Wolf Hoffmann of Accept
Interviewed by Robert Cavuoto
Accept’s stature amongst metal heads continues to grow since they left a long-lasting impression with such anthems as “Fast As A Shark,” “Balls to the Wall,” “Princess of the Dawn” and “Metal Heart.” It’s about to be taken to a whole new level, as the group has announced they are going back into the studio to write a new CD right after they finish a string of dates from the Blind Rage Tour. Their last three CDs; Blood of the Nations, Stalingrad, and Blind Rage have left an indelible mark on the metal community and all offers thunderous riffs, intricate melodies, aggressive vocals, and infectious undiluted metal songs with a bite. Accept continues to write new metal anthems that carry on the legendary tradition with a metal attitude.
I caught up with guitarist and foundering member, Wolf Hoffmann, to get his perspective on touring, making new music, and history behind “Fast as a Shark!”
Robert Cavuoto: When Accept heads out on the road for a tour, how long does it take the band to get up to speed?
Wolf Hoffmann: It all depends on when we played last. We did a lot of touring on the last CD, Blind Rage, pretty much right up to Christmas 2015 so it’s still pretty familiar. We will probably will do a few rehearses in the course of a week then we are ready to jump out there.
Many of your classic songs are over 20 or 30 years old, yet they really stand the test of time and sound fresh in 2016, what’s your take on that?
There is something to be said for those songs as they really work well live. That is one of the criteria I use when judging new songs. I ask myself which one of those will survive the test of time. There are tracks that work really well on an album because they were produced in a studio and have something that work in context of the CD but when you play it on stage they don’t stand out. Some work really well live while others don’t.
Can you swap out songs on tour quickly when they are not working?
Yeah, we always want good intro songs to come out of the gate with at full forceful. They have to be really fresh and exciting like “Stampede” which we are using. Then we have great closing songs like “Balls to the Wall” which we have been playing as our last encore for years. There are staple songs which remain in the set and then there are also spots where we are pretty flexible and can pull songs in and out. We never replay the same set list over and over on tour. With the You Tube generation and sites where fans can look up set lists, we want to mix things up a bit. We don’t want them to know what’s coming.
How have some of Accept’s classic songs evolved live over the years?
If you look at a song like “Princess of the Dawn” which we have been playing live forever, it is really quite different from what we did on the studio version. The album version was a layered thing where we didn’t really know how that song would end up. We only had the riff and the phrase “Princess of the Dawn.” It was an experiment in the studio. The guitar riff was on this never ending loop. Live we have to do something different and now it works great. But it’s completely different song from the album version.
How important is it to create riff driven songs?
We are a riff band as all the songs start and end with a riff. Peter and I have been writing all the songs for years and they always start with a riff. Very rarely is it ever anything else, maybe a chorus melody or something. We try to come up with riffs that are simple, effective and not overly complicated. I don’t like songs that that roll by you and when it’s over, you don’t remember anything about it. I always try to come up with riffs that are memorable.
How do you keep yourself satisfied with touring after all these years and what do you do with all the down time?
Touring in itself is still fun as you get to go to interesting places and meet great fans. Then at night being on stage is what it’s all about. Sometimes you have to suffer through a grueling of travel day then you are rewarded with two hours on stage.
Nowadays down time is not really an issue. You have laptops, cell phones and get connect in a way to allow you to keep working. When I’m home I’m sitting in front of the computer half the day anyway answering emails, doing book keeping, or mundane stuff. I can do that on the road or in my hotel room. My days are spend the same whether touring or at home.
How do you deal with all the bullshit of air travel?
Thick skin that’s how [laughing] When it comes to air travel you really have no control. At the end of the days it’s always about the airlines or the weather. We always try to take extra precautions and travel the day before the show. We have to play it safe as we have a lot of fans waiting there for us. You can’t just wing it. At the end of the day there are things that are a pain in the ass.
What are some of the sacrifices you’ve had to make in your personal life while being out on tour?
If you’re a touring musician you have a very different schedule than most people. I wouldn’t change anything and didn’t miss anything. Nobody is forcing us to do what we do. We do it for the love of music. Travel is a necessary evil and nobody is really complaining at the end of the day. I can tell you a secret; I don’t like musicians that are always complaining making their lives sound so hard. At the end of the day it’s a pretty sweet gig to have.
