An Interview with Mark Tornillo of T.T. Quick & Accept

0 0
Read Time:18 Minute, 29 Second
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is thumbnail_Image-1.jpg

Before invigorating German Heavy Metal powerhouse Accept with his New Jersey zest over a decade ago, Mark Tornillo was all but detached from the music industry.

For all intents and purposes, Tornillo, who rose to prominence as the frontman for New Jersey-based Heavy Metal band T.T. Quick throughout the 1980s, that chapter of his life was a distant memory.

The proverbial music pipeline had dried up and run its course; the members of T.T. Quick had already forged ahead with ventures outside of the industry.

But, as fate would have it years later, Tornillo managed to parlay an innocent jam session with Wolf Hoffmann and Peter Baltes into a return to the spotlight; this time, stepping into the immense shadow cast by Udo Dirkschneider and becoming the new vocalist for Accept.

Twelve years and five studio albums later, Tornillo has not only compiled an extensive catalog of his own but honed the classic material and made it his own.

Too Mean to Die, Accept’s sixteenth studio album, was released earlier this year. The album was met with rave reviews and showcases Tornillo’s writing chops while offering a promising glimpse into the band’s future.

I recently sat down with Mark to discuss, among other things, the ascent of T.T. Quick, initial involvement with Accept, filling the immense shoes of Udo Dirkschneider, chemistry with Wolf Hofmann, and the unique challenges of recording an album during a pandemic.

Andrew:
Given the volume of bands vying for recognition, I imagine the New Jersey club scene was every bit as unruly as it was competitive in the late 1970s.

Mark:
It was quite the circus. [Laughs]. You gotta realize, at the time T.T. Quick started – we first put up that T.T. Quick banner in 1979 – the drinking age had just turned 18, so the club scene was insane. It was 18 [in New Jersey], it was 19 in New York. Before that, it was 21 in New Jersey and had just turned 19 in New York, so everybody was going over the bridge. We played a lot of clubs over there, but once it turned 18 here, there were no holds barred. It was a zoo; it was a freakin’ zoo. We played six nights a week; we could have played seven nights a week if we wanted to. Sometimes, we’d do two shows a day. You couldn’t not make money if you were good.

Andrew:
What band do you consider to be the most important influence on T.T. Quick in the early days?

Mark:
Well, the band started out basically as a cover band. At one point, we had started doing a lot of AC/DC. This was right around late ’79 early ’80; we played a lot of AC/DC. All these tribute bands were coming out at that time and we didn’t really want to be a tribute band, so we were doing some original stuff and a lot of other covers. We figured it was worth trying with a gimmick, so we did what we called the “High Voltage Hour,” one whole set of AC/DC. And soon after we started doing that, Bon Scott died, so it really took off. Then, Brian Johnson came out and I had to sing that shit [laughs], but I managed to pull it off somehow. They were always a big influence on me, for sure, and I think on the band as well.

Andrew:
How did T.T. Quick ultimately get the attention of Johnny Z [Jon Zazula] and land with Megaforce Records?

Mark:
Well, Johnny Z still had his Rock N Roll Heaven store at the flea market here in New Jersey. Glenn Evans was the drummer at the time, and he was a frequenter of Johnny’s store. He was there all the time buying records; that was the only place you could go to get underground stuff. So, John was looking for bands to sign, and Glenn had told him about T.T. Quick. He knew about T.T. Quick and said, “Well, get me a demo tape,” so Glenn comes back and says, “We need a demo tape.” Dave [DiPietro] and I had been making demos all along; we just weren’t telling anybody. I met David in Connecticut — he saw T.T. Quick at the Agora Ballroom and wanted to work with me. He reached out to me, and I made a few trips up to Connecticut, and he and I wrote some stuff together and had a demo going. Low and behold, he wound up joining T.T. Quick because we needed a guitar player. When the time came that we needed a demo, we had it. It was almost everything that’s on the EP, except for “Go for the Throat” and a couple of other things that didn’t make it. That’s really what got us signed; Johnny listened to it and said, “This is pretty fuckin’ good.” Next thing you know, we had a record deal and were recording in Ithaca.

Image credit: Rock Scene

Andrew:
Do you have any recollection of recording that EP in 1984?

