Questions asked by Jon Wilde (additional words courtesy of Mike Exley), added to Rock Realms 10th September 2009.
U.D.O. is a legendary German heavy metal outfit formed by ex-Accept singer Udo Dirkschneider. They have released an EP and a full studio album this year and, if this interview is anything to go by, they have big plans to tour in promotion of the records.
Udo himself answer questions.
Hi Udo, thanks for taking a moment to answer these questions. Hope you are well?
Udo: Very well, thank you!! Very busy, but then I think this is the right way to be, no? The album ("Dominator") seems to be getting a good reaction here and throughout the world so far, so I'm very happy..."
Who were your personal influences and inspirations when you were younger, and what motivated you into becoming a singer?
Udo: I mean, at first I listened to a lot of bands; you know, the Stones, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix... I actually started out as a musician, as a keyboard player in fact, and at that time we'd do a lot of Little Richard stuff, and I'd sing along to that, but I was not so good on keyboards... ha! ha! Then, Deep Purple and that kind of bands were around and I decided that being a singer was the way to go!
It seems a very natural discipline for you actually - did you employ any specific techniques or lessons?
Udo: Not really you know! My singing comes from right down here in the stomach, not from the throat, from the larynx, and very early on I found out I could sing very high and scream too, which was pretty unusual in our kind of circles in those days, so I just started to train my own voice. I've never really had lessons, I listened to a lot of other guys and just worked on making the voice work naturally...
It was then the early 70's I guess?
Udo: Well, actually no... Accept has existed since 1971, of course... I was in a hobby band in, let's see, 1968 and the people around us in Germany seemed to like the material. We wrote quite a lot of our own material, I was the singer, Michael Wagener (who is now the famous producer, of course) was in the band too, and we built what would later become Accept... The rest is history!
Stupid question first: Your first name is Udo, yet the band is U...D...O... Why the full stops between letters? Is it a cunning acronym like W.A.S.P.?
Udo: This is a favourite question, Ha! Ha! No, OK, the reason is basically because it was the best way forward. When Accept decided to move on with a different singer, my name was pretty well known to everyone and I didn't really want to go through the hassle of trying to come up with a band name... Udo was perfect, but, of course, this had to be taken forward to a logo at the record company and someone came up with the idea of putting the full stops in between... and hey presto, a logo!
Moving forward... You recently released an EP called "Infected", prior to the new album, which is out right after this interview... What inspired the release of the EP before the full album? Were you simply whetting the fans appetites?
Udo: You could say this, but personally it wasn't really our idea... It's for promotion, but it does upset me slightly that it had to be like this because, effectively, you lose two songs to such a release, you know? And only making 2,222 available too? I mean, if you lose two songs to a 20,000 release, maybe that's not so bad, but... I'm divided on this really.
There were two very interesting tracks on the end of the "Infected" EP though... "Planchet Soldat" and "Poezd Po Rossii", Russian speaking songs with very different vibes. Are you a natural speaker?
Udo: Yes..... Russia is a very big market for U.D.O. - you know, the first track is just a remix for our Russian friends because they really help us a lot out there; we're in every Russian newspaper and stuff like that.. Then "Poezd.." is actually a polka.. and it was important because I wanted to sing it properly and get the atmosphere of the audience captured on tape too...
The difference with Russian though is that you have to be very specific, very correct with the pronunciation, because one wrong sound can mean something totally different. It was pretty hard, but once you start you get used to it. We had an old friend, a natural speaker advising me, and it worked really well.
So, how does new album "Dominator" compare to the older U.D.O. work?
Udo: I would say a mix of two early albums, "Animal House" and "Faceless World" with some of the "Mastercutor" album... Somehow, you have a bit of everything from U.D.O. on this one.. It shows the whole range of U.D.O., and that's why it's quite different to all the others...
Mastercutor was acknowledged as something of a re-invention for the band and personally it seems to have been a pretty seamless transition into this one?
Udo: Maybe, but when you start with a new album you really don't try to look back too much at previous work... There was one song on "Mastercutor", "Tears Of A Clown" where I sang really differently, a bit like on this album, but you try to stay 'distanced' from the previous work, you know? We changed the sound a little bit, wrote some really diverse songs - I love a song like "Whispers In The Dark" for example - but the reviews are coming back saying that this is an even better album than "Mastercutor", so I guess we were right to make this album in this way, no?
Do you have any favourite moments on the new release?
Udo: Whispers... was a great moment for me as I said, because, when it was finished, I had a real sense of achievement.......
Is that why it's placed last..?
Udo: Not as such, but it's all about the atmosphere for me more importantly... Some people want to know why it's there, some aren't sure, but for me, it really works!
