By Pat Prince
Wolf Hoffmann could not have predicted an Accept reunion. As the lead guitarist for one of the greatest metal bands of all time, Hoffmann had come to the conclusion that Accept had run its course. Accept's frontman, Udo Dirkschneider, was more than happy with his own band, U.D.O. Bassist Peter Baltes was using his songwriting talents to churn out radio jingles. And Hoffmann was working full-time as a professional photographer, making a good living shooting everything from the Nashville music scene to portraits of CFOs. To top it off, Accept's official Web site had become defunct.
Fast-forward to the present and not only have Hoffmann and Baltes reunited under the Accept moniker but they have created quite a metal buzz to go along with the band's resurgence. Their new album, titled "Blood of the Nations," is their best release since their '80s heyday.
And, sure, vocalist Dirkschneider rejected any offer to be part of Accept again, but in a classic case of serendipity, another great singer was found. An innocent jam session with TT Quick vocalist Mark Tornillo at Baltes' home last year developed into an epiphany: Accept needed to continue. Tornillo was a formidable frontman with the same gutsy growl that Udo had become known for. When Hoffmann and Baltes jammed with Tornillo for the first time, they knew he was a perfect fit for a new Accept.
"Blood of the Nations" is truly one of the best heavy metal albums this year. The European release came out August 20th. In Germany, the album debuted at No. 4 in the official German Media Control Charts, the highest chart debut in the band's entire career. The European response, in general, has been overwhelmingly positive. Only America awaits. On September 19th, the response in America is sure to be just as positive in the metal community.
A few days ago, Goldmine had a chance to chat with Wolf Hoffmann, resting at his home in Tennessee, after the completion of a major European tour (May-July).
Are you surprised by the huge German response of the new release?
Wolf Hoffmann: Heck yeah. I mean, it's going really really well. It ended up charting in a lot of countries actually. No. 7 in Hungary, No. 10 in Switzerland … I almost can't keep track of it all but it's amazing.
How do you think the response in America will be?
Hoffmann: I have no idea. Equally as good, I hope. But metal is probably not as big here, so I just keep an open mind. I don't know what to expect honestly.
The new album is just the right thing for old Accept fans. The sound is a combination of "Restless and Wild" and "Balls to the Wall." You have that power metal of "Restless and Wild" in songs like "Locked and Loaded" and "No Shelter," and then the great riffs of "Balls to the Wall" with songs like the title track "Blood of the Nations." It's perfect for fans of your two greatest albums, really. It's easy to like this new era of Accept. When you first told me about Accept's reunion, I didn't know what to expect.
Hoffmann: 99 percent of the people, as it turns out, were skeptics at first, and convinced this wasn't going anywhere. A lot of people flat out said, ''Without Udo they aren't Accept. We've been through this before, it can't be done . … blah, blah, blah …'
That was different though. ... the album the critics are probably referring to (1989's "Eat the Heat" with David Reece as vocalist). It was a different time then.
Hoffmann: That's what I keep saying. You're absolutely right about that. Just because it didn't work then, doesn't mean it can't work now. And you know how people are. They kind of prejudge us just because they think it can't be done. And now … wow. Boy, we now have people apologizing to us. And it's quite rewarding to see how they have all come around.
Did you intentionally go for that sound of the two classic Accept albums I mentioned?
Hoffmann: Yeah, I think we did. But, then again, you try to be as good as the stuff you've done in the past, and try to recapture that stuff. I think that this time we succeeded because of the unique situation that we're in. We knew what fans wanted much more than ever before. We know better than ever before what Accept stands for. And. to a large part, that's due to Andy Sneap [producer : Opeth, Killswitch Engage, Megadeth]. Because when he came on-board as a producer, he was also coming on-board as an Accept fan. He really had a clear expectation of what he wanted from the band.
Well, he knows Metal, too.
Hoffmann: He knows the metal of today. He knows all that stuff. But at the same time, he grew up listening to Accept, so he had a clear idea of which songs he favored over others. He made sure early on, in the song selection and the arrangement phase, that we go for the ones he liked best. So I give him a lot of credit, too.
Sneap made the record a good balance. It recaptures the old Accept sound but it's in-tune with today.
Hoffmann: Yeha, it has a modern sound, so that's good. He made sure we had that 2010 sound, but we have all the characteristics of the past. All the good riffs and the gang vocals. He also didn't want it to be too happy or too commercial. He kind of pushed us a little more into the dark side of things, which I think worked out really well. Overall, it was still us writing the songs. But it was a very good collaboration.
