Interview with guitarist Wolf Hoffmann
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: June 15, 2015
German Heavy Metal veterans Accept have had their ups and downs. The band has broken up quite a few times for a variety of different reasons and when they reformed for a brief tour in 2005 it was said to be their last due to Udo Dirkschneider's insistence that he didn't want to be involved with Accept going forward. Udo continued his solo career and no one knew what the future would be for Accept. That question was answered in May 2009 when ex-T.T. Quick singer Mark Tornillo joined the band as their new vocalist.
Mark proved to be a great fit for Accept and things started to click for the German Metal legends. Accept's comeback album, Blood of the Nations, their first studio album in 14 years, saw the light of day in 2010 and brought that band immediate success while the follow ups, Stalingrad: Brothers in Death and Blind Rage, help maintain that momentum.
The Accept caravan arrived at the South Park festival in Tampere, Finland on June 5th, 2015 with the opportunity to share the stage with Def Leppard, Extreme, Stratovarius, Helloween, Amorphis and many others. Just two hours before show time I caught up with one of the founding members of the band, guitarist Wolf Hoffmann, to talk about their ongoing tour, new album Blind Rage, the new guys in the Accept ranks, Uwe Lulis (guitar) and Christopher Williams (drums), and the new-found success Accept has enjoyed since the uncertain times of 2005.
Luxi: First off, welcome to Finland again. The last time you played at this very location was four years ago, when it was called Sauna Open Air. What memories do you have from that show with Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Saxon, Belladonna, Queensryche, Dio Disciples, etc.?
Wolf: Yes, I remember that show well with all those bands. After the show that there were no showers whatsoever so we jumped into the lake that was right behind the backstage area to try clean up a bit, as we were all sweaty after performing. The funny thing was that all the journalists followed us right into the lake and that was quite embarrassing. We obviously didn't want so to happen, you know, ha ha!! So yeah, that episode was slightly embarrassing. But all in all, it was a good experience. The show was fantastic, I must say.
Luxi: ...and so was the audience, I guess...
Wolf: Yeah, absolutely! We have always had great audiences in Finland. The Finnish fans quite wild and they want to sing along to our songs. They really get into them. They are just great for us.
Luxi: Since your latest album, Blind Rage, came out in May 2014 you have done a lot of touring to support the record. You have played in Europe, Australia, the United States, Japan and some South American dates. How would you sum up the touring done for the Blind Rage album? Some of your shows have been totally sold out, for instance in Sweden, Denmark and even here in Finland when you started touring last year...
Wolf: First off, it's true we have basically been everywhere on this tour. Our new album, Blind Rage, has been received with open arms worldwide. People have been very enthusiastic because I think they really see a trend in that we have made three strong albums since our comeback. In fact, Blind Rage got the best reception out of them all. I think we have managed to build up a little bit of consistency or legacy over the past few years and that's always hard when you re-start with a new singer after such a long break. People have a tendency to wonder if it's going to last or if it's a one-time-only thing. I think with Blind Rage we have proved to everyone that this is the beginning of a new long-term thing, you know, and not just some a fluke.
As for those sold out shows, which we are very grateful for, of course, if you listen to our fans these days this is exactly what they want to hear from us. They don't want us to experiment with our sound whatsoever. I think ever since we released Blood of the Nations back in 2010 we knew that this was going to work. We just need to do exactly what we do only better, you know? That was our model for this new album; we really didn't want to try anything different because I think we have found our own style. Now we know exactly how we are supposed to sound. It's just a matter of taking the time to write the best songs possible and just go out and play them for our fans, you know. It's not like we should be searching for something new at this point; it's all about trying to deliver the goods as well as we can.
Luxi: The same thing happened in 2012 when you toured behind Stalingrad: Brothers in Death; some of your shows were completely sold out...
Wolf: Sure. That's all true too. There have been a lot of fans that have been waiting to see us for a long time, to see Accept in action again so to speak. Our fans were very happy when it was announced in 2009 that Accept was back. Of course there were lots of skeptics initially, questioning whether or not we would do okay making this comeback. I cannot blame on anyone for being a skeptic. Coming back with a different line-up and after such a long break from everything, nobody really knew if it was going to be any good. I bet some of them were thinking we were just trying to capitalize on our past glories, you know. I can understand them. Anyway, we wanted to make clear from the get-go that we were not trying to do that. We just want to make albums that are relevant and that is why we tried really, really hard to come up with material that is at least as good as or maybe even better than what we have did in the past. From what the fans tell me, it seems to be working which makes me very happy. This new chapter has begun to rival the old stuff and, in some cases, it's already surpassing it, which makes us very, very proud.
