The story of ACCEPT from 2009 to 2011 is very simple. In 2009, nobody cared about Accept. In 2010, the band released their new album, Blood Of The Nations with new singer Mark Tornillo. The record set the rock world on fire, accolades rained down on the band from critics and fans. In 2011, everybody wants to know ‘what’s next’ for Accept. BraveWords.com sat down with the new voice of Accept, Mark Tornillo (ex-TT QUICK), to find out more.
BraveWords.com: Your road to Accept started with a chance meeting with Wolf (Hoffman; guitar). What exactly happened?
Mark Tornillo: “Peter (Baltes – bassist) was working in his studio in New Jersey producing his son’s album. Wolf had gone to the studio to visit and they started jamming. My buddy, who is a drummer, was there and they started playing with them. The engineer around the studio brought my name up and said ‘call Mark up. He’ll come down and scream some of this stuff at you.’ They were just tossing around ideas and Peter gave me a call and asked me to come down and jam with them. Nobody said anything about ‘let’s put a band together.’ As far as I knew, it was basically to go down there and fart around. I was really sick with bronchitis, but I figured ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ So, I went and the rest is history I guess. The product of that jam session got released on the Internet almost instantaneously. It was us live in the studio. Then I got a phone call and was asked “what do you think about recording a new album with us and touring?’ Once I said ‘yes,’ we went balls out.”
BraveWords.com: When you get into a brand like Accept that has a hardcore fan base – does it make you a little reluctant to join?
Tornillo: "Oh, yeah. This was not an overnight decision. First, I had to get it passed the wife. We’re set in our family ways. It’s not something you take lightly because it really disrupts your whole world, but she said ‘go do it because if you don’t there will be no living with you.’ She had a point because I’d be kicking myself in the ass…”
BraveWords.com: When you get to the studio to record the album. Are you trying to sound like Udo or are you there to put your stamp on it?
Tornillo: "No, not really. Andy Sneap was in charge of what was going on in the studio and that never became an issue. I think I got the job originally because my voice is reminiscent of his and they knew I’d be able to sing the back catalogue. At the end of the day – that’s the deal. You have to be able deliver the goods on the back catalogue. That’s what the hardcore fans want to hear.”
BraveWords.com: That’s what you’d think, but Blood Of The Nations is such a great album that I think more people want to hear the new stuff.
Tornillo: "You may be right because that seems to be what’s happening. Everywhere we’ve gone, in Europe especially, the amount of people that are familiar with the new record is just phenomenal. It’s over-whelming and kids… lots and lots of kids at our shows. Which I thought would never happen. Don’t get me wrong the shows run the age gamut. There’s people in their 60’s all the way down to teenagers, but the kids are definitely there and they know the damn songs. They know all the new songs and the old songs. Go figure.”
BraveWords.com: The album was a success. The tour was a success. The band seems happy, but now comes the hard work – album number two. When do you get to work on that?
Tornillo: "All of us are writing already.”
BraveWords.com: Did you write on the first album?
Tornillo: "Oh yeah, but that was something that remained to be seen. I had no idea how the writing process was going to go down. Was I going to be included? I don’t know. But I was right off the bat.”
BraveWords.com: Did you get a sense right away that you were part of a band effort and not just a hired gun?
Tornillo: "I never really got the sensation that I was just a hired gun, but the relationship definitely evolved especially throughout the writing. Peter and I live pretty close to each other. I’d be going back and forth to his house a few times a week when we first started. We worked on stuff that he and Wolf had tossed around…”
BraveWords.com: So, it wasn’t a case of them sitting your in the corner of the studio and handing you lyrics and saying ‘ok, sing this’.
Tornillo: "Not at all. Once they saw I was capable of doing the job it was a no-brainer.”
BraveWords.com: What’s the plan for a second album?
Tornillo: "We’re throwing ideas back and forth, but we got some stuff left over from Blood Of The Nations. We wrote thirty to forty songs for that album. We have things that are unfinished business and we’ll see which ones we can use, but we’ve all got new ideas and the creative juices are flowing.”
BraveWords.com: When do you start working on it?
Tornillo: "We’re hopefully going to be finished touring by July unless something big comes along that we can’t turn down. The plan is to go straight from there to concentrating on this new record and hopefully get into the studio before the end of the year.”
BraveWords.com: That’s doing it old-school – coming hot off the road and into the studio. No, four year break between albums.
Tornillo: "We’re not a bunch of young guys. We’re not going to take a couple of years off. We’re going to go for it and I like it that way. I want to write an album, tour, write another album and tour…”
BraveWords.com: They keep saying the music business has changed, but it actually seems to be going back to the ‘60s and ‘70s model of putting out an album every nine months and touring to support it.
Tornillo: "Exactly. You have to work and that’s something we’ve been doing every night. We’ve been going out religiously to the merch counter after shows and signing records, shaking hands… kissing hands and shaking babies (laughs).”
BraveWords.com: How important is it to meet the fans?
Tornillo: "I think it’s very important. It was always an important thing to me and it’s even more important now because you get to see the fans. You get to meet the fans. It’s a real thing you know. We’re flesh and blood people – we’re not some thing that you can’t touch. It makes it better for everybody. If it wasn’t for the fans – we wouldn’t have anything.”
BraveWords.com: We were taking about writing new songs. How new? The songs on Blood Of The Nations were a winning formula. Do you want to stay in that vein or do you want to try a new direction?
Tornillo: "That remains to be seen, but I’d think we stay in the same pocket that we are in. I wouldn’t be afraid to try one or two different things, but by no means is it going to be a concept album or that kind of shit. The idea was to get back to what Accept did best and what they did best was ‘80s metal. Their ‘90s albums were great and they were experimental, but by no means were they as powerful as the ones they recorded in the ‘80s.”
