Submitted by Dinosaur David B on Fri, 05/30/2008 - 15:40
One of the ballsiest headbangers to ever strap on a Flying V. This axeman came out of the same magical German wellspring that gave us Uli Roth, the Scorpions, and Michael Schenker. In the 80s, Wolf Hoffmann and the band Accept created a German metal machine of unprecedented power and precision. At the core of it was Wolf Hoffmann's fantastic, ballsy guitar riffs and wonderfully melodic guitar solos. For more on Wolf's guitar work, see our Wolf Hoffmann Guitar Alchemy profile.
If you've been around Dinosaur Rock Guitar for any length of time, you know that Wolf Hoffmann and Accept are big favorites among our Forum members. Beyond that he's been a major guitar influence on me, and a personal favorite of mine for 20 years. It was both a pleasure and a thrill for me to finally get to discuss music with Wolf Hoffmann.
Interview conducted by Dinosaur David B. 3/2/02
Question: Lets start with your life now, and what you're up to these days?
Wolf: Well, I don't actually play anymore. I mean, I sometimes pull the guitar out but mostly I do photography. In the last four or five years I just gradually went from one to the other. To the point know where all I do is photography now on an everyday basis. It's all I do.
Question: Did the photography start as a hobby?
Wolf: Yeah, it did. A long time ago when (Accept) started touring, I started taking photos of the guys in the band. On the tour bus etc. In America, I went to all the national parks and all that stuff. It kind of went from there to a serious hobby. Way back when I did sort of fine art photography. I had some stuff in galleries — that sort of thing. Landscape stuff. Now I shoot mostly commercial — whatever — advertising — a little bit of music (band promo).
Question: It seems unusual that a heavy metal guitarist from Germany would end up settling down in Nashville, the home of country music? What drew you to that area of the US?
Wolf: Hell, yeah. Umm. We (Wolf and wife Gaby) lived in Vermont first. I don't know. Nashville seemed to be a good place at the time about seven years ago when we moved down here, and it still is. It's a good part of the country. The reason really is we were connected to the music industry and didn't like L.A. or New York. Nashville was sort of a boom-town then. Lots of people from L.A. were tired of L.A. and moved down here. We had friends who did it. Medium-sized town. We just ended up here. The climate is fairly good. Cost of living is low. My wife, Gaby, is into horses, so we bought a little farm — some acreage. I don't know. It's a cool place to live. But yeah, (laughs) sometimes I wonder: why the hell Nashville?
Question: The most common question I'm asked about you is: when is Wolf gonna return to music?
Wolf: Actually sometimes I feel the itch . . . . I don't know if it will ever . . . . I haven't really figured out what form, format, how I'm gonna come back or do something again. Uhh, but I'm thinking about it more and more. There's something missing in my life . . . . if I don't play anymore. But it's hard to figure out what to do. Just to make music isn't really enough for me. I kind of need to have a purpose. And that's kind of why I stopped. Because I was just playing and playing, and recording and recording. And it kind of disappeared into this huge drawer and it never saw the light of day again. It's kind of senseless after awhile, you know?
Question: You mean material you've recorded?
Wolf: Yeah. Half written songs, riffs, chorus ideas — all that kind of stuff. But I didn't know who I was writing it for, because I didn't really have a singer. And I didn't really want to start my own band either. So (this music) all ended up in a big pile, and that's where it still is. You know, I always enjoyed being in a band. Where you have certain set goals, and you know you have to make a record — cause you have a deal, and you need to release a new record. So you work toward that goal. Then you go on tour. Then you work toward the next goal. There always something ahead of you. But with that whole band thing gone, uh . . . it's pretty hard to motivate yourself. And you know, I haven't really figured out how all that's gonna work. I certainly don't want to be a band leader in that sense — start my own band.
Question: So do you see it as sort of an either - or thing with the photography? Do you think they could live together?
Wolf: Well they could live together fine. Yeah, man.
Question: So you'd consider keeping your life the way it is and just adding music?
