May 23, 2013
November 27, 2005
By Tony Antunovich
All images used with permission courtesy of Wolf Hoffmann.
German Metal legends ACCEPT are one of the most influential, and most respected bands in the history of Heavy Metal. Setting the standard in the early '80s with such classics as "Breaker", "Restless And Wild" and the immortal chrome-plated masterpieces "Balls To The Wall" and "Metal Heart", ACCEPT's popularity reached every corner of the globe, particularly in Europe, Japan, and North America. With the unmistakable, powerful screaming voice of Udo Dirkschneider at the front of the machine, backed by the mainstay armory of Wolf Hoffmann (guitars), Stefan Kaufmann (drums) and Peter Baltes (bass), their unique musical style blended crushing Metal with melodic anthems and distinct Germanic-sounding elements. Over the years the band experienced a number of tremors, including several lineup changes and stressful situations that caused a lot of tension within the inner circle. In 1987, Udo Dirkschneider left the band to pursue his solo career.
The remaining members enlisted new vocalist David Reece for a new try at the game in the form of "Eat The Heat" in 1989. However, the short-lived stint was plagued by yet more tensions and eventually prompted a split. Three years later, the original lineup reformed and came back hard and heavy with "Objection Overruled" (1993), and it seemed that ACCEPT had been revived to full-strength as it was back in the glory days. Alas, the final chapter came to pass after 1996's "Predator" and the tomb of ACCEPT was closed indefinitely.
Enter 2005 - ACCEPT announces a reunion tour for summer festival shows, including a monumental performance at the prestigious Wacken Open Air in the band's homeland of Germany. All three key components (Dirkschneider, Hoffmann, Baltes) were joined by former guitarist Herman Frank ("Balls To The Wall") and former drummer Stefan Schwarzmann. Would this be another new start for ACCEPT? Unfortunately, it was made clear in the beginning that this would be a one-time deal and after the reunion dates, each member would go their separate ways, as explained by Wolf Hoffmann in this exclusive interview. He talks about how it felt to get back to doing what he does best and playing on stage after nearly ten years absence from the music business. Hoffmann talks about his long-running career in ACCEPT and as a guitar player, and sheds some light on the current state of Metal, and music in general. But the most important thing he makes very clear is that he's not done yet.
First of all, how and when did the idea of the reunion come about?
Well, it's kind of been in the air for a long time and it all started when this magazine in Germany, Rock Hard, had their 20th Anniversary. The editor in chief has always been in touch with us and one day he was saying like, "Man, wouldn't it be great if for the 20th Anniversary ACCEPT was playing again and they would all come and do a show just because the magazine got started with ACCEPT on the cover way back when; and it would be such an honor." and blah blah blah. And that's when we first started talking to Udo (Dirkschneider) about it. Last year he kind of turned us down because God knows why, and this year he said "yes" - thank you finally - and it was amazing because the offers were really good and it was too good to be true basically.
Well, the entire metal media and fans alike were really excited.
Well, you have to be careful with the term "reunion", though, because it's really not a full-blown reunion with a record and all that stuff. We didn't do that JUDAS PRIEST thing where we said, "Okay, here we are again and we're going to go around and make records again." We really only got together for these 25 shows and played them and that's it.
I think a lot of people were probably hopeful that things were going to go further, but you made it very clear in the beginning that ACCEPT was going to perform these shows and then that's it. So I think that gave people a good indication as to what your intentions were.
Yeah, but you wouldn't believe how many times I still have to explain "Why not?" and "Why blah?" and this and that. I always said the truth that we all could just agree to do these shows and after that everybody had their own plans; and that's what it is.
After almost ten years away from each other, can you describe how it felt to walk on stage - after all that time - at that first reunion gig on April 25 in St. Petersburg?
I was so nervous I couldn't tell you. I hadn't been on stage in all these years either. My last show prior to that was in Tokyo in 1996. So for me it was almost ten years, yeah. I was super nervous, but I tell you, after a few bars, to me it all felt very familiar. It was almost like it hadn't been that long of a break, you know. It was really weird. I mean, even in the rehearsals prior to the show, I felt that same vibe. It was like, "Yeah; this is it! This is what I've been missing." And really, to tell you the truth, there wasn't anything missing in my life. But now that I was on stage I thought, "Oh shit! There is something I was missing!", you know (laughs).
