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Steel Mill interviews the legendary Accept guitarist

Interview By Jari Asell & Kimmo Tattari / November 2010

One of the most awaited comebacks in rock’n roll became true as german heavy metal legends Accept re-activated again and started to spread their teutonic metal terror upon the audiences world wide. With a fierce new album ‘Blood of the Nations’ out, Accept engines are blazing on high fuel once again and Steel Mill seized the opportunity to exchange some words with band’s guitarist, the one and only mr. Wolf Hoffmann.

Accept is back and the Metal Heart is beating strong. How does it feel to be back in the spotlight again?

We all feel absolutely great. Back in the saddle again… it feels great to be back doing what we love most. And the reaction of the fans has been nothing short of overwhelming. They have been missing Accept as much as we did.

You’ve got the excellent, new album ‘Blood Of The Nations’ out, and some heavy touring behind you. How has the response been out there?

Wherever we played live this year we had a phenomenal fan reaction. People are blown away by how good the band sounds now with Mark.To be honest, we had no idea how the fans would react to the new album and the new line-up. We knew we had made the best possible album we could have made but in the end it is always up to the fans to decide whether they like it or not. So we are more than happy that we are getting this amazing reception. Some people call it the Metal album of the year. That’s not bad after a 15 year break…

Was it so that Andy Sneap (producer) gave you some homeworks before final songwriting sessions, did he tell you to listen out “Breaker”,”Restless and Wild” and “Balls to the Wall” to bring back the right Accept sound and attitude?

Ha, yeah, that’s right! Over the years we had sort of forgotten a bit what Accept is all about and what exactly it is about Accept that the fans liked. That is something that is hard to recognize yourself as an artist, I guess… Keep in mind, some of the classic riffs and songs were written almost 30 years ago! So how do you write something that sounds as fresh and as typical Accept as those old songs NOW? Not easy…

Andy made us break out the old classic recordings and pointed out nuances and elements that made Accept special in his eyes. Andy is an amazing producer but also a life long Accept fan who grew up with our music. So he knew the stuff inside and out , almost better than we do. Once we were focussed on the direction things went pretty smooth and an abundance ideas kept coming. We must have worked on about 30-40 songs all in all.

After seeing you live in Helsinki last spring, I’m more than convinced that Mark Tornillo is a perfect frontman for this new incarnation of Accept. Was it an instant decision to form the band again after you had heard Mark sing?

Peter and I knew in an instant that this is something special. I remember the moment very clearly when we were jamming that day in 2009. I thought: this is too good to be true. Mark sounds like he was in Accept all his life. A perfect fit.

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Let’s get back to your history for a while. How did you get involved in Accept in mid 70s?

I was 16 years old when I heard through a friend that Accept was looking for a guitar player. I auditioned and got the gig. About 6 months later they replaced the bass player with Peter Baltes. Peter and I have been playing together ever since. We have been friends and song writing buddies for about 35 years now.

Did you have any bands before joining Accept?

Not really. Nothing that I would call a band, really. I played with some friends here and there but nothing lasted longer that a few months. So Accept is my first ‘real’ band… and hopefully my last…

Accept’s second album, the first released internationally, ‘I’m a Rebel’ included the title track by Alex Young. Is it true that it was first written for AC/DC?

Yes, that is true. We had heard about the track through our publisher in Hamburg. It was written by Alex Young, a brother of Malcolm and Angus of AC/DC. They never released the song but we had a demo cassette with Bon Scott on vocals. I wish I still had that tape but I am afraid it got lost in the shuffle over the years.

The year 1981 was important for Accept. Did you, back then, sense that something special was in production while you were recording your 3rd album, ‘Breaker’?

Not really, I but it felt like we were finding our style more and more with each record. So Breaker was just another step in that direction for us.

The same year you toured Europe supporting Judas Priest. Do you still remember that tour? Are there any anecdotes you could share with us?

We were dirt poor and literally hungry most of the time. It was a self financed tour, without any label support. So on occasion we tried to sneak into Judas Priest’s dressing room and steal something from their deli tray. One day we got caught by their tour manager and thrown out of the room, ha!

The tour was a great and eye–opening experience though, our first tour with a ‘real’ band. Of course we wanted to be just like them and subsequently there were quite a few Judas Priest influences in our next records.

Also, here is another episode from that time. Peter had his only bass stolen one day in this tour. One of the guitar players, can’t remember whether it was K.K. or Glenn, was nice enough to drive home and bring us his own personal vintage Fender bass to use for the rest of the tour. It was pristine with not a mark on it. Well, let’s just say it wasn’t pristine anymore when Peter got done with it after the tour ! There were scratch marks and belt buckle marks all over it!! Remember in those days we all wore these studded belts – they left terrible scars on the instruments. Ah well… battle scars give an instrument more mojo!

