Accept Guitarist Wolf Hoffmann – The full in bloom Legacy Interview – Restless, Balls to the Wall, Metal Heart, UDO
INTERVIEW w/ ACCEPT GUITARIST WOLF HOFFMANN
full in bloom: How did you meet Udo Dirkschneider?
Wolf Hoffmann: We were all kids from the neighborhood, from the same town and somebody told me from a music store that a band was looking for a guitar player. I called them up and auditioned and I got the job. I was just a kid, I was even able to drive yet, because the legal driving age is eighteen, so they had to come pick me up from my parents house for rehearsal, that is how far we go back..I was sixteen…then one year later we participated in a battle of the bands and even though we did not win first prize, we got hooked up with a record company. So I was seventeen, maybe eighteen when I signed my first record deal.
full in bloom: How old was Udo at that time?
Wolf: Maybe 5 or 6 years older than the rest of us….he always seemed old…(laughs) he was old when he was twenty-five.
full in bloom: In the early days of Accept, the band wore make-up. Why did you decide to wear it and why did you take it off?
Wolf: That’s the weirdest misconception. You know who told me that recently, Twisted Sister. We’re all talking and they (Twisted Sister) say, “you guys wore make-up” and I, again, had to defend myself for that photo shoot. It was the only time in our life that we ever wore it was on that photo session for the first record. That can show you how long shit can last for. Here we are eighteen year old kids, doing our first photo session, EVER! EVER! They had a professional photographer and of course they had make-up artists there…we didn’t even know they had those. When they are pasting that shit on our face, they are telling us, “we always do that, because it doesn’t show in the photographs, it just there to enhance your features”. So we say, ok if you think so. And that is why we look so dang silly on that first record…that is the only time we ever did that dude. Immediately we regretted it…big time..and here I am twenty-five years later, an old man almost, still talking about that photo session. We never did that again, because we saw how horrible we looked….we looked like freakin’ indians or something (laughs).
full in bloom: Are there any memories that come to mind from the Breaker recording sessions?
Wolf: I’ve got news for you, all these old recording sessions kind of blur together. I can’t even recall who engineered and all that stuff… I need to read up on that myself. I don’t spend that much time in the past, in that respect. I am the worst out of all of them, to ask these questions. I sort of just have a general idea of the time. If we, as a band, sit around and start talking about shit, then I can remember things, but I just go blank, sorry.
full in bloom: When did Udo begin to find his voice? On the earlier releases, he had not found it yet. Was there ever a point where you notice the change?
Wolf: I would say around the Breaker time. It was a slow process for all of us to find our style. When we made our first record, for instance, it was just a bunch of songs, some of them had existed before and just been around forever, got twisted and turned around for years. That’s why you have such a weird mix of styles on the first record….then when you do that you think that they’re (songs) all great and after you let that settle for awhile and then you find out, well maybe not all of them were that great and then you concentrate, just by trial and error. You know how a lot of bands, nowadays, will make a demo and get rejected and stuff. We didn’t really do that. We just made a record right away, put a bunch of stuff on there; then a record after that, and then a record after that…so we just kind of fine tuned our style in the public, so to say. Nowadays, you don’t even get a record deal unless you have those kinks already worked out. But we got a chance to do it and it was fine with everyone that we did not sell….I think our first record sold like 3,000 records, not a lot, as you well know. But it was cool with everyone at the label, they thought – Oh, next time around. They gave you a chance then; it was long-term. I just got through talking with Sebastian (Bach) about their (Skid Row) first record, which sold like 10 million, then the next sold 5 million and the next sold 2 million.
full in bloom: Did Accept ever have a platinum record?
Wolf: We never had a platinum, but we had a gold, with Balls to the Wall
full in bloom: What about Restless, or Metal Heart?
Wolf: No, we came close with several. We weren’t mainstream enough. We had a huge influence on the musicians, or everybody tells me that. But we never really hit the mainstream market like some of these guys did.
full in bloom: How were the early releases distributed?
Wolf: Damned if I know.
full in bloom: Were they just in Europe, did they make it to the States?
Wolf: No, I think the first one to make it to the States was “Balls”, wasn’t it?
full in bloom: Then Restless and Wild came later?
Wolf: Yeah…as you can tell I was never much into the business side of things. Gaby was always the manager and she took care of things…. and we’re just like, tell us where to go, we’ll make music, you do the rest….that’s kind of how we handled a lot of these things.
full in bloom: Any regrets about that?
Wolf: Not at all. It worked well for us. It can backfire also, you know, if you always think about business.
full in bloom: What point did you start paying your bills, just playing music?
Wolf: Pretty early on. Restless and Wild, I would say. I was mostly a student before that…see in Germany everyone goes to college and things like that and I did. I had few odd jobs, but it’s not the same as over here, where you kind of have to work and go to school at the same time. Over there teenagers don’t really have jobs. They go to school, or have an apprenticeship.
full in bloom: Why did Jörg Fischer leave right before Restless and Wild?
