Interview with guitarist Wolf Hoffmann
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: July 22, 2017
Germany's long-running Heavy Metal stalwarts Accept are about to release their 15th studio album on August 4, 2017, The Rise of Chaos. This is the fourth studio album including 2010's Blood of the Nations since Accept reformed and they are still going strong after all these years and sounding as relevant as ever. They are like a bottle of good whiskey; they just get better with age.
The Metal Crypt sat down with Accept's Wolf Hoffmann one sunny afternoon in Hell-sinki, Finland, to talk about their upcoming album, the band's touring plans, the current state of the world, etc., and to the two new guys in the Accept ranks, Uwe Lulis on guitar and Christopher Williams on drums.
ANOTHER MILESTONE ACHIEVED
Luxi: First off, congratulations on your 15th studio album...
Wolf: 15th, yes, I can't believe it. I didn't actually know it was the 15th until someone told me, I didn't even bother to count them.
Luxi: It's been a long journey for Accept knowing the band started back in 1976.
Wolf: For me, it was '76. Yes. I joined in '76, literally as a wee boy. I was literally a teenager.
Luxi: What I personally find great about Accept is the band sounds as relevant in 2017 as it did a couple of decades ago on albums like Restless and Wild or Metal Heart. You are still full of energy and sheer passion and it may sound corny but ready to kick everyone's butt as hard as ever!
Wolf: Thank you very much. I think relevant is the magic word here. We want to make albums that are relevant and we didn't really want to become a nostalgia act that just played old songs and makes alibi records. Some guys I guess are out there doing it where they can release an album just as an excuse to go on tour. That didn't seem to be a good scenario for us, so we really are trying to put out albums that are relevant. You said it correctly.
Luxi: Before I ask about this new album, how would you summarize your tour with Sabaton during the spring this year? You played 52 shows in 26 countries, which sounds like you had a busy time...
Wolf: Yes, I would say it was a fun thing to do and it's completely different from what we normally do. We normally do our own headlining shows or we travel around the world playing festivals or whatever but we hadn't done anything like this in a long, long time. We said yes because they respectfully asked us if we would consider playing in front of them.
They are a younger band and we're an older, more established band but at the same time, they sell a lot of the tickets and they have a younger audience. That appealed to us to play to a younger audience. At the same time we were in the studio working on the new material for so long that we felt it would be nice to get out of the studio for a little while and just get on the road.
We did it and it was great because we didn't have any agenda. We had no interviews. We didn't have an album to promote so we really just played on stage and went back to the hotel room right after. It enabled me to keep working on the new album and the arrangements and all that during the day and at night, we spend an hour on stage. Everybody was happy. It was a win-win scenario, I think.
Luxi: Sabaton seems to be a popular band all over the world at the moment, so do you believe that this tour garnered some new fans for Accept, younger fans that weren't even born when Accept got started years some 40 years ago...
Wolf: Yes. I think we did and it was funny in a couple of instances. Young kids that had never heard of us came to the soundboard and said to the sound mixer, "Man, these guys are great...! Who are these guys? They play a song from Dimmu Borgir, "Metal Heart" - and we love it."
They didn't even know that it was our song that Dimmu Borgir covered. That shows you. I can't blame them because they probably weren't even born when we released Metal Heart. I know they weren't born yet. I guess that it's the curse of being around for a long time. You get a young audience. Sometimes they have no idea who we are.
NEW GUYS IN THE RANKS
Luxi: OK, let's start talking more about The Rise of Chaos. How was it making this new album couple of new guys in the ranks, Christopher Williams on drums and Uwe Lulis on second guitar? How well have they fit in the Accept line-up?
Wolf: Yes. Really, the way that we record albums hasn't been dramatically influenced by having two new guys. That is because we have a fairly well-oiled machine in place; the same guys writing the songs, same singer, same producer, same labels, same studios, same everything. Yes, of course, it made a difference but for the songwriting, not so much. It's on stage where you feel the most difference because I have played all the guitars in the studio since the 80s pretty much. That's a good thing because we didn't want it to change. We really are trying to focus very hard on not changing our formula or style and the way that we work, the way that we create the songs. We know that it works and like they say, never change a winning team.
Luxi: Did Christopher or Uwe contribute to the songwriting process for The Rise of Chaos and which way exactly?
