tours, is anything different this time?
Not all the gigs are sold out, but what I’ve learned is this tour has been the most successful ever for U.D.O. There are a lot of really interested people. There have been many young people in the audience, which is good. The new generation of fans for this kind of music and that’s very interesting.
You have been doing this thing for quite a long time already. How much do you see the kind of diehard fans? In the audience, who do you recognize since the early days?
Yeah, of course, there are some of them. Of course, I mean, there are old diehard fans I’ve met and seen several times during the years. It’s always interesting to talk with these people because they know my career better than me (laughs)!
Are they bringing some memories and stuff from the past back to you?
Yes, of course? (laughs) I’ve forgotten some of the things in purpose, but they do know them anyway (laughs). But it’s definitely a good thing. It’s very important to communicate with fans.
Ok. Then I have some questions about your new album “Thunderball.” There’s one track that is VERY different from any other stuff you’ve done in your history, “Train Ride through Russia”?
What’s the story behind that song??
Let’s say it this way? When we started writing lyrics for the album, we thought, “Why are we not writing about our own experiences when we are on tour”?? The first thing that came to mind was what happened when we were on tour in Russia. There happened many funny things in Russia, so when I finished the lyrics for that song, I started to think about what kind of music we could put on it? What was, in a way, at the beginning more fun? Let’s try to make a little bit of Russia. So it was a kind of experiment, you know balalaika and stuff like that. Then the song developed in the studio more and more, and in the end, I said, okay, let’s try to sing the chorus in Russian, and everybody said, okay. We put it on the album just for fun, so for us, it was just one song to see what kind of reactions there would be…(laughs).
For me, it sounds like a Finnish band called Eläkeläiset? Do you know them?
Yeah. Almost everyone who lives in Germany does know them (laughs). Well, what can I say? Does nearly everybody still want to hear that song?
But you are not going to play it live??
Why? The reason is that we have a problem with our drummer Lorenzo. His sister died two weeks ago. She was very young. She was thirty-three years old, and she had two kids. Mental wise Lorenzo wasn’t in the mood to do this Scandinavian tour, and then I said, what can we do? Cancel the tour or look for a drummer who can help us out? Our guitar player Igor has a friend from Italy who said, let’s try it and see if he can do this, and then he has ten days for twenty-one songs. It sure wasn’t a too easy thing to do, and he’s still nervous, but I mean, normally we play… When we did the last Russian tour, we did songs like?”Land Of a Midnight Sun” and stuff like that, and normally we do change the set every night at least two or three songs, but on this tour, we are stick to do just those twenty-one songs, and we can’t change anything. Otherwise, it’s too much for him. So on this song, “Train Ride Through Russia,” It’s not easy to play. It might sound easy, but it’s not easy to play, and so on. We are lucky enough to even to this tour, and on this tour, we have to stick with that setlist that we have.
Is it the same reason that there will be not too many songs from “Mean Machine” and “Faceless World” albums?
Well, you are right. Let’s say the songs of”Faceless World” Are not easy to play. I mean, we just did two songs from it on the last tour. We did “Heart Of Gold” and “Living On A Frontline” and those we can play live, but the rest of it, I think? Normally in the studio.,we put some keyboards on the songs, but we can still play those songs without keyboards. But on the Faceless World album, there are a little bit too many keys on it, and if you play some songs? (laughs) We tried to play some more songs from that album without keyboards, but it didn’t work. It sounded impossible (laughs). The only two songs we can do. For a long time, “Living On The Frontline” was always on the set, and “Heart Of Gold” we did last time in Russia. It’s not easy. It’s not easy without keyboards, and we don’t want to have one more player on stage just for three or four songs. It doesn’t make any sense for us. So maybe we will do some more in the future? I don’t know?
When you are doing a show, there are always many old Accept fans who repeatedly request the same old songs. How do you feel about that?
Yeah, true, but…
But you have already done nine studio albums with U.D.O, and there is a lot of good stuff to play?
Yes, nine albums with U.D.O and ten with Accept (laughs). Yes!
Do you ever think that? Hey, this band is not called Accept. This is U.D.O!?
Yes, sometimes I do, but the problem is that you can not say this is U.D.O. I mean, it’s just a different name, but we are still doing the same kind of music, and of course, it’s the same voice, and we are doing 50% Accept songs on every show. If I don’t play a song like “Balls To The Wall,” “Princess Of The Dawn,” or “Fast As A Shark,” and stuff like that, people will go nuts (laughs). I mean, for me it’s no problem to do these songs. I mean, if I had the name Accept, this band would not be called U.D.O; it would be called Accept definitely. Let’s say that the voice is the most important for this thing, and that same voice is the trademark of Accept. Wolf was another trademark of Accept with his guitar playing, but Stefan is very close. There is, in a way… the name of the band is U.D.O, but you know? (laughs)
Ok. I understand what you mean. This one has been asked very often but let’s do it again. There are now rumors flying about the Accept reunion. Is there any truth behind those rumors this time??
Oh no? This rumor comes out every year (laughs).
So is there any truth on it now?
No! I mean?
Has anyone like Wolf or Peter even contacted you because of that?
Yeah. But we are still in contact with Wolf and Peter, but we just talk to each other, we just, I actually met Wolf four weeks ago. He was in Germany to visit his family, but we didn’t talk about music. I mean, we have been so long together, and we have families and stuff. We are talking about what’s going on in private life and that usual stuff, you know? But of course, he knows what I am and what I’m doing, but they are in a way we can say out of the music business since I started U.D.O again. Wolf was doing one album with classic stuff with Peter Baltes.
