Kaeleigh Morrison

INTERVIEW: Wolf Hoffmann of Accept

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Since their origins in the early 60’s, heavy metal band Accept has played a major role in the development of speed metal and sat at the forefront of German metal in the 1980’s. Reunited for the second time with Mark Tornillo (TT Quick), at the mic, Accept sets off on the beginning of their three-month, worldwide tour next week. Accept will be promoting their recently released album Stalingrad, proving once again that Tornillo makes a perfect replacement for Udo. Fans, whether lovers or haters of Udo, will not be disappointed by the band’s loyalty to their “trademark, Accept sound.”

Guitar-shredding Wolf Hoffmann recently spoke with SoCalMusicToday.com to discuss Mark Tornillo’s influence, recording Stalingrad, and his guitar gods.

Tell me a bit about how you started working with Tornillo and the experience that followed.

We met him three and a half years ago by sheer luck and we were immediately blown away. We thought, “we’ve gotta get this guy. He could be the reason that we reunite and get things going again.” It has been a tremendous experience at least in the last few years with getting things going again and writing new material, you know? It’s been a totally overwhelming and rewarding experience. And against all odds, so to say.

How did you guys meet in the first place?

We met at a jam session near Philadelphia and it was just pure coincidence that we actually hooked up with each other, nobody was expecting to do an ACCEPT reunion or anything of that nature initially. Like I said, when I met Mark, I said, “Wow, we gotta do this. It’s too good to be true.” We didn’t audition anybody, we weren’t looking for anybody, we weren’t looking for a new singer. We just met spontaneously and decided we needed to hook up together.

How was the writing process for Stalingrad different than recording the other albums?

Pretty much like it always was. They’re usually the same. Peter and I usually get together initially and write the riffs, write the song ideas until we give the stuff to Mark and he adds lyrics to it. So it’s a really harmonious process, you know? It’s a pretty fast way of writing, also. We don’t usually spend a whole lot of time getting the stuff together. Just in a matter of weeks we will have written a whole album.

Have you ever taken more than a few weeks to write an album? Has it ever taken you a while to get it together?

We have in the past, especially the infamous album called Eat the Heat that we did in the nineties. It took almost a year, it was terrible. Sometimes you lose perspective spending more time on an album, and it doesn’t necessarily make it a better album in my mind. Sometimes it’s good to stick with it and getting it done in a short amount of time rather than letting it drag on and on and on, you know?

What sets Stalingrad apart from the others?

I don’t think it’s very… Well,.. I don’t think it’s very different. It may be better, but it’s not very different, to be honest. We tried to write stuff that’s very typical of ACCEPT, stuff that could have been written years and years ago, ‘cause that’s the face of ACCEPT that most people remember, and that people love the most. But we tried to give the fans exactly what they would expect. So it’s really just new and better but not different.

How would you say that it’s newer and better?

Well it’s got kind of a new sound. Nowadays with the modern technology we get a much tighter and better production than we’ve ever had, I think. And a much snappier and tighter sound. But the songwriting is really just typical, old school, classic stuff. That’s the perfect combination. I think it’s why the fans love the album so much. Well, the last two albums, I should say, because to me, they were very close to one another. You get the best of both worlds: you’ve got the modern technology and the modern sound and the modern production value, but it sounds totally old school at the same time because the songwriting is done in a very old-fashioned way with lots of melodies and lots of memorable licks and passages that are part of the ACCEPT trademark.

Did Tornillo impact ACCEPT’s writing process at all? Or did your work habits mesh together magically?

He’s really just mostly the lyricist. He didn’t change our songwriting approach at all. I mean, we’ve been a great team together but really the songwriting process did not change a whole lot. The only difference is that he contributes the lyrics, where in the past, in the old days with Udo, it was Gabby, my wife and our manager who had written the lyrics, ‘cause Udo, he did not write any of the lyrics. Now that Mark does the lyrics, that’s a big change for us, but he does it in a way that’s very,.. Traditional. He tries to write them the way that we would want them.

What inspired you to play guitar?

*Sigh* Um,.. *Laughs* A friend of mine had a guitar and I was fascinated by it. That was when I was probably twelve or fourteen years old and I have been fascinated by guitar ever since. Especially electric guitar. I started with acoustic guitar, first, but I found that to be somewhat limiting and boring, you know? If you really wanna be in the rock ‘n’ roll world, you need to play electric guitar and I found that pretty fascinating.