Wolf: Christopher did because he played on the album and I think he did a fantastic job. He's a great drummer.
Luxi: He's still a pretty "young" guy though...
Wolf: Yes, a pretty young guy. He's really young but he fits in perfectly. You wouldn't know. I mean it never really crosses my mind that he's the kid and we're the old guys. It's not like that really. Maybe because we're all still kids at heart and he's an old soul. I don't know but somehow we work together really well.
Luxi: I guess having the right chemistry is very important. Otherwise, the well-oiled machine could lose a screw here and there, and eventually completely break down you know...
Wolf: I absolutely agree. That was one of the main considerations and why we like Uwe so much. He's a great all-around person. I get along with him great. He is totally okay with being the live guitar player. We've actually known him for a while before we took him in. He was around the band. He was a friend of a friend of our drum tech. He was actually helping us out as a guitar tech for a little while, so we knew him. We traveled with him and we knew we would get along fine.
We just didn't know how good of a guitar player he really is and when he auditioned for the job, he got it right away. It was no question. We have a really fantastic team now and like you said, it's super important to get along on the road because if somebody is maybe a virtuoso on his instrument, yes, that's one thing but you have to live with the guy and that's much more important than anything else. You have to travel together. You have to live together, eat together, sleep together almost. You have to do all these things for weeks on end, so you better pick a good person that you can get along with.
Luxi: Exactly, especially if you are doing long tours, being on the road 3-4 weeks nonstop, or even more.
Wolf: Exactly, absolutely, totally.
NEW ERA RISES - THE RISE OF CHAOS
Luxi: The album title, The Rise of Chaos, unfortunately reflects the current times of this world well. Seems like mankind is in a state of chaos and turmoil; you really don't know what the next bad thing lurking right around the corner will be when you open your morning newspaper and try to enjoy your morning cup of coffee; all of these ugly terrorist attacks, killings of innocent people and so on.
Wolf: You said it.
Luxi: Can you open up this album title The Rise of Chaos a little bit?
Wolf: Definitely... Yes! It came quite late in the song-writing process. See, the way that we work, we always write down titles that we like or catchphrases or things that interest us, possible song titles. We have a long list of things and towards the very end, we came up with The Rise of Chaos and immediately, I thought to myself, this sounds cool and this sounds really current. This sounds perfect for the times that we live in because there seems to be that rise of chaos. Ever since we picked it and decided to go with it, it's even more relevant; Trump got elected and this and that and everything happens. Now it seems even more up to date than eight months ago when we finalized it.
Luxi: So it was quite easy to cement the title?
Wolf: Definitely! It just felt right and to this day, I'm thinking, yes, it's a perfect title. It just feels very 2017.
Luxi: Is the news from Europe reaching you in your current home of Nashville, Tennessee? Or thinking somewhat cynically, do people over there concentrate more on what President Trump's next move might be regarding all those things that are related to the country's current economy, healthcare system, military might and power and so...?
Wolf: I think Europeans are, in general, much more informed with what goes on in the rest of the world than people in the United States are. If you live in the US, you're first and foremost concerned with what happens in the United States. Maybe there's some component that has to do with geography because you're so far away from all the oceans. Really, sometimes I have the feeling they couldn't care less what the rest of the world is concerned about but of course when there are major events like in Paris or big events, of course, you hear that but not daily. Just the top headlines is what you hear. Where here you always have the feeling that they're talking about Trump every day on the news. I actually happen to watch German news online every night, I watch German news over the Internet in America so I watch both. It's always fascinating to me how to see both angles, both the European perspective of something and the American.
In America it's also which channel you watch. It's very polarized nowadays whether you watch this channel or that channel, it's a completely different point of view nowadays and that's, I think, characteristic of the times that we live in that the world is getting so polarized. It's really opposing views about just anything, it's crazy. There hardly seems to be any middle ground, it's either you love it or you hate it. Half of the country hates one thing and the other half loves it and nobody agrees on anything anymore. There seems to be no room for compromises which really is concerning. I see that development in a lot of other countries too, it's not just the US, it's really the same in England and in France and wherever you look. All these current elections seem to be half the country thinks one way and the other half thinks the other way but nobody thinks anything in between, nobody is ready for any sort of compromise. It's crazy.
