In a matter of three years, the German metal band Accept has brought itself back to metal prominence. With the perfectly gruffy voice of Mike Tornillo (ex- TT Quick) and the production acumen of producer Andy Sneap, the band has put out two very strong albums — Blood of the Nations (20120) and Stalingrad (2012) — with a sound reminiscent of their early years.
Now, to promote the newest album, Stalingrad, the band will embark this Fall on a North American tour titled the Teutonic Terror Attack with German thrash stalwarts, Kreator (see tour dates here).
Powerline recently spoke to co-founder/guitarist Wolf Hoffmann about the impact of the Stalingrad release and preparing to take the latest material on the road.
The songwriting on Stalingrad tackles some controversial subjects, like the bombing of Dresden [during WWII]. How did the songwriting on this album come together? Did you write any of the lyrics?
Wolf Hoffmann: No, I didn’t write the lyrics but I had input into some of the subjects, like Stalingrad and Dresden, for instance, from ideas that were born early on. We knew we wanted the song “Stalingrad” early on and we kind of thought ‘Shit, that’s such a fascinating story and such a historical event of huge proportions.’ So many people died there and so many people’s lives were lost and changed forever. We thought what other events are there that come close to that — and then we started thinking about doing something on Dresden. That was an event that was quite shocking and significant back then, around the same time, World War II. Then we gave up on the idea of doing a whole lot more songs like that because we didn’t really want to do a concept album or anything like that. It didn’t sound like an Accept thing to do: a concept album. We’re not like Dream Theater or something. So there were only two songs — maybe a couple others — that I really had any sort of input into as far as the lyrics are concerned. There are other songs where [vocalist] Mark [Tornillo] wrote all the stuff himself — where we basically just gave him the song and said, ‘Hey, come up with something.’
Did you have a connection to Dresden? Any relatives in Dresden?
Hoffmann: I did not but I always heard the stories and, man, if you see some of the historical footage about it, it’s totally gruesome.
As far as this being the second album with Mark Tornillo, do you find things getting a lot easier?
Hoffmann: About the same, to be honest. I mean, the main challenge is always to come up with the music and some sort of title idea or hook line idea that’s really catchy and really grabs you. And once that is done … that to me is always the hardest part, and obviously somebody’s got to write the lyrics for the verses and stuff. That’s really, in my mind, not that big of a deal but that can be difficult as well, you know. But, anyhow, we leave that to Mark nowadays.
Isn’t it amazing how Mark has just fit right in?
Hoffmann: It is totally amazing. And it is even more amazing how people sort of embraced him.
Well, metalheads did know about him and he did have his fan base with TT Quick. He’s a decent guy, a good singer and he slips right in that Accept mode.
Hoffmann: Yeah, he was sort of known in the U.S. in some circles and stuff but, you know, when you go to Russia or Europe, people have never heard of him. So it really comes down to how he can he deliver the stuff onstage and how does he come across on the album — and people love it.
Have you ever written music on tour?
Hoffmann: Never. Never ever. It’s really hard to do it sort of on-the-side. I have to immerse myself. I have to go into a different state of mind, clear the schedule, turn off the phone and really get down into it. I just can’t do it while I’m running and gunning and doing a show. It’s just not happening that way for me.
Any surprises for future live shows? Are you going to play any songs that may surprise the fans?
Hoffmann: Well, there are so many songs that we have to play already and then we are gonna throw in some of Blood of the Nations, obviously — there’s, like, three or four new songs — and that’s pretty much all the time we’re gonna have. The only thing I can see that we may be doing is rotating some songs in and out of the set. We’ve done that in the past. Throw in the odd song here or there that we haven’t played all that much. We like it. It keeps us on our toes.
Once something works really well, you really hate to break it up just for the sake of breaking it up, especially with the crew and lighting guy, where everything becomes sort of a machine that seems to work. It’s really tough to say ‘You know what? Let’s change it all around because we feel like it’ or we want to please some odd fan here or there. You got to think about the greater good sometimes and keep the show running well for the majority.
Can you talk a little about the upcoming Teutonic Terror Attack tour?
Hoffmann: We’ve been on the road with this new album, just coinciding with the release date. We did about a month in Europe and we are going out in the Fall again to do a massive tour in the U.S., co-headling with Kreator, another German band, and it’s going to be called the Teutonic Terror Attack. Anyhow, it’s a good heavy metal dose from Germany. Two German metal bands.
Kreator have been a round a long, long time. Not quite as long as we have but I think together we are both representative of German metal in a certain way. They are more the Thrash end of things, obviously, and we’re more the power metal or the melodic metal or whatever you want to call it. At this point I don’t know what we’re called.
Some have called you Traditional Metal now.
Hoffmann: Traditional metal at this point, yep.
And you have been called speed metal before.
Hoffmann: Speed metal, we kind of founded the genre by accident.
You really think by accident?
Hoffmann: Not really full accident but we really didn’t want to make a career out of it. We thought it was fun and that was it and other people took it and made a genre out of it.
Well, Balls to the Wall really changed things for you. For one, it wasn’t speed metal. But it received quite a positive reaction. The new album Stalingrad has, too. Were you surprised at the immediate reaction of the new album?
