ACCEPT guitarist Wolf Hoffmann about pandemic time: “I didn’t know when we are going to go out again, and are we ever going to go on tour again?”

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Accept is undoubtedly one of the most legendary bands in the heavy metal genre. Originally founded in Solingen, Germany, in 1976, the band has released a total of 16 studio albums, the latest of which, TOO MEAN TO DIE, saw the light of day in January 2021. Accept has gone through numerous line-up changes, and today Wolf Hoffmann is the only remaining member of the band’s classic lineup. Despite all the changes, Accept has been able to renew itself, and the band’s popularity is still stable around the world. I met the good-natured Hoffmann last month in Finland, just before the band’s gig at the Rock in the City festival in Vantaa.

LIVING WITH PANDEMIC

The last time we spoke was in June of 2020, when you promoted the TOO MEAN TO DIE album.

Wolf Hoffmann; June of– oh, COVID had just started then. [laughter]

Yeah, and then we talked about how the record is coming out soon and upcoming tours and stuff, but everything changed a few times after that conversation.

Wolf Hoffmann: Of course. To me, the whole time with COVID felt a little bit like being at an airport at the gate, and they give you the first warning, yeah, the flight is going to be delayed 20 minutes, and then they wait 20 minutes, and they’re going to say, oh, now it’s another 30 minutes. Oh, by the way– and then you wait, and you wait, and you think, any day now, anytime now it’s going to– that’s how it felt, to me, with COVID. I felt like, any day it’s going to be over, and next month we’re going to tour, and here we are almost two years later. It’s crazy, isn’t it?

During the pandemic, did you ever feel hopeless and think, “this pandemic will never go away, and we can’t do Accept anymore!”

Wolf Hoffmann; There was a moment when I thought, what happens if this never goes away? I mean, because it looked like anytime there was an opening, oh, no, there’s another variant now it’s Omicron and this and that. Now they’re talking about there might be another wave in the fall, so we’re still not 100 % in the clear, and it’s really in– I mean, this is the summer, and COVID has always been less of an issue in the summer so that the test will be next winter, yeah.

As you said, the pandemic season was more or less just waiting and waiting some more. But many have also found something positive about this time, for example, in terms of creativity. Did you find any new inspiration during this strange period?

Wolf Hoffmann; Everybody thinks you get super creative just because you have time, but it’s the opposite for me. I mean, first of all, I didn’t know how much time we were going to have, and then we had just released an album, and I was ready to go on tour and not to create another album or something. It kind of dampened my creativity more than it helped, to be honest. I really felt, well, shit, I didn’t know when we are going to go out again, and are we ever going to go on tour again? That kind of killed my vibe, to be honest. It didn’t help me create and be excited. I get excited when I know I’ve got a goal and a deadline, and we need to go on tour in January, or the record company wants a new album by next spring. Then I get going, and I’m all fired up. But if it’s an open end and nobody knows when anything’s ever going to happen, I kind of go back to bed.

When you had a lot of extra time, instead of music stuff, did you do something else, like photography, which you used to do in the past?

Wolf Hoffmann; No, even that kind of was– I mean, I did stuff, yeah. I kept busy somehow. But honestly, if I look back at the last two years, I don’t really know what I’ve done, and many people tell me the same thing. I basically did some stuff all the time, but I don’t know what. It’s like a blank thing on my– normally, when I look back at my life these last few years, I know, ah, this was that. Then we’ve been on tour there, and stuff happens, like blocks in your memory, but this is like a blank nothing; I mean, it’s a totally empty block in my head. It’s like a gray space in my memory.

ACCEPT 2022 are: Uwe Lulis, Martin Motnik, Philip Shouse, Mark Tornillo, Christopher Williams, and Wolf

BACK IN ACTION

Now when you’ve finally been able to tour properly again, you’re promoting the TOO MEAN TO DIE album, which came out more than a year and a half ago. Doesn’t it feel like a bit of an old album to you now?

