INTERVIEW AND LIVE PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
German metal legends Accept are no strangers in Metal-Rules.com. We’ve always been extremely supportive for the band and we’ve had numerous articles and interviews released during the past years and here’s another one for you to read. The band released their latest opus BLIND RAGE in August. The critically acclaimed album debuted at number one on the German charts, making it the band’s first number one debut in their career and it’s seen great success all around the world. Accept opened the “Blind Rage” tour in Sweden in late September. A few days later I met the band’s founding member and guitarist Wolf Hoffmann in Tornio prior their second show in Finland. It’s time to talk, again, with Wolf about current things and dig into the past a bit as well. Read on!
Metal-Rules.com: Well first of all I have to congratulate you on the success of BLIND RAGE.
Wolf Hoffmann: Thank you.
Metal-Rules.com: After all these years are you surprised how well the album is doing?
Wolf Hoffmann: No. We are super delighted and I think that the album is really good. But I’m totally shocked that we actually made it to number one in certain countries because we’ve never done that in all our career. We’ve never been number one in Germany. So, this is the highest-charting album we’ve ever had and after all these years, it’s nothing but amazing. Who could have ever thought that about five years ago when all these started, that it would work to any degree then? But that it worked so well, who could have known?
Metal-Rules.com: I think that being number one in Germany is a very special thing for you.
Wolf Hoffmann: Of course being our home town, the country is such a phenomenal.
Metal-Rules.com: And Finland was the other number one country.
Wolf Hoffmann: I know. It’s crazy and I think Finland is especially surprising because you get so many other metal bands here; dark metal and black metal and what not and all these ultra-heavy hardcore stuff. We are not that, we are more traditional, old style.
Metal-Rules.com: And you’re doing better with each album in the States as well.
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah, we made it to number 35, which is pretty damn good for a metal band and that could also be the highest ever for us. I don’t know what the highest top position as we ever had in the States, because I don’t really pay that much attention to statistics like that. But I have a feeling it might be the highest one ever for us?
Metal-Rules.com: How much do you actually care about charts and things like that, how much numbers do mean to you?
Wolf Hoffmann: Not that much. It’s a great talking point but really it’s more like publicity or people get talking about and say… To me, it’s a great achievement, but nothing more to have because number one; it doesn’t get better than number one, that’s all. But other than that I don’t really care whether we are number seven or number eight or 10 or 12 or whatever in this. I care how much people like the album and what they say about the songs and when I actually talk to the people and the audience, and you get a feeling for that. I guess a chart position is less a representation of that same thing, but to me what the people are saying and the critics and everybody is more important, to be honest.
Metal-Rules.com: After all, when you put out the next album and if it’s not number one album people will say that you’re failed.
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah. It’s going to be hard to top at number one of course “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: You started this BLIND RAGE tour last week in the States?
Wolf Hoffmann: We did a few warm-up shows; it wasn’t really a tour over there. It was just a few gigs because we hadn’t been in America for so long and we just wanted to do something over there before it was too late for this year.
Metal-Rules.com: In the US you played with the legendary Raven.
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah, it was Raven, but great gigs. It great to see the guys again and I like them very much.
Metal-Rules.com: I think you did a tour with Raven in the past, right?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah, in the ’80s. I had forgotten how long it was, he, Mark Gallagher, told me it was ’81. But we started this actual tour a few days ago in Sweden. The first show in Finland was two days ago in Seinajoki and it went great. It was very good and I hope it’s going to be great tonight again.
Metal-Rules.com: I just learned that you’re going for the first time ever to in Australia and you already sold out a show in Melbourne.
Wolf Hoffmann: Yes and just added another show to it. The shows in Tampere, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and few more are sold out as well, so things are going very well on this tour.
Metal-Rules.com: After these European and Australian dates, do you already plans how the tour will continue next year?
Wolf Hoffmann: We have big plans. We are going to do a bunch of festivals; we are going to do a North American tour and South America, most likely. So, those are the big talk and plans that we are doing right now.
Metal-Rules.com: In the States, is it going to be a headline tour this time?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yes. What exactly? When and where? And how? We haven’t figured out yet and they’re still debating.
