INTERVJU: Wolf Hoffman i Accept

Det ständigt tungriffande Accept släpper ett nytt album, “Too mean to die”, mitt i en pandemi, för den lär knappast vara över i januari. Vi ringde upp Wolf som nu är “the last man standing” i det klassiska bandet. Det blev ett samtal om apokalypsen, att just vara den siste originalmedlemmen kvar, nya albumet, gitarrhjältar och hans förhållande till sångaren Mark Tornillo.

Well, we´ve found a way to accept each other and work together, but to be totally honest, we´re not the biggest buddies in the world and probably never will be. I don´t know, there´s something… he grew up in New Jersey and I grew up in Germany and maybe that has something to do with it. At least we work together really well and we respect each other and he´s a fucking brilliant singer, so it seems to work whatever recipe we´ve found.

I never thought I´d hear the name Kardashian in an Accept song?

(laughs) I didn´t either. I guess you can blame Mark (Tornillo) for that, he wrote those words. It´s funny. That song was originally… I was toying around with that topic for a while and thought it was gonna be called “Damn YouTube kids” or “Annoying YouTube kids” and then that didn´t really gel, so finally I came up with “Overnight sensation” The topic was there for some time, because I find that it is kind of annoying these days. You see these kids on YouTube and they play Mozart when they´re five years old and some of them are just famous for being famous, overnight sensation kids. The social media, the influencers… it´s a weird world, man.

Have you seen the documentary “The social dilemma” (Netflix)?

No, I don´t think I have. Sounds intriguing though.

I watched it just the other day and it just made me feel like I want to log out from everything.

Yeah, my god, it´s a scary world and it´s getting worse and worse. It makes me remember how it was for us when we were kids growing up and learning an instrument. It was an understanding by everybody that if you want to be good at anything you´ve got to spend 10.000 hours on it was always the saying, whether you learn the guitar or anything else. You better be prepared to put in the days and hours and years. Nowadays people just want to be famous instantly. It´s crazy.

It talks a lot about the previous election in the US and the power of Facebook and Google and so on. It´s kind of scary.

Totally scary. I think the scariest part of all of this is that once you believe something or once you´re leaning towards one side or the other, left or right or whatever it is, you only get the news you already believe in. You never get to hear the other side anymore. It´s these damn algorithms and they just feed you the stuff that the algorithms know you´re leaning towards. You´re never going to get anything balanced ever again. There´s no middle ground between anything. It´s completely black or completely white and that´s why we have this dilemma in the States right now. The trend is the same in Europe, maybe not as drastic or as apparent, but everything that happens in the US eventually happens in the West too. Usually not quite as extreme, but get ready! It´s coming your way too, if it´s not already there.

Right. These days I get a lot of news through my Facebook feed, but I try to get stuff from both sides.

You know what´s funny? What I do too… I´m in America and when I watch the American news it´s not really news anymore. They don´t really report, it´s just opinions no matter what channel. What I do is I turn on German news on the internet all the time and they of course report about the US also and a lot of times I hear about stuff that I didn´t even know about, even though I live here. It´s bizarre. A lot of the time, if you really want to know what´s going on, you´ve got to watch somebody else´s news from a different country, because they probably have a different view from the outside of all this. There´s a lot of actual facts and events that don´t even get reported, because it doesn´t fit whatever agenda.

Speaking of Germany. You´ve been living in the States for quite some time now. Has it come as far as that you sometimes struggle finding German words when you´re speaking German?

Rarely. I´m doing ok. Sometimes with my wife, we speak this mishmash of half German, half English, but that´s because we speak both languages and sometimes it´s just easier to say something in English. It sounds kind of awkward in German or the other way around. I think my German is still ok.

Do you look at yourself as half German, half American or are you just 100% German these days?

I think I´m pretty German and I view myself as German. I have an American passport, but for some reason I have a hard time thinking of myself as an American all the way through. I think it has something to do with the way you´re brought up and what your values are and your social climate. I don´t know, it´s in your blood and somehow it stays with you. If a Chinese guy moves to Sweden and lives there for 30 years, I still think he´s gonna be Chinese deep inside, don´t you think? It never quite goes away. It probably depends on when you move. If you move as a three year old, then no, but if you move when you´re an adult that kind of stuff stays with you.

I´ve picked another couple of songs I thought we could talk about, like “Zombie apocalypse” I was just thinking, the apocalypse stuff, are there a lot of preppers and stuff like that around where you live?

