ACCEPT – “This Is Who We Are, This Is What We Do Best”
August 17, 2017, a month ago
The most groundbreaking thing Accept has done since resurfacing in 2010 is convincing the world that vocalist Mark Tornillo is a more than capable replacement for the band's original singer, Udo Dirkschneider. Beyond that it's been business as usual for the veteran 40 year-old outfit, serving up Accept's trademark chunky rhythms, blazing leads and screeching vocals to a well pleased fanbase. Their fourth album in the seven years since reuniting, The Rise Of Chaos, offers up more of the same and founding guitarist Wolf Hoffmann makes no apologies for being predictable if folks want to throw the word in Accept's direction.
"It's a very steady period in our career," Hoffmann says of Accept in 2017. "Same producer, same singer, same label, same everything. That's quite remarkable this many years in a row. Even as far as the songs are concerned, it's a very steady road that we're on. It just feels right to do things this way. This is who we are, this is what we do best so there's no need for us to go searching any new directions or go with the times."
Realistically, Accept could probably get away without making new albums and just tour off a strong back catalogue as so many veteran bands do; build a setlist of songs taken from I'm A Rebel (1980) through Metal Heart (1985) and they would easily rake in the diehard Accept fans. Hoffmann agrees it would be possible to do so, at least for a while, but that was never an option.
"That was one of the things we talked about when we got back together. If we're going to do this right we have to make new albums, and we don't need to make alibi albums. We want to make albums that are relevant. We don't want to be a nostalgia band that just plays the stuff from 30 years ago; we really want to make music that can live up to and compete with the old stuff. I think we've succeeded because our setlist nowadays is 50% new material (as of Blood Of The Nations) and 50% old stuff, which is pretty damn good."
Hoffmann and bassist Peter Baltes remain the principle songwriters for Accept, working under the old adage of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" when it comes to their musical formula.
"Musically it's always relatively easy," Hoffmann admits. "It's really no big deal for me, for us, to write riffs and such, but to come up with complete songs that excite you, that can take a little time. We spent the better part of a year writing these songs for The Rise Of Chaos until we finally arrived at ten songs for a complete album. It was a bit of a challenge, but we have a good system in place and we don't want to change that. We could write an album in two weeks but it would sound like that, and I think some of my peers do write albums in two weeks sometimes (laughs). Sometimes when I hear a song I think (sarcastically) 'Okay, it sounds like there was a lot of thought behind that...' We try to write stuff that excites us and will stand the test of time. We throw away a lot of songs before we have something that we really like."
"We definitely wanted to have quality over quantity on this album and we worked really hard on that. It's really easy to have two or three or four songs that are cool and then have a bunch of other songs that you sort of kind of like, so it was our goal to have ten songs on The Rise Of Chaos of the same level of quality where they stand toe-to-toe with each other. And we wanted the songs to have as much of an old school feel as possible. As I said, we didn't really want to go any new directions and try to be experimental or unusual. We really wanted the songs to sound like we should have written them years ago but never did (laughs)."
Two songs stand out on The Rise Of Chaos as being rather lighthearted, and in the case of the track "Koolaid", out of place. It's downright disconcerting when referring to one of Germany's premier metal bands.... especially if you remember Helloween's "Windmill" from their panned Chameleon record. But no, it definitely is a classic Accept song.
"'Koolaid is actually based on a real story; The Jonestown Massacre, where people were poisoned by the guy Jim Jones," says Hoffmann. "I knew the saying 'Don't drink the Koolaid’ but I didn't know where it came from. I liked how it sang and I liked it for the music that we had, so I did some research and found out it was from this massacre in 1978. People were poisoned using cyanide after somebody had told them 'Don't drink the Koolaid.' As grim as it is, it makes a good story and a good song."
And "Analog Man" has Metal Heart and 1985 written all over it...
"Analog Man' is probably the most lighthearted song," Hoffmann agrees. "It's based on a somewhat humourous saying that Mark uses quite often: 'I'm an analog man trapped in a digital world.' He's been saying that in the band for years, particularly when something goes wrong like when a computer crashes or his phone dies. When we were writing these songs that saying popped into our heads and we decided to write a song for him (laughs)."
Between Accept's previous album Blind Rage, released in 2014, and The Rise Of Chaos the band parted ways with guitarist Herman Frank (again) and drummer Stefan Schwarzmann. They were replaced by Uwe Lulis (Grave Digger, Rebellion) and Christopher Williams respectively. It was an easy transition according to Hoffmann and the band is as strong as ever.
"If you join a band that's been around for almost 40 years, you don't come in expecting to change the rules and they didn't. Also, if you're a good musician you're not scared of anything, otherwise you wouldn't be considered for a job like this (laughs). It was easy to find Uwe and Chris because we knew them from before. Chris was a local drummer in Nashville and Peter had heard of him because he was the metal drummer in town. When the job was open he was one of the first guys we tried and he was dead on. Uwe we'd known for years more as a friend in the business."
Accept released their self-titled debut in 1979 but they've been around since 1976, and Hoffmann wears the "40" with pride even though he can't quite wrap his brain around the passage of time.
"That's a scary number (laughs) but it goes by so fast. When you're 20 and you think 'Forty years later...' it seems like an eternity before you'd get there. But looking back, it's really amazing how quickly the time has gone by. It sounds scarier than it feels. But this is living the dream if this is what you're into."
"We've had four albums in the last seven or eight years, world tours, a solo album in there for good measure (laughs). But I'll tell you what; it's really bizarre for me because I've been retired before. I was out of the music business for so many years, I have a lot of friends in the photography world, we're all about the same age now and many of them are retired or on the way to being retired, and they envy me. I'm doing something I love, it's my passion and something that's very fulfilling for me, and they don't have that. A lot of people work towards retirement and then life is over, it's empty. I have the opposite problem... the day is too short for me. My life is very full and I like it that way."