A Conversation with Wolf Hoffmann of Accept
“The longer you do it, the more you realize you should take it for what it is. You can’t always measure it [success]by, “Oh, they’re selling more albums,” or, “They’re selling larger venues.” Fuck it. Who cares, man? We’re just doing what we do and we enjoy it for what it is. Of course, we want to get better and we want to get further along, but that’s not the end all. At the end of the day, it’s a lot of fun.”
AntiHero’s Tommy Leu had to opportunity to speak to founding guitarist Wolf Hoffmann of Accept about the band’s upcoming January 13th, 2017 release of their new live DVD and 2 CD set entitled Restless And Live on Nuclear Blast Records. They talked about the band’s enthusiasm for this first, official live release, a forthcoming new Accept album in 2017 (their fourth with vocalist Mark Tornillo), the band’s hiatus and return, being influenced by other musicians, mortality in the music business, his professional photography and solo work, his relationship with Peter Baltes, fearing falling off a tank during a video shoot, on leaving a legacy, and much more. We decided to lay out this interview in a summary format that hits on the key talking points and Wolf’s responses during their conversation. Enjoy!
On whether the upcoming release of the Restless and Live DVD & CD set from Nuclear Blast Records on January 13th, 2017 is Accept‘s first official live release?
Not entirely, but it’s the most current one and it’s one of very few. We’ve done some stuff in the ’80s, and there was a retrospective worldwide live I think it was called back in the ’90s, and we had that little bonus thing that we gave away, but this is a official first release since the resurgence of Accept eight years ago, yeah. It’s one of very few.
Being that I wasn’t able to find much other live material online from Accept, I was surprised, given the band’s 40-year tenure, that this was the first official release.
Right. Yeah, a lot of times, live albums were released after the band had broken up or when the band wasn’t existing anymore or something like that, but this is actually one while the band is in full swing and it’s an official release, so it feels good and it feels fresh.
On listening to, and having live albums of favorite bands in his collection.
Actually, I’m not a huge music fan consumer like you would think. I don’t have a huge record collection or all these favorite albums. I have to disappoint you there. I’m a musician that’s totally self-absorbed and I live in my own bubble, but I remember the glorious [days]… in the ’70s and ’80s. The one that everybody, when I was growing up, always looked to, it was Made in Japan by Deep Purple. That was our, “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool, live recording.” That was the album that influenced all of us.
On if he enjoys touring the world still, and if he and the band have the traveling down to a science these days?
[Japan] is fabulous, yeah, absolutely. But nowadays, we tour worldwide in places like Russia and Southern America. Japan is just one of many places, really, but we have a long history with Japan. It’s fabulous, but there’s other places that are fabulous as well. But man, it gets tougher and tougher. I think the glory days are over. As you know, airline travel nowadays, man, ugh. It doesn’t get better, does it?
No, it doesn’t, I’m afraid. It’s tough.
With all the security and coming to the airport early. They pack you in like sardines nowadays, and then don’t give you any food anymore. It gets worse and worse. It’s down to a few peanuts now.
I know, and then sometimes you have to buy the peanuts at $5 a bag or whatever.
Yeah, so that answers your question. No, we don’t have it down to a science. We try to stay with the system the best we can, but sometimes I go back to the old days and think, remember when you could just go and visit somebody and bring him to the gate? All these things I remember still, or you could do this and that, and now, everything seems to be restricted.
On the great sound quality of the new CD/DVD set, and if there was a lot of post-production on it?
No, man. There wasn’t any. There’s always post stuff where we can fix things, but there wasn’t anything re-recorded, especially, Mark is completely 100% live. It’s unbelievable. It totally is, which is pretty much unheard of nowadays. A lot of times, the vocals are always redone. I have to admit, we redid a few backing vocals because they’re sometimes hard to get right in the heat of the battle, and you get so much background noise that you just go back and fix a few things here and there. Sometimes tuning is a little bit of an issue where you got to go back and tweak some tuning issues, but, man, this is as live as it gets.
On how this new live DVD/CD package, that spans the band’s catalog from older to newer material, came about?
