INTERVIEW BY ARTO LEHTINEN AND MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
The legendary German metallers Accept returned with the outstanding BLOOD OF NATIONS album. The album presented a new vocalist Mark Tornillo the formerly TT Quick frontman. The album received a massive response amongst metal fans around the world. The album offers pure classic heavy metal from beginning to end. Accept visited Finland last spring playing in the entire packed club Virgin Oil in Helsinki and now the band returned here again to play at the Finnish Metal Expo. Therefore Metal-Rules.Com had a great opportunity of talking to the bassist Peter Baltes.
THE ALBUM OF THE YEAR
First of all, welcome to Finland once again!
Once again – Thank you so much
Danke schön. Your new album BLOOD OF THE NATIONS was voted the best album of the year by the staff of Metal-Rules. Are you surprised that at getting a lot of great feedbacks as there were many magazines like Bravewords, Rock Hard giving excellent feedbacks?
We just got a note about two weeks ago that the album was named number 1, it was rated number 1, in 45 publications like newspapers, webzines and whatever around the world and we were all like "OK !".
45 publications. That sounds awosome!
45 different medias and 20 in some countries and it took newspapers rock magazines and their website, doesn’t matter what it was in they ended it all up and they came to 45 source publications basically album of the year, like Rock Hard in Germany album of the year. It’s really humbling, what we know we come back to make an album, no idea.
I guess you feel relief as you have succeeded in making an absolutely great album, but otherwise, does it bring some kind of pressure when you start working on a new album?
At our age, the hell with the pressure. I think the way we did the album and then we found Andy Sneap, really good friend of ours, who is almost like a band member in a way in a sense because he was the biggest fan and here he gets to produce his favorite band. So he can’t wait to do it again we can’t wait to do it again and I think there’s not much pressure. I know there’s always the thinking “hey you got a good album you’ve got to do it again”. I’m pretty confident we can. Me and Wolf wrote about 40 rifts, we’ve explored about 14. There’s a lot which is lying there we didn’t even touch, they were just rifts they’re just sitting there. I think that’s where we are going to start and then we’ll be writing new stuff, Andy is coming in August so we’ll tour until the end of July. We stopped all the offers we got, we said no we don’t to. We had so many offers and actually every day or every week we got more offers because the tour has gone so well and the reviews from people I can’t believe the shows and what’s going on and so everybody wants us to play and we said no. We want to be smart, we don’t want to burn out, we want to enjoy this when we go home. This gives us the whole rest of the year really right good make a good album and maybe have a new album, new release next year. I think that would be the right thing to do. That’s our plan.
Do you think that the current technology advances have modernized the songs of the albums? Are they missing a soul? When I listen to metal of the 80’s, there was more soul in the music, there were catchy the riffs and now when they sound quite modern too technological, too computerized..
The soul has been put by the player by the fingers and the voices, that was a lot of people say you use protocols, technology digital can’t be good. I don’t believe that we use them coz they love them and if you listen to the album its still all played and its full of soul because the soul is in both fingers. If everything would be that would be no soul because you can’t follow the soul its too fast soul just went by.
WORKING WITH MARK TORNILLO
It has been like fifteen months or something since you have been together with Mark. Is he now a member of the Accept family?
I think so. You know it takes a lot longer – I’ve been with Wolf since we were kids - you know you have your friends that you know from when you were little – so we have a very comfortable – its really nice there’s no fighting and Mark doesn’t have any single syndrome, he’s very down to earth and he does his job – We try to involve him as much as we can. We want to do more in the future, but we are all testing ourselves and I think that’s very important instead of jumping to conclusions. You’ve got to be very careful. You want to make sure everybody gets is treated perfectly, that everybody understands that it means hard work, so that you don’t just join a band and everything is perfect. It’s never perfect you have to work on it like in a marriage, you have to work on how to get things done, you have to find where you fit, where your strengths are, where your weaknesses are, if you have a weakness. I have to jump in and be the strength man and that’s Wolf’s as weak as and the other way around we and Mark will jump in so we’ve really try to work together and its beautiful right now, its really nice relaxed. He’s singing every night he’s singing real good. So we have no fear that he can’t do more than 3 shows. Its really good.
Everybody else is German, even though some of you guys have been living in the States like forever, but he is a Yankee. Does that make some differrence here?