Luxi: Indeed. The more you read all the newspapers and hear about all these negative things - almost daily really - it makes you think,"Okay, why do we have to be so opposite all the time?" Some things don't make any sense at all...
Wolf: Yeah...why do you have to hate everything just because another guy suggested it but then at the end of the day, I'm just a musician making Metal. It's not for me to judge anything; I don't really want to be out there, the voice of a country and I don't represent a country or a political party or anything. I'm just a guy watching the news and being concerned but at the same time, I write songs so I might as well use some of that and let it creep into the songs a little bit but first and foremost, I think we make music. We're not really there to have a message, we're not really a political band and other than that we're not trying to make the world a better place or anything like that, we're just walking around the world with open eyes, that's all I do really.
ABOUT BAD HABITS AND SHITTY TECHNICAL INVENTIONS
Luxi: Okay, I don't want to get into politics too much in this interview. Heavy Metal is about fun as Accept have proven over the years through the band's lyrics. Sarcastic or black humor has always followed the band, for instance the chorus of "Hole in the Head" on the new album where you sing "I need you...like a hole in the head". Can you tell us what this song is about?
Wolf: [*laughs*] Of course that catchphrase is very sarcastic. I need you like a hole in the head. But then again, that was one of the sentences we wrote down when we were writing. When you're sitting there writing songs, sometimes you have no idea what a song is about and then you are really thankful when you come up with a phrase that everybody can relate to and in this case, I honestly didn't know what we're talking about. I just said, "I need you like a hole in the head," and I gave that to Mark and asked "what does it mean to you?" He could have written about any kind of topic but he chose to just go nuts with it and I think he wrote it about addiction and in this case, addiction to nicotine because he used to be a heavy smoker 20-30 years ago. He told me he's dedicating that song to his wife, which seems weird because it's not the song you want to dedicate to your wife but I think it's mostly not to the wife personally, it's more to the smoking habit or something but he might get mad if I say that in interviews, I don't know...
Wolf: But that's what he told me. It's like the song "Son of a Bitch" where it's satire and it's a rant against somebody. In this case, it's really, I guess against the addiction to nicotine.
Luxi: What about "Analog Man" off this new record; is it a plea for old-school guys that want to enjoy their music without letting modern technology disturb them too much?
Wolf: Right, true. That's a fun song. That is Mark, actually. Mark is writing about himself and the thing is, again, we use that phrase, "I'm an analog man," because Mark has been running around bitching at all the technology out there for years. It's really become somewhat of a saying in the band, you know, every time we sit there with our iPhones or the technology on stage or in the studio. Every time a computer crashes or something, he would always say, "I knew it, I knew it, fucking technology. I hate it. I hate it. I'm an analog man caught in it but I have to put up with this shit. I hate it."
Wolf: "I remember the days when vinyl was great" and blah blah blah, and "If it ain't broken don't fix it." He had all these sayings but then again, he has an iPhone and he uses technology, he just keeps quiet about that part, because anyhow that's how that song originated.
Luxi: That song is really funny.
Wolf: Yes, I think it's funny. I think he did a brilliant job writing the lyrics.
Luxi: Do you feel like since you released Blood of the Nations in 2010, Accept has started blooming with a whole new energy and enthusiasm again? To me it sounds like every album that you have done since then sounds very relaxed, catchy and is just full of great Heavy Metal anthems.
Wolf: Yes, even more now than in the beginning because the last album went number one. We've had a great response from the fans, our tours are getting better and so I feel like that finds its way into our enthusiasm because when nothing goes right, you tend to slow it down and lose your enthusiasm but on the other hand, if things go well, you get more and more excited about things and it makes you work even harder. That's why I definitely feel this is the fourth album in a very consistent and strong period of our career and I would be foolish to let go now and say," You know, we're going to take two years off and take it easy." It is not the right time because we like what we're doing and it's a lot of fun to build on success. This is what we're here to do, this is why we came back because we wanted to do this.
Luxi: I guess you have seen more and more mixed crowds of both younger and older people at your shows; the people who have been following the band since the very beginning and a whole new generation of people that have found Accept starting with Blood of the Nations.
Wolf: Yes, exactly. Usually the younger people come to the front more and the older guys stay a little bit in the background but there's definitely a mix of old and new, definitely, yes. That's a great thing to have a multi-generation audience.
