It’s always a pleasure to chat to someone who has been a fixture in your life for nearly forty years, especially when you’ve never actually exchanged so much as a ‘hello’ before in all that time. For me, Udo Dirkschneider is just such a fixture, first as vocalist with German heavy metal legends Accept and then, over a much longer period, as a solo artist and creator as some of the most downright headbangable heavy metal known to science. So a chance to hook up via the intercontinental telephone service to talk about the man’s excellent new album under the U.D.O. banner, Game Over, was of course snapped up with the alacrity of an alligator looking at a chicken rammed on a gaffe hook in a Floridian water-based theme park…
The album has been out a little while now – are you happy with the reactions to it that you’ve seen? “Yes! The response has been very very good. The fans who have been buying it seem really happy with the new album”.
You have a very clearly defined sound, which we hear again on the new album. How hard is it to keep that sound fresh when recording when you have had such a long career? “It’s good to have good people around you! The two new members this time around, (bassist) Tilen Hudrap and Dee Dammers (guitars) have been great, as has my son Sven; we wrote all the lyrics together and he came up with some of the melodies… And of course, Andrey Smirnov has been with me for nearly ten years now! All these guys are coming up with great ideas. I’m a pretty open-minded guy in general so there’s never a problem in recording a new album… Seventeen albums is a lot of U.D.O. but I’ve never had any problems – a new album is a new challenge!”
There’s a run of three songs on the new album – they just take me back to being a teenager. I wonder if you get that sort of rejuvenated feeling when you sing them… The songs I’m talking about are I See Red, Metal Never Dies and Kids and Guns – it’s just classic material. “It is! I see Red and Kids and Guns are ideas that came from Dee Dammers… He’s twenty eight years old, but even so I think, the guys know what kind of songs I need… I definitely put the right people together in the band! Lyrically they are very good also… you can see red when someone gives you bullshit, or what’s happening around us at the moment… Kids and Guns is a song that’s completely against weapons. In America anyone can buy a gun; In Europe we have some shit going on and in Africa shit goes on with the kidnapping of young boys. They turn them into young soldiers, maybe fourteen or fifteen years old and they are killing people… I think it’s better to talk to each other rather than kill one another, you know? Metal Never Dies lyrically is a little bit o my own biography. I hope that this music we are doing will never die. When I first started doing music I didn’t have much to say, but now I have a lot to say!”
Talking of when you started… the first ever copy of Kerrang! magazine that I bought had Accept on the cover in 1983 “No!”
Did you think then you’d still be doing all this nearly forty years later? ‘Yes! It’s a long time… I’m still not tired of doing it. I’m having fun still, I love to make new albums and being creative. It’s not possible at the moment but I still like to be on tour and to play in front of people. I’m seventy next year and a lot of people ask about whether I’m retiring… No. As long as I have fun, I’m healthy and my voice is working – maybe I’ll do it for another ten years! that would be great!”
It certainly would! Talking about your voice, it’s one of the most legendary and immediately recognisable in metal. Do you do anything special to look after it and keep it in shape? “No, not really. I do nothing with my voice! I never warm up before I go on stage, I don’t even really warm up in the studio. I don’t know, I think I’m really, really lucky with my voice. It’s just nature! Two or three days ago I went to the doctor and had it checked – he said ‘perfect, no problems!’. I’m really lucky”.
In terms of recording – and as we’ve touched on you’ve been doing this for over forty years now. Do you approach the recording of a record differently now or do you stick to the same methods that you’ve always used? “Of course we are using modern, digital technology. And for this album we had to use a lot of internet technology. Because of the Pandemic this album was a little different; normally we collect ideas, and when we have enough we go together into the room – band and producer – and start working on the songs. This time everything had to be done on the internet – Skype, Facetime, Zoom,whatever… Usually everybody is at the studio, but this time we were only allowed two people in the studio – the engineer and whoever was recording their part. I still like to so everything, putting the songs together, the arrangements, face to face in the studio rather than sending links over the internet, but with modern technology it is much quicker to change stuff… In the old days you did a long pre-production in the studio, you might have to play something a hundred times until you found the right arrangement! (laughs)… now it’s much easier”.
As you say there won’t be any touring this year – but 2022 is looking good? ‘Yes, we’ve already moved our Russian tour to February next year, then we had to move the first half of our European tour to early next year also… hopefully everything will be back to normal and we can do all the stuff that we’ve missed out on over the last one and a half years… there’s a lot of touring coming up! The whole of next year should be full of touring but you can never say for sure because things change every day”…
That’s true. How do you think the music industry will come out of this? Do you think a lot of bands will see that they can get stuff done on their own terms rather than with the ‘help’ of record companies now that they’ve seen what can be done over the last couple of years? “Yes, I think a lot of bands will do that. In a way also the business of the record companies is changing – especially for our kind of music. They are not putting too much money into bands any more, there’s no support for bands to get on bigger tours… it’s possible with modern technologies for bands to everything on their own. They don’t have to go to huge studios for recording, everything can be done over the internet… all the money is coming back to the band and not to record companies or whatever… The problem was that over the last ten years companies were signing too many bands, maybe they were lucky and one of those bands got a little bigger. But for the rest it was one album, ‘you’re not selling enough… bye bye! next one!’ I don’t agree with that system! There will be changes in the music business. But I’m really lucky. It’s good for me to have a record company, and with AFM it’s more like a family. We’ve been together seventeen years, and If I have problems I can tell them. It’s not like they can do what they want – that isn’t possible!”
Lastly – at Sentinel Daily we have a sister radio station – if we were to do an U.D.O. segment on your solo career, what five songs do you think we should play to best some it up? “Oh, definitely They Want War off of the Animal House album, then Heart of Gold from the Faceless World album, Man and Machine – from the Man and Machine album, of course, from the last album Steelfactory I’d say One Heart One Soul… there’s one missing… let’s have a really heavy one – Timebomb off of the Timebomb album”.
A metal classic each and every one!
Game Over is out now.