Interview with guitarist Wolf Hoffmann
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: February 16, 2023
Accept is still going strong. Since these legendary German metallers released their twelfth studio album in August 2010, their first with Mark Tornillo fronting the band, it's been an uphill trajectory from one album to the next. Many top positions on album charts and successful world tours seem to indicate the band has a new fire burning in their hearts, making them more than a nostalgic act.
The band's sixteenth studio album, Too Mean to Die, is a fine example of the band's fresh and vibrant take on high-profile metal songs that prove the band is as relevant as ever, still pleasing their fans like they did when ex-vocalist Udo Dirkschneider was fronting the band.
The Metal Crypt caught up with the always polite guitarist and songwriter Wolf Hoffman in Helsinki, Finland, on February 2, 2023, when the band was about halfway through their ongoing European tour. We sat down and had a nice chat about some touring matters, what it takes to be successful, the story behind Martin Motnik and Philip Shouse joining the band and even some fan messages that touched people's hearts and souls...
Welcome to Finland... once again. How many times have you been to Finland so far, playing with Accept?
Wolf: Thank you very much. It's always nice fun to be here. We've been here probably, I don't know how many times, but half-dozen, maybe more. I don't know. I've been here quite a few times, probably even more. It's usually more often than I think because I don't know, even in the '80s, I'm sure we've been here, but after a while, it all becomes a big blur and I lose count. Sometimes there's this website called Setlist.fm and you can actually see what the dates are. I've checked that once in a while, but it's crazy.
I saw you guys at the Rock in the City Festival in Kerava, Finland, last year playing along with Uriah Heep and Deep Purple among others as well...
Wolf: Yes. We played a lot in Finland last year. Oh, yes. In the summer. A lot of festivals. That was great. It was just beautiful to play there.
THE SUCCESSFUL EUROPEAN TOUR
You started this ongoing European tour on January 14, 2023, and according to some of your fans' reactions and hard statistics, it seems like it has been going really well. Would you go as far as stating this may well turn out to be one of the best and most successful tours that you have done with Accept?
Wolf: It really is. It's crazy, isn't it? It's really, really going well. The houses are packed. We're playing better than ever. We sound great. People love it, and we're having a ball. It's really going well. A few months ago, it didn't really look so good because nobody knew how tours were going to go. Even right now there are tours that are being canceled left and right. Our tour's doing phenomenally well. It makes me very happy.
From what I've heard, when the tickets for this tour went on sale, the gig in Denmark sold out in advance and now there are even more sold out shows on your European leg of the tour, which must feel great...
Wolf: It's crazy....! I know, and some gigs have been sold out for some time and even the ones that aren't sold out, they're really filled up to capacity, like ninety-something percent. It's crazy. It's really good.
Due to the pandemic this tour was postponed not once, but twice. Did this break increase your hunger to get on the road ASAP? I mean, two years is a very long time to wait for the chance to play in front of all of your fans out there...
Wolf: It really is. I'm so glad because once something has been postponed twice, there's almost a bit of negativity attached to it because it almost is like food that's been warmed up again and again, you almost think, "Hey man, it's getting better." Even with food, sometimes it gets better if you warm it up again. [*laughter*] I don't know. It's always better to have something fresh and right out of the box. When the album comes out, you go on tour, but we all know it was impossible.
Too Mean to Die, which is Accept's sixteenth studio album, was released on January 29, 2021, and it went as high in the German album charts as number two. Did it surprise you that it did so well in Germany?
Wolf: Totally. We've hit number one in Germany with one of the previous albums. I forget which one. Now being number two is amazing. Who knew after all these years that we could still do this.
WORKING HARD TO GAIN SUCCESS
Accept have been one of the longest-running German heavy metal bands with a career that spans over many decades, so you certainly have a lot of history behind the band. But that does not always provide you a free ticket to success. It comes through the hard work you put into your band and all that jazz, right?