Tell me about the chemistry between you and Peter Baltes that keeps Accept going?
There is something that just works really well between us. Were like an old married couple [laughing]. We fight a little but always seem to work things out. Were a great team. If you know someone for almost 40 years, you don’t have to say a lot of things, you just feel alike. That’s probably the biggest asset when we get together for song writing or creative things. We each know what the other guy feels and thinks.
Looking back at your career do you sometimes think that you had to go through periods of adversity with Udo leaving or lineup changes to get the best out of the band musically?
Oh God no, it’s just something you just have to live with. I don’t think anyone needs that kind of stuff. In the perfect world this would never happen with anybody. But the reality is that it happens to almost every band. As you go through life interests change, people change; people start families which change everything. When you start out as a bunch of teenagers, you say, “We are going to be in this band forever and do everything together!” That’s easy to say but then 20 or 30 years later things are completely different and everybody develops their own life. It suddenly gets harder and harder to keep everything together. I’m super fortunate to be in this band for as long as I have been with Peter and playing together. I probably say I have never played with another bass player ever [laughing].
It’s a true testament to the band’s resilience and longevity.
It’s amazing that we’re still playing these same songs and they still kick ass!
Did you ever realize the anthemic impact of “Fast as Shark” when you created it?
You never feel the impact of a song when you first create it. It’s something that develops over time. Especially back then when you don’t have the immediate feedback that you have now with the internet. Nowadays it’s different when we release an album. Within a few minutes we have an idea how we are doing through the internet. But back then it took weeks, months, and even years to figure out whether we did well or not.
To tell you the truth at the time we thought “Fast as Shark” was a joke! Especially with that intro. No one at the time ever wrote a song like that with double bass drums going full force. It was joke and just a lot of fun to play. We said lets be bold and release it and maybe someone will like it. It was a whacky idea and nobody thought it would have the importance it would later have.
There was a time when we stopped trying the serious approach of being successful. Our first couple of albums had a few attempts at having a radio song. We were listening to people who were giving us advice that we had to have a radio hit. We tried a few things and then said screw it. Let’s just have fun and do whatever the hell we want, because that’s what it’s all about. That song represents that sentiment and nobody ever thought people would go nuts over it 30 years later.
You’ve been playing Flying V guitars with Accept for as long as I can remember. What is it about that guitar that spoke to you back then and still makes you want to play them today?
We picked up the Flying Vs because nobody was using them back in the day. They were unusual and no band I could think of had two of them. We loved the way they looked – heavy and metal. There was something about those guitars that stood out. Everybody had a Stratocaster or Les Paul but not everyone was using a Flying V. It was all about being different. At the time we were totally into the stage show, with choreographed movements, and those guitars always looked awesome. They sounded great and it became a trademark for album covers and belonged to us.
I have always liked Fling Vs and Strats so my new Framus V has the best of both worlds. At first glance it looks like a flying V but it has a lot of Strat features like a Floyd Rose and a single coil pick-up in the neck position. To me it’s the perfect instrument.
When I was looking at the tour dates I only saw one or two in the US. Will more US dates be announced?
No, we have to concentrate on making the new album. These are left over dates from when they were booked last year. We have to get our asses back into the studio to make a new album. Unfortunately there won’t be any more US dates until next year.
Do you have songs written for the new album or are you going into the studio to start writing?
It has always been the same formula for years where Peter and I jam on ideas, add some scratch vocals then combine it with other elements of songs. We let it sit and simmer for a little while come back to it. It’s a piece meal process that takes shape over a course of many weeks. Very seldom do we write a song after just one go at it. It’s always about coming back to it and going over it again and again. Once we have a demo that’s worth listening too and an idea of what the songs is about, we give it to Mark Tornillo to write the lyrics and put his spin on it. It’s meant to be released in 2017. It’s always hard to plan these things, we made a mistake a few years back and committed to a date as the tour was booked and then had to scramble to finish the album. It wasn’t fun and we don’t want to do it again. We just want to work hard until we feel it’s ready.