Interview with drummer Sven Dirkschneider
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 10, 2017
No, this interview isn't with Mr. Udo Dirkschneider but his son Sven, who happens to play drums in his dad's band.
There have been quite a few father and son band lineups (Oakland-based thrashers Hatriot had Exodus frontman Steve "Zetro" Souza and his two sons, Cody and Nick playing in the same band and John Bonham's son Jason took his dad's place for Led Zeppelin's reunion shows, which is a different story...) so this isn't new in the field of heavier music.
Dirkschneider, as this lineup is named, was on the second leg of their European tour with "sport metallers" Raven supporting. As many of you know the band plays only Accept songs, even some of the rarest that haven't been played in a very long time. This round of the tour included some of the band's biggest and best-known songs ("Metal Heart", "Fast as a Shark", "Balls to the Wall", etc.) from the Accept's early career.
The Metal Crypt was fortunate enough to catch up with Sven right after Dirkschneider's soundcheck on Sunday evening, 12th of November to talk about touring life, how he feels to be in the same band with his dad and how he became a drummer in the first place.
Luxi: First of all, welcome to Finland Sven and thanks for accepting my interview request.
Sven: Thank you very much!
Luxi: How much do you remember from your last visit to Finland, which happened at Tuska festival this summer? Did you enjoy performing at the festival?
Sven: It was great. I've been at Tuska before, I think it was 2005 when my dad was with the reunion tour with Accept. That was my first experience at Tuska and it's a great festival. They changed the location quite a few times I guess, but I like it, yes, it's a cool, cool festival to play, absolutely.
The crowd was very good, I think. Yes, we had some good times there. The guys from EMP were there, we had an after-show party with them. Yes, it was a good festival summer for us.
Luxi: I am a bit curious; have you ever been here not as a band member, but as a tourist?
Sven: No, never been here. No, no, no, no.
BORN TO PLAY DRUMS
Luxi: Alright then. For starters, could you tell us how you ended up playing drums in your dad's band?
Sven: I was on tour with Saxon in 2014 as a drum tech and Nigel [Glockler] got sick. He needed to go to the hospital and they needed to reschedule some shows in the UK so the tour was over. They rescheduled for February 2015 and it was pretty obvious that Nigel wouldn't be able to play at that time and they asked me if I wanted to do it and I played five shows with them. At the same time, my dad was looking for a drummer. I think my dad was at the show in Berlin which was still in 2014 and Biff and my dad had a talk and then my dad said, "Yes, I'm looking for a new drummer, blah-blah." And Biff said, "Why don't you take your son?"
I think it came to his mind a couple of weeks later and he asked me and that's how it ended up. I needed to think about it because I had to decide if I really wanted to step into the music business as a musician or stay as a technician and work. I decided I wanted to join the band and now it's been like two years [*laughs*].
Luxi: You are learning little by little what tour life is like, right?
Sven: Yes. Absolutely.
Luxi: Can you remember where the interest to play drums came from and why didn't you grab some other instrument like guitar or bass?
Sven: It started when I was three. Fitty [Weinhold] our bass player, he was at my parents' house for Christmas and I got some little bongos and a little guitar. I chose the bongos and Fitty played something on the guitar and I started playing on the bongos, just random stuff, my dad said straight away, "He's going to be a drummer." That was at the age of three. When I was five, I got my first kit so then I started.
Luxi: You've been playing drums for nearly 20 years by now...
Sven: Yes. Absolutely. I had a lot of my own bands when I was a teenager and it started pretty early. I think my first band was when I was eight or nine with some kids I met at a church choir we used to play in. I have been playing my whole life and never stopped like the other guys did. A lot of friends just stopped playing their instrument for some reason and I was the only guy that continued throughout my youth and didn't get into video games or whatever. I was going to my cellar and playing drums.
PEOPLE TO LOOK UP AS INFLUENCES
Luxi: I am curious which drummers you consider as your main influences or even idols?
Sven: For me it was always Mikkey Dee because he was the first drummer I met when I was a child. He put me behind his kit when they did the show with Motörhead. That was a privilege having a dad like mine; he knows everybody, and we went to a lot of shows. Also, of course, Johnny Dee [Britny Fox, Doro, etc.] who has known me since I was... Hmm, I don't know maybe 10 or 12. There are quite a few drummers I look up to, also Nigel.
I met all these guys when I was a little child and now I realize how it was good because I could watch them and see how they played and for me was always like, "I want to play Rock or Metal music." There was no point where I thought, "Okay, I want to do pop or something different" because I was watching them play Heavy Metal music so I wanted to do the same. I met Mikkey the last time in 2015 when I played two shows with Saxon supporting Motörhead and he is still one of my favorite drummers in the Metal business.
Luxi: You have been living your childhood dream because your dad knows so many musicians and you got the chance to meet so many of them...
Sven: Absolutely. At that time, it was normal for me. We went to random shows and friends of mine all thought, "Wow, he's meeting all these musicians." For me, it was normal. Now, I know what it was good for and realize when I'm on the drum kit playing, "Wow, I got that from this guy" or, "I watched this 10 years ago."
