Being a complete and total fanboy when it comes to certain bands you can imagine what was going on in this head of mine when I was told that none other than Wolf Hoffman, guitarist and principal songwriter for ACCEPT would be calling me. He was really fun to chat with as we touched on the last three records, the songwriting dynamic, this quick run of shows they’re doing, and more. Check it:
Amps: (Answering phone) please tell me this is the one and only Wolf Hoffmann.
Wolf: Please tell me this is the one and only Damian Cousins (laughs)!
Amps: OK, so you’re doing these shows to, as you put it, “stay sharp and keep up with the cool dynamics between us!”. What we the fans need is a full U.S. run, with a stop in Philly. Any chance of that happening?
Wolf: Hopefully, man. No one wants that more than me, I tell you. The reality is that it’s not that easy to coordinate with everybody. We just follow where the management and bookers tell us to go, you know? It’s never really up to the band. It’s always looking at what’s on the table, what can we do, and when can we do it? We’ll do whatever it takes. We’ll do a full-blown U.S. tour before you know it if it gets put together by the people in power, you know?
Amps: How long have you been living in Nashville? And how did you wind up there?
Wolf: Oh man, forever it seems. 20+ years. When we started touring my wife and I were both from Germany and we fell in love with the States. This is the land of milk and honey so we wanted to live here. We lived in Vermont of all places for five to seven years and finally, the winters were too long, and it was too remote if you’re in the music business, even though it’s beautiful there. Nashville is not a bad place to be, and we didn’t want to live in L.A. or New York. I couldn’t imagine living in either one for many reasons. Nashville seemed like a happy medium at the time; it wasn’t as hip as it is now, you know? A lot of people are moving here now, especially metal people!
Amps: Your last three records (Blood of the Nations, Stalingrad, Blind rage) have been nothing short of incredible. Much like your contemporaries in OVERKILL and EXODUS it seems like you’ve hit a real stride writing-wise in the second halves of your career. Why do you think that is?
Wolf: I have no good explanation for it. We just try as hard as we can to come up with good stuff and we seem to have done the right things somehow. When we regrouped with Mark (Tornillo, vocals) we just had no idea whether this was gonna do anything for anybody, whether people were gonna hate us, or if they’d say, “Ehh it’s alright, but it’s not like the old days.” But we figured it’s out of our control anyway, so let’s just hunker down and write good songs that we feel are up to par and the rest is up to the fans. That’s what we did and it worked. Having a singer who can actually sing all those melodies we dream up has a lot to do with it. The fact that Mark has a voice reminiscent of the old days helps in the eyes of the fans, I’m sure.
We also have to give producer Andy Sneap a lot of credit for defining these last three albums. When he came on board it was a lucky coincidence because he appeared out of nowhere at the right time and decided to produce Blood of the Nations. He had a huge role in making it sound so good and picking a style that suited it. He sifted through all the demos and would say, “This one’s good. This one’s not so good.”
Amps: Tell me about “Wanna Be Free”. What prompted you to write this kind of song, one tackling the subject of human trafficking?
Wolf: We’ve always tried to write songs that have substance and social meaning. We like to write about what you read in the newspaper or see on T.V. We just have an open mind and look around the world at what’s happening today. There are lots of things to write about and it’s not the typical thing for a metal band to do, but it became part of our legacy ans style over the years. And it started back in the 80’s when Gaby, my wife and our manager wrote lyrics for us out of necessity. We were dumb kids who didn’t speak any English, we had no clue. So she started the whole thing to write songs about different issues. You’ll find things she wrote like that in all our songs going back to Metal Heart and Balls to the Wall (under the pseudonym Deaffy) It’s certainly not unusual for us.
Amps: What’s the secret to making marriage work all these years when you play guitar in ACCEPT?
Wolf: Total submission on my part (laughs)! Ask any married man, total submission always works. We have been together so long and it just gets better and better over the years. I’m super-fortunate. I have no secret.
Amps: Looking back on these three albums are there any particular songs that really stand out for you over the others?
Wolf: If I was maybe gonna pick one I’d say “Teutonic Terror”. Funny enough that title was one of those jokes that floated around. You know how when you write demos you have to call them something? Peter (Baltes, bass) spurted out “Teutonic Terror” and it was just so ridiculous that it stuck and we used it. It’s full of fun metal cliches, and it works quite well, lyrically and musically.
Amps: You and Peter are the main writers in the band going back 35+ years. How do you work it? Do you send each other tapes and files or get together when you can?
Wolf: We get together in a room physically. It’s easier nowadays because Peter just moved to Nashville a few years ago. We can literally meet a few times a week. In the past we flew out and met each other and sat together for a week, then flew home. Now it’s much more convenient. We come up with the first riffs and first scratch vocal ideas until it sort of takes shape. Then we’ll send a somewhat finished demo to Mark with an idea and say, “Hey maybe this song could be about this or that”, or we’re thinking of “Last of a Dying Breed’ as a title. Do you have any ideas about that? Sometimes he runs with it, and sometimes we change it. But it starts with Peter and myself.
Amps: That’s funny because “Last of a Dying Breed” is my favorite on Blind Rage.
Wolf: Oh, cool, cool, cool! Yeah, Mark did an outstanding job on those lyrics, I thought. We didn’t really know what the song was gonna be about; we just liked the title and he turned it into something great.
Amps: Is any of the next record written or have we even thought about that yet? Or are you just relaxing after these shows?
Wolf: (Laughs) No, we’re never relaxing, dude! We started writing, Peter and I. We’ll spend the rest of the summer trying to get it done and recorded and hopefully by the end of the year we’ve got it in the can. That’s the goal. We can’t wait too long or everything will simmer down and we’ve got to keep the momentum going.
Amps: You’ve had some lineup changes since the last album. How are Uwe Lulis (guitar) and Christopher Williams (drums) doing?
Wolf: Christopher is a local guy from here in Nashville, and Uwe is from Germany. They fit perfectly in the band and we’ve got a great team now. With new blood comes new energy. I’m like a vampire, I need fresh blood. It’s just fun to have guys in the band who are excited and see it as an opportunity to see the world with us, make records and stuff. If the chemistry in the band is right anything can happen. Talent is important, but you also need people who are excited and ambitious, who want to get better, and do whatever it takes.
Amps: Of all the things you’ve done is there any album, show, or moment that stands out among everything else?
Wolf: Oh my gosh, there are quite a few. I think some of the larger shows where you have massive audiences stick in your head. I love playing clubs, but the memorable shows tend to be those massive festivals where 100,000 people are screaming and singing along.
Amps: Away from music what do you like to do?
Wolf: I’m a photographer. I was a professional for all those years ACCEPT was inactive and I still do photo jobs from time to time when I’m not on the road. It became a second career, but now that I’m back into music I can’t do it as much anymore.
Amps: What would you like to say to all your ACCEPT fans out there?
Wolf: Thanks for being there first and foremost, for all these years. It’s hard to believe we have such a loyal fan community for all these years. Thanks for that, and stay tuned…there’s more to come.
Wolf Hoffmann is not only a great guitarist, he’s an extremely warm and personable guy who loves to share a laugh and make you feel at ease as soon as you speak to him. The world needs more rockers like him, and I can’t wait to see, hear, and feel what ACCEPT delivers next. In the meantime get your copy of Blind Rage if you haven’t already!
LIVE PHOTO: FLORIAN STANGL