ACCEPT Guitarist Talks Songwriting Process, Upcoming DVD

Niclas Müller-Hansen of Sweden's Metalshrine recently conducted an interview with guitarist Wolf Hoffmann of reformed heavy metal legends ACCEPT. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Metalshrine: Is it easier or more difficult writing songs these days?

Wolf: No, it never gets easier. I think most artists would say… especially if you've already done 15-20 records and that's some 150 songs that you've already published, you always run the risk of repeating yourself. It's a very fine line that you have to walk, because you want it to sound like you, you want it to sound familiar but you don't want it to sound like it's a rip-off of yourself, so that's where the challenge is. It's not so much writing something — that's always easy — but that something better be as good as the things you've already done but not too much as something you've already done, and that's where the challenge is. Maybe that's why bands and artists take longer and longer to come up with new studio albums. Maybe they feel at a certain point that they've done everything they can do and if it's something you haven't done already, maybe it's so far away from what you're known for and there might be nothing left for you to do. Right now we don't have that problem, but it's been going through my mind sometimes. You don't wanna repeat yourself but you want it to be typical you.

Metalshrine: Both albums received a lot of praise all over the world and that's gotta feel good since there has to have been some nervousness with a new singer and all that? You probably did exactly what the fans wanted.

Wolf: That was a huge relief, of course. Once everybody was embracing those records, it was like, "Wow, talk about dodging the bullet." Quite honestly, we had no idea. We felt it was great. I've done that in the past when I thought something was really good and then everybody hates it for some reason or another. You never really know as an artist. You can't. You never know what the fans think. They've got a mind of their own, so we were totally nervous by all this. Then, when it came out and the way it was received, and it was number one in the charts, and still is in some of the readers' polls in Rock Hard and Metal Hammer, it was totally satisfying to see that. We were totally nervous, of course. Or I wouldn't say nervous, but we were fully aware of it because at the same time we said, "Well, if this isn't gonna work with Mark [Tornillo, vocals], we haven't lost anything because what else is there for us to do?. We can either all go home and do nothing or we can do this." Udo wasn't available, so hell, what have we got to lose? It's worth the effort and we felt it was the right guy at the right time.

Metalshrine: Is it correct that Mark wrote the lyrics for the album?

Wolf: It is. In the past it was Gaby, my wife and manager, who wrote most of the lyrics back in the '80s and she was great at it and she probably would've done it again, but we felt lik, "Here's an American guy and it's his native language so he doesn't need Germans writing lyrics for him. Let him write his own lyrics damn it! Let him work for his money!" [laughs] I also thought that he would probably do a better job singing it if it was his own thoughts. Of course, there was a certain amount of discussions about what he was writing down and what we wanted to hear, but in the end he really paid tribute to our tradition and I think he wrote the lyrics in a way they should be written for ACCEPT. There were still some discrepancies where I thought, "Well, I probably would've said that a bit different," but that's fair. After all, he's the singer, so he might as well put his own words into the whole thing. Sometimes the way we write songs, Peter [Baltes, bass] and I start the process and we sit together and jam on riffs, but it's always about the song. It's about the melody and very early on it's about the chorus too. We always kinda know what we want the chorus to sound like, and Peter usually puts down some scratch vocals without any words, he's just sorta mumbo-jumboing his way through it just to speed up the process. Mark is different. He can't just fake it. He needs to think and think deep and it takes hours to write something down and then when we hear it for the first time, it might not be what we want, so just to speed up the process, we let Peter mumbo-jumbo something and it's so ridiculous, but we treat it like an instrument and we judge it for the melody and the rhythm and when we're happy with all that, then we'll give it to Mark and he can really put his deep thoughts into all that stuff.

Metalshrine: I guess there's always stuff that never makes the album. When you're writing for a new album, do you ever go back to the "riff bank?"

Wolf: We do. We have a "riff bank" and a lot of the time it's kinda a graveyard of riffs. It's funny — there are certain riffs we keep pulling out again and again and they never turn into a song. Rarely there's a part that we actually end up using. For some reason you always think these parts are great and you go back to them, but by that time we have 10 new songs for each one of those cool parts. Occasionally, we have a snippet here and there.

Metalshrine: Are you involved in any other projects, solo stuff or otherwise?

Wolf: Yeah. I made a record over 10 years ago called "Classical" and I'm working on a follow-up album for that one. I always felt that all my rock and metal stuff ends up in ACCEPT and I don't really need a side project. I'm not a frustrated songwriter that needs to vent his ideas, but what I love to do and have already done once, is an instrumental record. That's really what I'd like to do. It's a very unique challenge. It's one thing to have song writing with vocals and lyrics. It's actually a lot easier than instrumentals. For instrumentals, you've got just your guitar. You don't have the vocals to keep your attention and songwriting is also very repetitive. You've got your first verse, chorus, second verse, chorus so you only need like two parts and you're already three minutes into the song. Whereas in an instrumental, after 30 seconds, it can be awfully boring if you don't come up with something that is interesting, so it's a very unique challenge.

Metalshrine: True. I also heard that you've recorded stuff live. Is that for a possible live DVD?

Wolf: It's in the works, man! A lot of fans are asking for it and they feel that ACCEPT is so strong now and they've seen us live. They think, "They're on fire! Where can I get proper recorded DVD from?" We've already recorded some shows and it's actually quite challenging. Everybody's doing these live DVDs at festivals because that's the easiest thing because the cameras are already there, but I'm not sure what we end up doing. I think it's almost a discrepancy, because at the live show you really have to focus on the audience at that moment and you've got to play the greatest hits and maybe two or three songs from the new one, where on a DVD, I always wanna see more obscure songs that might not work so well at the concert while you're there. I'm always thinking, "Wouldn't it be better if we had a sort of a special occasion where we recorded some stuff that we don't normally play live?" I'm not sure. I haven't debated that all the way through to the end, but I always think, "If we just record a show, maybe that's not enough?" Maybe we should have a special event where we just set aside for filming and look at it that way.

Read the entire interview from Metalshrine.

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