INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ AND ARTO LEHTINEN
Transcription by M H aka Psychophobe
LIVE PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
Accept, the legendary heavy metal band out of Germany conquered the metal world back in the ’80s with thunderous classic albums such as RESTLESS AND WILD, BALLS TO THE WALL, BREAKER, METAL HEART, and the list continues. The legendary five-piece made a triumphant return to the limelight in 2005, crisscrossing European metal and rock festivals, and received hugely positive reactions. However, things within the band didn’t work out, and the band went on hiatus. Finally, Accept got back together, but without the original vocalist Udo Dirkschneider. The former TT Quick frontman Mark Tornillo stepped in to take over on vocals, and the new album Accept BLOOD OF THE NATIONS was recorded last year at Andy Sneap’s helm. The band was on a promotion trip and played selected shows around Europe. Metal-Rules.Com got an excellent opportunity to hear the new album in advance and chat with Wolf Hoffman and the new singer Mark Tornillo.
BLOOD OF THE NATIONS
Well, after now hearing new Accept music for the very first time, I would say that it has a lot of common with classic BREAKER–style material, but there are also some elements of pure thrash metal and stuff like that?
Wolf: There you go. That’s what we tried to achieve, so I think we got that.
I can honestly say that what I just heard was the heaviest Accept music ever.
Wolf: Good, well, there’s more shit on there, but you’ll have to wait and see when the record comes out.
So was that the final mix of the album?
Wolf: Yes, but it’s only an MP3, so the final version is still going to sound a little nicer. MP3’s always… don’t sound quite as good as the real thing.
How was it to work with producer Andy Sneap on this album?
Wolf: Oh terrific, yeah! I mean, we love him like a brother. He’s great.
Did you have any other thoughts about picking up any other producer, or was it obvious, clear for you that this must be Andy Sneap in the first place?
Wolf: He was an obvious choice, we met him early on, and it was a miracle how we met him through a mutual friend. We got introduced to him, and he came up to see us when he heard we were going to make a record. And we just hit off right away, and he was such an obvious choice that we felt this was just a perfect man for the job.
If I remember right, he’s always been a huge fan of Accept?
Wolf: Exactly. I mean, not only is he a world-class metal producer, who just done – you know – Megadeth and all these great bands, but he knows to Accept so well that we felt like he’s the perfect man, and we didn’t even talk to anybody else.
Remember when Andy used to play in a band called Sabbat? They also used to play in Germany back in the day.
Wolf: Right, I know. He st of fact. I just talked to him yesterday, and he said they’re going to go out and do a few more dates in the summer.
Have you noticed that some people don’t know? I don’t know – a little bit criticize Andy Sneap because he’s a part of almost every second metal album coming to the market?
Wolf: Well, that kind of goes with the territory; what can you do? If you love what you’re doing, somebody’s always going to criticize you for something, so, whatever….?
How about the new album title – BLOOD OF THE NATIONS. Do you have some kind of deeper meaning behind that title? For me, it doesn’t sound typical usual Accept album title?
Wolf: Really? We felt like it sounded pretty much like Accept.
Mark: More-so, there’s actually a song on the album called BLOOD OF THE NATIONS, so that’s where that comes from and it’s really, a song is a tribute to soldiers, to the military like… all over the world, people who go out and -you know-, give their lives and give up their home life and everything else so that guys like you and me can go out and do this, because without our freedom we have nothing, so…
I just saw the promo video you did a couple of weeks ago.
Wolf: “Teutonic Terror”?
Would you tell me some more about that video? There are a lot of elements used from the military and…
Mark: War, terrorism, and all those things. It’s a different world since the last time Accept made a record, or any of us.
Wolf: It’s a theme that’ll never go away. I mean, it’s as alive today as it was 200 years ago, you know, we felt it was – but at the same time we like the military theme we always have with Accept, you know, whether we’re, you know, critical or not critical or whatever. Still, we’ve always been sort of playing with that military theme, and for us, it was a lot of fun to be playing a solo on top of a tank. And that’s metal. It’s all heavy metal stuff! “laughs.”
I remember someone criticized when you are standing on a US tank on the video and not using a German tank!
Wolf: Oh yeah, I know, but there wasn’t a German tank available, so!
Mark: They didn’t have any available “laughs” How handy!
As Wolf said, Accept has always been known to have this military thing from the past, so it’s not a new thing for you.
