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ACCEPT No Substitute: An Exclusive Interview With WOLF HOFFMANN Of ACCEPT

By Shelly Harris, Chicago Contributor
Monday, March 21, 2016 @ 3:49 PM

"Nobody's mentally prepared for things to take five or ten years to get anywhere, and most people give up before then, in this age of instant gratification"

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"It's on, it's on! - I can't tell you how many interviews I've done when it wasn't on!" laughs ACCEPT's guitarist and cornerstone, Wolf Hoffmann, as we double-check my old-school tape recorder that's placed near him. We're inside the band's decked out RV in the alley behind the Arcada Theater, in St. Charles, IL, where the band are about to do a rare late night performance at the storied venue in the far west suburbs of Chicago.

It's been roughly 30 years since I've interviewed the Euro-Metal maestro in person, and very little has changed other than the absence of his flowing blond locks he once sported in the 80s. He still manages an impressive balance between easy-going openness, intelligence, and an earnest professionalism that has only become more pronounced with the march of time and experience, and he still retains a slight German accent - a reminder of the band's Teutonic origins - but with an articulation and vocabulary that would put many an English major to shame.

The same is true of ACCEPT's long-time manager, Gaby Hoffmann (nee' Hauke) and one-time incognito lyricist (the mysterious "Deaffy"), who calls in cheerfully just prior to the interview and to chit-chat with me on Wolf's cell phone - just to double-check that all is well. One of only a few female managers in the business of steering a world-stage band in the machismo realm of heavy metal, and certainly one of the best ever with regard to professionalism and follow-through (perhaps an interview for another day on the topic of the Women Behind the Metal), Gaby assures me that the band had better put on a fantastic show this night, before we sign off to keep Wolf from waiting even longer.

And Wolf does have many things he's willing to elaborate on: Not only the ACCEPT, Mach 2, backstory (which essentially began with the acquisition of American vocalist Mark Tornillo in 2009, and which has included the release of three subsequent albums: Blood Of Nations, 2010; Stalingrad, 2012; and Blind Rage, 2014), but also several future things on the front burner for ACCEPT and Wolf solo:

KNAC.COM: I noticed this was only the second gig in America on this tour this year.

HOFFMANN: Yeah, if you can call it a tour. Yes, really this is two US dates, then we take two weeks off, and then we go to Austria and South America. Crazy, huh? (laughs) This is just the nature of the beast nowadays. We don't particularly want to do that, it's just wherever the demand is. Where the wind will take us, that's where we'll go! We're definitely a world traveling band.

KNAC.COM: I know you toured extensively last year with this latest album.

HOFFMANN: Oh, yeah, with this album we've toured more than ever. This has been going on for two years - almost - now!

KNAC.COM: But the album itself came out in 2014, didn't it?

HOFFMANN: Yes, it came out in the Fall of 2014, and did really well, world-wide, especially in Germany - it went number one there, which was a huge thing for us. That is something that had never happened, and it might never happen again! But, hopefully it does! (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Did you analyze the reason that finally happened now?

HOFFMANN: I think maybe it was the right album at the right time. It worked out perfectly and it was just one of those things. We can only do the best album we can, and then, at the end of the day, it's up to the fans to decide if they like it a lot.

KNAC.COM: You have said that the new albums were a return to the classic ACCEPT sound, especially Blind Rage, but do you think it might have anything to do with, over the years, that there comes to be a certain kind of respect - especially for bands like ACCEPT that are considered forefathers of the type of music you do?

HOFFMANN: Yeah, I think you get a certain amount of respect, but, at the end of the day, all the respect in the world doesn't help you if the music sucks, so you better put in the work and try to deliver something that's relevant, and that fans really enjoy, because respect alone doesn't do much for the fans. Once they buy that CD or listen to the music, it's either good or bad, and it's either something that excites you or it isn't. What we try to do is write songs and albums nowadays that are totally in the style of ACCEPT - but of course we use modern production techniques - and we want it to sound modern yet have that vintage feel at the same time, as far as the songwriting is concerned.

KNAC.COM: And you have been using the same producer.

HOFFMANN: Yeah! Andy Sneap - three times in a row, and that's the first time in our career that we've used the same guy three times in a row because, man, it works! We love him, and we get along well, so there's really no reason to look for anybody else.

KNAC.COM: And, you did have more time to work on this last album, Blind Rage, correct?

HOFFMANN: Yeah, we did have more time. Stalingrad was pretty tight; there was immense time pressure there and we didn't really like that feeling. Last time we had a little more time, and this time around we also want to make sure we work until we feel it is ready, and that it's ripe to be released. We don't just want to get it out the door because they've committed to a release date. When you know deep inside that there is something you would like to do over or try to tweak, then we should do that.