Wolf Hoffmann; No, not really, because it’s still the most recent album, and it’s still exciting to play those songs live because we haven’t played them much, and the audience hasn’t heard them. No, it still feels like a new album to me, yeah.

How did it feel to get back on stage and play the first shows after all the waiting and setbacks? Did everything go well straight away from memory, or did you guys have to do a lot of extra band rehearsals and stuff like that?

Wolf Hoffmann; We were a little rusty at first, but we slowly got back into it during rehearsals. But initially, it was a little bit like, “How did we do this again? And where do I plug this in, and how do I turn this on again?” You open the guitar cases, plug everything in, and it takes you a moment like, “Huh, how do we do this?” [laughter] And it makes you realize what amazing machinery it is because you not only rehearse the songs, but you also need to get the crew together and everything. There are so many aspects on it that have to work. But when it’s running, it’s beautiful. But you don’t even think about it. But when everything starts up again, you realize that’s a lot of shit that has to happen, and it has to function properly to make this all really work.

Before this ongoing tour started earlier this year, you did play a couple of shows last year, but it wasn’t the full lineup?

Wolf Hoffmann; Well, yeah, we did a couple of shows in the US last year. And we played them with just two guitarists because Uwe couldn’t come to the U.S. then.

The band has been playing shows on this tour with all three guitarists for a few months. How well has it been working, in your opinion?

Wolf Hoffmann; Oh, it’s been incredible. I mean, even during rehearsals, we felt so good about everything. We really took our time this time and picked out different parts for everybody to play. We didn’t just all shred the same stuff. We actually went back to the album and picked out certain parts that we could reproduce from the album, like the overdub parts and things. And I think it adds a certain flavor. It’s really fun. It lifts it all up too. I think it works better than I even expected.

RECORD LABEL CHANGE

What’s also a new thing in Accept world is that now you have a new record label, Napalm Records. What made the band leave Nuclear Blast after so many successful years?

Wolf Hoffmann; It’s very simple. The Nuclear Blast label was a family-operated and owned label, and they sold out to a big corporation, and that changed everything. It’s the typical thing. A little company works well, does it for decades, and then they finally cash in and sell out. And then they tell you, “Oh, nothing’s going to change. We’re going to keep the same people,” and not to worry. But I tell you, everything changed.

I’ve heard that all the people have changed on that label?

Wolf Hoffmann; Yeah, all the people have changed. Nobody that we knew from back in the day is still there. I mean, it was just not the same anymore. And Napalm made us a great offer, and they seem to be dedicated to the band, and they really wanted us. And so we said, “This seems like a better move.”

When Accept was negotiating with new labels, did you also discuss with Atomic Fire Records?

Wolf Hoffmann; Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t think so? Yeah, now I know who you’re talking about. No, that wasn’t in the– that wasn’t discussed, from what I remember.

May I ask, how many albums does your deal with Napalm Records include?

Wolf Hoffmann; None of your business! ”Laughs”

I know. [laughter] But it’s more than just one album, though?

Wolf Hoffmann; Yeah.

OTHER STUFF OUTSIDE OF ACCEPT

You earlier said that you did almost nothing during the pandemic, but some other band members have done other stuff. Martin Motnik released a solo album, and also Mark has been doing shows under the band Gotham. It’s a cover band, and they’re playing songs from Marilyn Manson, Korn, Rob Zombie, and so on. Have you seen or heard them?

Wolf Hoffmann; No, I haven’t even seen it yet, no. Is it an album, though?

No, they are just playing live shows in the New York area?

Wolf Hoffmann; Yeah, I know he played some shows. I thought you meant he doesn’t– no, I mean, yeah, he does these things occasionally with some buddies of his. Yeah, why not? It’s cool. I haven’t seen it, no.

It’s been eight years since you released HEADBANGERS SYMPHONY. Do you have plans to make more solo albums in the future?

