Since I first became a fan back in 1986, German metal legends Accept have been one of those bands that I always looked up to and put right up there with bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest for being the forefathers of a whole movement of metal that would shape and inspire generations to come. I recently had the great honor of talking with guitarist Wolf Hoffmann about everything from their signature hit “Balls To The Wall” to his grim outlook on the future of heavy metal. Wolf was a super friendly and nice person and I really enjoyed talking with him. I hope you will enjoy this insightful interview as much as I did!
Wolf, before we get started I have to say its an honor to speak with you so thank you for taking the time to do this.
Thank you Don. Thank you for being a fan. I always try to say thanks to the fans because we forget sometimes.
I know many fans my age got into you guys after hearing “Balls To The Wall” but I have to say that it was “Up To The Limit” that really made me a fan and I’ve been a fan ever since.
Oh wow. Thanks!
It’s so great to see Accept back in full swing and kicking so much ass.
Thank you. There are so many fans like you who are glad to see us back which is a very humbling experience. We travel around the world and we meet people like you, older and even much younger who are so happy to see us come back. I think we’re one of the few bands out there still doing this old school stuff.
Are you finding a whole new generation of fans since Accept has returned to the stage?
Oh hell yeah. Sometimes its bizarre. The age range of our audience is anywhere from people in their 50s to much younger. When we started touring I figured we’d be seeing a bunch of grey haired people or bald people like myself in the audience who remembered us from way back when. You’d be surprised at what a wide mixture we have. Some nights there are a lot of girls out there and teenagers and everything in between. It’s just wild.
Over the years it seems that metal took a weird turn and totally changed from the classic metal that I grew up with. Now I’m starting to see a whole new generation of young bands bringing back that classic metal sound that I grew up loving. How does it feel to see these bands coming out and doing what you started so many years ago?
It feels good and the more the better. I just don’t envy these young bands nowadays because the landscape has change so much that unfortunately most of these bands are never going to see the light of day. A lot of them aren’t going to survive very long because it is so difficult these days to establish yourself and make a name for yourself and actually survive. I really wonder how many of these bands are going to be around ten years from now because of that. That’s just the unfortunate truth. There’s hardly any bands that truly stand the test of time and that’s the reason why on a lot of these festivals all over Europe you see the same headlining acts all the time. There’s really not many other bands that make it to that level. Even in our case. There’s really not any bands that took our place which is not what I had anticipated honestly. When we stopped touring and stopped making records, I figured we had a great run and that there would be another Accept coming up shortly and that they would do what we did and nobody would ever remember us. That really wasn’t the case.
Why do you think that didn’t happen?
I have no idea but we’re a dying breed. It seems like we’re one of the last of the dinosaurs. We are actually not the first generation of all these metal bands. I would say that was Judas Priest, Scorpions, those guys. We came up in the same generation as Iron Maiden when the New Wave of British Heavy Metal started to happen in the 80’s. We’re about 10 years younger than those other bands but after us there is not another wave of bands 10 years younger than us that have the same status.
I totally see that. I really do have high hopes for these new younger bands though. I hope that they will pick up the torch and carry it for us.
I hope they will too but so far I just don’t see it happening. I think there is always going to be bands who will make music and be very enthusiastic about it but to be a professional touring act who does nothing but make records and tour around the world is at a whole other caliber. There are just very few bands who are doing that in the metal world.
“Balls To The Wall” has to be one of the most famous metal songs of all time. Did you have any idea that song would connect with so many people?
No. We never had a clue. You always have a feeling when something feels right or when you feel a song is probably stronger than the other ones but that’s the extent of it. You never really know what’s going to happen once its released. Anyone who has ever released anything will tell you that you always hope that it will be a huge success in one way or another. More often than not its not. After you’ve made a few records you get a feel for what fans like and you get a little more realistic about it. You know its not going to be an overnight sensation after a while. Even with this album “Blood of the Nations” and the song “Teutonic Terror.” You just go and do the best that you can, you put it out there and you just sit back and wait for something to happen. People will either love it or they don’t and it’s totally something that you never really know up front or have the slightest idea.
“Balls to the Wall” is the song that everyone seems to connect to with Accept. Do you wish that sometimes a different song would have been your signature song?
Nah, I’m cool with it. I think its awesome. It was just recently in that wrestling movie with Micky Rourke and that song has made quite a few appearances over the years. I think it stands as an anthem for that whole time in the 80’s arena rock and metal.
You’ve been living in Nashville, TN for quite sometime now and even had a successful career as a photographer. How did a heavy metal legend end up doing photography in Nashville?
I’ve been here for about 17 years now. We moved there because it’s all about music in Nashville. I didn’t want to live in LA and I didn’t want to live in New York because we don’t like living in these huge metropolitan areas. Nashville was an obvious choice for us. It’s Music City USA [laughs]. Even though we’re not connected with the country music business it’s a great place to live. As for photography, I’ve always have always had an interest in it. When the band sort of stopped back in 1996 I really didn’t want to do any other musical projects because they would always compared to Accept right away. I didn’t want to for my own band because I would have to play “Balls to the Wall” every night and then I’d just be a cover band of my own music. I figured if I didn’t want to do music that my next passion in life was photography so that’s what I threw myself into for the next 10-12 years and I’m still doing that. I’m leading this parallel life. When I’m not on the road and I have time will do my photo shoots. Hopefully I can continue to do that for a long, long time.
