U.D.O. – Made of SteelThursday, 13th September 2018
The metal express doesn’t stop for anyone. Especially Udo Dirkschneider, legendary metal vocalist for decades through his work in Accept and his own band U.D.O. Currently finishing up a two-year plus worldwide global run playing his Accept catalog for the very last time, it’s back to business for U.D.O. in the form of their latest studio album Steelfactory. Shouldn’t be surprising to most that many of the songs contain those undeniable grooves and metal stomp that put the Teutonic, balls to the wall band on the map. We should be so fortunate to enjoy the prolific career of a man who lives for the genre and loves playing for his fans.
Reaching out to Udo by Skype the week after this album’s release, we catch up on the work of the record, the contributions of producer Jacob Hansen and Udo’s son on drums Sven, where Udo sees the state of heavy metal today, and the possibilities of documentary/autobiography work down the line.
Dead Rhetoric: Steelfactory is the latest U.D.O. studio album. Given the three years since the last record because of your Dirkschneider world tour, do you believe you were able to focus more on writing and developing this set of material becoming some of the strongest songs you’ve done to date?
Udo Dirkschneider: I don’t know. I never know what is coming out when we start writing a new album, and working on a new album. What we did this time, (we went) back to the roots and we went into the studio rehearsal room for two weeks and getting all the ideas while working on them. I think that was a really good thing to work as a team on this album. So many ideas came together and that was part of the reason why as you said I think it’s a really strong album. I’m really happy with the results.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe touring for two years on the Accept classics might have had a direct effect on many of the hooks and melodies for songs such as “Make Your Move”, “In the Heat of the Night”, and “A Bite of Evil” as examples?
Dirkschneider: Yes, let’s say there will definitely be some influences from Accept in there when you are composing. If you are doing nearly 300 shows playing only Accept songs, and then you come up with some ideas, there will be a little bit of influence in there.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it another difficult process to decide from all the material you recorded for the album what to use for bonus tracks- as you have different limited editions once again for many territories?
Dirkschneider: Yeah, this is always trouble- which songs you take off for the bonus tracks, which song that you take off for Japan. I have to be honest- I hate to do this for the Japanese edition, because in a way the song always ends up sort of lost, you know (laughs). They want to always have something extra. I know that only a limited amount of people can buy the limited edition, but I think for that version it makes this a little bit easier (to do).
Dead Rhetoric: Is it difficult to decide an album title for the record given the number of albums you’ve released over the years?
Dirkschneider: No, not really. We always love using the title of a song, like Holy, Man and Machine, Steelhammer, Decadent, and all that stuff. This time, we wanted to have just a name for the album – but not using a song title. The idea to come up with Steelfactory, they call me like a German tank and I come from a town that was known for steel, we came up with the name from that.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about the video shoot for “One Heart One Soul”? Whose idea was it to have the extended choir at the conclusion that differs from the regular studio version of the song?
Dirkschneider: I chose the song – the song has really good lyrics about what’s going on in the world, and that we don’t need any borders. I left it to the production company to develop the story line in St Petersburg. They came up with the whole idea, and I think they did a perfect job with everything. They were very creative. I’m really happy with the outcome and I think you can see that and feel this through the video.
Dead Rhetoric: Having Sven your son on drums in the band, how does his outlook and approach benefit U.D.O. – do you believe it helps the group keep one foot in the present while executing your classic metal style?
Dirkschneider: Yes, he fits perfectly as a drummer in U.D.O. He has been doing a great job on the Dirkschneider tour. Growing up he was playing the drums since he was four or five years old, and he’s kept going. He’s really young, 24 years old, and he’s fresh blood. A machine behind the drums – and he’s worked close together learning stuff from Stefan Kaufmann on the Dirkschneider tour to learn all the old Accept songs and especially with the grooves. I think he on Steelfactory he did a great job for the first time recording an album with U.D.O. – I’m proud of him.
Dead Rhetoric: And do you believe Andrey really stepped up his game on guitar for this record – especially due to having to cover all the guitar parts?
Dirkschneider: For me, what he did on this album guitar-wise, he did a great, great job. He wasn’t really happy that he had to do everything on his own. Normally it’s planned that he’s working together with a second guitar player, but it was not possible. In the end he was responsible for all the guitars. There is a lot of atmosphere in different parts of the record. Thank you very much Andrey!
Dead Rhetoric: Will you be announcing the new second guitarist within U.D.O. soon?
Dirkschneider: Very soon. Maybe after the Metal Hammer award show here in Berlin, we will announce the new guitar player. That’s the only thing I can say at the moment – he’s 26 years old, unknown, and very, very good.
