Catching Up With Udo Dirkschneider of U.D.O.
“Decadent,” released here in North America on Feb 3rd, is the 15th studio album from U.D.O. over a 28 year period. Your last studio album “Steelhammer” (2013) brought about some changes within the band with Stefan (Kaufmann) stepping aside and also the loss of Igor (Gianola). What was it like writing and recording with two new guitar players?
Well actually Andrey (Smirnoff) did all of the guitar work on “Steelhammer” but we were working remotely. This time we were actually working together face to face not over the internet. Now with adding Kasperi (Heikkinen) who was also working face to face in the studio they both came up with great ideas and they worked very hard on this record. The results speak for themselves with fan and media reaction so far. Because they are from a different generation and they are both young and hungry it really has given this band some new life. It’s a great mix of older generation classic metal infused with this new found energy and excitement.
“Decadent” contains some very heavy themes and some brutally honest looks at modern day society. Was there anything in particular that sparked this writing point of view?
What can I say other than it’s a lot more melodic than “Steelhammer” but at the same time but much darker as well. The writing involved everyone this time around so by default the ideas were more varied simply because there were more of them.
The video for the first single “Decadent” is rather graphic and violent and contains a lot of real life video footage. Where you pleased with the end result and how has the reaction been to it so far?
Some fans were quite shocked and could only watch it once because it was a bit much for them but the video shows the real world and a lot of it is not fun or happy to think about. You see it every day on the news. This is the reality that we are living in this ‘Decadent” world.
I think the track “Pain” is one of the very best in the entire U.D.O catalog. Very old school sounding. Is this the general feedback you are getting from fans/media alike?
Yea it is. European reviews so far would agree with your take on it. “Pain” has a very melodic chorus and a great riff which is why it’s getting so much attention. “Pain” is getting quite a bit of radio airplay all over Europe right now.
“Decadent is being released in CD, Digipak and vinyl format in addition to a special Gold fan box edition. I’m a huge proponent of the physical format of any album. Reading the lyrics, the going through the liner notes, just holding it brings an entirely different element that a download cannot and will not for me ever posses. Do you agree?
Yes I do. Actually I feel that there may be too many versions actually when you add up all of the physical options plus the downloads but it’s about giving the fans options.
In general do you feel with the internet and illegal downloads and you tube with almost immediate postings of concert footage that it helps or hurts not only new bands but bands with a rich history like your own?
The internet has its value in spreading the music out there quickly but on the other hand the sale of cd’s is going down and even download sales are going down because at a certain point you can listen to the entire album on YouTube for free. You have to live with the good and with the bad.
The “Steelhammer” 13/14 tour was the longest in the history of the band and resulted in the brilliant Steelhammer Live in Moscow” DVD/CD set. Was the motivation behind releasing that because of the momentum contained in this new lineup?
No that set was not planned by any of us it just sort happened by circumstance. The story was that Andrey has a good friend in Moscow and had some great input with this production company and asked him to film the show with all of the new material. You can either release it or just have it for yourselves as a private keepsake. When we saw the first playback we were blown away by the performances. Then the record company (AFM records) immediately wanted in on this and before you know it we have a follow up to the 2011 (Live in Sofia) release. Most that have seen it have told me it’s the next best thing to being at the show itself.
We are starting the first part of March for a huge European tour running all the way through the end of April and a few dates into early May. I know we are playing the Wacken Open Air show in July and additional festival dates are being added for the summer as well. We go back out in September with some Japan dates that are being planned as well as the 2nd leg of Europe. We are working on some dates in the US and Canada for some time in the fall early part of winter.
Creating a setlist at this point of your career must be tough. Obviously on this tour you want to make sure “Decadent” gets its fair share of representation in addition to Steelhammer. How do you go about filling in the rest?
It’s a nightmare. I try to come up some songs that we have either never played or haven’t played in a long time just to give the fans something special. I’m not quite sure right now but we still start working on the set very soon.
Does it bother you at all if fans yell out to hear any old Accept tunes or are you so used to it by now that it has no effect on you either way?
I’ve been playing Accept songs during my shows since I left the band. It doesn’t bother me at all. People expect to hear these songs at my shows especially with the older fans so I try not to disappoint them. I have no problems with that.
Having toured just about everywhere in the world do you find any difference in your fan base in terms of their passion? For instance let’s say a North America crows vs. a European crowd?
It’s not the same at all one country vs. another but after this US planned tour where we will hit many cities I hope I can give you a better idea of the fan base here and that Metal passion shines through.
Do you find it a challenge or a blessing to play with musicians some of which maybe half your age?
It’s a blessing. Yes I’m getting older but it’s only a number. I like to be around these guys because I like to know what they are thinking, what they are feeling because it keeps the band current.
Your son Sven (Dirkschneider) was recently recruited to fill in on drums for legendary rockers Saxon for their British tour while Nigel (Glockler) recovers from a brain aneurysm suffered late last year. Were you surprised at all with this and as has he always wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps and became a musician? (Editor’s Note: In the time since this interview took place, Sven has now joined his father in U.D.O. as the drummer. Congrats, Sven!)
Yes he has. He has had his own band Damaged and they have supported us on tour. I was surprised that they wanted him to fill in but very proud of the fact that they invited him at the same time. You always want the best for your kids and I’m no different than any other proud dad.
Thank you UDO and New England awaits a possible show date in 2015!
We will see you in Boston very soon!
*For the latest on U.D.O. visit their official website here.