Wolf: No, it’s not, and it’s not like the video has a deep meaning or anything, I mean, it’s just a bunch of cool images that are- we didn’t want a video with a message or a video with a story, we wanted a video with just cool images and flames, fire and explosions and you know, all this kind of stuff.
Back in the day when you did the previous promo video, “Protector of Terror,”…
Accept did video for “Death Row” after that one, right?
Wolf: “Death Row” was before… No, it was after, you’re right.
Anyway, but with the “Protectors of Terror” –video, there was some kind of, you know, occult theme, if I remember rightly?
Wolf: Yeah, I was talking about churches and religion. In general, it was something like that but again without any deeper meaning.
Well, the critical question comes here. The re-union, why you decided to do it now, not two years ago, not five years ago, or whenever, but why now, why did you choose to do it now?
Wolf: Because we didn’t have Mark. We just found Mark, and that was the reason for the reunion, we just happened to meet each other by pure luck by accident in New Jersey, where was that?
Mark: That was on last March or?
Wolf: But where was it, in New Jersey?
Wolf: The studio was in New Jersey where we met and, you know, we didn’t audition any other singers or anything we just met Mark and decided then and there very spontaneously, we’re going to have a reunion.
Mark, when you first get the request to join Accept, how did you feel back then? Did you get hot at the thought, I’m going to join the legendary German metal band?
Mark: Well, at first… I had no idea that was where this was going. We just got together to jam, you know, so I mean I didn’t have my hopes up for anything, I figured if anything I’d get a couple of autographs, you know! “laughs” So. Still, as time progressed and it became known that we were going to do this, it was kind of like yeah, wake up in the morning and go, “am I awake?” and “yeah, I guess I’m awake!” and I was always waiting for the other foot to fall too and then, you know, maybe this isn’t going to happen. Still, it all seemed to pull together, and I was thrilled then, and I’m thrilled now.
When you’re now singing all those old Accept classics live, don’t you get any nervous about how the old school Accept fans will accept you in the first place?
Mark: Oh, of course, I had no idea what to expect. I kind of knew what I was getting into in New York, I mean that’s my turf, you know, so I wasn’t too apprehensive about that, but I had no idea what I was getting into in Russia, whether I should bring a shield up with me, or what! Although sales were great, the fans were great, and I got a hot welcome so that I couldn’t be happier, you know?
Wolf: You know, I could sort of sense in the audience that some people that were sort of reluctant at first, a little skeptic you know, the first two, three songs they were like checking out this new guy “Who does he think he is?”, “who does he think he is?” but at the end, they were all like, “Aaaaarrgghhh!” you know, that was awesome!
There are always a couple of “Rock and Roll cops” therein the audience “laughs.”
Mark: Yeah, you got it, man. That sums it up, “Rock and Roll cops,” laughs.”
Wolf: Pretty much, but as long as we win them over, it’s good. Indeed, some skeptics initially, and there will always be some, but it’s just natural.
Mark: Yeah, it’s going to be; I would be one of them more than likely if I weren’t me. “Haha,” if I went to see Accept with someone else, I’d be going, “Ok, let’s see what this guy got?”
When you now decided to reunite, was it evident that you would make new music and not stay just nostalgic like many other bands are doing these days?
Wolf: It became clear very, very soon, because we realized we should not just try to do shows with a new line up right away, it seemed to make sense to make a new record and to give the fans new material and also to showcase Mark’s ability the most, and we wanted to write songs also this was, everything came together right away.
When you started writing the new stuff, the new music, was it clear that the new material had to be punchy, really hard, and meet the new time of heavy metal and nothing else?
Wolf: No, it wasn’t clear right away we didn’t really know, because Accept is not just one thing, it can go a little bit here, a little bit there, and I think it wasn’t until Andy Sneap came to the picture that we decided that it should go more that way instead of that way, and he sifted through all the material and kind of pointed us in the right direction if you want, which was great.
Mark: And once he did, it really took off! I mean – you know – we had written a few things before he got involved, and he kind of came in and listened to them and said – “you know, I dunno” and he actually took Wolf and Peter and sat them down and made them listen to the old records, which I’d already been doing because I had learned the catalog, you know. So, I think once we all did that, we were on the same page, and he pointed us in the right direction; it just went naturally after, it was- didn’t have to think about what we were writing, we were already in that frame of mind, you know?
Wolf, when we last time talked during the 2005 -tour, you mentioned that you then had plenty of ideas and riffs ready to get recorded. How much is this new album material based on some older ideas from the past?
