UDO have recently released their twelfth studio album Dominator, it's a rip roaring riff fest of the highest order, containing that guitar heavy sound that perfectly complements power house vocal legend Udo Dirkschneider. Sea of Tranquility staff writer Steven Reid recently had the pleasure of asking UDO guitarist and producer Stefan Kaufmann about the new album and also his and Udo's previous band Accept reforming even after the pair declined to take part.
SoT: Hey Stefan, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.
First up, you guys must be very pleased with Dominator and the way it has been received?
Stefan Kaufmann: The reaction of the fans and the media is overwhelming up to now. Everybody seems to love the album and also the critics are great. So far we are very satisfied with the result. We were working on the album for more than eight months and in the end all the work seems to pay off. To me "Dominator" is the best album we did so far. It has a great variety of songs, great performance, some unusual arrangements and a powerful sound. Yes – we are very satisfied with the album!
SoT: What are personal favourites from the disc?
SK: So shortly after finishing a new album, I love every song of it. They're all my little babies and up to now I cannot really say, which ones I love most. But once we're on tour, the favourites will establish and then you can ask me again …
SoT: Lead of single from the Dominator album "Infected" was a limited release of 2222 copies, was this a reference to it being 22 years since debut album Animal House was released?
SK: No, I think it was only a move of the record company to have a catchy limited number of EP's.
SoT:The whole band seem to have really hit a rich vein of form, both Mastercutor and Dominator sound like a band that are completely at ease with their songs and loving every second of their music. After all these years what do you put that enthusiasm and energy down to?
SK: To the fun of it. Because we love the music we are doing. It comes from the bottom of our hearts. And so to us it's big fun to create new music. That's maybe the secret of making continuously good albums. We love to create something new … it's that simple!
SoT: Has having a stable line up since 2005 contributed to cohesion in the music?
SK: Absolutely! We get to know each other better and better every day. So everybody knows, what the other one would play or the way he would interpret it. That helps a lot in having a powerful performance.
SoT: How long did the album take to put together?
SK: It was a long process – but that's what it takes to produce a good album! We started recording the album in August '08 and kept constantly working on it until June '09 – except for a little break in November '08 when we did our Russian/Ukrainian tour. We recorded more than twenty songs and had to choose twelve of them to be released (that was maybe the hardest part of the work …).
SoT: Do the songs change a lot in the studio, or is it finished ideas that are brought in?
SK: We always start with a brainstorming concerning titles, hooklines, lyrics and other text fragments. After this process we have about thirty to forty text frameworks we start to work with. The whole band is writing constantly, so when we go into production, there are a lot of ideas to choose from. This time for example we wrote about 25 songs, recorded about 20 of them and in the end, 13 or so made it on the album and the single.
SoT: You have been credited as sole producer of the last few albums, which do find more rewarding, the guitar work or the production?
SK: I'm proud of both aspects of my work and so both is equally rewarding. I'm happy when I read in the reviews about the great guitar work, and I also feel honoured when the quality of the production is highly praised.
SoT: When you started to work with Udo outside of Accept you had sole production of a couple of albums, however once you started playing guitar in the band, yourself and Udo co-produced for a while before you went back to having the production chair to yourself again. What brought about the changes?
SK: That's hard to say. We simply decided, that Udo's work was more on the public side and my work was more in the background, like producing the albums and taking care of the more technical aspects of the band.
SoT: Has there been a conscious decision to continue to include the slower tracks such as "Stillness of Time" or "Whispers In The Dark" or the more quirky upbeat "Devil's Rendezvous", in which I even detected a very slight hint of E.L.O.?
SK: Those kinds of songs always come naturally. We never sit down and say: "Hey, we need a song like this or that". In most cases the lyrics dictate the kind of song. So, if there are lyrics like "Whispers In The Dark", "Stillness Of Time" or "Devil's Rendezvous", the music grows nearly by its own. And to me it's important to record songs like this. They still match our style, but they are always outstanding.
