What most makes a metal legend? Longevity? Stylistic impact? Unwavering devotion to the metal cause? Probably all three in equal parts if you go by Udo Dirkschneider's contributions to heavy metal over the last quarter century. Dirkschneider has been able to parlay his success in Accept into a successful world-wide career playing the music that he loves in his own band U.D.O.
Udo Dirkschneider stands tall amongst his metal peers - as such he is a legend, a forefather, a keeper-of-the-metal-flame so to speak, yet he remains as humble as humble can be. Udo feels comfortable enough with his stature that he is able to roam among the fans at the venue before concerts casually chatting with fans and posing for pictures - it's true when they say that Dirkschneider is a fan's rock star!
It had been a few years since U.D.O. had toured the North America and I wanted to know about Udo's impression of the fans' reactions on the North American tour. "The fan reaction has been great; we've done about thirty shows and the fans have been great everywhere," Udo said, "we're looking forward to coming back." I pushed a bit more given the recent rise of classic metal and '80s styled hard rock and how that was affecting reception to U.D.O.'s latest release "Holy." "The reaction hasn't been as big as it has been in Europe," Udo continues, "the fan reaction in America to the classic metal sound has been slower."
I point out to Udo that the American metal fan base is steadily coming back to the classic metal sound. "But there's too much trendy stuff going on," Udo replies.
"Well, there's no doubting the resurgence in classic metal" I said.
Yet Udo responded with authority, "It never really went away in Europe."
I was afraid to bring up the subject of Wolf Hoffman, but Udo managed to bring it up himself as I framed a fairly innocent question (I thought) about U.D.O. being more like Accept than some the later Accept material. "Wolf wanted to keep the band a four-piece with only him on guitar, but I felt that Accept was only proper with two guitars. Now I get the two guitar sound in U.D.O."
Venturing into more Accept territory, I asked about Stefan Kaufmann's involvement with U.D.O. "With Stefan in the band I really have half of Accept - at least two former members of Accept in U.D.O." Dirkschneider explains. "Having Stefan in the band is knowing I've got a songwriting partner who can easily write the style of songs the fans want to hear and we want to play." I
inquired about Stefan's role as a producer. "As a producer Stefan has been very important."
The recent release of Nuclear Blast's tribute CD to Accept was an excuse to continue the conversation going about Accept. The tribute album "means Accept had an impact - that Accept was able to influence a new generation of bands," Udo said with a bit of pride.
Even despite Dirkschneider's long track record I brought up the eventual end of Udo's metal career to see what an established artist would remember if his career had a finite end rather than a long slow tail-off. Udo spoke with care and chose his words carefully: "I would most remember just being lucky to do this for so long, to be able to meet so many people, and to travel."
Rumors have been abuzz regarding the fact that some shows have been recorded on this quick Spring jaunt for a possible future release as a live CD. Addressing these particular rumors Udo simply stated, "We are recording shows while we are in Russia in the Fall (2000). Hopefully, a live CD will be ready by February 2001."
Part of what makes Udo tick these days is his ownership of the material he performs. "I formed my own corporation. I own the first four Accept albums and the U.D.O. material. I tell Nuclear Blast what to do with distribution and promotion." This led me to believe that Dirkschneider was going to stick with metal over the long-haul and I pushed for some more information on his long-term plans for U.D.O.; "We're going to go back to Europe to play the summer festivals. Then back to the U.S. for some more shows out West. We'll tour Russia and then finalize the live CD. Then we'll tour Spain and South America before heading back to Germany to write the new album. So already we're looking at 2002 for the new record."
With "Holy," U.D.O. has brought the classic metal sound into the new millennium. By playing the kind of material that we all know and love, it seems Dirkschneider has a lock on future success. At the end of the evening - as U.D.O. was ripping through "I'm A Rebel" - Udo clenched his fist and unleashed a patented howl. It was clear that the classic metal sound that Accept created and U.D.O. continues is well loved and admired.