Interview and pictures by Marko Syrjälä
Udo Dirkscheider’s band U.D.O. recently released a brand new studio album, “Mission X,” which, as the name says, is their tenth studio album to date. Last summer, he also did a kind of reunion tour with his old bandmates Accept. Together, they did a series of successful gigs and headlining huge festivals like Wacken, Swedenrock, Gods Of Metal, and Tuska Festival. While Udo is waiting for a new U.D.O. tour to start in January, he’s working on several other projects like the one he already did with Russian pop band Factor 2 and now another one with Finnish monster band Lordi. I met Udo when he flew to Finland in early November to do vocals for the Lordi album, and we talked about all these things. At the end of our discussion, the main monster, Mr. Lordi himself, showed up, and we talked some more about their collaboration and some other interesting topics …
MAN ON THE MISSION
You just recently released the tenth U.D.O album called “Mission X.”
UDO: Yes. Mission number ten
How has this new album been doing so far?
UDO: I only know what the record label had told me, but I’ve heard that it’s doing very well, and we have received a very good response and reviews. I’m pleased with the result because we did the recording very quickly this time, but the reason for that was Accept tour “laughs”!
If I’m right, was this album recorded already some time in early spring?
Do you think that this album received some extra publicity because of the Accept tour?
UDO: I don’t know? I don’t think that this album is selling more because of what I did with Accept. When we put out the single “24/7” of this album in Germany at the beginning of June, it went straight away in Germany’s singles chart. It was the first time I’ve been on single charts in Germany with any band, so it was obvious that something better was going on. At that time, Accept was just starting the summer festival tour, and for me, of course, it was good that we did all those festivals with Accept because then I could promote the upcoming U.D.O album. Actually, that was one of the reasons why I did the Accept tour “laughs.”
I remember when Accept was in Helsinki last summer, and you did interviews only about the new U.D.O album, right?
UDO: That’s true, “laughs.”
Former U.D.O lead guitar player Matthias Dieth is also doing some guitars on this new album. How did you manage to get him to participate in this album?
UDO: Yeah. He’s still a good friend of ours, but he’s now a lawyer in Germany in the music business, but he’s not in a music business like we are. He has short hair, he looks completely different from what he did in the past, and he’s completely out of the music business, but sometimes he visits our place because he’s still very interested in how things are going. On one evening, when we were recording our new album and just re-doing solo for Way Of Life”, he came down to the studio, and after a couple of beers, he said, “Would you let me play some guitar and try to do that solo?” and we said “Okay. If you like it, can we put it on the album?” and that’s how it went, “laughs.” You know, I’m still in contact with all these former U.D.O members like Thomas Smuszynski and Stefan Scharfmann. We all are still in contact, and there no bad feelings between us.
How about songwriting for U.D.O? These days, it is basically just you and Stefan who does everything?
UDO: Yeah, that’s definitely true on the last album but on “Thunderball” and “Holy” –albums, the whole band was much more involved. We had to start writing directly after the “Thunderball” tour in December, and because of all Accept stuff, this new album had to be finished at the end of last March. So when I said to the guys, “C’mon and come up with some new songs?” but they were like, “okay.” So at this time, almost everything is written by Stefan and me because the others didn’t have too much useful material finished at that time. There is one song which is written by Igor, anyway, we told the guys that you have to write new songs all over the year, not only on a certain period when we have to do an album. So everything it’s up to the guys. They should come up with some more songs next time?
How do you share writing between you and Stefan? I mean, who writes the lyrics and so on?
UDO: Most of the lyrics are from the ideas that I have. I have the basic idea, and then we finish it together with Stefan. It usually goes like that.
Tell us something about “Mission X” lyrics?
UDO: Well, let’s say that “Cry Soldier Cry” is definitely an antiwar song, and the rest is, in a way, some more rock ‘n roll stuff. “24/7” is like telling people that there are only 24 hours and seven days in a week to work our duty, which is “Mission Number X,” which is the ambition of our music. “Mad for Crazy” and “Shellshock Fever” are basically telling people about how crazy we are when we still are making music like this. Some songs go against TV, which’s shown on the TV already in the afternoon in primetime, but I think that 70% percent of this album is more lyrics about our music. What we are doing, what is our lifestyle, you know? The song “Way of Life” is a perfect example of our life and our style of living.
