INTERVIEW AND LIVE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
The legendary metal band Accept is back. The band, best known for their classic 80’s albums BALLS TO THE WALL, RESTLESS AND WILD, and METAL HEART, released a new single “The Undertaker” in early October. The full album, which obeys the name TOO MEAN TO DIE, will see the light in January of 2021. Although the band has undergone several line-up changes during its long career,” The Undertaker” proves that Accept is still in good and sharp shape. Personally, I got to listen to six songs from the upcoming album in advance, and after a few days of analysis, it was time to pick up the phone and contact the band’s guitarist and founding member Wolf Hoffmann.
THE NEW ERA OF ACCEPT
First of all, I want to say that I have had a privilege to hear a few songs from the upcoming TOO MEAN TO DIE album in advance, and I was really surprised!
Wolf Hoffman: In a good way or in a bad way?
In a good way! All the songs I have heard sounded fresh and powerful and many of them reminded me of BLOOD OF THE NATIONS, which is one of my all-time favorite Accept albums.
Wolf Hoffmann: Well, that’s a good way. Yeah, man, that makes me very happy when you say that because that is a good sign because I mean, we all like BLOOD OF THE NATIONS because it had some– somehow it had a lot of spark and fire in it maybe because we were at that point where we wanted to see if we can still do it because we were just regrouping again and everything was fresh. And we had this attitude, “Let’s show it to the world.” And so, if we capture some of that energy on our new album, that will be amazing. That would be really good. And as a matter of fact, you’re not the first one to say it just like that, which makes me think there might be something to it, which is good.
As you said when you did BLOOD OF THE NATIONS, the band kind of started everything from the scratch. Everything was new and fresh, but you weren’t sure if it should really work or not?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Correct.
But isn’t this a kind of similar situation again? Some people are now gone, and you have new blood in the band. There have been many changes during the past few years, so isn’t this such a similar situation when Accept returned after a long break and with a new lineup in 2010?
Wolf Hoffmann: I don’t think it really felt– I mean, to me, it didn’t feel like we were starting from scratch. Yes, we had some new people in the band, and yes, Peter left the band because he was my main songwriting partner. But somehow, it still felt like there was a certain continuity there because we worked with Andy Sneap, and Mark Tornillo was on board, and a lot of the other guys were still the same. And it almost felt like there’s more weight on my shoulders now because I don’t really have somebody to work with, I suppose. In a way, it was a lot of me to come up with all the songs. Do you know what I mean? But it still didn’t feel quite like BLOOD OF THE NATIONS where everything, we didn’t have a label; we didn’t have a deal, we had nothing. It was just us against the world, and you know what I mean. Now, we have a machine that’s in place, and we know we’ve got fans waiting for the new album, and so it’s still not quite the same, but I know what you mean. Again, we were in a situation where we kind of had to prove something, and in this case, I had to prove that I can write all these songs without Peter Baltes. But luckily, I found a new guy in the band who was really good at contributing ideas, and that’s Martin Motnik. Two or three songs are from him, and a bunch of other ideas for the other song. So, he was really involved in quite a few songs, which has helped a lot because it’s never fun if you have to do everything yourself if you know what I mean. I tried to make this album as much of a group effort as possible.
THREE GUITAR PLAYERS IN THE BAND
It’s no secret that you’ve played almost all the guitar parts on Accept’s records since the beginning of the band. You played all the solos, almost all the rhythm guitars, and so on. Now that you have two other guitarists in the band, how did you share the guitar parts on this new album?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah. I mean, especially since we now have Phil Shouse on board as a second lead guitar player, so to say, I wanted to really use that on the new album. So, we made sure that he’s actually playing quite a few parts, and we also have a lot of twin solos where we both play. There are quite a few songs where we sort of share solo duties going back and forth much more than on the last album because I figured now that we have three guitar players, we might as well make use of it. And I’m quite looking forward to playing these songs live because it gives you the chance to do stuff that you normally cannot do with three guitar players. You can actually play overdub parts that you normally just leave for the album. Now with three guitar players, two can play the rhythm, and one guy can only play little candy stuff on top, if you know what I mean.