You know as interesting as that is he’s a Yankee but he grew up on AC/DC. He’s not the type of Yankee who grew up on Led Zeppelin. There’s a big difference. He knows all the Rainbow stuff, the Deep Purple stuff, the AC/DC stuff he knows what we know. So I think that’s a big benefit and then maybe his age is a benefit he’s seasoned. He knows exactly what we need and that sense he said from the first time we asked him he said ”listen all I want to do is to make Accept sound as good as they sound back then. I want a continuation I just want to do the best I can represent what Accept is”, I thought that was pretty cool. Because usually a singer would say “I want to have money”, you know how singers are,” I want to have my own star I want to be” – he never mentioned that.
Like "somebody" else did back in back in the days ?
Yeah again it happened a lot and then other bands when singers come in and they want to make it their band. He understood from the beginning that the only way that this will go if you become part of this and you’ll be in front but he understood. He said ”I don’t want to be The Udo clone I’m myself I’m what I am with my voice but I want to make sure that I participate and stand for what Accept stands for.” We had a couple of other singers before that didn’t work out that well.
When listening to your stories about Mark, I got the impression that he brought the new metal heart to you and Wolf that you felt excited like ok this will start rolling and makes good for Accept?
Mark has some qualities, you know, that are really unique. Mark plays bass, drums, guitar and piano and Mark can sing clean as well. So if somebody plays instruments and you play riffs and you work on songs he understands what the riff is, he knows what his occupation is, he knows what is kicking, he knows everything. So when he sings, he already has them in his mind, which is a totally different way for us to work that used to be in the old days. So that makes it totally different and then it is just the tone that he can vary. So now we can actually say that’s what we did in the “Abyss”. We put a little bridge in and you would just think it was me singing and people said that was Peter singing and that was Mark. I like this because for that song it was perfect, that little section in the song was perfect and then he kicks it in with a super scream and takes it back into the solo. So it gives more room to explore within except brawl that what we are all our style that we want to keep.
Actually when you were putting the band together and you said you tried many singers, was it ever an option that you would sing ?
No, I can’t remember any lyrics. I wouldn’t be good that’s why I never sing live, I can’t remember anything.
But you did “The King” and some others songs in the past?
I did “The King”, but you know that was really hard for me. I would probably need something. It is just a gift some guys have it. Mark knows the lyrics for almost every song. It doesn’t matter what it is. we were it something on the radio he knows the words and I was asking him where in your head is that little compartment where all lyrics are stored. I can’t I mean I have 2 lines in a song but I have to really work hard to remember them. Its just not my strength so I would never be a good singer coz honestly there’s a big difference, somebody reads something or if you have and you feel it and you sing it there’s 2 different things. I wouldn’t be good at it.
Do you find the benefits that Mark used to be a front man in the local band TT Quick and he had some experience playing in the band and being a front man ?
I think so. He wasn’t that experienced and handling huge crowds. He had to find his way and he was a little intimidating to play with AC/DC in front of 85,000 people on the Sonisphere and Istanbul 45,000, so all over sudden the crowd is far away, the security and cameras, but he adjusted we put him out there and we gave him some points and the ideas what to do and he took it very well and he said “Ok that makes sense I’ll try that”. That was interesting that he was open to. This is another thing, but different to a lot of singers they don’t take any advice they know it all.
Before you knew Mark, did you have any idea about his old band TT Quick, Wolf told that you did one show with them ?
We did. We did a show at L’Amour in New York, but we don’t remember them because we opened up for Kiss at Radio City and we played from 8 to 9 and then Kiss played from 9 to 11.30. It was a show for just family and friends there were 3,000 people in there. So when we were done we drove over to L’Amour later on to play another show. We found that TT Quick had already done we didn’t see them. Somebody hit it on facebook somewhere there was a ticket or something that said this band and TT Quick. Its interesting, you never know.
You mentioned about the amount of audience you are playing in front of, like Sonisphere and Istanbul 40 – 50,000 people. When you came back after 4 – 5 years hiatus after touring with Udo, do you feel “this is great I’m going back to big stadiums” or do you feel “oh God I’m getting back to big audience thing”, when you did the album OBJECTION OVERRULED it never became so big to be compared to this one. How does it feel to get back on the big stage?
I have to say in a way it feels very good but it wasn’t our primary goal. The goal is really to be able to figure out a way : Can we, the way we are now, go on stage and really put on a show where people really get involved where everybody leaves absolutely happy satisfied - Can we create a show where here’s the audience here’s the band and after the first song they merge not after the 8th or 9th song and then ? No ! We want them to merge. Are we able to get their attention to say, when they leave, that was the best show I’ve ever seen. That was our thinking and really it didn’t matter, where we were. That’s why we did the first, we were very bold, but we decided ok we go on tour before the album is out.