Wolf: He just didn’t fit in anymore and didn’t have the same enthusiasm as everyone. So, we let him go and told him to get his act together. Then we had Herman Frank for a number of years and we found out, he was just about the same, really. (laughs) Then we took Jörg back, because we met him again at a show and we felt really bad for him and we had more of a personal connection than with Herman….so we took him back again…it was little odd.
full in bloom: How did Jörg not fit in with the band? What do you mean by that?
Wolf: He was always, you know, not one of the guys. He was always late for rehearsals, and he was not as energetic as the rest of us. He didn’t participate in all the chores that you have to do.
full in bloom: Where did the intro for “Fast as a Shark” come from?
Wolf: That was my idea. We were sitting around and we had this amazing, fast, double bass song, unlike anything we had ever written, or ever heard. I was thinking to myself…what could we come up with that would be the biggest possible contrast. We were fishing through records and we were trying to find something so silly, that would be an obvious contrast and we kind of liked the idea that people might think that they bought the wrong record.
full in bloom: Do you know who recorded the song?
Wolf: I do. Here is a little funny story for you…We were recording at Dieter Dierks studio, who had world fame with the Scorpions…so he owned the studio that we were in. So we go to his mom’s, who also lived in the complex and we asked her if she had any children’s records and she says, “yeah, there is something I have, Dieter recorded this as a kid,”….. maybe he was five years old. So that little snippet, that is actually Dieter Dierks singing on it.
full in bloom: And he recorded himself back then?
Wolf: I don’t know who recorded it, but I know it was done of him as a little kid. That is actually him singing the part…so we borrowed the record from mama Dierks…and that’s what it is.
full in bloom: How did your life begin to change after the release of Restless and Wild. What was the following year like for you, leading up to Balls to the Wall.
Wolf: You know it was all so gradual. The only major jump we ever did was after Balls to the Wall. Our big step into the professional arena came with “Balls to the Wall”. Touring in America, going overseas. That was a huge thing for a german band, hardly anybody had done that before, or since….well since, quite a few, but then it was a really big deal. We were on the road for months at a time, we toured with KISS and Ozzy Osbourne and all these big names. That was our big deal, we got a worldwide record deal and signed with Sony, but all that time happened in 1984. All those years before that were just a gradual build up to that. Maybe just touring around Europe and the Netherlands.
full in bloom: So, no memories from the sessions for Balls to the Wall?
Wolf: I know where it was recorded….it was recorded at Dieter Dierks studio in Cologne.
full in bloom: Did you have any idea of what was to come?
Wolf: Hell no, you just go about your business and do as usual and hope you come up with some good stuff. From our perspective, we always worked the same way, you sit down, write a bunch of stuff and go into the studio and hoping it comes out all the way you want it to. We knew “Balls” was a good song, but we didn’t really know what a life changer it would be. You know you are always excited about the songs and are thinking, wow they really are going to like this one…and half the time they don’t.
full in bloom: With the success of “Balls to the Wall,” the single / video, why did the band not do another video?
Wolf: They were so expensive. I mean they were like $100,000 dollars back in those days. It was ridiculously expensive in the early, early days…this is when this whole thing got started. They were shot on film and there were less competing companies. Nobody at the time even knew why they were so expensive. They were all done in a day or two…somebody pocketed a lot of money.
full in bloom: Now on Balls to the Wall, we see the addition of Deaffy as the lyricist. Who was Deaffy?
Wolf: It is a known fact now, we kind of released it a few years ago. It was Gaby Hoffmann, my wife. Pretty wild, “Balls to the Wall” was written by a woman, how do like that one, now?
full in bloom: What the hell was “London Leather Boys” about?
Wolf: You would have to ask her, biker gangs in London. You know we always had this misconception about this gay / homosexual thing.
full in bloom: (laughs)That is just what I was about to say.
Wolf: You Americans are so uptight about this. In Europe it was never a big deal, .we just wanted to be controversial and different and touch on these touchy subjects, because it gave us good press and it worked fabulously, you know. And we wanted to have lyrics that meant a little more than your average…..”Cherry Pie” bullshit, you know.
full in bloom: Did she come up with melodies as well?
Wolf: No, we just gave her the finished songs. The songwriting was always the same in Accept, it was always the three guys Stephan, Peter and myself, wrote all the songs, including some scratch lyrics, vocal lines everything was done and Gaby would sit down with those songs and write some great lyrics. When that was done, we gave it to Udo and he just sort of performed it. That was always the working order for all these years.
full in bloom: That just seems amazing to me to think that she would write the lyrics with no melody in mind.