Metal-Rules.com: That tour going to happen sometime next spring?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah. In the summer, the festivals are almost like in the summer like always, but a tour in America it’s going to be in the spring, yeah.
WORKING WITH ANDY SNEAP
Metal-Rules.com: BLIND RAGE is the third album you have recorded with producer Andy Sneap. How your collaboration with him went this time?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah, really well man. Honestly, it feels like a certain routine as almost sudden, where we really know each other quite well. Each album is sort of different, so the actual recording and making up the albums is never quite the same. So, there is no routine in that sense but there is a routine in that we know how to work with each other. So that’s quite well and on the first album especially it was quite important to sort of giving us some guidance in the song selection and the overall style selection of our songs. But since we’ve done that on BLOOD OF THE NATIONS, which was very successful, and then STALINGRAD was pretty much the same but on this album we wrote all the songs on target, there wasn’t any sort of weird songs that we couldn’t take statistically. We had so material and we just picked the strongest stuff, but it was all in the pocket so to say.
Metal-Rules.com: I remember I talked with Andy about working with you and he said that he needed to push you a lot during the recording sessions of BLOOD OF THE NATIONS.
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah. He did. He had to actually have us sit down and made us listen to our own records there for a while because we never really do that. That was quite helpful and overall he sort of pointed things out that he thought we were particular and really good about us or… Because he grew up being an Accept fan, so that really helped us a lot.
Metal-Rules.com: BLOOD OF THE NATIONS, it kind of presented a brand new Accept with heavier sound to past whereas STALINGRAD was just a kind of part two for that album and it wasn’t as strong and interesting as its predecessor?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah. STALINGRAD was almost created in a little bit of a rush because we really wanted to have something that follows up really fast, and it was determined when it was going to come out and so we had to really hurry up and get in the can as faster as we can. For that, I think it turned out really, really well. But we wanted to have more time and we took the time this time and that’s why I think it’s the album is even more mature and better, because the songs had more time to sit there and season and get worked over again and again. That to me is important; you can’t do that if you don’t have the time. If you get the first draft, there is always the first draft. If you have that luxury to go over it again, it’s sort of writing literature I guess. You go read it again and again and the next day you read, you discover something; I could say this better, and the more you do that you get to the point better. We are not perfect right away. You got to work on the stuff.
Metal-Rules.com: I would say that BLIND RAGE sounds definitely more like a classic 80’s Accept album compared to previous albums?
Wolf Hoffmann: It does.
Metal-Rules.com: Is that something you wanted to do on purpose?
Wolf Hoffmann: That’s what we wanted. We really wanted to write stuff that we could have written 30 years ago and never did. That sounds like a super simple concept, but it’s really hard to do. Because we have all changed and times have changed and we have a new singer even. There is so many things that have changed, but we really wanted to do… The one thing that hasn’t changed, the partnership with Peter and myself. We did it the same way back then and we are still doing it the exact same way of work, nowadays it’s not like we just send each other MP3’s and do it that way. We actually spend the time together, to go through that stuff and work on it for hours and hours. Days and weeks and months.
Metal-Rules.com: But isn’t it kind of dangerous to work that way because then there’s a risk that you start repeating yourself?
Wolf Hoffmann: Of course, yeah. You got to be careful and got to be on the critic.
Metal-Rules.com: To be honest, there are few riffs on BLIND RAGE, like the opening riff of “Dark Side of My Heart”, which does sound like something you’ve done before… “Laughs”
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah. I know. A lot of people have pointed that out and we knew it, it wasn’t like we… But we thought, first of all depending on how big you are its actually different, but the vibe is totally the same I agree. But then the songs sort of develops in a totally different direction and we figured “It’s a good song, we will use it.”
Metal-Rules.com: It’s really catchy riff and the song works great so there’s nothing wrong with it, I think?
Wolf Hoffmann: But you can’t avoid it totally. There is probably more little transition of things we’ve done before and that’s what your style. You can’t be totally new each time and still be consistent in your style.
Metal-Rules.com: I have one more question about Andy. In the past, you worked with many legendary producers like Dieter Dierks and Michael Wagener. How is it to work with Andy compared to the producers you worked with in the past?