BraveWords.com: They seem to have lost their way in the ‘90s.
Tornillo: "Everybody lost their way in the ‘90s. Everybody was just trying to fit in. Most of us just gave up.”
BraveWords.com: When Blood Of The Nations came out, Accept wasn’t ‘happening’ and most of rock fans had forgotten about the band. What expectations did you have coming into the band?
Tornillo: "To be perfectly honest with you, I was so busy doing it that I didn’t have any expectations or they certainly weren’t ‘this’.”
BraveWords.com: 2010 album of the year according to BraveWords.com.
Tornillo: "I saw that and thank you guys very much for that. I think I would have been happy if we had just put out the record and it didn’t get totally bashed. That’s what I was looking at. Going back to what we were saying about joining the band is that once I got it passed my wife, I had to get it passed me.”
BraveWords.com: The last guy they tried, David Reece, didn’t work out…
Tornillo: "But that was a different kind of thing. It was a different era and they were trying to take it in a different direction.”
BraveWords.com: But the point being is that the ‘new guy’ is always extra criticized.
Tornillo: "Oh, sure – the new guy goes under the microscope. I’d wake up some mornings and think ‘what the hell am I doing? Are you crazy man?”
BraveWords.com: Well, you’ve got to be a little bit crazy.
Tornillo: "Exactly, you have to be a little bit crazy, but at the end of the day – I was more confident than crazy. I knew I could do the job and I got a chance to do it.”
BraveWords.com: TT Quick - is that over?
Tornillo: "That’s hard to say. We’ve never formally broken up. We went seven years without making a record. We toured in 2001 and didn’t play again until 2007. We did a couple shows around here in 2008, but the band is… who knows? I don’t know. There seems to be a lot of interest in the band these days, but obviously I’m a little busy at the moment. That doesn’t mean that, at some point, we won’t go out and play, but it also depends on everyone’s health and whether they want to do it or not.”
BraveWords.com: Let’s be honest – you’re number one priority now is Accept.
Tornillo: "Oh, hell yeah. I’m not taking this lightly by any means. I’m not going to say ‘gotta go do TT Quick this week’. That’s not going to happen.”
BraveWords.com: You’ve hit a home run with Accept – do you really need to go sit on the bench with TT Quick.
Tornillo: "I’m with you bro 100%. If I was going to do something, it would have to not interfere with Accept. This has to get top priority. That’s all there is to it.”
BraveWords.com: So, the new album might come out this year. What about a live DVD or live album?
Tornillo: "There are talks of a live DVD and we’ve done a lot of live footage. We’ve recorded the audio to just about every show on the tour as well. It’s definitely something that has been talked about and it might wind up happening before the end of this year… you might see a live DVD. The (studio) album you probably won’t see until mid-2012.”
BraveWords.com: KISS, METALLICA and THIN LIZZY all sell live downloads of their shows. Is that something you’d consider doing with the shows you’ve recorded?
Tornillo: "That’s something I’d be into doing, but at the end of the day that’s not my decision. I don’t see why they wouldn’t.”
BraveWords.com: The tour is hitting North America this spring. What can fans expect?
Tornillo: "You’re going to get the greatest hits and a lot of stuff off of Blood Of The Nations. We do anywhere between five or six off the new record which is pretty unheard of. Normally, a band would do one or two, but the fans want them, we want to do them and they go over well. They know them and we really try to make things different every night. We’ll rotate some of the new songs around and we’ll rotate a lot of the old songs around. So, you never know what you’re going to see on any given night. The next day your set list from the night before is up on the Internet, so this keeps everybody on their toes including us.”
BraveWords.com: That’s great. There’s nothing I hate more, as a rock fan and journalist, than going to a show where the band has been playing the same set list for the last year. It becomes too much like a play and not a rock show. Back to Accept, were you a fan of the band in the ‘80s or was it simply a band you had ‘heard of’?
Tornillo: "I was a fan. They were a band that somebody turned me onto back in 1980 or so. The Breaker album was out and I had heard stuff off of I’m A Rebel and I was just blown away. We started covering it right away. At that point, we didn’t have a record deal so we were playing covers and playing our own stuff. When I heard Accept, I said ‘we’ve gotta throw this stuff in’. We started doing 'Son Of A Bitch' and… I don’t even remember, but people would come up to me and say, ‘that’s great. Did you guys write that?’”
BraveWords.com: How would you describe Wolf Hoffman as a guitarist?
Tornillo: "He’s one of the best all-time. He’s got his own feel like nobody has. He’s deep into classical music and you can hear it when he plays… the melodies that he writes. It’s more than just his playing. He’s the guy that comes up with those classical driven melodies. If you go back and listen to some of his old solos like on 'Fast As A Shark'… That stuff is incredible. There’s no two ways about it.”
BraveWords.com: Time to plug….
Tornillo: "There’s our website (Acceptworldwide.com) and our Facebook page they can check out. I’m really looking forward to our second album. At the end of the day, that’s the best part – the writing and creating. The whole creative process…”
BraveWords.com: I wish you a long future with the band. Accept had disappeared for far too long. I had written them off then you hear about a new singer and my first reaction was ‘pffft… who cares?’
Tornillo: "That’s what pretty much everybody thought in the beginning, but we just had to go out and prove it.”
BraveWords.com: You certainly did prove it… I wanted to thank you for your time.
Tornillo: "And thank you very much.”
(All photos by Mark Gromen)