Well, we knew we wanted to do one, but that request has been in the air for a long time. Fans always said, “Why don’t you? Why don’t you? We need one.” We always wanted to, but you just got to have the right occasion to do it, so you need a good-looking stage and you need a film team available. All that stuff came together for us at this Balingen show in Germany, the “Bang Your Head Festival,” and we knew the people from before because we played there earlier, two or three years prior. So the fact that we knew what we were going to get made us commit to it. Then we just said we’re going to film it and see how it all turns out. If we have an off night and we don’t like the performance, then we’re not going to release it, but if it turns out good, then we definitely have something good because we wanted high quality, many cameras. We wanted many different camera angles and made sure we had as many different, well, sources of footage as possible.
There was obviously some excellent editing happening with it as well.
Right. Dude, the editor was very capable. He surprised us and he sent us the raw material, the first edits, and we were like, wow, blown away.
Sometimes it’s apparent with certain bands, especially those who have been around for a long time, that they aren’t really having as much fun on stage as they used to, or they’re doing it for different reasons. Watching the DVD clips, I do not see that with Accept, particularly with the interaction between Wolf and bassist, Peter Baltes. The band really look like they’re having fun.
On whether Accept still enjoys touring, and if it’s still as much fun as it once was.
Well, of course it is. I don’t think you can fake this. Yeah, man. When we go up there, it’s a night like we had in Balingen. Man, we were firing on all cylinders. What’s not to love? And at our age, it’s such a [great]chance to do what we do.
On recognizing the opportunity to still be playing in front of thousands and thousands of people for a living is a pretty good gig.
Right. For us, we’re in this unique situation. We had such a long hiatus in between when Accept was broken up pretty much. Now, coming back to it, we realize it even more than before, so we don’t take anything for granted anymore. When you’re in the same band all your life and you’re successful early on maybe and you just spend years and years doing the same thing, there’s always a tendency to take stuff for granted. To a certain degree, we even fell into that. I remember in the ’80’s you think nothing of it. “Oh, yeah, this is just the way it’s supposed to be, and this is great. Yeah, yeah, yeah, but this is normal,” but then you step away from it for a few years and you look back and think like, “Oh my god, there was nothing normal about it.”
On having gotten disillusioned with the music business back before the hiatus, and that the time off really helped to put things into perspective. Is that fair?
It’s totally fair, yeah. You never know what you got until it’s gone. That’s so true.
Playing music… It’s just one of those things that’s in your blood or it’s not.
It’s true. Like I say, once a musician, always a musician. It stays with you and you always long to get it back if it’s gone. Now that we have that chance and we are somewhat successful and we have got a good-going band again, we appreciate every moment of it. The other thing is, man, you just look around, people are starting to die around us, and you think to yourself, “My god, you better appreciate it while you can because nothing lasts forever.”
On seeing other bands aging and perhaps calling it quits eventually, and what happens when all of those bands aren’t around anymore… Take advantage of it while you’ve got the opportunity, yes?
The longer you do it, the more you realize you should take it for what it is. You can’t always measure it [success]by, “Oh, they’re selling more albums,” or, “They’re selling larger venues.” Fuck it. Who cares, man? We’re just doing what we do and we enjoy it for what it is. Of course, we want to get better and we want to get further along, but that’s not the end all. At the end of the day, it’s a lot of fun.
The song, “Dying Breed,” which is on this DVD/CD set, is a tribute to your musical heroes who aren’t going to be around forever, yeah?
That’s correct, yeah.
On Accept recording and releasing a new album in 2017, and being somewhere about halfway through the process currently?
That’s correct, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Andy Sneap [producer], was just over here. We did a bunch of backing tracks. We’ve done some guitar stuff, some vocal stuff. A lot more work to do, but we made a good dent into it. Just before this next tour comes around in January and February and March, we wanted to get some of it out of the way so that we don’t have that much left for next year when we pick it back up.
July or August of 2017 release date?
This will be Accept‘s fifteenth studio album?
It might be. I don’t keep track, but that sounds about right, yeah.
On getting into commercial photography as a profession… And eventually recognizing that if there is such a thing as a legacy, music, more so than photography, is where it’s at for Wolf Hoffmann.
Yeah. Here’s my thought process. At first, I was disgusted in the ’90’s with the music business and I thought, “Okay, this was fun while it lasted, but the music business is turning…” The ’90’s were horrible, as you remember, for our genres, and for a lot of bands. We all were fed up with it, and I thought, “Okay, heavy metal is now passé. Nobody wants to hear it anymore. Maybe it’s time to do something else with my life,” so I decided to concentrate on my second love and passion in life which is photography.
