Dieter Dierks (Hans-Dieter Dierks), born 9th February 1943 in Stommeln, Germany, as son of a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, is a German musician, sound engineer, producer, music publisher, studio owner, and innovator. He achieved tremendous worldwide success as producer of the Scorpions. Their albums released between 1975 and 1988 all bore Dierks’ hallmarks. Before that time he had already
successfully established Hamburg-based band Atlantis in the US. Between 1969 and 1975 the studios, named after him, were the creative home of almost all representatives of the »Krautrock« era. From 1975 onwards more and more international artists started booking his state-of-the art sound and TV studios, thus putting Stommeln on the map in the world of rock and pop. read more
»Initially I wanted to become a film director«, Dierks remembers. Hence he took up studying acting and directing and worked as assistant director to renowned directors such as Kurt Wilhelm, Karl Fruchtmann, Jürgen Goslar and the former Burgtheater artistic director Gerhard Klingenberg. At the same period of time he also played guitar and bass in various rock bands as well as setting up his own studio behind his parents’ house in Stommeln, Hauptstrasse 33, about 24 kilometres away from Cologne. He inherited his musical talent from his father, a conductor, violinist, sax player and composer and got his business sense from his mother who ran a grocery store. The first studio rooms were built in the narrow attic of his parents’ house. With his two re-vamped Revox amateur recording devices Dieter Dierks soon managed to attract many young, creative musicians.
Again around that time Dierks formed the band Hush together with Tommy Engel who was then the drummer of the popular Cologne-based band Tony Hendrik Five, and additional member Frieder Viehmann. In 1969 the band released the single »Oh! Darling/Schau mir in die Augen«. The band’s live appearances were known to be of a rather loud nature. Two years later diligent Dierks built a large studio complex in the backyard of his parents’ house. Shortly afterwards, the small apartment building next door was turned into a hotel for studio guests. This way he had created an »all in one« entity as far as music production was concerned. Musicians were able to work and live in the same place – a concept that was unique in Germany at the time. But this newcomer wasn’t just talented, he was also lucky: in a party mood in the year 1969 he produced a disco hit which to this day can be heard in Germany and abroad. It’s called »Loop di Love« featuring the then unknown singer Jay Bastos. The single was released in 1971, went straight to No. 1 in Holland, England as well as other countries and sold several million copies.
Professional history as producer, studio owner, manager and innovator
The Krautrock and Electronica era
In the early seventies Studio 1 became a place of pilgrimage for a new generation of German musicians of the then flourishing hippie culture. The mixture of »countryside ambience and high tech studio equipment« lured hosts of aspiring young talent to Stommeln, which in those days was a totally unknown place. However, the name of said village near Cologne started popping up more and more in German music magazines (Musikexpress/Sounds, the trade magazine Musikmagazin, Pop-Rocky and many others). Their editors dedicated full pages to the »sound factory« , these new creative bands, and these excellent productions. Dierks Studios – along with those of Conny Plank in Wolperath – became the home of the most renowned Krautrock artists, first generation German rock bands and Electronica pioneers, among them Ihre Kinder, Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, Witthüser & Westrupp, Hoelderlin, Wallenstein, Birth Control, Guru Guru, Embryo, Popol Vuh, Bröselmaschine, the politically orientated rock bands Amon Düül and Floh de Cologne as well as Krautrock super group Cosmic Jokers founded by music visionary Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser. They were all flocking to Stommeln in order to have their interpretations of rock music recorded and produced.
One of the regular clients was Klaus Doldinger with his jazz-rock formation Passport. Their albums Looking Thru (1973), Handmade (1973), Cross-Collateral (1975), and Infinity Machine (1976) were recorded in Stommeln. Their live album Jubilee 1974, a recording of the live show at Rheinhalle, Düsseldorf, was mixed at Dierks Studios. During those years more than 40 trend-setting albums were produced there which considerably elevated the reputation independent German rock and electronic music was enjoying on an international level. Many of those works were released on the new German record labels Pilz, Ohr and Bacillus. It was the first time these albums were released in the US, France, Italy, and England. Their headlines almost always featured Dierks Studios as well as its »sound magician and wizard of tunes«, Dieter Dierks. The creative environment and the homely atmosphere of the studio kitchen where Dieter Dierks’ mother, affectionately called »Mother Dierks« would tirelessly cook until the morning hours. She would usually also get an honourable on the artists’ albums.
