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When it comes to metal’s greatest anthems, Accept’s Balls To The Wall is always listed as one of the top songs. And, with good reason. From the opening chords, you immediately recognize it, your head begins to start rocking in the headbanging motion and your hand can’t help but form in the metal horns position. The architect of this song and many other great Accept songs in none other than Udo Dirkschneider. I had the chance to talk with him at length about his time in Accept, his solo band U.D.O. and many other topics. I found him to be a really warm and genuine person with a great sense of humor. So, check out my interview below where you can find out how he feels about his replacement in Accept and among other things, a funny conversation about what type of underwear he wears (or doesn’t).
XS ROCK: Your new live album Back To The Roots is fantastic! So what comes next for you? Is there a new studio album on the horizon?
Udo: Oh, yeah. As soon as we finish the tour of Canada, we will start working on the new album at the beginning of March.
XS ROCK: Do you have a title for the new album yet?
Udo: No, no, we are just collecting ideas for songs now. In March we’ll sit down in the studio for two or three weeks and we really look at the ideas and see which ones we really want to work on as the new songs.
XS ROCK: Now that you are closing the door on the Accept chapter in your life, do you feel a sense of satisfaction of what you accomplished during that time?
Udo: Oh yeah! Of course, I mean the satisfaction is that I didn’t expect this Dirkschneider tour to go so well. In the beginning we had just planned 10 or 15 shows, but now when we finish up with Canada we will have 120 shows. So, I didn’t expect this, but it’s good to see that the people want to hear this.
XS ROCK: When you joined your first band, what were you hoping to get out the experience? When I joined my first band, I had a school band with Michael Wagner (Producer / Mixer). I started making music with him. Then we had a few members and we started playing little clubs in Germany. And very early on, we were doing our own stuff.
XS ROCK: Did you have a musical background before Accept?
Udo: I was 14 years old and I got a keyboard as a Christmas present. That had always interested me. So I started playing keyboards and some people had said that I have a special voice, so maybe I should try singing. So, we had a band called Band X until ’68 or ’69. And then I was in Accept. There was no Wolf Hoffman or Peter Baltes at that time. We had a lot of different members, but I was always looking for the right members for the band and then, I think it was in 1977 we became the band that is now known as Accept. We added Peter Baltes, Stefan Kaufmann, Jörg Fischer. So I had done a lot of things before these guys came into the band.
XS Rock: So you created Accept?
Udo: I would say, yes.
XS ROCK: So how do audiences compare in Europe compared to the U.S.? It seems like the Metal scene is still very loyal and the fans in Europe are more involved than the U.S. metal scene.
Udo: Yes, what you said. In Europe, Russia, Ukraine there is a huge fan scene and they are all loyal for all of these years. America is a little bit quicker to change. The metal scene is still good in America. I was quite surprised. We toured there last in 2012 and it was like , ah, ha okay there is still a metal scene alive here. We will see what happens with the Dirkschneider tour, with the Accept songs. I think it will be quite an interesting tour.
XS ROCK: Have you had a chance to see or hear Accept perform with Mark Tornillo as the lead singer? If, so what’s your impression?
Udo: I saw them in Hamburg on their last tour. Here’s the funny thing, I bought a ticket and I didn’t want anybody to know that I was going to watch the show. For me, It was interesting to see what their doing on stage. To be honest, the music was no problem, but for me there was no atmosphere, no emotions. It was a very cold show.
XS ROCK: Was that a really weird thing for you to watch as a spectator?
Udo: Uh, no. I think for me the Accept thing was already over. So, I thought I’m here, I’m going to watch this. It was interesting with the new songs also. And of course they played the classic stuff.
XS ROCK: That’s got to be a bit strange. When you’re known for singing those songs, it has to be strange to hear someone else sing them.
Udo: Yeah, In a way, Mark was doing a good job, but I think it’s a nightmare for him. But I mean, he’s a good singer and with the new album, He’s doing a good job. But, I think to sing the old stuff, it’s a hard time for him.
XS ROCK: Do you have any regrets or negative feelings about the guys in Accept?
Udo: No. This is over. I mean there was so many bad things going on and that’s the reason that I wanted to do the Dirkschneider thing now. I want to close the book. Now, the Accept thing, for me is history. It’s been thirty years. We are now working on our 16th album. I don’t want to say a different band, but it’s another band now. They are doing good and I wish them all the best.
XS ROCK: Do you every have any communication with those guys at all?
Udo: No. No. Definitely not. (laughs)
XS ROCK: So you would say that you parted on bad terms?