What acts really blew your mind and inspired you to play heavy metal in the first place?

One of the first metal acts that I ever heard was Black Sabbath. And then the next band after that, which I wouldn’t really call heavy metal, was AC/DC. Before that it was uh, Deep Purple. But they definitely weren’t metal. They were more hard rock. And well, the first real heavy metal act that I really got to know and love was Judas Priest when we toured with them in the early eighties.

Yeah, how was touring with Judas Priest? Is there anything extremely memorable from that tour?

Oh, it was fantastic. It was our first eye-opening experience. You know, before that, we were bloody amateurs and even after that tour we were amateurs, but it was our first professional tour that we were on and we were initially fan boys with bright, wide-open eyes, fascinated by this big world of real musicians. It was a milestone for us.

Who are your guitar gods?

Definitely Ritchie Blackmore and definitely Angus Young. Definitely Uli Jon Roth who played back in the day. He played with the Scorpions and those were the times when I was totally a fan of his playing. And I’m still a major fan of his playing nowadays. There’s the guitar layer where I’m really a fan of Uli Roth but there’s also the sliding and riffing aspect of things where I’m really more a fan of Schenker, actually. Rudolf Schenker. So there’s the two categories within the Scorpions that I like the best.

How did you study guitar? Were you classically trained?

I was not. I had some very, very basic training in guitar. But I really am mostly self-taught, even in the songwriting aspect of music. When I went to school, we had music classes, but I didn’t pay any attention to any of that because it didn’t really mean anything to me since I wasn’t playing guitar at the time. But later, when I started playing guitar, I revisited all this stuff and sort of figured it out after the fact, like, “Oh. This is what it all means.” So I have some basic knowledge of music theory, but not a whole lot to be honest. Ninety-nine percent of the stuff I play, I play without thinking and it’s just gut feeling.

Did you ever play any other instruments, or just guitar?

Just guitar.

Why’s that? Have you ever been intrigued to play other instruments?

I have, I just, I was always doing guitar and I never really had the time or the patience to do anything else. I always regretted that I wasn’t forced to learn piano as a kid. It would have been a very good thing to know and to play. For songwriting purposes, I would have loved to play piano, but I never managed, and I’m definitely not going to get into it now.

For people who don’t listen to your music already, why should they?

I have no good answer for that. I want to let people discover good music themselves. I mean, hell, I’m not here to tell people what to listen to and what not to listen to. If you haven’t heard of ACCEPT already, chances are, you never will. *laughs* We’re old people. *Laughs* Actually, I should probably take that back. They’re a lot of kids nowadays who go back through time and figure out that we’ve been on the forefront of this metal movement and they rediscover us. Except how they do it, I have no idea, but they seem to figure it out. There’s so many young kids in the audience now, it makes you wonder how they ever came across ACCEPT but they certainly have a way of finding out. Maybe by looking through the record collections of their parents.

What do you love about the music that you create?

It’s an outlet, man, It’s an outlet for energy and creativity more than anything. In metal, a lot of my colleagues are in it for the lifestyle and the whole “sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” thing. It was certainly prevalent in the eighties and of course, into today. To a lot of people, it’s a lifestyle. But I don’t really think that that’s my motivation as much. I’m not really fascinated as much by the lifestyle. I mean, it’s ‘cause of the music. It really gives me an outlet for my creativity and I love being in front of people on stage. I love getting that immediate feedback. When you do something onstage and they love it or people know the songs and they react to what I play, it’s an unforgettable thrill.

Do you ever jam in genres that aren’t metal? I love your work in “Blues For Elise.” What inspired you to do a slower, bluesy piece?

Well, I’ve been a long time fan of classical music. The solo album that I made over ten years ago has really been a labor of love that I always felt like I needed to get out of my system because I always felt that I dabbled around in different classical pieces, but I’d never made a full blown album where I forced myself to come up with forty-five or fifty minutes of uninterrupted instrumental music concentrating on classical ideas. And it’s just been a fascinating process and I love it very, very much. I’m working on a follow-up album for that. That bluesy piece is just part of all that. It was a way of expressing that beautiful melody, “Fur Elise.” All my life I had been fascinated by that piece.

On your website, wolfhoffmann.com, you have posted a couple albums-worth of photographs that you took. Can you talk a little about how you got into that?

