Heavy Metal icons Accept are about to release their third album, Blind Rage (July 18, 2014), with what is now becoming the well-loved lineup of Mark Tornillo on vocals, Wolf Hoffmann on guitars, Herman Frank on guitars, Peter Baltes on bass, and Stefan Schwarzmann on drums.
Powerline checks in with Accept guitarist Wolf Hoffmann about the upcoming release of Blind Rage.
Do you feel that you now have a songwriting template down with Mark (Tornillo)?
Wolf Hoffmann: It’s always been a matter of doing your homework and getting the best songs possible, ready before we present it to Mark. That’s always been our challenge. Mark is a great singer but only if you have a great song will the whole result be good. Peter (Baltes) and I are the ones who prepare the songs and then Mark comes in and sort of puts the finishing touches on it. The better stuff we give to Mark, the better it’s gonna be in the end. So we tried to get everything as close to perfect as we possibly could this time.
Do things feel easier now though, is there more of a flow?
Hoffmann: Yes and no I’d have to say. We have a much better sense of the direction we want to Accept to be in. The sound that we need and the kind of songs we want to write for Accept. That in itself is a huge deal. Initially when we got back together we were kind of insecure what Accept, in 2009-2010, should sound like. But now that we found that, it’s time to deliver and, yeah, we know what direction we want, it’s up to us to really hunker down and get the best possible melodies and the best possible arrangements. So, yeah, we have been really putting in the hours, I have to say.
In a recent interview, Mark said Blind Rage had the same sound but it also had more diversity than the last two albums. He also said it was more classic sounding, I think those were the words he used. Do you agree with that?
Hoffmann: Yeah, I would agree with that. I’m not sure about the word ‘diversity’ because diversity to me sounds scary. It sounds like we’re trying out something like techno now or something weird (laughs). Diversity is code for many different styles. No, I think, if anything, this album sounds totally like classic Accept. I think we got some really amazing melodic stuff on there and that’s really good, I think fans will like it. And I think there are songs on there that really challenged Mark and he does an outstanding job on these songs.
And Gaby (Hoffmann) is still involved in the songwriting, right? She’s always been an important part of the songwriting process for Accept.
Hoffmann: Not so much on these last albums. This time she contributed a few lyric ideas. And she’s always done that. But ever since we’ve had Mark, he’s really been the one writing the fine lyrics. Gaby sometimes throws in. Since back in the day, she’s got quite an archive of ideas, song snippets, and lyric content, so sometimes we go back through that little book of hers and fish out some ideas. There’s always a trace of Gaby in every song, pretty much.
How does the band come together for the songwriting?
Hoffmann: I’ve got a studio at my house and Peter actually moved to Nashville last summer so now we’re both in Tennessee. He left his long-term residence in Philadelphia. He’s been out there for almost 20 years. Finally he moved to Tennessee, and he loves it there. So now we’re really close to each other and can see each other on a moment’s notice, which is perfect. That really helped the whole project as well. In the past we always had to limit it to a week here or there, and try to get as much done in that one week. And now we can do a day on, day off kind of thing and meet when we have to. So that went on over months.
And this lineup has been together for three albums in roughly four years. I think it’s safe to say the band has a good chemistry.
Hoffmann: Oh, you know it. I think it sounds tighter than ever before. And really well-rounded this time. I’m super happy. I just came out of a listening session at Nuclear Blast (Records) and everyone is super excited. And you always get a sense of how a thing really is when you play it to other people. I’ve always found it a fascinating phenomenon. You can play that stuff to yourself in the studio until you’re blue in the face, and you can tell yourself it’s great. And you can almost talk yourself into this euphoria (laughs), but when it comes to playing it to somebody … you know, the moment you present it to somebody else, even without any reaction — whether they go crazy over it or not — you feel it deeply inside whether something is good or not at that moment. I always felt that to be curious, that you hear differently when other people are present. Anyhow, I’m really pleased with this whole collection of songs.
Last interview we did you seemed a little upset on how harder it is nowadays to make an honest living in the music business. And now with three solid albums with Mark this creates a kind of legacy like early Accept had. Maybe this will draw more fans, and people will become more comfortable with the band.
Hoffmann: Yeah, let’s hope so. This has been going on for a few good years now and we have a very solid and great fan community out there who seem to appreciate the fact that we’ve been together for all this time and that we are still delivering solid albums and do go on tour and really work our asses off and we really want this to be a whole new chapter that continues. You know, a lot of people initially were afraid that this was a flash in the pan and a one time thing and they’ll go away again. We’ve seen it all before. And by now everybody realizes this is a stable thing. It’s meant to stay. To answer your question, I think it is still frickin’ hard to make a living in this kind of thing. And you’d be crazy to do music to earn a living. I’ve said it again and again — and this is not the only motivation for us by far — we really want this because we love doing it but if it was a way for us to make a living only … ooooh, it’d be tough, man. Fortunately, we now built up our business to where it’s really becoming a business again. But if you’re in the music business trying to make money with metal nowadays, good luck. It’s not easy.
