Interview : Wolf Hoffmann, ACCEPT

MIND OVER METAL INTERVIEW WITH WOLF HOFFMAN OF ACCEPT
transcribed by Steve Moore

Mind Over Metal: This is Metal Matt Longo from MindOverMetal.org and WRUV FM Burlington. Today I am speaking with Wolf Hoffman, the guitarist from the legendary German metal band Accept. Their new album is Blood of the Nations. It’s currently available in Europe. It will have to wait a little bit longer for all of us here state side – the middle of September. I actually got an advance copy. I was listening to it this morning. I want to thank you for joining us today, Wolf, and tell you that it sounds pretty badass!

Wolf Hoffman: Well, thank you very much. It’s great to be with you. Yeah, I think it’s a great album.

Mind Over Metal: Why was it important for you guys to finally come back together and release this new album, after it’s been 14 years since Predator came out in 1996.

Wolf Hoffman: Well, it actually happened because we met a new singer. It all started about a year ago when we ran into Mark [Tornillo] by pure luck. We were having a jam session and he joined us. We weren’t really looking for a singer or anything, but when we met Mark, we were blown away by what a perfect fit he would be for Accept. We decided on the spot to reincarnate Accept after so many years. One thing led to another and we decided to make a new record. Here we are a year later.

Mind Over Metal: I’ve never heard of his former band, TT Quick. Had you been aware of his other band before this?

Wolf Hoffman: Not really. I mean, I’d heard the name in the 80s but, you know, it’s been many years…

Mind Over Metal: They never did very much as a band, I don’t think.

Wolf Hoffman: No, not much, but like I said, it all happened because we met him in person and loved the way he sings, and how much of a great fit it is. We decided it would be a shame if we didn’t do this.

Mind Over Metal: Yeah, that’s the funny thing. It seems like, Udo has gone and done it’s own thing and we all know there has to be a new direction for this album. It’s just funny how someone could be with a band for so long, then come join a clearly established band like Accept, and be such a perfect fit.

Wolf Hoffman: Right. Accept were kind of on a hiatus the last few years. It was clear that Udo had no interest in rejoining us. He made that clear more than once. He ruled that out forever basically. When we met Mark, we thought “Wow! This is perfect. Now we can go on tour and we do what we wanted to do all along. We don’t have to ask Udo anymore.”

Mind Over Metal: Yeah, because it was largely started by Udo back in the day. Did you guys always feel like you had to ultimately go by his wishes with the band?

Wolf Hoffman: No, not really, but if you don’t have a lead singer, you can’t go on tour. (Laughs) Know what I mean? He left our band Accept more than 20 years ago to start his own project U.D.O., so you have to understand that he had his own priorities even though it was hard for us to understand. He made that decision and we had to live with it. No longer though, we have a new guy now. We love it and it’s a perfect fit.

Mind Over Metal: How did you guys approach the songwriting on this album as opposed to previous efforts?

Wolf Hoffman: Well, it’s not much different. We tried to write an album that would blend in and continue on with what we’d done in the 80s. We wanted it to sound like songs we could have written back then. Only we wanted, of course, fresh ideas and a fresh sound and all that, but as far as the actual song material, we really tried to give the fans what Accept is best known for and go back in time a little bit.

Mind Over Metal: I also noticed you extended your average song length on this album. Almost every track (except for a handful) are over 5 minutes. “Shades of Death” is 7 and a half minutes long!

Wolf Hoffman: I think that’s a sign of the times nowadays. Back in the day you were always told you can’t be over 3 or 4 minutes or you couldn’t get played on the radio, so you almost had that restriction in your head all the time. You know, we’re writing songs because we want to play them live. Let’s play them like we would play them live. We don’t have to have this radio formula anymore. We let them run until they’ve run their course.

Mind Over Metal: Yeah. That’s awesome. You don’t have to abridge a song prematurely if that’s not the way you feel like it needs to happen.