Mark:
The recording sessions were at Pyramid Sound up in Ithaca. Carl Canady, from the Rod’s, produced it. Alex Perialas, who owned the studio, was our engineer. It was a very strange experience for me, because we had never made a formal record before. It was really kind of strange, but fun at the same time. It came out really well and that EP actually got a lot of mileage. It wound up being the thing that got us signed to Island to do the Metal of Honor album.

As far as tour support, I don’t think we toured the EP, but we did a lot of touring for Metal of Honor. We played shows with Motorhead, Ted Nugent, Metallica, and toured all over North America; we never made it to Europe. There were a lot of things going on at the time. Thrash was becoming huge, and obviously we weren’t a thrash band. I think the label lost interest because of that. We weren’t big enough to be a mainstream act and we certainly weren’t going to be a Thrash band. So, a lot of bad decisions on our part, and we had a lot of illnesses going on at the time with people’s families; it was just one thing after the other. So, we wound up losing the deal with Island, but managed to do a couple of more indies on our own. It was a musician’s band as far as I’m concerned; we would play, and there would be nothing but musicians in the audience. Definitely to see Dave and Eric play.

I think one of my favorite shows from that [Metal of Honor] tour, was Motorhead; we played at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago [10-31-86]. It was Motorhead, T.T. Quick, and Cro-Mags – on Halloween night. It was pretty nutty.

Andrew:
For a band with such innate chemistry, what ultimately led to the demise of T.T. Quick?

Mark:
We were beating a dead horse. If you’re not going to make money doing this, there’s really no point to do it. I joined the Electrician’s Union; Walter had always been a businessman and had his own business; David went into construction. We didn’t want to play that kind of music at that point, either. We weren’t going to change our tune, let’s say. We made a lot of money for a lot of years, and it just wasn’t happening anymore. It was that way for a lot of musicians, especially on the club circuit. They were becoming wedding singers and shit like that. I’m like, “There’s no fucking way I’m doing this!”

Andrew:
You bounced back in a big way, however. Tell us about your initial involvement with Accept.

Mark:
I don’t know whether you’d call it fate or what the hell you would call it. It turned out that Peter Baltes lived 45 minutes from me; he lived over in Newtown, PA, and I’m in Huntington County, so it’s literally 45 minutes from my house. He was producing a record for his son at Surefire Studios, and they were in the process of trying to put the band back together, mostly because The Wrestler had come out and “Balls [to the Wall]” was a big song; they actually played it twice. They were getting some mileage and resurgence from that, and I think they figured if they were ever going to do it, now would be a good time. Udo [Dirkschneider] didn’t really want anything to do with it and made a lot of ridiculous demands, and they were like, “No fucking way.” So, they were kind of pissed off about it, but it is what it is. Wolf had come up here to see Peter, and he was at the studio one day with them, and they were bitching about the whole thing. The owner of the studio, Joey DeMaio, a friend of mine, said, “Why don’t you call Mark?” It was like, “Mark who?”“Mark the singer from T.T. Quick.” They were like, “I don’t know, why would we call him?”“Because he can do the job!” One thing led to another; I think they remembered that name from Michael Wagener because he had produced Metal of Honor and a lot of their stuff; he was actually in Accept in the very early days. At any rate, they called around to get my phone number, and one day my phone rang, and it was a friend of mine asking if he could give my number to Peter Baltes. I was like, “What for?” He said, “I don’t know what they want.”

[Peter] just called me one day and said, “Would you like to come down and jam with us?” I was like, “Yeah, why not? What do I got to lose?” I was sick as a dog, I had bronchitis, but I figured, “What the hell? I’m going anyway.” I could barely talk, but I managed to get some vocals off. Another friend of ours played drums; it was Wolf, Peter, and myself, and we jammed pretty much all afternoon. I did a little writing, a little recording, and I really figured that was going to be it; they never said anything about putting a band together, and as far as I knew, it was just for shits and giggles. Then, two weeks later, the phone rang again, and it was Peter saying, “What would you think about doing a record and a tour?” And I asked my wife, “What would I think about doing a record and a tour?” She said, “Well, you better do it.” We started, and next thing you know, we were writing an album. Then, they went and announced it on the internet, and low and behold, all the shitstorm started.

Andrew:
Replacing a founding member and centerpiece is never an easy task, and Accept is known for having a passionate fanbase. What was the reaction like on the heels of the official announcement?