I gave it all I’ve got and I became a professional photographer after a few years of trying and trial and error and establishing myself. I did photo shoots, some of them really high caliber photo shoots for advertising agencies, insurances, you name it, big companies. Real stuff, not just fan stuff, and I made a good living of it. I really enjoyed it, but it dawned on me, compared to music, it’s just a commodity, man. It’s just throwaway stuff, commercial stuff, unless you’re really one of the people that ends up being in galleries like Helmut Newton or Ansel Adams, or all these guys.
On concert photography being an art, but much more of a commodity these days, and being able to make a career from it, and get paid for it.
Yeah, it’s tough. I think that part [concert photography]is pretty much done. I had some friends in the ’80’s and some really good photographers that made a good living being concert photographers, but ever since everybody’s got digital cameras, as you very well know, the price of photography has just gone down, especially in live photography. It’s just, my god, it’s almost impossible, I guess, to make a living from that.
On if Accept have hired photographers that go out on the road with them and document their tours?
No. No, we don’t. I know very few bands that actually do that nowadays. I think Iron Maiden does it sometimes with exclusively Ross Halfin, I guess, or somebody, but other than that, man.
Now we work with a lot of guys and we know a lot of photographers worldwide, but we hardly ever… no, never, actually, take anybody on the road with us.
I understand that Guns N’ Roses has some people out with them, and some of the country acts have photographers out with them, but maybe it’s the exception, not the rule…. …On Wolf shooting Accept‘s album covers for Blood of the Nations and Objection Overruled…
That’s right, I did. You know who’s that hand is? It’s Peter’s hands. Peter is my bass player and hand model. He’s available, and so I usually recruit him because he’s there.
On founding Accept bassist, Peter Baltes, being both a lifelong friend and business partner is a pretty rare thing.
It is. It’s totally remarkable, isn’t it? We’ve been working together for 40 years and hanging together and we haven’t killed each other yet. It’s quite amazing. We get along really well for the most part, even on tour, personally. We hang all the time. We go wander the streets when we’re on tour. We have breakfast together and all that kind stuff. We meet for dinners even if we don’t have to.
It’s refreshing to hear when there’s so much dirt out there about band members arguing and fighting, and they’re in separate dressing rooms, etc.
Totally. Yeah, I hear it all the time, too, and it’s just a sad reality, but Peter and I really have something like a bond or whatever you want to call it that’s lasted all these years. That doesn’t mean we always get along on every level. There’s days when we don’t see each other and keep the distance for a little while, but for the most part, it’s been working really, really well and we write together really well. That’s a rare thing, I know.
On Wolf’s photography and (now) music website – www.WolfHoffmann.com – which has a lot of great content housed there.
A shitload of photos, isn’t there?
There’s a shitload of photos, spanning many years… really great stuff for fans of Accept from the old days to the newer days.
Thank you. Yeah, it used to be WolfHoffmann.com was my photographer’s website, but then recently, I do photography less and less because I’m quite honestly, especially this last year, man, I was nonstop working on music, and so I had to turn down photo jobs left and right. Eventually, I said to myself, “You know what? It’s time to make the move and admit to myself I’m no longer a photographer at this point.” At least not a professional. For a while, it was actually working parallel quite nicely to where I was still doing real good-paying photo shoots every time that we’re not on tour or every time I was not in the studio, but right now, it’s just coming to a place where I was just saying, “Let me just convert and dedicate 100% again to music.” WolfHoffmann.com I thought is a good holding place to put all these photos that I accumulated over the years.
Are any newer rock or metal groups on the radar that Wolf Hoffmann particularly enjoys these days?
Not so many metal bands. There’s this band Halestorm. They’re actually here from Nashville that I listen to quite often here and there. Then I watched a band called Pretty Reckless the other day. They were pretty cool. Quite honestly, I’m the worst one to ask, like I said, because I don’t keep up with anything, man. I just come across something once in a while or I stick my head out at a festival and watch a band for a few minutes here and there, but, man, I can’t say anything meaningful to that, really.
That’s respectable… As a fellow photographer, I try not to look at too many photos of other photographer’s work because I don’t want to be too heavily influenced, if that’s the right word.
It’s exactly the same with me. I’m always thinking as long as I have ideas, I don’t really want to look too far left and right and see what everybody else is doing.
As a writer, the same thing applies. If I start reading somebody’s book, my mind wanders, to: “Well, I would write this differently or I would do this, this way.” Then I want to go do my own thing, so I try not to consume as much of the same art that I do.. That’s an interesting distinction.
It is. It is. We’re [Accept] lucky enough to have a style, and I know what I like and know the riffs that I want to write, and so I don’t really need to define myself. I don’t really need those outside influences too much, to be honest.
On Headbangers Symphony, Wolf’s second solo album that came out earlier this year also on Nuclear Blast Records, and whether there are more solo albums planned for future?
There might be, but first and foremost, I have to get this next Accept album out of the way, and then maybe somewhere down the line, we’ll take another look at that. I just was working so long on this Headbangers Symphony album for actually over 10 years that was thinking I have to finish that. If it’s something that people enjoy and like and if it’s somewhat of a success, I might even do another one day, but first things first. This was a huge step just to get that out and released now. It was a fun project. It was just dragging on way too long.
On if he enjoys making videos, or if it’s viewed as a necessary evil?
Very mixed emotions about that. Videos, we don’t have a good… we’ve never had a huge amount of luck with making good videos. They always turned out, or a lot of times, not as good as we had hoped. We realize we have to make videos, and we’ll probably continue to make videos, but videos is a touchy thing, except for a few Accept… “Teutonic Terror” turned out great, this new Headbangers Symphony video turned out great, but there’s also been some that were released that weren’t so great. It’s not something that’s easy for us, let’s put it this way. It’s not something that we just pull out of the hat like that. Making albums is a whole lot easier. It’s a lot more work, but it’s easier because it’s familiar territory. With videos, it’s different somehow.
On if there’s ever a moment of clarity realizing, “I’m standing on a tank air-soloing to my own song” while shooting a video?
I was first and foremost afraid I’d fall off and looked like an idiot because that thing is quite high up and I was balancing on this slippery tank up there. It wasn’t totally comfortable, to tell you the truth, but I thought, “Ooh, it’s pretty damn cool to be on a fucking tank like that.”
It doesn’t get more metal than that, Wolf.
No, yeah, yeah. I definitely felt the metal in that moment. I definitely was feeling it, yeah. Flames and fire everywhere. That was definitely a metal moment.
On the possibility of any scenario in the future where Accept plays with Udo [Dirkschneider] again either live onstage, or in a recording scenario?
Next question… Next question. Nice try. [laughing]
Enough said… Mark [Tornillo] is great. The latest albums are great, and we are anxious for this latest live release, Restless And Live DVD/CD set, it’s excellent! Highly recommended. Best of luck with it Wolf.
Is Accept coming to the US next year to tour?
We’re planning on it for sure, yeah.
Wolf Hoffmann, thank you very much. Really appreciate your time. I’ll see you out on the road next year.
Nice talking with you, my friend.
From Nuclear Blast Records: On January 13th, 2017 heavy metal titans ACCEPT will deliver their new live package called Restless And Live. This set will not only include the entire show that ACCEPT played at Bang Your Head!!! Festival 2015 on DVD, but also two live CDs with different recordings from their most recent European tour.
Restless And Live – Tracklisting:
03. London Leatherboys
04. Restless And Wild
05. Dying Breed
06. Final Journey
07. Shadow Soldiers
08. Losers And Winners
09. 200 Years
10. Midnight Mover
11. No Shelter
12. Princess Of The Dawn
13. Dark Side Of My Heart
15. Fast As A Shark
16. Metal Heart
17. Teutonic Terror
18. Balls To The Wall
01. Stampede – ballbusters, great hard rocker
04. London Leatherboys – classic
05. Living For Tonite
06. 200 Years
07. Demon’s Night
08. Dying Breed – song to heroes
09. Final Journey
10. From The Ashes We Rise – really like this one, melodic dynamics musically & vocally, great guitar solo
11. Losers And Winners – classic
12. No Shelter – cool extended jam in the middle section
13. Shadow Soldiers
14. Midnight Mover
02. Restless And Wild
03. Son Of A Bitch
05. Dark Side Of My Heart
06. The Curse
07. Flash Rockin’ Man
09. Fall Of The Empire
10. Fast As A Shark
11. Metal Heart
12. Teutonic Terror
13. Balls To The Wall
I’m a Rebel (1980)
Restless and Wild (1982)
Balls to the Wall (1983)
Metal Heart (1985)
Russian Roulette (1986)
Eat the Heat (1989)
Objection Overruled (1993)
Death Row (1994)
Blood of the Nations (2010)
Blind Rage (2014)
Restless and Live (2016)