Accept and Judas Priest on tour ’81
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Was it during these days that you first met Gaby Hauke, who later became a big part of the band as a manager and also as a lyricist under the pseudonym ‘Deaffy’? 

It was shortly before this tour. Gaby actually booked us on that tour – despite the missing support from the label she managed to do it.

She played a huge part in this band over the years, most people do not realizing that. Without her you might have never heard of Accept. We finally, after 30 years thanked her publicly for all her contributions in the liner notes of Blood of the Nations.

Looking at your discography, it seems that since releasing the next album ‘Restless and Wild’, a certain winning formula had been born, and a chain of metal classics such as ‘Balls to the Wall’ and ‘Metal Heart’ followed. How do you remember those days?

I remember that during the recording of Balls to the Wall I was working by day in a hospital in Solingen. Germany had the military draft so everybody had to go to the military unless you opted to do ‘civil service’ instead. That’s what I did for 18 months.

Funny enough, we had to keep it a secret because we signed a world wide record deal at the time and of course that includes lots of touring – kind of a problem if the guitar player is not available. Luckily, it all worked out, nobody found out and my service was almost over at that point. I recorded all the guitar tracks for ‘Balls’ at night after work .As soon as my time in the hospital was up we went straight on tour for many months through the US. A fantastic time…

The song “London Leatherboys”(1983) has got memoriable Accept style guitar riff , main riff is same or almost the same as in Judas Priest´s song “Killing Machine”(1978) , so was that a coincidence or w as it intentional?

I discovered that after the fact and thought “Oh shit… it is indeed very similar…” But it was not intentional. Maybe it was subconscious… we always loved Judas Priest and the riff felt great.

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‘Metal Heart’ included some classically themed guitar parts, which have later become a sort of a trademark for Accept. In 2003 you also released a solo album ‘Classical’. Classical music must be close to your heart?

Yeah, I have been a fan of Classical music for a long time. I always wanted to do more of a combination of Metal guitar and classical music. So that’s why I realised that dream one day and just made the “Classical’ cd. It was mostly a labor of love for me. A studio project that I always wanted to make.

You also have interesting big production called “ConcertoMondiale”, how has that been?

It is a great and ambitious project with lots of other musicians and big production. I have written all the music for it but it is currently on hold because of Accept. As soon as I have some time on my hands I would love to bring it on stage.

K.K.Downing is also a fan of Flying V´s and strat´s ,do you have your tools also with scalloped necks ? Is there something extra in your guitars?

I have always been a strat and a V player, yes. I love the strats for their versatility and the way they feel. And I love the V’s because they are the ultimate metal guitar. Nothing looks as cool on stage as a Flying V. So in a way it’s a show guitar and the strat is my favourite studio tool. So my ideal guitar is a combination of the two. A V with a tremolo and strat neck and a single coil in the neck position. I am a big fan of Floyd Rose systems and EMG pickps.

Jörg Fischer, the second guitarist during most of the 80s, has been absent from the scene since Billionaire Boys’ Club’s debut in 1993. Do you know what he’s up to nowadays?

I have not seen or talked with him on over 20 years. We lost track of him. We actually tried to find him several times over the years but it seems he is retired from the music scene and does not want to bothered. So we respect that decision…

Udo Dirkschneider left the band after the ‘Russian Roulette’ tour in 1986. U.D.O.’s debut ‘Animal House’ sounds more like Accept than U.D.O. What’s the story behind this release?

That is maybe because Animal House was written entirely by Peter, Stefan and me. It was our present to Udo in order to give him a good start in his solo career.

By the way, we always split song writing royalties and credits with everybody in Accept – whether they participated or not.

Between 1993 and 1996 there were three more Accept albums, again with Udo. The music, as well as the times, were different back then compared to the 80s. Was there a conscious effort to update Accept’s sound?

The early 90’s were a weird time. Change was in the air, we were looking for a way to stay relevant without being repetitive. We also wanted to expand our style.

Interestingly, most other bands in our genre went through similar phases in their careers in the 90s. It was not a good time for metal to say the least!

After disbanding you made a career as a photographer. How do you see the state of album artwork now, during the days of digital music distribution, when album sleeves are, in worst cases, mere stamps on iPod screens?

I don’t really shoot many album covers nowadays, I do mostly commercial and corporate work.

You recently recorded a live show in the US .What should we expect from Accept in 2011? A new album, a live dvd ?

I think we will concentrate on touring for most of 2011 and hopefully record enough material to release a live DVD. Many fans are asking me about it …

Thank you Wolf! Keep feeding the Flames!

My pleasure…! See you soon on tour !!!

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