Rocksverige träffade nyligen den tyske gitarristen på Skeppsholmen i Stockholm. Wolf var på strålande humör i den svenska solen och berättade bl a om bristen på gammalt filmat och inspelat livematerial, men även om arbetet kring senaste albumet “Blind rage” och hur nöjd han är med resultatet.
“I have to say, I´m probably more happy with this album than I´ve been with anything we´ve released in a long time. A lot of times when you start the whole process of songwriting, you have a vision for each song and you want them to come out a certain way and it´s never like you want it to be. You never get it to 100% because it´s a team sport and other people have a say and a hand in it and it always comes out differently from what you had hoped. This time it came closer than ever to what I hoped it would be and that means a lot.”
Where did the title ”Blind rage” come from and how did you tie that in with the artwork?
Wolf: We were just looking for a title and I don´t know who eventually came up with it. There were some wild guesses to what the album could be called. We had the artwork first and then “Blind rage” seemed to fit the most. None of the other titles we had made sense with the artwork, so we just decided on “Blind rage”. There´s a lot of blind rage going on in the world, just look at what´s going on politically and in places like the Ukraine. It just felt right and it sounded like Accept, so “Heck, let´s call it Blind rage!”
Was the artist given free hands or did you mention that you wanted something like a bull?
Wolf: Gaby (Hoffman) is really the boss of all bosses in this band and she came up with it. A lot of the times she´s the one behind the covers and she somehow, had this vision of a bull, because she felt it really represented her guys, Accept. A lot of the album covers were Gaby´s idea. This one was done very early on. We didn´t have all the songs finished, but then we looked at the artwork and that was it, no discussion. Sometimes you go through a phase of revoking it and we went through that with “Stalingrad” and nobody was happy to 100% in the end. This time everybody saw it and went “That´s it!”
Did the artwork in any way inspire to songwriting?
Wolf: Not really. We were loosely thinking “Could that be a song? Like about bull fighting?”, but nothing ever panned out and we just saw it as a collection of songs and we´ll call the album whatever we wanna call it. There´s no law that one song of the album has to be called “Blind rage”. (laughs)
You worked with Andy Sneap again. Last time I talked to you, the only bad thing you had to say about him, was that he´s a vegetarian.
Wolf: (Laughs) He still is and he´s lost a ton of weight. So that´s another bad thing. (laughs) No, he´s a good guy and we get along great and it seems like we´ve found our recipe to work now, so why change it?
Maybe he´ll be to you what Bob Rock was to Metallica?
Wolf: We´ll see. So far it´s working out great. He´s getting a great sound and he´s not a complicated guy to work with, which is good. We´ve worked with some producers in the past with huge egos and everything was a drama. He´s not like that at all. Anybody who knows says what a breeze and fung guy he is to be around. I like it!
It was recorded in Nashville, right?
Wolf: Yes, In Nashville and some overdubs in New Jersey and then we mixed it in England. We had him come to us, instead of us to him and we recorded it in the studio in my house. Well, studio is a loose term, but it´s a place to make music. Technically it´s so easy nowdays. All you need is a few pre amps and some microphones. You can practically record anywhere. Especially guitar tones and the technical stuff certainly helps.
You had a lot of songs and the album is about 11 tracks. The once that didn´t make it, were they full songs or just ideas?
Wolf: In this case they were pretty full songs. Sometimes you can´t really judge a song until you´ve heard the finished vocals on it. In this case they just didn´t fit the rest of the songs. There was this one song we all felt was a cool song, but somehow it just didn´t fit in with the others so we left it out. I think we finished 13 songs or maybe 14? They will end up as bonus tracks on like the Japanese version.
Those damn Japanese!
Wolf: Yeah, what is it about them? Why do I have to write an extra song? No, they actually get a pretty decent bonus track. It´s a really good song.
Mastodon had a bunch of songs for their new album that didn´t fit in with the others, so they decided to release the album and then later on, release an EP with those tracks. Could you see yourselves doing something like that?
Wolf: We could, but we´re not alone in this game. Usually those sort of things are decided by the label and not us. We can always have our say in stuff, but they are the once we trust in regards of stuff like that. It´s a good idea and we might do it. They were also the ones suggesting we should release the live DVD footage and put in on their as a bonus, where I more thought “Hhmm, we could´ve mad this into a proper DVD.”, but that´s why you have a label, to make all these decisions together with our management. We´re just the soldiers marching on. We make the music and do the shows and the rest is up to other people.
There´s a lot of bands releasing old rare live recordings these days on CD and DVD. Has there ever been plans on doing something like that with Accept? A cool DVD?