(laughs) Those guys? Yeah, I´m sure they exist, but the song doesn´t really talk about that at all. I was a little skeptical about writing a song about zombies myself initially. Mark had the idea for the title and I liked the way that it sounded, but I was reluctant to really talk about zombies, because I just think that´s a bunch of fake baloney. There are no living dead. Then he explained to me that it was not about zombies but about people who walk the streets with their cell phones in hand behaving like zombies. Stumbling around and totally disconnected from the real world. That´s one of Mark´s favorite subjects and I thought it was a nice little twist, so I wrote the music for it. It´s not about those people that prepare for the end of the world. That always makes me chuckle, when you hear about people stocking up on ammunition and canned goods. I´m thinking “Don´t they realize we´re all in this together somehow? If there´s some sort of apocalypse and the world comes to an end, do you really want to be one of the last people to live in this mess?” You know what I mean? Really? I think it´s better if we don´t let it get that far and worry about here and now. Preparing for the aftermath sounds silly to me.

Going back to social media. These days we see more and more of flat earthers, preppers, anti vaxxers and so on even in Sweden and I blame social media for that. It´s crazy. It´s 2020!

I know. Have you ever talked to a hardcore religious person? I have and it doesn´t matter what argument you tell them… I´m a non-believer and I can´t believe people really take all that stuff as seriously as some of them do. There´s no way you can talk somebody out of it. It´s like, it´s in there and it will stay in there. Like some of these Covid deniers and flat earthers… it´s hopeless. I don´t get it. I even have some friends that are super people and really nice and I love them and they´re super great in every respect of the way, but even some of them have totally weird beliefs.

Another great track on the album is “The best is yet to come”

I wrote that song and the main chorus, because that is really sort of my life motto in a way. I´m really that kind of guy who doesn´t think the glass is half empty, I think it´s half full. I like looking ahead instead of looking into the past and thinking everything was better when we were young and the 80´s were glorious and blah blah blah… I never think that way. I´m a guy who thinks the best is yet to come. I think the best Accept song hasn´t been written yet, the best Accept show hasn´t been played yet, so on a professional level I definitely think we can do better. You haven´t seen it all yet and I find that more motivating than to be reminiscing of the past. Even in my personal life I don´t enjoy thinking about the things that happened along the way. I usually find it… not painful but discomforting somehow. I don´t like living in the past, I like living in the present and thinking about the future. That´s why I would never write a book about my life or a biography about Accept and all that… ewww, that would not be pleasant at all. It forces me to think about all these things and why this happened and to go back in time and look at old pictures and all that stuff… I don´t know. I understand that I have to do it quite often when I get asked these questions about the history of Accept, but I never enjoy that stuff and I´m even reluctant to eve do it, but being a professional I do it. But do I enjoy it? No. That´s why I enjoy thinking about the future and thinking about what´s yet to come. I believe the best is yet to come. Lyrically that´s definitely close to my heart that song and that´s why I wrote it.

So you´re not a nostalgic person in any way?

No, not at all. Sometimes I remember an episode and that is fun and you laugh about it and chuckle to yourself, but in general I don´t… you know, there are people that second guess all the things that they´ve done in their life, “If only I would´ve done this and that it could´ve turned in to so and so…” I don´t ever go that way. And I hardly ever regret anything. It doesn´t mean I don´t realize that maybe it was the wrong decision at the time, but I know that now and back then I didn´t know it. I went with it, I made the decision and it seemed to be the right thing to do so… live and learn and move on and forget about it.

Accept, Stockholm

That´s a great way of looking at it.

Well, at the end of the day we all make mistakes and it´s called life experience after a while, nothing more. You can´t go through life and never make mistakes. People who don´t make wrong decisions are people who make no decisions, honestly.

Last song I picked is “Sucks to be you”

That´s actually a song that was written by our new bass player Martin Motnik and I´m very proud of him because he just recently joined the band and he contributed a lot of good stuff for this album and that´s one of them. He actually wrote that riff and came up with the chorus idea, even though it sounds very typical Accept, I love it. It´s easy going and fresh and in your face. I think lyrically he was originally talking about Trump (laughs), but I think secretly Mark changed it around so it´s not obvious that it´s about Trump and there you have it. Even within the band we have political opposing views I believe, but we try to stay neutral as much as we can.

Speaking of Mark. How do you look at your relationship working together over the years and so on?

Well, we´ve found a way to accept each other and work together, but to be totally honest, we´re not the biggest buddies in the world and probably never will be. I don´t know, there´s something… he grew up in New Jersey and I grew up in Germany and maybe that has something to do with it. At least we work together really well and we respect each other and he´s a fucking brilliant singer, so it seems to work whatever recipe we´ve found. I´m not trying to really analyze it too much, but I can definitely say that we have different views on a lot of things and that´s ok. It seems to be working and the common ground is our music and the metal we make.

Another thing. Eddie Van Hale recently passed away. What did Eddie Van Halen mean to you as a guitar player?

Well, I guess that when he came onto the scene it was like “What the hell´s going on! Where did this guy come from?” I remember that very vividly and I remember everybody wanting to be like him and play like Eddie for a while. Everybody started doing the tapping thing, me included, but I realized I can´t do that stuff. It´s not in my hands somehow, so I found another way of playing. I grew up being inspired by other people like Ritchie Blackmore and Uli Jon Roth and other people, but not so much Eddie Van Halen. I would say he was giant, but you just have to listen to me playing and it´s completely different. But it doesn´t mean I have a helluva respect for him because he´s probably right up there with Jimi Hendrix and some of those ultra legends. He was really somebody who transformed everything when they came along.

You mentioned Ritchie Blackmore being an influence to you and I´ve read that Kirk Hammett has cited you as an influence. How do you feel about that? You have your heroes, but you have others that look to you as their guitar hero.

Well, first let me say that I think it´s ultra cool and makes me very humbled to hear that from a band like Metallica because they´re huge and that´s amazing in itself. Then I would say that that´s the way it´s supposed to be. Everybody growing up listens to certain people and it´s your influence and then you take a little part of this and that and make your own style eventually. That´s what we did. We grew up listening to Deep Purple and AC/DC and of course Judas Priest and there are certain elements in all that that we really, really like and I liked it and kind of built my own, or the Accept style out of that. The way we write songs and the way we sound and now if people take a little bit of that from us and take us as an influence, we´re just basically passing the torch to other guys. It´s amazing and it´s the way it´s supposed to work and it´s the way it has worked for centuries. Nobody comes to this earth and invents everything at once, it´s all bit by bit and it´s how the times move on. I think it´s amazing.

Another solo album? Is that something you´re thinking about?

I will and eventually I´ll probably do that if I have the time. Actually (laughs) speaking of time, now that Corona has impacted everything I have nothing but time, so I might actually start working on some ideas to be released some distant time in the future. Who knows. A solo record like that classical stuff, it actually takes a good long time to find the right pieces and make the arrangements and it´s actually a lot more work than an Accept album. I would love to do that more because it´s sort of a personal passion of mine. I think Accept will always be number one and take priority over everything else and I can only sneak these projects in on the side and maybe now is the time for that, I don´t know.

In Accept you´re actually the last man standing. How do you feel about that?

Crazy right? I don´t know how I feel about that. It makes me a little bit sad on one hand and on the other hand I´ll say “Fuck it, I have to move forward.” It wasn´t by my choosing that one after the other left the band. I joined this band some 44 years ago and I never thought it would last as long as it did. I´m just the only guy that never left the band. It´s as simple as that. If they decide to go and leave this train that´s running… the train keeps going and I have no choice but to move forward I think. I don´t really want to stop and I don´t want to retire. I think the fans still want to hear new Accept music even if it´s with less original members. It´s the old question. Some people are only going to think the true band is the original lineup and others are more lenient. By the way, if you would only accept bands with the original lineup it would be damn empty out there. It would be Aerosmith and U2 and nobody else. People leave a band just like they leave a company. I think that as long as I´m true and honest to the tradition and legacy of Accept it can go on for a long time, even if I´m the only guy. To me it´s like a company that has no identity. Look at Apple for instance. People are still going to buy Apple and it has a certain meaning to certain people, but they don´t really care who´s behind the scenes doing what as long as the product stays the same, I think. Maybe it´s the same… I´m kind of hoping it´s the same in a band situation, but I realize people are very opinionated about that kind of stuff.

A final thing. How does it feel releasing an album and you actually don´t have a clue when you will hit the road again?

That´s right, I don´t. I don´t know what to think about that. It´s the first time in our lives. He would´ve ever thought anything like this would ever happen. We could´ve postponed the album, so it could coincide with a future tour, but we decided… first of all, we don´t really know when that time will ever be and the other thing is that we thought it might be better for the fans to at least have the album if they can´t see us at a concert, so at least they will have something. It might be a good way to spend the time until we can all meet in person again. At least the fans can listen to the album and then one day they will hear those songs live on stage and hopefully it´s not going to be in the too distant future. We are confirmed for Sweden Rock festival and we´ve got a bunch of shows booked for the summer and SRF is one of them. I sure hope it will happen.

Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen

Foto: Björn Olsson, Therés Stephansdotter Björk, Michaela Barkensjö