Interview: Accept’s Wolf Hoffmann Has No Plans to Slow Down

Photo: Christoph Vohler

Guitarist Wolf Hoffmann has been playing with German heavy metal institution Accept since he was a teenager in 1976. It’s been a long road for the band, who have endured lineup changes, hiatuses and the various tribulations that come with a nearly 50-year career but, especially since reuniting in 2009, you can’t stop them.

Later this month, they’ll release their 17th album, Humanoid. If Accept are running out of gas, it doesn’t show. Humanoid features 11 songs that show the band performing at a high level, matching the lofty standards set by the modern heavy metal scene. Before the album hits the streets, Hoffmann jumped on a call to discuss concerns about AI, working with producer Andy Sneap, feeling young and how he still finds inspiration.

Humanoid is out April 26 on Napalm Records.

This year and this album mark the 45th anniversary of your first album. This is your 17th record—how do you keep finding inspiration to make new ones?
45 years of making records—God, that sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Sounds frightening.

It’s a long career.
It has been. There was a bit of a break in between but I’ve been in Accept since I was a teenager. 16 years old when I joined and I just never left. I don’t know where the years have gone and I still have a lot of fun making these albums, I’ve got to tell you.

Where the inspiration comes from? Different things. You sort of open your eyes and you look around, there’s inspiration for lyrics left and right. Musically? I don’t know where ideas come from—you start working on it and jamming, melodies pop into your head. It’s always a mystery to me where ideas really originate. How do you have ideas, where does that come from? I don’t know, to tell you the truth.

Accept hasn’t made the same record over and over but you know what your sound is and you’ve locked into that, so to some extent it’s just building on that framework.
Our first albums were a little all over the place until we finally settled in with Restless and Wild and then Balls to the Wall but even during the ’80s when we made some of these albums, each album was quite different from one another. But since we reformed the band with Mark Tornillo about 15 years ago, I think we’ve been very consistent on purpose. We don’t really want to change anything, we just want to get more to the point and hit the nail on the head more with each album.

We don’t feel the need to change anything, really.

You’re 65 years old now and you’re still playing a lot of tour dates and festivals, releasing music every two to four years. Do you ever think about slowing down?
I do not. We had a bit of a break in our career in the late ’90s, early 2000s, so I’ve had my share of retirement back then. I know there isn’t anything in life that would replace music for me, so I don’t really see any reason why I would want to retire one day because there’s nothing to look forward to in my mind.

If music is what you like best in life, then why would I quit? Maybe one day when I’m old and frail, I might cut back a little but I don’t think I’ll ever quit unless I’m forced to. As long as the Stones are still out there doing it, I’ll be out there.

One of the themes that is on this record is technology and AI. Are these things you view as a threat to the music industry or the world as we know it?
Yeah. I didn’t think so until recently when I heard some of those newer AI… someone turned me onto an AI website and I checked out some of the stuff just last week and it kind of blew my mind to be honest, how good the stuff is. It’s frightening. I’m the eternal optimist and I’m hopeful that people will recognize human-made art and value it more than machine-made art, whether it’s visual, whether it’s music or movies or whatever it is. It’s surely going to have an impact on everything. I’m pretty sure there are certain genres that are going to be impacted more than others and I’m still hopeful that metal is a little exempt from that because our fans are quite loyal and they really want music that’s been created by us, not by the frickin’ computer.

Yeah, I see it as a threat. Maybe not to us personally, but I think it’s going to have quite an impact on a lot aspects of our lives for sure. I could ask you the same, as a journalist.

It absolutely stresses me out. I’m also optimistic and I hope that people will recognize the things that make us human, those imperfections, are also what make records great. You were talking about Balls to the Wall and Restless and Wild are kind of all over the place, but they’re special records because of that. The early Cannibal Corpse records are a little messy, but they’re really special records partially because of that.
But is it gonna take away some aspects? Some writers? Probably, but not all.