Luxi: It could be said, even though it is kind of a cliché, that Heavy Metal is a uniting thing.
Wolf: The crazy thing is, when I was a kid, not in a million years would I have listened to anything that my father was listening to because it was just a matter of principle, you didn't listen to the music of your parents, it was like this generation thing. You wanted to be a rebel and you wanted to make noise that your parents hated. Nowadays, they're all in unison, they all listen to the same stuff, they come with their dads and their kids and everybody is in this together. I think it's remarkable.
Luxi: An artist named Gyula Havancsák is responsible for the album's cover artwork. He is also responsible for many other eye-catching covers for bands like Annihilator, Grave Digger, Destruction and so on.
Wolf: Yes, he's a really talented artist from Hungary. He made some T-shirt designs for us over the years and then finally, he made a stage set design for the Sabaton tour...this backdrop. We liked that so much because it really looks impressive when you see it on stage and we thought, it would be a shame not to use that for anything more. Then we had this album titled The Rise of Chaos and one thing led to another. We thought, maybe we should use our album for our stage set and create a different scenario for after the attack, after the Godzilla attack. That's how this came about.
Luxi: How did you find the guy to do the artwork for The Rise of Chaos?
Wolf: Originally, he was recommended to me. I was asking around for someone who could design some T-shirts for us. Then finally, I met him about...I don't know, a few months ago. Until then, it was only communicating by email, which is weird because there are a lot of people I've never met in my life but we are constantly talking.
Luxi: Let's talk tour for a moment. Obviously, there's going to be a lot of touring commitments ahead of you after The Rise of Chaos has officially been released at the beginning of August. For example, you have four dates in Japan coming up in September, but I suppose that's just a tip of the iceberg, right?
Wolf: Yes, we're going to do Japan, we're going to do Australia and we're going to do South America for a few weeks.
But before all that happens, coinciding with the release date, we're going to play a show at Wacken. It's going to be a big show at Wacken with Headbanger's Symphony. My solo album is going to be presented for the first time with an orchestra. Accept is going to play with an orchestra. It's going to be a huge deal for us, maybe the biggest show of our career. I don't know.
Luxi: Are you going to be the headliner of that evening at Wacken?
Wolf: Yes. Well, Wacken officially doesn't have any headliners, but we're playing from eight to 10 so it's...
Luxi: I see. Practically speaking on that particular stage (the Faster stage), you will be the last act.
Luxi: Okay. What about next year? How does it look for you?
Wolf: Next year we're going to do a European tour, a full-blown European Headline Tour, probably starting in Germany but going to all the countries. The usual suspects, including Finland. We're totally looking forward to coming back to Finland because Finland was actually the only other country besides Germany where we went number one with Blind Rage.
Luxi: Yeah, I remember. I guess you could say that we do have a few Accept fans up here in Finland...
Wolf: Yes, I think you do. Just a few [*laughs*].
Luxi: As your repertoire has now increased to 15 albums, does that always make harder and harder to choose songs for your set list, knowing there's always fans that want to hear this or that song? The new album naturally will be the focus, so some older songs need to be left out - and new ones added in...
Wolf: Yes, it is becoming harder and harder to pick the right songs for our set list. However, the big question is how many of those actually feel right and how many could we play live? I guess it's just about all of them we could play live but right now, before considering this new album, we have a set list about a 50% from the last three albums with Mark and 50% of the classic songs from the 80s. With this new album, we might actually consider playing even more newer material so that we slowly but surely come to the point where the new stuff takes over. I don't know that we'll ever leave all the old stuff, maybe ten years from now we won't be playing any older songs from the 80s but maybe then, again, we will always play them. I don't know. That remains to be seen. We usually experiment a little bit with this kind of stuff during rehearsals. During the first few dates of the tour, you put this one in, you put that one in and then after a while, you settle on a set list that seems to work well. Then again, having as many albums and songs as we have these days, it's also a luxury. Come on, it's not the worst problem to have.
Luxi: Heheh... I think you just nailed it right there.
Wolf: We'll manage, we'll get there. There's always going to be one or two fans who can complain that they didn't hear their favorite song but that's the name of the game. Like I said you're trying to think of the majority of the people in the audience there. We're not really doing these shows to keep us entertained but it's really what do the fans want to hear most. Whatever songs get the most response, that's what we're going to play. We're not egos on stage.