“Way of Life” was originally recorded for the “No Limits” album, and I was going to ask why to re-record that song now?
UDO: We always think that we weren’t too happy about producing the original version of “No Limits.” In a way, it’s a kind of bonus song on this record, and we wanted to do it sound more straight ahead and rock ‘n roll than the original version was. I think that song is now coming out much better than it did on “No Limits” because I think that the original version is too overproduced.
Well … in my opinion, the whole “No Limits” album is way too overproduced?
UDO: You are absolutely right. Unfortunately, I found that out a couple of years later, after that album was released, “laughs” There are some terrific songs on that album, but the production is too soft and clean.
So do you think that “Way Of Life” will be a part of your next tour setlist?
UDO: Definitely, “laughs.”
Well, I have been asked to ask you about this. You have used the words “Killing Machine” in almost every U.D.O album. What do you actually mean with “Killing Machine”?
UDO: “Killing Machine,” right. Doesn’t it depend on the way how you use it? Sometimes when we say “We are Killing Machines,” that means no bad things for you, but it means that we are kind of killing machines with our music and stuff like that. It certainly doesn’t mean anything like “War, we are killing everything” because they are totally against killing and tell people not to do that “laughs.” Interestingly, in the old days, not so old (Accept) days “laughs,” but at the beginning of U.D.O, we always had the music first, and then later, we came up with the lyrics and the melodies. Since the “Thunderball” album, we started with lyrics and melodies, and then we put music on. After all these years, we found out that it’s much easier when you have the lyrics first, and you know what you are talking about, and when you have the melodies already, it’s easier to find out the right atmosphere on it. That’s why “Mission X” was like, I don’t know for sure, but it was like very, very easy to write. We thought, “Here we go, we don’t have too much time, and we have to do everything very quickly,” but I also think in the end that I was thinking also Accept, and that’s why we had to do this album for under such pressure. You know, without too much thinking and just do it. I think it was a good way to do that album.
It was like the same way you used to work with Accept in the old days?
UDO: Yeah. Really just do it and don’t think too much. I think it’s a good way to do a record.
You have “Mission Tour Poll” running on your homepage (
www.udo-online.de), where people can go and vote for songs for the new tour. Tell us some more about that?
UDO: Well, the idea of that poll is that after releasing 10 U.D.O albums, we now have something like 150 U.D.O songs to choose from. People are always asking us to play this song and that song, so we decided to make voting, and people can now vote for their favorites and songs they want to hear. It’s also interesting for us to see which songs are most popular and there are some true surprises, in my opinion. “They Want War” is clearly the most popular song on the poll, and when I saw that, I was like, “okay …?” “laughs.”
Also, “Go Back to Hell” is doing quite well?
UDO: Yes, it does, and we will definitely play “Go Back to Hell” and “They Want War” on the next tour. We will do songs from “Faceless World” also. “Heart of Cold” for sure and then maybe “Trip to Nowhere.” It will be a very interesting setlist this time.
How about playing something from the “Mean Machine” album?
UDO: From “Mean Machine” album … maybe we are doing something, I don’t know for sure? At the moment we are planning to do something new on the next tour. We might do a part that will be acoustic, but it’s still in the planning stage. We would like to do apart: acoustic guitars and me singing on stage doing three or four songs like that way. Different arrangements for guitars and stuff like that. Maybe we do that, or then we don’t? So there are a lot of things we are planning for the next tour.
You have a new drummer Francesco Jovino on your band now?
What happened to Lorenzo Milani, who was his predecessor and played something like five years with U.D.O?