Wolf: Correct. You can't really take anything for granted. You can fade away or you can have a resurgence. Anything can happen in this crazy business. The worst mistake you can make is taking things for granted. I think what people are really seeing in Accept is the fact that we are really trying to make albums that are relevant and that compete with our history. I think fans can really feel that we're putting in the effort to make something worthwhile and we're not just putting out new music as an excuse because there's always that tendency and you could theoretically say, why even bother?
We have all these old albums and people want to hear "Balls to the Wall" and "Princess of the Dawn" anyhow, so why do we even make new music? I think that's a deadly trap if you fall into that because then that means you're basically just a nostalgia act. I think that's the difference between nostalgia and what we are trying to do. I think these last five albums have been as strong as anything we did in the '80s. Even during the live shows, you'll see that we play a lot of new stuff and people love it. It's really not the case that they just want to hear the old stuff. Not at all.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN QUICKIE SEX AND A FULL-BLOWN SESSION
As you have released so many albums over the band's long career, I imagine it becomes harder to build up your set list for a tour like this, in which you should both promote the new album and also please your fans who would like to hear a bunch of classics like "Restless and Wild," "Breaker," "Princess of the Dawn," "Balls to the Wall" and so on. Do you flip a coin each day to determine which songs to choose for each gig?
Wolf: I'll tell you how you do it. You try it out, you go out there and you take your best guess and you see if one maybe is not so good. Maybe you try a different one tomorrow and after a while, you have an album. I've been doing it for years and years. I have a pretty good idea of what people like and why they like it, and under what circumstances. For instance, we're going to play some slower songs tonight, but we probably wouldn't do that at a festival because a festival is more like wham-bam, thank you, ma'am kind of stuff! I usually say it's the difference between quickie sex and a full-blown session, if you know what I mean.
Haha... that's a clever way to put it.
Wolf: You get the foreplay and all that good stuff here, but a festival's always like--
Let's forget the foreplay. Let's go straight to "the main dish," so to speak...
Wolf: Haha... exactly.
I believe you have some sort of rotation of songs that you change every now and then, just to keep things interesting and fresh, right?
Wolf: Yes, we do. We also do it for ourselves a little bit as you said. However, I personally don't mind playing the same set every night, but Mark and some of the other guys say, "Hey, why don't we mix it up a little bit? It keeps it interesting." It's also good for the fans that are seeing more than one show. It's three or four songs that we rotate every so often just because we have more songs we'd like to play. We've got a really good set list together now.
It's all just wild guessing but do you believe people here in northern Europe have the kind of DNA that is more favorable for metal music in general? Have you ever tried to figure out why Accept's music goes down so well in some countries while in other countries the band could do a tad better, sales-wise?
Wolf: I've always wondered why that is. I know the audience is a little crazier the further south we go. When we play in Spain, it's absolutely nuts, where sometimes northern countries are a little more reserved. Then again, we played in Estonia yesterday and people were absolutely fucking nuts, as bad as Spanish people. It's unexplainable to me. Some people have just different attitude towards live music or more expressiveness in them, but as far as album sales, is there a trend? Yes. I guess we've always done really well in Scandinavia. That's all I know.
MARTIN MOTNIK AND PHILIP SHOUSE JOINING THE BAND
The Accept family has two "almost" new members who have both been in the band since 2019, Martin Motnik on bass and Philip Shouse on guitar. What's the story behind how they joined the band?
Wolf: After Peter Baltes left the band, we were looking for a bass player and we auditioned a few people, and one of the last people we found was actually a German guy living in Nashville. That sounded like a perfect combination because I would really like to keep some "Germaness," if you will, in the band, if possible, but at the same time, a lot of us live in Nashville, Tennessee, and he met both criteria.
