U.D.O. – Hammering Metal Steel

Friday, 3rd May 2013

Many in the metal community wonder when musicians splinter to form new acts if they’ll ever be able to sustain a certain level of respect and audience interest. In the case of vocalist Udo Dirkschneider, his departure in 1987 from Accept turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He took the material scheduled for the next Accept studio album with their consent to use on his debut solo album Animal House, and would release a follow up with Mean Machine before Accept would get their post-Udo effort with David Reece Eat The Heat on the shelves.

Now it’s 2013 and the metal community has the great comeback of Accept with Mark Tornillo delivering their classic sound to the masses as well as a bevy of great U.D.O. releases through the years to cherish. Recently celebrating his 61st birthday, the 14th studio album Steelhammer will hit the market in late May- and for the first time in over a decade he is hitting North American shores for some tour dates.

Scheduling a few days of interviews before the first of three New York tour dates, I welcomed the opportunity to speak to Udo once again- a very personable and easy going gentleman who bleeds for the cause even after 35 years plus in the business.

Dead Rhetoric: You have two new guitarists in U.D.O. – Andrey Smirnov and Kasperi Heikkinen. Many know that Stefan Kaufmann stepped down due to his health complications, but I believe Igor Gianola’s departure was a little bit of a surprise. What can you tell us about these developments- and how do you feel the new guys are fitting in?

Udo Dirkschneider: Igor was a little bit of a surprise for us, that’s for sure [laughs]. The reasons why he left, he decided to make his own decisions. We have had this kind of problem in a way for the last two or three years. It’s a time problem – he has an AC/DC cover band, he has his own band, he is working as a freelancer at a radio station, he has a lot of things to do in his private life, and U.D.O., so I think it was a little bit too much. Especially with the last tour for Rev-Raptor, it was a very long international tour. When we started working on the new album, Stefan wasn’t there anymore, and it was planned for Igor to do all of the guitar parts on the album.

We decided to record the album differently; Stefan was always into this recording on the computer and through the internet, and I was more into doing things face-to-face in the studio, go back a little bit more into the older style of recording. Then the problems started with Igor, we asked him to come up to record the stuff in the studio for four-five weeks, and he said he couldn’t do it – he said he could come up for two days and then fly back home. I told him it was not possible for us. In the meanwhile, we found Andrey, he just planned to come up for an audition in the studio- so he ended up staying there for four weeks and recording all the guitar parts for the new album.

Kasperi, we were looking for a new guitar player and we had to sort through about 300 demo tapes. We got it down to about four people- one guitar player from Norway, another guitarist from Germany, and there was already Kasperi and Andrey. When Igor came up and said he didn’t want to be in the band anymore we called Kasperi and asked him if he was still interested to join U.D.O. and he said yes, of course. We were very lucky.

Dead Rhetoric: Steelhammer is the new album, and I sense from the “Metal Machine” single a little bit more of an in your face production. How do you feel the songwriting went for this record, and did you try some different things in the studio to shake things up from your last few albums?

Udo: Definitely the whole recording process was completely different. Stefan is not completely gone from the U.D.O. mix, but for this album, he said that he didn’t want to be the producer and I don’t want to compose any songs so I knew I had to get my shit together. I knew that Fitty (Wienhold, bass) had some good ideas previously on the Dominator album and I knew he was the person to work with on this album, so we wrote all the songs together for the Steelhammer album. We produced the album ourselves, and it was important for me to do this record face-to-face in the studio. I think that’s why the production ended up much more in your face, everybody in the interviews so far for this record is noticing that this album is back to the roots for U.D.O.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the bonus tracks for the digipack version “Shadows Come Alive” and the Japanese version “Dust and Rust?”

Udo: For the Japanese version, we just gave them a different version of “Dust and Rust” with Spanish lyrics. We always have to do a bonus track for Japan, I don’t want to give away a whole song. So we decided this time to give them the same song, the only difference is in a different language. “Shadows Come Alive,” we had to decide which song we wanted to put on the digi-pack, instead of doing this different kind of release- so this is the particular track we chose. It’s tough because I would like our fans to only have to buy one version of the album, but the record companies also want to increase their chances for sales.

Dead Rhetoric: You are performing a short North American tour in April – your first tour over here in over a decade. Will it be a tough decision to pull together a set list, especially considering the anniversary album re-releases of your back catalog from AFM Records?

Udo: That is definitely a point of why we want to do this tour – to support the re-releases of these albums in the United States. We want to mix up a lot of material from the U.D.O. albums, so we won’t be playing any new songs from Steelhammer. There will be a good mix up of U.D.O. songs, probably the most wanted songs, and three or four songs of Accept and that’s it.

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