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Udo Dirkschneider (UDO, ex-Accept)

The Scorpions may have been the most commercially successful German heavy metal act of the 1980s, but the most influential was Accept, who lent a major hand in the creation of thrash metal with their blazing rocker, "Fast as a Shark." The singer during this era of the band was Mr. Udo Dirkschneider, a gentleman who favored short-cropped hair and baggy camouflage trousers at a time when many metallists were spiking up their mile high hair with Aqua Net and squeezing into their spandex.

After splitting from Accept in 1987, Dirkschneider formed his own band, UDO. The group lasted until 1992, when the classic Accept lineup decided to give it another go. But by 1997, Dirkschneider had exited Accept once more, and resuscitated UDO.

While many UDO band members have come and gone over the years, one name that will be familiar to metal fans is Stefan Kaufmann, who was originally Accept's drummer, before moving to guitar for UDO (nowadays, he doesn't tour with UDO, but lends a hand in the songwriting department). In the process, UDO has issued a total of thirteen studio albums, with a new one - Steelhammer - on the way. To feed demand for the back catalog, eight UDO albums were reissued as expanded editions in 2013.

In this conversation, which is best imagined in his German accent, Dirkschneider chatted about his favorite UDO tunes, the filming of one of heavy metal's all-time classic music videos, and the creation of the aforementioned "Fast as a Shark."

Greg Prato (Songfacts): How did the idea come up to reissue the eight albums of the UDO band?

Udo Dirkschneider: The idea is that you didn't get all the albums of UDO for a long time in the US, so now we had the possibility to bring out the whole back catalogue. And now AFM Germany has opened up a office here over at the US and found a distribution label, stuff like that. For us, it was also important that we can make a tour, then people can buy the whole back catalogue.

Songfacts: What can fans expect from these reissues, as far as if there are going to be bonus tracks and things like that?

Udo: Yeah. Of course, the record company was asking if we had something left, like live songs, unreleased songs, to remix songs. So we gave them everything what we had.

Songfacts: What are some of your favorite tracks looking back on those albums, maybe for fans that may just be discovering these albums?

Udo: From Animal House, I like "They Want War." From the Faceless World album, I like very much "Heart of Gold." Time Bomb, "Time Bomb," the title song. This is hard to say - to pick one from each album.

Songfacts: I understand. And I'm curious, too, are there any songs that you rediscovered by going back that perhaps you forgot about?

Udo: Yeah. When you listen to the old albums and you find songs, and say, "I didn't listen to that song for a long time," and then you say, "Oh, it is a great song." It sometimes happens.

Songfacts: Are there any specific songs you could list where that happened?

Udo: I just found a song, I don't know which album it is on, "Animal Instinct" [from 2002's Man and Machine] is a very interesting song, but we never played this song live.

Songfacts: How has your songwriting changed over the years when you compare songwriting for Accept and writing for the UDO band?

Udo: With Accept it was more teamwork. We had two periods of UDO. In the first place, I was writing the songs together with two guitar players, Mathias Dieth and Andy Susemihl. And now, with UDO for the second time, I wrote most of the songs - 90% - together with Stefan Kaufmann.

Songfacts: Are there any themes that show up in your songs?

Udo: Yeah. What we always do is what happens every day - you just put the news on and you have tons of ideas for writing lyrics. But sometimes you also do some normal stuff, like about the music and the fans. But we always try to do something about what goes on in the world.

Songfacts: Who are some of your favorite songwriters?

Udo: For me Ronnie James Dio was a big thing.

Songfacts: How did his music affect you and also his singing?

Udo: For me, he was one of the greatest singers in the metal scene. I was in a way a good friend with Ronnie. When we met each other, especially at a festival, we always had a long talk about music and stuff like that. So it was very similar in thinking of this kind of music.

Songfacts: Let's talk about some of your best-known songs. What do you remember about writing "Fast as a Shark"?

Udo: Stefan Kaufmann came up with just a fast song. [Laughs] The really funny thing was in the beginning, we said, "Bah! No, we cannot play songs like this." But we didn't know that we were exasperating "speed metal." So that was completely new. And then we put this funny thing in:"Hi De Hi Do Hi Da." It's from a folk song in Germany [titled "Ein Heller und ein Batzen," which translated in English means "A Farthing and a Penny"].

We put the song in front of the album. So sometimes you have crazy ideas, and in the end it works out very good.

Songfacts: You just mentioned speed metal. Would you agree that that was the first ever speed metal song?

Udo: It was.

Songfacts: I agree too. When I interviewed Charlie Benante, the drummer from the band Anthrax a few years ago, he said that was the song that he played when he was trying out for Anthrax.

Udo: Yeah! [Laughs] It's sometimes really funny. [Laughs]

Songfacts: What about the song "Balls to the Wall," what do you remember about the writing of that?

Udo: "Balls to the Wall," that was just a riff in the beginning. The hook line "balls to the wall," the melody "balls to the wall," that was it. And nobody has a clue about the verse, how we sing the verse.

One night I was sitting there with Stefan Kauffmann at his studio, and we said, "Okay, what can we do?" We had a lot of drinks, and I was in a way really drunk, and then I start singing the verse in some way, and here we go. Then the words came out: "Balls to the Wall." Sometimes things happen.

Songfacts: Right. And what do you remember about the filming for that video? Because that video's gone on to become a heavy metal classic.

Udo: When we did this video that was shooting in January, it was very cold in London, near the airport. It was very cold, and especially when I had to step on this wrecking ball. That was something else. I said, "Please, no, I don't want to do this!" But in the end, I was young, so I said, "Okay, here we go." But it was freezing like hell.

Songfacts: And what do you remember about the songwriting of "London Leatherboys"?

Udo: A lot of people say that was a gay song, but it was not a gay song. "London Leatherboys," it was a song about a London biker gang. Nothing to do with anything gay. When we did the Balls to the Wall album, because of the cover, all the people called us then a "gay metal band." But, okay, here we go.

Songfacts: What are the future plans for UDO and are you working on a new album with the band?

Udo: Yeah. The new album is done, called Steelhammer. It's coming out at the end of May. And at the moment all we're doing is the short US tour after a long time, and see what's going on for UDO. So far everything looks very good. They're talking about how we have to come back next year for a longer tour. Then maybe when we are finished with the US tour, we'll go back to Europe. Then we start the whole tour doing festivals, and then in the middle of September we start the European tour - we start in Russia, and then you can say nearly everywhere in Europe. We have to go to South America, and then hopefully we come back next year, then, for another long tour of the US.

May 10, 2013. Get more on UDO, including the tour dates, at udo-online.com.
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