UDO: Well, this is a very, very bad story, and let put it this way. Last year before we did the last part of the U.D.O tour in Scandinavia, it was in July, I think? Lorenzo’s sister died, and she was just 30 years old. She had three little kids, and then we said, “Ok Lorenzo. Maybe we cancel some festivals, and you can have some time to deal with this thing?” but he said, “No, I don’t wanna do this for you. I want to do these festivals and get through of thinking my sister all the time” and so on … Well, then we did the festivals and then we had a little break, like a month, before we started the Scandinavian tour. Then it was two weeks, a little bit more than two weeks, before the tour he was phoning up, and he said that he had sold everything and he is out of business, and he didn’t want to be our drummer anymore. I said, “Hey, come on!” and asked the reasons and everything. I asked him, “Please, can we just do this Scandinavian tour before you quit? It’s almost impossible to find a new drummer for the tour in that situation?” but he said, “No, I don’t wanna do this anymore,” end of the story. Then Igor, our guitar player, came to me and said he knows a guy in Italy who had done some things together in the studio with him in the past, and then Francesco came in and saved our tour. What can I say? We were so lucky to find this guy. I think he fits perfectly in this band because he’s more into heavy metal than Lorenzo ever was.
Live in Giants Of Rock, FINLAND in 1994
Speaking of former U.D.O drummers, we also have Stefan Schwarfmann, who played in U.D.O before Lorenzo.
He said in some interviews that you are not using “real drums” on U.D.O albums, but you are using Stefan Kauffman’s programmed drums. How much is it true on that statement?
UDO: Ha ha ha… Let’s say it this way. I think he said it a little bit wrong. He knew that he was not the most timing drummer in the studio. What he was doing in a studio, he always had problems with this, especially when Stefan Kauffmann was the producer. He was playing the drums, but he set the whole drums together into the computer and Stefan Kauffman. Stefan kind of fixed his drums all the time, and Stefan Schwarfmann was never too happy about that. But I think that at that time … I don’t want to talk bad things about him, but at that time he has some personal problems back then. When we recently did together with the Accept stuff, he talked about those old things all the time, and I said, “Stefan, come on,” “laughs” ….
I heard he plays with Uli Jon Roth at the moment?
UDO: Yeah, and I think he’s also doing Victory now? I think he did an excellent job with Accept, and I mean, if we have any problems with our new drummer, he is definitely one of the guys I would take back into U.D.O. He’s clean now with everything, and he’s in great shape. He had very bad times, but I don’t wanna talk about too personal things, and it’s a past, and I don’t wanna look back, “laughs.”
Tell us something about your next project after the “Mission X” tour. I heard it’s going to be something like U.D.O goes classical??
UDO: Yeah, that’s true. You have already heard about that “laughs.” I just had a meeting about that with our record company, and when everything is set up for the upcoming tour, we will continue talking more about that project. But before that we have to set up Mission X –tour and are also planning a new U.D.O DVD.
Is that DVD going to be a complete live DVD this time?
UDO: It’s going to be definitely live because that’s what people keep on asking all the time from us. The next project will be a classic album after the tour and DVD, but not away like Metallica did some years ago. They just played their songs with the orchestra to make it sound bigger, but the way we want to do it is different. We want to change the whole arrangement, you know? At the moment we don’t know which songs we are going to do but let’s say it like this. The orchestra will be the most important thing, and we will see just…
Backing up the orchestra?
UDO: Right, so we want to be just a backing band for the orchestra. This is the whole idea, but it will be very interesting because I know that Ronnie James Dio will be a part of it, and then I have already talked to some other guys who will be involved.
Is this project going to be something like what DORO did last year with her “Classic Diamonds” album?
UDO: In a way, yes.
Because you did some vocals for her album, is it possible that she will appear on your album then?
UDO: Well … “laughs,” I don’t want to tell too much about that project now, “laughs.” Let’s say that the only name I can say for sure now is Ronnie James Dio. We have already talked about that project, but there will be more interesting names coming. Very interesting names, I promise, “laughs.”
Well, I remember that someone mentioned Wolf’s name at some point??
UDO: Hmmm…Let’s see…. “laughs.”
THE ACCEPT TOUR
How about the Accept tour? How it went overall, in your opinion?
