ACCEPT - Substitutes

October 12, 2010, 7 years ago

By "Metal" Tim Henderson

feature accept

Stranger things have happened. But whenever a classic act feels the creative juices flowing, yet need to find a new voice due to a death, split or other drama to complete the puzzle, it's a recipe for disaster. Ask Mr. Iommi about the revolving door of singers post-DIO. In history, two success stories stick out; AC/DC and VAN HALEN. Nothing else comes close. So when guitar legend Wolf Hoffman's creative juices were flowing and he couldn't convince Udo Dirkschneider to take another kick at the can, he started looking for the new voice of ACCEPT. You could hear a big sigh in the distance. No disrespect to former TT QUICK singer Mark Tornillo, but Accept made the disastrous call once in their career and our ears are still ringing from the 'generation clash' (1989's dismal Eat The Heat with singer David Reece). But here we are in 2010, and Hoffman's gut instinct is churning again. He's got a waft of material he'd created with bassist Peter Baltes and the band needed a voice. Fast-forward to the present and Accept's new album, Blood Of The Nations is a blinder, even to the point of entering the German album charts at #4, marking the highest entry ever in the band’s career at home, beating out the #5 position of 1986’s Russian Roulette. So what the hell happened? Hoffman fills in the blanks with below:

Hoffman: "Man, we really just wanted to prove to the world that we’ve still got it, and we got a little bit ticked off about the early people who said it couldn’t be done, which in turn made us try even harder. We wrote this whole album in two or three months. And this is all brand-new stuff. We just met Mark and figured he’s the perfect man for the gig, and we sat down and asked him whether he wanted to join us. And we called the other guys and within a day or so it was decided that we were gonna re-start Accept. And then we sat down and said, 'oh, shit, now we need to write new songs, so let’s get to it.' And Peter and I did, and we wrote all that stuff over the summer last year." Pun seriously intended, it definitely takes a lot of balls to come back with another new singer.

Hoffman: "Mm-hmm." Especially if you witnessed the David Reece show live!

Hoffman: "Oh, boy." That was a little bump in the road, I guess.

Hoffman: "Yeah, you know it’s not always smooth sailing. Those weren’t good days for us, I have to agree, but we had all good intentions then and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s like, what are you gonna do. But to draw the conclusion that it can’t be done, to me that’s like saying, 'well, you know, I’ve been married once so marriage doesn’t work ever.' You just need to find the right guy, I guess, the right person to do it with and then it can work.

Photobucket Not to dwell on that era, since we’re talking about it right now. Was it more of a label thing to put a pretty boy to front you guys back then, or was it a mutual decision?

Hoffman: "It was a mutual decision by everybody involved, to move forward with Accept; we had a bit of a moderate success for the time being then. We could in no way say we’ve been really where we wanted to be, and the overall consensus back then between the band and everybody else involved was like, you know, if you want to compete with the big boys, then you need to move forward and write other kinds of music and then maybe leave the rest of that wild stuff a little bit behind and get to a place where you can be compared to the bands that get played on the radio. And that was more MTV-friendly kind of stuff. Those were the late ‘80s. This was all the time before thrash bands - the SLAYERs and MEGADETHs - were really super-successful. Everybody that we could be compared to was selling a whole lot more records, and we were basically forced into that. Well, I wouldn’t say forced, it was a mutual thing, but we all wanted to be more successful and sort of not be a cult band forever." Now the only reason I go back on that is because it’s pretty dangerous for a band to change singers, especially when there's a brand like Accept. We know the voice, we know the music, we’ve lived it for decades.

Hoffman: "We felt pretty at ease about it. And if the guy that is the singer doesn’t want to be part of it or if he turns you down and doesn’t want to work with you anymore, we had to find a new one. And what do we have to use if the old one doesn’t want to do it, then we either stay at home or we risk alienating a few people, but at least we’re doing something. We figured this is our chance, Mark’s the perfect guy." But you did stay at home for a while.

Hoffman: "That’s what we did and we were sick and tired of it. We wanted to go back out, but Udo didn’t want to work with us anymore. We kept asking and finally he said 'never again.' At that point we had given up hope there might ever be an Accept, but then we met Mark by pure luck, and we figured it’s now or never, he’s the man. So we weren’t like terribly afraid of any consequence because what did we have to lose, other than the reputation, but you can’t eat the reputation. We’re musicians, we want to go out on the road, we want to play." So how would you describe the last fourteen years before you met Mark?

Hoffman: "I was actually quite content doing what I was doing. I was away from the music business I thought for good. It all changed a little bit for me personally in 2005, when we did a few reunion shows all over Europe. I realized, 'thank god, there’s all this audience still wanting to hear Accept out there, and here I am I still can play and I still want to do it, so why can’t we connect the two and play more, do more of that.' And ever since 2005, I’ve been longing to go back out. And I think this is probably one of the best times we’re having right now. Even the recording was super harmonious, and working with Andy (Sneap) was a dream, and working with Mark was really fabulous. There were no tensions, there was no egos and drama. It was all really concentrated, hard work for several weeks, and this is the way it’s supposed to be, so we were super pleased with that. And now that the record is out and people actually love it, hey, man, that makes us super happy. About your new voice, it’s hard to find somebody that could duplicate Udo’s presence, but you found a happy medium with Mark on this record. He’s got that raspy, classic voice, but there’s also some melody there, too.