SoT:As a producer is it harder to coax Udo's heartfelt vocal performances out of him for these tracks, as he sounds so at ease with them?
SK: No. Udo loves to do songs like them. So I don't need to coax him at all. My task as a producer is to make sure, that the songs are in the right key and with the right vocal lines, so they match Udo's style.
SoT: What struck me listening to the new album was just how much of a debt the current European power and symphonic metal scene owe to Accept and UDO, does it bother you that you guys aren't given the credit for bringing that riff heavy, yet classically inspired sound to prominence?
SK: That depends on how you look at it. Of course it would be nice to have more fans, to sell more albums and to play in bigger venues. On the other hand we were able to make our music and tour around the world for more than thirty years now. I've seen a lot of very successful bands come and disappear again over all those years. We are still able to produce new albums, sell them worldwide and play in almost every country of the world. And if we keep our health, we can keep on doing it for a long time to come.
SoT: Have you guys finalised a plan of attack regarding promoting the album and what territories will you be touring?
SK: That's a question that our management and our promotion department would be able to answer. But I know that they are working worldwide, so I guess we will have a lot of work to do in the future.
SoT: How did the fan edition of the album, which includes a t-shirt and a signed card come about and how popular has it been?
SK: Again, things like that are up to the record company, the management and the promotion department. In most cases they decide about special products, special activities and so on. But I know that the limited fan edition of the album was sold out within days … I don't even have my personal copy …
SoT: I can't avoid asking about the reformation of Accept. Was it a simple choice for yourself and Udo to decline the offer, and what factors had changed from when you both rejoined for the Objection Overruled album?
SK: It was a totally different situation when we reformed for the "Objection Overruled" album. We had a great time together when we wrote the material for the album and for us it was an easy decision. The album and the tour were very successful and so we could have carried on like that. But very soon the first problems arose again. Wolf and Peter wanted to make a different kind of music than Udo and myself. The "Death Row" album was the result of this dissent and the "Predator" album was the final stroke. Knowing all this, it was easy for Udo and me not to join Accept again this time. I am very thankful that I was able to be a member of Accept over all those years. Accept brought me to the point, where I am today. And where I am today, I am very happy.
SoT: Is there any real credibility in a reformation that doesn't include the two of you, especially considering that UDO continue to produce music that is strongly flavoured by that classic Accept sound and every bit as good?
SK: First of all it's not a reformation. Wolf and Peter decided to make music again under the name Accept. They both are great musicians and so I'm quite sure that they will produce a very good album. But as always, the fans will decide about the success of a band.
SoT: The fans never gave the version of Accept with David Reece any credence, do you see Mark Tornillo getting an equally hard time?
SK: I guess so. But that's not only the case with Accept. In most cases, when a band changed the frontman, they had problems with the acceptance of the fans.
SoT: I was surprised to see links on the UDO site to the new Accept line up doing "Balls To The Wall" and "Flash Rocking Man", how strange was it to hear them without yourselves involved?
SK: For me it was not strange at all. Back in 1994, when I was no longer a member of the band, I did the live recording for the "Access All Areas" album. So I attended about six or seven concerts. I also did the post production and final mixing of the album. So for me it was no new experience.
SoT: Will you be interested to hear what new material they come up with?
SK: Of course. As I said before, I'm sure they will produce a great album. And I like to listen to good music.
SoT: Once the touring with UDO, what is next for yourself and the band?
SK: We will start our European tour in early November 2009 and it will carry on until February 2010. Then there will be some touring in Russia, South America and the Far East. In the summer we will hit the festival season and then start working on the next album. We will definitely do some video shooting on the tour, so there might be another live DVD coming up in 2010.
SoT: Thanks once again Stefan. Is there are anything else you'd like to add?
SK: In the name of the whole band I would like to thank our fans worldwide for their support all over the years! Without them we wouldn't be there where we are today. We hope that they like our new album and that we will see a lot of them on our upcoming tour. For any up to date news check our homepage www.udo-online.de .
(Click here to read our reviews of Dominator