UDO: Accept; I mean, this is a thing. I was on a ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm when I got a phone call saying, “We heard that you are not doing anything with U.D.O next year. Maybe there is a chance to do some festivals with Accept?” I said, “maybe?” I wasn’t too happy about that idea initially, and I didn’t want them to believe that I was screaming to do that. So I had to talk with the record company. I had to talk to the U.D.O and the guys in the band who were really nervous in the beginning because they think that I was going to leave U.D.O and stuff like that. The most important thing for us to do after a successful “Thunderball –tour” was to record a new U.D.O album. So I talked to the record company and the guys and said that we could use the whole Accept thing for promoting the next U.D.O album. Personally, it was a difficult decision for me to do that whole Accept thing and the reason I said yes for the whole thing was that I wanted to find out if there was anything left? But I think I can just say it by me, not by Wolf or Peter, but for me, I can say that there is nothing left. It was a lot of fun, and I think it was also fun for people to see Accept again because we did outstanding shows. But there is no future, and I’m not talking about the personal level because now we are talking to each other more than we did before
Did you have any discussions about possible new recordings with Accept while you were on tour?
UDO: No, no at all “laughs” Of course we had some drinks together, and we were talking about the business and stuff, but Wolf maybe finds out, I think he finds out that if I say we should do it again, he would say yes but in the beginning, he said, “No, I don’t wanna do it.” But I think that he was really thinking about doing something more with Accept after doing all these shows. The thing is that if he really wanted to do something like that, why he never came up during all the shows and said, “Hey Udo, I got some new songs, do you wanna hear them?” or something like that. There was nothing. Music-wise he was maybe thinking something, and I was like, this is very hard to explain, but I felt inside of me, “Don’t do it, don’t do it!!). I think that this was a perfect way to finish Accept.
Accept on stage 2005. The final chapter?
So you are saying that this was definitely the last time we saw Accept on stage?
UDO: Maybe not the last time because there might be a live DVD coming from that tour, “laughs.” It will include the whole reunion thing and stuff, but then that’s it!
Have you heard some of those statements what Wolf said about you during the tour?
UDO: I don’t know. I think he did a lot of very boring interviews about the things we just discussed. When I read them, I was wondering what was coming up from his mind. I mean, when he started doing interviews, he said, “I have no problem to do Accept, but Udo doesn’t want to do it. There will be no real reunion because of Udo”. Still, it wasn’t a too long time ago when he said, “No, Accept I don’t wanna do it because I hate that business. I don’t wanna be in the music business anymore”.
And now he even does show with Sebastian Bach, and he has plans to tour on his own next year?
UDO: Yeah, I know about that. I think this is some kind of fear of him, you know? I mean, he knew that I was working with U.D.O, and we had a new album coming out, and he knows what I was thinking all the time. From my side, there wasn’t any re-union at any point, and he knew that right from the beginning, and now he’s changing the story.
So he’s the one who decided to change his mind?
UDO: Exactly, he changed his mind. If he wants to, he can still do Accept but with a different singer “laughs.”
Accept’s second “farewell tour” with Michael Cartellone on drums in Helsinki in 1996
UDO BECOMING A POP STAR?
Tell me something about the project you have with some Russian guys at the moment?
UDO: Yeah, I did the song “Cry Soldier Cry” together with a Russian pop duo called Factor 2. They are very popular in Russia now, but they are not just pop duo because they also do some rock things. They also do some other stuff like rap stuff and so on and on. I was really surprised by how popular they are. When they came over to Germany and brought them to the train station, some people asked for their autographs. I was like, “what?” Later on, I have learned that they are also very popular in Germany because about six million Russians are living in Germany. It was an exciting project to do because, for the first time, I did the whole song in the Russian language, which really wasn’t an easy thing to do. It was also great to work together with people from completely different businesses, but it’s like somebody from the record company said music has no borders.
Have you heard the finalized version of the track yet?
UDO: Of course, I have.
How does it sound?
UDO: Very interesting,… “laughs.”
Does it sound more pop music or U.D.O?
UDO: Well, I can not really say pop because it’s like… They’re coming out with some really nice harmonies, which are not a kind of what I’ve used in U.D.O together with my voice. It’s already interesting when you hear the whole song in Russian because there’s a completely different atmosphere there. When you first sing a song in English and then you do the same song in Russian, you think what the lyrics are about and put the same feeling into that song in Russian, and suddenly you are thinking that song in Russian. It was a very strange and new experience for me.