What a great and different form of artistic expression. Do you find parallels between photography and music?
Totally. You do get a similar thrill out of it sometimes but its never on the same level. That’s why I missed making music. The thrill I get out of photography is nothing compared to the thrill I get from playing on stage or in the studio. That is a whole other level which is normal. You just don’t get that kind adrenaline rush from anything else in life.
While you had some time off after Accept, you did a few musical projects here and there. One of them was your contribution to former Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach’s album “Bring “em Bach Alive.” How did you get involved with that?
We have a farm in Tennessee where we live and there was a building on that farm that we rented to Michael Wagner, the producer who actually worked with Skid Row back in the day. Michael was always working in that studio and it was literally walking distance from the house and all these metal guys would come over there and record their stuff. One day Sebastian was over there doing some work on his solo album and since I lived there they would always ask if I would play a solo or help write a song. I got talked into doing something with them once or twice and I really enjoyed doing it for a day or two.
Are there any other artists you would love to collaborate with sometime?
I don’t know. I’d have to play that one by ear. These things happen a lot of times because you just hit it off with somebody you happen to meet. In my mind, you just meet somebody and if you like them you just work with them. I’ll work with anybody if I like them.
In 1997, you released the album Classical with rock versions of classical pieces. I really loved that album as it was really an amazing listen. Are you a classically trained musician?
Oh cool. Thanks. It was a huge challenge. I’ve always dabbled around in classical music ever since I was a kid but I’m not a classically trained musician. I just play rock guitar. I have a minimal theoretical background but that’s kind of it. I play from my gut more than anything. I’m not a trained musician in that sense. I’ve always played with classic elements in Accept songs. Songs like “Metal Heart” and other songs kind of became a trademark of mine over the years. When the band took a long break I had the time and the opportunity so I just locked myself in the studio for a few weeks and wrote a whole classical record. Its really more a labor of love as I knew it wasn’t going to be anything on the scale of Accept. I just really wanted to do it for myself. I didn’t tour or put together a band. I just wanted to do it for myself.
I can totally appreciate that because I always though it that many metal bands had classic elements to their music.
I always felt that about classical music. There are certain pieces that would me me go, “Wow. Now that’s really got some balls every bit as big as a band could ever get.” A lot of it is because an orchestra has so many more nuances and so much more dynamic range than a band ever has. I always felt that it would be cool to capture that and combine the two worlds. I’m working on a follow up project to “Classical” that has never been released but hopefully when Accept slows down I can work on that but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon [laughs].
I was so blown away when I heard “Blood of the Nations.” It sounded like a young, new band with that classic Accept sound. Where you surprised at the feedback and reactions you received from this album?
But we are young! We are all 22 didn’t you know? We’re counting backwards [laughs]! We knew people would be highly critical of the band. When we announced we were coming back with Mark (Tornillo) on vocals everybody told us up front that it was not going to work and that nobody needs Accept without Udo (Dirkschneider; original vocalist). We got tons of hate mail which was kind of funny but it just made that whole album better. We were convinced that we needed to be twice as good and to show everybody what we can do. It was on every one’s mind that the world was watching and that we better not mess up this one [laughs]. It influenced our attitude and work ethic to make the best album possible and to show the world that we still have it and that it is possible to write a great Accept album with a new singer. There was this universal thing out there that it was impossible and it can’t be done. We didn’t understand that because Peter (Baltes; bassist) and I have been writing songs back in the 80’s and we are writing the songs now. We didn’t understand why it would be impossible to have a great album with a different singer. Now everyone has come around they love the new album which is great.
Your producer Andy Sneap really did an amazing job on “Blood of the Nations.” Do you feel like this album really captured what Accept is about?
Totally. Andy did such a tremendous job and we couldn’t have done it without him. He was instrumental in this album in picking the right material to record and he got us the best sound that he could, the best production. He was really a master in his field and we are really happy to have him on board. He’ll obviously to the next one as well. I cannot wait to start working with him again. He’s a really good friend and a great team player and he really made this album possible.
I don’t think some people realize just how important of a role the producer plays in a band’s creating of an album. The way you guys sound on this album is exactly how I wanted to hear you.
That is in part because Andy grew up as an Accept fan. He grew up with all our albums and he is super familiar with this stuff. Now that he’s actually producing us he got the chance to make the album that he would want to hear as a fan.
Accept’s “Blood of the Nations” tour has been quite a success. Are you enjoying getting to play lots of different venues on this one?
Yeah, we’ve been touring super hard. We’ve done it all. We’ve played some huge stadium shows in Europe. We opened up for AC/DC in front of 80,000 people and the next day we were in a small club in front of 500 people and everything in between.
Have you guys been working on new material while out on the road?
No, we never write on the road because you never really have enough time. That is why we’re going to stop touring in July because if we don’t stop we would never get a new album done [laughs]. We would like to start working later this summer to start cranking out new songs so we’re going to lock ourselves in, turn off the phones, stay off the road and create some magic hopefully.
Wolf, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today. It’s been an honor and you and Gabby (Wolf’s wife/manager) are both very kind people.
She’s the best I know [laughs]. It’s been my pleasure Don. Thanks again and bye bye.
For more on Accept, head over to http://www.acceptworldwide.com