"Sometimes when everybody says you shouldn’t do something, maybe that’s one more reason for us that we should do it"
With the brand new album from Teutonic metallers Accept coming our way in a couple of weeks it was mandatory to let guitar legend Wolf Hoffmann talk to us about it. Of course, the conversation didn’t stick only to "The Rise Of Chaos", but also we talked about their upcoming 'three in one' headline show in Wacken festival, the way he composes all these hooking solos and melodies and his future plans with Accept.
There have been some changes in the line up since the last time we spoke. Would you mind sharing with us some information about the departure of Stefan and Herman and how you came up with Uwe and Christopher?
Oh my gosh! It’s been two years already since then and I don’t really think about it any more. But, yeah, Herman and Stefan left the band and we found two very good replacements and the band is really much stronger now. We’re really in a very good position and it’s really reflecting on the touring and on the record also. With the new record we didn’t really change the way we record the albums, but we’re happy having this two new members.
"You never change a winning team, that’s our motto"
You worked with Andy Sneap once again and it seems like you have established a strong bond with him. Which is his big achievement regarding the sound of Accept you think?
You know, it’s one of these things when everything is working fine, so why should we change anything? You never change a winning team, that’s our motto and Andy is a great friend and an awesome producer so, like I said, when something is working, just keep it. He really feels as a part of the team right now. This is actually the fourth album with him in the row, if you include the live album it’s actually the fifth one that we’ve done together and he also worked on my classical album a little bit, so it’s really the sixth album if you count all of them in a period of six-seven years. I guess he’s doing something right [laughs]
"In eight years we’ve done four studio albums, one solo album and one live album, so if that’s not enough, then I don’t know what is..."
This time it took you three years to release the new album. Was the process slower perhaps because of the intense touring and also your solo album or did you need a bigger break before you got back into this perpetual cycle of composing - recording - touring?
I don’t know man. Like I said, in seven or eight years we’ve done four studio albums, one solo album and one live album, so if that’s not enough, then I don’t know what is [laughs]...
Of course, I’m just asking if there was something else behind the longer period it needed...
It just took as a little longer because we were on the road for two years and then we released the live album in between and this was one of the decisions that the label made about when to release the new album. We could maybe have done it earlier, but we didn’t feel the need to.
"We’re on a very steady road and the band is in a very steady phase right now"
I want to congratulate to AGAIN. It’s four out of four great albums. It’s amazing. How did you do it man? I mean come on... you are not getting any younger, but you kick young bands’ ass big time since your come back in 2010. In my eyes you are in the best shape than any other classic metal band in the current decade...
Wow! Thank you very much man. I think we try really hard and we’re enjoying what we’re doing and maybe that’s the secret, I don’t know. It feels like we’re full of energy and there’s nothing that can stop us now, so we want to keep going as long as we can and... I don’t question anything, I don’t ask why, I just keep moving forward. So, as long as it works, it works. It’s great. I think we’re on the momentum right now. We have been on that momentum for the last four albums. It seems that we’re on a very steady road and the band is in a very steady phase right now and like I said, there’s nothing that can stop us. [laughs]
What’s all about the title "Rise Of Chaos" and the post apocalyptic cover?
We just felt that it was a very fitting title to the times we’re live in. When the title came up we figured "Wow! This is a title that feels like very up to date, very of our times". I don’t know if you watch the news, if you read the newspapers, but it seems that there’s so much going on in the world that feels like chaos. And that’s pretty much it. Of course, the album artwork also reflects that and we just felt that we wanted to do something different this time. We always did that sort of much simpler strip-down album covers in the past and this time we said that we wanted something different, so we had this graphic artist came in and do this cover for us. I’m quite happy with it, really
Is there any lyrical reference in the album with the title?
Yeah, of course. I mean, it’s obviously the title of one song, but it’s not a concept album. Each song is talking about different things, but at the same time the rise of chaos felt to us like the strongest of the whole titles. And, definitely, if you look around the world you can see that there’s a lot political chaos right now.
The sound of the album is the profound Accept-ish kind of thing so no-one could be really surprised. But the devil is hiding in the details as they say and I think that there is a more modern touch or more aggressive if you like in this album. For example, the opening guitar leak in "Koolaid", the whole vibe in "What’s Done Is Done" and "No Regrets". Also it’s not that sentimental, you know... there are not so much heartbreaking melodies, there’s not a song like "The Curse...