So how much did you use this three-guitar advantage in your mind when you wrote these new songs?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah, we did use it quite a lot. So, it was good. Phil is actually quite a lot on this album. Definitely. I mean, as I said, it’s a group effort and– as much as humanly possible. So, it was good. And I think that it gives it a slightly different vibe. And it always helps to provide it with more color, basically.
A lot of people must have thought you were kind of crazy when you added the third guitarist to the band. It’s not a common thing to do, especially for metal bands, but now it sounds like a pretty good plan.
Wolf Hoffmann: I think you will be surprised when you see it live. It’s really working better than you think. I mean, we’ve done a few shows that way already in the fall before all this corona nonsense happened. We did some shows in South America with Phil and Uwe, and it was great. I loved it. And everybody loved it. It was unusual for us. Yes. But it’s better now, and it also sounds much better than you think. So, it really helps.
WINDS OF CHANGE
You mentioned that with this album, the whole band was more involved in the making of the album, and it’s a real team effort. And one of the things that came to mind when I listened to the new songs was that – to be honest, your previous album THE RISE OF CHAOS, it’s not my favorite Accept album. There are many reasons for that, and I’m not going to start listing them here, but anyway, did you feel that the band needed some changes after that album?
Wolf Hoffmann: I don’t think we needed a change. But I kind of know what you mean because it was a little bit– it’s always hard for me to judge these albums. And actually, a lot of fans really like that album too. So, I mean, I would say it this way. Every album got its time and its place. And it’s always a sort of a statement of where you are in life at that point and yet– and so it’s not really up for– up to me to judge these albums because it’s my baby. And [laughter] I’m not going to talk bad about my babies if you know what I mean, they’re all– so I let that– but I can relate to it at least what you’re saying– yeah.
However, it’s past, and I really like these new songs. The band sounds fresh and powerful, and this album starts a whole new chapter for the band, and that’s all that really matters, right?
Wolf Hoffmann: Good. Well, that’s what we’re here to talk about. And I like it, too. [laughter] I like it, too. I’m quite proud of it. But like I said, I’m so close to it at this moment. It’s really hard for me to be objective. It’s always hard to be objective when it’s your own stuff, but especially once it– if you’re just coming out of the studio, then it’s almost impossible!!! “Laughs”
WRITING AND RECORDING PROCESS
I remember that you already said at the end of 2018 that you had already started working on your next Accept album. If so, was this an exceptionally long time to make an Accept album?
Wolf Hoffmann: Well, at that point, I was lying a little bit. We hadn’t really started recording anything, yeah. We had just started thinking about– we had just started thinking about writing [laughter], and then it takes– once we were finished thinking, we actually started working on it. And, then once we started working, it’s still a long way from starting to record, so it just takes time. We just started recording this year in March for real. Until then it was only a set of demos and laying them aside and doing all that. But actually, the recording process wasn’t long at all. It was only maybe a couple of weeks in March and then two, three weeks now in July whenever it was.
I can guess that because of this current corona situation, the recording process was very different from the previous ones? How did you manage to get it done at all?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah, very different, man. It was exactly in March when Andy was in Nashville, the producer, Andy Sneap and Mark Tornillo. And we were just laying down some vocal tracks and working on some songs. And every day we watched the news. And it was getting worse and worse. And it seemed like the whole world would come to an end. Every day it was like more and more cases, more and more shutdowns, more and more borders closing. And so, we called– we called it off. We said, “We can’t be just– be trapped in the studio if the whole world is coming to an end.” Everybody wanted to go home and be with their family and see what happens next. So, we called it quits and left everything standing as it was at that point and then regrouped a couple of three months later. But of course, by then, all the borders were closed. And Andy Sneap could not come into the United States. So, we had no other choice but to work with him through the laptop. So, basically, we were working in our studio in Nashville, recording everything. And Andy Sneap was in England with this– on the laptop watching and hearing everything we were doing and talking to us in between. So, we could still have him to produce the album. It was just him not– he couldn’t push the actual start and stop button. That was me. [laughter]
I remember that I interviewed you in Helsinki before the BLOOD OF THE NATIONS was released. Then you shared how important a piece Andy was to the whole project. He had kind of kicked you in the ass and pushed to play harder and better until everything was great enough. It happened ten years ago, but he’s still a guy who still works with you. In the 80’s you had Dieter Dierks, but now you have Andy Sneap in that role.