Another benefit was the fact that Dieter Dierks had continued fitting his studio facilities with the latest high tech equipment, thus turning them into one of the leading German production locations. They included self-devised reverb effects, additional experimental instruments like the mellotron, a keyboard that could replay regular tapings of orchestra sounds. All these gadgets enhanced this ›state-of-the-art‹- establishment, which was striving for perfection.
Think local, act global
Around 1972 Dieter Dierks expanded further. Enabling cost-efficient pre-productions, the basement of the studio hotel was turned into three small recording studios and a control room bundled as Studio 2. In late 1973 a dining lounge called »the Canteen« planned to be used as a conference room was built in front of Studio 1 as an annex. Eventually the word of Dierks Studios being an excellent recording location also spread abroad. The company had become an important economic factor for the small town of Stommeln. Bands would often stay for several months and spend money at the local shops, restaurants and pubs as well as attract reporters from all over the world. As mentioned earlier, in the late 60’s Dierks wrote the party hit »Loop di Love«, an adaptation of the Greek fishermen’s song »Darla Dirladada«, together with then Bellaphon in-house producer Michael Schepior. Dierks, in fact, played most of the instruments and did the recording himself.
The first international band to come from England was Nektar. Between June and August 1971 this quintet recorded their debut album Journey To The Centre Of The Eye in Stommeln. They came back to record the albums A Tab in the Ocean (October 1972), the studio live recording …Sounds Like This (February 1973) and, Remember the Future which in July 1974 reached No. 19 in the US album charts. At the time this album was considered to be the most successful Dierks production so far. In December 1974 Nektar went back to Stommeln for the last time to record Down to Earth. The album went to No. 32 in the US charts and was awarded gold in February 1975.
In 1974 the first audio recording mobile was added to the company. It was the first studio on wheels – at the time unique to Germany. Consequently, live performances of renowned international artists such as Al Jarreau, Fats Domino, Oscar Peterson, Harry Belafonte, Michael Chapman, Ella Fitzgerald, The Platters, Brian Auger, Lou Reed, Nana Mouskouri, Santana or Chicago were recorded at different venues. Thanks to his experience with major international artists, their managements and record companies, Dieter Dierks extended his group of companies by launching his own production and publishing business with his wife Corina Dierks-Fortmann. This is how Breeze Music came to life. Dierks succeeded in signing one of Germany’s leading rock bands called Atlantis featuring bluesy-voiced singer Inga Rumpf. He produced them on an international level, got on a plane to America and managed to convince major label Polygram to send the band on a US tour. Manager Ira Blacker and Dierks chose the tour destinations. The first show, supporting Lynyrd Skynyrd, took place in Philadelphia in front of an audience of 20.000 people.
Meanwhile the name Dierks Studios had become a landmark internationally and drew international top stars to Stommeln. Ike & Tina Turner, Eric Burdon, War, the Boomtown Rats with their star producer Robert »Mutt« Lange as well as the Irish rock and blues musician Rory Gallagher, who recorded two consecutive albums there. He preferred to sleep during the day and work during the night. He even started a darts club at the pub next door. Deep Purple’s legendary keyboarder Jon Lord produced his solo debut Sarabande, a live album, at Dierks Studios. The list of internationally acclaimed stars kept growing longer and included Plasmatics (USA), Accept (Germany), Twisted Sister (USA), Warning (France) and many others. In 1996 a very special guest checked in at Dierks Studios: Michael Jackson. In Dierks’ Studio 3 the »King of Pop« recorded his song »Ghosts«, which was first released on the Blood on the Dance Floor – HIStory in the Mix album released in May 1997 and was later added to the Deluxe Collector Box Set – Limited Edition. Also, »Ghosts« was the title track of the same-named horror movie, which premiered at the Cannes film festival on the 8th May 1997. The album cover incorrectly credited Dieter Dierks Studios as »Diederdierk Studio (Cologne, Germany)«. Another project also emerged from the collaboration with the »King of Pop«. Jackson, who played in Munich during his HIStory tour, hired Dierks to film each concert with twelve cameras. Apart from the digital video recording Dierks was also asked to produce a parallel recording, since his mobile broadcasting unit was equipped with six HD cameras, a technical sensation at the time.