Luxi: Was it easy for you to learn this new set of Accept songs for this tour?
Sven: Actually, with the songs we are doing now, I never really listened to them because they aren't the most well-known. Still, for me as a drummer, this set is much more a challenge and I think for me it's great. It took a while to learn all these songs but it's about the structure, it's not about the playing. I like these songs and it's a very good set. It's a cool set to play.
Luxi: Does the set list contain songs that you rotate from one night to another?
Sven: No, no, no. We do the same thing every night and just stick to them on this tour.
Luxi: What are some of your personal favorite songs from the set and why?
Sven: There are quite a few. First of all, I like "Protectors of Terror", which is a cool song to play. We have Andre our guitarist doing the mystic voice in the middle part. This is a cool song to play. "Objection Overruled", is one I always like to play because I like fast songs with double bass stuff. Also, I like "X-T-C". When it comes in with the riff, it's heavy and I like the grooves. These are the three I like the most but the favorite is still "Protectors of Terror".
Luxi: Which songs are the most demanding ones to play?
Sven: Since I sing while I'm drumming it's pretty much "Objection Overruled" because it's fast. You have all the backing vocals which require me to sing a lot and I have to keep the fast beat. That's the toughest one I guess.
ABOUT TOURING AND TOURING LIFE
Luxi: Do you enjoy touring life? You now have 17 shows behind you and you are still not even halfway through the European leg of the tour. Does touring sometimes feel rough and exhausting?
Sven: Yes of course. When we came from Russia, we flew from Vladivostok to Spain which is about I don't know 10-12,000 kilometers with the time changing by nine hours. We had two days to get used to European time again then we went on the bus for the first show in Spain. You have to look after yourself on these long tours because you're on the bus with 10 or 11 people. If one gets sick, it's like a circus going around. You sleep every night as long as you can then wake up, do your workouts and practice. That pretty much is the routine for me.
Luxi: After a while you get used to these routines when on tour I suppose...
Sven: Yeah, absolutely.
Luxi: I noticed all three shows in the Czech Republic were completely sold out and I guess they haven't been the only sell outs, correct?
Sven: Yes. Our gig in Vilnius, Latvia, was sold out. I think we will get there with Prague and Scandinavia. I didn't hear about any sold out shows yet but let's see. You never know and it depends on the days you play. For example, in Sweden people go out on the weekend but during the week it's sometimes difficult. You can't always play on the weekends otherwise you would have the whole week off and this is not possible on tour. But yes, three sold-out shows in the Czech Republic. I'm pretty sure that there will be some sold-out shows in Germany as well.
Luxi: What's been the capacity of the venues where you have played so far?
Sven: I think about 1,000-1,500 people. The venues have pulled in that many people at max.
Luxi: OK. Obviously, a lot of people your age and younger and my age (49) and older have come to see you guys performing. Do you consider Accept's songs as a uniting force for many Metal generations?
Sven: Yes. What's great to see is that older people are bringing their kids to the shows. You have teenagers in the crowd that have never heard these songs but after the concert, you see in their faces that this was something to remember.
They will continue listening to that stuff and get interested in what else is out there. That's cool to see. Every night is pretty much a mixed crowd; young and older people. We have mostly older people but that has a lot to do with the music. I mean it's from the 80s. In my generation there are a lot of people who are into this music as well. They want to hear all the 80s stuff. I hope that my generation keeps up with this kind of music because for me this is the greatest time of music.
Luxi: The 80s era in both Rock and Metal music...
Sven. Yes, exactly. I really hope that the youth is keeping it up.
Luxi: I believe so... Why not?
Sven: I'm pretty sure.
Luxi: Are there some countries or venues that you are really looking forward to visiting and playing?
Sven: We were in a great place yesterday. I've never been to Maalahti, Finland and it was beautiful. We were by a lake and that's what I like about Scandinavia. Going to Norway is cool with all the lakes. I also like playing in Germany. There are places you've never been to and you think, "Okay, I'm going there with my wife next year just for a couple of days to relax."
I pretty much like all places. Spain is always great, good weather especially when you come from Russia like we did. It was from zero degrees then 23 plus. When you fly a lot and you get out of the plane, you think, "Fuck, wait a minute, it was zero degrees there and now I'm here and it's +23 C. My body needs to change to that temperature." But Spain is cool. Also, I like the Czech Republic. They have great food, great beer, it's enjoyable.
Luxi: I couldn't help noticing that you don't have any dates in the UK. Why is that?
Sven: It's true, yes. This time we skipped it because last time it was okay for us. The UK is a tough place to play I would say. It's OK if you're very big or you're very small, and last time we gave it a try but had to spend a lot of money to go over there. This time we thought to skip UK. We already had 58 shows from October till December and there needs to be time where we can be at home.
Luxi: ...And take time off from any touring commitments.
Sven: Absolutely! Maybe next year, I don't know, but for the moment it was just not possible with our schedule. Next year we go to the States for seven weeks. We pretty much have just January off and then in February we will go to the US. It's a lot of touring at the moment.