Wolf Hoffmann: It’s completely different to work with Andy because Andy is more like one of us where Dieter and Michael Wagener and all these guys, it was always the band versus the producer. The producer in those days always carried this big, more being…
Metal-Rules.com: He was like a king on the hill? “Laughs”
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah. They were. They acted that way and everybody regarded the producer as being so important and if he says it is okay, let’s do it that way. Where nowadays it’s no, he’s one of us and we listen to his advice, to Andy’s. But if I don’t agree, we are not doing it. So, we come to a much more even sort of partnership kind of deal. It works really, really well for us. He’s really good at getting the sounds and all that. So, this time he left the songwriting mostly to us and we just had all the stuff pretty much written and ready to go, and demoed out completely and we had recorded the stuff pretty much all the way through. We had 18 songs to choose from, so he just had to come in and he’s okay to record everything. It wasn’t really like lots of problems to solve, unfinished stuff to go through like on STALINGRAD for instance; we started recording the first half and then the last half hadn’t even been written yet. We had like five finished songs and the rest of them we sort of tied up as went along, we started recording and recorded this over and swapped this part for that one. So, the work wasn’t really quite done yet. But this time everything was ready to go.
Metal-Rules.com: And you can hear it right away. When you put on the new CD on you can hear that it’s a consistent package. It’s put well together whereas STALINGRAD was more like a complication of different songs.
Wolf Hoffmann: It wasn’t an as consistent album, I felt the same way. I think there is some strong songs on there but it wasn’t as consistent, because I wish it should have been. But we didn’t. Simply we didn’t have the luxury to hold everything and postpone everything and go over it again.
THE LYRICS AND WORKING ON BLIND RAGE SONGS
Metal-Rules.com: How about Accept song’s lyrics. It is not a secret that your wife Gaby wrote most of the lyrics back in the day. But now, when Mark writes the lyrics, they are very similar to what Gaby used to write. How that is possible if I can ask?
Wolf Hoffmann: That’s because we still give Mark the idea of what the songs should be about and a lot of times those ideas come from Gaby also. She’s got this little book full of ideas from back in the day and she still puts stuff in there. So, if we are in the process of having just a riff and Peter and I just sit there and think that what this song could be about. A lot of times we look into that little book and say, “This will work.” It’s called “Dark Side of My Heart” and it’s about the conflict within yourself, about being a good person versus a bad person. That whole idea. Always happens to be having an idea of what the song is about, for me, it’s really hard to just write riffs and don’t care about who is singing what on top of it. I know some band work like that, but I have never done that and I can’t imagine doing it. I need to know what this song is about and at least have the chorus, the hotline, or something. Because that gives you more inspiration.
Metal-Rules.com: It helps when you write when you know the title first?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah.
Metal-Rules.com: How important are the lyrics overall for you because don’t write lyrics and neither does Peter?
Wolf Hoffmann: We write sometimes, we write certain catchy phrases like the most important then I take the chorus lines and things like that, we a lot of times do that. Not always, but a lot of times.
Metal-Rules.com: I did not know that because you’re not credited for it?
Wolf Hoffmann: No we are not but it’s alright. Mark is really doing the hard work because we at that point we give it to him and say here is the song called; I don’t know, “Master Mind”. It could be about some terrorist kind of guy, here you go. Then he has got to say, “What could we say here, what could be there?” That to me is the hard part, the fine print. We just give him the big picture sometimes. Sometimes we don’t even know, like “Stampede”; I don’t really know what that song is all about. I just know it’s called “Stampede”.
Metal-Rules.com: I have to say that there are two songs on the album which are already in my top ten Accept songs of all time.
Wolf Hoffmann: Good, it’s pretty good.
Metal-Rules.com: The first one is “200 Years” which is actually a quite different Accept song. Would you tell me something more about that one?
Wolf Hoffmann: It is different and that lyric-wise was inspired by watching a documentary on TV about what would happen if humankind just dies tomorrow. How would the world look 200 years from now? Would these buildings still be standing? The wind and the rain, the TV did everything and with jungles and overtake Stockholm and Helsinki. Would there be…? I don’t know. Would there be mammoth roaming through the streets of Helsinki or what? So, I found that quite interesting a theme. That riff was so old school and I had that riff early on and we just worked on it and worked on it, until it finally… It clicked and we said, “This could be a good title, “200 Years”.”