Wolf Hoffmann; I do, and I should have used the time more than– I mean, I picked out some songs, some classical stuff, some material that I want to do. But you know, I had a big tragedy because of Corona because my collaborator Melo, whom I used to work with, passed away from COVID. He was a string arranger and my classical confidant. Yeah, that really put a big damper on my enthusiasm there. And I’m currently trying to find somebody, a replacement, but I haven’t found him yet because without him it’s going to be– I mean, not impossible, but I mean, I’ve done the first solo album without him. But I enjoyed working with him so much that I’m still a little bit in shock.

As time passes, you may find a new good working partner. It’s not going to be easy, I know.

Wolf Hoffmann; Yeah, I know. It’s not easy. But yeah, I’d love to make another album. But for now, I thought we’d just done this orchestra tour, now we’ve released an album, and I really would like to focus on Accept’s touring for the time being.

GETTING OLD

I think it’s fascinating that there are not too many years left before Accept turns 50 years old.

Wolf Hoffmann: I know. Can you imagine?

For me, it’s just impossible to understand for real, but have you been thinking about that?

Wolf Hoffmann: I have. Okay. On occasion, I think it’s like another four years, and I’m going to be in this band for 50 years. 40-something is scary enough, but 50 is nuts. I joined the band in ’76. So, in 2026, it will be 50 years for me.

I was talking with the Scorpions guys a few weeks ago and realized they had already passed the band’s 60’th anniversary.

Wolf Hoffmann: Yeah, I know.

Do you have the same goal with Accept?

Wolf Hoffmann; Yeah, of course. We might even hit 60 years. You never know?

Klaus Meine is 74 years old, but he’s still doing his thing. And in fact, the guys still look pretty much the same as they did 30 years ago.

Wolf Hoffmann: Something like that, yeah. It’s crazy, isn’t it? And the only scary part is that you think it’s not going to last forever. I mean, you still feel like you want to do it forever, and you’ll see how it goes.

So what does aging mean to you?

Wolf Hoffmann; Well, I can’t deny that sometimes it makes you think when this stuff comes up. It sounds– I mean, I feel pretty much the same I felt my whole life. I don’t really feel old, but sometimes you must face the fact. I mean, time is marching on, and the numbers are climbing, and you think like, bullshit.

If you think about your youth and what people of your age were like back then, things have changed significantly. Maybe it could be said that a lot of people used to get “old” much younger than they do nowadays. And it’s not the same anymore.

Wolf Hoffmann: No, of course not. It’s amazing. I mean, I see pictures of my parents when they were younger than I am now, and they’re older people. In the generation before that, they were old when they were 40. People that maybe even went through World War I or World War II, I mean, that had an effect on people, but in general, people just tended to look a lot older sooner. So the fact that we’re still out here in our 60s and 70s and still going out there shaking our asses on stage it’s pretty awesome! “Laughs”

 

TOURING PLANS AND THE LAST WORDS

What kind of touring plans do Accept have after these European summer festival shows?

Wolf Hoffmann; Quite a bit, actually. We’re working on a US tour, and we’re going to definitely want to do a proper headline tour for this album that was postponed twice. That’s in January and February. So that’s still to come.

So there will be a US tour in the fall, and maybe Japan as well?

Wolf Hoffmann; Japan hasn’t been confirmed yet because I don’t know where they stand in terms of opening back up again. We had some shows that were scheduled during Corona times, but they just got put on hold for now. So we have to wait, see what they want to do and when they are ready for us.

Our time is running out now. Is the anything else that you want to mention about the future of Accept?

Wolf Hoffmann; Yeah, I mean, basically, we are super excited to hit the road with this new formation finally, and, I mean, to be able to present the new songs. Yeah. It’s killer. We’re back in the saddle where we belong.

Thank you for your time, Wolf!

Wolf Hoffmann: It’s always a pleasure to talk with you, Marko.

 

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