Wolf: I could do that. I'm sort of a . . . that's another thing about me . . . whatever I do, I do pretty damn seriously — 100%. So one would have to see how they could live together. I haven't really tried that.. Theoretically I guess I could do it. For me it's also very difficult to uh . . . people sometimes say to me: why don't you just play for fun in a little bar band. (But) having been where I've been, and done what I've done . . . I don't know. That kind of stuff would not be much fun for me.
Question: Are you passionate about the photography?
Question: That in itself is a creative outlet.
Wolf: Right! It sounds funny, but it's really not that different from making music.
Question: No, but there's nothing quite like the power of having a electric guitar in your hands and a few Marshall stacks behind you!
Wolf: Yeah, (playing) is definitely more electrifying. But still, (photography) is a creative field, and you have to be creative, so there are lots of similarities. But yeah, there's nothing like having a Marshall stack turned up and playing in front of a live crowd. It's way more electrifying, of course.
Question: Does music have any place in your life these days?
Wolf: Not a whole lot, no. I'm more of a consumer now more than anything.
Question: What do you listen to?
Wolf: I'm just your average guy in that sense. I turn on the radio and see what I like. I've never bought records. I was never a guy who had a huge record collection. Even growing up, I didn't. Most of the records I actually bought in my life were classical CDs. A little AC/DC early on, but I stopped doing that stuff.
Question: You didn't listen to other metal bands back in the day?
Wolf: No, I never did, actually. And I never . . . most people I know learned guitar by buying records and learning those tunes. I never did that either.
Question: If you were to resume a musical career, is there anyone in particular you'd like to work with?
Wolf: I can tell you what I love, I love John Hiatt (editors note: decidedly NOT Dinosaur Rock) which probably sounds pretty strange to you, and pretty boring, but I love his music. I don't need to listen to Iron Maiden and all these bands from the 80s that are still around. I don't listen to them anymore. Sometimes I hear something — (producer) Michael Wagener has a recording studio on my farm here. So I hear stuff all the time. Sort of by accident.
Question: Nothing that turns you on?
Wolf: Not really that much. The last thing that I really liked was Rob Halford's last album (Resurrection). That was brilliant.
Question: Yeah, well, you'd sound good with him!
Wolf: Yeah, possibly. I worked with Sebastian Bach on a tune or two. He was out here recording one of his solo records with Michael Wagener and I played with him. That was sort of fun.
Question: How recent was that?
Wolf: Maybe two years ago?
Question: Was it enough to get a little bit of the itch back?
Wolf: Yeah, it was cool. He's a fun guy. But it's also very chaotic, and the things that I see remind me of the old days, and why I stopped. (laughs)
Question: You sold a lot of gear off in the auctions. What gear did you keep? Which guitars are special to you?
Wolf: Well, I pretty much sold all the stuff that I either had duplicates of, stuff that was in my way — touring gear. I still have about ten guitars. There's probably two or three guitars that I will never ever . . . I'll take them to the grave with me. One is a beat up old Stratocaster which I've played on every record since day one. It's my favorite guitar. If I had to choose one guitar, it would be this one.
I've never played it live much. And then there's obviously the white (Gibson) V. But I really don't know if I'd say it's one of my favorites. I don't really like that guitar that much. I mean it's really not that great of a guitar in my mind. It's just been on so many photos, it's just sort of an icon for me. It's cool to play once in a while, but I've never played it much on records. It's a live guitar, if anything. Then I've got a Hamer and an acoustic 6-string. A 12 string. Pretty much one of each. Once in a while I use 60s Fender Strat.
Question: Did you keep any amps?
Wolf: I kept two or three Marshall amps.
Question: Well that's good to hear!
Wolf: Oh yeah, totally. There still quite a bit of stuff I don't really need. Still might get rid of more in the future.
Question: You have a couple of Super Strats kicking around too, don't you?
Wolf: One of them was built in the US and called a Strings n' Things. I have that still. That was an early live guitar. And of course, I've had a gazillion Hamer guitars. I've still got four of those. Mostly the archtops — one with a Floyd Rose, one without. Cause they all sound quite a bit different. You put a Floyd Rose on and something happens, they sound different. So I kept those all. As I said, I kept about ten guitars.
Question: Lets talk a bit about your sound. How did you approach getting your guitar sound in the studio? Did you have a basic approach you found that worked that you stuck with, or did you vary it from album to album?
Wolf: Well to put it in a nutshell, I tried every possible combination known to mankind (laughs), and just kept comparing. That's one thing I did religiously over the years. Essentially, you always come back to the same few things that you like. But you always have to compare surroundings — you know, like if your comparing guitars, you've got to leave everything else the same, and just unplug this one, plug that one in. Back and forth, back and forth until you're really certain. And I did that for hours and hours and hours. I compared guitars, pickups, cables, preamps, speakers, microphones, cabinets, amps, everything you can possibly think of. I compared (each) to the thing I thought had been best, so far. If it wasn't any better, I went back to the old one. Though I always came back to some form of Marshall amp and Marshall cabinet. Very early on I built my own cabinets — in 82 or so — and those are the ones I still use. They have Celestion G12 H 30 watt speakers in them. I compared them to everything else that's out there and found these were better. You can see these cabs on the album cover of Restless and Wild. The have aluminum (edges) — they almost look like a flight case. (Building them like that) was a more economical thing in a way, cause it was so stupid to have a Marshall cabinet, and have to put that in a road case, so I just built those cabinets and put those aluminum things on there. I built them like a tank. They're about twice as heavy as a Marshall 4x12. I can't lift them myself. I always need someone to help me with those damn things.
Question: So after all that experimentation, did you do that one time and come up with a system that worked, or did you do that for every album?
Wolf: Well, pretty much on every album, I thought I had a new recipe. And I would start recording with it, and then something wasn't quite right, and I kept comparing this to that, and in the end, I pretty much always ended up with the same old things that I had before.
Question: And what was that?
Wolf: A 4x12 cabinet, one microphone, one amp, the microphone was usually a Senheiser 412. But that changed a little bit over time cause some producer would think this or that sounded better.
Question: Did you close mic and room mic?
Wolf: Well, mostly just a close mic. Sometimes it was ridiculous — we'd have 10 or 12 mics all over the room, two here, three there. And then you'd get all these phasing problems and blah blah blah. I've always found it sounds most direct if you use one microphone. End of story. Sometimes Michael Wagener used to do two or three close mics on two or three different speakers or two or three different microphone types — do a mix of the three. I was never a big fan of that. To me it was always all in the (amp's) distortion. As long as the distortion is good, you can do just about anything with it.
Question: Your basic guitar sound on Accept albums is usually pretty uneffected (at least until Death Row). I hear a touch of reverb, but not much else. Is that an accurate assessment?
Wolf: Yeah I never recorded with any (signal processing) effects.
Question: Did the producer try to put any effects on after-the-fact?
Wolf: Well, they tried, but I usually stopped them. Um, shit, I don't even know what they put on there. Half the time they didn't even tell me. The one thing I always hated was the Eventide Harmonizer. Gosh, I hated that. And they always tried to sneak that damn thing in.
Question: A lot of guys used it.
Wolf: It makes (the guitar sound) so indirect. I don't know. I never liked it!. But it was the rage then.
Question: But you always kept it off your stuff?
Wolf: I think I did. They probably had it on there when I wasn't watching. Mainly it was just a little reverb, and for the solos I'd use some kind of boost or preamp. But yeah, mostly uneffected.
Question: Did you run the amps really loud in the studio?
Wolf: It changed over the years. In the beginning we had regular non-master volume Marshalls, and those were fucking brutally loud. You couldn't be in the same building with them. And they never gave us the warm, fuzzy distortion we were looking for. So we ended up using those MXR Distortion Pluses.