How did you overcome that?
Oh, it just goes away after a couple of minutes. It's always the same; it's just the first time that you actually step out there on stage and think, "Oh, how's it going to be? Is everything going to be a disaster or am I going to make a fool out of myself?" You don't know. So that was a little nerve-racking for me; but actually after a minute or so, it just goes away and it kicks back into a routine. Somehow you tap into this; I don't know where it's coming from, but it's there, man. It's almost like riding a bicycle. You somehow don't quite forget.
I understand that the Russian fans just went nuts.
They're amazing! They're just nuts! They know every little lyric and every little solo. They know the stuff and they are real fanatics. They're just way cool.
Yeah, Russia has always seemed to be a real Metal-hungry nation. They seem to just love bands like ACCEPT, SCORPIONS, HELLOWEEN... all these German bands.
Yeah, they do. They seem to relate more to the European Metal versus say like maybe MÖTLEY CRÜE or somebody like that. They aren't into that as much as they are into the European melodic bands.
Yeah, but then again, European and American Metal are completely different.
Yeah, they are.
How did the other festivals go, such as the Gods Of Metal and the Tuska festival?
Italy was maybe the only show where I wasn't that excited, but that had something to do with the organization and we played kind of earlier during the day. We were not the headliner in Italy, whereas let's say in Sweden, Germany and other places, we were the headliners and that makes a big difference. When you play in the evening there are 50,000 people there, the sun goes down and the light show comes on, and that's a whole different atmosphere than when you're playing in the afternoon. Although, I must say the fans don’t care. They're just as excited about it. So we went to Russia, Japan for like maybe four or five shows and the rest were scattered around Europe.
When you mentioned the organization for the Gods Of Metal, did you mean the promoters?
Yeah, the promoters. It was okay; it just wasn't as great as some of the others. You know, that always has a lot to do with how you feel on stage; how smooth everything goes and the whole backstage vibe has something to do with the organization.
Wacken was catastrophic weather-wise.
It always is. It's quite a sight to see, man. There is, like I said, 50,000 people - in a field of mud and they all looked like it was still 1986.
They had to lay a bunch of straw on the ground because of all the mud.
They did... to help keep the mud down. We played the show and the rain was coming down real hard, and after the show they picked us up in a little van. They tried to bring us backstage and the van got stuck in the mud (laughs).
I heard that your sound was a little bit off.
My guitar broke down. I don't know what happened, but it was during the encore. The whole show went fantastic, but then for the first encore song, the guitar just freaked out and it wouldn't come back on for like five or ten minutes; but it seemed like an eternity (chuckles).
That must be really frustrating when you're on stage and that happens, especially during an encore.
Hell yeah. It's one of the worst nightmares, but hey it wasn't my fault. But you’re standing there and it feels like someone just pulled down your pants or something. You're standing there in front of everybody and you can't do what you want to do.
Wolf, looking back on the entire reunion tour, what your most memorable experience?
Probably the first show in St. Petersburg and maybe the first show in Germany. For some reason that Rock Hard (festival) show was very memorable. Sweden was just amazing also - just the atmosphere.
You guys are good friends with HAMMERFALL.
Yeah, I am actually. They're excellent guys. As a matter of fact I know them quite well. I saw them all the time this summer. Everywhere we went there was Oscar (Dronjak - guitarist) and they also recorded one of their last albums here ("Renegade") out on our farm in the studio here.
They were here last summer on August 25.
Really? I'm surprised they even come over here. How many people did they draw?
You know, I wasn't impressed with the turnout at all. I'd say maybe 350-400 people. It was pathetic. It actually really disappointed me. The thing is if people want Metal shows to keep coming to North America, those people have to come to the shows.
Right! But it's been like that for the last almost ten years.
Unfortunately, the U.S./Canadian Metal scene is not as good as the European scene - not even close.
No, man. It's just dead.
I think in some states it's pretty good, like the east coast. For instance, in Toronto and Montreal there is a huge Metal scene.
