Yet another last-minute interview opportunity dropped in The Maestro’s lap: the one and only Udo Dirkschneider, legendary singer of U.D.O. was in New York City promoting new album Decadent (February 3 via AFM Records) and had some time between his regularly scheduled press to sit and chat with me via Skype. It was great to get the perspective of someone who’s been a titan of metal for all these years, and it’s nice to see his enthusiasm hasn’t wavered one bit, especially when talking about the record and his bandmates. See for yourself:
Amps: The subject matter of Decadent pulls no punches. What prompted an album that is largely about the decadent behaviors of the rich?
Udo: Well, it’s not a concept album. In a way we are talking about that we are living in a decadent world. A lot of different things have happened in our time and now it’s all rich people or poor people and there’s really nothing in the middle anymore. Some money is going in the wrong direction. Some lyrics, like “House of Fake” are about governments and Parliaments talking about how they wanna do a lot of things but they never so. They only want to have power and pocket some money. “Rebels of the Night” came from us touring in the Ukraine last year when all the shit happened. “Pain” is a song about how much pain can we take every time we switch on the news? The news is almost like a horror movie with wars and massacres going on. All of which are forms of decadent behavior.
Amps: Do you think the collaborative effort of the songwriting like on Steelhammer is what’s made these past two records especially strong?
Udo: On Steelhammer it was just Andrey Smirnov playing guitar. Now on this one we have Kasperi Heikkinen, who like Andrey is a rhythm AND lead player. Having two solo guitar players who work well together made for some great guitar work on this album. Also, they are really good composers who came up with some very good ideas. What can I say? Composing together as a team, as a band is why this album has so many different things on it. Francesco Jovino played drums and then the end of November after our last show on a festival in Germany he told me cannot do it anymore. He’s about to be a second-time father so he wants to be with his family. I was a little surprised, but I understand. We are a few weeks from announcing who the new drummer will be.
And you have to realize, before Stefan Kaufmann left the band for health reasons, he was my songwriting partner. I stepped into cold water, writing songs with Fitty Wienhold (bass) and then we found Andrey. Even though he played all the guitars on Steelhammer he wasn’t really involved in the songwriting. So, this time when we started last year in May, we had a studio session where everyone came together with ideas, writing, composing, and working as a team. I’m really happy it turned out like this. U.D.O. was never something I wanted to be a solo project, it was always important to me that this be a band. And on Decadent everything came true.
Amps: Will we see you in the U.S. on this tour? I see you’re booked solid from April till July in Europe.
Udo: I think somewhere between September and December; I’m not sure exactly when. We’ll do the second part of the European tour, go to South America, then Japan, all the Eastern countries. And I know they’re already working on a U.S. and Canada tour. And not just ten shows; hopefully we can stay here for four or five weeks on a longer tour.
Amps: Did you ever think that in 2015 U.D.O. would be strong as ever, releasing a record people can’t wait to get their hands on?
Udo: (Laughing) no! When I started I didn’t expect to be doing this for over 40 years. Now we’re in the fifteenth album of U.D.O., ten albums with ACCEPT, it’s a lot of material. And I’m still enjoying the whole thing. It’s a lot of fun to play with these two new, young guitar players. There’s fresh blood in the band and I’m already really looking forward to the next album. I really mean that. Everything is so full of energy right now. And that’s the best thing that can happen to a musician.
Amps: Why do you think that Germany is head and shoulders above pretty much all other countries metal-wise? There’s you, SCORPIONS, PRIMAL FEAR, DUST BOLT, GAMMA RAY, ACCEPT, DORO and many more. Plus, all the best metal festivals happen over there!
Udo: (Laughs) I don’t know. When I started it was England, bands like DEEP PURPLE, SAXON, MOTÖRHEAD, and IRON MAIDEN. But now the biggest market and all of the bands seem to come from Germany. I don’t know! DORO is doing this for 30 years now, and she’s very successful. There’s a BIG heavy metal scene in Germany.
Amps: After some 40 years in the business, what sticks out most to you, good and/or bad?
Udo: A good thing is that I can still do this (laughs)! And the bad thing is that we have so many good new bands around, yes. But some of them are without character. By character I mean OZZY coming onstage, Lemmy coming onstage, real frontmen coming onstage. Some of these new bands are great music-wise, but there is no commanding character out front. And of course nowadays some record companies are not being supportive of their bands. They don’t have the support we had for five or six years. They have too many bands, and if one band’s record doesn’t sell, it’s on to the next one. In the older days there were people at the record companies who knew what they were talking about, and now it’s just an office job to some of them, just counting money. It may be better to have ten bands instead of fifty, you know?
Amps: What are you listening to at home or in the car?
Udo: I just put the radio on most of the time. I listen to metal music sometimes, of course. My son is 21 years old and he always sends me e-mails telling me, “Hey, you have to listen to this band!” and sometimes I’ve never heard of them but they’re very interesting. The problem is I can’t remember the names; they’re too long and complicated now.
Amps: Looking ahead, what’s next for Udo Dirkschneider?
Udo: Long, long, long touring for Decadent. And in July we release a live DVD/CD from the show we did with the Marinemusikkorps Nordsee (North Sea Marine Corps Orchestra) in Germany. That was a really interesting thing to do, arranging the songs for an orchestra. You will be surprised (laughs).
Amps: Say something to all the U.D.O. fans out there.
Udo: I hope that people like the album. Europe seems to so far, so I hope the rest of the world does, too. And I’m looking forward to come out on tour. I hope a lot of people come to the shows, because they will not be disappointed. There is a lot of energy and we play over two hours. See you on tour!
Four decades later Udo Dirkschneider shows no signs of slowing down, and if Decadent is any indication, looks like he’s just getting warmed up. Album number fifteen just might be the best work this band has done, and it will be interesting to see what U.D.O. comes up with next. Either way, I’ll be waiting with open ears and eyes. Special thanks to Dustin at AFM Records for setting this one up. And be sure to grab your copy of Decadent on February 3!