An Interview with Wolf Hoffmann of Accept

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Image credit: Stephan Birlouez

Metal is more than just a genre. It exists and dwells beyond simply defined constructs. It’s much more than a concept. Metal is a lifestyle. If you love it, you truly live it. If you live it, you breathe it. And if you breathe it, you embody it day by day.

In early 2021, when veteran Metal outfit, Accept, released their newest effort, Too Mean To Die smack dab in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were doing more than just pushing new tunes out into the world. No, they were reminding us that life is a litmus test, and this newest record would be their boldest, and most brash statement yet.

Too Mean To Die is a reminder that in life, you’re going to be handed lemons, and you can either lay down, or you can get mean, and make the ultimate pitcher of lemonade. It’s also a more than subtle and scorching reminder that Accept is here, they’re raring to go. Soon, they’re going to blow the roof out, and rip your face off in the process.

In this chat with founding member and guitarist, Wolf Hoffmann, we keep things very current. Among other things, we touch on the band’s upcoming tour, the writing and recording of Too Mean To Die, integrating new members into the fold, and a whole lot more.

If you would like to learn more about Accept, grab some tickets, or check out their newest record, I would encourage you to head over to the groups’ website here. Once you’ve done that, dig into this interview with Wolf Hoffman. Cheers.

Andrew:
Wolf, thanks for taking the time. How are you holding up?

Wolf:
How are you, my friend? I’m doing well. Nice to finally talk to you.

Andrew:
So, I see that you’ve just announced a European tour. After being off the road for so long, you must be excited to finally be able to play live again.

Wolf:
Oh, hell, yeah. We are all excited as hell. I mean, this has never happened in all these years that we’ve been just forced to stay off the road like that forever. So it’s going to be strange. You know, we’ve all been semi-retired here for a few months, so we definitely have to put in some rehearsal time before the first shows. We’ve actually already started doing some of that just to stay in the game a little bit. I mean, it’s been a year and a half since our last show. So it’s crazy.

Andrew:
For a band that’s been on the road as you have for over 40 years, it must have been a big change of pace. What do you miss most about touring?

Wolf:
Just the excitement. In a musician’s life, you always have something that you look forward to that you have to get done. There’s always a deadline on something that kind of gives you purpose to get some fire under your ass. You have to get it done. Once you’re committed to a show or an album release or something like that, you know you’ve got to stay with it. And now that you don’t have that, one day goes into the next without any deadlines, it’s really weird, right? I think time is slipping through our hands.

Andrew:
It’s sort of like a lost year in a way. It’s kind of sad.

Wolf:
I know. And you kind of look back at this last year and think like, “What have I done with my life really, other than sitting around waiting for things to get better.” So, it’s lots of time. Just..lots of time to make up for.

Andrew:
I couldn’t agree more. So, I believe Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons as well as Flotsam and Jetsam will be supporting you on this tour, right?

Wolf:
Yeah, that’s awesome, isn’t it?

Andrew:
It certainly is. Tell a little bit more about the bill. What can the fans expect from this tour?

Wolf:
I mean, I think we’ve got three really well seasoned, well-oiled Metal machines on the road together. We’ve all been doing this long enough that we know how to go about it. And I think fans can expect a very professional package there. I’ve watched Flotsam and Jetsam a couple of times, and some of the guys are actually personal friends of mine. So, I kind of know them. But I don’t really know much about Phil Campbell, other than the fact that he’s been in Motörhead and he’s like, you know, a veteran just like us, but we’ve never played together before. So, it’s going to be interesting.

Accept – Too Mean To Die (2021)

Andrew:
That should be a really cool show. And of course, in January, you guys put out the great new record, Too Mean To Die. So you must be pretty happy to be able to finally tour behind it.

Wolf:
That’s right. And when I said earlier that I look back at this last year, at least we’ve made this record. So, I think that’s an accomplishment.

Andrew:
It’s definitely a really good record.