The Scorpions 1973 – 1988
Back in 1973 Dieter Dierks and his wife Corina Dierks-Fortmann went to a gig at a local sports hall in Essen where they encountered a totally unknown newcomer rock band, the Scorpions. Despite the scarce audience Dierks was impressed by the professional attitude of these musicians. After initially being hired by RCA to produce them, in 1976 he succeeded in signing them to his company, Breeze Music. In Trance, the first album Dierks had produced already sold three times as much as their previous releases. Continuous work experience abroad as well as a highly successful Japanese tour, financed by Breeze Music, the recordings of which later released as Tokyo Tapes, eventually led to the band being signed in the US. This enabled the Scorpions to release their albums all around the world with great success.
After the RCA US contract had expired Dierks needed to find a new American label for the Scorpions. Over and over he kept hearing the words »Dieter, you can’t sell Coca Cola to America«, being turned down continuously. His last chance was Mercury in Chicago. And that was where Dierks found a like-minded person. Bob Sherwood, the then President was a rock fan and very impressed by the skills of this German producer. Dierks, at that stage often addressed as »the sixth member of the Scorpions« succeeded in signing music business »big shot«, David Krebs, as the personal manager for his boys. With the backing of the Leber-Krebs-Management, a company which solely looked after top acts like AC/DC, Aerosmith or Ted Nugent, the door for The Scorpions to debut live in the US was wide open. While Dieter Dierks kept travelling around the world to look after his bands and to negotiate contracts for them, his wife Corina ensured that the Breeze Music publishing company carried on flourishing.
The first Mercury album Lovedrive – featuring an eye-catching chewing gum breast cover, still a controversial issue to date – awarded them their first gold disc (more than 500.000 units) in the US and reaching worldwide sales of 1.5 million copies. In Germany they secured a long-term contract with EMI Electrola, which also included territories like South East Asia. This deal provided the opportunity to produce the Hanover-based rock band on an international level. For Blackout the Scorpions entourage moved to the South of France. They wanted a break from the day-to-day studio routine in Stommeln. Location: a huge mansion, which provided a cook and featured an outdoor pool and a tennis court. Their own recording mobile was parked on the premises and ready to go. However, the trip to the South of France stopped dead when singer Klaus Meine developed a sore throat, which a specialist diagnosed as polypus – small knots on the vocal chords. So, in the end it was all a waste of time and money. Back home, Blackout – with Meine going strong after his recovery – was recorded in Studio 2. The albums Blackout and Animal Magnetism branded the Scorpions to be the leading melodic hard rock band. With painstaking efforts Dieter Dierks had not only created a unique sound, but also established the Scorpions as a solid brand among the leading hard rock bands.
The 1984 album Love At First Sting, featuring the hit single ballad »Still Loving You«, catapulted »the Scorps« to the then zenith of their career: 2,5 million copies (double platinum) sold in the US, gold and platinum status almost everywhere in Europe as well as in Japan and South East Asia, territories where the band had advanced to become the most popular rock band of all. In France »Still Loving You« with more than two million copies sold is the most successful single of all times. However, at the beginning, there were a few problems getting the production running: In the spring of 1983, Dieter Dierks had rented ABBA’s renowned Polar Studios. Just before production was due to start Herman Rarebell and Francis Buchholz had both fallen ill. Herman brought along Jimmy Bain (b) as substitute and Rudolf got Bobby Rondonelli (dr) involved. But the results were not convincing. The groove and charisma, typical for the Scorpions, were missing. As a result the entire album was re-recorded and mixed one more time at Dierks Studios – this time featuring the original line-up. It was worth the effort. This album contains most of their hits and it became the best-selling Scorpions album of all times and the second best-selling live album ever. The live album Worldwide Live, released in 1985 was a compilation of highlights of their shows during their world tour.