When it’s coming out, by the way?
UDO: We start touring in Russia at the end of September at the beginning of October next year, which will come out some three or four months before that. We are also doing a video clip for that song in Russia; so many new things are coming. So who knows, maybe I become a pop star? “laughs.”
Right, the teenage idol “laughs.”
UDO: You never know, “laughs.”
You are now in Finland because you are doing some vocals for the upcoming Lordi album. Tell us how this project started?
UDO: Well. I was just asked to do this, “laughs.”
Who originally contacted you in the first place?
UDO: They asked me.
When did you hear about Lordi the first time?
UDO: The first time I heard about Lordi was last year. I remember that I saw their video on TV, and I thought this is the music and the look of the band that doesn’t fit together, but it was an exciting combination. Then they send me the song “They Only Come Out at the Night,” which is a good song. Good rock and roll stuff where both vocalists will do fit perfectly together, “laughs.” Tomorrow we will see how it’s going when we do vocals in the studio?
The song “They Only Come Out at the Night.” Did you write this song, especially for Udo?
LORDI: None of the songs were made with any peculiar guest in mind. The songs were already written and selected way before we started asking them.
How would you describe that song is because I haven’t heard it yet?
UDO: In a way, it sounds like what U.D.O did in the eighties, I think? Good rock ’n roll stuff for me. It’s a straightforward rock song.
LORDI: And from my point of view, it was like when it was time to choose a song for Udo it was like this is the song which sounds like Udo and the feeling of the song for me as a fan is like “Okay, this could be a bonus song, this could have been on an “Animal House” or maybe even in a “Faceless World?” This is a straightforward song because it has a very simple structure, but I think that melodies and the harmonies are pretty much like what U.D.O did in the eighties and on the first three albums. We basically share the whole song, a line for Udo, and the next line is me, and so on. The title is something that our guitarist Amen came up with. Of course, it is the title that KISS was about to use in the seventies but never did, so… That song came out really quick. We were sitting down with Amen, and we were actually doing some other songs, but twenty minutes later, we had it already done. That sometimes happens, and it is really fun to work that way. If something good comes out, you´ll never know. It is a really simple, straightforward hard rock song. It fits Udo perfectly, I think!
Do you agree with that, Udo?
UDO: Yeah, in a way, yes. I have to see how it’s coming out for me once I’ve finished my vocals first? But I think it will work out well, “laughs.”
Do you have any ideas of who others will be guesting on this album?
UDO: I heard that Bruce Kulick from KISS would be there, and then are some others whose names I don’t know now?
LORDI: There will be some Twisted Sister guys also.
UDO: Okay. I haven’t heard about that.
What do you think about Lordi’s image overall?
UDO: In a way, when you are in this business, sometimes you gotta do something really different just to be different, and I think it doesn’t matter if you do look like these guys if there is nothing else. In a way, you have to be unique. You must have a special trademark, which is very important, and I think Lordi has a special trademark?
Well, Lordi … When did you get an idea of getting guests like Udo, Bruce Kulick, and others on your next album?
LORDI: Who would not like to have their own idols on their album? To be recognized and honored by people you look up to, the people you grew up with, the people you wanted to be when you grow up it feels a bit unreal! It all actually started last spring when we were on our European tour. We had a day off, and we went to see ESP in Copenhagen. I asked their tour manager Rikk that he would think that Bruce would like to do a guest appearance on our record. The next day I was a bit ashamed, because I was pretty drunk that night, hahaha!! But luckily, a few days later, we got mail that stated yes. And like with many things, the more you eat, the hungrier you get. So, when Rikk just flashed the possibility of also asking some other idols of ours, we were like, hell yeah! So, as Rikk works with TS, Sebastian Bach, and so on and so on, we just kept asking for more, hahaha! We owe Rikk big time. The thing with Udo was a different story. Our A&R Janne Halmkrona said that we should try to have him also. So, we asked Udo, and Udo said ok. I´ve always been a huge fan of Udo, so we were really, really happy to have him! It truly was a dream come true to share vocals with my idol!
Is there are a possibility that there might be some more special guests coming for that record?
