Between his days in Accept alongside Wolf Hoffmann and within the ranks of his namesake band, U.D.O., beside Mathias Dieth, German heavy metal icon Udo Dirkschneider has feasted on his fair share of guitar heroics.
Of course, with those heroics and the music resulting comes expectations. But that doesn’t seem to bother Dirkschneider, as evidenced by the sonic fury unleashed across his latest record, 2023’s Touchdown. And if you haven’t guessed it, guitar badassery is a big part of what makes Udo’s music tick, meaning to do what he does, he’s going to need a stage-struttin’ six-stringer capable of taking on Udo’s past catalog while also delivering what the fans expect.
Enter Fabian ‘Dee’ Dammers, a young German shredder who wields his iconic Ibanez curios with the sort of fury and charisma usually reserved for players twice his age. But that’s not a surprise since Udo attracts quality guitarists like honey does bees. Moreover, the total shred fest that Dammer made of Touchdown isn’t a surprise, given his past entries as a solo artist and ace-in-the-hole session musician.
But there will always be detractors who feel that it’s Hoffmann, Dieth, or bust. But think again—Fabian Dammers is undoubtedly the best thing to enter Udo’s midst and a massive shot in the arm to the proverbial “legacy metal/rock” scene.
Don’t believe it? That’s just fine. One listen to Touchdown—and Dammer’s solo work—will tell you all you need to know about his rare combination of sinful tone, fretboard sovereignty, and hyper-mastery of the oh-so-coveted melodic sense that many guitarists seek.
Indeed, some seek it, but Dammers was born with it. And thankfully, he’s sharing it with Udo, and the world. Moreover, he’s sharing his story by dialing in with ClassicRockHistory.com for a far-reaching interview covering his origins, process, gear choices, and more.
Fabian ‘Dee’ Dammers Interview
What inspired you to pick up the guitar?
When I was 13, I walked into the living room while my dad watched a KISS live concert. I remember being amazed and shocked by seeing Gene Simmons spitting blood. YouTube wasn’t a thing back then, so this was quite unusual. The band caught my attention, and I watched the rest of the concert with my dad. I heard Ace Frehley play the guitar for the first time; I started to play the guitar on the same day.
Who were your greatest influences? How do they remain within your sound, and how have you diverged?
It all started with Ace and just expanded from there. Paul Gilbert has been a huge influence over the years, as well as Kee Marcello; his solos on Europe’s Out of this World album are so tasteful. Nuno Bettencourt’s tight playing, Joe Satriani’s melodies, and Mick Mars’s attitude would inspire me a lot.
Nowadays, I listen to all kinds of different music, such as John Mayer, Carrie Underwood, Dirty Loops, and Halsey. I divide music into two categories: music I enjoy and music that I don’t enjoy. And for the latter category, I still appreciate it if it’s well-made.
Do you remember your first guitar and amp? What did that rig teach you?
I started using my dad’s guitar; it was a Peavey T-15 that we still have. I used it so much that my family got me a B.C Rich Beast guitar for Christmas later that year. Back then, I thought this was the coolest guitar ever made. When I was a little older, I saved up all my money to buy a Fender Strat and Marshall JVM amp, and I still love that sound a lot.
By the time I was 20, I’d have an ’80s-inspired rig with an ADA MP-1 Preamp and a Fryette Poweramp, tons of effect pedals, and rack units in between, such as the G-Force by TC Electronic. However, all this proved that I prefer simple rings and that tone comes from the fingers. But I gotta admit, it’s fun to build those racks.
What was your first professional gig? What did you learn?
When I was 15, I was lucky to end up in a band with full-time musicians, and that changed my perspective on life and made me work even harder to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time musician. I learned a lot, but one thing stood out, and to me, it’s the most important lesson a musician could ever learn, in my humble opinion, which is playing in time.
How did you end up working with Udo Dirkschneider? Can you remember your audition?
Mülli from Jaded Heart was kind enough to introduce me to the management of Udo, and from that moment on, it was a pretty standard procedure. I was asked to record a couple of their tracks, and after they heard me play, I was invited to audition in person. I met them again at a festival where I tried to keep up with Udo drinking gin.
This was a huge mistake because I overslept the next day, nearly missed the flight back home, and felt sick for the following two days. I usually don’t drink alcohol, so this was a tough challenge, and after that, I didn’t hear back from them. A couple of weeks later, Udo called me back and asked if I’d like to join the band, and well, the rest is history.
How do you approach Udo’s Classic tracks? Do you have the freedom to make them your own, and what are your favorites?