Question: That's funny because my very next question was: the old Marshall plexi you used on the early albums (Breaker, Restless and Wild, Balls to the Wall) created a sound that was a lot more "heavy metal" than say the typical "hard rock" plexi sound of AC/DC or Jimmy Page. How did you achieve that more metal sound?
Wolf: Right. That again was born out of necessity. If you cranked the Marshall all the way to 10 or to 7 or 8, you could use the Distortion Plus' Output control to regulate the Marshall's volume so that you could bring it down to a volume you could actually play with. In essence you have a master volume effect — the amp is still sweating, but you can control the volume. The Distortion control was set not all the way up, but almost all the way up. You can still do it today. The only bad part is you get a lot of noise. We always had to turn down the volume immediately if there was a break. I say "we" — whoever the other guitarist was at the time would use the same set up. We always kind of did that as a team. That trained me real well, and I still do it to this day, but with the advent of hush units you don't need all that stuff.
Question: On the albums where you shared the guitar duties, how did you determine who played what?
Wolf: Well, (thinks) How the hell did we do it? I ended up playing most of it, if not all. I'm trying to remember why. I guess the other guy — it was Jorg Fischer for a long time — he was always kind of late, and lazy, and not really that interested. A lot of times I was more interested, and had the part already worked out. It was never like a written rule. Officially, we were equal partners, but it kind of never worked out that way. I was always more . . . ambitious, if you want.
Question: Were you running a stereo rig before you had the modded Marshall built?
Wolf: No, I never did. (Running stereo) actually started when we switched to one guitar player. When we regrouped in the early 90s, we didn't take on a second guitar player. But it made sense to have guitar on both sides of the stage. That way you could run to wherever you wanted to on stage and it sounds about the same everywhere. Earlier in the 80s, we were crazy enough — I had six amps, and Jorg had six. We both had six amps each!
Question: You were running them all at the same time?
Wolf: Oh yeah. And we had nine 4x12 cabinets each. you might have seen those pictures where they're stacked three-high and three wide. And there were bass cabs (too). So it was just a huge wall of cabinets.
Question: Kind of neat!
Wolf: Kind of neat, and they were all running — we were that stupid! (laughs) And it was really hard to change your sound. You had to change your sound on six amps — gosh.
Question: This was before you started having your amps tuned?
Wolf: Uhh, yeah. Those were stock amps.
Question: When you went to the stereo Marshall, what effects were you running on that rig to get the sound heard on The Final Chapter?
Wolf: Nothing, really.
Question: Isn't there a little chorus on there?
Wolf: That might have been added in the studio. No, I never ran . . . . I mean my basic guitar sound for the most part didn't have any effect on it.
Question: Well it definitely sounds different when you went to that stereo Marshall rig.
Wolf: Could have been that they added something in the studio.
Question: On both Death Row and The Final Chapter?
Wolf: Yeah, they probably did.
Question: So you didn't have an effects rack?
Wolf: No, not in those days. Of course I always had some sort of effect for when I played a lead — for those special effects. But I never ran any effects full-time. I had a Telefex — that's what I used for leads, mostly. It had reverb and delay. It was one of those multi-things you can program.
Question: What is the effect being used to create that raunchy sound used on the intro of Neon Nights?
Wolf: We always used to call that sound the vomiting cow. It's a Morley Wah, a Mu-tron Octave Divider, a flanger, and maybe an overdrive. Three or four pedals at the same time.
Question: There was a similar type of effect on Protectors of Terror?
Wolf: Probably, yeah. I used the same sound occasionally. I tried not to use it too many times. I was very characteristic. I used it on Classical too.
Question: Getting back to Accept: Their were early hints of Accept's trademark sound in songs like Breaker and Son of a Bitch, which remained in your live shows for a long time. But I've always felt that what became Accept's trademark sound didn't completely emerge until Restless and Wild. That's the first album where I feel you can say from the first song to the last: this is Accept's own unique sound and flavor. With Restless and Wild, the band found it's direction and stayed true to it after that. Can you point to why everything seemed to come together at that specific point in time? Was it something the band was consciously aware of at the time?