Luxi: The US tour lasts from the end of February until April 8th. What will happen after the US tour? Are some of the summer Metal festivals U.D.O.'s next thing on the "to-do"?
Sven: Yes, some summer festivals are upcoming but in August next year the whole Dirkschneider thing will definitely come to an end. I think we will have toured pretty much everywhere where we could and then we will go back to the U.D.O. thing again.
ABOUT HAVING A DAD AS A METAL LEGEND
Luxi: As Udo is your dad, I was just wondering what kind of figure you see him as in the world of Heavy Metal? As you know, he's been a huge influence on many Metal musicians all around the world for many decades...
Sven: For me, he always is and always will be a normal person because he's my dad. When I was younger and started to realize that he's very famous, of course, you see it differently. Whenever we are on tour he's the rock star and whenever we're at home he's the dad. That's what you always have to keep in mind when it comes to touring with a family member. We need to keep it separate, family and business and this is absolutely clear. On tour, he's the famous guy and at home, I don't live with him anymore, but he's my dad. I call him and we talk about family stuff, absolutely!
Luxi: As you know, many people both older and younger look up your dad as an important figure and Metal legend...
Sven: Yes, I know. It's been tough to realize that because as a musician people come up to you and they want to take a picture and they're shaking. You think, "Calm down, I'm just a normal person. We can talk and we can take a picture, no problem." For some die-hard fans, it's their thing to meet one person or to meet my dad because, of course, music is everything. In hard times, in bad times, in good times; it follows you everywhere that's why people are so emotional about it sometimes.
For me as a teenager I thought, "Come on, it's my dad. What's the problem?" Then you start realizing, "Oh wow, for some people he is the Metal legend." You have to get used to it.
Luxi: When did you realize that your dad was a famous person?
Sven: I think the first time was when I went to Wacken with him. He was surrounded by so many people wanting autographs and blah blah. We went from the tent where he did some press conferences to the interviews and then to the stage and blah, blah, blah. It was a tough time schedule and then I thought, "Okay. This guy is pretty busy when he's out on tour." Having all the meetings and blah, blah. That must have been around the age of 10, I think.
Luxi: You have had Raven supporting you on this tour. How familiar were you with their music before they were confirmed to be your support act?
Sven: Actually, I never heard about them until I met Mike [Heller]. He was at the show in Baltimore in the States when we played there at the beginning of the year. I got to meet this guy and my dad told me that he produced one album back in the days with them. That's when I got to know them and they are doing well. It's cool to have them out here and I think they have a very powerful set getting the crowd warmed up so it's a good support band, definitely.
Luxi: Raven are originally from the UK but aren't they all living in the USA nowadays?
Sven: I think they're all living in the States. I think Mike Heller, the drummer, is originally the drummer of Fear Factory, if I'm right. He's from New York and I think Mike and Mark live in Florida if I remember correctly. One is living in Baltimore and the other one is living in Florida. I am not so sure about this but yes, they are all based in the States now.
Luxi: Obviously you have become familiar with their stuff, especially now when they are on tour with you.
Sven: Yes. Absolutely.
Luxi: They are quite a fun bunch of entertainers onstage indeed. I've seen them once before, at the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise a year or two ago...
Sven: They are and it's cool to watch them playing live every night. I personally go out most of the time and watch the set when they play.
NEW U.D.O. ALBUM COMING OUT... SOON
Luxi: What about new material from U.D.O.? Do you have anything you can reveal about it?
Sven: Actually, we just recorded the album in May. It's not released but we got it pretty much done. Now it's mixing time and mastering time. The new album will come next year, definitely. When we had time off from touring with Dirkschneider we went to the studio and recorded some stuff.
Luxi: Oh, I see. How many songs did you lay down for this record?
Sven: I think in total we did 15 or something.
Luxi: But I guess not all of them will be on the next album?
Sven: No, not all of them will be on the album. It's cool because this time we really had time to think about the songs and that's something which is very rare these days. Most bands put together an album in two or three months and then they have their release date so they are really pushing themselves.
This time we had really the luxury of just taking time and we also went together to the studio and all of us wrote the music together. This is also something which does not happen that often anymore. Most of the time there's one guy who's getting stuff together and sending it somewhere and then the next guy's working on it. All five of us got together and we just jammed out.
Luxi: Yes. That's the old school way to get your shit together; jam together like band members used to do back in the good old days...
Sven: Absolutely! That's what I like.
Luxi: When you show up at a rehearsal session, you are able to introduce what you have and then everyone starts adding their own ideas around your song frame and everything starts building from there.
Sven: That's how it all happened for us; all the music for this next U.D.O. album. That's what we did and now we have time to re-listening to everything. We will put it out next year but we don't know yet when exactly.
Luxi: OK, sounds cool. I guess that's all I had in mind for this chat. Thank you for your time Sven and all the best for tonight's show here in Hell-sinki, Finland.
Sven: Thank you very much for coming out.
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