He is German and lives in Nashville, so right around the corner, and he's an amazing bass player, a super nice guy. He was really a great find. The reason why we have a third guitar player is very simple. We did an orchestra tour in 2018 called "Symphonic Terror," and our other guitar player, Uwe Lulis, was not available because of some health concerns and some surgery on his leg. We had Phil as a stand-in because he was good friends with our drummer, Christopher Williams, and he also lives in Nashville. After the tour was over, we all said, "Man, he's such a perfect fit. We all like him so much. He's such a great player, a good showman on stage. He's amazing. At the same time, we already had Uwe and he's great too." We said, "Why can't we have them both." We just...
... you just went with it.
Wolf: Yes, went with it. I have to say I was originally not skeptical, but I thought, "Do we really need that?" or "how is it going to sound? Is it even going to make a difference? Is it just visual or is it real? Can you hear it?" I have to say the band sounds killer with three-guitar players. I never thought that was even a thing, but it really opens up the spectrum quite a bit. We can do different parts that we couldn't do before. We can do twin guitar solos and still have a rhythm guitar. It's killer. I really like it. I think it's part of what appeals to people right now about this band. Really, there's an energy that's really like we're on fire up there.
I think our dynamics are a little bit different here in the band when you're really shredding like crazy. Everybody's got great parts to play. We all play an equal role. It's great. Obviously, I'm the elder statesman in the band, so I have a bigger role. It's only because I've been writing all this stuff over the years and all that. Other than that, man, it's a perfect band feeling in the band.
Have you ever tried to do some gigs or even a whole tour that contain songs chosen by your fans, like allowing them vote on social media to make sort of "Best-Of" Accept set that would be chosen by the fans?
Wolf: We actually have done that once in the past, let the fans vote.
Oh, you have?
Wolf: I know what the outcome will be already. I take that into consideration. It's an idea. It's just we can't really do a bar band thing and call it out and say, "Hey, any suggestions?" That's not how it's going to work.
But yes, we've already done these things online and asked people what they want to hear. We take that into consideration.
CHICKINSON AND MCBURRAIN
How did you end up choosing LA's The Iron Maidens to open your shows?
Wolf: We just heard they are a great band. We met them in LA. We just thought it's a perfect fit for the band. Originally, it was going to be somebody else. It was going to be Phil Campbell about a year ago, but I guess he's not available. Things change when you reschedule a tour. It doesn't mean that the guys from two years or one year ago are still available, because they have other plans. They might have an album to work on. I don't know why. Then The Iron Maidens were suggested, and we thought it was perfect because Iron Maiden is classic heavy metal and about the same era that we are from, but with a twist, it's presented by some girls, ladies. It was awesome.
Not only do they play those classic Maiden songs pretty damn well, but they also have pretty cool nicknames in the band, like Bruce Chickinson (aka Kirsten Rosenberg) and Niki McBurrain (aka Linda McDonald). Have you made any jokes about these nicknames during this tour, I mean in a friendly and humorous way, of course?
Wolf: I didn't even know those nicknames. No, man. It is the first time I heard about that.
Wolf: Yes. I didn't know what. Funny. They probably have nicknames for me, but I don't know about that. I haven't heard it.
After this European tour, you'll be heading out to do a tour in South America, playing in countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and so on...
Wolf: Yes, we're going to do a couple of weeks South America, some exotic places. Then it's almost time to work on a new album. I definitely have to do this. I'm actively writing songs every day at the moment.
During this tour?
Wolf: Yes. It's not my favorite thing to do, but I have to because I've been so lazy during COVID time. I'm way behind.
HUNT FOR RIFFS IS ON
Many musicians say they cannot write stuff during a tour. They just want to concentrate on doing the tour and after all the touring and stuff they need their own time and space to be able to reach that writing mode within themselves...
Wolf: I know. I've never written on the road much. I just have recently started doing it here and there and it has pros and cons. If I had my choice, I'd rather not have to do with it, because I just want to concentrate on the gig. At the same time, there's a lot of free time during the day sometimes. You'd sit around, and especially on days off, you sit in the hotel all day. You got nothing much to do anyhow, so I've got my guitar. I've got my laptop. I can start cranking and working on stuff. It's actually time well spent.
Are you the kind of a guy if you get a cool melody in your head, you really need to go and pick up your guitar, try it out and eventually save it by any recording equipment you have available at that time?
Wolf: I do that all the time. Most of the time, stuff starts to happen while you're working on something else. It usually doesn't pop into my head out of nowhere. You start working on something and then you, I don't know, you take a walk, then you think about it, and then something else. All of a sudden, you get into this creative zone and things start appearing out of the universe. I have to be in the process or else it doesn't happen. I'm not like Mozart who woke up and had a symphony in his head. That never happened and never will.
Are there some periods within a year when you feel you are at your most creative, like spring when nature starts blooming?
Wolf: That's just wishful thinking. I have a tendency to drag my ass if there's no fire and no deadline, then it's always like, "Let's go out and enjoy. It's a beautiful day. Fuck it. We'll do it tomorrow," kind of thing. That's not good. You have to do it. [*claps*]
The record company isn't setting any deadlines for you?
Wolf: No, not at this point.
For many bands, they are kind of "forced" to get a new album every second or third year, then jump on the tour train again to support the album and the same cycle goes on and on...
Wolf: Fortunately, not for us after 45 years. They know better. We have a new label, so I'm sure they're waiting anxiously to get this new album.
They can also understand when a new record is done, it's done - and that's basically it.
Wolf: Right. We're pretty disciplined. We'll get it done. We are not a band that waits around for five years just because we aren't in the mood. We've delivered these last 10 years pretty well.
After your South American tour, it's spring in Europe, which also means the start of the festival season for many bands. What does the summer of 2023 look like for Accept regarding this festival aspect?
Wolf: We won't do the festival shows this year. I think we're sitting out this year because we have to get this album done. We did a lot of festivals last year. This year is probably off for summer festivals. It's not a problem. It's already decided. We're not going to play any festivals this year.
TOUCHING FAN MESSAGES
I just recently came across a fan message from Accept's official Facebook page where one of your fans wrote to your management that he had suffered a severe brain hemorrhage last year, and because of that, he was in a coma for a few weeks. What really struck me in his message was how he openly told of how much strength and hope he had gotten from one of the biggest Accept classic songs, "Fast as a Shark," which helped him in his healing process. Have you received similar stories from other fans over the years who have been struggling in their lives for a number of different reasons but then found the comfort and power from Accept's music to carry on in their lives?
Wolf: Yes, I do. I hear these stories. Not all the time, but we do get these letters. He's not the first guy to tell us. But his story is absolutely heartbreaking. Sometimes, we hear stories like "There was this guy who wanted to be buried in an Accept t-shirt. He died and Accept was his favorite band." All this moving stuff that you go like, "Goddamn, our music means a lot to people." Sometimes, it's overwhelming because I have a tendency to say, "We're not curing cancer. We're not doing anything super important. We're just having a bit of fun, making a little music."
Then you hear stories like that, and you think, "God, it's beautiful. That stuff actually means a lot to people." I put all my heart and soul into everything, I do, but I have a tendency not to take myself too seriously thinking, come on, it's just music. It's just a bit of riffing and guitar playing and screaming but no, it's more than that, really.
OK, my time's up, so thank you for your time, Wolf, and all the best for you tonight's gig as well.
Wolf: Thank you. Now I have to rush a bit to do the VIP thing...
|Other information about Accept on this site
|Review: Balls to the Wall
|Review: Staying A Life
|Review: Metal Blast From The Past
|Review: Metal Heart
|Review: Blood of the Nations
|Review: Blind Rage
|Review: The Rise of Chaos
|Review: The Rise of Chaos
|Review: Too Mean to Die
|Review: Restless and Wild
|Interview with Wolf Hoffmann (Guitars) on October 16, 2010 (Interviewed by MetalMike)
|Interview with guitarist Wolf Hoffmann on June 15, 2015 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
|Interview with guitarist Wolf Hoffmann on July 22, 2017 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
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