INTERVIEW BY ARTO LEHTINEN AND MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
The legendary German metallers Accept have returned with the outstanding BLOOD OF NATIONS album. The record presented the new vocalist: Mark Tornillo, the former T.T. Quick frontman. BLOOD OF THE NATIONS offers pure classic heavy metal from beginning to end, and it has received a massive response amongst metal fans around the world. The band visited Finland last spring, playing in the entire packed club Virgin Oil in Helsinki. And now, the band returned 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 feedback as there were many magazines like Bravewords, Rock Hard giving excellent feedback?
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 awesome!
Forty-five different media and 20 in some countries and it took newspapers rock magazines and their website. It doesn’t matter what it was in; they ended it all up. They came to 45 source publications, basically an album of the year, like Rock Hard in Germany; it was their choice for the album of the year. It’s humbling. What we know, we come back to make an album, no idea.
I guess you feel relief as you have succeeded in making a great album, but otherwise, does it bring some kind of pressure when you start working on the next Accept album?
At our age, the hell with the pressure. I think the way we did the album, and when we found Andy Sneap, a really good friend of ours, who is almost like a band member 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. Wolf and I wrote about 40 rifts; we’ve explored about 14. A lot is lying there we didn’t even touch, and they were just rifts; they’re just sitting there. I think that’s where we will start, and then we’ll be writing new stuff. Andy is coming to the U.S. in August, so we’ll tour until the end of July. We stopped all the offers we got; we said, “No! We don’t book more shows now”. We had so many offers, and 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, and 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 a perfect time to make a good album and maybe have a new album, new release, ready next year already. I think that would be the right thing to do. That’s our plan.
Do you think that the current technological advances have modernized the songs on the albums? Are they missing a soul? When I listen to the metal of the ’80s, there was more soul in the music, there were catchy riffs, and now when they sound quite modern, too technological, too computerized?
The player has put the soul by the fingers and the voices. There are a lot of people who say: “you use protocols, technology digital can’t be good.” I don’t believe that we use them because they love them, and if you listen to the album, it’s still all played, and it’s full of the soul because the soul is in both fingers if everything would be that no soul. After all, you can’t follow the soul; it’s a too fast soul that just went by.
WORKING WITH MARK TORNILLO
It has been like fifteen months or something since Mark joined the band. Is he now a full-time member of the Accept family?
I think so. You know it takes a lot longer – I’ve been playing together with Wolf since we were kids – you know, you have your friends that you remember from when you were little – so we have a very comfortable friendship. It’s really nice, and it’s the same thing with Mark. There’s no fighting, and he doesn’t have any lead singer syndrome. He’s very down-to-earth, and he always does his job great. 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 treated perfectly and 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, and 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 strong man, and that’s Wolf’s as weak as and the other way around, Mark and we others will jump in, so we’ve tried to work together, and it’s beautiful right now. It’s really nice and relaxed. He’s singing great every night. He’s singing really great. So we have no fear that he can’t do more than three shows. It’s really good.
Everybody else is German, even though some of you guys have been living in the States like forever, but Mark is a Yankee. Does that make some difference here?
You know, it’s 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 musically knows the same stuff that we know. So I think that’s a big benefit, and then maybe his age is a benefit too, he is 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 it sounded back in the day. 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, or, ” I want to have my own star, I want to be the star” – he never has said things like that.
Like “somebody” else did back in back in the days?
Yeah, again, it happened a lot, and then later on with other bands. When the singers come in, they wanted to make the band to their band. But Mark understood from the beginning that the only way that this will go forward 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 I’, listening to your stories about Mark, I got the impression that he brought a lot of new energy to you and Wolf, “This is going to work, and let’s start rolling!
Mark has some qualities, you know, that are really unique. Mark plays bass, drums, guitar, and piano, and he can sing clean vocals as well. If somebody plays instruments and plays his riffs, you work on songs, and he understands what the riff is. He knows what his occupation is, and he knows what is kicking. He knows everything. So when he sings, he already has the lyrics in his mind, which is a totally different way for us to work how it used to be in the old days. So that makes it 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 it 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 back together, you also tested many other singers. Was it ever an option that you would be the singer?
No, I can’t remember any lyrics. I wouldn’t be good, that’s why I never sing live. I can’t remember anything!! “Laughs”
But you did “The King” and some other songs in the past?
I did “The King,” but you know that was really hard for me. I would probably need something extra to make it work. Singing live is just a gift that only some guys have. Mark knows the lyrics for almost every song. It doesn’t matter what it is. If something is played on the radio, he knows the words right away. I was asking him wherein his head is that little compartment where all lyrics are stored. I can’t; I mean, if I have two lines in a song, I have to work hard to remember them. It’s just not my strength, so I would never be a good singer because honestly, there’s a big difference. Somebody reads something, or if you have and you feel it, and you sing it, there are two different things. I wouldn’t be good at it.