Mark:
I was getting attacked from every angle. I was getting death threats; it was ridiculous. So, we literally just slowed down and said, “Look, if we’re gonna do this, we gotta write one killer ass fucking album.” That’s when we started taking our time and working through ideas. It took almost a year to write Blood of the Nations – before we started recording it. We really thought it out well and ended up getting Andy [Sneap], which was the icing on the cake. Without Sneap, I don’t think we would be where we are today.

Andrew:
Do you recall your first show as a member of Accept?

Mark:
Yes, because the first show we played was in New York and it was my people. [Laughs]. The very first show we did was at The Gramercy [5-8-10] in New York, and I think they released “The Abyss” by that time; the album wasn’t out yet, but I think they released “The Abyss” as a single. That went over real well; we were encouraged after that. In New York, I pretty much knew what we were getting ourselves into. The place only held 750-800 people, and it was 800 people I knew; that wasn’t that bad.

However, two or three days later, we were in Lithuania. Remember the old Little Rascals, where Spanky comes out on stage with a garbage can lid? That’s what I was thinking; I was waiting for the tomatoes and pea shooters, but it never happened. The real fans just embraced me, and I never looked back. I’ve never really had any kind of a problem on stage with the band.

Andrew:
Did you feel inclined to capture the classic Accept sound associated with Udo, or did you aspire to take the material and make it your own?

Mark:
I sang with a rasp no matter what, so that wasn’t an issue. As far as our new material, that never crossed my mind. When we do the classics, I don’t try to imitate Udo, but I try to make it sound like the records. The fans deserve that; they want to hear the music the way it’s meant to be heard. I do my best, but over the years, the classic songs that we do, they literally just become my way of doing them.

Image Credit: Life Photography

Andrew:
Did you feel any pressure filling Udo’s shoes, or was it a case where you put the proverbial blinders on and focused on the task at hand?

Tornillo:
Oh hell yeah, I felt pressure. I felt a lot of pressure. But as it progressed and started coming out better and better — and Andy started mixing it — the pressure was starting to come off. I was very encouraged by what we heard and hoped that the fans would like it as much as they liked the old stuff. It turns out, a lot of them did. Here we are five studio albums in.

Andrew:
Given the high-octane nature of the band’s catalog, is there anything specific that you do off stage to ensure your vocals are in prime condition?

Mark:
The only thing I do differently now that I never did in the old days is a good warm-up. When I joined Accept, I hadn’t sung professionally in a long time; it’s demanding, that many days a week. [T.T.] Quick would get together once in a while and go out and play, or we’d do some cover band stuff, but it was not that kind of demand. It’s not two-hour sets three, four times a week. So, I went to see a vocal coach in New York when I first joined the band and knew we were going out on tour. He really just gave me some pointers and made me a warm-up tape that I still use to this day. It’s a good 45 minutes to an hour of exercises that I do before we go on, but that’s it. And cool down a little bit, that’s the other thing. You get off stage; you try to cool down instead of just stopping abruptly.

Andrew:
The latest version of the band sounds incredibly tight, but how is your chemistry with Wolf after 12 years of working together?

Mark:
Wolf and I have a great relationship. It’s not like we’re drinking buddies and that kind of thing, but we have a great working relationship. Especially now that this album was the Accept album that’s ever been written without Peter, so we really had to have a different relationship for this record as far as writing. I think it really worked out well; I think [Wolf is] a little more confident now than he was – when you’re writing with the same guys for years and years, you depend on him. That’s the way I looked at David, too; he and I wrote stuff together, so the first Accept album, I was a little scared.

Accept – Too Mean to Die (2021)

Andrew:
You were heavily involved in the creative process behind Too Mean to Die. With Peter no longer in the mix, describe the artistic collaboration between you and Wolf.

Mark:
It’s all different; every song is different than the one before it. Some things started with a riff; other things – like “Zombie Apocolypse” – was a thing I had written. I just wrote lyrics for it; I heard it one way, and I sent it to Wolf. I really didn’t think he was gonna like it, and he loved it. He sent it back totally different than what I had envisioned, but so be it. “Too Mean to Die” was a riff; they wrote the music and then I wrote the lyrics. Sometimes it’s just a vocal idea, sometimes it’s music and the whole thing is recorded, and now it’s “Here, write some lyrics.”

Andrew:
How challenging was it recording an album during a pandemic?

