Udo Dirkschneider is almost 70 years old. And he doesn’t figure to be suffering from Metal fatigue just yet.
The Heavy Metal Icon of Accept and his own band UDO has just released his most accessible album yet. Game Over contains all the heavy hitting but has some mature melody too.
Udo is an affable man with a very easy going, almost genial approach. He has a lot to be happy about. There’s that album for a start.
‘Thank you very much. I’m really happy with the album. I have to thank the members of UDO, you know?’ He says honestly. ‘They came up with really good ideas, especially with the 2 new members, of course Andrey (Smirnov, guitars), I’ve been with him for 10 years, we always get good ideas. It was also a little bit different this time, with my son, this was the first time I wrote all the lyrics together with him. And also he came up with a lot of melodies. The only thing that was not so good was the pandemic stuff, you know?’
Ah yes, recording and releasing an album in a pandemic can’t be easy, although some artists who dropped their albums in the lockdown period told me they saw better sales than ever, as people were desperate for product.
‘Normally we are working together in one room, on arrangements, that was not possible!’ He chuckles. ‘So we had to do everything over the Internet with FaceTime and WhatsApp. It took a little bit longer, but in the end I think it worked.
With the main recording in the studio, you know, we were only allowed to have 2 people in the studio, only the sound engineer and only a musician. A little bit strange!
But in the end, what can I say? I’m really pleased with the whole result. 16 songs. Great. I love it!’
And the sound to the album is big, it crunches but it isn’t as clinical as some albums madd from bolted together files from all over the world can sound. This one feels warm.
‘It was not easy, but we had enough time, there was no touring going on. Maybe I’m always lucky that I have people around me, they come up with good material. Yeah, fine!’
He makes it sound so easy!
‘I always like a new challenge to work on a new album. Always when a new album is coming up, it’s like your baby is born, you never know if the people like it.
Sometimes when a new album is coming out, people say ‘Yeah, but the old ones were better’, you ways have that.
The young generation around me (new additions bassist Tilen Haudrup and guitarist Dee Dammers) bring freshness into the music, in a way they push me also, you know.
I’m not a guy to say ‘OK, we have to do it in this direction’, I’m always really open minded and say ‘OK, let’s try it.’ This time is worked perfectly.’
This is the first time those new players will have written music with him, always a heart in mouth moment which seems to have worked.
‘When I was looking for the new guitar player, of course I can have older guitar players, already well-known ones’ he explains. ‘But they have their own style, it’s not negative, I was looking for an unknown guy and a young guy. He (Dee) is open minded to everything, he’s also still searching for his own style, so it’s also interesting.’
There will be some who won’t like this album. There are, I’ve looked. The more accessible feel to this album will simply turn some off. And that’s absolutely a fair choice. I reckon it’s bold and gives UDO somewhere else to go. After all, early Accept wasn’t all “Balls to the Wall,” was it?
‘Different generation for the modern.’ Udo talks of his feel about this album and working on it with new blood band members. ‘And what I also like on the album is the guitar work, we were really working together, I was really happy with how everything came out.
In the beginning we had around 35 ideas, we say ‘which ones do you wanna take away and which ones do you wanna work on?’ We really worked on, like, 20, 21, but in the end 17 are made, for Japan always a bonus.
When we came up to the record company, ‘We have 16 songs’, they were like ‘Really? You want to put them all on the album?’ If you make the right tracklist, put the songs together, then it flows. I’ve done interviews and everybody says ‘Wow, it works’.
It does. Metal fans like packaging, they like to feel the CD, see the artwork. And the way the tracks are arranged, the way they lead from one to the other, that is a dying art, particularly in today’s playlist culture.
‘We still have people that buy the records. They wanna see the pictures, they wanna see the lyrics.
Of course, it’s getting more, but slowly, downloading, but we are far from what happens in Pop music. It’s coming out in 22nd October and then we will see!’
We’ll also see what the fans think of the warning in the lyrics about the possible dying of the planet, the ‘Game Over’ of the title.
‘With Accept and UDO, I never was really into writing lyrics about dragons, witches or whatever.
For me, it was more important to write about what was going on in the world and to say ‘maybe we have to be a little bit careful.’
Agreement about a way to go, at least on cutting emissions, is getting a bit closer though, isn’t it?
‘They talk and talk but most of the bigger ones (countries) do nothing. It we are not doing something, as the title of the album, then we have a big Game Over.
I don’t think that people can be so stupid, you know? You see all of the fires going on in the South of Europe, in California; in Russia. Then we have these big floods in Europe.
Come on, you cannot say this is normal. It’s definitely not normal. We have only one planet. I don’t want to be a teacher, you know? But I get a reaction from a lot of people, they are really into the lyrics and say ‘Yeah, we have to think about this.’
And as he is seen as a Metal Icon, he will surely be listened to. Udo has been doing this since the late 1970s, he’s passed his golden anniversary and yet he never wears that crown at a jaunty angle.
‘I’m not a typical Rock star. I’m not sitting here with sunglasses, I always trying to be normal as possible and make music to try to be as good time as possible so they can enjoy everything.
And that’s the way it is! I had some problems with Accept when we were the first time in America, they said it’s boring, there’s no Rock n’ Roll things going on, I said ‘Hey, come on, I don’t wanna do that’, I’m not my style, it’s not me. I can live with that!’
And Udo has always had that amazing Metal voice, it’s hardened around a recognisable sound a bit like with AC/DC’s frontman Brian Johnson. In Udo’s case it’s a bit like a gargle crossed with a bark which is distinctive and absolutely right. How does he keep it?
‘I don’t do anything. The only thing I did was 17 years ago I stopped smoking. I never warm up before I go onstage, I never warm up at the studio. I’m very lucky with my voice; unique!’
And he’ll have to be sure of that voice, as his dancecard is full next year.
‘Normally I’m touring in Russia, but they moved it to February. Also I think we have to move the first part of the upcoming European tour to next year, too many problems for promoters. Next year everything will be more normal; if everything works next year then the whole year is touring.’
He laughs. ‘We start in the beginning of next year in South America, go to Russia, make the whole European tour, that goes until the middle of May and then the Summer of course festivals, then the plan is September, October go to America and they’re working on Japan and Australia—then I think the year is over!’
He chuckles again, warming to the subject. ‘This will be a long, long tour. It’s a nightmare to put it (the set list) together, too many songs!’
Someone us going to be disappointed with the songs left out, but not that many who will see this great band and that iconic frontman, surely.
The music touring business is opening up again, which is great to see but difficult to contemplate when thinking about the miles travelled and the planet beneath them; nothing is as easy as we want it to be.
Unless it’s UDO’s great music. Simply tough, rough, but open and accessible too. That’s the great thing about Game Over; Udo has made such good music here, it won’t be…