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Exception To The Rule

Being related to a rock star may be delightful at first sight, but when again and again people pay more attention at your last name, than at your personality, it starts to get on your nerves. Peter Dirkschneider may have 20 years of making music behind his back, and his band Vanize may deliver pure heavy metal of high class on each of their CDs, but he still gets a bit overshadowed by his older brother Udo Dirkschneider, who is the frontman of such German metal legends as Accept and U.D.O. Early this year Vanize ended a six-year break in activity by releasing their fourth album titled Raw, and it was a good chance for us to learn more about the man in the shadow and his life in heavy metal
Its been a long time since Vanize released its previous album High Proof (2000). What happened to the band after that? Why did everybody, except you, leave Vanize?

We had some differences with most of my musicians over the past few years, so in the end I went back to my old guitarist Markus Becker, and we made a new album together. After the release of High Proof we had some differences with Markus, bass player Marcus Bielenberg, and drummer Pierre Fienhold, so we went through the split. A new guitar player, Rolf Munkes, came, but it was not so good working together. Thats why I went back to my old guitar player.

How did you persuade Markus Becker and Carsten Hensel to return after being away from Vanize for several years?

Carsten left the band in 1993 or 1994 due to some private stuff his family and wife. He didnt want to continue making music, it was not so easy for him to combine going to work and playing in the band. Markus left the band also for private reasons family and blah blah blah. He had strange experience with his family, thats why he left Vanize.

How did it happen that Russia is the first country where your new album Raw is released? When can we expect a worldwide release?

Its when we find a deal. Weve been making music since 1989, its been 16 years, and we are looking for a deal thats in our line. In the early years, when record companies told us that they could offer us a deal, we said, Yeah, great! But now we do it the other way. When some label says, Yeah, we can do it, but the conditions are this and that, over the years we have learned that its better to read between the lines. The Russian label was the first to offer us a contract that was OK for us. As to a worldwide release, we are still looking for a deal. Its not so easy, they always say, You can have this, but we want that. And when a musician says, Look, Paragraph 8 in this contract is not so OK, the company says, OK, then go and look for another deal. They dont make concessions. And Markus and I said that for the new album were gonna find a really good deal, not the bad deals that we had in the last few years.

The new album was recorded in MC-Audio Studios, and we have never heard about this studio before. How did you like working there?

I started my own studi
o in 1995, and after Markus left the band, he started a small studio as well. So we put the two studios together, and the result is the MC-Audio Studios. This record was made totally by ourselves.

But why didnt you continue recording at Stefan Kaufmanns ROXX studio?

We made two albums with Stefan, and we learned a lot from him. Now we know enough about recording music in the studio, and Markus and I have the possibility to make our own music. When you have Stefan Kaufmann or Kai Hansen or whoever with you in the studio, he says, Do this and change that. But Markus and I wanted to do an album by ourselves, and that is the reason.

Your website says that you had some technical problems with mixing the record. Are you satisfied with the sound that you achieved in the end?

We did have technical problems with the mixdown. We dont have such a big studio, and it was not so easy to find the right way to make the mix. But in the end we were satisfied.

On the cover of the album there are twins again, just like on the cover of the first Vanize record. What is the meaning of this cover? Did you want to underline the connection between all periods in the history of the band?

The cover depicts the old mask, its been the Vanize mascot all through the years. And the wire is depicted to illustrate the word raw. If you look at the title through a mirror, it will read like war, and some lyrics on the album deal with the issue of war. This is the reason why we put wires on our mask. Our new drummer Marin Pfeiffer is working with some record companies in Germany, hes doing graphic design, and it is he who made the layout for the album.

Lets now go back a little bit and speak about the early days of your career. Being a brother of Udo Dirkschneider, when did you first hear heavy metal?

(sighs) I think it was in 1976 or 1977, but it was not called heavy metal back then. They called it glam rock or hard rock Sweet, Slade, Status Quo and all this stuff. And of course, Accept - I grew up with it.

Was Udo a big influence on you when you were a kid?

Im 13 years younger than Udo, and when he started with Accept and got to play to huge crowds in big venues here in Germany and I saw it, it influenced me a lot. Im v
ery proud of Udo, hes my brother, so when he played for 3,000 or 4,000 people, it was a big thing.

Being a brother of Udo is it a blessing or a curse?

For me as a musician its bad. Everyone who hears my name, reads my name on the records and then hears my voice, says, Oh, its the same like Udo! Thats his little brother, and thats it. Its difficult for us to do marketing and stuff, because Udo is always on the run, and no one wants to pay attention to his little brother. That was a big problem for us for many years, especially here in Germany. The whole scene said, Thats Udos brother, so its the same as UDO. But I think its not the same, thats my line and thats what I enjoy doing. Its not so easy to be a brother of a rock star.

Have you ever thought about using a stage name?

Its too late. (laughs) When I started to make music, I never thought about it. I was then playing in small rehearsal rooms with many PAs, then we went on stage to play loud music, and I never thought about what would happen with that stuff later. Also when I started to make music, I never wanted to sing, I was more of an engineer, I searched for bands in my area who needed front-of-house engineering. The reason why I started to sing is that I was once making the front-of-house engineering for a band called Danton, and their singer quit. So the guys asked me, Can you help us a little bit? You are the brother of Udo, and you also sing. Why dont you sing with us for a while until we find a new guy, and then you will continue with front-of-house engineering. I said yes, and thats how I became a singer. I never thought my name could be a problem. And today a change of name is not possible the press and the fans all know my name.

Dantons only album Way Of Destiny (1988) was recently re-released by your Russian label Mystic Empire together with the latest Vanize album. Can you tell us a bit about this record?

It was my first visit to the studio and our first record deal. We recorded it in our area in Germany, and even though the record company liked our music, the album never got good promotion. But Eugene from Mystic Empire is an old fan of Danton. When I was with Udo in Russia, I met him at the airport, and he was the only one with the Danton LP, and he came to me, not to Udo. He said, Hey, I know you
re the brother of Udo, and this is your album! And it happened in Russia! (laughs) It was unbelievable for me. Eugene asked me if it was possible for him to release this album on CD, and I said, Why not? Its old stuff, and its my stuff, its free from any company, so its no problem.

How did it happen that Way Of Destiny had never been released on CD before? Wasnt there any interest from other record labels?

At the time when Way Of Destiny was originally released, it was not so common to make CDs. It was the time when CDs only started to appear on the market. The record company promised us to make CDs when winter comes, but when the winter came, the record company said, You can go! There will be no CDs! This is the reason why the album was never released on CD. The rights to the music and lyrics on this album are mine, but I was never interested in releasing it, because when Danton was splitting in 1989, I started a new band called Vanize right after that. And Vanize for me was more important than Danton. The first songs we played with Vanize were Dantons stuff, but we didnt have any songs of our own. And the bass player from Danton was also with Vanize.

The album was obviously remastered from vinyl, you can hear it on the recording. But what happened to the master tapes? And what do you think of that record from todays point of view?

Today the mastering is very simple. We dont have the old tapes, they are lost somewhere, and we remastered the album from the vinyl. We brought it in the studio, set some index points, and made a very simple master. What do I think about the music? (laughs) It was my first crime. I was 20 years old, and I screamed as loud as I could without any notes. There was much beer in the studio. (laughs) Those were my first days as a musician. When I listen to it today, eeeh, its nice. This was 20 years ago, Im turning 40 this year.

Theres a very interesting song Stalingrad on that album. What inspired you to write this one? Are you interested in history in general or in World War II in particular?

Oh, its the first Danton song ever. The band was formed in 1982, and I had nothing to do with Danton at that time. It was the stuff written by the first singer, and I only sang it, I never wrote the lyrics for it. Other songs on this album were
written together by the band, I wrote some lines for them and came up with some music. But I dont know what the old singer meant in Stalingrad, I was just screaming the song.

How did you come up with the name Vanize for the new band? The English dictionary doesnt have such a word

I know! (laughs) One day Markus and me were sitting together in a rehearsal room and searching for a band name, and we came up with the name Venice. Venice is a beach somewhere in the U.S., I think so. We wanted to use this name, but there was already a band called Venice on the rock scene. Then we saw a shoe box that bore the inscription Vanize, and we said, Yeah, thats our name! We didnt invent this word, we found it on a shoe box.

The first Vanize album Twins? (1995) is a rarity nowadays. Its very difficult to get hold of this CD. Are there any chances of re-releasing it?

Yeah, its sold out. The record company printed 2,000 copies, and all of them were sold from 1995 to 1999. I only have one copy left, and its no longer to get the originals. Maybe you will find a used copy on E-bay. Markus and I are working to get the stuff remastered and arrange a new release. But its not so easy, because the rights to this album belong to the record company, not to us. If the record company says no, we can do nothing. We only play this material live.

As you said, you came to Russia with Udo few years ago. What were your impressions of the country?

It was great and a little bit strange. When you go on tour in Europe, you travel in a big nightliner with beds, and when you go to Russia, you do the whole tour by train. It was strange for me, it was a totally new experience. And the trains were not so fast when you go by train here in Germany, it runs at about 200 kmph, but the trains in Russia were very very slow. But the crowds in the clubs and big venues were excellent, it was great!

Are there any chances of seeing you here with Vanize?

(sighs) Maybe, if we are offered good conditions, it will happen. But Markus, me and the other guys have dayjobs, were not only musicians. And its not so easy for us to say, Hey Boss, Im going to Russia for two or three weeks and then I will come back again. Maybe the boss will say, You neednt come back at all. Russia is very big, I know it by my own experience, and one week is not enough to cover it. Another problem is money, because we cannot pay by ourselves to cover the travel costs. But Ill talk to Eugene, and if the conditions are OK, why not?

Special thanks to Eugene Silin (Mystic Empire) for arranging this interview.

Interview by Ksenia Wolfin Khorina, Natalie Lynx Khorina
Questions also composed by Roman Maniac Patrashov
March 23, 2006
28 2006
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