Mark:
Well, when we started out with this one, things were going well. We all went to Nashville, and Andy was not going out with Judas Priest because their tour got canceled, so he flew over. We were all holed up down there recording it, and this was at the end of February of last year, so the pandemic was just starting up. We were more than halfway through recording, maybe even a little further than that, before they started closing everything up. We all started looking at each other – most of those guys lived in Nashville. Wolf is in Florida now, but he drove. But Andy had to get back to England, and I had to go back to Jersey. Andy was just going, “Look, if I don’t get out of here now, I may not get out of here.” So, he changed his flight, and I changed mine, and we said, “We’ll regroup when we can.” So, I wound up going back to Nashville in July, and Andy couldn’t get in the country, so we did the rest of it remotely with him. The program was set up that it was like you were in the same room, but there wasn’t enough bandwidth for it to work properly. So, what we did was we wound up setting up a Zoom meeting separately so he could see and talk, and we can record. And he uploaded all the tracks.

Andrew:
When you initially came into the fold, was there a specific kind of sound the band looking to capture?

Mark:
We were all basically looking for that 80s sound, especially Andy. When Andy got involved, the first thing he did was he took Peter and Wolf and sat them down and made them listen to all the old records. They had not listened to this stuff in years and years, and he made them listen to Breaker, Restless and Wild, Balls, and Metal Heart. He just went through every song and went, “Look, this is what we want, this is what we don’t want,” because he was listening to what we had been writing without him, and he was like, “No.” So, he really took the bull by the horns and pointed us all in the right direction. But then, that was the classic Accept sound, those albums. The things they did in the 90s were good, but they were kind of a different direction. I think they wanted to get back to the heyday.

Andrew:
What are some albums that mean the most to you?

Mark:
The Back in Black album is one of my all-time favorites; I’m a Bon Scott freak. That record just blew me away because I didn’t expect it. I didn’t expect they would be able to do it without Bon Scott, just like a lot of people didn’t expect we’d be able to do it without Udo. [Laughs]. I just didn’t understand how they were gonna overcome that—Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell album; once again, another replacement singer. Maybe I’m just partial to replacement singers. [Laughs].

Andrew:
What’s next on the horizon, Mark?

Mark:
I don’t know, bro. I want to go out and tour. I want to get out of this basement and go tour. I can’t wait to get back on the road, all of us feel that way, but it’s gotta be safe and lucrative.

Andrew:
With the extended break, how are you keeping your vocals sharp? Do you still work the warm-up tape into your routine?

Mark:
When we’re not working, I don’t do that, but I actually go out and sing with some friends of mine locally every once in and awhile. It’s nice for my voice to have a rest, to be perfectly honest with you. This is a little long; the last time I was on stage and actually sang was in October. I did a gig with some buddies of mine. I do a thing with Paul Crook, who used to be in Anthrax and was also Meatloaf’s guitar player for years; I do an industrial thing with him and Scott Metaxas from Prophet. It’s a cover thing, where we do a lot of mash-ups and stuff. It’s a lot of fun.

Image credit: Metalwani

Interested in learning more about the Accept’s new record Too Mean To Die? Check out the link below:

Dig this article? Check out the full archives of Shredful Compositions, by Andrew DiCecco, here: https://vinylwritermusic.com/shredful-compositions-archives/

About Post Author

Andrew DiCecco

Predominantly known for his NFL coverage, Andrew DiCecco is a Pennsylvania-based journalist with a profound passion for Rock music and its illustrious history. What initially began as a childhood hobby collecting CDs eventually evolved into a full-blown absorption into the world of Rock and Roll. An aspiring rock historian, Andrew seeks out every autobiography and documentary on Rock artists imaginable to further his knowledge to go along with a growing collection of vintage albums and magazines. Andrew’s musical preferences include, but are not limited to, Def Leppard, Van Halen, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Foreigner, and Journey. An innate appreciation for guitar heroes, Andrew cites Vito Bratta, Eddie Van Halen, John Sykes, George Lynch, Dave Meniketti, and Neal Schon as some of his personal favorite players. Andrew is also a regular listener to SiriusXM’s <i>Trunk Nation</i> with Eddie Trunk, his primary source of inspiration.
Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Average Rating

5 Star
0%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%

One thought on “An Interview with Mark Tornillo of T.T. Quick & Accept

Leave a Reply

Social profiles
%d bloggers like this: