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Exclusive Interview: Wolf Hoffmann from Accept
Accept reunited in 2010 and issued one of the best efforts of their career with Blood of the Nations. Mark Tornillo is a perfect fit for Accept’s burly, aggressive, traditional heavy metal and was welcomed with open arms by the band’s fans worldwide. After a triumphant world tour the band took a short break; they later reconvened to begin to write and record what would become the second album of the Mark Tornillo era, Stalingrad. Returning for the new album manning the controls is one of the most in demand metal producers today – Andy Sneap. Accept quickly hit the road to promote Stalingrad and the reviews are once again very favorable as with its predecessor. Rock Confidential caught up with guitarist and founding member Wolf Hoffman for an interview. This was my fourth time interviewing Wolf and each and every time it’s been a pleasure; this time proved to be no different. Accept will have a co-headlining trek across North America with their fellow countrymen, the German thrash metal band Kreator. Watch out for Accept on their North American tour this fall in a town near you.
Going into the writing of Stalingrad, at what point did it sink in that you created a monster with Blood of the Nations? The bar was raised with that album as you know.
Yeah we did raise the bar didn’t we? After winning awards and getting all the great reviews – I don’t know. We just went into writing mode and tried like hell to make the best album that we could. We certainly didn’t try to change anything, that’s for sure; we used the same people, we used the same ingredients. I don’t want to say that we used the ‘same formula.’ We used the same producer, the same songwriters, Peter (Baltes) and I used the same procedure when we wrote a song and we turned inside and out and upside down until we knew it was as good as it could be.
With Stalingrad being Mark Tornillo’s second record, was he more involved on the new album that the previous album?
(pause) I’d say Mark’s involvement was about the same; the songwriting process hasn’t changed in the band’s 30 year career. It’s Peter and I who take one of the riffs and begin to come up with some of the raw ideas for the song. There are times that we already have some ideas for a chorus other times we don’t; we then give what we have to Mark at a certain point and he puts his own spin on it. After he gets his hands on it, it might change the direction of the song. Other times it might remain close to the original idea. An example of a song that came together very quickly is “Stalingrad” and it is very close to the original idea or concept we had in mind. That was one of the very first things we did actually.
You retained Andy Sneap for Stalingrad. Things went incredibly well the last time around. It sounds like you took the “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it” approach.
Oh yeah, absolutely. We knew. Why change it if it’s working so well, you know? That was our thought going into the new album – whatever worked the last time, we’ll do that again. Why mess with it? I guess the way that we looked at it, we wanted it the same without be the same. We wanted ideas that were like you heard on Blood of the Nations – huge backing vocals and heavy guitar riffs which makes the Accept anthems. The hard part was the first album. We were searching for what Accept would sound like today. When we found out what that was we just wrote more songs. The great thing about that is that we tossed out some of the crazy ideas that did not sound like Accept. Those weren’t worth pursuing.
You’ve broken in some of the new songs since you’ve been doing some touring. How many songs off Stalingrad will you be playing on the North American run in the fall?
The next time that we go out we are doing four to five off the new album. We did a short run in Europe and we played three but that’s because the album had just been released and it was fairly fresh. We felt at the time that three was enough. We played a lot off Blood of the Nations and like with that album; we want to feature the new stuff. We want to really feature the new stuff. Why play the old stuff if you don’t have to? We’ll start weeding out some of the old stuff, but it’s always tough because there’s so many of the old songs that we almost have to play. It’s tough to determine which songs to throw out.
With many fantastic songs in the back catalog that you include in the set, it must be getting increasingly difficult to narrow down the set list to a reasonable number. I was very pleased that you did play a lot of the Blood of the Nations album. Not a lot of bands with a career as lengthy as Accept do that – mainly because their albums are crap.
In that respect we are different from the other bands because our comeback album actually worked! (laughs) It was very well received – we showed everyone that this isn’t a cover band – we started something new and fresh here.
How does Accept pick out what makes the set list?
It’s not “what we can play” but rather “what can we afford not to play?” It’s more like “what can we toss out?” It’s really only a handful of songs that we have to juggle. The set lists keep getting longer, we can play two hours and think nothing of it. Twenty to 30 years ago nobody did that – ever. Bands would play 60 minutes or 90 minutes tops and that was it. So for us to play two hours – that’s nothing. When it really gets tough is when we play festival shows and we are given an hour or so – that is pretty tough.