How do you come up with those riffs? Every riff's been kind of done before, but you still turn out some original-sounding riffs.
Hoffmann: I don't know, man. The riffs are always the easy part for me. Always has been. I'm the riffmerister, what do you think? (laughs) I mean, I can sit down and come up with stuff fairly easy. The teamwork after that is super important. How do you make a song out of it? And how do you turn this into something that's not just a riff? A riff in itself is just half the story, or even just a quarter of it. You need a good hook line, a strong chorus, and all the other stuff that makes a great song.
How is the songwriting for this album different than when Udo was in the band? You would write the guitar parts and Udo would write the lyrics?
Hoffmann: Oh no, it was totally different. Udo was never around when we did any of that. Udo, he can't write a guitar chord. He can't write a sentence of lyrics. We handed him over the finished product and he just sang on it. My wife Gaby (Hauke) actually wrote all the lyrics back in the day.
True. But I thought she started writing during "Balls to the Wall." She actually started before then?
Hoffmann: She was first involved in "Restless and Wild" to a degree [songwriting credit as "Deaffy"on the songs "Neon Nights" and "Princess of the Dawn"]. Even before her, we had a couple other guys that would go over the lyrics. But Udo never really wrote any lyrics. And Udo never participated in the songwriting. It was usually Peter and myself, and sometimes Stefan (Kaufmann), the drummer at the time. We would work out the songs until we liked the arrangements for weeks and weeks. And then when it was all said and done, Udo would come and take it and perform it.
With Mark it is different. There was still Peter and myself writing the songs for this stuff, coming up with the basic song structure and chorus idea, the whole framework of the song, and then we gave it to Mark pretty early on. It wasn't all the way finished and he wrote the lyrics around it and sometimes he even did the vocal lines and stuff. Sometmes he changed them around. Other times he kept them. On few songs he even came up with complete vocal lines and parts and stuff. So it was good teamwork, really.
And you never got any feedback or a response from Udo about this new album? Anything, like, 'Good job' or Good luck'?
Hoffmann: Forget that. Yeah, 'Good luck'... forget that. On the contrary, he's really weird. Even though he was invited to be part of it, he acts like somebody that was invited to a party, turned us down, and then is pissed off that the party is a success without him. It doesn't make any sense to me but that's how he is.
You would think that reuniting Accept would be a lot more appealing than his work in U.D.O. But hey, who can complain now? It's working out well without him.
Hoffmann: Yeah, I know. I mean, it was weird. We met him recently at a festival in the Czech Republic [Masters of Rock Festival], and we were playing that night, and he chose to be there and play a song onstage but not with us. As a guest for Lordi. So he sat around all day at this festival and I went up to him to say 'Hi' and wanted to hug him and say 'After all these years..." And he was really weird, like 'Don't touch me. Leave me alone.' I don't know what the hell his problem is but I don't have time for it. We do our thing and wish him all the best and let him go.
Is it true about an Accept fan bringing down Twitter?
Hoffmann: That is true. How about that? It's one of those wonderful stories. We had so many of those coincidences lately. While our video for 'Teutonic Terror" was released, and it's been one of the hottest videos in a number of places. So everybody was talking about it and this Turkish fan just sent a message to another fan saying something along the lines of 'Accept Rules' or whatever the Turkish word is. And that in turn cracked the code of Twitter because it meant 'Accept this other friend' or whatever that other word was. So you can send a message 'Accept Bill Gates' and they would automatically be your friend. So a lot of people did that and it spread around like wildfire, so everybody was friends with everybody, so they had to go in and stop Twitter, and fix that bug.
Hoffmann: I know. It all started with an Accept video. Imagine that.
The artwork of the album is cool, too. It's simple, thematic. It's kind of like a continuation of "Balls to the Wall." How did you come up with the concept?
Hoffmann: We knew that we wanted to call it "Blood of the Nations." We felt that that had potential for an album tittle more than any other track on this album. And a designer came up with the concept and we loved it because it ties in with "Balls to the Wall" and "Objection Overruled" and what not, and it has that symbolic, in-your-face feeling.
It's a long way from the Accept debut album, the chainsaw album.
Hoffmann: Heck yeah. (laughs)
Who the hell was that woman on the cover with a chainsaw anyway?