Hoffman: "Right, and there’s some rhythm in his voice and he can really work with that voice. He’s actually a pretty good singer and he has a voice that works for slow songs or softer spots really well, so he’s really versatile and we felt the same way when we met him. It was instantaneous. I mean honestly, he started singing and jamming with us that one day and we thought, 'this is incredible. This is so much better than anything we could have ever hoped for' and we weren’t even auditioning anybody. We were just sort of messing around one day."

Photobucket It’s strange how the planets align sometimes, right?

Hoffman: "I’m telling you, I’m beginning to be a believer in this sort of stuff. As I say, something similar happened by how we hooked up with Andy. He also came out of nowhere and I didn’t even think there is a guy like Andy out there, and here he is. He’s an Accept fan and world-class producer, and also worked with us and we get along great and it turns out great. It’s all too good to be true sometimes. Maybe it’s payback for all the sort of other stuff that happened. (laughs)" It’s not like you’re foreign to working in the studio yourself. What did Andy bring to the table that you guys couldn’t do yourselves? Or is it just you wanted an outside voice to believe in what you guys had recorded?

Hoffman: "First of all he knows Accept incredibly well. He really knows all the old songs and all the little nuances, even stuff that we had forgotten and weren’t even aware of. Little sort of turnarounds and quirky little things we did back in the day, that he as an Accept fan always loved. And we were saying, 'well, we either didn’t notice them or forgotten them or weren’t even that proud of them.' Certain things that we weren’t aware of, but he made us aware of all this stuff and he brought that out. He said, 'well, I’m an Accept fan and this is a new record. I would want to hear more stuff like that.' And we said, 'well, that’s cool. We’ve got plenty of that. If that’s what you want, there it is, boom.' Because Peter and I wrote so many songs, probably like forty songs, and picked the strongest ones. And Andy, that’s one thing. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about Accept, but then if he’s producing bands like Megadeth and God knows who else. I mean, he’s done so much lately, these last ten years that he’s been successful that he really knows how to work the machines, how to make it sound great." Well you keep bringing up Peter. You guys have been brothers in arms for a number of years. Can you describe how you worked together to create this new record?

Hoffman: "We know each other better than anybody, really. I’ve known Peter longer than even my wife, and after thirty-five years or whatever, we don’t have to talk. We just sit in the room and it just sort of-I don’t know how it works, but it does work, man. It’s instantaneous. We sort of spark each other. We just sit together in the room and sparks are flying and zip, zip, zap, we’ve got something down on tape. It’s pretty amazing. I don’t know, we’re sort of brothers in arms, you said it." Do you remember the day when you guys actually came together and you formulated this idea of coming back?

Hoffman: "That’s the bizarre thing. Really, I was visiting Peter at the time. And we said, 'man, it’s too bad this whole Accept thing with Udo is never going to go anywhere. Why don’t we just sort of, for memory’s sake, why don’t we just jam a little and make some noise and let off some steam, that was always fun.' So we got a local drummer in and just made some noise, and then somebody suggested that this guy Mark lives around the corner and he knows some of the songs we were jamming. So we called him and he came over and he started singing, and the rest is history. That’s when we decided, right then and there is when we decided to call the other guys and call management, and sort of ask everybody whether we should not maybe do a reunion with Mark instead. But that’s how it all happened, man."

Photobucket I find one bonus with the actual material on the album itself is the track placement. Was album flow crucial?

Hoffman: "A little bit, but we’ve been living with this stuff for a number of months, and we always felt maybe we should start with something that’s strong and in your face and probably fast, and so 'Beat The Bastards' was probably a good opening. And there again we kind of listened to Andy’s gut feeling, you know. But it was mutually agreed now, it didn’t take too long to get the running order where it sort of needed to be. You start strong, you finish strong, and you sort of group everything else where it flows nicely." And the artwork is, it’s kind of like that 'keep it simple, stupid' philosophy, but in this case it’s striking and effective.

Hoffman: "Awesome, yeah, man. We were actually struggling a little bit with the name of the album, to tell you the truth, because all the titles - I mean we’ve got some weird titles this time, like 'Teutonic Terror' and 'The Abyss' and stuff like that. It’s not really album title material, you know, and the only song that we had that was useable, we felt, was Blood Of The Nations. Or at least it was the best one, and then we gave that to a designer and said, 'do you have any ideas for an album cover with Blood Of The Nations?' And he came back with that idea, and I photographed it and it’s Peter’s hands, actually. Yep, Peter’s hand was the same hands that have been on Objection Overruled. So we’ve got a history here, the hand model! I executed the photograph, but it was really the designer’s idea, and all the rest of the packaging was done by the designer for the album packaging. We weren’t really involved in that." The world seems to be abuzz with this new record. How many nations would you like Blood Of The Nations to take you!