I’ve been a professional photographer for over fifteen years. I started in the late nineties when it was coming to a point where ACCEPT wasn’t doing anything anymore. I discovered my second love in life, or my second passion, a second creative streak in me. It was always photography for a long, long time and then I made it my career! I made it into a job. It’s not as exciting as music in one way or another, but its another creative thing that allows me to make a living, so I’ve been doing this for many years and I’m still fascinated by it.

Which has been your favorite photo shoot and why?

I did a shoot where I was fortunate enough to shoot the late Les Paul at his house with all his famous instruments and I took portraits of Les Paul himself, the guy who invented the electric guitar, so that was a pretty cool gig to get. I mean, he was a living legend at the time, he was already in his late-eighties I believe and I was fortunate enough to shoot him.

There’s an album of portraits and scenes from a car factory on your site and this one guy looks like a total metal head. Have you ever shot fans on assignment?

No, I have not. Well, I mean very early on I had, but I quickly discovered that that was not what I wanted to do, mainly because I had seen that side of the music business. The music side of photography is not the most appealing to me ‘cause it’s low budget and high-stress. I’m more drawn towards the corporate and advertising side of photography.

Although you say that you’re always “ looking for the same elements of emotion in a photograph as you do when writing metal riffs,” your photoset from Tuscany has a beautiful gentleness and lightness to it that is incomparable to the heavy angst of metal. Could you talk a bit about that?

It’s bizarre, but to me, there’s not a huge difference between writing a song and composing a picture. There are sort of similarities there. You’re always trying to come up with something that is well rounded and harmonious. I mean with metal, it’s aggressive and it sounds like a contradiction, but to me, it’s not. Even when I’m writing a metal song, whatever the piece, there has to be a certain harmonious element that makes it a beautiful song. The same is true with pictures, no matter what you’re shooting. You’re trying to create something that makes sense, where there’s nothing missing, and there’s nothing particularly overbearing. I don’t know. You know it when you see it and you know it when you hear it. It’s really hard to describe what goes on in the creative process, but I know it when I’m feeling it.

I have a few questions from fans, if that’s okay.


Reddit user “tenchimyo” has a few questions. First, “will [ACCEPT] be playing “Midnight Mover” on its upcoming tour?”

Sometimes we play it. It has never been one of the songs that we have to play or that we feel that is among one of the strongest we have ever done. Some people love it for what it was. I personally like it, but it’s not one of the songs that is a definite keep-it-in-the-set-for-all-time, so, who knows, sometimes we feel spontaneous and throw it into the set.

“Are there any songs that you love to play that fans are … less than enthused when you play them?”

Actually, there is some stuff on Eat the Heat that I thought were great compositions even though the album is generally considered one of the weakest things or one of the most unfortunate things that we have done. I have to agree from a career standpoint, but actually, some of those compositions are really very strong. Like, “The D-Train” or “Generation Clash,” those are great songs. But with a live set we concentrate on what the fans want to hear. You can never please everybody in the audience, but we usually please the majority with our song selection.

“Are there any songs that you hate to play, but are popular with the audience?”

Um, not really. The only song that I’ve never really liked very much is “I’m A Rebel,” Some fans think it’s a great, fun song. To me, it was always, “meh, not so much.” Interestingly enough, the song has a great history because it was originally written for AC/DC by one of the Young brothers. They never recorded it and by sheer luck we recorded it in the early eighties. A lot of fans loved that song. Particularly in Germany, for some reason. I’ve never liked it very much myself.

And the last fan question is from Reddit user “TylerTheOrc.” “Do you have any personal favorites from Stalingrad?”

Probably, “Stalingrad,” the title track, and “Shadow Soldiers.”

What are you doing right now in terms of the career and the tour?

Well, we’re getting ready to go on this massive tour. Which is starting in about a week. That’s what these press days are all for. We’re promoting these shows that we’re doing with a fellow German band, Kreator and it’s gunna go all around the US for four or five weeks, and then after that, Asia, and Australia, and Japan. So, we’re gunna be on the road for the next few months promoting this new album, Stalingrad. We’ve got some brand new material that we’re really excited to show our fans!

ACCEPT plays The Avalon on September 26th in Hollywood and The Grove in Anaheim September 27th Tickets are still available via www.LiveNation.com

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