Interview: Udo Dirkschneider of Accept and U.D.O.

UDO

Udo Dirkschneider is an icon in metal. As the frontman for Accept, Dirkschneider created a string of metal anthems, including the grinding “Balls To The Wall,” the mammoth “Metal Heart,” the mercilessly awesome “Fast As A Shark” and the pounding “Living For Tonight.” But let me be honest: After 1990, I had no idea Dirkschneider was still making music.

Imagine my surprise, then, to discover Dirkschneider went on to front the excellent U.D.O. and has been making stellar albums with the band for nearly 20 years.

The band’s new album, “Dominator” recalls Accept’s best work from their glory days in the 1980s: The guitar solos are on fire, the choruses are shake-your-head and bang-you-fist heavy and Dirkschneider’s voice in unbelievable.

If you think I’m kidding, listen to the title track from “Dominator.” The video is a fan vid and the footage is from a movie not worth bothering to look up … but the song is a monster.

The most remarkable thing is Dirkschneider hasn’t lost even a bit of his vocal range.

“I have a unique voice,” Dirkschneider said during a recent phone interview. “I think I’ve been lucky to have this career and I’m lucky I never had problems with my voice.”

Even though the man is 57 years old, he can still scream like a maniac with a voice that is so perfectly jagged that it almost cuts your eardrums. Dirkschneider said his voice has changed over time … but instead of being a detriment, the change has been to his advantage, he said.

“I can sing more in the lower range,” Dirkschneider said. “I think I’m lucky.” 

As a young man in Germany, Dirkschneider’s first exposure to metal came from Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and Sweet. The music took hold of him and drove him to start a band of his own.

“I was interested in this kind of music and it developed to where I wanted to be a professional rock singer,” Dirkschneider said. “The thing with this music was I really liked it. I was never really into the Beatles. I was more into the Rolling Stones. It was more aggressive, more dirty.”

Dirschneider shares songwriting duties for U.D.O. songs with Stefan Kaufmann – who played drums with Accept but switched back to guitar when he joined Dirkschneider’s band.

“Most of the songs are written by Stefan and me, but the rest of the band is involved in arranging the melodies,” Dirkschneider said. “We start with the lyrics and look for the vocal lines and … the story of the lyrics. Then we know exactly what kind of atmosphere the lyrics need, so we start collecting ideas from the musicians.

“I have three favorite songs (on the new album): ‘Dominator,’ ‘Black And White’ and ‘Whispers In The Dark,'” Dirkschneider said.

Dirkschneider is also involved in animal rights issues, and recently signed on with PETA2 in Germany to campaign against animal testing.

“I ways always against stuff like that,” Dirkschneider said when asked how he got involved in animal rights issues. “It’s bad what’s going on. Every creature has a right to live.”

With “Dominator” receiving strong reviews, Dirkschneider said the band is preparing for an extensive tour, which will likely bring U.D.O. to the America in 2010.

“We have a lot of offers to come over to the U.S. next year, in April or May,” Dirkschneider said. “Our management is talking with a lot of promoters … It’s still for me one of the best parts, to be on tour and (perform) live. We still have a tough schedule with U.D.O.: We’ll start in November and we’ll end in September or October (of 2010). The studio is OK, but I like it more on the road.”

With 20 years of music to choose from – including 12 albums with U.D.O. – putting together a set list is a challenge, Dirkschneider said.

“Normally, now we’ll play three or four (Accept) songs, because we have to do it – ‘Balls To The Wall,’ ‘Metal Heart’ and ‘Princess of the Dawn,'” Dirkschneider said. “Sometimes we come up with a very old song. To put a live set list together is a nightmare, but in the end, you can’t satisfy everybody.”

You can hear tracks from “Dominator” and other U.D.O. albums on the band’s MySpace page here.

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