It was a great idea to do those club shows before the actual tour.
What happened to the club shows was two things : We introduced Mark to the audience we had found our way with Mark and we got ourselves ready in a really nice way and the best way is to rehearse against a very small sweaty place, where everybody is very close. It was like us not far away because you get judged by the eyes looking and if I see them all smiling, there’s a difference between someone just doing this and that and someone looking in your eye you see genuine joy like “oh my God they came back” and then you shake their hands later on and they say it made me feel like I was 18 years old. That was the best day of my life. He was standing there with his wife and 2 children when he was saying today was the best day of my life and I would say the same thing when that happens when your children were born. Then he says it is the third best day of my life. That was the goal to do something to create a situation, where we are relevant we’re not just another band we don’t want to be just another band that’s not the point. The point is : Can we do this again, can we create something that will stand the test of time when people in 10 or 15 years say man that was wild that was BLOOD OF THE NATIONS that is one of the best I’ve ever heard. If we can do that…
THE CHEMISTRY WITHIN THE BAND
Going back in time, when the first real one thing used to be around back in the day, what was the reason that it never became so big like this one is doing at the moment? Was it because of timing or…
No. At this point even at this time there was too much tension. You can’t do it even if you want to you cannot do it. If not, its like in a boat if everybody does this you go forward if one guy doesn’t do it you’re going to suffer.
Right. We don’t need any names here "laughs"
It’s not about that, I know, but it is just that what happens we’re in a circle we chase our own tail
It was like that right from the beginning?
It was that from day one
So why after all you decide to do it because if…
Because you’re young and you’ll be successful in the works and then you don’t think much when you are touring the world you don’t think much you think later. Priorities change you’re young all you do is another show, another show, a beer. When you’re older when you’re wiser when you look back you say “Oh I want the quality of my music to be good I want the quality of my show to be good and I want the quality of my company to be good”. You are charged with that everyday. Its almost like important.
Back in the day when OBJECTION OVERRULED came out I think you did lots of advertising, you did a couple of promo videos and it got a great response but somehow the album soon disbanded. Why do you think it went that way?
I know I know. I think you can just hype it that much, but you can’t do the vote you know and if you compare. I hate to talk about the past but I will do it one time, if you compare the shows back then to the shows today, its a world of difference. You can’t even compare it you can’t coz if you don’t see it. Tonight you’ll see it, every night you’ll see a united front. It’s a united front its far more stable who really enjoys what we’re doing more than anything and that wasn’t always the case it certainly wasn’t the case in 2005.
Actually when I saw you back in 1994 here in Finland playing at an outdoor festival Giants Of Rock, there was something missing in the show. But seeing you again at Sweden rock in 2005 I remember writing in a review “These guys still can wipe new bands easily off from the stage”. There was something different at Swedenrock than ten years earlier. But I’m definitely eager to see what would happen today on the stage. There’s something different compared to those times anyway.
You will see big differences and I can’t put a finger on it. I can tell you from my own experience I was never happy being on stage than I am today. And again coz of several things one of the things the audience and that’s the difference today if you come to a concert today they’re generally happy to us back then it was just a little show of Metal Fans but today its like of my gosh best thing I’ve waited so long I’ve heard so many people say that and then just I love playing with Wolf and we play more than ever now than we actually played each other we kind of jamming between song we do different things that metal bands usually don’t do.
Like jamming? Laughs
You know that’s girlie thing, the jam. It is not metal. But the audience enjoys it, because it is the real thing, it is almost like in real time where a lot of concerts we go to, it is the same thing, nothing out of the ordinary happens. So this is where we stand and right now the future is right over.
WORKING WITH NORUM, DOKKEN AND DAN SPITZ
How about discussing a little bitt about your career outside of Accept ?
First of all tell me about working with Swedish guitarist John Norum.
I love John Norum !! I did two great albums I did. I played with Joey Tempest and Glenn Hughes, Simon Wright from the AC/DC and Kelly Keeling . I wish we could have done more. Sometimes our lives we cross paths and then you go off and then you meet again 10 years later so I’m waiting for that. Great time what a really good guitar player, good song writer and I know he was a big Thin Lizzy fan I know. He was very very sad I know and he had his share of struggles with his wife and the stuff so. I hope he’s doing well I just went to double up they’re in England right now like I always said you really do belong to Europe.
How did that thing come in the first place?
No because we were both in Dokken, remember. Then he did the solo record, that made sense.
Did you also tour with him?
No because by that time I went back to Accept, so we never got a chance
You just mentioned Don Dokken, could you tell your story about the time when you were working with him?
