by Mark Kadzielawa
Accept strikes the iron while it's hot. The band made a comeback of the year with "Blood of The Nations" in 2010, with their new vocalist Mark Tornillo. They accomplished the impossible, replaced their signature vocalist Udo Dirkshneider, made a new record, and came out victoriously on top. "Blood of The Nations" did strike a chord with the audiences, and the band did a massive touring campaign to promote the album and the new line up. Accept was truly reborn!
While everyone expected the band to rest, and recover from their touring commitments, they did the absolute opposite. As soon as the last show was completed, they locked themselves in the studio, and wrote a brand new album. The result is called, "Stalingrad," and by all standards it's a new classic. It has all of those trademarks Accept fans know and love, and the band is certainly not taking the easy way out. By the time you're reading this they've already completed the first leg of the tour, and are eagerly planning more shows to come. The album itself, feels fresh, energetic, and very driven. Accept definitely hit on a very special momentum, and they work very hard to spread their gospel around. With Accept still in tact, heave metal will be alive for years to come.
Guitar player, Wolf Hoffmann, talks about the making of the new record, and how the band is enjoying the current state of affairs.
You did a massive amount of touring for the last record. How did things work on the road?
Wolf Hoffmann: Obviously, it worked really well because we’re still here. We’re still friends. It takes about a week, and you know somebody, and how they behave on the road, and stuff. Mark is a true professional, who’s been on the road many times. Maybe he was never on the road as extensively as he was with us, especially in the international sense, but he did great. I mean, we went to like 30 countries on the last tour, and that was certainly new for him. It wasn’t completely new to us. We had done a lot of touring, but never quite that extensive. It was good for everybody to bond. It was a good experience.
The reason I asked that question is because I remember when David Reece was in the band, Accept pretty much broke up after the Chicago gig back in 1989.
Like I’ve said, it takes about a week, and you know somebody, especially on the road. Back then, we knew from the get go, “oh no, this isn’t going too well.” With David Reece, we pretty much knew right away, we didn’t need to spend months on the road to find out the chemistry wasn’t there. It took few days, and you knew there was trouble.
So whatever took place in Chicago in 1989, was building up, right?
Oh, totally, the tour didn’t last very long. It was maybe a couple of weeks. But, we knew after the first few days it was not gonna last.
I remember Peter Baltes telling me, years ago, how all of a sudden drugs appeared in the band, and it basically ended in Chicago, after a fistfight. Coincidentally enough I saw that show at the Vic Theater.
Oh, you’ve seen it? That was a lousy tour to begin with, and the times were tough. And none of that helped, but really the thing that brought it to the end was that fistfight, and afterwards, we pulled the plug. That was the last straw. It just wasn’t working out. You see, we have certain standards in this band, and we felt we were not moving in the right direction.
Let’s move into more happier times, which is now. Many fans are surprised how quickly you put the new album out. And considering how active the band was on the road, how did you pull this out?
Well, we just sit down, and wrote the songs. What we did, we came off the road last August (2011) and locked ourselves into the studio right away, and forced ourselves to write songs. This is how we work. You know what I mean? That’s how we get things done in this band. There was not a lot of stuff that was written on the road, or accumulated from the earlier days. We practically sat down, and cranked the stuff out. And we do this, when we need to. It’s weird, but we work our best this way. The certain amount of pressure is good. We dedicate the time, we turn off the phones, and write the songs.
What really stands out about the album, is Mark Tornillo’s vocal performance. Now it seems like he was only warming up on the last album, and that was a good record to begin with.
He feels little bit more comfortable, and secure. He’s been in the band now for a while, and that probably reflects in his vocal style. We have all the trust in his vocal ability, and it allows us to write a few more melodic things. But quite honestly, we tried to write stuff that was just along the lines of “Blood of The Nations.” When we’ve said we were gonna make this album, we said, “ you know this last one worked so well, and it was so well received, we would be foolish to try to change anything. Let’s just make more of the same, but with fresh ideas, new songs, but let’s not try to do anything differently.”
How much input did Mark have this time around?
It was very similar to how we did it last time. When we met Mark, we didn’t think we were gonna put Accept back together. We were not looking for a singer, we weren’t auditioning, and we didn’t have any songs. It just happened out of the blue. We met him one day, and decided then and there, we were gonna reform Accept. And if we do that, we might as well write new songs. We’ve written songs as we always write, and that’s Peter (Baltes) and I will sit down, and crank out riffs, and at certain point these develop into a sort of a rough song structure. Peter does adds some scratch vocals onto the songs, and until it feels like a song. And then we those nonsense lyrics, or chorus hooks, and give it to the singer, or the lyricist. In this case, obviously it’s Mark, in the older days it was Gaby, and then Udo performed them. But the basic songwriting structure has always been the same in Accept, and that really hasn’t changed at all.
You own performance is quite impressive as well, and I know that you’ve been doing all of the guitars in the studio for years. But it appears the extensive touring really added a nice punch.
That’s our style that we’ve developed over the years, and we never really changed that. It’s just more practical for me to do all the guitars because I’m so involved in the songwriting. For me to record both tracks is a lot easier than trying to send everything to Herman (Frank), and then going back and forth. I think we’re a good team together on stage with Herman, but in the studio, it’s all me. And I appreciate your comments about the overall performance.
The title of the album is “Stalingrad,” which is sort of controversial if you’re a history minded individual, but maybe you can explain your point of view on this.
