Udo and Sven Dirkschneider of U.D.O. Discuss ‘We Are One’ Album + More


U.D.O. – Story by Anne Erickson, courtesy photo

Udo and Sven Dirkschneider of U.D.O. join Anne Erickson to discuss the band’s new album, “We Are One,” and more in this in-depth interview

Metal greats U.D.O. have teamed with the official Concert Band of the German Armed Forces (Musikkorps der Bundeswehr) to release a special new album, “We Are One,” out July 17. The performance, which is under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Christoph Scheibling, features 15 new songs created and arranged by U.D.O. with Scheibling specifically for the live release.

U.D.O. frontman Udo Dirkschneider, who is also the original voice of legendary rockers Accept, heads up U.D.O. His son, Sven, is the band’s drummer. Udo and Sven spoke with Anne Erickson of Audio Ink about “We Are One,” the state of the world right now with coronavirus (COVID-19), if they would ever perform a drive-in concert and more.

Anne Erickson: Thank you for joining me, Udo and Sven. How are things in German right now with coronavirus?

Sven Dirkschneider: It’s strange times. The whole year was taken away from us, when it comes to live music, and of course, things changed in our personal lives, as well. Suddenly, there were no restaurants or bars or cinemas– nothing you could do. But, in the end, you have to stay positive and make the best out of it, and I think we pretty much managed to do that.

Udo Dirkschneider: In Germany now, it’s getting a little bit better. Restaurants are open with some regulations. You have to leave your address there, and you can’t sit so close together. Everything now is open, and everything works the normal way, but with some regulation. But, it’s still strange. It’s really strange! You have to wear the mask if you go into the supermarket and stuff like that.

Sven: It’s very unusual.

Udo: In Asia, they are used to that, but here, it’s a little bit strange. But, we are not wasting time. We are working already on the new Udo record slowly, and now we do all the interviews for the “We Are One” album.

Tell me about the idea for “We Are One” and recording an album with the official Concert Band of the German Armed Forces.

Udo: I had a chance to watch the the symphonic brass orchestra, and that was definitely the sound I was looking for to do music like this. We did a show together with the orchestra back in 2015, and the reaction was fantastic. In the beginning, we weren’t sure how people would react, but it was fantastic. We did another show in 2018, but a long show– 2.5 hours. That one, the atmosphere was very interesting. It was 40 percent metal fans, and the rest was orchestra fans, and there were also older people like me there. (Laughs) They were clapping and singing, and the atmosphere was something.

When we were finished with the show, we were sitting together with the main guy in the orchestra, and we were talking about how we have to continue, and the next step can be an album together. So, the idea was born. We said, okay, here we go. We had a meeting in the beginning of 2019, again, on how we wanted to do this album what kind of message we wanted to do, and on and on, and after this meeting, we started composing songs.

What makes the album’s message of “We Are One” so important right now?

Sven: It was important before this time right now, and we didn’t think that we’d be facing situations like this right now. It’s like with a smiling face and a sad face, because this message is so fitting to this situation worldwide, but this is, on one hand, very sad that we have situations like this, and on the other hand, the lyrics fit perfectly, and it comes at the at the right time.

Udo: When we were writing the lyrics, there was nothing really happening. We just said, we’ll write lyrics about what’s going on in the world and keep an eye on everything…

Sven: I think with this kind of message we put out for the songs, it’s not that we want to preach. We don’t want to be the guys pointing at somebody saying, “You’re doing this wrong.” It’s more about that the people may be listening to it closer and start thinking.

Udo: But, then coronavirus came, and also the rising in America, and now it fits even better.

Would you ever play a drive-in concert? A lot of bands are looking into that.

Sven: Of course! The thing is that we really can’t do it, because we come in from three continues. Our bass player is living in Slovenia, our guitarist Andrey is living in Ukraine, so there’s no way they can travel at the moment. I think it would be a funny thing to do for once, but I don’t want to get used to that. Same with live streaming. I don’t want to get used to going into a rehearsal room or studio and have five cameras in front of you and no audience, and you play to an audience online. I think that’s a very strange concept of live music.

Udo: Especially for this kind of music that we’re doing, you need an audience. There has to be feedback from the audience. To just be onstage and nobody is down there, hello? (Laughs)

Sven: I mean, it would be funny to see people blinking and stuff like that, and I saw there as one Germany band they made them do a circle pit with cars, which is awesome. That’s something funny, but again, nothing I want to get used to.

Based on what you’re hearing inside the music business, do you have any idea when concerts might return?

Sven: In Germany, they just extended the period of no concerts allowed until the end of October, so we don’t think that there’s anything happening until the end of the year. For sure not. We just can hope and pray that there’s no second wave coming, because then, probably the next year is going to be gone, as well– at least until the middle of next year.

Udo: We can hope and cross our fingers at everything getting normal next year. We, of course, are moving also a lot of touring stuff — South America, America, Canada, Russia, a big tour with Helloween in Europe — so that’s why we hope everything goes in a way normal next year. Definitely, we’re already confirmed for Wacken next year with the orchestra, and we will see and hope everything will happen.

Sven: They are already predicting they that this will take a long time. Same with airlines. They predict everything (with airlines) will get back to normal maybe in ’23, or whatever! It’s the same with concerts. Some people might be scared to go again if they’re open, because if you can imagine a Wacken festival with 80,000-plus people, could be a lot of people that would also say, “No thank you. I’ll just stay home and watch the live stream, which is available.” But, I really hope that this is not the case and that we can get to a normal situation.

What are your thoughts on the state of heavy metal music? Do you think metal is in a good place?

Sven: Yeah. I would say. There’s a lot of new bands coming up. There are so many bands also from Germany, which I’m a bit proud of and surprised that they made it this big. Look, for example, at Sabaton or Powerwolf– they are taking over a huge role, coming to be headliners stages for big festivals. So, of course, I think you can tell better, but the business changed a lot, but I think it’s still in a good way, and I believe that rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal will never die. Definitely not.

Udo: I think so! I’ve been doing it for 40 years, and I think that will be happening also maybe for another 40 years.

Sven: Hopefully longer! (Laughs)

Udo, people got to know and love you in Accept. When you hear a song like “Balls to the Walls,” are you sick of it at this point, or do you still like to hear it?

Udo: Let’s say, definitely, I’m not listening to it at home! (Laughs) But it’s still

Sven: Oh, come on! (Laughs)

Udo: It’s still very interesting. We did a long tour for nearly there years with Dirkschneider, and to play this song live was very interesting to see. This album came out in ’83, and you see young people, maybe 16 and 17 years old — they were not born at this time — and singing this song, and that means you were creating something. And that’s my life.

Sven: That’s the fascinating thing, in general, about music. These evergreens that get through generations. That’s amazing. If you see people my age, now that I have had the privilege to play this song since five years, you see people my age chanting and dancing to this song. It doesn’t matter where in this world. It’s amazing. It’s great.

Udo: You can compare it to asking Judas Priest if they still like “Breaking the Law.” I think they don’t listen to it at home. (Laughs) Also, “Smoke on the Water.’ All these songs are songs, I think, you can still play in 10, 15, 20 years, and they are something. Some songs, they last forever.