But isn't it pathetic that it used to be - like when we got started in the '80s - that everybody's dream was to come to the U.S. and tour here in America, and now it's the opposite. Everybody European came over here. Our big break was to come over here; that was our big deal. The only place all the American bands can still go on tour is in Europe - at all these European festivals. I mean, I talk to so many other musicians and they say, "Next year we're going to hit the festivals in Europe." But nobody is talking about doing tours over here because they just can't. It really turned around. I mean, even when MÖTLEY CRÜE did their reunion thing - they did a good portion of it over there in Europe, where in the old days they wouldn't have dreamed of going over there because they would've raked everything in the American market first, you know.
Metal has changed a lot over the years.
It sure has.
What is your take on the current Metal scene as a whole, and just Metal in general?
Well, I really don't have a much better insight than you guys do. If anything, it's worse because I look at it from the inside and from my perspective, we all know that in the early '90s, the whole Alternative scene - starting with NIRVANA - killed everything; and rightfully so because Metal was turning into this BON JOVI Pop/Hairspray scene that nobody really could honestly stand behind anymore. So, rightfully so, there was a new "Alternative" wave coming in and maybe during the mid-'90s, I think it was pretty dead for everybody. Then all of a sudden, these European bands kind of found their own identity and the whole scene over there in Europe started to really say, "You know what? Let's forget about America and we'll do our own thing. We like what we like and we no longer are influenced by the American scene." It used to be even that Europe as a whole didn't really have their own identity.
They were just sort of looking more for the American market; what's big over there is automatically big over here; and there weren't really a lot of local acts that made it big just on their home territory. That all changed in the '90s and now there are bands that are huge over there (in Europe) and nobody has even heard of them here.
Do you think that Metal is every going to get back to the status it was in the '80s?
Well, people keep telling me, "It's coming back! It's coming back!", but somehow, I don't see it happening. I mean, this has been going on for at least five or seven years that everybody is saying, "Yeah, you just wait! This year it's coming back. I can feel it!" (chuckles) But honestly, I don't know... I don't think so. I hope so, but it doesn't look like it to me.
What are some of your favorite Metal bands these days?
Honestly, I'm not that well-informed anymore. I'm just getting back into it. I like EVANESCENCE, for instance, and these sorts of Neo-classical-influenced bands. HAMMERFALL are good; they're very traditional. They're not bad at all.
Do you still listen to a lot of the bands you used to listen to in the '80s?
No, actually I don't.
Really!? No JUDAS PRIEST or anything like that?
You know, I've never been much of a music consumer. I've never had a huge record collection; I don't really put on records. Honestly, if I ever put anything on, it's something completely different - mostly Classical music, or when I'm working on the computer I have an old collection in iTunes; stuff that is pretty middle-of-the-road boring stuff. But sometimes if I listen to Metal, I'll put on AC/DC; JUDAS PRIEST; sometimes old DEEP PURPLE. So I guess I'm pretty outdated that way.
That's all good stuff. But don't forget ACCEPT. "Balls To The Wall" had a huge impact on the '80s scene and people as well.
Cool, man. You know also what has changed from those days to nowadays is the impact music has on kids in general. I mean, that impact that that song had on you, I doubt that there is anything out nowadays that has the same impact on young kids today, because they are so over-flooded with new stuff all the time. I don't know... it doesn't have the same... it's almost not in the same category anymore. Nowadays there are video games, computers, and cell phones (laughs) and all that other stuff that really didn't exist back then.
No, I agree. There really is nothing memorable in the mainstream these days.
Well, yeah, but we are old farts by now (laughs). So that has something to do with it too; but even if you see the young kids and ask them, they all say, "I don't know." You know, I remember when I was a kid it used to be - say the new ALICE COOPER record coming out or OZZY OSBOURNE - actually it was BLACK SABBATH then. It was a big deal and it was what we talked about for days and weeks; and now it's just like, "Yeah, there's a new record. Whatever."
Songs like "Balls To The Wall" and "Electric Eye" (JUDAS PRIEST) had huge impact on people because they were, and still are, memorable. I mean, JUDAS PRIEST are still kicking.