Wolf Hoffman: Yeah, I feel like as long as it’s interesting, it can be as long as it wants to be.

Mind Over Metal: Absolutely. Now, do you feel as though the climate has really changed since you guys were starting out—when there were a lot less independent labels and more major label push? Now you’re on Nuclear Blast, who, in the Metal world, are very big, but they’ve built it up from the grassroots. You’ve got all these labels like Nuclear Blast and Metal Blade that have been around for 20-25 years and metal seems the strongest it’s ever been. How do you think that compares to being a formative metal person growing up in the 60’s and 70’s?

Wolf Hoffman: Everything changed, honestly. You know, the Internet changed everything. The labels are structured so much differently now. I mean, when we were sort of  big in the 80’s we were with Sony. That was a time when there was Michael Jackson and they had these huge artists selling like, 40 million records…everybody that could compete with that and only sold a million or two would be almost considered a failure back then. It was ridiculous compared to nowadays when record sales are much different. Anybody selling those numbers would be considered a huge success now. Everything has changed. We just have to adapt to the times and see where we fit in…make the best of it. You can’t turn back time.

Mind Over Metal: It’s good to hear that. You’re 50 years old. You’ve been in the business of making music for 35 years now and it’s great to hear that you have such a sense of adaptability considering that the game has changed so much these days, especially in the last 5-10 years…with the way things get distributed digitally, purchasing and accessing music is so different.

Wolf Hoffman: Right. Nowadays you have to look at the record differently. Back then, it was the tool to make money or to support yourself. You basically went on tour to support the record hoping that you sold enough records to make it all back. That was the model then. Now it’s mostly about playing live and, I wouldn’t say giving the record away, but…it’s almost coming to that point now where you don’t expect to support yourself from record sales anymore. I know some people do give the record away to get the name out. We’re not doing that. We can’t, but that’s kind of the trend nowadays.

Mind Over Metal: It seems like this is still absolutely what you want to do though;  you want to make music with Accept – that is the most important thing, Wolf, for you to be doing right now with your life, despite how hard it is.

Wolf Hoffman: Exactly! Or else you wouldn’t be doing this. You know, I’ve been away from the music business for quite a few years now. I really missed it, I have to tell you…  I became a photographer.

Mind Over Metal: I was going to ask how that was working out for you.

Wolf Hoffman: Really well, actually. I mean, I’m probably making more money doing that than making music, but I love making music. It’s really what I’m here to do. I just love being on stage with the guys, and having people sing along with your songs is an incredible thrill. Photography just can’t give you that, as nice as it is.

Mind Over Metal: But it’s still something you’re passionate about and it’s a great thing to fall back on if it’s also something that you love. Do you document Accept when you guys go out on tour as well?

Wolf Hoffman: Oh, absolutely. I always bring my camera.

Mind Over Metal: What’s the product of that? Is it going to be a book, or will you use it for liner notes or something?

Wolf Hoffman: We’ve used my pictures all along, on album covers here and there…you know, if we go enough interesting places and gather enough material I would certainly consider doing that. Absolutely. The behind-the-scenes footage maybe.

Mind Over Metal: Being in a band for so long, and with there being so many covers done of your songs—“Balls to the Wall”, especially—I was wondering if there’s any cover you’ve heard that you thought really nailed it?

Wolf Hoffman: It all depends on what you consider nailing it. I really think it’s nice if a band does a cover version in their own sound so it’s almost completely different, but it’s the same composition. I heard Dimmu Borgir do a song from “Midnight Mover”. I really liked that. That’s what I like, where it sounds like themselves, not too close to the original…when somebody can put their own twist on a song.

Mind Over Metal: I actually heard this band recently called Benedictum. They’re from San Diego and they’re fronted by this woman named Veronica Freeman. They do a really mean version of “Balls to the Wall” as well.

Wolf Hoffman: Yeah! I did hear that actually.