Luxi: Was it hard for you to start all over again, almost from scratch?
Wolf: Yes, of course! It was super-hard. We had high expectations regarding our comeback. We were asking a lot of ourselves as to whether we could pull it all together and had high expectations regarding where we wanted to go. Other than that, we really didn't have any idea where we would land with all this or where it would take us eventually. It was just a crap shoot to be honest because we said we are going to do this but nobody knows if this is going to fail tomorrow, if the fans were going to hate us or love us, if this is going to go anywhere. We just like to play music so let's do what we know how to do; write songs, have fun and play music. Then we'll see where it takes us. I guess if there's a certain amount of enthusiasm and authenticity in what you do the fans are going to embrace it eventually. That's what happened with us. You know, if you mean what you do and are honest with what you do and give it all you have, then the fans are going to embrace it. If you are going to do just a half-ass thing and just play the old songs and you are fat, old and tired, people will see that, if you know what I mean.
Luxi: I must believe an enthusiastic and supportive crowd provides extra fuel for you guys and gives you the vital energy to keep the wheels rolling year after year, right?
Wolf: Yes, seeing an enthusiastic and crazy crowd down there when onstage means everything to us; this is what we live for, man. Those are the moments that we all live for. This is why we traveled 27 hours to get over here and this is why we put up with all the hassle because those are the moments in life that make it all worthwhile. I mean, there's nothing quite like that moment onstage when you start a song and everybody recognizes that one specific riff and starts going nuts. That's just an amazing adrenaline rush. It does not matter if a song is 30 years or 3 weeks old. As soon as people get into it you get excited too and people always wonder if we ever get tired playing the same old songs. It doesn't as long as you don't play for the sake of novelty but play for the audience and they are into what you do. Then it's like "uh!" That's a rush. That's what we are going for. When onstage you always think this is going to be extra special, you know. That's what you are hoping for anyway and of course it's not like every show is absolutely 100% fantastic. It is never like that but there are always those rare moments onstage when everything's magic and it does not get any better than that.
Luxi: You have opened up your shows with "Stampede" off the new record followed by "Stalingrad". Is there a reason you have decided to perform these particular songs first and not some evergreen classic number like "Metal Heart" or "Balls to the Wall" for example?
Wolf: I think after doing it for a while you sort of find out what works best and I think opening our set with a new song seems fitting because it's got a nice little intro to it and it just seems to work, so we are sticking with it. But what we also try to do is have a few surprise songs here and there and today we are going to play a couple of songs that we don't play all that often, so it should be good, you know. We try to make everybody happy, knowing you just can't please everyone. But we want to play some songs off our new album, obviously. It's always a balance between old and new stuff, even though someone always says "why didn't you play that song, it's my favorite." But, you know, it happens. It's a good problem to have.
Luxi: Are there songs that you just can't drop from an Accept set, ones the fans feel are "mandatory"?
Wolf: Yeah, there are a few songs that we always have to play, like "Balls to the Wall" for sure, and "Metal Heart" is probably one of those mandatory Accept songs, too. "Princess of the Dawn" is one of those songs that the fans want to hear every time we play live...
Luxi: ...and "Fast As a Shark" obviously?
Wolf: Yes, "Fast As a Shark" also. Actually we didn't play that song at some of our festival shows because it's difficult to make it sound good enough at bigger festivals. The larger the audience is, the more you play mid-tempo songs because if a song is too fast, it does not work well for a huge audience. It gets a bit washy sometimes. But "Fast As a Shark" is still one of those songs we play at 99% of our shows. Somewhere on the Internet I have seen this thing that has all the setlists that we have done over the years and you can see all the statistics of the songs that we have played most, second most and third most, bla bla blaa. I have seen it and was quite surprised, I must say.
Luxi: Someone has got lots of free time, I see...
Wolf: Hopefully it's just a computer that does all that work and not some human being. I don't know, ha ha!
Luxi: Let's go back to your new album for a moment. When Blind Rage was released last year, it went no. 1 both in Germany and Finland. Did you expect it would do so well even reach no. 1 in some countries?