The eight Scorpions albums of the Dierks era can justifiably be considered the essence of the band’s oeuvre. For Dierks, too, these albums were the most successful ones in his career as a producer. While working together on Savage Amusement – the last album that was produced by Dieter Dierks – differences in opinion between the band and the producer emerged. As a consequence the production contract was not renewed and the collaboration ended in November 1988 by mutual consent. Drummer Herman Rarebell reflected in 2011: »For the Scorpions Dieter was the right man in the right place. The more his influence within the band grew the more our record sales increased. This intimacy however also caused contempt because with his growing influence discrepancies between the band members were flaring up. At the end of the day, though, he did manage to soothe all the egos and succeeded in steering the band into one direction.«
It will forever remain Dieter Dierks’ credit to have turned an unknown newcomer band into a world-famous brand. At the time they parted, the Scorpions were a musical institution.
Expanding the group of companies: Mobile 2, Accept and more
Thanks to the success with the Scorpions the company Breeze Music was able to secure long-term contracts with major American and European record labels and music publishing companies. So, the expansion plans were apt to be continued. In 1985 Studio 3, the biggest studio complex so far, was built. Not only did this studio with its vast space offer enough room for orchestras, choirs and big bands, but right from the start it was also designed for film and video recordings thanks to its mobile camera and lighting rigs as well as its highly efficient air conditioning system. Studio 3 conformed to American mega studio standards. Since all facilities were connected via a subterranean corridor it was possible to switch around and use the entire technical equipment range of all three studios. At the same time the canteen located between Studio 1 and the studio kitchen was enlarged further.
In 1986 the Dierks Studios Mobile 1 – which had been put into action all around Europe to record concerts of renowned artists as well as having proved to be of good use for live broadcasts of the WDR shows Rock Palast and Rocknächte – was replaced with Mobile 2. This mobile unit had a computerised mixing console, a state-of-the-art auditory system as well as featuring analogue and digital recording devices and, a big lounge area. In 1991 this mobile studio was used to record a Rolling Stones live album in Moscow and other European cities.
Meanwhile big US record companies started knocking on Dierks’ door asking him to produce their artists. Among them were Geffen Records’ glam metal band Black’n Blue, heavy metal rockers Twisted Sister who Dierks produced in New York and Los Angeles for Atlantic Records, and Capitol Records’ New York punk avant-garde group Plasmatics featuring a strident eye-catcher, singer Wendy Williams. US band Mother’s Finest recorded a live album with Dieter Dierks as well, using the audio and video mobile with the mixing being done afterwards at Studio 3. The number of internationally acclaimed artists who came to Stommeln kept increasing steadily.
Eventually the studio hotel couldn’t host that many international long-term residents anymore. Too many wanted to check in. So, in 1986 Dierks bought a mansion with abundant gardens, about two kilometres away from the studios. This was a relaxing retreat for musicians where they were able to »feel at home« during long-term stays and creative breaks. The mansion was also available for rent for studio or hotel guests. Many celebrities stayed there over the years, for example Frank DiLeo, who later became Michael Jackson’s personal manager.
In 1987, after having finished the Studio 3 expansion, Dierks decided to consolidate the base of his group of companies on a long-term basis by concentrating further on the moving picture side, a division of the company, which had been growing steadily. So far only Studio 3 offered facilities for film and video recording. In order to expand in this field, a video recording mobile was acquired to meet the growing demands. With the help of experts an outside broadcasting unit was bought from Westdeutscher Rundfunk (radio and TV channel), equipped with the latest ›state of the art‹-gear and transformed it into a giant mobile. Dierks Studios’ first video unit, Mobile 1, was ready for action in 1988. In 1991 Studio 1 and Studio 2 were completely refurbished and the technical equipment was brought up to date, which enabled simultaneous production processes of equal rank in Studio 3 and Studio 1. 1992 the temporarily disbanded group Accept got back together and produced three more albums through Breeze Music.
In early 1995, quite a few innovations were in store for the group of companies. Rock music gradually had lost its attraction. New genres like techno and dance music became more and more popular. This type of music doesn’t need to be produced in huge studios, but instead small »living-room-style« studios suffice. The Dierks group of companies embraced this new trend by adding two new hard-disc recording studios, namely Studio 4 and Studio 5, in 1995. With its new cutting-edge computer technology, this investment provided an ideal work environment for dance, house and techno music projects. In order to cater to such new music styles the Breeze Dance Division was founded. Thanks to its sub labels Bionic Beat, Reformhouse and Neuform, Breeze Dance Division was able to cover the entire range of dance music.
1996 and 1997 the recording studio fleet was additionally equipped with two new digital video mobile broadcasting units. They were 18, respectively 21 meters long, transported on elaborate trucks, extensible in width and equipped with the latest digital equipment, picture direction monitors and mixing consoles. With up to 12 cameras on board they were able to record huge events. They were used for example to record the two Michael Jackson shows at the Munich Olympiahalle. After this, the units came into action to tape The Dome shows for RTL II TV, the Bravo Supershow, the Sabine Christiansen Talkshow as well as the Pope John Paul II trip to Austria in June 1998. In 1997 Dieter Dierks went one step further in modernising his video technology. He bought several mobile units featuring HDTV technology. This technology in short called HD (high definition) produced extremely high-resolution images by using special cameras. This was particularly popular with the technology-affined customers from the US and Japan who tended to order numerous classical recordings. The Kirch Group for example, booked these units for the recording of the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth.
In 1997 the former engineering lab and the lobby of Studio 3 were turned into a new video-editing studio (avid room) in order to be capable of handling the numerous mixing and cutting jobs that came in. With its avid editing suite, recorded images could be edited, mixed and enhanced with anything the client desired.
During the same year Dieter Dierks launched the company Breeze TV GmbH, which with its so-called P.O.S. (point of sale) TV was set to promote consumer goods via TV screens installed in retail outlets. In coöperation with much acclaimed economist Professor Dr. Hagen Backhaus, Dierks succeeded in securing a long-term contract with the Schlecker drugstore chain, which at the time had more than 8,000 affiliates in Germany, Austria and other countries. The deal involved the constant broadcasting of TV commercials in continuous loops on three screens installed in each outlet. This way the commercials could reach more than two million consumers in Germany alone. For the Dierks group of companies this meant they had come full circle from the production of sound and image carriers to the sale of such, by means of an advanced sales strategy.
Based on continuous expansion, constant diversification and increasing in-house networking between its individual divisions in 2001, Dierks’ group of companies consisted of
- the Breeze TV GmbH being the biggest division of the group with its 50 employees covering the areas POS TV, direct marketing, e‑commerce and online sales
- the video mobile division with its video mobile units 1 to 4, the »film like« and »slomo« van
- the recording division with then seven studios, whereby Studio 3 was at the time equipped for super audio (SACD) mixes in 5 channel dolby surround sound
- the Breeze Dance Division which succeeded to secure continuous chart entries as well as to constantly increase their artist roster
- the production and music publishing companies Breeze Music and
- the record label Venus Records which by means of continuous repertoire exploitation and the production of new compilations succeeded in establishing itself firmly among major record labels in Germany
During the years 2001 until 2005 Dieter Dierks was busy with extensive business travels and negotiations preparing the launch of the DVD plus image and sound carrier.