Sure! It’s a thing that I have said before. An album it is what it is. You can not perfectly plan these things. The songs just happen. You know, when you’re writing songs it’s almost impossible to say to yourself "I wanna shape the album in a certain direction". You just go for the strongest songs and that’s your album. It turned out to be a little heavier? That’s just the reflection of the mood of the times we’re live in perhaps, I don’t know. We always have the ideas that we have and we go for the strongest ones and whatever comes out, comes out. If it’s slightly heavier or slightly more melodic, one album versus the other, then that’s totally coincidental.
In your career you have written some great ballads. The last one was "Kill The Pain" in "Blood Of The Nation". So, the first question is why you don’t write stuff like that any more and the second one is if Pete is going to sing sometime again in the future because I love his voice in songs like "The King", "No Time To Lose", "Crossroads" and "Breaking Up Again".
Yeah. I don’t know. Anything is possible in the future. We just didn’t feel the need to do a ballad this time or we didn’t have the right idea for one. Actually, we worked on one song but in the end it didn’t made the cut, because it didn’t lived up to the standard that we set with the other songs and there again we didn’t really want to force something. We never wanted to come to the position to say "Ok, we need three fast songs, one ballad, two medium...". We don’t really want to have a recipe for each album. If one album have a ballad and the next one don’t, that’s just fine with me. It’s never supposed to be a formula like that. Who knows, maybe on the next album we’ll do another ballad and maybe Pete sings it. We always follow the artistic instinct more than any sort of formula.
What’s going on with the solo in "Worlds Colliding"? It’s something that we’re not used to hear from you.
Really? I’m not aware of that. What’s so different about it?
I don’t know. You have a very distinct style... I mean I can hear a solo of yours never played before and I can tell it’s you. And this one didn’t make me think like it’s a classic Hoffmann solo. Maybe it’s just me...
Hm... so it’s about the "Wolds Colliding" solo. I have to make a note and check it. I don’t know, I didn’t notice it [laughs]
"As soon as you start thinking too much about your playing maybe it’s gonna change and I don’t want to change"
Now I mentioned your guitar playing, in your opinion which is your trademark element? Is it the classical variations, the bends, the high pitch harmonics? Perhaps all together?
There again, I never ask myself these questions, because I don’t think about it. I just play the way that I think it feels right. I never analyze myself that much. I don’t even like to do that because it makes you aware of what you’re doing. As soon as you start thinking too much about it maybe it’s gonna change and I don’t want to change. I’m quite comfortable with the way I play and write songs and I think overanalyzing yourself is kind of dangerous in a way, so I’d rather not even think about it. I just play from an instinct and from the gut feeling.
And how do you come up with all these great ideas? Is it something that you work in your head or has to do with you fooling around the guitar?
I’d say that most of the time when it’s about melodic stuff, I think in my head about the song for some time and then I try to play it. Most of the time, it is like that. Sometimes when it’s about a sort of rock and roll kind of song like maybe "Analog Man" or something, then I don’t think about it, I just play from gut feeling and sometimes it’s the first take that’s the best. Actually, I recorded "Analog Man" in a hotel room [laughs] and it was one of those takes that when I play it for the first time I really liked it and I kept it, because sometimes it needs to be spontaneous and not feel too planed out. Other times when it’s about melodic stuff I think it in my head before playing it and do variations later on, but it always starts in my head.
"To really write the essence of a good song on the road it’s very difficult because you don’t have the peace of mind"
Now you mentioned the hotel rooms, some musicians say that they can not write when they’re on tour. Are you comfortable with writing while you’re on the road?
No, I hardly ever do that. On the last tour we did with Sabaton we had so much off time, so I felt that it was a good idea work on the songs, but the songs were already written. It was more or less finishing touches, writing solos and things like that and basic arranging work. That’s what I did on the road. But to really write the essence of a good song on the road it’s very difficult because you don’t have the peace of mind. I always have to get to a special zone regarding the songwriting, where I really dedicate the whole day to it, with no disturbance, no outside distractions, which is quite hard to do when you’re on the road, because you always have something ahead of you. You got soundcheck etc… I don’t know, but the sure thing is that you always got something that needed to do in a couple of hours, so it’s really hard to stay focused on the road.
Was that always the case or perhaps when you were younger and full of energy you could squeeze some writing time into a busy schedule and come up with a cool riff or something?
Well, I still write cool riffs here and there, very spontaneously. It’s just when you’re writing songs, at a certain point you have to start thinking about vocal lines and lyrical content and that thing it takes time and like I said you need focus time away from anything else, so it’s not something that happens easily on the road.
