Interview by: Smudge
Photo Credit: Martin Hausler
Legendary former Accept singer Udo Dirkschneider released his storming new record ‘Touchdown’ recently. It’s a thoroughly rockin’ affair that features his old Accept teammate Peter Baltes banging the bass for the band. I got a chance to talk with Peter via Zoom from his home in Florida about the new album and how he joined U.D.O. First the album…
‘It’s been a while since I was so happy with an album I’ve played on. I didn’t write anything on this record because it was all written before I joined but I’m still very proud of it. It’s very cutting-edge traditional metal meets modern metal. It was written during the pandemic and was supposed to be released a lot earlier but there was no point, so it was put on ice.’
So, how did Peter end up back with UDO.
‘About a year ago I got a phone call from Sven (Dirkschneider – Udo’s son and drummer in the band). He said we have a huge disaster. We have just started a 3-month tour of Europe and on the second show, the bass player collapsed onstage. He had to go to the hospital and had to stay there – I don’t know why or what he was diagnosed with and to this day I still don’t. The band had a day off and called me to ask if I could learn 16 songs and then join them for their next gig in Berlin! I was having dinner with my wife at the time here in Florida. We talked about it and she said ‘It will be good for you, Udo has always been a good friend all these years.’ So, I said I’ll give it a go. For the next 2 days and nights, I learned the songs – there were a couple of Accept songs in there, so I just learned the ones I didn’t know then I hopped on a flight to Berlin and was on stage. I hadn’t been on stage since 2018 when I left Accept and I hadn’t shared a stage with Udo since 2005 so to me it was a shock because it took me straight back to my youth, hearing his voice which is the quintessential voice of Accept. That’s what made Accept and I’m standing next to him, and it felt so authentic, the real deal, it was magical. I spent the whole 3 months in Europe, a long tour then I came back home. We went to South America. Whilst we were there, they got an e-mail from the bass player who said that he didn’t want to do this anymore, I don’t know why, and I still don’t – it’s none of my business. They asked me to join full-time. I was having so much fun I said yeah. We go to Australia and Japan then we start a US tour on November 4th which goes into the middle of December. They sucked me right in!’
What happened with Accept?
‘It’s well known that circumstances changed, and it wasn’t a band anymore. One person controls it all which is quite common in bands, but the financial and musical aspects changed, and I went from a full band member to a hired gun. I got tired and it wasn’t what I wanted anymore. In 2018 the dynamic had changed so much, and the pandemic hit so it was good timing.’
‘I kept busy by writing music for film and TV and I recorded albums for people from Greece and Iran plus I did Mick Mars’s solo album with Ray Luzier from Korn. I also worked on a solo album. Once the travel band was lifted, I visited my mother who lives in the same town as Stefan (Kaufmann former Accept drummer). I went to his house to say hi and whilst I was there the doorbell rang and there was Udo! So, we went at it all night, drinking and reminiscing and Udo said that he was doing an album with the German armed forces orchestra, and we should write some songs.
We ended up writing seven tracks and I played most of the bass on that record.’ ‘Then Udo said he wanted to do something for the band and crew because they had been out of work for two years, one of the crew was working in a car wash! So, we released an EP where all the proceeds went to the band and crew to keep them afloat. That’s how we reconnected really.’
I asked Peter if he was worried about what to do after leaving Accept.
‘It was a blessing for me. After doing something for so long, a door closed but another one opened. I got to spend more time at home and explore other things. I worked on my writing skills and my home studio. I feel great and I can say it was the best time of my life. I’m now in a great band that is all very respectful and incredibly talented. You’ve heard the record, yeah? The guitarists are on fire, both have very different styles and Sven is an incredible drummer. But there’s no egos! Can you believe that UDO is 71? He’s singing better than ever!’
Peter said that he wrote music during his sabbatical I wanted to know if it was all metal.
‘No, it was all sorts of stuff. It enabled me to broaden my work. My aim in life as a musician was to always improve, learn different things, and go to other places. They always called me the hardest-hitting right hand in metal, but I explored so many different types of music from reggae to R&B. I had the luxury to able to record and put it to the test and I’ve gotten quite good at it. I’m playing metal again which is fun, to be honest.’
Did Peter ever consider going solo with his band?
‘No, no! I am working on a solo album but I’m waiting for the time to finish it because I’m too busy now. It’s just sitting there. I have to finish it before Don Airey retires! It’s like a cross between Rainbow, E.L.P., and Dream Theater. I’m a progressive type but it has to be perfect and stand up against what I have done before, it has to be valid.’
During my research, I discovered that before joining Accept Peter was in a prog rock band called Pythagoras.
‘Oh yes! We had about 4 songs that were all like 25 minutes long. It was jamming sort of stuff where I played a thousand notes a minute with a keyboard player. I don’t know why we had a guitarist because he didn’t get a look in! I was the singer too but I didn’t speak English so I would sing in pretend English. It didn’t matter because nobody in the town spoke English either. It didn’t last very long because I was recruited by Accept. I went from this jam band thing playing all these notes to just hitting one note. I had to dumb down.’
‘I had a great time with Accept. I wrote some great music. We went back to Wuppertal and visited the places we used to play. A concert hall and some bars. We played these places then went to the USA and supported Kiss and Ozzy. When we came back our whole worlds had changed. Today, I feel I have been given a second chance with a great band. To be honest I hadn’t listened to any U.D.O records so I didn’t realise how many great songs he had, no idea. We also play under the Dirkscheider name where we play Accept songs, that’s so much fun. Now we can mix it up a bit and maybe play a medley of the ballads that I sang. They’ve never been played live and maybe we could revisit some of the songs off the first album.’
Peter then told me how the title of the new album ‘Touchdown’ was chosen and what some of the songs are about.
‘We were on tour in South America sitting in an airport. They guys were watching an American football game on the TV and they asked me to explain the rules and stuff. I don’t watch it myself, I watch soccer. I tried to explain as best I could then there was a touchdown and Udo jumped up and said ‘That’s it, that’s what I want – Touchdown, that’s the next album!’ I think it’s a metaphor for him coming out of the pandemic with a product that’s breaking through barriers and defenses. ‘Touchdown’ was the last song written and it’s become the title and the first single.’
‘There’s a song called ‘The Flood’ which is about when Sven’s house was flooded. He lost his basement home studio, destroyed. ‘Fight For The Right’ is interesting because nobody could have imagined that we would ever see another war in Europe – the Middle East is different, but in Europe? I’ve traveled all over the world and people are the same everywhere. They want a family, a way to support that family, put food on the table, and make sure their kids have a good education so they can have a better life than their parents. That’s all they want, pretty simple. It’s the other ‘class’ who want to keep us all divided.
The conversation then diverts to Peter’s son’s band Howling Giant who are a superb stoner rock trio. That got me thinking, being a touring musician, I wanted to know if it was difficult to have a wife and family.
‘It was difficult, and I had to make some tough decisions. I had some great offers after I worked with Don Dokken. I can’t mention any names but offers that other guys would have snapped up. I decided that I couldn’t accept it because my kids were little. When I was on tour with Ozzy, I saw what it was like with him on the road and I didn’t want that for my kids. I decided to stay and raise them to 2005, it’s a call I had to make. You can’t bail on your kids – I’m not judging anybody it was my choice. I think I made the right choice and now I’m getting a second chance.
So, what’s next?
‘We have some festivals in October then rehearsals for the US tour. We go to Europe in February for 3 or 4 months then it starts again – it’s like being on a hamster wheel! I’m sorry we’re not coming to the UK, but you have to be at a certain level to play over there, it’s just so expensive! But you know whenever we play European festivals and do the signings there are always loads of people from the UK.’
U.D.O ‘Touchdown’ is out now on Atomic Fire Records.