Wolf: Either Peter or Stephan were ok singers and they did all the melody lines, before Udo ever came into the studio.
full in bloom: So, Udo didn’t really do anything when it came to the melody of it.
Wolf: No. I mean he would change things slightly, if he couldn’t get it right or something. But it was mostly worked out before hand.
full in bloom: Describe a typical day in the life of Wolf Hoffmann during the early to mid-eighties.
Wolf: Um…it’s all different of course. When you are on tour, it’s different from when you are home. Recording, I was never one to wake up at noon or something, I would get up early. I don’t know, every day was different.
full in bloom: You guys weren’t a drugged out band.
Wolf: Hell no….Never even smoked pot.
full in bloom: You’re kidding?
Wolf: No, never even had a joint in my life.
full in bloom: But you guys drank right?
Wolf: Yeah, but not excessively. We’re like almost boring, in that regard.
full in bloom: How has your catalog sold through the years?
Wolf: I don’t know.
full in bloom: You still receive payments, right?
full in bloom: Well then you would know if they have sold well through the years.
Wolf: Yeah, I mean it didn’t sell millions, I know that.
full in bloom: Back in the ’80s were you able to survive on record sales alone, or was the band always recouping?
Wolf: Made a very good living, yeah. We have always been pretty smart about things.
full in bloom: Probably because you guys were sober during it.
Wolf: That has something to do with it.
full in bloom: Didn’t waste a lot of time in the studio?
Wolf: No, we have always been pretty German about everything, workaholics in a way. We never really went crazy like some of these guys, who would rent a studio and don’t show up..you always hear those stories about people wasting millions…..but then again, we never made those millions, so we couldn’t. But we did good, had a good time and made a good living at it.
full in bloom: In 1985, Accept releases Metal Heart. I thought this was your best sounding record. What were some of the things that Dieter did to make that release sound so great.
Wolf: Well, he is just an experienced producer and uh….I don’t know, it’s his secret, I guess. He is just very diligent and into details and did a great job.
full in bloom: How did he record the guitar tracks for Metal Heart?
Wolf: Just the same way we all do. I didn’t think that the guitars were all that outstanding on that record. Just experimenting, different microphones and tweaking it until it sounds right. You know, there’s no secret to it.
full in bloom: You don’t agree that Metal Heart was your best sounding record?
Wolf: Um…I thought Balls sounded every bit as good. I’m not sure which one is better, they were just different from each other.
full in bloom: Well, more on the production side. I just thought that the record sounded so clean, but never lost any of the vibe, which can happen when they start to sound that clean.
Wolf: Right, right. We spent a lot longer on Metal Heart than we did on Balls.
full in bloom: How long did it take to record it?
Wolf: Maybe 3 months, 4 months. A long time for us…I forget exactly, but it seemed forever.
full in bloom: How long did it take to record Balls to the Wall?
Wolf: 3 weeks, 4 weeks..something like that.
full in bloom: In 1986, Accept releases Russian Roulette, what was the status of the band at that time? Were you pleased with the record? Were you guys getting sick of each other?
Wolf: Um…I guess we were a little bit. I don’t know how to say it right…um…I guess the best way to say it is… we kind of came to a point where we felt we needed a fresh start, we got sort of tired of the same old approach, the songwriting, Udo didn’t want to be part of it. It was a mutual agreement. We didn’t kick him out and he didn’t leave. It was just a mutual thing, he wanted his own band. I guess for him, he wanted to be in more control of things. I think that was the main reason. But we were ready to step up to another level and try something new and maybe go with a different singer, but we did try and find somebody and we did find the right guy to be honest.
full in bloom: Did Udo tour with you guys for Russian Roulette?
Wolf: Oh yeah, that was maybe a year or two after Russian Roulette when he left.
full in bloom: 3 fond memories of your days in Accept.
Wolf: My top moment was probably coming back to Germany and playing the Monsters of Rock festival. We had toured in the US, for the last eight months and we were in top shape and it was sort of a homecoming moment. Where we played these big ass festivals in Germany called Monsters of Rock, with ACDC, some with Van Halen and all of the top dogs of that time. We were on the bill and it was just an incredible vibe. Then, just recently, that was a top moment for me…first time on stage in ten years. It was amazing, it was in St. Petersburg in Russia.
THE FAST 5
full in bloom: What is your most disgusting habit?
Wolf: chewing gum
full in bloom: What is the most feminine thing you do?
Wolf: I’m not feminine at all…I don’t wear high heels, stockings, none of that stuff….I sometimes sit with my legs crossed like a woman.
full in bloom: If there is a God, what is the first question you would ask God when you arrive?
Wolf: I have a really weird feeling about that one, I am not even sure there is one. I don’t know….what the hell took you so long?
full in bloom: Greatest Rock band of all time?
full in bloom: What were you doing 40 minutes before you sat down to do this interview?
Wolf: I was actually giving another interview believe it or not.