Wolf: Well, first of all it would be a matter of having enough stuff and I doubt we have enough stuff. Those things were notoriously wicked expensive and nobody at the time, wanted to invest that money without immediately releasing it. We don´t have a huge archive with this great footage. I wish we did, but we don´t. Then it would obviously be a hell of a thing to work out with previous labels, which would be a logistical nightmare I´d rather not have to face. Also other people involved, who I don´t want to mention. But the honest naked truth is that I don´t think there is enough stuff. It´s a shame. We have one live album from the 80´s and there were two Japanese shows that we filmed and that was all there was. Nobody ever thought about filming a bunch of shows. It was always put off and put off and like “We can always do it next year.” Even live audio recordings were wicked expensive. A 24 track machine on the road with just the tape cost alone and the people you needed… the Japanese were always really good and organized, not surprisingly, and they knew these sort of things and they did it without anybody taking much notice. Everything was done before you got there and it was all ready to roll. They sort of did it and nobody paid much attention to it. Everywhere else where we tried to film, it was always a big deal and it was distracting and expensive, so it didn´t happen that often.
With the new album, how do you go about picking songs to play live? Are there always a few songs that kinda stand out as potential live songs?
Wolf: You go by your experience. Certain grooves and certain things are ok on an album, but not so much live. It´s sort of an energy that comes across in certain songs and you know they´re gonna work well live. Slow songs are notoriously hard to play live. They´re just slow and you wanna get that heavier stuff across. Other than that, nobody really knows. At the end of the day you have to trust people´s first reactions, like you journalists. Sometimes we listen to you and so far we´ve heard good comments about “Dying breed” and “Dark side of my heart”, so those might be in the live set. Who knows? Basically we just have to try it out and see what works. Sometimes you discover things at rehearsal and you try something else. Album producing is one thing, but then you gotta reproduce that shit live too. If you layer tracks too many times, you then discover live that you don´t have the same bag of tricks. Certain songs just immediately translates better to actually be played live. The way we make records nowdays, nobody really knows what these songs sound like in the real world later on. You can do anything in the studio and make it sound amazing, but then you have the naked truth when you´re trying to rehearse that stuff. It´s a luxury problem to have so many songs to pick from. For every new song we pick, we have to throw one out too and that´s usually the hardest part. You don´t wanna throw out too much from these last two albums, because we really wanna represent this new era of Accept that we have. On the other hand there are so many we have to play, like “Princess of the dawn”. We´ll see…
Are there any songs you get bored with playing?
Wolf: During rehearsals, Princess of the dawn” is one hell of a boring song, but then when you play it live, it´s one of the best. Just kicking into the main riff in the beginning and everybody gets excited, how can you get tired of that? You don´t. When you play them live you get the best reception you can imagine, but rehearsing is another story.
How do you feel you´ve evolved as a guitar player over the years?
Wolf: Hopefully you get better at what you do. The longer you play something, the harder it is to actually see a progress. You kind of do what you do. I concentrate more on writing ideas and riffs. It has never been about playing fast or being the most virtuous player. Hopefully I get better expressing feelings. I´m more about melodies to be honest, than being the best player. The best is a loose term anyhow. I don´t know how to answer. It´s up for others to decide. Hopefully I have written better songs and played better solos, but the fans will decide on that. I have to say, I´m probably more happy with this album than I´ve been with anything we´ve released in a long time. A lot of times when you start the whole process of songwriting, you have a vision for each song and you want them to come out a certain way and it´s never like you want it to be. You never get it to 100% because it´s a team sport and other people have a say and a hand in it and it always comes out differently from what you had hoped. This time it came closer than ever to what I hoped it would be and that means a lot. I´m quite happy with the outcome so far, but if the fans feel the same way, we all have to see. It´s always frustrating when you from the get go didn´t quite get what you wanted, but it´s all part of it and you have to live with it.
What is it that makes you keep going and gets you out of bed each day?
Wolf: There´s so much more we haven´t done yet and there´s always the next thing, the next little hurdle. I´m always fighting windmills it seems like. There´s always something I have to overcome, mediocrity mostly and that´s what I hate the most. I hate when people just say “That´s good enough! What´s wrong with it? There´s nothing wrong with it!” I hate that, because I want it to be great. I always strive for something that amazes me and other people and that in itself is fucking hard sometimes. It´s so often you have to say “Ok, we´ll leave it at that.”, but I always wish we could get it to that next level. There are a gazillion things we haven´t done yet and things I still wanna achieve, so that gets me up in the morning. It truly does. It´s a never ending struggle, whether it´s the next photo session or the next song we have to write. Now we have to go on tour, so we gotta make sure the tour is structured right and the tour production is going well and then the travelling aspect of it. It´s just one thing after the other. Those damn videos never turn out right and we always have a hard time with videos. You can´t do everything yourself, so a lot of times you let other people do certain things and it comes back not the way you wanted it to be and then you try somebody else. It´s a team sport and that´s why we´re so happy with Andy. He´s the perfect producer for us and we´re glad to have him onboard and some other very talented people. It takes time to get that whole machine in place. When we started three, four years ago, we didn´t have any of that. We were all just basically private people retired and none of us were in the music business anymore. We didn´t have a record label or a publicist or a booker. We had nothing.
And now you´re conquering the world! How do you stay in shape?
Wolf: I work out a bit. When you see yourself getting a little fatter, it motivates you real quick. You see a few pictures of yourself where you have a bit of a gut and you go “Oh, time to hit the gym again!”. It gets you motivated real fast. (laughs)
Av: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk