Interview with Stefan Kaufmann
This past May U.D.O released their 13th full-length album Rev-Raptor. A hard-hitting affair, the album finds Udo Dirkschneider and Stefan Kaufmann playing with a renewed sense of purpose and energy. These former Accept band mates are still in top form and U.D.O. continues to be a driving force in heavy metal. Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing U.D.O guitarist and producer Stefan Kaufmann. I want to thank Stefan for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk with Heavy Metal Time Machine. Below the interview I've included a link to my review of Rev-Raptor. Enjoy!
Andy-Stefan, first off thank you for taking the time to do this interview. It is a great honor for me as I've followed your career from your time in Accept to playing with Udo in his solo project. You've had an amazing career. Could you tell us some of the highlights?
Stefan Kaufmann: Well, I guess the first big highlight was supporting Judas Priest in 1981. I was a big fan of this band and all over sudden I'm playing on the same stage like them. The next big thing was playing together with Kiss in the U.S. in 1984. That was the time, when our career really took off! A really big highlight for me personally was the"Eastern" tour in 1998. We played the big venues in Kazakhstan and Russia ... and the people were singing along our songs! Maybe this was the biggest highlight up to now!
Andy-How did you become involved with producing albums?
SK: After Accept split up in 1989, Dieter Dierks - our former producer - suggested, that I should produce U.D.O.'s newest album, Faceless World. I got together with Udo and we talked about it. Udo was very happy about the suggestion and so I started producing my first album. I guess I did a pretty good job and after that I produced a lot of other bands - first in the Dierks Studios and after that in my own one.
Andy-You started off playing drums but were forced to give it up due to health problems correct? Do you prefer playing drums over guitars?
SK: Here's the chronology of my main instruments: in 1963 I started to play the accordion, in 1968 I started to play the guitar (my mother was playing in a mandolin and guitar orchestra, so she showed me the first chords on the guitar) and in 1974 I had to start playing drums, because the local band I wanted to join wasn't looking for a guitar player but for a drummer. So my father bought a second hand drum kit from a colleague of his (it was an old Rogers Londoner V) and two weeks later I had my first gig (the first song I had to play was "Take Five" by the "The Dave Brubeck Quartet" in an unusual quintuple (5/4) time, played with brushes). In the local music scene I was looked at as a drummer, and four years later in 1978 I joined Accept ... as a drummer. So from 1974 until 1994 (with some discontinuances) I played the drums. From 1968 until today I play the guitar. I definitely prefer playing guitar over drums!
Andy-U.D.O. has grown from a simple project started in 1986 to a full fledged band with it's own style and sound. How does it feel to be a part of it?
SK: I'm very proud of it! In the beginning it was just "Udo's solo project" and Accept was the big shadow over it. But already during the first U.D.O. period (1987 -1991) the band developed its own style and stepped out of the shadow. In the second period (1997 - ...) the band became more and more self-confidence and is successful all over the world until today! And I'm very happy to be a part of it!
Andy-Does the band feel a need to compete with the new Accept on some level or are you and Udo beyond that?
SK: I think Udo and I are beyond that! Accept to us is just another heavy metal band. In the past we were part of it, of course, but there are so many bands around and it would be impossible to feel the need to compete with all of them.
Andy-On Rev-Raptor Udo sounds hungry again. The album is up front and very heavy. What was the driving force behind it?
SK: To simply make the best album possible ... as we always do! And I'm profoundly convinced that with Rev-Raptor we did the best album up to now!
Andy-How much of a hand did you have in writing it?
SK: Musically I wrote most of it. Udo and myself did the lyrics. But it's the whole band who performs the album, and that's the most important part! You need good songs, of course, but a bad performance, a bad production or a bad sound can destroy a lot!
Andy-Many bands have grown up listening to Accept and U.D.O. How does it feel to know that you guys have influenced a whole generation of metalheads?
SK: Well, I'm proud of it, of course! I still remember myself sitting in front of the record player and listen to my favourite bands. Trying to figure out the guitar parts or the drum parts. To imagine, that other people did the same with our own music is a big sensation of pride!
Andy-What is your take on the heavy metal scene these days?
SK: I don't know. Is there a new metal scene? When we're playing the big festivals, for example, there are mostly the same bands like in the last twenty years. I haven't heard anything about any really new heavy metal bands. Maybe I'm wrong or deaf, dumb and blind, but to me the metal scene is more or less unchanged since at least two decades.
Andy-Any new bands you personally like?
SK: Well ... I guess, Q9 already answered it. I like bands like Rammstein or Unheilig, but they are not really new!
Andy-What does the future hold for you Stefan? How long would you like to be doing this? Life on the road takes its toll doesn't it?
SK: I will do this as long as I have fun with it ... and the fans want it! I don't want to end up being a caricature of myself! As long as I'm authentic to the fans I will carry on!Life on the road was never my favourite part of being a musician. And still today I try to keep it as short as possible. When we're playing festivals I fly in and out as quick as possible, and on tour I'm flying home on every possible day off. It's not playing live, what I don't like, it's all the time wasted while travelling. And I simply try to waste as little time as possible!
Andy-Favorite Accept album and why?
SK: Objection Overruled. It's the best performance and the best songwriting of all Accept albums.
Andy-Same question with U.D.O. Of the albums you've played on which was your favorite? Other than Rev-Raptor of course!
SK: Now that's hard! My two favourite albums are Faceless World (I didn't play on it) and Rev-Raptor (I'm not allowed to mention). So I guess it's Dominator then, because after the two albums mentioned before it's the one with the best songwriting and the best production (but the worst cover ever)!
Andy-What were some of the bands you grew up listening to? Who influenced your work as a drummer? How about as a guitarist?
SK: I grew up listening to Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, The Sweet, Rainbow, and many more. My work as a drummer was clearly influenced by Mick Tucker, Cozy Powell and Buddy Rich. Unfortunately all three are dead and I never got the opportunity to meet them.As a guitar player I was influenced by Ritchie Blackmore, Andy Scott and Chris Rea. All three are still alive and I would love to meet them!
Andy-Tell me something about yourself that no one knows. Any hidden talents or hobbies?
SK: I guess that after more than thirty years in public there is not much of a secret left. I love animals (especially my six cats), I'm highly interested in everything concerning aviation and aeronautics, I love to cook, I'm doing a lot of photographing and video filming (and editing) and I'm addicted to books. If there are not at least ten unread books on my bookshelf, I'm getting really nervous!
Andy-Last great album you heard of any genre.
SK: Unheilig - Große Freiheit
SK: Lionel Davidson - Kolymsky Heights
SK: James Bond - Quantum of Solace
Andy-What words of encouragement would you have for young bands today who are just starting out?
SK: Be authentic and do your own thing. You can (and must) get influenced by other bands or musicians, but don't try to copy them. The original is always better than the copy! So you better become the original!
Andy-Any last words for fans like myself?
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! And I hope to see a lot of them during our upcoming tour September - December 2011!