Wolf:
Well, thank you very much. And it’s been super well-received. The fans really, really like it. And all the people who have heard it are really into it.

Andrew:
Over the last decade or so, you guys have put out five excellent records. You’ve got Blood Of Nations, Stalingrad, Blind Rage, The Rise Of Chaos, of course, Too Mean To Die. Now, in the 90s, you guys had a little bit of a shift in sound, but it feels like, with these last several albums, you really made a commitment to hearkening back to the classic early sound of Accept. Can you expand on what led to that decision?

Wolf:
Well, the 90s were a shit time altogether. And I think we experimented like a lot of other bands because everybody knew the classic Heavy Metal was out of fashion and it was dead. Grunge time was around and all kinds of new music trends started to develop. And I guess everybody was sort of fishing a little bit for where they belong and what their new sound should be like. And so did we. You know, we experimented and it didn’t really work out that well. So, when we got back together or regrouped, we knew we wanted that classic period of the 80s, but obviously with modern production values and with brand new songs. And that’s what we’ve been doing. And this is still my motto today when I’m writing and recording. And as a matter of fact, I was just sitting here writing another tune or attempting to write something. It’s always when it feels like it’s the 80s and it’s somehow old school, that’s usually a good sign. That’s what we’re going for.

Andrew:
Got it. So, that’s the wheelhouse right there.

Wolf:
Yeah. We’re not trying to reinvent anything. I mean, you always try to expand a little bit. And I think with Mark Tornillo as a singer, we have tremendously expanded, but don’t really ever wander. We don’t really want to go off course if you know what I mean. We have a sound, we have a fanbase, we have all that. So we just try to deliver on that.

Andrew:
You’re doing what you do best. And I think that Mark [Tornillo] has done a really incredible job of stepping into the shoes of Udo [Dirkschneider
]. In your opinion, what has Mark brought to the band that has allowed you to recapture that sound and, honestly, make some of the finest music the band has made since its 80s heyday?

Wolf:
Well, it’s the fact that he can deliver the old material because his voice is somehow reminiscent a little bit when he does his high-pitched screams. So, that works really well for all the old material. At the same time, the guy can really sing, hold pitch, and do all these things that you need. For instance, to do a ballad, you really need to show emotions. Mark does that really, really well. We’ve done some really cool, slower songs, for example, on Too Mean To Die, you’ve got “The Best Is Yet To Come,” and I think you can really hear on that song that he almost sounds like a different singer altogether, really emotional and really, really good. So, I think he has got these multifaceted ways about him.

He’s definitely kind of taken the mantle here and made it his own, and I think it’s one of the rare instances when a Metal band has changed lead singers and it works as good, if not better than before. That’s really a super rare accomplishment. We all were very, very aware of the risk when we did it, but we felt we had nothing to lose and that Mark was such a good fit that it was now or never. You know, we were prepared for anything when we started this whole thing. We didn’t really know if it was going to work as well as it did. I think it probably has worked better than anybody could have imagined with five great records, and it’s going strong. We’ve got a fantastic producer, and I think we’ve got a really good team together.

Andrew:
Absolutely. Also of note, this record is the first record without original bassist Peter Baltes. Tell us a little bit more about the departure of Peter. I know he was important to the process of songwriting. What was it like recording Too Mean To Die without him?

Wolf:
Yeah, it was a little bit of a sudden and sad departure after all these years, but, you know, it is what it is. We didn’t really feel like it’d be fair to anybody to call it quits. I really wanted to keep going. Obviously, I’ve written stuff in the past by myself. You know, Peter and I wrote a bunch of stuff together over the years, I mean, I don’t know hundreds of songs, I’m sure. So, we really knew each other well. We knew what the other guy was thinking before it was even said, that that sort of relationship. At the same time, we’ve always written individually where I wrote a bunch of stuff and played it to him and he wrote some stuff. So, it’s not totally unfamiliar to me, but it was always good having him on my side. But now that he’s gone, I just worked with the other guys, and luckily enough, our new bass player, Martin Motnik, is a fantastic songwriter. He really contributed some stuff that nobody expected because we took him into the band as a player, not so much as a potential songwriter. I mean, you always hope that somebody will and wants to write, but you don’t know until you actually start doing it. So, when the songwriting time came, I asked and invited everybody to contribute stuff and Martin really came around.