Metal-Rules.com: Another favorite of mine is “Dark Side of My Heart” which we already talked about a bit.
Wolf Hoffmann: That was one of the few occasions where Peter and I were literary jamming and that song wrote itself in like 15-20 minutes, and we never really changed it much after that. Where most other songs, pretty much all of them get sort of re-work and like I was saying with the revisions. But that song, except for the chorus, solo part. We didn’t have the solo part; it took me forever to come up with something there. I really struggled with that initially, but then the main parts of the songs were really written very, very fast.
Metal-Rules.com: It’s basically quite a simple song.
Wolf Hoffmann: Super simple, yeah. Those are sometimes the best ones. I remember that like “Balls to the Wall”, it was written like that in 10 minutes. It was nothing but it felt right and perfect, couldn’t believe it. Boom!
Metal-Rules.com: That’s what often happens.
Wolf Hoffman: Yeah, very often. Again, you can’t force it.
Metal-Rules.com: When the album was released you put a promotional video of the track “Stampede”. Do you have plans to shoot more videos later on?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah. We figured we better do one really good high production video… I think we wanted to do one, a really good one before this whole touring business starts, and then will see if we can do another one time permitting. We have to wait and see, but at least we’ve got that one out.
Metal-Rules.com: If you do another one please do it for the song “200 Years”, please? “Laughs”
Wolf Hoffmann: Okay “Laughs”.
THE IDEA OF GETTING THE BAND TOGETHER AND HOW TO CREATE IMMORTAL CLASSICS?
Metal-Rules.com: Once you decided to put the band together with Mark was it obvious that you wanted to create new material instead of being just a nostalgia act like many bands from that era nowadays are?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah. That was decided pretty much on day one because we were itching to write a new song because we thought we still can. We wanted to because that’s fun. Write new stuff and also as a sort of a sign to the fans that we didn’t want to be a nostalgia band, it just sort of rips the benefit of the past. We didn’t want to do that, because that almost leaks like a cover band or something. We really wanted to bring out new material that’s relevant and that people talk about and that means something to people, rather than just to show the sort of good, the best off.
Metal-Rules.com: Many bands are nostalgic acts because albums are not selling and it’s not worth do new music anymore. That’s what those bands say but it’s not the case with you.
Wolf Hoffmann: We are doing new music and it works for us.
Metal-Rules.com: You now have three new strong albums under your belt with great songs like: “Stalingrad”, “Teutonic Terror”, “200 Years” “Pandemic” etc. Those are just excellent songs and…
Wolf Hoffmann: Thank you.
Metal-Rules.com: But is there any chance that any of those songs would become a mandatory classic like “Balls to the Wall”?
Wolf Hoffmann: Right.
Metal-Rules.com: What do you think, is it even possible nowadays?
Wolf Hoffmann: I don’t know that it is still possible today. “Balls to the Wall” was such a mainstream song, but the times were also different. It was the time of MTV and we had a much more of penetration to the sort of… Into the average mainstream population. I don’t know that that is still possible nowadays, I wonder if. Because radio doesn’t really play that stuff, our stuff anymore. Back then the radio was a big deal; they had MTV which was huge back in then. We don’t have that anymore. So much of that stuff is gone away because it’s all so much faster now and… I don’t know if there is going to be any song… I see it with other bands too, you don’t really have those.
Metal-Rules.com: Yeah. I was just thinking the same…
Wolf Hoffmann: Maybe it’s because the times have changed, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s a lack of having good songs. But I’m super happy about the success of what is happening, so I’m not complaining. I think couldn’t really ask for much more than what we are going through right now, it’s pretty phenomenal. We are quite happy about it.
Metal-Rules.com: The new songs are great and you’re not afraid to play plenty of those in your live set. That’s something that most of the bands don’t do nowadays.
