Accept's Wolf Hoffmann: "I Always Thought I'd Have to Get a Proper Job"

Teutonic terrors Accept have a new album - Blind Rage - on the shelves and an Australian tour on the horizon, so of course we had to have a chat with the band's mainstay guitarist Wolf Hoffmann about it all...

Wolf Hoffmann. He’s been one of my favourite guitarists for over thirty years, yet, despite all my involvement in the world of heavy metal over almost as long a period in various ancilliary positions I’ve never come across the man in a professional capacity; However, his band Accept (like you didn’t know) have a new album, Blind Rage, on the shelves now, and are preparing to head down under for some live action, so surely the editor of Australia’s biggest and best heavy metal read should be snaring some interview action with the great man, right? Damn right. I’m dry mouthed with anticipation when the ol’ jellybone begins rattling – talking to an idol will do that to you occasionally, even when you’re well entrenched in middle age – but I manage to pull myself together and accept (sorry) the call. We’re away!

You’re at home at the moment? “That’s right, I’m at home in Nashville, Tennessee. You’re with Metal as Fuck, right? That’s brilliant, a great, one-of-a-kind name. I love it!”

Very kind of you to say so sir, thank you! So all the Euro festival action is done and dusted for another year? “That’s right. We’ve just done the last two, one in Germany (Wacken) and the other in Poland (Woodstock). One had a hundred thousand people there, the other seven hundred thousand. Amazing. It’s the biggest crowd we’ve ever played to. I guess it’s the biggest crowd we’ll ever play to!”

Do those numbers present any problems for you on stage? Seven hundred thousand people aren’t all going to be quiet whilst you play. I realise you have great monitor systems and what have you, but does the general hubbub become distracting at all? “Absolutely not. Most of them are a long way away! You look out, and a hundred thousand people stretch out to the horizon. Seven hundred thousand people extend beyond the horizon! But you don’t notice much apart from all those people singing along, which is amazing!”

I can imagine it would be. We’ll touch a little more on live performance later, but I guess the major reason we’re talking today is to chat about the new album, Blind Rage – are you pleased with the reaction to the album you’ve heard so far? “Blown away. Amazed. I can’t remember ever having had such a good reaction to an album so quickly.”

It’s your third album with this lineup in five years, which is fast work by most people’s standards. How hard is it to come up with material so quickly? Do you know if a riff is an ‘Accept riff’ straight away when you right it? Or is the process a little more complex than that? “Well, riffs are really a dime a dozen. I’ve written hundreds of riffs, and I’ll write hundreds more. A great riff is not necessarily going to make a great song”.

It’s not, but I could name quite a few bands who can make one great riff go a long way! “Yes, I guess…” – But for Accept there’s always a lot more to it – the great choruses, the melodies… “Absolutely. And we work very hard on those. It may not look like work, but we work a long time on getting all those different parts written well.”

Does it help now that you’ve got a vocalist (Mark Tornillo) whose been around for five years? You’re writing with his voice in mind, knowing what he can do? “Not at all. I mean he came into the band and handled everything very well. But we write in a certain way. Myself and (bassist) Peter Baltes have been doing this for so long, we write everything together – Peter does all the demo vocals, the rough vocals, himself, so we have a very precise idea of what we’re doing and how to do it. When we’re finished we’ll hand the songs to Mark and he’ll add his own stuff to them then.”

Does It help working with the same producer again too? You’re back with Andy Sneap again. You’re obviously very pleased to have been introduced to him at the start of this new phase for the band? “Oh yes, of course! He has been fantastic. His attention to detail is fantastic. He does great job.”

Does it help the working process for you personally that he’s not a bad guitarist himself? He knows instinctively the nuts and bolts of what you’re after? ‘Absolutely. He knows when we’re after a certain tone, a sound, he knows what we’re after.”

And it must also help that he was such a big fan of the band? “Haha yes! He was a fan of Accept growing up and I guess you could say he brings something of a ‘fan boy’ sensibilty with him. It’s great to listen to his opinion when we are wondering whether something or other might go down well with the fans. We don’t always follow his opinion, but it’s good to have it!”

To move off piste a little, you were on the cover of the first edition of Kerrang! Magazine that I ever bought. “Haha I remember it well! I had hair then!” Yes, so did I! It was at the end of 1982, I think. When you were posing for that cover shot, did it ever enter your brain that in thirty two years time you’d be gearing up for American and Australian tours with the band possibly more popular than it ever has been? “Hell no. HELL.NO.  You know, we thought we’d ride it out for a few years maybe, but I always feared I’d end up having to get a proper job. I never thought we’d be doing this now. You have to remember it was a different time then, not like today? What were the Rolling Stones? Thirty or forty? Nobody had been doing it for years and years at that point!”

Well I for one am pleased you stuck at it! And talking of the tour, which we were, just about, what can we expect to hear on these dates? A fair chunk of Blind Rage, or more of a greatest hits type of thing? “We’ll do four or five from the new album, three or four from the other two ‘new’ albums, and a mix of the old stuff.”

I was struck when I watched the Wacken set on the internet recently just how well the new material fits in with the old. “It really does. I guess we’re lucky that we have a recognisable sound, but a lot of people have said how they feel the new stuff is almost better than the old stuff. But it certainly does fit together well.”

So there might come a time when you no longer play Fast as a Shark? “Absolutely, why not? I mean, of course, there will be some old songs we’ll always have to play, but this band can really play anything from any of the albums, so…”

He leaves the subject tantalisingly dangling in the air, and then it’s time for our brief chat to end – we’ll see you soon Wolf! “Absolutely. You know, we have no idea what to expect in Australia, will people turn up, is there a viable metal scene?”

Well, you’ll see for yourself the answers to those questions when you get here. But here’s a clue in advance: The answers are (A) YES, and (B) YES. But don't take my word for it - you'll have a fine time finding out for yourself!


Blind Rage is out now on Nuclear Blast Records

Accept - Australian Tour November 2014

Friday 14th - Factory Theatre – Sydney

Saturday 15th - The Corner Hotel – Melbourne

Sunday 16th - The Hi Fi – Brisbane