Andrew:
I was going to mention Martin. Take me through how you guys got hooked up with him. In terms of the recording, and as a touring outfit, what does Martin bring to the table? How does he fit in? Has the transition been seamless from Peter to Martin?

Wolf:
So, obviously, he’s a different player from Peter and we weren’t trying to find a Peter clone or anything, and couldn’t expect that. But he’s really a tremendous player. We hooked up in Nashville because Martin had heard that Peter had left the band. So, he sent us his contact information, and he happens to be a German living in Nashville, which is kind of a rare thing. So, now at least we kept a contingency of Germans in the band, which is good. [Laughs]. But that wasn’t the only criteria. Obviously, he’s a super nice guy and his personality really fits well. So, he’s an awesome player, a great personality, and a good songwriter. Pretty much all you can ask for. It’s great.

Andrew:
I wanted to touch on Mark Tornillo’s role as a songwriter on Too Mean To Die. Now, I’m sure he’s contributed to the four previous records, but I’m wondering, did he get more of a chance to shine as a songwriter considering the void that Peter left?

Wolf:
Well, the way that we work has always been remarkably similar over these years. Of course, we always keep saying it’s really all about the vocals. In the end, I can write any song or the best, whatever, but if the singer doesn’t get into it and in this case, if Mark doesn’t really latch on to something and doesn’t really get into it, then it’s all for nothing. I think it’s really every song is at least 80 percent about the vocal delivery and how does it cross, because that’s what people hear first. So it’s always been super important to get Mark on board and get Mark’s take on things, but I very often write songs where I do some scratch vocals. In the past, Peter has done it as well just to get the songwriting process along. Then when we feel it’s a proper song and it’s actually worth giving it to Mark, we’ll send it to him and he comes in and that changes everything, often, you know, always really for the better. Some songs just simply don’t work as well as you had hoped. It’s kind of what every songwriter goes through. I guess you really always have to hear it with the final people. The same with other things. Like we use, for instance, drum machines. I use easy drummer, by a company called Tune Tracks, and it’s great. It’s awesome. It’s really the first take. You think like, “What do I need a drummer for? Because it’s all pretty perfect.” But that makes a huge difference when you get a proper drummer in the end. Everybody brings their own personal energy to the game. I always prefer to ride with one or two people at first until we get somewhat of a song structure in place and then retune it, find it, and refine it with everybody later on.

Andrew:
What I like about the new record is I think it really feels like the band is firing on all cylinders. You’ve got a really nice symbiotic relationship happening and I know that sometime relatively recently, the band added, I believe a third guitarist in Philip Shouse. I was wondering, after all these years, how did Phillip end up in the band? There is a precedent for Metal bands having trios of guitar players. For example, Iron Maiden has done it and I wondered what kind of led you guys to want to have that as well. Does the third guitarist bring in an additional dimension that you feel the music was lacking?

Wolf:
No, not at all. We didn’t really feel anything was lacking. It wasn’t so much a question of why? It was more of a question of why not? We got to know Phil when he filled in on a tour we did two years ago with orchestras when our other guitar player wasn’t available, he did that tour with us. And we got to know him. He’s such an awesome player, and such a super nice guy that we all felt it would be a shame to never use him again. And then the idea was brought up, “Well, why couldn’t we have Uwe and Phil?” Because then what? That does enable us to do more stuff that you cannot do with just two guitar players. More twin solos. You can have a rhythm guitar player. Another thing we’re doing right now, we’re going through the old songs and we’re trying to find parts…guitar parts that were on the record, but obviously, you can’t do live with just two guys, right? Parts and things like, acoustic guitar bits and pieces that we’re trying to simulate in our live shows and things that add a little color to a studio production, but that you always leave away live because you have to. So, we’re trying to make it worthwhile having a third guitar player now. It’s great. It also worked really well during the recording of this album because Phil came in and did a bunch of leads, and we were trading off licks and stuff. So, that really added another dimension to the album, I think.