Yeah. I would imagine they all go through the same thing that I just went through. You start as a Metal band and you do all these things and after a while, you breakup and then you try all kinds of other things; like Halford tried his own band with other people there. Then one day you sort of realize, "This is probably not what I'm here for. I'm probably here to be with JUDAS PRIEST and do what I do best and go out there and just do it." I don't know... because I had this sort of inner struggle for the last ten years. I just sort of walked away from the music scene and was perfectly happy, but now I realize, man... music is really where it's at for me; and it doesn't really matter how old you are. I mean, if this is what you believe in, and this is what you do, and you like doing it then you should just do it and not question it anymore. I've always been the one who has always been questioning myself; "Is this really good enough? Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?"
And that's why when the time came - when I thought in the mid-'90s - I was totally burned out and I was disgusted with everything and the way it went and the music scene in general; and I thought, "This is where I need to stop."; because if you can't stand behind it anymore and if you are not enthusiastic about it and if you are not fired-up about what you do, then you should just quit and do something else. I think it's only fair to the fans if you can't give it your best or if you feel that what you're doing isn't really all that great anymore then you should just stop. Otherwise it's unfair to come out with a sort of a half-ass product. Now that I've been on these festival shows and I've played all summer long - these reunion gigs - I'm so excited about playing music again I can't tell you. It's like I came around full-circle almost.
That's good to hear, Wolf.
Yeah, man. I have all kinds of plans about new projects. There are several things on the table right now that I want to do.
Can you tell me a bit about that?
Yeah, man. In the near future, I'm just trying to do a few things to just keep playing. The next tour that we're really scheming on is a guitar players tour with Uli (Jon) Roth (ex-SCORPIONS, ex-ELECTRIC SUN) and Michael Schenker (MSG, ex-SCORPIONS, ex-UFO). It will be an all-German G3 kind of thing where I would just play instrumental songs and all different guest musicians would just come together and jam basically. But with Uli Roth and Michael Schenker, that is something that I am really excited about. They've been my guitar heroes when I grew up.
That's excellent! So is that in the bag?
Well, it's kind of 95 percent sure; so we're still talking and there are still a few kinks to be worked out; but hopefully it can be worked out. I mean, I'd love to do it; and that would be next Spring, starting in Germany. We'd probably be concentrating mostly on Europe, but they're already talking about maybe taking it to America.
So you're just talking about touring? Would you do an album as well?
I can't imagine an album, no. At this point we're just talking about touring.
What other plans do you have?
Well, my big passion has always been classical music and I made a little record a few years back which was solely a studio record. "Classical" is the name of it. I took classical pieces and rearranged them for Metal instruments. That is a project that I'd like to take out on the road, but I want to do that with different instrumentation. It should be a total live event with an orchestra, a light show and multimedia - like a big deal. So I am currently working on that as well. That would be more long-term; maybe in a year or so from now. That would be the earliest to go on the road. Instead, I want to stay off the road for that long; that's why this whole G3 thing came about. It would just be something for in between. But really, my big dream is to get this classical project rolling. So I'm talking to conductors and arrangers and people in that whole field, because that's not really my home territory; so it's a little complicated for me. It's not something that I'm so familiar with.
So, it's a little bit difficult. Hopefully we can get all that worked out in the near future.
So it's basically those two projects that you're working on now?
Well, there's one more actually believe it or not. (November 26) I'm going to play a show with Sebastian Bach (ex-SKID ROW) in his band as a guest guitar player and if that goes really well we might even do some more shows together. We'll see. It's going to be in Poughkeepsie, New York. So far, that's the only gig; maybe next year. I mean, they're already talking - offering tours and things but we'll see how all that turns out.
I'm really happy for you that you're so excited to really get rolling with touring again. It sounds like you missed it.
I did, and I didn't realize now much I missed it, but I have to be honest, man; it's just a whole other level of satisfaction when you do that kind of stuff.
How long have you been playing guitar now?
Let's see... damn near 30 years! I joined ACCEPT when I was 16 believe it or not (laughs). I was so young; the legal driving age in Germany is 18. For the first year and a half, I had to be picked up from home by Udo or some other guy (laughs).
How long have you been in the United States?
Well, we started coming in '84, so it's been over 20 years. I haven't been here full-time for 20 years, but I've been here on and off.