All I know the time we spent together he was a very nice guy he just struggled. I think he struggled with lifestyle more than anything I said in another interview the other day, one of the things where you know you say what’s, the question was what sets Accept apart from other artists or what was it why are some artists so successful while some others not. And I said at least in our stand we concentrate on the art of our music and really don’t give a shit about the lifestyle. Really lifestyle doesn’t bring you anything the lifestyle and especially now coz we’ve been for fifteen years we’ve been away from all of it, so we had a normal life like all of you guys. I write music for television and radio I sit at home I work as a photographer, so you get away from the rock star life which you really never learn. We learn even once I can’t – I identify myself more with AC/DC than everybody else there because everybody else was just out to be seen Ozzy, Motley Crue, you name it. But AC/DC went to their trailer and didn’t talk to anybody. That was a great idea so anyway 4% of the craft on what your doing your music more than anything if your music doesn’t hold water, its not good enough, stop whining, stop doing. But some people have the tendency to go towards the lifestyle more the lifestyle is more important how they’re doing how they’re seen.
You are talking about Don here?
I’m talking about a lot of people but Don is one of them where I think he lost the connection a little bit because his driving force was George Lynch. They were only good because they were together. Its like me and Wolf. They ignited each other. Once you’re separated you hold on to the lifestyle you see other things as difficult I’m sorry to hear that he has so much trouble and so.
Overall how do you like that album UP FROM THE ASHES? In my opinion there are some really great tunes like "Mirror Mirror" there.
It was a great album, it could have been great at the time, I was thinking this is more like a project coz whatever we did. I always especially thought I shouldn’t be here John shouldn’t be here George Lynch should be there its not right. You know what I mean, it just didn’t feel right as good as it was. It was more like fabricated. Remember Toto ?l They were all studio musicians, they were put them together they made a great record but never became a great band.
It looks like a great idea to have well known names on the album cover and then call it like "allstar" lineup?
Good idea to put them all together you write some great songs and its going to be a great number… no its not. It never works, never. It just doesn’t work. It looks good on paper but that’s about it.
But those names do sometimes help sales-wise, right?
But it never has any – you know one thing why Accept for instance is wow and people ask me what are you the proudest of, what is your biggest accomplishment, one of them is just the longevity. To be able to hold a standard and now we’ve been away for 15 years coming back and having a fan base isn’t that just back. That’s an accomplishment in life and a legacy that leave behind.
You’ve been working recently with former Anthrax guitarsit Dan Spitz is in a band called Deux Monkey. Tell us something more about that one?
Well that was an idea we had in 2005, Sweden Rock. We met and we said we should do some one day and when a couple of years later he caught me up and I wasn’t doing anything and I said I will do a band with you and it was Patrick Johansen playing drums at the time and I recorded twelve tracks and then he recorded everything over basically and at that time I was Accept in full force because I had no idea that Accept would come back so when it came by the time he called me back and said listen I want to do it again I said I’m sorry I can’t do it I’m committed now I will never have time it wouldn’t be right for me to do it you’re better off looking for somebody who can be with you.
How would you describe the material you wrote together?
It was like the first one was really strange, the first one was like for normals it was weird and then he went back and he scraped it all and he wrote like the Anthrax stuff. It was much better and it was really good sometimes you just make a tough call, that was the right call I’m so busy I couldn’t.
I just read somewhere that Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine was recording some guitars for the album as well?
They’re very good friends they’re like best of friends and that’s good for him you need some help its another band without him and Anthrax and tracks are similar I don’t really know he’s playing all the big four shows and if that adds to their success nobody really knows that was their first time to play and then they wait for slide I really don’t know.
But do you keep still the contact with Dan Spitz?
Yeah I do and Dan you know Dan has two children who have autism so he has his hands with full twins yeah "laughs"
CLASSIC HEAVY METAL AND NOSTALGIA
I have been talking about this subject with many bands before but let’s see what you do have say about this. Many older bands, who used to have huge crowds in the 80′s, kind of lost their audience in the 90′s. Not just because of the grunge and all that crap but also because their fans kind of grew up back then and started to have families etc but now when they’re in thier 40′s they’re now coming to see the shows again. Do you agree with that opinion?
I think you’re awfully right. There are lots of guys coming to see us tonight who used to go to the concerts with buddies in the 80’s. You know, to have some drinks before the shows and girlfriends or no girlfriends. And you are absolutely right. Later on they have to get a job, they get a girlfriend, they get one child two child and then they have no money to go to the shows and then she says “I don’t want you to go, you’re at home”. But now their children are old enough and they’re going to the shows again.
And they even keep having their children with them in the shows?
Yeah and the house is half paid off and the wife says "now you can go and see your shows"! (laughs)
Grunge and underground extreme metal were dominate in the 90′s and classic metal had entirely disappeared. Whereas the classic metal has returned back and is as strong as it used to be in the 80’s. Do you think it has become a more nostalgia thing to go to see these classic names like Iron Maiden and Accept?
Sure I know its first I always believe that every generation they want their own heroes you didn’t want to listen to your fathers you wanted your own. And that’s just the way it is and that’s how grunge – if you look at the 80s a decade that it was over the top. It was just a matter of time for a band to come and just say strip it all and we do the opposite. You don’t have to shoot yourself in the mouth afterwards. It was a great idea even though we suffered I felt the same way to be quite honest. I felt like somebody has to burst this wide open because it stinks to the high heaven. Remember it was horrible, MTV was ruling the world with its thumb like this. So that’s true I think they’ve returned to classic metal at this point maybe for the last 2, 3, 4 years there’s a lot of thrash and black metal and so many different metal, a lot of them, how do I put this I don’t want to offend anybody, what I’m missing what I’m personally missing with all the bands since I don’t listen to them is the riffs that I remember like the craft of songwriter I see more a craft of speed in a fall playing really fast and its more like an attitude. Once you were a punk, punk was an attitude punk you didn’t have to play good you just had to have an attitude you just kind of opened something and I think that was the same with this so now all over sudden there’s bands coming in and big riffs like “Blood of the Nations”, like the “Pandemic”, “Teutonic Terror”, everybody is like a lot of young kids never had a riff like that. They never heard the power of the song when its driven on and there’s a melody.
You’re actually right because during the past 2 or 3 years you can see young kids wearing patches and that kind of stuff…
And then my kids are 18 and 20 listening to the early Deep Purple, Rainbow, AC/DC, "Holy Diver", its the classics , Iron Maiden.
When we talk about big four, is there any chance that some day we will see the Big Four of hard rock / heavy metal ?
You mean bigger four? "laughs" You mean Priest, Maiden, Accept, Saxon ? I don’t know, I don’t think so because Maiden are so successful on their own.
But so is Metalica.
Right, but I really don’t know. I would love to, but it’s so difficult to get it all together, it is just almost impossible. I met Rob Halford last year at a radio station in New York, he asked , he said “Lets do a big four”, he still called it a big four. He actually said the same thing.
Really? I was just thinking that it is my idea "laughs" What about the German metal scene, Accept had a huge impact on the local metal scene back in the day, Helloween, Kreator everyone basically had Accept influences. Do you see that Accept would have more influence in Germany music somehow cos I feel the German metalits are stuck to the 80s ?
I don’t know maybe, maybe now the album was very successful and entered the charts and before I think we probably have more impact through the live shows because we had Grand Magus opening up for us and SteelWing, both bands just kind of studied us and it was interesting to see and I thought that’s probably the thing that is missing the most is the element of how you perform, how you create affection, how you work hard and what you do and what with the audience and these things. I think there’s a lot of bands right now that coming out there they’re sounding like the 80s like Wolf they are sounding like in England and Sabaton, there’s some difference, I don’t know why in Germany. I don’t know from Germany since I don’t live there anymore I really don’t know the scene and things changed and maybe because the way the music industry there’s a lot of bands that don’t even try coz what’s the point. If you don’t have a back catalogue like us and something to stand on to go on if you start fresh then its almost impossible. So much out there not selling your record how are you going to live off it. You can’t tour nobody knows you, you can’t get paid, you have to support extra thousands Euros, why even try its very very difficult.
The last question – how long have you lived in the States?
I think 24 or 25 years?
As a German, how much is the world different from that point of view?
You know, I’m not any different from the average American, more like a global citizen because when you travel so much every country you’ve got to leave an impression like a foot print on your soul or on your memory. So it doesn’t matter really where you live. But I still choose the United States because for me its so the best country to live in, its just the way it is, because I married an American girl. So my boys are American and they have both citizenships so they’re Germans too. They have German passports. But you know there all these critics criticizing America, you know, if you live in America you know sometimes you do the same as Europe. There are things in Europe that are not really cool. Nobody really talks about them but I think everybody has his own lifestyle. There’s definitely a better metal scene that’s for sure but then I come over here and I’ll put on the TV, it is all American shows so what’s that.
Alright Danke schön for the interview, have a great show
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