Andrew:
Yeah, I would say this lineup is maybe the most versatile lineup you’ve ever had.

Wolf:
Yeah, and it all started with this orchestra thing. But, you know, here we are, expanding the sound a little bit. So, I wouldn’t say it really is going to change us dramatically. It is just going to add another flavor to it. It’s just going to make it a little more…diverse, maybe.

Andrew;
Cool, so seeing as you guys are going to be doing this European tour, I wanted to touch on the European Metal scene. What I’ve always found to be sort of an interesting phenomenon when it comes to Metal, and you alluded to a little bit before how in the 90s, especially here in North America, things really kind of waned out with Grunge. From what I know, and you could correct me if I’m wrong, it seems that in Europe, Metal has always had such a strong following and continuous fan base. So, what is it about Europe that has led to the culture of Metal music being so engrained over the years compared to here in North America? In Europe, there seems to have been continuous love for the genre.

Wolf:
Yeah, I’ve always wondered about that. I never really found a good answer either. I mean, I’m thinking about that myself often why that is. I just noticed that Germans and Europeans, in general, seem less trend-oriented. So, if they like something, they say, “Fuck it, I like it. What do I care what everybody else likes? Maybe it’s not in fashion right now, but I still like it.” They still go to these shows as they did in the 80s. As a matter of fact, they still dress the way that we did back then, where everybody has gotten jean jackets with patches and long hair. And even though they’re maybe in their 50s and 60s they bring all the old leather jackets, and they go to these festivals all over. It’s a different crowd altogether, that’s for sure. They do seem to like traditional melodic Metal. I mean, they have a certain taste that’s slightly different from American audiences for sure. It’s much more long-term and much more stable.

Andrew:
Definitely. Ok, so, a little bit more on the tour. Once the European leg winds down, which is still a ways off, as you’ve still got to start the tour, of course. But once that winds down, what’s next? If the restrictions lighten up, do you think we could hope to see Accept touring in North America?

Wolf:
We’re going to announce some American dates soon. We’re going to do it before we even go to Europe because right now it looks like nothing’s going to happen this summer in Europe. We were hoping until just a few days ago that we could play some festivals in Scandinavia because it looked like they would go through, but the plug has just been pulled, I believe. So this would be the second summer season for us that’s been canceled.

Andrew:
That must be so bizarre after so many years of being on the road continuously. I can’t imagine.

Wolf:
It is bizarre, but it’s also our livelihood. So it’s terrible, of course. It’s not only financial stress, but it is also it gives you…I said earlier…when you go on tour, this is what we do. It’s our livelihood. It’s our life purpose in a way. You want to go out and play in front of people. You want to get that excitement. This is why we do this. This is why we make records, and this is why we make videos. All that stuff…really the purpose is always to be out there and playing live, you know? And when you can’t do that, it’s terrible.

Andrew:
I can only imagine. Speaking of playing live…off the new record, what songs are you most looking forward to finally getting to stretch out in a live setting?

Wolf:
There are quite a few on this album that we’re definitely going to try. Certainly the first two, “Zombie Apocalypse,” and “Too Mean To Die.” Those might be good openers, I think. And then certainly we’re going to do “Overnight Sensation,” probably “The Undertaker.” And hell, there’s a couple of others that we at least want to try. I mean, the thing is, with a new album, you don’t want to go overboard. If it was up to me, I probably would play six or seven of the new songs just because they’re new and they’re exciting, and I like them. I think they’re really good. But then there’s always a certain amount of the audience that hasn’t gotten the new album. So, it always feels a little strange to play too much new stuff because people come there was a certain expectation, and they want to hear some of the old-time classics or a lot of them. So, you only have so much room to sneak in new stuff, but they find a pretty good balance.

