Accept – Teutonic Stalwart Metal

Sunday, 31st March 2013

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Geeky teenage metal fanboy story: Back in my early discovery years, I read about Germany’s Accept in one of my first magazine purchases of 1984, Circus magazine. Luckily the record store manager in my home town willingly special ordered a lot of requests, so I immediately put down a deposit to receive Restless and Wild as well as Balls to the Wall. From there, I became hooked on Accept’s brand of fiery, traditional metal with classical nuances.

Fast forward to 2010, and Blood of the Nations obliterates all expectations for a metal comeback from a veteran outfit. It was my album of the year that year- so to say the follow up Stalingrad was eagerly anticipated to these ears is an understatement. Once again, Wolf Hoffmann and the guys hit it out of the park, mixing up the tempos with engaging melodies as only they can.

In anticipation of a killer tour package with fellow countrymen Kreator in North America this fall, I took the opportunity to chat with Hoffmann. His friendly demeanor made this quick talk easy to take in… Stalingrad hit the streets rather quickly after your incredible Blood of the Nations effort in 2010. Did you write a lot of material on the road during down time, or did you have material in reserve to speed up the process?

Wolf Hoffmann: Neither actually- we started fresh in the fall when we started to make this album. We didn’t have a lick really recorded or written when we started. We just sat down and it came out in a matter of a few months. Melody plays an important part in Accept’s music – vocally and musically. Is it a difficult process to capture the right feel and keep things fresh through the years?

Hoffmann: Yes. It can be incredibly difficult sometimes and at other times it can be incredibly easy. It’s different every time – some songs sort of just snap themselves together and are meant to happen that way and other times we have to go over a certain song again and again and again until they feel right. As long as you are aware of what is a good song and what isn’t a good song, it’s all good. But it doesn’t get easier through the years because of mainly all the material you’ve already written. You want to stay within that focus of what you are known for and as a result you want to get better at things. You have several challenges there to meet. It’s always fun though – I like being challenged. Now Andy Sneap your producer, back when you were recording the Blood of the Nations record, he had you go back to listen to some of the older Accept records to make sure you were critical of the new material being of the same standards. Do you think this was very helpful and important to the success of that album?

Hoffmann: It certainly was back then, because he reminded us of what he felt were the most important aspects of the Accept sound – the big backing vocals and the other German elements as he called it. He would say, “Well, this is what I think is really Accept right here” and we were really going, “That bit? Oh really… okay!” Something that as a writer you may not really be that aware of, once you talked it out it was sort of easy to look at that guideline right there. Not so much on this new album, because we already knew what we wanted because Blood of the Nations worked out really well for us – it was a little easier in that regard to do this. Some of the topics on Stalingrad that Mark handles the lyrics for are a continuation of the war themes that Accept have liked to cover through the years. Can you let us know a little bit about what was covered with a few of the songs on the record?

Hoffmann: Yes, some of the songs, like for instance the title track, it was one of the very first songs we wrote and set the kind of direction we wanted to take. It talks about the turning point, World War II, Stalingrad – the story of two soldiers on the battlefield, but more on a personal level than rather a purely historical level. Once we got that out of the way, we figured lets cover some other stories in those categories. “Hellfire” for instance, is about the firebombing of Dresden, it was also a very catastrophic event of huge proportions. It was a dramatic story to be told – we kind of left it at that, we didn’t want to go through all of the world disasters and make a concept album about that. We wrote whatever else came to mind after that – we have a song called “The Galley” for instance that is about a slaveship galley, sort of musically inspired and that can be the inspiration sometimes to develop the lyrics with a certain theme. We got inspired by this sort of chain gang, slave ship mentality and the song wrote itself, Mark put all the lyrics together for that. You have a fall tour in North America with fellow German veterans Kreator – how do you feel about the billing and what can fans expect for a setlist?

Hoffmann: I think people can expect a killer double bill of German metal! Kreator, man – they are one of the bands that are very influential in Germany. We have never really toured together, oddly enough – we are friendly with them and have played a few festivals together through the years. They helped form the roots of German/European metal – they look at us as an inspirational thing because we’ve been around a little longer than they have, they saw us perform “Fast As A Shark” and that was one of the first speed metal songs ever. They went to another level with speed metal and thrash – it’s going to be a great package for the fans to see these two historic acts together. Would you ever consider anniversary shows in remembrance of pivotal albums like Restless and Wild or Balls to the Wall – playing them in their entirety?

Hoffmann: Actually we have done that, one time. It didn’t coincide with a typical anniversary thing, we did the entirety of Restless and Wild, it was either last year or the year before. That was a lot of fun; we had to re-learn a lot of the songs that we hadn’t played in forever. We re-discovered a lot of great material. Are you surprised by the reception you’ve received with the latest Accept band? It’s like you haven’t lost any ground from your 80’s heydays.

Hoffmann: We are totally and pleasantly surprised. We were hoping this was going to go down well but at the end of the day no one could have anticipated this overwhelming support. We are very happy about that obviously. Quite honestly, I think we are having a better time with this lineup, a better team and a better overall package than maybe, ever. Since Mark Tornillo is the relative “new” guy, did the band or crew practice any practical jokes or hazing rituals to welcome him into the Accept fold?

Hoffmann: No, not really [laughs]. Not that I can remember. We concentrate on other stuff. I guess he is still considered the new guy. It was funny – I don’t think he had ever been out of the country, ever, before playing with Accept. The very next day we took him to Moscow, and St. Petersburg, then onto all over Europe, all across the globe to South America and Japan. He’s seen the world since joining us. At this point, how important is it for Accept to have the right team in place to further advance the career- between management, record labels, tour promoters, sponsorships, and so forth?

Hoffmann: It’s more important than ever – especially with everything you have to do on the internet. You always need a whole team of people that help to make things happen. We have a great team as far as management, publicity…they are doing a great job with all of that. What do you feel about the state of the metal scene in 2012 in comparison to the first wave of success the band had in the 1980’s?

Hoffmann: It’s totally different. Some things will never change, but the business has changed dramatically. Just look at all the labels that have vanished, all of the online avenues changed everything. There are more and more bands competing and selling tickets and records online, it’s not getting easier. Certain things do stay the same, there is still a demand for a band like us who have been there from the start – bands that do things on a handmade basis. We are definitely not a computer-type band, we are a metal band. So you aren’t one of those bands that sends files to each other back and forth when it comes to writing, you actually get together to rehearse and hash material out?

Hoffmann: You know it, that doesn’t work for us. We’ve tried that, but it doesn’t get us anywhere to be honest. Even though we live in different parts of the world, we get together physically every time to rehearse when we are working on new material. There’s no other way – we try to use modern technology, we aren’t dumb and stuck in the 70’s or 80’s – but certain things you can’t mess with and one of them is the human element of interaction, that’s definitely important. What do the next 12-18 months look like for Accept?

Hoffmann: Touring, touring, touring, and a live DVD is what’s in store next for us. And then we will hit the studio again for another album. We want to spend the right time to make a real, complete live DVD. We don’t have a lot of historical footage left, we will concentrate on this new side of things. It’s like a new chapter has opened which is so dramatically successful and different from what we’ve been doing before. Especially because we had such a long break between things, we are a new band in a way. We are building on the success of the past and yes, we have that great back catalog but to me, it feels like a new chapter instead of a mere continuation.

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