I believe Accept shot a performance in Ohio on the last tour I believe, will that be released at some point?
(pause) Yeah, we shot some stuff – that’s in the archives for now. We are waiting until we have more footage of newer material. We are planning to do a live album next year and we will be featuring a lot of the new material from the last two records. We are taking our time and we want to get the best set list possible for that recording.
I really like what you’re doing with Accept. Most bands would have released that live footage because they would want to strike while iron is hot. You guys have patience and are very careful about doing things ‘right’ – it can’t be that easy could it?
Thank you, sir. It might look that way from the outside. On the inside there are some things that haven’t gone quite 100% perfect, but that’s to be expected. You’re right. We are cautious and are doing things as best as we can. We don’t want to do something this year and then disappear again. We want to do this for as long as we can. What you see is Accept laying the ground work for the years to come because we want to do this for as long as possible.
What’s an album in Accept’s back catalog that you think is underrated and why?
(pause) Man, that’s a tough question to answer. I would almost like to leave that to the fans. I’ll have to be honest with you – I don’t like rating my own stuff. The most dreaded question is being asked to comment on each album because there’s good and bad in each of them. I will say that the stuff we did in the 90’s is not our strongest stuff. I think everybody would agree on that. If you listen to an album like Predator, it has some good moments on there but we just didn’t know where we were going.
Can I mention an album that is underrated?
Sure, go for it.
Russian Roulette was frowned upon when it was released, but it’s not as bad as some would like you to believe.
Oh yeah, Russian Roulette – that’s still in the 80’s. Yeah, that’s a good one. I agree with you that it’s a little bit underrated. I would have to say that the songs aren’t as strong as the stuff on the earlier albums. We haven’t played too many songs off of that album and there’s a reason. It didn’t contain that many good songs. At the end of the day I have to be honest.
With bands playing albums in their entirety to commemorate anniversaries or special occasions, is there an album that you’d like to take a stab at playing from top to bottom?
I’d love to do it, I’m just trying to figure what the occasion to do something like would be. Maybe it would be for a special recording for a DVD, where we play an entire album. Now that you mention it we’ve done that once with the album Restless and Wild not so long ago – it was about a year ago in Switzerland. I really had a lot of fun playing a lot of these old songs that we’d never played live before.
You’re a professional photographer. Since the reformation of Accept have you been able to do much of that?
Yeah I have. You’d be surprised. We’re not constantly on the road. When I’m home from the road I’m on photo shoots. I don’t want to lose that part of my life because I’d like to continue doing both photography and music. They are both very creative and I love the contrast between the two of them.
Will Wolf Hoffmann write a biography at some point? It would be a great read, I think. It could be a behind the scenes of the band, a love story with you and Gaby – there’s so many angles that you can take it.
Ain’t gonna happen man, it ain’t gonna happen! (laughs) Here’s why! I’ve asked Gaby (Hoffmann) about it. She’s got the stories to tell more than I do. She’s the one pulling the strings behind the scenes. She doesn’t want to do it because it would open so many old wounds. We can’t talk about the past without hurting a few people and saying a few negative things. If you’re going to write a book you have to tell the truth. Otherwise you’d be cheating yourself and the public. If you’re telling the story how it really happened it’s going to be painful. Right now we don’t want to go there. I think sometimes it’s better to leave things alone and just move on. Anyone that has been in the entertainment business will tell you it’s never all smooth sailing. A lot of stuff happens along the way that you’d really rather forget.
An Accept documentary would be great as well.
I don’t really know. I think I’d have to look at the format, but as I said these things aren’t my favorite things to do. I’m not the best member of the band to ask stuff related to the band’s past. I don’t recall all the details. I don’t live in the past mentally. I am a person that feels what is done is done. I’ll put it aside and move forward. Sometimes I have a hard time recalling who produced a particular album. It’s funny. A lot of fans know all these details about the band that I can’t even recall and I was there! (laughs) I say to them “Oh, yeah that’s right– I almost forgot about that.”
Looking to the future, Accept will be touring the United States this fall with Kreator. Will this be a co-headlining tour?
It’s going to be great. It is a co-headlining tour. Both bands will be playing about 90 minutes each. It’s not so terribly long that we’ll wear the crowd down. I think it’s a good compromise where each band can present their stuff. We’re thinking of going on first because we’d rather not play in front of a worn out audience. I don’t know that for sure yet, we haven’t really decided. We’ll see, but this is definitely a co-headlining show.
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