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Interview by Baz Bardoe

In 1981 a German band called Accept released the album ‘Breaker’. I still have my original vinyl record, and at the time I had never heard anything quite so raw and aggressive in the metal genre. It wasn’t like these days where you can get on You Tube and preview hundreds of bands. Tuning into new bands was mainly due to word of mouth and articles in magazines. And in Australia metal was always obscure. There was a shop you could visit but that is another story… terms of Accept they were at the forefront of a new trend towards faster and more aggressive metal, and fans couldn’t get enough. The part they played in the emergence of speed and thrash metal is significant.
As the 80’s progressed Accept found huge success in the USA, and despite many lineup changes, and periods of inactivity, they have gone on to get bigger and bigger. They are now a genuine multi million selling act, with chart topping clout. Their distinctive vocalist Udo Dirkscneider is no longer with them – replaced by the impressive Mark Tornillo when the band re surfaced from a hiatus in 2009 – but bassist Peter Baltes and guitarist Wolf Hoffman have been constants, and I was lucky enough to speak to the latter.

I suggested to Wolf that the time seems to have flown since ‘Breaker’. ”It does it seems like yesterday, it is crazy man”, he says. “If you think of being a kid and trying to think of twenty years ahead … thirty years …” Incredibly all these years later it seems like Accept are producing their best work. When they re emerged in 2010 with “Blood of the Nations” – the first album to feature vocalist Mark Tornillo – fans had reason to be anxious. But that album made it very clear that later in their career they are setting the bar higher than ever. I asked Wolf if he agreed that they are now producing the best work of their career. “I would hope so”, he agrees. “We have been trying really, really hard…trying to create albums meaningful to fans. We don’t want to be a nostalgia band … I don’t know man … it is just something I like to do … I hate to be involved in something less than perfect. The longer you do this the better you get at it. I hate the idea that you have peaked.” He makes a comparison with being an athlete. As an athlete there comes a time when you have little choice but to retire. But as a musician there are “other things involved” and experience counts as a good thing. Perhaps not unreasonably he expects to keep getting better.

It is a bit of a fan question but I asked him which album was his personal favourite. “They are all my favourites, but the stuff in the 90’s is probably my least favourite”, he admits. He states a preference for the albums released in the 80’s, but especially the more recent albums released since the band re convened. Over such a long career there have been many highlights but his peak experience with the band happened comparatively recently when they played the huge Wacken metal festival in Germany. “It just happened – the best moment in my life! We played with a full orchestra…..we played some of the material from my solo albums and some of Accept arranged for orchestra….” Wolf was clearly humbled by the experience. His interest in classical music has seen the release of solo albums that apply his electric guitar mastery to the classical idiom. “I am sort of an amateur”, he says. “I am not a classically trained musician. I take it from an outsider’s perspective. I just like it a lot.” He recalls growing up in a household where classical was pretty much all there was on offer. Initially he wanted to rebel and make noisy rock music, but as Accept’s career matured he revisited it. “In my parents’ house it was always classical music … certain elements were imprinted into my DNA”.

Since starting in the music industry Wolf has seen a huge amount of change. When he began it was all vinyl records and bands only became know via magazines, tape trading and word of mouth. Today there is the internet exposing bands to global audiences, and music is downloaded. I asked him what he thought of the vast scale of technological change in the business. “Nobody stays on top of it”, he states “It feels like we are chasing our tails….programs are outdated as soon as I start to understand them. But there’s no point being nostalgic……no point complaining.” Having said that he mentions that vocalist Tormillo is no fan of the digital age and self describes as an analogue fan. So they wrote him a song – “Analoge man”. Who says Germans don’t have a bit of a sense of humour.

Looking at the crowd at an Accept audience one thing is very obvious. This is not “nostalgia” – something that Wolf dreads. A large contingent of the crowd is young – very young. And they know all the tunes. “That is very good and we are very grateful”, he says. “Our audience is multi generational……that would never have happened when I was a kid!” He is right of course. In metal’s early days the audience was always young, but those people have grown up with the band, and now their kids and even their grandkids are tuning in. But you have to wonder just how much longer they can keep going. “We’ll have to wait and see. As a musician you don’t have to set a goal”, he says. “I have been in retirement before but it is never as fun as this…” It should be mentioned that his “retirement” involved pursuing his secondary career as a photographer – the man literally oozes creative talent. And there seems to be no reason why he should stop anytime soon. He is in incredible physical shape, admitting that ego demands he doesn’t let tummy bulge creep in, and he is playing at his peak with arguably the best Accept line up ever, which now includes second guitarist Uwe Lulus who played with Grave Digger for many years. His energy levels are formidable – the end appears a long way off.

Finally it is probably best to clarify something for the shred heads. Although Hoffman played a Gibson Flying V on stage for many years, this was not his studio guitar. He is now finally playing the same guitar live as he does in the studio. It is a signature model from Framus that combines a Flying V body shape with Strat-like qualities.

I had thirty years worth of questions to ask Wolf but only twenty minutes of his time, so the maths was against me. But it was a pleasure to chat with someone who has achieved so much, yet remains so humble. I recall seeing a picture of him on the cover of British rock magazine “Kerrang!” back in the day and thinking he was probably the coolest person on earth. I never imagined he would be more successful than ever in 2017, let alone that I would interview him. With the sensational new album ‘The Rise of Chaos’ out now Accept seem truly unstoppable.

THE RISE OF CHAOS is out now

Accept play 170 Russell on September 17


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