Wolf: Actually both countries were huge surprises for me. I was totally surprised that we reached the no. 1 position in Germany but, then again, Germany is traditionally one of our strongest markets. Finland has always been good to us but to be no. 1 there, I thought "wow... with all these other Metal bands coming from your country?!" That totally surprised each one of us. I honestly never expected it. You can never prepare for anything like that though you always kind of hope for the best. Then you start seeing all these albums charts and how well your album is doing around the world; positions like no. 3, no. 5, no. 7 and so on, and it's out of your control. These album chart positions also depend on what other albums are getting released at the same time, so many factors contribute, but man, we were so happy when Blind Rage reached no. 1 in both Germany and Finland. We were dancing around the living room, giving high fives to each other.
Luxi: Since Blind Rage went no. 1 in Germany and Finland do you expect that to happen with your next album. Success feeds more success...
Wolf: Of course! From now on and for the rest of our lives; world domination is near, ha ha!!
Luxi: World domination sounds good to my ears, ha ha!
Wolf: I don't know about that, ha! It isn't going to happen. But it's very cool. You never know.
Luxi: What about your new guns in the Accept ranks, Uwe (Lulis) on second guitar and Christopher (Williams) on drums. How did you find them to replace Herman and Stefan?
Wolf: They are both great guys! We knew them before. I have known Uwe for about 2-3 years now. He was actually a guitar tech for us for a while. I have always heard him play and thought "god damn, he's really good..." Uwe has also been in many bands before. One day we just jammed and found out how incredibly good a guitar player he truly is. And not only is he good, he knows exactly the kind of riffing and attitude we need. It's not an exaggeration to say this but I have never had a guitar player that I am glued so well together with. I mean, Herman (Frank) has a totally different style from mine and it was sometimes really difficult to lock into his style, even though we have been together for all these years. But it's always been like two different things. It's one of the reasons I played all the guitars in the studio myself because we wanted to sound tight and locked in. When two guitar players play differently it does not get tighter but only washier. So now that we have Uwe in the band it's really a miracle because we can sit together and jam and it's feels like a unit right away. It's amazing.
Luxi: What about Christopher?
Wolf: Christopher is a national guy we found in Nashville. We wanted to find someone from our hometown so we could actually jam with him when we needed to. It almost feels like we have a band now because Peter, Christopher and I all live in Nashville so we can actually rehearse and jam and do all that together. It's great, I think. That's a great luxury because in the past we had to fly Stefan (Kaufmann) in from Switzerland and that was a lot of hassle, you know. Christopher is a young guy but he's incredibly talented and a very dedicated drummer. And he's very sensitive too; he's not just a basher. When we started looking for someone behind the drums, we didn't want someone who's a basher; somebody who's just loud and bashes his drums like the end of the world is coming. We wanted somebody who can actually play dynamically and yet someone who is a sensitive player.
Luxi: What kind of a learning process was it for Uwe and Christopher to learn how to play all these songs that you do live before you actually went on tour? Did they learn the songs quickly or did they have a little trouble?
Wolf: It took a little bit of time for both of them to learn the songs. We didn't want to rush. The guys are quick learners but we didn't want to tell them "you've got three days to learn all the songs. We are going to meet you on Wednesday and we are going to do a show". It would have worked but we didn't want to do it that way. We really wanted to work on details and I think it paid off really well. We rehearsed a whole lot more than we ever have.
Luxi: What about touring itself, has it become tougher for you over the years? As we all know aging does not come easy... ;o)
Wolf: Yeah, it has. I'll give you an example; the older I get, the harder it is to sleep on a tour bus because my back is killing me. In the past I could have slept anywhere. I just could crawl up in a bunk and feel fine. But nowadays my back hurts like hell. Things like come along as you age. It won't get any easier even though I feel fine and just like the rest of us are feeling pretty healthy and stuff, but certain things don't get easier with aging, that's for sure.
Luxi: Ever since Accept's comeback album Blood of the Nations came out in 2010 it seems to me like the band has had a whole new positive boost. It's like Accept was reborn six years ago. Do you see this the same way as I do?
