Accepting The Inevitable: Wolf Hoffman of Accept

ABOUT NINE years ago, when I was still a snotty nosed kid with a bad attitude living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, there was a group of kids known as the “freaks”.

We used to get together, generally making a nuisance of ourselves in one way or another. And we had our favorite bands: Judas Priest, AC/DC, Scorpions, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Girlschool, and a new fledgling band from Germany called Accept, that was only available through this one import shop, and you had to wait FOREVER for it. Still, we had our own little group of Accept fiends. The LP Restless and Wild was already a staple in our world when it was picked up and re-released by Epic just a scant few months before they released Balls to the Wall. And everybody loved that record. Hell, even Van Halen played Balls on their 1984 tour before they went onstage.

But, something happened to them after that, and although they continued to release albums, we fans could tell that something was changing within, even with the Russian Roulette album. Well, on down the line, we were right.

I had kind of dismissed them in favor of more brutal thrash by the time 1985 rolled around. So when they came out this year with Eat the Heat, out of my old attraction I picked it up and played it. Surprisingly they have changed their attitude, but brought it full-circle back to those Priest-ish days of fun. I recently got on the phone with Wolf Hoffman to rap about his music and the new band line-up. Gone are Udo Dirkschneider and Jorge Fischer, replaced by David Reece and Jim Stacey. Accept in 1989 is more mature than ever before, and riding the crest of a very successful record.

CHRISTINE NATANAEL: Tell me exactly how you guys all got together because the information was always very sketchy. We had to buy those as import records here and we didn’t really get to know much about the band.

WOLF HOFFMAN: I came to the band in about 1979 and it was already called Accept. They were a small local kind of group, which were rehearsing only three times a week and maybe performing only once a month or so. I joined the band, and shortly after me, Peter and Stefan, and so we had the original line-up, which we kept, for almost eight years or something, until as everybody knows 1 1/2 years ago Udo left us. We started as a local band and kept doing this once a month performing thing for the next three or four years because in Germany there is no real club scene. You can’t really play that much over there.

We did the Judas Priest tour in 1981 and then finally we got a worldwide release with the album Balls to the Wall in 1984 on Epic. That brought us over to the United States for the first time. We’ve been touring in the United States ever since. We’ve had a break of about two years now, because we changed the lead singer. Our new lead singer is Dave Reece, as you hopefully know, and he’s quite a bit different from Udo. We changed the whole concept of the band quite a bit. For us old members, it’s very exciting because everything is wide open right now. We can do so much more than before, variety-wise, and our style changed a bit, too. It’s still the old heavy Accept style, but there’s more to it than before.

CN: Yeah, the new record sounds really melodic and I hear – it’s got that whole British-European influence, and then I think Dave brings a whole lot of his American-isms with him to the music. I think it makes for a great package.

WH: The good thing about it is now we have the best of both worlds. Now we have that European background on the guitars, the drums, the bass, the songs were written when Dave joined, he just added his touch to it. He just came in, did the vocals on the songs, and changed the lyrics around a bit and stuff like that. He brought in his American touch, and we were responsible for the music, for the writing part.

CN: Okay, so let me ask you about how you got started in playing guitar. How old were you when you first picked it up, and how did you know you wanted to be a musician?

WH: Funny enough, Accept’s my first band, my first and only band. I’ve been only with a couple of friends together, playing in a basement kind of thing. I was never in a real band before I joined Accept. I was only playing maybe two or three years when I joined. I started playing guitar when I was 14, I believe, and I joined Accept when I was 17 or 18 or something like that, you know, so I was still very young at the time. Shortly after I joined the band we recorded our first album, which was only distributed locally in the beginning, and we didn’t have a clue that there was people over there in America actually listening to our stuff. The record company people we had at the time, they just told us we sold 3,000 albums of the first one. It wasn’t until later that we found out that we actually have some kind of a following over here even from the first record. It was quite thrilling when we found it out, but in those days, we didn’t have any idea about it.

CN: So, when you were, like 14, what made you want to pick up the guitar as opposed to the drums or singing, and who were some of your influences?

WH: Actually, there was a friend of mine who came over with a guitar, and I thought it was cool that he had a guitar and could actually play some chords on it. So, what I did, I went with him to a kind of a public place where they teach you the first basic stuff, you know? It’s really, really cheap and you sit in the classroom together with maybe twenty other kids and learn what the strings are called and that real basic stuff there. I did that for about ten lessons or so, and then, later on I had another local friend show me some more guitar licks, but that was it. I never had, let’s say, major lessons or something like that. I basically picked it up myself, but I didn’t learn it that much by playing to other – to records or listening to other players as much as most other people do. You know, I was never in a cover band or anything like that. From the first day on, we did our own songs and stuff, so I wasn’t really that heavily influenced as you might think, by anybody else, you know? I was listening to, I liked a lot, Richie Blackmore, and I liked, shortly after that, AC/DC a lot. I was listening to that quite a bit, and Judas Priest. Probably those three bands are my major influences.

CN: So you really weren’t so much influenced by the whole German scene like Michael Schenker and Rudolf Schenker and all of them?

WH: Not really, because they weren’t that big then, you know, in ’79 or ’80 or whatever. They were big, but not real big, and most of the stuff that I listened to came out of England in those days. You know, the English metal, it was, in the early days. There’s more and more American bands coming up now, but like about 10 years ago it was mainly English bands, the English metal.

CN: So which town are you from in Germany, and what kind of child were you? Were you really quiet or did you cause a lot of trouble?