Do you find the benefits Mark used to be a vocalist in T.T. Quick, which mostly played local and club shows in the New York area? He had some experience playing in the band and being a frontman, but joining Accept was a big step for him.
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 of a sudden, the crowd is far away, the security and cameras. Still, he adjusted; we put him out there, and we gave him some points and ideas on what to do, and he took it very well. He said: “OK, that makes sense. I’ll try that”. It was interesting that he was so open to trying different things. This is another thing, but different from many singers, they don’t take any advice they know it all.
Before you learn to know Mark, did you have any idea about his old band T.T. Quick? Wolf told me that Accept actually did one show with them back in the day.
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. I remember that there were about 3,000 people there. So when we were done, we drove over to L’Amour later on to play another show. We found that T.T. Quick had already done, so we didn’t see them. Somebody hit it on Facebook somewhere there was a ticket or something that said this band and T.T. Quick. It’s interesting, you never know.
You mentioned the amount of audience you are playing in front of, like Sonisphere and Istanbul 40 – 50,000 people. How does it feel to get back on the big stages?
In a way, I have to say that 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 put on a show where people get involved, where everybody leaves absolutely happy and satisfied. Can we create a show where here’s the audience, here’s the band? 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 that that was the best show I’ve ever seen? That was our thinking, and it didn’t matter where we were. That’s why we did the first tour, we were very bold, but we decided that we go on tour before the album is out.
I think it was a great idea to make that club tour before the album was out. You had the freedom and ability to test how things work with the new band, how the crowd will react, and so on?
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 an adorable 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. 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 two children when he said 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. Something where we’re not just another band, we didn’t want to be just another band, that’s the point. The point was, “Can we do this again, and can we create something that will stand the test of time? If we can do that, then it’s worth making.”
THE CHEMISTRY WITHIN THE BAND
The first Accept reunion happened in 1992. It was a great thing for the fans, and you did a couple of great albums. But the band only lasted four years before going back to hiatus in 1996. What was the reason that it didn’t last longer?
No. At this point, even at this time, I can say that there was too much tension in the band. You can’t do it if you don’t want to. Also, if you want to do it, but you cannot do it… if not, it’s like being in a boat. If everybody does this way, you go forward, and if one guy doesn’t do it, then you’re going to suffer.
Right. We don’t need any names here, “laughs.”
I know it’s not about that, but it is just that what happens we’re in a circle, and we chase our own tail.
Was it really like that right from the beginning?
It was that from day one.
But if it really was like that, why you decided to keep it going after all?
Because when you’re young, and you are successful, then you don’t think that much. When you are touring the world, you don’t believe so much; you think it later. Priorities do change. When you’re young, all you do is another show, another show, a beer. When you’re older, 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 every day. It’s almost 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 it, 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. Tonight you’ll see it; every night, you’ll see a united front. It’s a united front, and it’s far more stable who are the ones who enjoy what we’re doing more than anything, and that wasn’t always the case. It certainly wasn’t the case in the summer of 2005.
Actually, when I saw Accept show at an outdoor festival show in 1994 in Finland, and to be honest, something was missing. Then I saw the band again at Sweden Rock in 2005, and I remember writing in a review which said: “These guys still can wipe new bands easily off from the stage.” So, maybe the shows were better compared to the first reunion because there was no that much pressure?
You will see big differences, and I can’t put the finger on it. I can tell you from my own experience I was never happier being on stage than I am today. And again, because of several things, one of the things is the audience, that’s the difference today. If you come to a concert today, they’re generally happy to have us back; in 2005, it was just a little show of Metal Fans. Still, today it’s like, “Oh my gosh! This is the best thing. I’ve waited so long!!” I’ve heard so many people say that, and then I just love playing with Wolf. We play more than ever now than we played each other. We are kind of jamming between the songs; we do different things that metal bands usually don’t do. You know that’s a 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 many concerts we go to are always 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 JOHN NORUM, DOKKEN, AND DAN SPITZ
How about discussing a little bit 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 with him. On those records, 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 ten years later, so I’m waiting for that. It was a great time, and what an outstanding guitar player he is. And a good songwriter, and I know he was a big Thin Lizzy fan. He had his share of struggles with his wife and the stuff, and he was very sad then. I hope he’s doing well. I always said to him, “You really do belong to Europe,” the band, and that’s where he’s now back to.
How did that Norum thing start in the first place?
Because we were both in Dokken, remember. Then he did the solo record, that made sense.
Did you ever 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, but he just struggled. I think he struggled with his lifestyle more than anything I said in another interview the other day; one of the things where, you know, you say what the question was? 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 our music’s art and don’t give a shit about the lifestyle. Really, lifestyle doesn’t bring you anything the lifestyle, and especially now, because we’ve been around 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, and I work as a photographer. So, you get away from the rock-star life, which you 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, of the craft on what you’re making your music more than anything if your music doesn’t hold water. If it’s not good enough, stop whining, stop doing it. But some people tend to go towards… the lifestyle is more important how they’re doing, and how they’re seen.
Are you talking about Don here?
I’m talking about a lot of people, but Don is one of them. I think he lost the connection a little bit because his driving force was George Lynch. They were only good when they were working together. It’s like Wolf and me. 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 on.
Overall how do you like that album UP FROM THE ASHES? In my opinion, there are some great tunes like “Mirror Mirror”?
It was a great album, and it could have been great at the time. I thought this is more like a project because I always especially figured I shouldn’t be here whatever we did. John shouldn’t be here. George Lynch should be there; it’s not right. You know what I mean, it just didn’t feel right, even it was as good as it was. It was more like fabricated. Remember Toto? They were all studio musicians just put together, and they made great records, but they never became a great band.
It looks like a great idea to have well-known names on the album cover and then call it an “all-star” lineup?
It’s a good idea to put them all together; you write some great songs, and it’s going to be a great number… But no! It is 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 also been working recently with the former Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz 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 something someday. And then, a couple of years later, he caught me up, and I wasn’t doing anything. I said I would do a band with you, and it was Patrick Johansen playing the drums at the time. I recorded twelve tracks for them. 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 with Accept. I will never have the 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 strange. The first one was like weird stuff. And then he went back, and he scraped it all, and he wrote it 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.
Do you still keep in 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
We have been discussing this subject with many bands, but let’s see what you do have to say about this. Many older groups, who used to have massive crowds in the ’80s, lost their audience in the ’90s. It was not only because of the grunge and all that crap but also because their fans grew up back then and started to have families, etc. But now, when they’re in their 40’s, they’re going 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, and they get a girlfriend, they get one child, then two, 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 dominated the music scene in the ’90s. The classic metal was almost entirely disappeared then, whereas now, the classic metal is back and is as strong powerful it used to be in the ’80s. Do you think it has become a more nostalgic thing to see these older, well-known names like Iron Maiden and Accept again?
Sure I know it’s, first of all, I always believed that in 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. 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 afterward. It was a great idea even though we suffered, and 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 two or three years. There are many thrash and black metal bands and so many different metal genres, and there’s a lot of them. How do I put this? I don’t want to offend anybody, but what I’m missing, what I’m personally missing with all the bands since I don’t listen to them, are the riffs that I can remember like the craft of songwriter. I see more a craft of speed in a fall playing really fast, and it’s more like an attitude. Once you were a punk, punk was an attitude punk, and you didn’t have to play great. You just had to have an attitude; you just kind of opened something. I think that was the same with this, so now all over sudden, bands are 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 it’s driven on, and there’s a melody. My kids are 18 and 20, and they’re listening to the early Deep Purple, Rainbow, AC/DC, “Holy Diver,” it’s the classics.
When we talk about the big four, is there any chance that someday we will see the Big Four of hard rock / heavy metal?
Do you mean bigger four? “laughs” You mean Priest, Maiden, Accept, Saxon? I don’t know. I don’t think so because Maiden is so successful on their own. 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, “Let’s do a big four of metal?” He still called it a big four. He said the same thing as you.
Really? I just thought that it is my idea. “laughs” What about the German metal scene? Accept had a significant impact on the local metal scene back in the day. Everyone, starting Helloween to Kreator, every one of them has some Accept influences. Do you see that Accept would impact German music because I feel that the German metal bands are stuck to the 80s?
I don’t know, 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 SteelWing and us. Both bands just kind of studied us. 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 sound like we did in the ’80s. There are bands like Wolf and Sabaton. There’s some difference; I don’t know why in Germany since I don’t live there anymore. I really don’t know the scene, and things changed and maybe because of how the music industry changed. There’s a lot of bands that don’t even try because what’s the point. If you don’t have a back catalog like us and something to stand on to go on if you start fresh, then it’s 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, and you can’t get paid. You have to support extra thousands of Euros, so why even try? It’s tough.
The last question – how long have you lived in the States?
I think 24 or 25 years?
As a German, is the world different from that point of view?
You know, I’m not any different from the average American. I’m more like a global citizen because you’ve got to leave an impression like a footprint on your soul or your memory when you travel so much every country. So it doesn’t matter really where you live. But I still choose the United States because it’s so the best country to live in. for me, It is just the way it is because I married an American girl. So my boys are American, and they have both citizenship, 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, sometimes you do the same as Europe, but there are things in Europe that are not really cool. Nobody talks about them, but I think everybody has his own lifestyle. There’s definitely a better metal scene here, that’s for sure. But then I come over here, and I’ll put on the T.V., it is all American shows running there, so what’s that.
Alright, Danke schön, for the interview, has a great show.
THE OFFICIAL ACCEPT SITE www.acceptworldwide.com
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