Wolf Hoffmann: Andy is the guy now. And it works really well with him. And I’m glad he found the time. I mean, the only good thing about this whole corona nonsense is that because of that, he had the time to work on it [laughter] because at some point when we first called– split ways in March we figured like, “Well, shit. If he’s going to be on tour starting in June, then how are we going– how are we going to finish the album?” So, nobody knew at that point when and how we could finish all this stuff without– maybe we have to do it alone or find somebody else as a replacement or– I don’t know. But then all the touring got canceled. And all of a sudden, he was available. So that’s the only good thing coming out of this corona stuff.
LIFE’S A BITCH AND HOW ABOUT PETER BALTES?
In 2018, the Accept single: “Life’s a Bitch”. Was that song originally written for this upcoming album, or what is the story behind it?
Wolf Hoffmann: No. No. That’s an old song. That’s actually a song that was written for BLIND RAGE. That was recorded during the BLIND RAGE session. But it was kind of a song that didn’t really fit on the album because it’s sort of a– almost got a happy vibe to it a little bit. It’s kind of a mid-tempo feel-good kind of song in a way. And it didn’t work well on the album. So, we left it later on. We thought, “We could use it for something one of these days.” And we released it as a single, and now we have a single for this new album coming out called: ”The Undertaker.” And,” Life’s a Bitch” is on the backside of that single. So, it’s kind of an odd song that didn’t ever find its way on an album because it doesn’t really fit well with the other stuff.
Well, it was news to me that “Life’s a Bitch” was already recorded during BLIND RAGE because somewhere on the Internet it reads that it was the first song Accept has recorded without Peter Baltes in the band. So, this information is wrong?
Wolf Hoffmann: No. I don’t know who said that. No. No. That’s not true. No. He’s on that album. He’s still on that song, and it’s actually– yeah like I said, it’s a song from two albums back. Yeah.
So, anyway, TOO MEAN TO DE is the first Accept album without Peter in the band. It looks like the new lineup is working well in all respects, but do you miss Peter at all? Nonetheless, you played together for over forty years, and it’s a very long time.
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah. You bet. I mean, do I– well, it depends on which Peter you’re talking about. Do I miss Peter from 1985 and from 2010? Absolutely. He was a lot of fun, and he was—he’s always been, my buddy. But then life goes on. People change. And he had many different phases that he’s going through. So, towards the last couple of, the last three years, I could feel that something– he wasn’t quite happy anymore, and he was– I don’t know. He had changed somehow. So, the last tour with him was already– you could see it in his eyes. He wasn’t into it anymore. So, I don’t miss that Peter. I miss the old Peter. But what can you do, man? Life moves on, and luckily, we found a great guy to take his place. But it’s, of course, different. It’s never going to be the same. I mean, when you play with somebody that long and you know him that well, then things go without saying; it’s just chemistry. But I don’t know why he always kept it to himself. You could tell something isn’t right with him. And I always tried to get it out of him and figure out what’s bothering him. But maybe he just had enough. He just wanted to do no longer– I mean, it’s hard for me to understand why because it’s our life, and we built it up. And here we are that– I wouldn’t say comfortable place but at least– many other musicians would probably be happy to be where we are. And why you would leave it like that is a mystery to me. But maybe he just wanted to retire. I don’t know, man.
Well, I don’t know about retirement because it looks like he’s now really active in the music industry. He works on a solo album, plays with Mick Mars, and does a lot of session work. But last but not least, he also played on the latest U.D.O. album. Was THAT a surprising thing to you?
Wolf Hoffmann: What do you think? [laughter] Yeah. I don’t know if this was just a sort of a fuck you gesture or whatever? I don’t know what that was meant to be or– because I know he doesn’t– I don’t know, man. It just seems like a strange coincidence. And why? Honestly, I better not say anything about it because I don’t really know. I don’t know what’s going on there. I can guess. I can guess, but I shouldn’t really say anything.
I can say that from the fan perspective, that it was astonishing to see that “reunion” of him, Udo, and Stefan (Kauffman) happening!!“Laughs”
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah, I mean, Stefan. He’s been– yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Of course, they’ve been in and out and in the band and out again. They’ve always been somehow connected.