KNAC.COM: And I guess with all the touring you've been doing in the past two years, you probably feel back in the groove again on all that too?

HOFFMANN: Oh, Hell yeah! Yeah, absolutely. Now that we have two new members in the band, it really feels like we're in the groove. We have two new guys in the band now, to replace Herman [Frank, guitarist] and Stefan [Schwarzmann, drummer]. They left the band a little over a year ago, to form their own project, and work on that, and we found two great guys: Christopher Williams, sort of a newer guy, younger guy, who hadn't had a lot of touring experience outside the U.S. and Nashville, but he's the perfect guy for the job, no doubt. And our new guitar player is named Uwe [Lulis, guitars] - kind of a hard name to pronounce! (laughs) - yeah, and he's also a perfect fit. We've known him for quite some time, prior to him joining the band, so we knew his personality - we knew him as a good friend - but really now, we know him as a good guitar player, phenomenal actually.

KNAC.COM: Is he German?

HOFFMANN: Uh, huh. He lives in Frankfort, Germany. And Christopher lives in Nashville.

KNAC.COM: Well, you're based in Nashville now, which is a little surprising!

HOFFMANN: Yeah! I know! But I've been there over 20 years. Now recently Peter [Baltes, long-time ACCEPT bassist] moved there as well, so there's three of us in Nashville now.

KNAC.COM: That IS a music city, obviously

HOFFMANN: Right, but it's not a metal city.

KNAC.COM: No, no, definitely not.

HOFFMANN: But it helps, though, because you've got all the networks, and all the logistics of the music business, so it's certainly convenient. You've got great rehearsal facilities, producers, bands, tour bus companies, and all that stuff that the other guys use as well, it's great to have when we need it. But, like I said, we don't do that much touring in the U.S. anyhow. We usually fly wherever we have to, so we're usually just going to the airport out of Nashville and that's it.

KNAC.COM: Did you just really like Nashville to wind up there?


KNAC.COM: And I know you were also doing photography during that gap time.

HOFFMANN: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah! I was doing photography for over 10 - 15 years when ACCEPT wasn't active. That's really because photography was my love #2 in life. It was always music first, and then I discovered photography. While being a musician and traveling the world, I picked up photography which turned into a serious hobby, which turned into an obsession, but later on, into a profession.

KNAC.COM: I did look at some of the commercial photos ... very impressive. Not too many people are that good at two different art forms.

HOFFMANN: Well, thank you. Yeah. I still like it, but I shoot less and less now, but practically, I don't have the time now anymore. But, whenever I'm home for a longer period of time, and the opportunity comes up, I'll definitely still do shoots. I like doing it, it's just a different side of me.

KNAC.COM: Because of the 15 year gap for ACCEPT, which you mentioned, does that give you some kind of perspective on what has been happening now in the new incarnation, that you might not have had if it had just continued on without a real break? Such as, what is different now about creating the music and performing live, from ACCEPT 1 to ACCEPT 2?

HOFFMANN: What's not different? The business side is totally different. Of course, as we all know, nobody's really selling serious amounts of records or CDs anymore. But, I can tell you what hasn't changed, and that's the live aspect of things. It's us traveling from A to B, setting up the gear, going on stage... That's exactly the way it was 30-40 years ago. Maybe some of the tools have changed and are a little better, but not enough to matter. We still have to get up there and play our instruments, and play our asses off, and sweat, and entertain the audience - and that's still as much fun as it was back then. That part has not changed AT ALL. Record making, that has changed a lot.

KNAC.COM: Do you think it's easier now, with the technology?

HOFFMANN: The technology helps, but it doesn't only help. Sometimes it's distracting, too, like the whole computer thing. It's great on one hand, but I like the old days. The other thing that really hasn't changed is the songwriting. If it's a good song, it's a good song, and technology won't help you make it any better.

KNAC.COM: Have the audiences changed?

HOFFMANN: There's a different set of audience now. Back in the 80s, for instance, everybody was young; there was nobody that was 50 in the audience. (laughs) We were young, the audience was young. Now we're not young anymore, and the audience is a little older, but we have a mix of audience now ... 16 to 60 - the full gamut!

KNAC.COM: But do you also think, due that 15-year gap, that you aren't burnt out on it now, like you might have been if you'd kept on doing it right through until now?