LORDI: We´re still waiting for… We are running against time at the moment, but there are few names still that wanted to participate when we asked them. But with people who are touring, making records, and still being very active in the business, it is kinda hard to fit the schedules. Now we are just keeping our fingers crossed that they´ll make it in time…!
Has anyone who you have asked refused to participate in this project?
LORDI: Ummm… Well, technically, no. But we actually never got to ask Alice Cooper himself, but his management turned us down. But that´s ok. We already have more stars than we ever could have dreamed of having, hahaha!!!
When will the new Lordi album be released?
LORDI: It´s coming out on Feb 22nd in Finland, March 3rd, in Germany. That´s all I know. Ask the label!
What are Lordi’s plans for the upcoming year after the album is out?
LORDI: Woah… probably doing some shows, hahaha! Hopefully!
Lordi on stage 2003
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
Because Udo is sitting next to you, I would like to ask some Accept/U.D.O related questions from you. How does it feel to sit next to him right now?
LORDI: Scared. He´s the German Tank. He´s the man, “laughs.”
You never saw classic Accept playing live in the eighties, but in 1988 you saw U.D.O playing in Kuusrock in Oulu, right?
LORDI: Yes, that’s true.
Do you Udo remember anything on that gig?
UDO: Yes, I do remember Oulu quite well.
That was the first tour for you without Accept, right?
UDO: That was the first U.D.O tour ever.
Animal House tour?
UDO: I remember there were a lot of mosquitos in Oulu. But overall it was a nice festival, and I really remember that really well.
LORDI: Well, that was my first festival ever. It was my first time being alone in another city to see some big bands. I remember being in the front row when U.D.O was playing, and ever since, I have been in every U.D.O and Accept show in Finland.
How many times have you seen Udo on stage?
LORDI: Well, I’m sure that you know better because you have seen the same shows as me but let me try… The first time was during “Animal House” in Oulu. It was the “Mean Machine” tour in Ice Hall with Ozzy in 1988, and then there was the reunion tour with Accept, “Objection Overruled” in Tavastia, “Death Row” -tour, “Predator” -tour, Accept farewell tour, and last summers Accept tour and…
You forgot one gig: The “Timebomb” -tour at Giants Of Rock festival in Hämeenlinna in 1991?
LORDI: Yes, that’s true.
UDO: I remember the “Timebomb” gig in Finland very well too. It was a really hot day and our last tour before the first reunion with Accept.
LORDI: Unfortunately, Udo never came to Finland on the “Faceless World” tour because that’s my all-time favorite U.D.O album. If I remember right, you said that you would quit after that tour because you had some health problems back then. I always remember the line that was broadcasted in the air where you said, “Ok. Thank you for everything, and thank you for all these years. I’m done with the music business now”. Do you remember that?
UDO: Maybe I said I don’t know “laughs.”
LORDI: It was after riding the middle of the “Faceless World” tour or something, and I was heartbroken. “What a fuck??” “laughs.”
UDO: Yeah, I remember now. Maybe I said something like that because I had a real health problem then. I was really overworked at that time, so then I went to the hospital, and then I had to change many things in my life. You know, you can not be a composer, producer, manager, and taking care of everything all the time, and my body kind of went broke because of all that. I had to think after “Faceless World,” or actually we had to stop that tour in the middle because of my problems. I remember that before we were supposed to go to England, I said, “Okay, that’s it!” and then I had to think about what I wanted to do in the future? I decided to put things down a little bit, do lesser things, and take more care of myself.
LORDI: The funny thing is that “Faceless World” is still my favorite album, and it’s the only tour I never saw you play live. It was a tough time for a young fan.
Actually, it’s my favorite album of U.D.O also. Let’s really hope that we hear some tracks from that album on the next U.D.O tour? Tour is going to start in January, and you are also coming to Finland then?
UDO: For sure. There will include several dates in Finland then.
That’s great to hear. We’ll see you there then, and Mr.Lordi will probably show up also?
LORDI: There’s no doubt about it !!
Thank you, guys!
FOR MORE INFO GOTO:
SPECIAL THANX TO UDO, LORDI, AND SONY BMG MUSIC FINLAND TO GET THIS INTERVIEW DONE !!!