I do know that some years ago, Peter did some stuff together with John Norum?
Yeah, I do know that. He did some stuff. He was also composing some stuff for radio stations and stuff like that. They are not in the music business anymore. In a way, I don’t want to say never because you never know, but? Maybe? What would be interesting, maybe if I have a longer break with U.D.O maybe I would like to do some festivals with them. I don’t know?
Not complete tour or new records but just a few shows?
I mean, Accept again with a real reunion? No way! If it wasn’t working on the first try, why would it work now (laughs)?
Ok. Some more speculation here? If those Accept shows would happen someday, who would play drums then?
Hah! I don’t know? Likely he would be the drummer of U.D.O? (laughs) surely, Stefan can not play drums anymore. It’s not possible. We are happy that we can play even with the guitar. You know he always has had problems with his neck and his back. The movement is different when you play drums, and now when he’s doing guitar, it works much better for him. So we are lucky that he can do this at all. Who would play drums for Accept? I have no idea (laughs).
Okay. We all are going to see what is going to happen if it happens someday? One thing came to mind. I was at the Wacken festival this year, and it was announced that you were supposed to be there and do a few songs together with Doro there? But you weren’t on the spot at all??
Eh? There was a lot of confusion. They phoned me up when I was just packing my luggage because I was going on holiday. So there were some messages on the answering machine: “Would you come here and do some songs with us??” When I heard those messages, I called them back. I said like: “Could you please tell me a little bit earlier because I’m in Spain now?” (laughs) So there was a lot of confusion, and there was a mistake because of Doro’s management. He made a big mistake. They were asking me when I was doing the song”Breaking The Law” together with Doro in a studio, and that happened in wintertime, and that was also before I was going on tour with U.D.O. They said maybe something happens in Wacken and stuff, and “blah blah blah,” I said, yeah, if I have time, why not? I can do this, but then I hear nothing. Maybe three days before Wacken was happening, they phoned me up, and I was already in Canaria (laughs), But what I think I may and do some shows with her then? She’s on tour now doing that classic stuff, and maybe if I am in Germany at the beginning of December, I will do that.
Tell us something about your new DVD called “Thundervision”?
“Thundervision” DVD. Yeah, we talked to the record company that U.D.O was doing no videos for such a long time, so they said okay because now it’s possible in Germany again to get a video on TV. Hence, and then we decided to do it. We have some very good friends, and with them, we decided to do five video clips, and then the idea came, of course. We had five video clips ready, and we decided to put them out as a mini DVD with some interviews and stuff. In a way, I’m happy that we did videos because countries like Russia, Eastern Europe, and other countries are all put on this on TV, and they were also shown in America and South America. For Germany, it’s still a little bit heavy, but it goes.
Is your son also performing on that DVD?
Yes, he is. He’s playing young Udo at the beginning of the song “The Arbiter” (laughs)
There’s also another DVD called “Nailed To Metal?”. Could you tell us something about that release?
“Nailed To Metal.” Well, that was more like a history of U.D.O. We did put all the old videos, clips, and stuff on it. It’s a document of our history. We also had video footage of something like seven or eight songs from “Live from Russia,” and we also put them on it. Many people keep on asking for DVDs like that for years, and finally, we just decided to put it out and are very happy about that. I think it’s a good package, and there is enough good material to keep fans happy?
I agree. It’s a great DVD, and I haven’t seen a lot of stuff in years, if ever. Do you have plans to release some more DVDs shortly?
Actually, at the moment we are planning to do a DVD of this “Thunderball” -tour, but we won’t do that next year?
That sounds like a great plan! Okay, our time is slowly turning down, but I still have time to ask something. Let’s take this one? When you first time left the Accept, did you already had plans to start your own band?
Well, in the beginning, the problem was that I never left Accept. They wanted to have a different singer than (laughs) Big mistake (laughs). No, I mean, that wasn’t so easy for me because I had never worked with anybody else. I had never composed it with different people, so in a way, I was lucky that?”Animal House” album wasn’t? Normally, I mean that album, the songs the whole album was the next Accept album after”Russian Roulette.” So the songs were already written. It was an easy start for me. What wasn’t easy for me was to find the right musicians who could do this. It was a very heavy time initially, especially during “Animal House” and “Mean Machine,” but in a way, it was a steady lineup. Not as steady as we have now with the second time with U.D.O, but we managed.
Matthias Dieth was the only remaining member who stayed with you until you rejoined Accept. When you restarted U.D.O., did you ever try to get the old lineup back together, especially Matthias?
No. I knew that he was completely out of the music business. He’s a quite successful lawyer, so he was not interested anymore in making music again. Short hair and stuff, you know? Now he is Doctor Matthias Dieth, and he is completely out of the music world. I got Stefan Schwarzmann back, and then I found Fitty. I knew Fitty from the early days. He was in a band called Bullet, and that was at the beginning of the eighties. I knew him and his old guitar player Jorn Graf came with him. In a way, it was really easy to start U.D.O again. At some point, Schwarzmann had some personal problems and had to go, and we had problems with our second guitar player. And I then found Igor and Lorenzo, and here we are (laughs)!
Ok. Now we have to finish this one. Thanks for your time, and see you later in the evening!
No problem. See you at the show!
SPECIAL THANX TO TUULA SALMINEN FROM SPINEFARM
TO GET THIS INTERVIEW DONE !!