Accept – Seething Blind Rage

Sunday, 24th August 2014

We knew we didn’t want to change the past, but having these new records be this successful is amazing to us. – Wolf Hoffmann

Everyone worried about singer Mark Tornillo coming into the Accept fold in 2009, and questions flooded the internet forums and news sites regarding whether the band would climb back to the top of the heavy metal ladder or become another lackluster re-start casualty that would only tarnish their legacy. 5 years later, the quintet stand tall and proud, releasing 2 fine records in 2010’s Blood of a Nations and 2012’s Stalingrad. Delivering the goods live cements their reputation, and now multiple generations get to enjoy the flying V’s, German hooks, and addictive choruses as I first did in the 1980’s.

Blind Rage is the new album, and possibly could be their most melodic of the three latest records to date. Performing to well over half a million people between the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany and the Woodstock festival in Poland earlier in August, I knew I needed to seek out guitarist Wolf Hoffmann for another talk. The man is a consummate professional in every sense of word, handling the questions with grace and tact. Read on, and prepare for another lengthy tour jaunt wherever you may be in this world of ours.

Dead Rhetoric: Let us know the thrill of performing earlier this month at the prestigious Wacken Open Air in your home country as well as playing to hundreds of thousands of people at the Woodstock Festival in Poland. Do you still get butterflies this many years in to play to this many people?

Wolf Hoffmann: It depends. It all depends on first if there is anything unusual about the show, if it’s in the middle of a tour you usually get to be less nervous. I’d say any time that you have a show like that, where there is that many people, yeah, I’m pretty nervous. The most nervous we get is when we haven’t played a show together in quite some time. I remember the first time playing together after like 10 years, that was crazy, I was a nervous wreck.

Dead Rhetoric: It’s exciting that there were video/audio streaming opportunities to take in these shows for those not able to attend directly in person, as I did for WOA. Hearing you pull out “Starlight”, “Flash Rockin’ Man”, and “Ahead of the Pack” live sent me back to my early childhood years discovering Accept 30 years ago. How did you choose which classics to add for these special festival shows?

Hoffmann: We played the whole Restless and Wild album during rehearsals because we were planning to do a longer set initially and then at the last minute we had to shorten the set. Quite honestly in the end it was quite good that we could concentrate on the strongest ones because during rehearsals we saw some songs rolled off better and sounded more modern than some other ones. “Shake Your Heads” was one that we looked at each other like, ‘really?’, it felt a little uncomfortable to play nowadays. “Ahead of the Pack” was one that we felt held up really well.

Dead Rhetoric: Let’s talk about the new album, Blind Rage, I feel like there was an added emphasis on the melody aspects for this record, especially in terms of the mid-tempo tracks like “Dark Side of My Heart”, the marching “Fall of the Empire”, and “The Curse” among others. Was this another case of digging deeper into the Accept discography and seeing what works best for the band and naturally letting things come out in the writing and refining stages?

Hoffmann: These things never happen on purpose or they are never planned. We sit down and write a bunch of songs and when we feel (we are) at the end of the songwriting period we look at the strongest ones and those are the ones we choose. If we tried to chart out how we want to write an album, in the past that method always fails because you can’t plan these things. We play from the gut and write from the heart and it’s what comes out.

Dead Rhetoric: The first video for the album is “Stampede”, and I love some of the inside camera shots you got of the instruments, as well as the stunning visuals. Where did you film this, how did the shoot go in your eyes, any surprises or dangerous aspects taking in a lot of the scenes so far up in the air?

Hoffmann: We conceptualized this video with our good friend David Blass, who also did the “Teutonic Terror” video with us a few years ago, and that had so many views, clicks, and positive comments, over 2 million the last time I heard. In any case we wanted to use the same guy, we wanted to do something epic and spectacular and we came up with using a great location and maybe some helicopter shots. They have these drones nowadays and it’s pretty cool what you can do with them. He found that location, we performed, it was an hour outside of Los Angeles in an area called the Devil’s Punchbowl. Even on camera it was high up, maybe it looked a little higher than it really was. It wasn’t quite as dangerous as it looked, but way up there. I remember it was freezing cold because we decided to use some early morning light, the first light, we arrived in the middle of the night and got up at 2am, got there by 5am. It was freezing cold, there was still snow on the mountains, and we had to stand out there in our t-shirts and we couldn’t even feel our hands sometimes (laughs).

Dead Rhetoric: Did you use some special GoPro cameras for the inside instrument shots?

Hoffmann: Yes, for the guitar shots a GoPro camera was placed inside a cheapo guitar with an opening, because electric guitars typically don’t have an opening in the middle that you can still get a camera into. It was a prop guitar.

Dead Rhetoric: Since this is the third studio album with Mark, would you say you are very comfortable knowing how to write together to get the best out of his vocal range and delivery at this point?

Hoffmann: Yes totally, we know through the writing process that things will work. We’ve written as Accept the same way through the years, Peter and I do the initial work and building songs with riffs and drum grooves, sitting together for weeks at a time in the studio. Peter is always doing the demo vocals for the songwriting process. Once the song has taken shape and we are happy with it, we have some sort of melody idea and a chorus/hook line idea or lyrical idea, and the song is pretty much musically finished, we will give it to Mark for his final lyrics and he’ll change some of the vocal lines or keep them the same. We will go through a couple more revisions and that is the end of it. Now that we have Mark we know that he can pretty much do anything we throw at him, the high pitch stuff and a lot of melodic stuff that he sounds great on. This time more than ever we wanted to showcase that side a little more. It was one of the very pleasant surprises that we discovered as we got to know Mark, the guy can actually sing. We let him do that for the first time on a song called “The Abyss”, there is a section where he sings with a clear and distinct voice and we were like ‘whoa!’, we wanted more of that.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any particular favorites off the new record; I know that this can be tough to think about, as you want to like all of your material as if it were like all of your children?

Hoffmann: I think “Dying Breed” is a strong one, “Dark Side of My Heart”, “The Curse”, and maybe “Final Journey”. This time more than ever they are all pretty consistent, so to give an example we have picked out 8 songs from the new album that we are going to try in rehearsal to play out live. We are surely going to play “Stampede” and “Dying Breed”, and then there is 5 or 6 more we are going to try.

Dead Rhetoric: I wanted to throw some songs from your back catalog at you and see what special thoughts/memories come to mind surrounding these tracks. First up from Breaker would be “Son of a Bitch”?

Hoffmann: “Son of A Bitch,” yeah. That whole song centers around the lyrics, at the time you know we were kids from Germany never really having been to America. We had this girlfriend who was somehow around the entourage of Dokken, she was hanging around with us. The girl was American so we asked her lyrical stuff, like what is the worst word anybody could ever say to you, give us all the swear words you know. So we used all the bad words she could ever tell us in that song, and we loved it. At the time it was said that it would be a big deal to get our songs on the radio, so (the record label) convinced us to do a radio version of the song with neutral lyrics called “Born to be Whipped”. We didn’t print the lyrics on there, as a gimmick we crossed them out and said ‘censored’, but it was us doing that little stunt.

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