Do you ever feel like an analog man trapped in a digital world? Like an old school son of a bitch -like the lyrics of the song suggests- with all that technology and all the breakthroughs that happened every day?
Right, right... [laughs] It’s really a song that we wrote about Mark and Mark wrote about himself. It’s really something that he has been saying for years, all the time he’s been around the band and saying to us. He’s really bitching about technology for many years. On this album we just thought to write a song about it. It’s one of those ideas that actually happen from real life. He doesn’t like technology, but we all have to use it so we have no choice. We’re trapped in a digital world, but really the song is about him, not about me. [laughs]
"Sometimes when everybody says you shouldn’t do it, maybe that’s one more reason for us that we should do it"
There was a debate about whether the tour with Sabaton was a good thing or not. I know that you are able to do a worldwide headline tour and as strange as it may seem your decision it showcases an approach of a healthy band who wants to expand its audience. How difficult -or not- was that decision to make?
It was a little controversial with some of the fans, but we really wanted to say to them "why not?". Sometimes when everybody says you shouldn’t do it, maybe that’s one more reason for us that we should do it, just like a sort of breaking the norm if you want. In the end it worked out perfectly for both bands. I think we ended up having a lot of fun because we had no agenda, we had nothing to really prove to anybody and nothing to lose, nothing to promote. We just went out playing music and nothing else. It wasn’t our show or our production, so all we had to do was go out and play music for an hour and that worked great, because like I said we had a lot of free time, so I was able to work on this album during the day and just go on stage at night for an hour. And also we get to play in front of quite a different audience, so in the end I think that it was a win/win situation for both bands. That shows you that sometimes you should break the norm I believe.
Do you want to share some details about your appearance in Wacken? What’s really gonna happen there?
It will be three different things that are going to happen. At first Accept are gonna play and present some new songs from the new album, then there’s another segment where I play songs from my solo album "Headbanger Symphony" with a fifty piece orchestra from Prague. So that would be the first time ever that we’d play that songs on stage, it’s like a world premier if you want. And lastly we’re gonna have Accept playing Accept songs with the same orchestra, also a world premier that have never happened before. So it’s really three shows in one.
How did you come up with the idea to play Accept songs with an orchestra? I can follow your thought because your guitar style really allows an orchestra to come in, but how did the idea cime up?
The one thing led to the other, really. We were talking with the Wacken people about Accept coming back for a headline show since last year and then when my solo album came out, everybody really really liked it and said "We’d want to hear this performed live on a big stage". Then we thought that the biggest stage in the world is Wacken, so why not do it there? Why not bring the orchestra and combine the two shows? Once we had that and since Accept are gonna be there and the orchestra is gonna be there, we thought to let them perform together. So it was really a three step approach.
Who’s the maestro that wrote the parts of the orchestra?
That is a good friend of mine called Melo Mafali. He’s the same guy that I worked with in my solo album. He’s from Italy and he’s a great composer, arranger, pianist and he wrote all the scores. We gonna have the conductor of the Czech national symphony orchestra come in, so the orchestra comes with its own conductor but Melo wrote the scores for it.
I know that some months ago you released the "Restless & Live" CD/DVD but it would be interesting to film that show and release it at some point for all of us who want be there.
Well, this one we definitely gonna film it and hopefully we’re going to release it as a dvd because it’s such a special occasion. We definitely have to film it, of course.
"We had our retirement already, years before"
Is Mark’s age something that concerns you about the future? I mean, you seem like having a lot of energy and I can’t think a reason why not do what you do for the years to come...
I never think that way man. I feel like we had our retirement already, years before. We came back to the music scene because we like playing music and nobody is forcing us to do this. We’re really doing this on our own terms. We feel like if we don’t wanna do this anymore then we’ll let everybody know, but at this point we’re in full steam ahead and I see no reason ever to retire.
Yeah, I understand that but what if Mark comes, let’s say in 5 years from now, and say to you "Man I really want to keep doing this but I can’t", what are your options then? Are you willing to find another singer or it’s a "no go" situation?
I don’t know. We will deal with it when that situation rises. Right now it’s not an issue and it might never be one. We can’t worry about theoretical situations like that. What if the world comes to an end? What if... I don’t know [laughs]
Are there any plans about the upcoming tour? Do you think that you would return to Greece for a Headline show this time?
Oh most definitely! We’re gonna start our own headline tour in early 2018 and most likely we’re gonna come to Greece as well of course.
Ok Wolf, that was all from me. Again it was a pleasure talking to you...
Thanks for your time and support man.