I read a report that stated that you are moving back to Germany. Is that true?
Yes. That's my plan and we're going forward with that. My plan is that I want to make more music and especially concentrate on the classical thing; and it's so hard to do that from over here. So I think I want to move back... I know I will... early next year, in January or so. I already have an apartment over there. I want to live in Berlin.
Was that decision fueled mainly by your desire to do music or do you miss your mother country?
A little bit of both and I want to be a little closer to my family also. I think I want to spend more time over there. There's a different vibe and atmosphere over there too. I miss that a little bit too, I must admit. You know, what I also like about the new times nowadays is people have accepted the fact that this is what you do for a living but if you don't make a living at it 100 percent, you're in it because you love doing it; and if you have a day job that's cool too. It used to be that everybody had to put on this big show about how they're all rich and famous; drive around in limousines and have the big mansions; and everybody kind of knew that it's all bologna. But nowadays, people even can admit it. There are a lot of middle-aged people that love playing Metal music; they just have a day job and then come out on the weekends and do this stuff. It's cool with everybody. And you know what? Bands honor that longevity of people like MOTÖRHEAD, for instance.
They achieve the sort of "cult" status because they've been here for so long.
Yes. It's not that often that you see a band like that, or IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, or even SAXON. They're still going strong. It's amazing how they keep doing it.
Lets talk more about ACCEPT. How did you come up with the name "ACCEPT", and who came up with it?
I have no idea (laughs). I didn't. I think it was Udo or somebody before him even who came up with that name; and I've never liked it very much to tell you the truth. I've always thought it was kind of weird, but I've gotten used to it over time, of course. It's too late to change it now, I guess (laughs).
Your wife, Gaby, went under the alias Deaffy for years and still is the band's lyricist. I'm wondering why you chose to keep the identity secret?
Well, you know, because in the '80s there were all these sort of rules - what was "cool" and what wasn't "cool" - and to have a woman, and the manager (of ACCEPT) of all people write the lyrics for songs like "Balls To The Wall" and "London Leatherboys" would not have been very cool. So there would have been nothing we could have gained from that. We thought, "Well, we don't have to tell anybody. We'll just come up with this little pseudonym thing and there it is." We just didn't want to tell everybody.
Speaking of "Balls To The Wall", that album was, and still is, a milestone in Heavy Metal period, and I think it will probably always stand out as one of the greatest albums ever made by ACCEPT, and ever to be released in the history of Heavy Metal. I know that a lot of the lyrics dealt with love, sexuality, politics, etc., but can you describe the album's theme and let's say, what the title track meant to the band?
Well, you'd really have to ask Gaby because she wrote it, but I kind of know, of course. We've always been interested in politics and in human rights and things like that, so a lot of the lyrics that we had in those days, and to the end actually, were dealing with human rights, for instance, and that's really what "Balls To The Wall" is all about. "One day the tortured will stand up" and kick some ass!
When you really pay attention and read the lyrics, you can see how much depth there is in there.
Of course. I have to give Gaby credit for that. I mean, honestly, on the first few records, we wrote crappy lyrics just like everybody else; a) because we were German and sitting down with a dictionary didn't really make for good lyrics, and b) we were just dumb kids, you know. Then when Gaby joined us that was one of the first things to change. She said, "You guys need better lyrics and if you can't do it, I'll write some with you." Between all of us, we came up with something that made a lot more sense. A lot of times it was this where as a band in the rehearsal studio, we would write some stuff and came up with something that maybe had a phrase that sounded pretty cool or something, and then she took that and just really put some sense into it.
"Metal Heart" was about people with metal hearts ruling the world, correct?
Yeah. It was really that one day the robots will rule the world and actually that was almost like a prophecy that, in a weird way, came true because it says, "in 1999, the human race is dying". I think right around that time, the first person with a metal heart actually walked around. I mean, if you think about it, didn't they just come out with artificial hearts around that time?
I think so.
So that was almost weird (laughs). Of course, it was not really meant in a literal way; it was more dealing with the whole computerization of the world and how it's getting more and more run by robots and machines; and well, that part is certainly coming true.
"Eat The Heat" took on a style somewhat different than traditional ACCEPT.
It sure did! I hate the sound, man. I wish the sound was better. The drum sound is pretty awful. I mean, I think there are some awesome musical ideas on that record, and with a little more luck, we could have really gone far with it, but somehow it just wasn't meant to be. The chemistry in the band wasn't there; lots of things weren't there; but if only one of those elements would have been better, it could have gone better. But, it wasn't so who cares?
I'm curious; how did you ever find David Reece?
(pauses for a few seconds) How did we find him? Man, that's one of those bizarre, dark corners of my mind that I hardly ever go to. I haven't really thought about that one forever. Did we have a competition or some sort of ad in the papers? I don't know. Somehow we ended up with a bunch of tapes and I think he was on one of those tapes. I think we listened through hundreds of tapes - like you do in those circumstances. You make it known that you're looking for a new singer and people send you tapes.
Of course, there is only one Udo Dirkschneider. Reece didn't sound like Udo at all.
We didn't want him to sound like Udo.
But he had a distinct voice, especially in "X-T-C" and songs like "Hellhammer". Were you happy with how he filled Udo's shoes?
Yeah, musically we were totally happy. We just never really clicked on a personal level.
During the "Eat The Heat" tour he was reportedly hard to handle. Can you explain that? What was so hard to deal with?
Yeah. I don't know, man; we just never got along. He was one of those people that were, for instance, constantly paranoid about something. He was always like, "Man, what's going on? I can feel something is going on. What's going on?" - and we were always like, "Dude, relax! Nothing is going on." He was just always freaking out about something and really hard to handle. It was very hard for him to concentrate and do his job. He was just not on the same wavelength. I mean, we're really hard-working musicians that enjoy playing and he was mostly sort of a party guy. That was really too bad because he had a great voice and we could have gone a long way. Maybe it was also a cultural thing; him being American and from a totally different background than we were, but I don't really believe that. We were just not getting along somehow.
I also read that three quarters of the way through the tour, you guys just threw in the towel and gave up on the whole thing. First of all, Stefan Kaufmann had a back injury.
He did, and he really wanted to go home and didn’t want to be there anymore. His back was the last thing.
That must have been a really difficult time for you guys.
It was super difficult and that's when I really felt like, "Geez, it's only Peter (Baltes) and I left and it's really not the band we once had."; and then Dave Reece and Peter got into some sort of major fight about whatever it was, and we just said, "Man, let's just quit this."
That's too bad.
So how did it all feel when you got back together for "Objection Overruled"?
That was great! I mean, making up and having reunions are always great in a way because you feel that sort of spirit or fresh wind again. It was great! We had a ball back then.
And you guys were really into it. You really wanted to make a go of it.
Yeah, we did. Then we made this one record, "Objection Overruled", and we just really pretty much made records like we always did and felt like we should use the old formulas with no more sort of experiments and just pretty much do what ACCEPT is known for; and that's what we did.
You know, in my opinion, I think "Objection Overruled" was probably your heaviest album. It went back to the "Balls To The Wall" days. That's what it sounded like, only heavier. "Death Row" is another masterpiece.
I also read that "Predator" was a frustrating time for you guys.
It was super frustrating. I mean, when we made the record it was clear already that this was the last one. Basically, it's always been between Udo and the rest of the band, and that tension was just very thick then. It was just, man... uuff.
Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Well, I mean it's no secret that Udo has always been the one factor that was the dividing factor. I mean, he's been in and out of the band over the years from day one. It was always, "Udo's going to leave. Udo threatens us to do this." It was always Udo. Over the years it's always been in and out, and even sometimes without people knowing. It's always been the rest of the band and Udo - even the songwriting. The weird thing is that there was the songwriting in ACCEPT which was Peter, Stefan and myself. Over the years I've contributed more and more to the songwriting, but it's always been the three of us writing the songs and then presenting everything finished - vocal lines, lyrics, everything ready - to Mr. Udo, and he just sort of went to the studio and repeated what we told him to sing. All was fine and dandy then in the beginning and that's how we made "Balls To The Wall", "Restless And Wild" and "Breaker", and all these songs were basically written and finished pieces before he ever saw them.
We always had songwriting credits for everybody, so nobody even knew about any of this; and we always kept it sort of secret and said, "We're all songwriting partners". Then the trouble really started in the last two years when Udo didn't want to do that anymore. He wanted to write his own vocal lines and didn't want to do this and didn't want to do that. His stuff was never as good as what we came up with originally. It was very frustrating for us and it caused a lot of tension.
Are you speaking primarily about the "Predator" era?
"Predator" especially, yeah. It turns into a point where it's just boycotting anything we do. But there was always this sort of him versus the rest of the band. It was already at a point where we kind of knew that it wasn't going to go on very much further.
You guys offered to write Udo's first solo album, "Animal House", for him. What prompted you to do that, Wolf? Did you feel at all hesitant since it would not be the rest of the band playing on that album?
It was just as a gesture to him because we wanted him to have a better start. Keep in mind, he can't write songs. At that time we were having a great sort of relationship with him and we thought we'd get him started, you know, and for us it was a piece of cake; we just used the old formulas we always have: "Okay we'll make one ballad, one with double-bass; we'll do this and do that; lots of backing vocals." We just used the same bag of tricks we always have with ACCEPT, without really putting our heart and soul into it, but we just sort of pulled it out of our sleeve so to say. It was really easy for us and it helped him a great deal.
I read a quote in an article years and years ago; I think it was in Metal Edge or something; I really can't remember. ACCEPT was dubbed the "#1 band to come out of Germany after the SCORPIONS". How did that feel to know that?
It felt great. I kind of resented that "after the SCORPIONS" thing (laughs). We never really got rid of "after the SCORPIONS". I mean, I've heard it for 20 years so it doesn't bother anymore. I think it's almost funny actually. With all the things that we have achieved, we never really came past that one (laughs). It's always "after the SCORPIONS", and that's cool. I'm good friends with the SCORPIONS and I admire them for what they do. Anybody has to say that they had so much more success than we did on a commercial level. It's way cool. They were there first (laughs) and they were much more successful. So it's totally true that people always say that we were always the "other" band (laughs).
I know you've probably been asked this before, but do you think there will be another ACCEPT album in the future?
No. I can't see it; never ever I don't think.
Is it something that you would want to do if the chemistry and all the right attitude was there?
It's so far away from everything, from any reality. It hasn't even crossed my mind whether I wanted to do it. I know it's impossible so I don't even give it a thought.
It sounds like you're more excited about and more focused on the projects that we discussed earlier.
Oh, way more. The thought of having to make another ACCEPT album doesn't excite me very much at all (laughs). So it's not even something I even have thought about much.
If something doesn't work, you have to keep moving forward.
Absolutely! Also, you have to ask yourself... I mean I look at other bands like JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN. The days of record sales are really almost gone in a way. Nowadays it's really much more about playing live, I think. I mean, I wouldn't say that nobody is selling records anymore, but these older Metal bands that we all know, they really thrive on playing live. That's how they survive and that's what they go for these days. It's not really about making records. If anything, sometimes the record is an excuse to go on the road, but it's not really something that kids really buy. I don't know if you agree or not, but how many people would buy like say a new SAXON record nowadays? Not a lot of people - not compared to what it used to be. So I don’t even know WHY we should do it (laughs).
I think what the problem is, is that there are so many people who are downloading music these days. I can see exactly where you're coming from, because playing live is something they can't download; plus it gives the fans that interaction with the band and the live experience.
And also with the fact that people are sort of sampling nowadays and music is really generated with loops on computers more than by actual people playing live instruments, it makes it even more valuable to see a band that has played together for 20 or 30 years performing live on stage. That's really something you can't see everywhere all the time anymore. It's getting rarer and rarer.
How is your photography business going?
It's going really well, man. I'm in a weird spot now because I've been building it up for the last eight years to a really successful business. To me, going back to music... I'd probably take a pay cut here. It's weird. If it was just about money I'd probably keep doing what I'm doing right now because I'd probably make more money doing that than music. But you have to ask yourself, "What's your first love?", and while I was on stage there (during the reunion tour dates) I kind of realized that one day when I'm dead and gone, on my gravestone it's not going to say "Photographer", but it might say "Guitar Player". The chances are much bigger that it will say "Guitar Player" than "Photographer" ever. It's just a fact. I've achieved a much higher status as a guitar player than I ever will as a photographer, and that's something that's kind of rare, something that I'm proud of, and something that I want to pursue and build on. So it's not really all about money, really.