You guys just put out a record in 2021. Was Humanoid written over COVID or did you write it more recently than that?
Humanoid was written just recently after COVID, after all the touring was done for Too Mean to Die. The last album was recorded during the COVID stuff. The songs were all written pre-pandemic but then the recording happened during the pandemic and then we had to wait and sit, sit and wait until the doors opened again. Then we did our touring for Too Mean to Die, then after the tour was over we started writing for this new album.

I found it weird. We had all this time off during the COVID times when theoretically we could have written and written and written a bunch of stuff since there was so much time on our hands, but really I didn’t feel inspired at all. I just sat there and waited for things to happen again because it wasn’t really a good time for inspiration for anything. It was just sad.

So you wrote this record pretty fast, then.
We spent like four, six months writing but it’s not an everyday kind of thing. I do spend a lot of time on my own in the studio just sort of forcing myself to work on the music, because if I don’t force myself, it doesn’t happen. It’s never that I’m sitting there and a song pops into my head. That never happens, really.

You have to be working on something or doing something for it to come to you.
Pretty much. Once I’m in the mode, ideas start coming more freely. I would compare it to going to the gym: when you haven’t gone to the gym in a long time, the first few times it’s like “Oh my god,” it’s painful and you really have to force yourself. After a week or two, and it’s almost fun by then. You kind of don’t mind it and you get into the habit of things, then it feels good. It’s a little bit like it is with songwriting—once you’re in it more and deeper, ideas start to freely come to you. Initially, no, you have to get into the zone.

You’re the primary songwriter in Accept, right?
By default, right. I’m the last man of the original lineup, so, yeah, I am. I always invite everybody to write songs but not everybody in the band is a songwriter.

This is the second album you’ve done with Martin [Motnik, bass] and Philip [Shouse, drums]. Do you think the songwriting process or recording process went any smoother now that they’ve had some time to be in the band?
Phil doesn’t write much or anything, really. I invite him to play some solos and some stuff, but he doesn’t really contribute any music or lyrics. Martin, pretty talented lyric writer, I have to say. He came up with a few cool ideas and even one set of lyrics, the second single we have out, “The Reckoning.” That’s all his lyrics and I wrote the music to the lyrics.

Mark writes most of the lyrics and I write most of the music, but not all.

Accept worked with Andy Sneap on this record. You’ve used him before and obviously he works with Judas Priest.
He’s the man. We get along great with Andy.

He’s a phenomenal producer. What does he bring to the table that helps you guys?
Oh, a British accent, first of all. He knows us all really well, this is album number six plus we’ve made some live recordings and he mixed a ton of other stuff. He mixed my solo album so I’ve worked with Andy a ton and there’s a blind understanding. We’re personal really good friends and we can just work together really well. He knows what Accept should sound like and he knows which songs to pick. He’s got a good sense of what’s needed and how to go about it. By now, he’s got a ton of experience too.

A producer a lot of the times is half engineer, half psychologist. How do you get the best performance out of somebody and how far can you push somebody and how far should you push somebody? I don’t know. All these things, he’s really good at it.

Other than the AI and technology topics, what other ideas were you guys talking about on this album?
One of the songs that’s close to my heart is the song “Ravages of Time,” it’s a ballad and it’s talking about the toll that times takes on us. I’ve been doing this almost 50 years now and I still feel like a teenager. I don’t feel that much different like I did all these years ago, I think. Maybe I do, but I sometimes feel like I’m still 16. Still behave like it at times. But then I look in the mirror and I know “Shit, I’m 64 years old. How many more decades can I be doing this?” That’s what this song is all about.

Then we’ve got a song called “Straight Up Jack” that’s basically a drinking song that Mark wrote the lyrics to. All kinds of topics, all over the board. I think it’s important to have an album that has a certain sense of variety, tempo-wise and mood-wise, so it’s not all the same flavor. Even for live shows, I like a bit of dynamics.