“Future Land” and “Heart of Gold” still give me goosebumps; I love those songs. I try to learn those songs by ear; however, when we want to dive deep into details, we call Stefan Kaufmann or Mathias Dieth, asking them, “What the hell did you play here?”
Thankfully, they are kind enough to show us how they wrote and played it. However, sometimes we also change some details here and there, trying to make it our own to a certain degree so that the song or riff retains its identity, but mostly because we feel as a group that this will make the song sound better.
Does ’80s rock and metal still inspire you?
Absolutely. Without ’80s music, I wouldn’t have started playing the guitar. All I would listen to between the ages of 13 and 17 was ’80s music. I still do today; luckily, it expanded to a much wider variety of musical styles. Many of today’s bands are heavily influenced by ’80s music, such as H.E.A.T., which is inspiring. They feature Dave Dalone, who has a killer tone.
How do you view the way you play today vs. the past? What’s changed most?
Literally everything. The way I think about music and listen, write, and consume music. Back then, it was all about playing fast, but today, I like to play music, and I enjoy this way more, and the audience does too. Seeing someone in the audience singing with your solo is one of the greatest things.
The emphasis on melody, harmony, and tone, and those things are what I spend most of my time on. Also, how I approach the fretboard differs from how I did in the past. I am much more chord-based these days and focus on the intervallic relationship of the notes and chords. The guitar is an ever-evolving gadget that I use to express myself through music.
Tell me about your riff and solo writing process.
First, I find out what chords I am soloing over; then, I try to create the solo in my mind before playing the first note. Then, I’ll usually jam a couple of takes to the track and listen back to it. Recording myself and listening to it is a key element to making progress, which is also a significant change in my playing.
I spend more time listening nowadays than noodling, and I focus on playing with the chords and combining chords through melodies, and bizarre chords that don’t blend well are a fun task. Usually, I record riffs on my phone whenever an idea pops up, which happens all the time. It’s like a random thought musically coming to me. A great way to write new riffs is also to make mistakes.
And you teach guitar, too, right?
Yes. I teach whenever touring allows me to, and I find how my students look at mistakes very interesting. They are a great way to expand, learn from, and eventually create something new out of them. But their first reaction to their mistakes is mostly to say, “Sorry.” I encourage them to keep making mistakes because that’s the only way you learn.
Eventually, you will create a killer solo or a cool riff by stepping into the unknown. That aside, I label and organize the riff I record with my phone. But usually, it’s a total mess. But whenever we make a new album with U.D.O., or I write for another artist or songs for my solo project, I go through those ideas and re-discover them. Usually, I throw 98% out, but the 2% that stay are really worth it.
How do you view guitar solos in the modern era?
The older I get, the less notes my solos have. I finished a guest solo today, and it has melodic parts about it. I enjoy melodies and melodic playing most myself, and a solo is a combination of me thinking, “What does the song need?” and “What would I like to say here?”
That ends up mostly being melodies. But having said that, I finished another guest solo a week ago; that was basically a full-blown shred session because the song asked for it. So, it depends on the context. I want to solo over it only if the song needs it.
Tell me about your gear. What guitars are you using?
The Ibanez AZ series has been my favorite guitar for the last five years. I have a few of those with a special mojo around them. For U.D.O., I always end up with Floyd Rose-equipped guitars. I am playing a white Ibanez Iceman for most of the U.D.O. set, along with my white Ibanez AZ, and I just got an [Ibanez Prestige] RG5350-CSW for the upcoming Touchdown tour, too.
What amps and pedals are you pairing those guitars with?
So, I like to keep things as easy as possible for the live setup, which currently has me using a Kemper [amp modeler]. But in my studio, I use real amps all the time, and for everyday practice, I usually use a Vox AC15 [amp], which would be my go-to amp combined with some distortion pedals. And for pedals, currently, I like the J. Rockett Rockaway [Steve Stevens Overdrive] pedal and the Wampler [Tom Quayle] Dual Fusion [V2 Overdrive] a lot.
What goals are at the forefront for you, and how will you achieve them?
I want to play music for as long as I can manage. That would be the long-term goal. I want to reach many people through music and brighten their day. I try to make that happen by engaging in sports activities; I recently finished my first half marathon, and I’m trying to be as healthy as I can manage. As for the short term, I am working on my next solo album and my first instructional course. I hope to finish them soon.
Fabian ‘Dee’ Dammers of U.D.O.
Interview by Andrew Daly
An Interview With Fabian ‘Dee’ Dammers of U.D.O. article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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