Dead Rhetoric: Jacob Hansen went from mastering your last album Decadent to becoming the producer for Steelfactory. How important is it today to have a proper, outside set of ears to accomplish all that you want your fans to hear sonically on record?
Dirkschneider: I was the producer mainly for Steelhammer and Decadent, and then I would also produce albums together in the past with Stefan Kaufmann. This time, I was happy that Jacob wanted to be involved more- he was already involved in Steelhammer and Decadent, and in the Navy Metal Night video – he was involved in the mastering and also a little bit in the mixing. When I was in Denmark in the studio, he opened up and said that one day he would love to produce a U.D.O. album. So here we go- and I think it was a good step to do this, to get somebody from the outside and he saw a lot of things different. Especially when it came to specific guitar things, Andrey was really happy to work with him. He did a great job, and I love the sounds he was able to get.
Dead Rhetoric: Now that you’ll be focusing exclusively on U.D.O. material when taking the band on the road – will it still be a challenge to figure out proper set lists between a festival outing and your headlining shows, given how big of a catalog of songs you have to choose from?
Dirkschneider: (laughs). Yes, I know. We were just sitting together on the last festival in Germany, and we were choosing some U.D.O. songs and we ended up with 45 (laughs). That’s not possible! In a way, we know already the new songs that we have to play when we do the latest U.D.O. tour. Also we want to play a lot of other songs, we will say that we will put together a really good setlist without any more Accept songs.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think you may mix up setlist from country to country – that way ensuring that you can play more songs to other audiences?
Dirkschneider: Let’s say, not really. The only country I may have to change things a little bit three or four songs would be in Russia. There are a few songs that I’ve sung in Russian that I can only do in Russia. I don’t sing the Russian songs in say Spain, Germany, or let’s say Scandinavia.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of heavy metal in 2018? Do you enjoy the diversity and the global impact the genre makes in comparison to many other genres of music?
Dirkschneider: Yes. This music will never die for me. For me it’s interesting to see, especially on the last festivals that we did, and also touring with U.D.O. before, the new generation of metal fans. I saw a lot of young people in the audience- and it’s interesting to see them singing along with all the old Accept songs that they were not even born when they originally came out.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your proudest moments in your musical career – ones that cement your legacy or just have that lasting impact that you’ll carry with your forever?
Dirkschneider: Forever it has been so much fun for me to do this- that is the first thing. I always love to make music, and I always want to go on.
Dead Rhetoric: Has there been more work done on the autobiography that we last talked about?
Dirkschneider: Oh yes! Everybody is asking me about this. I really promised myself on the next tour, when there is down time and things get a little boring that I want to keep going with the book. I want to add to things, and I hope to be coming to an end soon with the first part of this autobiography.
Dead Rhetoric: Would you ever considering developing a documentary about your life on film?
Dirkschneider: (laughs). There was one guy who asked me, coming from the movie business. He was asking me that it may be interesting to make a movie around my career. I don’t know – I am doing so many things, right now I have my own television show on German tv, I have a radio show, touring with U.D.O. – I am quite busy. We will see what’s coming up.
Dead Rhetoric: How much planning do you do in advance because of how productive and prolific you’ve been in your music career?
Dirkschneider: We have to plan. The U.D.O. touring is already in the works and the plans are as far out as the end of 2019, into early 2020. Then of course, next year we have to see how everything goes and we will see from there when we are going to be working on a new album, maybe some other things. A lot of things are on hold, especially with our military orchestra stuff, we also want to do a tour of that.
Dead Rhetoric: I’ve learned recently that many European musicians like Andy of Brainstorm as well as yourself have taken a liking to buffalo chicken wings when in America, which apparently are not available in Germany. Is this true, and are you a person who like the seasoning and sauce the hotter, the better?
Dirkschneider: (laughs). Yes. You can get chicken wings in Germany, but they are not the same like they are in America. It has to be very spicy for me, definitely.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the schedule for U.D.O. during the next twelve months as far as a touring schedule?
Dirkschneider: Ah, the touring schedule. We have a couple more shows with Dirkschneider, and then we start rehearsing for the U.D.O. tour. The first show will be in Russia the end of October, and then we do 4 weeks there. We have a little break, and we start in Europe in the middle of January 2019. The European tour we go to February, and at the end of February we are on the Monsters of Rock cruise ship in America. Then we continue with the European tour until the beginning of April. They are also working on America, we may go there directly after the European tour, but we will see. I don’t know yet. And then of course festivals over the summer, and in September South America and Asia. That means that 2019 is already packed!