We just came across the story of Stalingrad, and we felt it was a story worth telling. When I came across it, I actually watched a documentary on TV about the battle of Stalingrad. And I thought, there is some drama, and some shocking events that happened, and I felt it would make a great metal song. Even just the word Stalingrad sounds so powerful, that it evokes so many emotions. Mostly shocking, especially in Europe, because it’s still pretty deep within a lot of generations. But I felt, that after 70 years, maybe it could be written about. Normally, this is a sort of a taboo thing to talk about, even in Germany because it was so horrific. And in Russia too, and everyone was glad it was all over, and nobody wanted to touch that topic anymore. But I felt like we’ve always been good for controversial things, and we’ve always talk about things that normally people don’t talk about, especially in the metal lyrics. So, it was perfect for us.
Musically, you’ve managed to throw few notes of the Russian anthem into the title track. Which sort of reminds me of how you’ve worked in Beethoven's Für Elise into “Metal Heart” back in 1985.
Exactly! I’ve always admired the melody in Russian national anthem. Whenever I’ve watch Olympics, or anything of that nature, I would listen to the anthems played. And the German one was OK, the American was nice, but really the beautiful one for me was the Russian. I’ve always felt that had something special in it. It always moved me. And I’ve always said, “that’s a beautiful melody.” And now that we had that song “Stalingrad,” I thought to try a different approach, or a similar approach like I did with “Metal Heart.” Use it as an excerpt, throw it in there, and use it as a contrast.
As a musician do you always look for song parts where you can insert such classical breaks?
All the time. It almost became like a trademark for Accept. But you have to use it when it works really well for the song. You can’t force it in there, or else, it doesn’t feel right. I’ve done it several times now. I remember, last time I did it in a song called Sodom and Gomorra" in the 90s. The song wasn’t all that great, but I’ve tried. But you’ve got to wait for the right occasion.
A few years ago you’ve had a solo record with classical themes titled "Classical," so there is continuity there.
Exactly. When I released that album Accept was not active, and I did this album really as a labor of love. I wanted to get this out of my system. I went into the studio with some friends, and just did it because I really wanted to do it. But I didn’t tour on it, and I didn’t put together a live band for. So I’ve never really pursued the whole thing much further. I put it out there, and I was very proud of it, and I still like that record very much, but that’s all I ever did with it. I never worked the whole thing much.
Seeing how passionate you are about that project, did you ever get an urge to follow it up one day?
Yeah, for a long time I’ve been gathering material. And I actually started recording some stuff. What I really would love to do is bring it on the road.
As like an instrumental tour?
Totally. But then as soon as I’ve started that, Accept got back together, and here I am constantly touring with the band. This summer I was actually able to record, and lay down some ground. I spent three weeks on it, and put down some drum takes, and things like that for a follow up album.
Getting back to the “Stalingrad” album, what are some of your favorite tracks that you envision playing live?
The one that we’ve been playing live already are good indicators of that. "Hung Drawn and Quartered“ is a great song. It’s very up tempo fun song to play. "Hellfire” is good, but the ones that really do stick out are “Stalingrad,” the title track, “Shadow Soldiers” and the "The Galley."
On the other hand, each time you release a new album, you probably get a headache when it comes to selecting a set list, right? With so many classics from the past, and new songs being good, it must be a chore to put that list together.
Yeah, but that’s a good problem to have. I mean it’s a fun problem to have, so yeah, we go through that and see which ones we can possibly eliminate. We ask ourselves, “should we, or can we eliminate this song?” A lot of the classics we can’t eliminate. I don’t think we can ever do a show without playing “Fast As A Shark,” or “Balls to The Wall,” or “Metal Heart.” But there is some other songs we can slowly fade out because the new material is working so well. Right now, we’re doing an 80 minute set, and half of that are songs from the last two albums. That’s a good indication that new songs are strong.
And according to the last two times I’ve seen you, you vary the set list. So it’s not the same show from the first leg of the tour to the second.
Well, sometimes it’s out of necessity, and sometimes it’s because we’re slightly bored. We get suggestions from fans that we want to try, but I almost would prefer to keep the same set list, once it’s perfect. It’s just that at certain point you ask yourself, "what is ever perfect?” But I think if it runs smoothly and it feels perfect than there no need to ever change it.
When I reviewed the new album, there was a track, “Twist of Fate” which had that early Motley Crue kind of feel.
That’s bizarre. I’ve never heard that. To me it feels a little bit like Rainbow, or Deep Purple, something of that nature. Then again, it’s a cool track, and I don’t mind it at all. That’s probably the one track that was kind of away from the middle of the road norm for us, but we felt it was a good track for Mark to showcase his vocals.
For over a decade there was no Accept album, and now there are two within the last two years. How are the fans responding to such inspired activity?
They love it. Everybody loves it. We did it just to show the fans that we’re not gonna wait another five years or seven year to make another album. We really wanted to use the momentum the fans gave us, and the momentum that we have ourselves. We’re fired up on all cylinders, so we want to keep going. There’s no reason for us to wait. If we have ideas, we’re gonna crank them out. Why not?
It appears to you have a steady team of people, not only in the band, but when it comes to the label and the production, and so on. How does it all work?
Fantastic. We’re so fortunate to have all those people. And like I’ve said before, when we started thinking about doing another record, I’ve said, “let’s just not even think about changing anything, because we’ve got perfect components, and we’ve got a great team of people in the background that we work with.” There was no need to change anything, we went for the same ingredients, so we knew the album was gonna taste similar. It’s like cooking, you wanted the same taste, you had no choice but to use the same ingredients.
So you really enjoying this second lease on life?
Absolutely, we’re as happy, and as thrilled as we’ve ever been. This could be a whole new chapter for us, and continue for many more years. If all goes well, I feel, the best is yet to come. We’re just honestly getting started, and after 30 something years, and all the brakes in between, this is it. We’ve had so much down time to reflect on things, and we really feel like this is it for us.