Wolf: Right, that’s true what you said, but not a lot of those ideas really we used, we used a couple of little things like there’s a slow song on the record called “Kill the Pain” that was based on an instrumental idea I had years ago, but most of the other stuff just happens to be new.
Mark: Pretty much brand new because these guys come in with a new riff every day, I mean every day! He, Peter come in and “Aw, listen to this” and “Aw, listen to this,” I’m trying to sort these things out, and Peter would call me up to say “Aww, I’ve got another one!” and I’m like, “damn, slow down let me process some of this stuff!” You know, it was good.
Wolf: We have more stuff than ever this time, which is good – It’s a good problem to have! “laughs.”
About the current line up. Was it evident that Herman (Frank) and Stefan (Schwarzmann) will again be a part of Accept’s rebirth?
Wolf: Like we said when the meeting happened about a year ago, we called the guys and said, are you guys on board, and do you want to do this? And they immediately said yes. It was just a natural to ask those guys because they have previously been in Accept, and we got along great in 2005, and they’re great players and great friends, so it’s sort of like a family.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 1989, 1993, and 2010?
This is not the first time when you’re promoting a new Accept album with a new lineup. How are things different if you compare this current situation to 1989 when you had the album EAT THE HEAT out and David Reece on vocals?
Wolf: It’s true, but David Reece’s situation was much different back then because we wanted to take Accept -then- in a much different direction when we got back together, we decided we’re not going to do any experiments in the sense that we were going to try to change Accept we just wanted to do – re just wanted to go out and tour. Still, if we make a new record, it should be along the lines of what people like best about Accept. That’s the 80s stuff: RESTLESS AND WILD, BREAKER, and BALLS TO THE WALL. That whole time span is what we’re best known for, but then you go and ask yourself, “Well, what is that?” “What is so unique about these records you don’t have in the later records?” and that is where Andy Sneap or someone from the outside comes in and gives you more direction because it’s tough because it’s all your ideas and at the time they’re all new too. So if you write something new now, you think like, “Is this going to be as good?” It’s tough to do yourself.
Mark: It’s hard to be objective about your material, you know, you need somebody to look at it for you, sometimes, and that’s basically what a producer does.
Wolf: And then it gets tough to say, “well, this sounds typical German,” you know. Back when we wrote RESTLESS AND WILD and all this stuff, this is typical German metal to some people. And to me -back then- we didn’t want to sound German. We wanted to sound International, and we just wrote what is in us. But, you know, now to go back and say again to sound German is not that easy because what is German?! “laughs.”
Mark: I think you just hit the nail on the head. You were trying to be International, and you felt comfortable doing what you were doing, and I think we’re feeling comfortable doing what we’re doing; again, it is what it is—not trying to be something, just being it.
Are you nowadays more “a National band” or an “International band.” Which is more important for you?
Wolf: I don’t even know. I mean, we’re just…
Mark: We’re happy to be a band, period!
Speaking some more about David Reece, is Stefan still playing drums with his solo band as well?
Wolf: I think on occasion he is?
Last year he did that tone album with e does one album with David. Have you ever heard it?
Wolf: I haven’t even heard it, but I know he’s on location playing with them, and, you know, that’s fine. We’re all individuals,
Mark: We’re all grown-up people.
Wolf: We do other things on the side, but when Accept calls, we’re all here. So this is our…
MR: Top priority?
Mark: Top priority!
What if you compare this brand new era for times when you first reunited with Udo in 1993, and you then made album OBJECTION OVERRULED with the original line-up. Wasn’t it such a same kind of situation that you now have with the band, except for some band members?
Wolf: Yeah, and in a little sense, it’s sort of similar because it was exciting to go out again and start again, you know, it always is. Indeed, it is. We’re all full of energy and full of hope, and we’re trying to do this long term, and hopefully, we can stay around and make another record and come back year after year from now on. It’s certainly an exciting period, but there was a completely different… vibe in the band for sure. The situation is somewhat similar but on the other hand, having Mark in the band is different from working with Udo.
TT Quick, I guess it remained like an underground band because it was tough to get TT Quick albums back in the day, and it still is difficult.
Mark: That’s true…
I remember when I was doing, you know, old school tape trading back in the day and some of my friends from the States trading TT Quick stuff…, how’s it possible TT Quick remained more an underground band and touring New York and stuff, never come to Europe?