Mind Over Metal: They are very good.  I wanted to ask you too…I was going through some of the lyrics of the album. Tracks like “No Shelter” are pretty dark and apocalyptic. Do you feel we’re in ending times?

Wolf Hoffman: Well, we’ve always done that. We’ve always used stories and themes…things that are happening around us. Stories that you read in the paper or see on the news…it’s funny that you mention “No Shelter”. It’s actually written about the whole Wall Street financial scandal, the Bernie Madoff’s of this world—they’re now rotting in their cell. Then we have a song called “The Abyss” which is indeed about the world coming to an end. This is actual stuff that’s happening all around us. Sometimes you look around and think “Is this really going to get better or is it going to get worse from now on, as far as the environmental tsunamis and thunderstorms and floods…it seems like the best days are over sometimes.

Mind Over Metal: Yeah. It does seem to happen every century—and certainly every millennium—people start to wonder if they are in the ending times. It’s an easy way for us to keep track of things I guess. When you look around at things like that, it makes you wonder how much more we can sustain as a species…because the Earth can clearly sustain itself. It’s suffered worse than us…

Wolf Hoffman: It’s that stuff that kind of makes you think. I don’t think it’s the end of the world quite yet, but we’re just talking about that kind of stuff. That’s all.

Mind Over Metal: Yeah. And even if it is the end of the world we’re still going to be rocking all the way there. (Laughs)

Wolf Hoffman: Oh yeah, of course we are! To the very end, man. Fist in the air.

Mind Over Metal: Well, we’re getting near the end here. I want to ask you a couple more things before we go. Can you tell us about any upcoming tours or videos that you have. Actually, the video that you did for “Teutonic Terror” has done really well as far as popularity and MySpace was getting a lot of video hits and everything. Can you tell us any special stories about the shooting of “Teutonic Terror”?

Wolf Hoffman: Yeah, we shot it in Los Angeles. It was a night time shoot and we found an incredible location through our producer David Black. It was actually a place where they store old military equipment. It looked like a graveyard with tanks and rocket launchers and whatnot. We happened to get the permission to shoot there so we used it to full advantage. As heavy metal as can be, you know! Nothing more metal than a solid steel tank, is there? It was a fun time. We had a great night shooting that and I think it turned out really, really well. And we are indeed working on a second video right now.

Mind Over Metal: Really? What’s the second video going to be for?

Wolf Hoffman: “Pandemic.” It’s going to be much different than this one but very cool I think. I’ve seen some preliminary footage and I think it’s going to be way cool. We’re spreading the Metal disease, man!

Mind Over Metal: (Laughs) Well, if you want to catch the metal disease from Accept on tour, what is coming up for tour dates? What do you guys have planned for the rest of 2010?

Wolf Hoffman: Well, we’re actually going to start touring in September. We’re going to start on the East coast and hopefully reach somewhere near Vermont. That’s where you are, right?

Mind Over Metal: That’s where I am. Usually with Vermont, [those who] can’t come here go to either Montreal or Boston. Either way, hopefully I’ll be able to catch you.

Wolf Hoffman: I need to look up the date. I think we’re playing in Boston. Maybe that’s within reach.

Mind Over Metal: Do you know who you’ll be touring with?

Wolf Hoffman: Kings X, actually.

Mind Over Metal: Really?

Wolf Hoffman: Nice package, yeah.

Mind Over Metal: That’s really cool. I haven’t heard much from Kings X in a while and I was really into them back in the day.

Wolf Hoffman: They are great players and I think we’re going to have a hell of a time. It’s going to be great.

Mind Over Metal: Nice. Alright, for more information on Accept, there are a number of places you can go. www.acceptworldwide.com would probably be the best one—that is the official website.  And for more info on Mind Over Metal you can go to www.mindovermetal.org. I want to thank again my guest today, Wolf Hoffman, guitarist from Accept. Thank you so much!

Wolf Hoffman: Awesome, thank you! Nice to be with you!

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