The DVDplus patent
Dieter Dierks was not only a step ahead as far as creativity was concerned, but also as far as technology went. As far back as 1974, Dierks Sound Studios – according to the Magazine Der Spiegel – were ranking among the top 40 of Germany’s most renowned studios. No matter whether it was quadraphonic, digital recording techniques, mobile recording or HDTV technology – Dierks almost always did the pioneering work. And he did it again in 1999 when his invention of the DVDplus patent (trademark: DVD[plus]) enabled him to add a new source of income to his group of companies thanks to the licence exploitation of the patent. The DVD[plus] patent is a combination of a DVD with a regular CD, which by bonding enables double-sided play back of the sound and the image carrier. While for example the golden side of the DVD plays a film or a live concert – it plays a soundtrack, a music score or previously unreleased live recordings on the silver flip side.
In 1999 Dieter Dierks managed to secure a deal with the biggest CD and DVD manufacturing equipment producer Singulus Technologies. Sony USA is using the Dierks licence under the trading name of DualDisc. Meanwhile several national and international top artists have had DVDplus respectively DualDisc products produced, among them Herbert Grönemeyer, Die Toten Hosen, Michael Jackson (a whole box set), Santana, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Steve Harley, Nightwish, Bruce Springsteen, Destiny’s Child, AC/DC (more than 500,000 copies of Back in Black sold in the US alone), Aerosmith, and many others. But also football clubs like Bayern Munich or the film company which released »The Blairwitch Project 2« are using the new format. The DVDplus of said movie sold more than 600,000 copies. So far several million sound and image carriers have been produced in total. For more information please visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_DualDisc_releases.
The positioning of Dierks Studios today
Having undergone several stages of restructuring, the Dierks Studios group of company is currently positioned as follows:
- The »Edit-Suite« is used for editing and screening purposes, colour grading, colour matching and colour corrections as well as the restoring of movies… all this can be done in 4K and HD.
- Studio 1 will be turned into a 4K screening room sized 100 square meters with a seating capacity of 30 people. This studio, too, provides facilities for restoration work, colour correction and colour grading.
- Studio 3 combines analogue and digital recording technology. For sound analogue recording, it is used however with a digital surface – solid-state console meets D command, analogue warmth and digital speed go hand in hand.
- Studio 4 and 5 are used for dubbing, pre-production respectively song writing and composing. In these studios ideas can be garnered, notes can be outlined, and the results can subsequently get their finishing touches in Studio 3.
- Studio 6 and 7 will be made into picture editing and conversion facilities, where for example, 2D can be converted into 3D.
Currently Dieter Dierks is working on various film and video projects. However, he never loses sight of his main passion: music.
During his career Dieter Dierks produced more than 70 albums, which reached gold or platinum status. Apart from his commercial success this »creative tinkerer« is also prominent thanks to his willingness to try out new things and his knack for technological innovation. In 2013 Christoph Wagner wrote: »Dieter Dierks as well as Conny Plank both made substantial contributions in establishing and consolidating an independent German rock music market. Thanks to the power of their imagination and their creativity these very new sounds were able to emerge. These sounds gave German rock music its own identity. At the same time both their studios served as an »artistic medium«. US music magazine Rolling Stone described Dierks as »the best heavy metal producer of the world« and as far back as 1974 for the magazine Der Spiegel he was already then considered to be »the leading German rock music producer.«
Dierks owns the music publishing company Breeze Music and the record label Venus Records.
The personal life
Dieter Dierks was married twice and has four children with four different women. His second wife Corina Fortmann is the sister of Swiss composer Thomas Fortmann. For many years she was an instrumental part in building the »Dierks Empire«. Their daughter Dominique Schilling lives and works in Los Angeles as a film director and screenwriter. His eldest son, Michael Dierks is an actor who is known for his appearances in several TV movies and TV series (such as »TV Kaiser«, »Schöne Witwen küssen besser«, »Hausmeister Krause« among others). His eldest daughter from his first marriage, Michaela Dierks, works as a TV and music promoter in Cologne. His youngest son, Julien Freundt, works at his father’s company as sound engineer, composer, producer, and also as a management assistant. Dierks’ mother Ursula who helped shape the cosy atmosphere at Dierks Studios with her heartiness died in 1991.Company History als .pdf