Hoffmann: Some model chick I think. In those days, our very first album was done without us even seeing the cover. They would send it to us and that was it.
You mean, 'this is what the album artwork is going to be, live with it'?
Hoffmann: No, I mean, like, the finished product. Same thing on the second album. "I'm a Rebel." That original album cover. What in the world was that?! Honestly, we never saw it before. They just sent to us when it was done and we were shocked. It was really bad, but at that point it was too late. We were just kids without any say or manager.
There were some good songs on that "I'm a Rebel" album: "No Time to Lose," for instance.
Hoffmann: Yeah, there were some good songs. A lot of stuff had potential. We do play "I'm a Rebel." It's still crowd favorite over in Europe. They love that song. I was never that crazy about it. Always felt it was good but never thought it was awesome, but, man, if the crowd still gets into it, we'll still play it.
I like how Mark is singing some of the more commercial Accept songs, too, like "Metal Heart," and making them sound heavier.
Hoffmann: I agree.
Do you feel liberated a little bit with this new lineup, it being so exciting?
Hoffmann: I mean, of course. Especially after the initial criticism of a lot of people saying it could never be done. We feel real vindicated and relieved. That makes us feel good despite all the critics. I'm not making this album as a personal vendetta against anybody. We just want to make good music, you know. At the end of the day, we just wanted to go out and do our stuff because that is what we love to do.
And live, you always seems to sound so perfect and crisp. Does that have to do with you guys being tech and sound geeks? Not a lot of bands are able to replicate their sound like that.
Hoffmann: Never heard that comment like that but it's nice because that's what we are trying to do. It's got something to do with the way we place the guitar sounds in the mix, maybe. And we have a certain style with the riffs that we play and a certain sound that we love. And it all comes across in the end.
And the band still has a lot of confidence on stage. You're entertaining. You don't just stand there. That's another thing bands lose as the years progress.
Hoffmann: We're all real fired up. We all fee like we're twenty-five right now.
So you would rate this last European tour as a huge success then?
Hoffmann: Huge success. Nobody knew on the outset what we were getting into or what people would say. And the first show in New York [May 8, Gramercy] had shown the trend. Thank God we were super well-received wherever we went. Whether it was Moscow or Germany or Bulergaria. I mean we played the Sonisphere festival in Instanbul and we've never ever been to Turkey. Ever. And there was 20,000 kids there. Incredible.
Did you light any white Flying Vs on fire?
Hoffmann: Not onstage but in our video we do.
You made a comment to me that touring has become a lot different than last time around. And you weren't sure what it was going to be like in America?
Hoffmann: We did all these Europeans dates as basically 'fly dates' which basically means we take a guitar, go on a plane. Nothing else. Everything else is rendered but it also means spending countless hours in the airport and with all the security stuff, it is such a pain nowadays. After all these flights you are really kind of spending days in the air for one hour onstage. So I'm really looking forward to the United States where it's a little more convenient, because we can sit on our tour bus and roll from town to town. That alone will be nice but it's also going to be nice to play in front of an American audience which we haven't done in forever.
Looking back now, what do you think your most memorable performance was? Was it at the Brooklyn Lamour gig in 1984 [March 10, 1984]?
Hoffmann: Maybe that Lamour gig. That was something special because that same night we played with KISS at Radio City Music Hall. That was quite a night. That is always going to be remembered. That was something special there, that gig. But recently we had some really memorable stuff that we will always remember. Instanbul or the (European) AC/DC gigs in front of 80,00 people. That's something you'll remember.
So you already thinking next album?
Hoffmann: Absolutely. I fell like we haven't done anything about it yet but Peter and I just started talking that we want to use this time on the road to gather some ideas and lay down some tracks on the road if we can. We want to have a little lab set up so we can jam on the road when an idea strikes or
An American tour can inspire you.
Hoffmann: Heck yeah. But its weird when you write songs it's never like they say it is, where you wake up in the middle of the night and you have this awesome idea and Boom! it's like a finished song or something. All of it is making yourself sit down and start work. When you sit down and start working on it, eventually that's gonna be something on tape. You can't just wait for inspiration. You have to force it out a little bit. And, personally, I have to force myself into that zone and once I'm in it, stuff starts coming. It doesn't come by itself you have to push it a little bit. It's just like writing. I would assume if you are writing a book, it is the same way. It's not going to fall out of the sky. You got to get your ass to work. Then something might happen . It's good old fashion hard work in the end.
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