Udo: Yeah, but I mean so many bad things happened that there is no chance that we can become close again.
XS ROCK: So there’s no chance of an Accept reunion ever?
Udo: Oh, no. Definitely not. I think no one can pay me that much money. (laughs)
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Udo: Let’s say both. A little more touring. Of course the interesting part is when you start writing the songs and see how everything comes together. But when you get everything arranged and start recording, I’m always glad when it’s over too.
Sometimes it’s like being in prison. If you want it in percentages. 30% I like to be studio and working new songs, but 70% is definitely to be on tour. You go on stage and entertain the people and it’s great to see their reaction, but of course when you make a new album it’s always interesting to see how the new songs are working on stage and that’s also a little thrill. I’m still nervous when a new album comes out, wondering what the people will say and how the songs are working, but it’s good to have this too, you know?
XS ROCK: Over the years your songs subject matter have covered a wide variety of topics. What inspires you when writing new material?
Udo: Lyrics wise, I watch a lot of news and what’s going on in the world. In a way that’s easy. And then, things have to go together when they create the music. Even in Accept, we really didn’t write a lot of songs about dragons or witches or whatever. We always wrote about what was going on, you know. Political things.
XS ROCK: Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy in your free time when not working on music?
Udo: When I first come back from tour, for the first two or three weeks, I just want to relax. But, I really like reading books. I walk a lot. I live on an island in Spain. So, in a way, it’s like a holiday for me. Relaxing.
XS ROCK: If you had to choose one favorite Accept album and one favorite U.D.O. album which would you choose and why?
Udo: Breaker for Accept. I think that was the birth of the real Accept sound. For U.D.O., hmmm, it’s hard to say. Musically, for me I still like the Faceless World album. And I really liked the newest album, Decadent. There’s so many different things on there and things that I’ve never did before.
XS ROCK: Now the same question but for your least favorite album for each? Why?
Udo: For me it’s definitely the second album by Accept, I’m A Rebel. We were searching for something and there was so many different things on this. For U.D.O., I would say I was not really happy with album Solid. We made it took quick. I was not really satisfied with that album.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road? If so, please fill us in.
Udo: Oh yeah. A lot of things. When I did U.D.O. I was on an American tour with Guns N’ Roses, but it was just before they got really, really big. They were always standing on the side and they wanted to hear Princess Of The Dawn and Fast As A Shark. We always had a really good rehearsal time and good sound checks. We went somewhere almost every night in a rock club and we’d start a jam session playing blues and stuff. We did the Mean Machine tour in Europe with Ozzy Osbourne. There were a lot of stories. With Ozzy it’s always funny, you know. He’s a really nice person. But I think at that time he was drinking a little too much alcohol.
XS ROCK: So the stories that you hear about Ozzy are true?
Udo: Yeah, yeah. They are true!
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Udo: Oh, that was oh, ha ha ha, it was….one guy asked me if “I wear girly underwear”? What? Hello? That was really, really strange.
XS ROCK: Ha Ha Ha. So now I have to ask….Were you?
Udo: No. Sorry! Ha ha ha
XS ROCK: When you were younger were your parents supportive of your aspirations to play in a rock band?
Udo: My parents were very much into rock music like Elvis Presley and my grandfather was a singer in a very famous choir. I have always had something to do with music. When it was a hobby, in the beginning it was not a problem, but then it became more and more and my father was like “Are sure of what you are doing?”
XS ROCK: What are your favorite Accept / U.D.O. tracks to play live?
Udo: From U.D.O., I like They Want War from the Animal House album and for Accept, Head Over Heels .
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Udo: Ten Years After, Deep Purple, Sweet and The Rolling Stones stuff like that.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
Udo: There are so many bands. We tried to get Vicious Rumors with us in America. We did the European tour together. But, with this tour we are performing for 2 straight hours.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Udo: I’m proud to have survived in this crazy business and to make a living from it. I’m really proud to have my son in the band. He’s a permanent member now. He learned very quick and he does a lot of organization for the band now.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Udo: I would like to do what A & R managers were doing in the old days. Watch bands in small clubs and see how they perform.
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Udo: I never try to be like a rock star. I always try to be normal. I don’t necessarily listen to heavy metal every day. That might surprise some people.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Udo: I’m looking forward to the U.S. tour. I hope a lot of people come out. I hope everyone will enjoy the show. You definitely will.
XS ROCK: Well, Udo, it was a pleasure to talk with you. Good luck with the upcoming Back To The Roots tour and thanks again for taking the time to talk with us at XS Rock!