Luxi: Have you become more selective and even "picky" over the years with which tours are reasonable to do financially and which are not even if this may sound pretty brutal so to speak? You really don't do tours to lose money, just for the fun of touring...
Wolf: Yes, I guess that's always the case. You don't want to play everything that's been offered just for the sake of playing. I think it should make sense. My thought is always, "can we guarantee that we present the band in a way that it's worthy and not in a bad way?" Sometimes you could do a show but you couldn't bring the whole production, no road crew, or something and we don't want to do that. If we cannot present our band in the best possible light, at least up to a certain standard, then we won't do it.
That's usually my motto. It's not that I don't want to do it but do you really want to see the band or us perform in a venue, or on a stage, or without any support? That is not representative of who we are. We're trying to have a minimum standard, a level of that we don't go under. That's it.
Luxi: Are you concerned about going to certain countries to play due to some of the recent ugly and sad happenings, especially in Europe where the threat of a potential terror act is always there?
Wolf: True but my answer to this question is no. Never. It doesn't even cross my mind. I can't let that happen. It would be terrible if we give in to those terrorists. If we stay at home and don't do the concerts because of that, I think that would be just a wrong signal to send. I think we should definitely keep doing what we like to do. We shouldn't let our lives be influenced by those assholes.
Wolf: I'm hoping that these attacks will actually create an opposite effect where people are getting closer together and standing up for what they believe in. Western civilization took thousands of years to build. We have a certain standard of living and a way of living that we should be proud of. We shouldn't let these assholes destroy it just like that. The more we give in and stay at home, we show we are afraid. Let's be realistic, the chance of really getting hurt or dying from one of these attacks is so minimal but that's the nature of terrorism. They want to spread terror beyond people's normal way of living you know.
More people probably get killed by, I don't know, wasp attacks every year than terrorism but still we're all afraid of them. Nobody's afraid of wasps really. We're all afraid of terrorism because it's on the news all the time. It gets blown out of proportion. That's exactly what they want to achieve.
Luxi: Yeah because people are not used to constant terrorist attacks in the Western world; it's pretty much a new thing to them.
Wolf: Well, that's true. That's exactly the effect that they're trying to achieve. The more we give in, the more we feed into their hands. That's wrong in my mind. I don't know.
ACCEPT IS NUMBER ONE
Luxi: Let's talk about a "lighter" topic for a change. You released your second solo album, Headbanger's Symphony, last year and it was positively received among open-minded people that don't see classical music as strange. Do you believe there's be more solo stuff coming from you when the time is right?
Wolf: I hope so. I think there's a lot of potential for this kind of stuff. Unfortunately, it's a lot of work to do an album like that. It's not something that you do in a couple of weeks or something, it really takes a lot of time to record but hopefully I will find the time soon to make another one. I really would love to. Then again I'm also always so damn busy with Accept so... [*laughs*].
Luxi: I understand. So when Accept is not touring or you are not busy with the band, you still have to find time to continue this solo project of yours...
Wolf: Accept is always number one. That's the most important thing and as soon as I have a little time, I will be doing another one.
Luxi: That's cool. One more last question because I think my time is pretty much up so I was wondering...
Wolf: Silke (the promotional lady in charge of the interviews - Luxi) is about to hit you over the head with a big stick.
Luxi: I am afraid of her already. Anyways, is there still something that you would like to achieve with Accept that you haven't achieved yet?
Wolf: No, I just want to keep going and do what we do and slowly get better with each album and maybe each tour and such. I don't think there's a big goal that I definitely strive for. A Grammy would be nice, but then again that is ridiculous. The Hall of Fame would be cool, but then again other bands don't have that.
Luxi: [*laughs*] There you go.
Wolf: You know what I mean. But that's just as ridiculous. I mean that's not going to happen, and I know that. That's okay, but because, I mean, look at who else is not in the Hall of Fame, so why should we be considered? It's ridiculous. But, no, to answer your question, there's nothing that I really couldn't do without. I mean, we're just happy where we are.
Luxi: Yes. Just playing Metal and being happy?
Wolf: Totally. Metal happy [*laughs*].
|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)|
|Interview with guitarist Wolf Hoffmann on June 15, 2015 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Video: Midnight Mover|
|Video: Teutonic Terror|
|Video: Princess of the Dawn (Live)|
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