Hoffmann: I’m pleasantly surprised. A lot of people say this is as good or maybe even better than Blood of the Nations which is a small miracle to me because Blood of the Nations has been so well-received that we wondering how we could possibly come up with something that’s even on par with it. It could have been, hell, we were just lucky or just at the right time and at the right place or whatever. You are always afraid that you can’t top it or come up with something as good but I guess apparently we did.
It is as good, if not better. You’ve got into a groove here where you have a take-no-prisoners attitude.
Hoffmann: This is our time. This is our moment. We shouldn’t think about it too much and just let it rip, you know. That’s what the attitude was when we started to write this stuff. We said, ‘Let’s not think about it too much. Let’s not change anything. Let’s just keep on doing what we’re doing.’ It worked well last time so why change a winning formula. Let’s do another album that’s similar but not too similar. More songs along the same lines and let’s use the same producer.
Talking earlier about what a blessing Mark was, coming at the right time — what about [producer] Andy Sneap? He nails it, doesn’t he?
Hofmann: He certainly does. He’s certainly a big part in all this. He calls us up and says ‘Hey, I’ve been a big Accept fan all my life. I want to talk to you. I’ve heard you’re making a new record. I want to work with you.’ I mean, how often does that happen in life? Like, never. And just at the right time, the right guy walks in and he turns out to be perfect. We didn’t have to talk to anybody else. We didn’t have to audition anybody. Like Mark, both of those guys walked in at the right time, and they’re just dead-on.
It does help that Andy is a big Accept fan, and the kind of Accept he loves is the Breaker/Restless and Wild era. He knew the fan favorites.
Hoffmann: Exactly. So he made sure he is getting more of those. He just steers us in the right direction. And that was very important. Probably more important the first time around with Blood of the Nations because I believe the songs we wrote this time were right on the money from the beginning, much more so than last time, where we weren’t quite sure with what Accept should sound like after such a long break.
It almost feels as exciting as it was back in the Breaker/Restless and Wild days.
Hoffmann: To us it feels like it did back then. It’s almost like a new beginning. We have to prove ourselves. Even though people say ‘You are these legends’ — yeah but it doesn’t feel like that to us. We still feel like excited kids and we’re anxious to get the record as good as we can. That’s kind of the spirit that we had back then as well. So it feels almost like a new beginning. I’m very happy where we are and I hope we can keep this going for a very long time. Keep that freshness going.
You always wonder when a band comes out with a new album that they will experiment and change directions.
Hoffmann: No, I don’t think we are going to make that mistake ever again in our lives. We’ve been there done that, [where we] tried to change directions. Life is too short and we just want to do what we want and have fun. We kind of know where we fit in now. And it’s a lot easier to say that now than it was back then. Because now we have this long history and we know exactly what fans love about Accept. It would be foolish to try anything radical nowadays. We know where we stand and where we belong.
And metal has made a resurgence here in the States, too.
Hoffmann: Yeah, it’s happening. I think it’s totally happening. There’s certainly a renewed interest here in the States. I can tell. I mean, it’s always been kind of strong in Europe all along. And we have dedicated fans everywhere who still want to hear our stuff. Europe’s got a different taste as far as music consumption is concerned. They like what they like, whether it’s in-fashion or out of fashion. It’s almost funny sometimes when I go back, I hear songs that you would never even hear back in the States. You remember that song, it was huge in the ’80s but nobody plays it here. Even cheesy radio pop hits like Roxette or something (laughs). And people still like Manowar in some countries.
Yeah they do (laugh).
Hoffmann: People [like you] are chuckling and laughing [about that] here. And I wouldn’t say they are strong everywhere but there are certain countries where they love Manowar, which is bizarre, but they do.
I was watching the “Balls to the Wall” video recently and it was a lot of fun seeing the band onstage — how you guys stayed and moved together during parts of the song. And the band is still kind of choreographed onstage.
Hoffmann: Nowadays we do it more spontaneous, gut feeling kind of stuff. I really wouldn’t call it choreographed ’cause we really don’t talk about it anymore. It’s just [bassist] Peter [Baltes] and I do what we do, and we do what we feel like, and it ends up looking like we thought about it. I don’t know, man, it’s in our blood. We’ve been doing it for so long. You can’t help it. It feels like we need to do it at a certain time, things we start to do automatically.
I’ve seen Accept play arenas and clubs, and I know playing arenas can be more beneficial, but I enjoy seeing Accept playing the clubs.
Hoffmann: I’ll tell you what I enjoy. I love playing clubs when they are halfway decent as far as the stage and the whole production is concerned. I hate those clubs when nothing is right and circumstances are so bad you got to call them right onstage and you can’t do your thing properly.
As far as the United States is concerned, the House of Blues-type venues, they’re almost perfect for us. We get a good stage but yet the audience can be really close to you. You get that intimate atmosphere and you also have decent lights and decent sound.
Another German band, Scorpions, are on their farewell tour. They’ve said they are going to tour for several years and that’s it. You’d think Accept would be the perfect band to open for the Scorpions.
Hoffmann: We would love to play with the Scorpions but can you believe after all these years, we’ve never been on the same stage as the Scorpions? Maybe they are afraid of us. Maybe we are the Teutonic Terror … (laughs) I don’t know. I wish we could make it happen, especially now since they are announcing their retirement, and we’re just getting started, this would be a perfect time to have a show together.