Songs like ‘Devil’s Rendezvous’ have a humorous edge to them – something that’s unusual in heavy metal. Does it frustrate you that so many musicians take music so ridiculously seriously rather than just enjoying themselves?
Udo: Ha! Ha!... You should take your music seriously, of course, but I think it's more about being relaxed with your music. That song "Devil's Rendezvous" literally, almost wrote itself. Stefan (Kaufmann) and I were sitting in the studio with the chorus... "da,da, devil's rendezvous", and the song was written in 15mins. A sense of humour is unusual for Heavy Metal, I know, but we shouldn't always say it's wrong. We had a song on the EP which was a polka, we had a song on the "Holy" album, "Cut Me Out" - that was gypsy music basically, and they have all worked very well...!
Was the tongue-in-cheek tone you mention there something that attracted you to work with people like Lordi? The "Mastercutor" was a very strong character image a little like Lordi, as is the guy on the front cover of "Dominator", but there was an 'ironic' even sad face to that character too?
Udo: One is an extension of the other and we want to keep on using this character in the future. I don't know about this too much, the Lordi thing was a special moment for me, but on "Mastercutor" the character was the TV host introducing the album, the host of these stupid reality TV programs, now he's become the "Dominator" of the whole, dominating the record... It's given us a different live show too; the character is really strong, the photos on the promo pictures can be very strong too - you have to put on a show; we're entertainers after all; you have to put on a show and take people into something quite different from normal life...
Is there anyone else you’d really like to work with on a future project?
Udo: I don't know... Lordi was very special, and I actually hope to write with him again soon; you know, just compose some stuff, go out to Finland again? Not sing this time....Maybe it can happen? To me the song was very close to an U.D.O. song actually. It was really funny. When I got to the studio and met everyone - really nice guys - they had booked the studio for the whole day, and I was done in two hours, ha! ha! They're really special guys. When they won that competition I wasn't surprised - they have a really positive vibe to them... As for anyone else..., it's lovely to be asked and I've done this with Doro recently (on the 25th Anniversary), but you have to be very careful, otherwise you end up being a Guest everywhere.
Now a meaty question!! There's a new version of Accept currently doing the rounds of course, without you and Stefan, so, come on... What do you think of the new version of Accept with new singer Mark Tornillo?
Udo: Yes, this is a popular question too today, Ha! Ha! I actually like your description of this as 'a new version of Accept', because it isn't really Accept is it? What they're doing now, really can't be Accept. I've used the words 'covers band' today and although that may seem harsh (I actually hope they write a great album with the American singer), but it shouldn't carry the name Accept. They put those two songs on the Internet; "Balls To The Wall" being one, which is a really strong song, and the guy is trying to copy me... in fact, he does it quite well actually, but it's not Accept." "Don't get me wrong... I've nothing against the American language per se, but how "Balls To The Wall" was sung just doesn't sound right in the American language!!
What were the fundamental reasons for you not being part of this latest reunion?
Udo: We didn't actually say no at the beginning. Stefan and I sat down with the guys and we discussed how it could be done, but to cut down U.D.O. again was just too risky under the conditions they would accept for doing this. We stated our case, but it was simply never going to work the way they wanted to do it... I mean, another album, a tour, then find out it doesn't work again? No... that's simply not an option. We are very happy with U.D.O.; it is very established worldwide - the results at home far outweigh what can be achieved by doing Accept, so that's it...
That means I guess that the last time it happened was not as successful as everyone mooted, then?
Udo: Sadly, yes. I think this is definitely over now...
What’s next on the agenda after the new album? Is there a monster tour in the works?
Udo: Yes, we start in October with the first part of the European tour, right through to Xmas, then the second part in January when we can exclusively reveal we're finally coming to the UK again, which I'm very much looking forward to..., before South America, the US and Canada, Russia and China - with three shows in China.., then Japan is calling again, followed hopefully by Australia which is a place I've never been...
Ahh, the good old UK!! Excellent.... Do you see yourself releasing albums and performing for as long as you can, or do you have other plans for the future?
Udo: I go on forever, ha! ha! No, I think we'll carry on as long as possible! I don't know how long; 10 years...? There's still much that can be achieved with U.D.O., we can still play all around the world..., and as long as we can do it, hopefully, people will still want to see us!! We had some great results on "Mastercutor", I really enjoy this life.... I quit smoking a few years ago, so I feel much better and as long as we can keep fit, then we'll certainly do it..
Anything else you would like to mention?
Udo: I don't know... I walk everywhere, I went on a new food regime a few years ago and that's it... The band is very strong these days, the guys are all very close... and what more can you say - it certainly justifies carrying on for me?
And so say all of us!! Thanks for your time and see you in January!