Mark: [Sigh] Got me, man. We did our job, and the record company didn’t do theirs. You know, I don’t understand what happened. We made some bad managerial decisions back in the day. That kind of thing, and I guess at the end of the day there’s nobody to blame but myself, but, you know, it became what it became, but I mean we had a European tour booked for METAL OF HONOR. We were supposed to be here, and we got dropped by Island Records because they brought in a new president, and he said: “Why do we have metal bands?”Ok?! and on the next day, we were gone! And at that same time, my drummer’s father got really, really sick and was dying of cancer, and he said, “Look, I gotta go home, I can’t, you know, stay here we don’t have a label we don’t have- we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing, and I gotta go take care of this.” And so that put a damper on everything at the time.
Wolf: I mean, sometimes, if you think about it, everything is so unlikely, I mean like in our case – Accept – we’re five kids from the same town as teenagers we got together and the chances of that ever and surviving all these years, and to actually become a band and to go on tour and you make records and, you know, there are so many things that can go wrong over the years, I mean the chances of ever starting a band and being successful are [whistles] I mean it’s unlikely that that ever goes through, so if, you know, somebody tells me “oh I’m starting a band!” you know, the chances I’ll talk to that same guy again in thirty years, and he has a band and makes a living with that band it’s, ahh, you know…
If I’m right, you also have some shared history from the early Eighties. You did some shows together with TT Quick and Accept, right?
Mark: I think we played one show together. The other common link was Michael Wagener because he produced part of METAL OF HONOR, and obviously, he had a long history with Accept, so…
So did you Wolf recognize Mark when you saw his name – ah, he’s the guy from TT Quick?
Wolf: No, I didn’t recognize him from that. I remember the name TT Quick, obviously, and I always had heard there was this guy who was along the lines of Udo a little bit “da da da,” and that was the extent of it, but I wasn’t that familiar with TT Quick, to be honest. But then, you know, as I said, the magic moment happened when we all started jamming in the same room, and we felt like “wow – there’s certain chemistry here” and you know what impressed us about it, he came in and made no fuss and took off his shirt and “Rraaa” started singing-
Mark: It was hot!
Wolf: That’s a new experience. With Udo, you know, he certainly never took his shirt off – thank God. “laughs.”
THE FIRST TAPES COMES OUT
Like you just mentioned, you first had some jamming and sessions together. There were some rough recordings released from those sessions on the Internet back then. Want to tell some more about that?
Mark: That was that day. That was all done one day, and that stuff was all live. That was a live recording, no overdubs, no nothing. They were playing live in the room, and I was just kind of in the next room, and that was it.
Wolf: So it was very rough.
Mark: It was rough, I had bronchitis, and I sounded worse than I do now. I had six weeks of bronchitis going on, and it was like, “Ooh,” I couldn’t even breathe, let alone sing, but I said screw I,t I’m going, I don’t give a shit.
Those recordings gave you lots of attention around the web world?
Wolf: Oh, it did, lots of bad, bad attention, but, you know, it all made us stronger, and in the end, the record is what matters, and you know. We now realize we probably should not have released those tapes just because we were naive in the sense that we didn’t think people would compare it to a studio version of something, you know, with a singer we’d been together with for so many years. To us, it was exciting because we know how rough live recordings can be, you know. I can play you some stuff that’s a lot rougher than that, with Udo, you know, but people…
Mark: But the average person doesn’t know that.
Wolf: The average person doesn’t know that.
Mark: So they probably think that was something we polished, and we’re very proud of it.
It was funny how people put out all kinds of comments about it everywhere.
Mark: Just the opposite. I was like, “Oh Shit!” ha-ha.
Wolf: But you know what, in the end, it was all good as it was somewhat of a wakeup call and, you know, called attention to the whole thing and made us aware of how important the whole thing is to fans out there, you know?
Mark: And how dangerous the internet can be and how good it can be, you know, all at once. I mean, this is a whole new ball game for all of us, man; you know, there was no internet in the ’80s or the 90s, you know, it wasn’t like this. You can’t fart now without it winding up on YouTube tomorrow, so, you know?
REMEMBERING RONNIE JAMES DIO
One thing that has been on the headlines for a reason is tonight. Do you probably know what happened yesterday?
Wolf: Ronnie Dio? Yes, of course.
Do you have any shared memories of him?
Wolf: Yeah, man. We toured with him many times, last time in 2005. We, I remember actually playing in Athens and being on a root of the hotel, and it was supposedly his birthday, so that should have been him- I thought it was his sixtieth, but he could have been, well that can’t be?
Mark: Yeah, that’s about right. He was around 65, right?
He was 67 when he passed away.