Wolf Hoffmann: No. And we play six new songs and on the live set now. So, that’s a lot. Some bands like, I don’t know… AC/DC, they play one new song or maybe sometimes even less. But we do play a lot of new songs and that’s because those fit so well with the old material… I think that we still can write songs that work with the old material. To me it feels like when we play old stuff like really old stuff, like “Ahead of The Pack” next to some songs; like “200 Years” or “Last of a Dying Breed”. Those songs that fit side by side perfectly together in the live set. It doesn’t really stick out. And people want to hear this new stuff. We want to also pay tribute to the fact that, “Hey!” Here we have a super successful album, people love it. So let’s give the fans what they want to hear.
Metal-Rules.com: On every tour since the re-union; you have picked up some rare old gems out from “the closet”. Songs you haven’t played, if never, but at least not with Mark. So, do you have any special surprises on the setlist this time?
Wolf Hoffmann: We’ve got a pretty good setlist now and we are actually playing some songs we’ve never really played that much like I was already mentioning; “A Head of The Pack” and “Losers and Winners”, we’ve been playing for a little while now. With Mark, we could just pick about any old song and by now we’ve pretty have done just about all of them, not all of them but a lot of them. We played the complete RESTLESS AND WILD album at one point and with Mark, we could just do about anything.
Metal-Rules.com: A show with complete RESTLESS AND WILD sounds great to me.
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah, we did a show like that once and that was fun. But it’s also good. The album, it’s really weird because now… Those days it was only 45 minutes. So, you really have another 45 minutes of other material and if you put it in the same, in the right running order it really is pretty close to the setlist as we are playing anyhow.
Metal-Rules.com: My all-time favorite Accept album METAL HEART album turned 30 this year.
Wolf Hoffmann: Probably.
Metal-Rules.com: Maybe you should think about playing it as it´s entirely as well at some point?
Wolf Hoffmann: All the METAL HEART album, maybe? If we run out of ideas we can, but right now we’ve got a great running list and maybe next year will change it up a bit. Because we want to keep touring into next year as well, we going to come back with some summer shows and stuff so who knows?
THE BEST ACCEPT ALBUM
Metal-Rules.com: It’s the time for the last questions. Sometimes I like to ask bands which album they think is their best to date and I think that right now you’re going to say BLIND RAGE and..
Wolf Hoffmann: We just spent months in the studio, so you are going to naturally think it’s the best you have ever done. “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: I know, but if you should pick up five Accept albums, not in order, but if you need to pick up five best and most important Accept albums. Which albums would you name?
Wolf Hoffmann: I can’t, it’s the hardest question for me because… It’s so personal and so weird because you always think like the most successful ones are the best ones. What do you judge it by? Is it the most innovative? RESTLESS AND WILD was super important in our career, but then METAL HEART was probably the best selling one we’ve ever done back in the day. But now I think these new albums are every bit as good as the old stuff, and if these albums were as successful as in the 80’s we all probably be millionaires. So, how do you judge it? I don’t know. I can’t do that man. I just know that ones in the ’90s didn’t really work out that well, we all know that.
Metal-Rules.com: Personally I think that OBJECTION OVERRULED was a really strong album of yours even it was one of those 90’s albums.
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah, that first one was pretty good. That did well but other than that it was a weird time for us. I’m just glad things are going so well right now and that we found our direction that people love it that much.
Metal-Rules.com: It was funny when you said, if we had a number one album in the ’80s you could be millionaires. That’s true. If METAL HEART would have been the number one album in Germany it…
Wolf Hoffmann: I mean not millionaires, but we would be doing pretty damn well.
Metal-Rules.com: Yeah but if it would have been number one in Germany in ’84 then it would probably have sold a million copies?
Wolf Hoffmann: Probably yeah.
Metal-Rules.com: And now BLIND RAGE sold about 50 000 copies in Germany, am I right?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah. Which is still not bad. But times have changed after the times and now it’s about different things and money has never been sort of our main motivation in any of this, never. Surely not now. We would be foolish, we would be idiots if we were going for the money. We love what we do, but it’s not because we are planning to get rich with it or something. If it happens along the way we wouldn’t mind, but that’s just not why we do this.
Metal-Rules.com: I think this is enough. Thank you, Wolf!
Wolf Hoffmann: You are totally welcome.