Have you heard any of WE ARE ONE, the album recorded together with U.D.O.?
Wolf Hoffmann: No, I have not, and I won’t. [laughter] I mean, it’s really a neutral statement. I’ve just decided for myself that my life is better if I don’t get into it at all. I don’t listen to or– I try to stay out of social media. And I try to stay out of the whole warfare if you want of all these opinions and all the things and what you think of this? What is he? And he had said this. And I’ve tried to just go about my business. Man, life is too short to get into all that nonsense. So, I decided to not even listen to it that way. So, I don’t have an opinion. [laughter]
That was a political answer, “laughs.”
Wolf Hoffmann: Okay. It’s also the truth. I mean, sometimes there are political factors that are white lies. But in this case, I haven’t– honestly, I haven’t heard it.
I believe you, but I have one more question about the subject. When Peter announced his departure, did you ever have a thought like,” Oh no! This is the end of Accept”?
Wolf Hoffmann: No, not for a second. No, not for a split second ever because it’s not the first time. I mean, we had this– because we parted ways once in the ’90s where it was also– all of a sudden, it was like, “Okay. I no longer want to do this.” And he left the band. And I had figured at that point, ”I don’t have a band anymore. I’m the last surviving guy,” so I called it quits because there’s nobody else. But in this case, we have a working, functioning band that is great, and the machine marches on. It keeps rolling. So no, we never wanted– I mean, at this point, I don’t think I’ll ever quit, to be honest.
It’s nice to hear, and in fact, one of your new songs is called “The best is yet to come”. So, maybe it’s a sign of the future? [laughter]
Wolf Hoffmann: Honestly, that is the one song that’s closest to my heart from a lyrical standpoint because I will actually– I’m a hopeless optimist. I always really honestly think the best song isn’t written yet, and the best album isn’t made yet, the best gig hasn’t been played– hasn’t been played yet. So, I honestly think the best is yet to come, whether it’s musically or in life. So, who knows?
Out of those six new songs I’ve heard so far, my favorite is ”Zombie Apocalypse.” It’s a great track, which kind of reminds me about your latest solo album stuff because there are a lot of classical music elements on it?
Wolf Hoffmann: Oh, cool. Very cool. I’m glad you like it. Yeah, that’s actually come some other– you only probably have heard the first six songs. But we also have a couple of more classical-influenced songs that nobody has heard yet. One is an instrumental track. And then there’s one that’s called ”Headbanger”– not ”Headbanger,” Symphony of Pain” and if– it’s got some Beethoven elements in it which is kind of the typical thing for me to do. So, yeah.
Sounds good. And as you mentioned earlier, the first single is “The Undertaker”. It’s a great, straightforward song with a big chorus and massive choruses. It sounds like the 80s Accept me, which is only a positive thing.
Wolf Hoffmann: It is fun. Yeah. Well, good. Yeah. Great. Sounds typical Accept. The video is done for ”The Undertaker.” It’s a full-feature video, not just a lyric content video or anything. It’s a good video. I think you’ll like it. I’m very pleased with it.
That’s great to hear. I always loved the videos you have made with Mark. These are great compared to the Accept videos released in the 80’s “Laugh”.
Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah. Those are fun to watch now, aren’t they? “Laughs”
THE LAST QUESTION(S)
Our time will soon be up, but I still have a few questions left in my pocket. First, next year, Accept will turn forty-five years old. What thoughts does it evoke in you?
Wolf Hoffmann: Oh, shit. [laughter] Don’t even say it. Don’t even say it, man. [laughter] That sounds so scary, doesn’t it?
But whether you intend to celebrate it somehow, I mean, do you have any plans for that?
Wolf Hoffmann: No. We’re not about anniversaries. We never do any– we don’t do anniversaries. [laughter] I don’t know, man. Let’s just wait. Take it one day at a time and see where we get– where we end up. But TOO MEAN TO DIE is coming out on January 15th. The best is yet to come,” Laughs.”
Check out the excellent video of “The Undertaker”
The new lineup of Accept performing “Life’s a Bitch# live at Chile 2019