WH: I was never the super wild boy. I only picked it up later when I joined this band, then I became wilder. But, yeah, I am pretty conservative in my upbringing. My parents, they’re not – they don’t really go crazy for being in the rock and roll business. I’m sort of, say, the black sheep of the family. My sister is a doctor and she is married to a doctor. My father is a chemist, and it’s all pretty conservative in our family. The band is out of a small town called Solingen, near Cologne that is, by the center of West Germany. It’s an industrial area, a small toolmaker town, in fact.

CN: Do you have any interests outside of guitar playing?

WH: Yeah, I do. I’m a photographer. I like taking pictures, and I have my own darkroom and everything. I’m very much into that, and I like to play golf. I go out every other day. I play golf with Peter, our bass player. I like to do that, and I play a little tennis, but golfing and photography are my main hobbies. It seems to be the “in” sport of the musicians recently. I’ve read in some magazines about musicians who golf, but that’s not why I picked it up. Actually, we never played it before we came to America. We didn’t play it over there in Germany because you have to be a member and it’s very expensive and all that stuff. Over here everyone can play it, really. I just picked it up because I was bored on the road, you know? You hang out in the hotel room all day long, and this way you get at least out of the hotel room and get to see something and it’s nice and relaxing. If you consider that you do a lot of noise in the evening and it’s very loud and there’s very many people out there, and if you do that in the evening and you go out golfing in the morning, it’s a perfect contrast to that. You can really charge up your batteries. That’s why I like doing it, because it is perfectly quiet out there; you’re in the nature and you just have a lot of fun. You get away from everything for a while and then go back into the madhouse.

CN: What is your favorite type of guitar and what is the hardware that you are using now as opposed to when you first started?

WH: I was using Marshall amps, for instance, ever since I played electric guitar, and for the guitar, in the early days, I picked up a Stratocaster very soon and played on that for years and years. Different ones, of course, I traded them in and got better ones and this and that. I’m an old Stratocaster player. And then I finally found a Flying-V that I liked because it looked real good on stage and they sounded great for live. But actually, deep inside my heart, I am still a Stratocaster player. And what I do nowadays is I switch between a Flying-V kind of thing, a regular Gibson Flying-V and several Stratocaster type guitars. And they all have DMG pickups on them and the Stratocasters have Floyd Rose systems on them. What I’m getting now is like a thing in between, which I’ve always been dreaming about. It’s like a Flying-V with the features of a Stratocaster, single coil pickups and a Floyd Rose system. I just found out that this guitar has been made by Gibson and they are gonna send one out to me.

CN: Do you collect guitars, because I know a lot of guitar players collect them like they are idols or something.

WH: I would never get rid of any of my guitars, to be quite honest. I’m not a guitar collector, but I have some nice ones. I have an ES-335, which I used a lot on the last production. It sounds great. I could never use it live, but in the studio, you can do all kinds of tricks because you can just tune for that one song. You are not really concerned about tuning stability or, you know, some of those guitars make an awful lot of noise with the original pickups. They are really noisy, and what you do in the studio is you just move in the perfect position, perfect angle, and just press the recording button. You can’t do that live. You have to have a guitar live which stay in tune and doesn’t give you any trouble. I don’t even use a Flying-V in the studio because it doesn’t sound as aggressive on tape. And I forgot to mention that I’m not using Marshalls anymore, that much. I’ve found something that is much better now that is called XS. It is a company in Germany, and what they did for me, they took my old Marshall and copied it exactly and built it into a rack mount kind of thing. It’s got a switching system where you can switch all kinds of effects back and forth. It’s really an elaborate kind of thing. It gives you all the possibilities and still the old Marshall sound, and it’s great. It’s probably the biggest change I ever did on my equipment. I’ve been playing Marshalls for 10 years.

CN: Have you changed your tone at all or using new effects?

WH: What you hear now and what sounds different to you is probably the way the album is mixed. Dieter Dierks, the producer we were working with, [the Scorpions producer], he mixed the album himself and whatever he used on my guitar was out of my influence. He just put on whatever he felt was right for the guitar, and I think he’s done a very good job, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what he’s put on there or what not. I just know that my guitar was recorded straight. There was never any effects recorded on tape. It was all straight, clean, dry guitar. We have more variety on the guitar tracks and stuff. We changed a lot back and forth on the guitars. We had all ten guitars in the control room and we just picked them all up one by one and tried them all out of the different parts to get the best possible tone. You usually don’t take that much time. You play one guitar and if it sounds okay, then you use it all through the album or maybe just take a different one for leads. But what we did actually for the rhythm guitars, because I played all the guitars on this album, I used one for the rhythm track, and another one to double it up and still another to do the other side of the rhythm guitar and sometimes five or six different guitars for a song.

CN: What’s your favorite song on the new record?

WH: Probably ‘Generation Clash’, I think is the strongest one we have. It’s my favorite one. I like that a lot because the solo is so different from the stuff I’ve done before. It’s also the video out on MTV now, so we want to push that as much as we can. To be honest, though, the live shows are pretty much what we have been doing before. It’s still really aggressive. We’re not going middle of the road now, even though, on the record, you will find quite a few more commercial songs than the real heavy stuff that you heard before. We are featuring more of the heavy stuff in the live shows, to be honest. The most important thing is that we have changed. There’s two new members and it is in a way a new Accept, but still the old heavy stuff people have been used to. The same people have been writing the songs for the last decade almost, and now with the new stuff there is still myself and Peter and our drummer Stefan, so it still sounds Accept-ish, but I think it’s a lot better and there is a lot more variety. We are all very excited to be back in America, finally. We spent a lot of time making this thing as good as we can, a lot of time in the studio, and a lot of time finding the right singer, so everything seems to be right, now. We are really proud of it and want to push it as much as we can. We want to go out there and show the people how good we really are now.

© Christine NatanaelMetal Mania, March 1990

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