One of the most iconic metal bands of all-time, German headbangers Accept have generally been known to the American mainstream for their gold-certified 1983 album Balls To The Wall, but fans know them for so much more. A dark musical manifesto that managed to maintain their raw live intensity but with more studio polish than their previous releases, it allowed the West German metal band — yes, remember the days of two Germanys? — to tour the U.S. The group then recorded and toured behind the gems Metal Heart and Russian Roulette during the mid-Eighties until original frontman Udo Dirkschneider embarked on a solo career in 1987. Accept then enlisted American vocalist David Reece for 1989’s Eat The Heat, but the new line-up was short-lived. After recording four solo records, Udo returned in 1993 for the fantastic Objection Overruled opus (arguably their best album), then stayed for two more studio releases before departing again around 1997.
Guitarist Wolf Hoffmann and bassist Peter Baltes settled into other activities — the former embarking on a photography career — but they had a musical itch that needed to be scratched again. Successful European reunion shows with Dirkschneider in 2005, including many high profile festival gigs, revived their fortunes, but when the singer did not want to record with them again, they hit a wall. By 2009, Hoffmann and Baltes were writing music together, and when they connected with former TT Quick singer Mark Tornillo, they knew they had found the right man to front the band. Before releasing their well-received and powerful new album Blood Of The Nations, Accept debuted their new line-up — which includes Tornillo, Hoffmann, Baltes, as well as Accept vets, guitarist Herman Frank and drummer Stefan Schwarzmann — at a gig in a New York City that went over like gangbusters and created a healthy buzz online. Subsequent European festival dates — including two massive gigs with AC/DC and two big Sonisphere festival dates — cemented their return. Blood Of The Nations has done well, hitting #4 in Germany, #187 in America, the Top 20 in several European countries (including Sweden and Finland) and #12 on the European Billboard charts.
Currently tearing it up across the U.S., Accept are alive and well in 2010, and Hoffmann was excited about their prospects when he sat down to chat with A.D.D. just prior to the tour. For more on the making of the album, read my recent Aquarian Weekly feature about Accept.
The last time that Accept recorded music was in the mid-Nineties. What brought about the fire in your belly this time? Why return now?
We met Mark. With Udo we probably would not have made a new album because I don’t think we could have pulled it off, and there probably would not have been much of a need for it. We could’ve just played shows. Once we stumbled onto Mark and met him, and decided to give it a go, it was a natural decision to write new songs and come out with a new product.
You hired another singer, David Reece, back in the late Eighties when Udo departed the first time to go on a solo career. That was a controversial move back then and not very successful. How are things different this time?
Twenty years are different. That was 20 years ago, and nothing is the same. I don’t know why everybody keeps bringing up the David Reece thing, because the only similarity is that we tried a new singer, but it didn’t work [then]. Everything was different back then. It was a totally different point in our lives and our career, and all we’re trying to do right now is go back out as Accept as everybody knows it. The fact that we met Mark really opened up that whole chapter for us because he’s got the type of voice that’s perfect for the back catalog. He’s a great guy and has great chemistry in the band. It was just too good to be true to not do it. And the fact that Udo had no interest in ever working with us again, it was doing this now with somebody new — and there couldn’t be a better person than Mark — or stay home and do nothing. We’re musicians, so we’re really longing to go out and play live and do what we want to do.
Accept have tackled many weighty social and political topics in the past. I have discovered in recent years that a lot of metal fans are conservative. For example, once the Iraq war started, a lot of people who spoke out against the war were criticized, including rockers by their own fans. I thought that was really interesting because many metal bands have historically made a stand against war and questioned authority. Have you found Accept fans over the years that love the music but do not necessarily pay attention to the message?
It’s all across the board. Some people are totally into it, and some people barely look into it. If you’re getting into the issue of conservatism versus being more liberal, there is a distinct difference in America and Europe, and that’s why we’re trying not to get too deep into it and take too much of a stance, especially with that war going on. It’s a touchy subject, and we don’t really want to get caught in the middle of all that.
But isn’t that ironic? Back in the Eighties, you were a West German metal band with strong opinions.
But things were different then. We have different guys in the band [now], coming from different nationalities, almost like a United Nations deal now. We can’t all take one stance and sell that. I think it’s good. We’ve really tried to concentrate on the music and somewhat pay tribute to what we’ve done in the past but not get too deep into it. That’s why it was okay for Mark to write the lyrics, and he did a pretty good job, so there.
Do you find yourself getting more cautious about certain issues as you get older? Whereas when you were younger you probably went out and did things without thinking about the consequences?
No, not really. I think we’re all as ballsy is ever. The fact that we’ve done this reunion without being too concerned about what everybody thought is a statement to that because quite honestly we met Mark and decided to reform Accept. We announced it to the world without having new songs or anything to back it up. We decided to do it and then figured out how to do it. We didn’t think too much about any consequences there. Later on we dealt with it, managed and made a record, and here we are. I thought it was pretty ballsy.
Accept’s original guitarist, producer Michael Wagener, had a studio on your property in Nashville for a while, didn’t he?
He did for the longest time, but we sold that place a few years ago and moved into a different neighborhood. We moved closer to town and now have a somewhat different set up. It used to be all country, horses and farm life; now have a nicer house closer to town. Michael has moved away from there in the meantime, too, but I still see him all the time. We’re still good friends.
What is going on with your photography lately?
Still going strong. I do have to slow it down a little bit because we’re going on tour, but when I’m not actively doing everyday work with Accept I’m still shooting. I want to keep doing that. I really have no intention of quitting one over the other, if I don’t have to. Eventually I might have to make a decision, but I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t keep shooting while I’m in the band.
Are you going to document the tour?
I might, sure. I’m going to take my camera. Absolutely.
The real trick would be able to shoot yourself.
Honestly, that’s a problem because I’m not any of the pictures. I have archives full of pictures, and it’s weird, I’m never in any of them because I shoot them. It’s really hard to document yourself.