It speaks volumes about your passion for Accept, I’ll tell you that much.
Hoffmann: Yeah. I mean, you know I’ve been a photographer and quite successful at it and very comfortable with what I was doing. If I was only trying to survive or make a living or earn money, I’d be doing photography all day long. It’s much easier. And less stressful. But the big question for me is: Is it as rewarding? And I’d probably have to give the honest answer, no. Music is much more rewarding in the end.
Like I was saying, its the word ‘legacy.’ You’re leaving a legacy, again, with the new Accept.
Hoffmann: That’s what I find intriguing. Whatever we do on record, it’s almost there for eternity. That’s good and bad. That means to me you better be super careful with what you release because if it sucks it’s out there and you have to live with it for the rest of your life. But the opposite is true, obviously, if you do something great it’s not something people throw away tomorrow. It’s really there for the next years and in some cases songs we wrote 30 years ago are still loved by fans today. I mean, my God, I’ve been playing “Princess of the Dawn” for like 35 years and I still love it and people still like it. So, who would’ve thought. That teaches you a lesson you better be careful with what you release. Make sure you like it yourself.
You’ve stated on your website, “Something happened to us, something subliminal and impetuous. It is wild and scary and it’s called Blind Rage.
Hoffmann: Maybe it sounded good at the time, I don’t know (laughs). Maybe because we were in this eternal ‘rage’ where we wanted to show the world we’ve still got the fire inside.
But you also said, “Wherever you go, you turn on the television and there’s blind rage in the works.”
Hoffmann: It’s true.
There is all kinds of chaos going on.
Hoffmann: Well, isn’t there? Yeah there is. Absolutely, just look around us. There’s more rage now. Turmoil everywhere. It’s every bit as current as it ever was.
And the artist Daniel Goldsworthy did a great job of capturing it on the cover. The imagery is simple and to the point.
Hoffmann: Isn’t it cool? Yeah, we love the artwork.
I mean, you could have thrown a nuclear bomb on there but this is much better (laughs). It seems bands go to extremes with their album art but it’s better when it’s simple and to the point.
Hoffmann: Yeah, the first time I saw it I knew this was going to be a great album cover. This has an iconic and simple idea for the album cover artwork. We struggled last time. It was really tough for us because the theme we had — Stalingrad — was really not that easy to have that sort of cover. But in the past – Balls to the Wall, Metal Heart, Blood of the Nations with two bloody fingers — that was all simple and iconic. And I think this new album cover is along the same lines.
Iconic is the right word. A lot of bands make the mistake of not going for that. You album art is easy to remember.
Hoffmann: It’s hard though to come up with these ideas. The simplest ideas are always the hardest. Visually it is the same as songwriting. If you have this super simple riff, those are the hardest ones, where everyone goes ‘hmnn, why didn’t I think of that?’ Those aren’t easy to come by.
So right after the album release of Blind Rage in July you are going right on the road in Europe?
Hoffmann: Yes we are. But we are also talking about doing some shows on the west coast (of America) first, very early on. The very first shows this year are going to be on the west coast as regular touring and then we are going to Europe and the rest of the world. For next year there are more US dates planned. For now there are only going to be three or four US dates, I’m afraid.
No US east coast dates?
Hoffmann: Stuff is still being debated, things can change. It’s not quite written in stone. Most things are set but as far as I know there are no east coast dates yet this year.
Knowing musicians, you must be thinking: which songs from the new album are we going to be picking for the setlist.
Hoffmann: Funny enough, just last week I sat down with Peter and we were going through the list. And there’s six or seven songs that we are going to try initially. Usually that gets numbered down to about three or four because we have so many other songs we have to play that there’s no room for six or seven songs off the new album. Besides half of the people in the audience are not going to have the new album so it would be unfair to play the new stuff.
Then you have a guy like me in the audience hoping you play something obscure like “Lady Lou (off Accept’s debut album).”
Hoffmann: Well, good luck, Pal. I don’t think “Lady Lou” is going to see the light of day anytime soon (laughs). Any other obscure suggestions? And don’t ask me what ["Lady Lou"] means. I didn’t write that. You know, a loo in England is a toilet, so people in the UK always thought it was about a toilet lady or something (laughs).
Anything else you’d like to say to Accept fans?
Hoffmann: Well, like I said before, I think this is one of the strongest albums we’ve done with the new lineup to be honest. I know everybody always says that but I’m pretty confident this time that people are really gonna dig this. So I am totally excited about it myself. I can’t wait for it to actually be out there for people to judge it for themselves.