Wolf: So that was his 61’th or 60’th party or something, whatever, it was supposedly his birthday or something, and we had a great time touring with him always, even in the 80’s we toured with him. He’s one of the best. He was an awesome singer.
Mark: He was a big influence on me, for sure, you know, he’s one of the all-time greatest.
Wolf: He was a super nice guy too, I mean super friendly, approachable, very humble, no sort of big ego kind of guy too. It was a tragedy but, it kind of brings it all back. We’re all not living forever, so we better get going and do what we like to do, you know?
Mark: Enjoy it while you got it.
WORKING WITH NUCLEAR BLAST
Well, you now have a brand new record deal with Nuclear Blast. Would you tell me some more about how you ended up work with them?
Wolf: It’s management dealings honestly, you know, our manager Gaby, my wife, you know, she just picked them after talking to many other people, many candidates, labels you know, we even debated for a certain period of time whether do we even needed a large label because we went ahead and produced the record first, and then we were looking for a label. We even debated if we should self release it or not, but in the end, we felt it was better to have a strong distribution and strong partner, and it seemed like Nuclear Blast was the one. We had this thing, “We’re just the musicians” I know what I want to know, just enough but never let it get in the way of being creative, you know. Gaby’s always been – We’ve always been some sort of a family operated business, you know, with Gaby being the manager we never really had, you know, too many outside people in our inner circle.
So what kind of deal you have with Nuclear Blast. How many albums it does include
Wolf: Top secret, man, I can’t tell you! “laughs.”
More than one?
Wolf: Possibly… No, we’re thinking long term, so if this goes well, then we’ll be here for a long time.
Have you checked out other Nuclear Blast bands like Testament or something like that with whom Andy Sneap has worked?
Wolf: Yeah, some of them definitely, but I’m not a big metal collector of, or you know I don’t know a lot about the music scene, in general, to be honest, you know, I don’t keep in touch with all that stuff. It’s just the way it is.
Now when you’re having a deal with Nuclear Blast, do you think that there’s any chance to see someday a new full set of re-mastered Accept albums..?
Wolf: That would be nice, wouldn’t it? That’s a good idea.
So do you own the rights to old albums?
Wolf: Yeah, we’ll have to debate when and when the time is right we might as well do that. Yeah, that would be a good idea?
THE GERMAN G3 THING AND LIVE DVD FROM the YEAR 2005?
Whatever happened for the planned G3, German version, and tour announced to happen some years ago with you, Michael Schenker, and Uli Jon Roth?
Wolf: You know, that never came to fruition, which was a shame, and last I heard, I talked with both of them, Michael and Uli Roth at the time, and that would have happened, but we would have had to share a band to make it- you know, it would have been more a guitar plays small club kind of tour, I don’t think it would have been, you know, arenas or anything like that. I think it would have been the case that the logistics we’d have to share a band. I forget either Michael or Uli didn’t want to do that, I would have been ok with that but, you know, they wanted their people, and then I think that got out of hand, “I want to use my band” and then somehow within that whole – it never came to fruition, it would have been great I would have loved to do that.
One more question about the 2005 reunion tour. There was a lot of talk about a live DVD release from that tour, but it was never released. Whatever did happen for that one?
Wolf: You should ask form Udo about that?
Well, he asked me to ask you!?
Wolf: Oh no, no no no, not true!
But is there any chance that the DVD will see the light someday?
Wolf: I hope so, the footage is there. We could never sort of get him to agree to something, so maybe in the future he will agree and, you know, it’ll be out?
How many shows did you film then?
Wolf: Oh, I know they filmed at least three or four.
The Wacken show was one of those?
Wolf. Wacken was filmed, definitely, what else? Gelsenkirchen, I think was too, and then a couple more.
Have you ever seen any of that footage, and if you have, how does it look?
Wolf: I’m not sure, I saw some footage, and it looked great. We wanted to release it, but negotiations never went anywhere, so maybe they will release it in the future.
Ok, we’ll see how it goes, and hopefully, it will be released someday. But, after you have finished this mini-tour in Europe, what kind of plans you have for the summer? Perhaps you’re doing some European festivals, at least?
Wolf: We’ll do all the festivals next year, you know, we’re too late, obviously, for this year because it gets booked very early on. But we’re going to do a couple of shows, obviously like Gelsenkirchen Rock Hard this year and a couple of others but, not that many.
Well, guys. Our time seems to be done now. Thanks for this interview!
Wolf: Well, thank you, guys. That was fun!
Mark: Pleasure to meet you.