Hoffman: "I’m not sure. That’s still being worked out last minute, all this stuff. To answer your question, it’s all work-in-progress and we’ll take it step-by-step, but definitely we want to go anywhere we can. We really want to tour the world, which includes of course North America as much as possible. But it’s a slow machine that needs to be brought back to life slowly and carefully, because we want to do this long-term. So far we took our time to make sure we got the right material first of all, we made sure it was properly recorded, and we took our time doing all that—mixing it, finding a good label, and now the whole touring business is just being jump-started again. It’ll take a little while until it’s fully developed, but we’ll definitely want to do this long-term. All of next year is going to be touring, lots of festivals in Europe for sure. And all this is really just starting to happen right now, because of the success of the record. Entering the sales charts in Germany at number 4 is pretty unheard of. I’ve never seen any such excitement for anything we’ve done that I can remember." Really?


Hoffman: "Not even Balls To The Wall - in those days, it was less anticipation." Accept was on a high in the '80's; the ground-breaking Restless And Wild (1982), the success of Balls To The Wall (1983), the genius and pristine production of Metal Heart (1985) and Russian Roulette (1986). The bombastic nature of Blood Of The Nations brings us back to Metal Heart to a certain degree material-wise. And Accept in 2010 must live up to the bar they created correct?

Hoffman: "I know. Yeah, I guess, yeah, absolutely. I mean, this is why it is so hard nowadays to be as spontaneous and as fresh as we were back then, because we were just twenty-some year old kids. We were just moving forward and nobody was comparing us to all the stuff we’ve done in the past, it was all relatively new. But now, of course, like you say, anything we do nowadays it’s immediately compared to the old classics, so to say, so it doesn’t make things easier. And I guess every band or every artist is really struggling with that. Once you’ve had a string of albums, it gets harder and harder to come up with something as good and as fresh as it was back then, just because you’ve already done it once and you can’t be repeating the same stuff. At the same time, you can’t leave your base too far behind either, so it’s a fine line sometimes." And Accept have always had their unique sound and niche...

Hoffman: "I know, but unique doesn’t really mean forever; I mean, now we all look at these records differently, but back then I can tell you being unique alone isn’t really going to keep you alive. They weren’t really like huge sellers, all these. We certainly had a following among musicians and journalists and whatnot, but it was tough in the ‘80s. It wasn’t as successful as some people think it was back then. We always had an image larger than our actual records were." North American radio and video caught on immediately to 'Balls To The Wall' and when you followed with Metal Heart I thought that the band would explode on these shores given the melodic nature of 'Screaming For A Love Bite', 'Midnight Mover' and the epic title track. But the 'rough' voice may have held the band back in terms of achieving major cross-over success.

Hoffman: "It’s the truth, that’s what was happening back then. The business model has changed so much nowadays, and now you can survive just fine without selling huge records, nobody sells records nowadays. Now it’s all about playing live and in the meantime we’ve had all these artists that were sort of obscure and not mainstream being super successful. So you can actually survive without being mainstream, but back then you couldn’t, I think. You could survive, but you couldn’t really move forward and go to the next level."

Photobucket We're approaching the 30th anniversaries of Restless And Wild, Balls To The Wall and Metal Heart. Is there any talk about doing any deluxe repackaging or reissues?

Hoffman: "Who knows. Yeah, we should do something." You wrote forty songs for Blood Of The Nations; does that mean there is classic audio/video material in the vault?

Hoffman: "Yeah, the thing is we wrote forty songs but we didn’t really record them all. See, it’s a big difference, we wrote a lot of song structures that sort of only go up to a certain point and then we never bothered fleshing them out. Usually the way that we write is that we do verse, chorus, and pretty much a song structure idea, with the vocal lines and everything. And then if it survives the first few editing sessions then we’ll go back and do proper lyrics on it, and then at a certain point the middle eight part with a solo and all that. On some of these songs, we never got that far and so we didn’t really record them properly. And we would still have to do that, but we’ve got a lot of material that’s still left over. Probably by the time we get to writing new songs, we’ll toss all those and start fresh." Have you retained the rights from Sony for this catalog?

Hoffman: "It’s pretty complicated in our case man; it was all lifelong deal as far as I know. I’m not exactly sure because I’m not involved, but I know it’s tough, man. All those rights. Some of those are actually lifelong, I guess." I guess it’s the tale of a young band just signing their life away.

Hoffman: "Pretty much, yep. Those were the late ‘70s, man. Those were the days that this stuff happened. We’re not the only ones." And it might be a little bit more messy when Udo’s involved possibly? Do you even have a business relationship with him?

Hoffman: "Possibly it gets a little complicated, but you know. Not gonna comment much on that."

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