Andrew:
I think these songs will definitely sit nicely beside the old material for sure.

Wolf:
Yeah, no doubt there. I feel very confident in that.

Andrew:
I’ve got a couple of easy ones here and then I’ll let you go. This record was released as a really nice vinyl package. So on the subject of vinyl, are you into records or cassettes? CDs? How do you like to consume your music these days?

Wolf:
I don’t consume music at all. I work in music, so I don’t really consume much music, to be honest. I mean, I have a collection of Classical stuff that I have on a hard drive that I sometimes stream through the house and do that kind of thing. Other than that, I don’t really listen to much Metal or much music at all. I like a little peace and quiet sometimes. I don’t know, I don’t constantly feed myself new music. That’s never been my thing. But some other guys in the band may, they listen to stuff all day long. They always get their iPod or whatever air pods in and, every train ride, every plane ride, you see them, you know, doing that, not me. [Laughs].

Andrew:
If you do on occasion throw something on what are a few of your all-time favorites that you make the exception to listen to still?

Wolf:
Oh, I still get excited when I hear a good old Judas Priest, British Steel, Rainbow, and ACϟDC. Those are all-time classics. Sometimes like even older stuff like Black Sabbath, some of their early stuff.

Image credit: Ronan Thenadey

Andrew:
All right. With the lifting of the restrictions, at least here in North America, we’re seeing what the post-COVID world is going to look like for music. In your opinion, should other artists, whether they’re big, small, or in between, should they be excited? Should they be concerned? A little bit of both? What advice would you have for everybody going forward?

Wolf:
I think it’s going to change the landscape, at least in the short term, because a lot of people, I believe, especially people in the music business, like the crew people and other people, couldn’t just survive without anything. So, I’m sure a lot of them will have taken other jobs, and I think it’s going to be a wake-up call when we all want to start touring again. I think it’s going to be different. Maybe even some venues will have closed, and I hope not, but I am prepared for that. It can’t just go back to normal like that. I think it’s going to take some time to rebuild the whole touring and live show business, because I think a lot of companies, a lot of bands maybe have called it quits. I mean, I don’t know, to be honest, because I don’t have that many other contacts. I mean, we’re definitely going to go back out as soon as we can. That’s all I know. But I think it’s going to change the landscape quite a bit.

Andrew:
Hopefully, over time, it works out and becomes a roaring 20s scenario of good music and good times.

Wolf:
Yeah, and the other thing that’s slightly concerning is how is it going to be when things finally are back? Everybody wants to go out at the same time. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be like the Oklahoma land rush where everybody hops on the tour bus at the same time and wants to go out to play at the same venue. So, it’s going to be crowded out there when it opens back up.

Andrew:
Maybe we’ll see a bunch of joint efforts where everybody hops on multiple tours together, so they don’t create this crazy bottleneck.

Wolf:
Yeah, exactly. But, you know, I’m sure there’s going to be a pent-up demand by the audience as well when it finally opens up where people can finally go to shows again. I know people are starving for that live entertainment or to go out and mingle with other people, all that stuff.

Andrew:
Yeah. I never thought I would go this long without live music, you know? Well, that said, that’s all I’ve got for you, Wolf. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Wolf:
You’ve heard enough of my whining already? [Laughs].

Andrew:
I really appreciate it! [Laughs]. The new album is great, and we’re looking forward to finally seeing you guys live again when you can come to New York.

Wolf:
Thank you very much, my friend. And don’t forget, I’m too mean to die anyhow. So there you go.

Interested in learning more about Accept? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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