HOFFMANN: Yeah. Sometimes I wish we'd never stopped, but other times I'm kind of glad we did. Like you said, it did give us a different perspective on things, and it made us really want to come back, and with more fire, maybe, than if we had continued all these years. That's one serous danger, if you're a musician, and you're moderately successful, you can quite easily fall into this trap of, "Oh, it's all going automatically, it's good enough, don't worry about it; the fans will love it," and you stop caring a little bit. I heard it many times from musicians, and I've always hated it, that, "Oh, don't sweat it, it's fine, they won't know the difference." Ahhh! But I always hated that attitude, and I still hate it today, but now that we've been away from everything, it's totally different. We also appreciate everything a whole lot more.

KNAC.COM: Well, it's doubtful that you could have ever not cared about things since you have described yourself as a perfectionist.

HOFFMANN: Yeah, I'm quite obnoxious that way, that I always think it could be a little bit better. Not everybody likes that, but it's just the way I am, and I think it's been going okay so far.

KNAC.COM: During that 14 years between albums, you were still playing guitar, weren't you?

HOFFMANN: No, actually. I mean, I was occasionally picking up the guitar, but I'm the kind of guy, that I just don't play for the sake of playing. I usually need a reason, or a band, or a project to work on. I don't ever sit at home and just watch TV and noodle away. That really doesn't interest me.

KNAC.COM: Then that makes it even more unusual - the way that you got the spark for reforming ACCEPT - in the way that you came upon your new vocalist.

HOFFMANN: Yeah, we ran into Mark, really totally by accident, by chance, by coincidence.

KNAC.COM: Was that in Nashville?

HOFFMANN: No, that was in New Jersey. There's a recording studio that we jammed in, and a friend of mine - it was a friend of Peter's, really - who suggested, "Hey guys, we're jamming here, you're jamming ACCEPT songs, why don't you invite this guy Mark to come over and join you?" So he came, he sang, and the rest is history! (laughs) We decided on the spot to regroup the band, without thinking the consequences all the way through. That was six years ago by now. I can't believe it!

KNAC.COM: Do you plan to tour more after the dates overseas this Spring and Summer?

HOFFMANN: No, we're really spending the rest of this year getting this album together. These two shows in the U.S. this year, that's it. We're going to finish the new one this year, record it this year, and it's probably going to come out next year.

KNAC.COM: But you'd also been working on a solo album this year.

HOFFMANN: That's probably going to come out mid-year or late Spring. On Nuclear Blast. It's already in the can, it's mixed, it's done, it's out of my system, it's in the hands of the gods now! (laughs) And when they release it, I hopefully everyone loves it, and we'll see what happens.

KNAC.COM: Does it have a title?

HOFFMANN: I can't say yet; it's top secret! Gaby would chop my head off if I told you - and yours! (laughs)

KNAC.COM: If you tell me, you'd have to kill me?! (laughs)

HOFFMANN: We'd all have to die! (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Well, I'll find out soon enough. But one more thing to ask you about is the signature guitar series you have that's made in Germany.

HOFFMANN: Oh yeah, Framus, they built me a beautiful signature V. It's in the flying V shape, but it's got a lot of features a normal flying V doesn't have. It's made just the way that I wanted it and I've been playing that for maybe two or three years now.

KNAC.COM: Are you using it most of the time?

HOFFMANN: I'm going to be using it tonight, for sure! It's all I use, ever, exclusively now. I'm totally excited about it and I'm very happy with it. Honestly, this is a killer guitar for me.

KNAC.COM: I'll let you go so you can get ready for the show! ... [Adrian Harris, vocalist or Prog/Thrash metal band, TESTIMONY, chimes in]: Do you have any advice or wisdom for new bands, from what you've seen throughout the years?

HOFFMANN: Ohhh, that's the tricky one ... Well, not tricky, but I never really know what to tell you, man. It 's just always hard. It's a different game than what it was 30-40 years ago for us. But, man, if you work hard and believe in what you do, and find your style, and stay with it, then, Hell! One thing that I've noticed - I don't know if it's advice or not - a lot of bands don't really have rehearsal rooms anymore. They just sit in front of the computer, and do all the computer geeking, and nobody ever plays together that much anymore. So, that's my only advice: Jam together and get a fucking room! Then go out there and do it, because that's what we did for years, and years, and years, and it helped us, but only because that's what you did back then.

KNAC.COM: It definitely took a few years for ACCEPT, too.

HOFFMANN: Oh, Yeah, yeah. The other thing now is that everyone expects and watches that, Singing With The Stars... (laughs)... Or, America's Got Talent, and (snap) it has to happen overnight. Nobody's mentally prepared for things to take five or ten years to get anywhere, and most people give up before then, in this age of instant gratification.

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