So the second chapter of Wolf Hoffman is about to unfold.
Well, hopefully. That's my goal; that's how I feel today and that's what I'm going to go after.
You should. We totally support you on that.
Well, when I get that support... see that's another thing. It wasn't just being on stage this summer; it was also talking to people like you and lots of other people out there that encourage me so much to play guitar again. It's almost like they're begging me (laughs), and that's something that I'm asking myself, "Man, everybody wants me to do it. I can still play, I think, and here's a chance. Why not do it?" I have a ball doing it, so just go ahead with it and see what comes out of it.
Well, you have to follow your heart. If it's your dream to keep doing it then you should do it.
Exactly, and right now it is. It wasn't; ten years ago it was not my dream anymore, but now it is again, so I want to go after it. I was going to say earlier, when you stop being excited about all that kind of stuff; when you stop challenging yourself and you do something because you can and you know the rules; you've done it before and you make another record that's just like the old record; and you stop caring - that's the worst sin, you know. I felt like it would get to that point if I would have continued in the mid-'90s there. Just to do it because I can is not the right reason and not the right inspiration. You should really do it because you want to go further and you want to challenge yourself as an artist and really progress. If you feel you can't do that anymore then it's only fair to the fans to stop, and so many people don’t stop and it's wrong. But I'm feeling like a new chapter is about to begin and I feel that fire again. So there.
If you look back on your career in ACCEPT, and touring as a musician in general, who would you say was the best band to tour with?
The best and most inspirational band I've ever toured with was GOLDEN EARING believe it or not. "Radar Love"; man, they were amazing.
Which tour was that?
It wasn't even a tour; it was only three or four shows. I think it was even in Canada. Yeah, I'm pretty certain it was up in Canada because they had some salmon that they were feeding us. It came from Alaska and somehow I remember being in Canada. We were sitting backstage somewhere and feasting on salmon. But that's beside the point. Man, they were just a band like I've never seen before. All the bands that we usually toured with in those days were about being loud, putting on the big show, long hair, and you know - a Metal show. These guys were not Metal at all, but they had the groove, man. They were just a four-piece band and they could play. I mean, that really knocked my socks off. They had the dynamics where they got really quiet and they build it back up. That was one of the most amazing shows I've ever seen. I watched it every night, first to last minute. That was what really changed my life as a musician, I think, and they don't even know this because I've never seen them again anywhere.
I wish I could tell them one day. They had an amazing drummer. I thought everything was amazing about that band.
Who was the worst band to tour with?
Let's see... I would probably put W.A.S.P. in that category. W.A.S.P. were just - on a musicians level - pretty far down the scale, and on the ego level, way up there. Everything about them was not very pleasant I must say. That was the famous David Reece tour; the "Eat The Heat" tour. Bad time, bad tour. I've always taken my job really seriously and I love playing, but all that bullshit that goes along with it is not for me really. As soon as you start taking that side of it seriously and start thinking that you're really hot shit (laughs), that's when the trouble starts. That's where some of the people can't draw the line, I believe. You can't take yourself too seriously. I mean, even if you’re up on stage and 50,000 kids are in the audience. You're not curing cancer; you're just playing a few tunes. It's really not that big of a deal.
Do you have anything that you'd like to add that we didn't touch base upon?
Well, let's see... I have all the key points in there that I needed to tell you about - all my new projects. I'm excited. There is more music coming from me. That's all that's really important to me.
Do you have anything that you would like to relay to your fans?
Well, I'm just eternally grateful that I still have fans, honestly, and that people still remember me. I'm totally humbled and honored by it and like I said earlier, I just can't wait to go out there again and continue doing what I do best, I think. Just shut up and play your guitar! (laughs) This Sebastian Bach thing might just be a one-time-only deal; it might turn into something bigger; I have no idea. I'm just excited and want to see where it takes me. My really big dream is to get this classical thing off the ground, so that's my number one priority. That's most likely what I will concentrate most on, but everything else is in the closer future. We'll see what happens. [FIN]
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