Wolf: Yes, actually. We felt like we had something to prove because there were so many people saying "you have been out of the business for so long..." I am not going to mention any names but certain people said a lot of bad things about us and that just inspired us to prove them wrong, you know. We really wanted to say to the whole world "how dare you say we cannot write any new songs" and "how dare you say we cannot do this or we cannot do that. You don't know and we will show you that we can." That made us work extra hard because we felt we still have something to offer. Peter and I did all the work back then so why wouldn't we be able to write some good songs nowadays that are relevant? So that's why we said, you know, "wait a minute guys..."
Luxi: While on tour do you ever create new stuff or do you just try to concentrate on doing the tour first and then, after the tour is over, put your time and efforts into the songwriting process?
Wolf: Yeah. I find it very hard to write songs on the road because I cannot concentrate enough. Sometimes when there are multiple days off, during festival season for instance, it might be different. I remember two years ago or so, Peter and I had a week off here and there and that's enough time for me to get into something. If it is just a couple of hours in the afternoon every once in a while that's not enough time for me to mentally get into the songwriting process because it's never about having a quick idea. It's an in-depth process re-working the songs and to concentrate on an idea. That's why we have this tendency to lock ourselves away for week at a time and do nothing else but write songs and then come out and have something. But if it's just sort of a day here and there, it's really hard for me to come up with any new songs.
Luxi: Next year in 2016 it will be Accept's 40th anniversary. Do you have any special shows planned for the next year?
Wolf: I sort of wished you didn't remember this, ha ha! But heck no, we haven't planned anything regarding our 40th anniversary. At our band's age, we could do anniversary shows every year. 35 years of Restless and Wild, 30th year of this, 40th year of that. The older you get the longer you do this. There's an anniversary every year. Five years of Blood of the Nations, there's always something, you know.
Luxi: Then again, people are always going to remind you of those anniversaries...
Wolf: Sure, but I am not a big fan of all these anniversaries because everybody and their sisters are having twenty years, thirty years, forty years, etc. anniversaries.
Luxi: Yes, I know what you are saying. But still, having kept a band going on for 40 years is something worth celebrating...
Wolf: Sure, sure, but we did have a long break and in all honesty we did not do Accept nonstop for 40 years. But still, like you said, it's a long time and the fact that Peter and I are sort of partners, songwriters and brothers, is quite remarkable. We still talk to each other every day and we still sort of go to dinner together on the road and all these things. It's a partnership that has lasted four decades. It's quite amazing really.
Luxi: Yes, it is. What else will possibly happen for Accept in 2016?
Wolf: First and foremost, a new album I think. It'll be time to write new songs and whenever we feel ready we will enter the studio again to record it. At this point I am not going to say anything about when we might record it. When it's ready, it's ready. We haven't even started yet, so who knows.
Luxi: You have been on the road for quite a while already so I was wondering if you have plans to release a live DVD from the Blind Rage tour.
Wolf: Yeah, we are actually going to be filming some more of this tour. We already have quite a bit of live footage. Of course now we have two new members in the band so we basically started from the scratch again. It makes more sense to present the new line-up. But you never know, we have got so much in the can that we could release some DVD stuff, yeah. On the other hand, we may also release something with Blind Rage, footage filmed during our South American dates, we will see. We will definitely keep on recording and if the time is right and we want to present something special to our fans we just might do a live DVD.
Luxi: Do you have any highlights from this tour that have stuck in your mind for one reason or another?
Wolf: Yeah man, we have done so many great nights since we started this tour in the last fall. Going to Australia for the first time was quite amazing and, of course, one of the huge highlights for us was to play at Wacken in Germany again. That same weekend we played in Poland in front of 750,000 people which was the biggest crowd that we have ever had in our whole career and that has been the pinnacle as far as a specific show is concerned. The Woodstock Festival in Poland just had an insane amount of people. Of course, being here tonight at South Park festival is also a highlight for us for sure.
Luxi: Well, I guess my time is up, thank you for doing this interview Wolf and all the best for your gig tonight.
Wolf: No problem, thanks to you, too sir.
|Other information about Accept on this site|
|Review: Balls to the Wall|
|Review: Staying A Life|
|Review: Metal Blast From The Past|
|Review: Metal Heart|
|Review: Blood of the Nations|
|Review: Blind Rage|
|Interview with Wolf Hoffmann (Guitars) on October 16, 2010 (Interviewed by MetalMike)|
|Video: Midnight Mover|
|Video: Teutonic Terror|
|Video: Princess of the Dawn (Live)|
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