Most people don’t get to talk to some of their musical idols once in a lifetime, let alone TWICE in the span of a few months. But that was the case with none other than Wolf Hoffmann, guitarist and founding member of ACCEPT. Just before the release of his second album of classically-influenced compositions, Headbangers Symphony, he sat down with me to discuss the long wait between the two records and when we can expect some new ACCEPT material. Have a look:
Amps: I put Headbangers Symphony into my phone this morning and man, this is quite a record. I was so pissed off when I got to work today, and an hour later I felt so much better. This one’s gonna be in heavy rotation here at A&GS HQ.
Wolf: Well thank you very much, very kind words. I’m getting some great feedback and everyone seems to be enjoying it so far. I’m very glad that you’re enjoying it that much. I put all my heart and soul into this and it’s been quite a journey getting it finished.
Amps: I like that you went for some lesser known (in some circles) compositions on the album. “Pathetique” and “Night On Bald Mountain” were unfamiliar to me, but they’re two of my favorites.
Wolf: Well, thank you again. Those are pretty metal. Especially “Bald Mountain’, that’s pretty metal, isn’t it? Those are two of the most riff-friendly aggressive tunes on there. I think we have a whole variety. Some really mellow ones that have a bluesy, ballad-y type of feel. Because that’s what the composition is like and I always like those pieces and wanted to do them. And to me, I believe that if you do them you need to do it justice and if it’s meant to be a slow, moody piece then it had better come across that way. If it’s fast and aggressive I want to up that a notch or to and metal it up.
Amps: You worked with (Italian musician and arranger) Melo Mafali on this record. Did he do the last one, Classical?
Wolf: I’ve known him a long time. We actually meat and became friends just after that album came out. He approached me and said, “Man I love what you’re doing here, and I’d love to do some string arrangements for you one day.” And Classical was done, which didn’t have any strings. So for this one I tracked him down to do them. We’ve had a good friendship over the years and he’s the perfect guy for this sort of thing. He’s a classically-trained pianist who knows how to write string arrangements and I do not. I just know how to write metal riffs, so the two of us work together really well.
Amps: Do you feel that albums like these give people a deeper insight into what makes Wolf Hoffmann tick as a player?
Wolf: Probably, but that’s not the objective when I make these albums, you know? They’re a very personal project that I do for me, because I want to. I’m not out to teach the world anything about classical music, but if it happens to do so that’s great. When I do these things they are a labor of love. It’s a lot of fun but it’s a frickin’ lot of work! When it’s done though, it’s very fulfilling.
The other thing is that this stuff has so much staying power. I almost didn’t expect that when I made the first Classical album. I just put it out there and though, “Maybe there will be a few people who will enjoy listening to it.” I didn’t have any high expectations whatsoever. But man, 20 years later and people tell me all the time how much they enjoy it and that they still listen all the time. That shows me that this stuff-let’s face it-is timeless. It’s been around for generations and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Amps: Now that the hard part’s over how do you feel?
Wolf: Awesome, because I hate stuff that’s not finished, that’s almost finished and sitting there staring at me all these years. I wanted it done so bad I can’t even tell you. If something is half-finished I just can’t stand it. I put so much work into it, but at the same time it took forever and ever because ACCEPT is always the number one priority. So as soon as we went on tour I had to drop everything and leave it in the state it was in and pick it up a year later. And that’s why it dragged on. This project actually took almost ten years from start to finish, it’s crazy.
Amps: I know ACCEPT is first and foremost, but are you looking ahead at all to another classical music album?
Wolf: Oh, it’s gonna be a good long time before I start something like this again. But I’ll tell you this: if I do, I want to do it like it’s supposed to be done. Start it, finish it, and get it out. Now that I have all these great guys on board it probably would go much quicker next time around. Knowing all the procedures and how long this sort of thing takes I would set that time aside and get it done. I wouldn’t want to let it simmer and simmer again. But who knows? I might do another one; I really love this.
Amps: “Adagio” is another one where I knew nothing about the composer (Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni) but the song made me want to delve into his other work.
Wolf: Well, cool! There are a few pieces that are semi-obscure, but for the most part I stuck with well-established pieces, classical evergreens if you want. There’s a reason they are so popular, and it’s because they’re so damn good and catchy. People love them and I love them. I’m no classical expert, I’m not classically trained, but I know what I love. Some of my favorites are also the favorites of many others.
Amps: On the ACCEPT front, you did that nine-show run in April. All those shows go off without a hitch and no problems?
Wolf: Oh yeah, really well. We did a short run through South America, a few U.S. shows, and one in Austria on a metal mountain. It’s a ski resort for metal fans and they’re gonna have one of these shows every year. You can ski all day and at night listen to metal bands. How crazy is that? I thought it was pretty neat.
Amps: The South American crowds are ten times as nuts at metal shows than in most other places, aren’t they? Those must have been fun!
Wolf: Yeah man, we’re used to pretty crazy metal fans around the world. But South American fans are really a notch or two up from everybody else. They get into it, and it’s almost like a religion. They go crazy and we love it!
Amps: Are you going to take any time off this year?
Wolf: We are actually in the middle of writing songs for the next ACCEPT album. It’s not a job that you can do every day because you’ll drive yourself nuts, but we’ work regularly. And you and I have talked about this, you know I’m not a vacation guy, I wouldn’t know what to do (laughs)! I’m not a beach guy because I get bored out of my skull. I find ways to relax, just not on vacation or anything.
Amps: I know you and Peter (Baltes, bass) live near each other. Is there ever that 3 a.m. phone call when inspiration strikes that says, “Get over here, quick! We gotta record this!”
Wolf: (Laughs) No, no, it’s not like that. In the past, sure. But usually it can wait. And if I do have that spur-of-the-moment idea I can just run and record it in my studio. But in general the process takes time. Our songs aren’t created instantly.
Amps: Since you said that, do you have any idea on when we can expect a new ACCEPT record?
Wolf: We have to get one out for 2017, and you can hold me to that. We’ll finish it this year, which is a fairly cushy schedule compared to what we’ve done in the past. But, we need to spend time and make sure everything is up to our expectations.
Amps: What would you like people to take away from listening to Headbangers Symphony?
Wolf: It’s just my way of interpreting classical music. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a very personal side of me that they get to hear that they wouldn’t normally hear in ACCEPT songs. Because there everything has to fit within the framework of those songs and here I can do whatever the hell I want.
Amps: What would you like to say to all your fans in the world?
Wolf: Oh man, I’m just so honored to even have fans after all these years. I’ve been doing this going on 40 years. That sounds crazy, and I’m deeply honored that fans follow us all these years and we’re able to pick up new ones along the way. I’m totally grateful for all the support.
It’s always a pleasure when the rockers you grew up listening to turn out to be such nice, humble, down-to-earth people. Wolf Hoffmann is definitely one of those, and his laid-back demeanor is a far cry from the fiery riffs he puts forth in his music. Headbangers Symphony is out now on Nuclear Blast Records, and if you haven’t gotten this one yet I strongly suggest you do!