Q&A: Wolf Hoffmann On Accept As a Six-Piece Band and Returning To America

Photo: Raymond Ahner

When I connect with Accept guitarist Wolf Hoffmann I feel obliged to thank him for creating music I’ve listened to for decades. Accept, after all, is enshrined in our Hall Of Fame for their timeless bruiser Restless and Wild. “Sorry for any damage I might have caused,” he replies, laughing. There are plenty of listeners like me out there. But none of us have had a chance to see Accept in more than a decade. Hoffmann said that was never planned – things just got busy, and the pandemic added two more years to the bench time. Hoffmann talked to Decibel about returning to the United States this fall with three guitarists (the tour begins in late September), what he learned when he traded a guitar for a camera, and more.

So I understand Accept will be coming to the United States as a six-piece band?

Yes, we have three guitarists. We did a tour with a big orchestra and Uwe (Lulis) was not available. We had a sit-in named Phil Shouse who is a friend of a drummer. We discovered what an amazing player he is and we gelled really well. We thought: why not just keep him on forever? We can now play three-part harmonies and overdubs from the album live. I think it sounds better than ever

How will you fit everyone on stage?

(laughs) We’ll have to stack each other sideways.

What has it been a decade since you’ve been here? Obviously, we know why the two previous years.

I’m kind of surprised at how long it’s been. The last few years don’t count. It (the tour absence) is like when an actor is dead and it seems like it happened a few years ago and it was ten years ago. I knew we hadn’t been in the states for a while but I didn’t know it was that long.

Were there tour plans before Covid or did these plans come after the worst of the pandemic?

Before (the pandemic) we were busy playing festivals in Europe and South America. The timing was never right. We basically cornered our booker and told him we wanted to do a full United States tour. A lot of bands are just doing these weekend shows. We wanted to do a full tour again and see the country and meet people.

There’s a whole generation of fans you haven’t had an opportunity to play for.

Yes, and there are also those people who’ve followed us since the 80s and they have kids with them. There are a few generations of fans that like our music. It was time for us to go meet them again.

As part of metal’s second wave it occurs to me you’ve made a whole career out of music critics said would just last a few years.

I was one of those people. We had a great time in the 80s and then grunge came in and I thought our time might be up. Boy, was I wrong. Time in parts of Europe just sort of stood still and those festivals kept it alive before this big resurgence. I lived in the states for a while and then came back to Germany. I remember around 2005 seeing people at festivals with their vests and patches. The European fans like what they like and stick with it. They like their metal and they stick with it – for good.

What were the 90s like for you? Was it a discouraging time?

It sucked for all metal bands. We had a tough time figuring out where we belong. My feeling was that we couldn’t do what we did so we had to go with the flow or get out of the kitchen. We tried to adjust our style and weren’t happy with it. Those records aren’t very strong and we were sort of lost then. When the band broke up at the end of the 90s I thought it was a sign it was over. Photography was my second passion in life so that’s what I did until the band reformed in 2009. I did think it was over for a while.

Did you ever think of turning Accept into a grunge band?

(laughs) No, of course not. We are a metal band from Germany, not chameleons. We adjusted our style a little bit and it didn’t work for us. No one was happy with it. When we decided to come back and found a new singer we decided we would make new albums like Accept in the 80s. People said there were a million reasons it wouldn’t work but I always thought why the hell not? Blood Of The Nations came out and it worked like a charm. We’re here ten years later.

So you then became a photographer. What were some of the similarities between that and playing guitar?

There are a lot – it’s just a different medium. Some of the things you learn writing songs you can take with you and use. One of the things I learned was that you better be sure you like it yourself because if you just do something to please an audience it will backfire.

When you were an active photographer did you keep your guitar chops up?

A little bit. I worked on solo material but there were times I didn’t play for months. As a guitar player, I get fired up by tours or albums. I don’t get fired up or inspired to just play. I need a reason or a deadline in front of me to get busy.

So it wasn’t like “I have all this time I’ll become a virtuoso.”

Hell no. That bores me. You would think I would get three albums done during the pandemic but I didn’t because I wasn’t motivated. Now that I’m back on the road I’ve started writing songs again and feel excited. Just having the time doesn’t inspire me at all. I wasn’t depressed or anxious (during the pandemic) but we were recording Too Mean To Die when the pandemic broke out and all of a sudden there were lockdowns. I thought, like, the world is falling apart. Obsessing about these songs seems silly. There were worries about “how bad is this going to get?” You couldn’t concentrate on songs or entertainment. With the pandemic, a tour would just keep getting postponed every few months.

Mille from Kreator actually took a year off from touring and as soon as he was ready to go back the world shut down.

I wasn’t aware of that. I haven’t seen him in a while. Good old Mille.

What is it like to write Accept material as an older man? Has the process changed?

It has changed just because I’ve done it a lot. I don’t get frustrated when there are no ideas. I know it’s going to take time. I do have to force myself to go do it. I’m not waking up in the middle of the night with great ideas. I have to sit down and start collecting riffs or ideas. If I can do that I get into a zone and stuff starts to happen – all of a sudden a melody will hit while I’m in the shower. I think I also know that I need to go through a bunch of crappy ideas to get to a good one.

Is there a quality that all good Accept songs have?

A good song is a good song and a shit song is a shit song. You do ask yourself why can’t there be another song like “Balls To The Wall.” But you can’t repeat it and that’s the ultimate challenge. We’ve had a lot of killer songs and I am grateful for it.