Wolf: Hell, no. And we're still not aware of it now. No, it's kind of amazing to me still. We weren't aware of it. And even afterward, it was hard for me to analyze what made this record different from all the others. Cause at the time when we made it, it wasn't this big, immediate success either. That's what people always forget. They say why don't you keep sounding like Restless and Wild blah, blah, blah. But hell, we made this record just like we'd made any other record before, and it was kind of an OK success at the time. We just kept on minding our business and working away, making another record. But it wasn't this big, immediate success — something that went boom, and made us realize we might have done something phenomenal — different from (previous albums). It was just another record.
Question: Well it just seemed that on that album, you actually found what you did best as a band.
Wolf: Right, but it was totally unconsciously. We weren't aware of it. It must have happened without us knowing. There was nothing about that record that was dramatically different from our other records. It wasn't this big "ah-ha" moment where we finally looked at each other and realized we had found what we were looking for. None of that.
Question: You didn't perceive that there was a slight change in the songwriting?
Wolf: Yeah, well it kind of felt a little better, and we were more mature. We weren't searching and fishing around quite as much. We just said: what the heck, let's do our thing and have fun with it. And later, we tried to go back and recreate how we felt way back then, but that all doesn't work. We just wanted to have fun and write songs that we liked.
Question: Let's talk a bit about your guitar playing. When you were a young man learning to play guitar, do you remember what kinds of techniques you specifically worked on and practiced? You said you never copied records. How did you learn to play?
Wolf: I took maybe a handful of lessons from the local guitar hero in my hometown. That helped me get started a little bit. But then I was really on my own — but always in a band. I was never a bedroom practicer. I never stayed home and practiced eight hours a day. I mean, I did practice a lot — I should say that, but it was always in the context of a band. I joined Accept when I was sixteen.
Question: What kind of a player were you at sixteen?
Wolf: Pretty bad, from what the other guys said. I didn't really have a clear sense of what all these keys — frets on the guitar — I kind of knew what worked where, but I didn't really know why. And I was never into theoretical music. I still don't know all this stuff about all these different keys. I know a little bit — what works — but I'm more intuitive. I can't really write or read music well. I read music like a seven year-old. I can sit and decipher it, but I never went to school for it. I'm not classically trained. Just sort of picked it up with gut feeling.
Question: Did someone show you scales?
Wolf: Yeah, a little bit. I picked up bits and pieces here and there. But very early on . . . my first lesson was in some public school. It was the most basic things — what the strings were called, the C chord the G chord. I had a handful of these very basic lessons. But really, I just learned from watching other people play. Playing with other guys, picking up a little riff here and there. Figuring it all out myself. I never had the patience to sit down and figure out all of Jimmy Page's stuff. I was influenced a lot by Ritchie Blackmore . . . and Uli Roth. He's a guy who really understands the fine nuances of playing. To bend the note the right way or give it the right kind of tone. That sort of thing I spent a lot of time on myself. And he's a master of it. That kind of stuff is really hard to come by.
Question: So you did put in your time practicing that stuff.
Wolf: Oh, yeah, of course I did. I (also) loved AC/DC — Angus Young was a big influence. Judas Priest a little later on. I was never a huge Judas Priest fan, but then when we went on tour with them . . . 1980 or so, (I got into them then) . . . you can definitely hear (a Priest influence) in some of our songs. I guess our biggest influences as a band were AC/DC and Judas Priest. And then way deep in there somewhere was also a love for those early Deep Purple records — that everybody in Europe loved.
Question: There's usually an adrenaline rush people get when playing live, and often a natural tendency to speed up the tempo. But Accept never seemed to rush through their songs. Was this something you or the band had to work on?
Wolf: We were terribly aware of how that always happens. And as German as we are, we always taped our shows and critiqued the shows afterward, on the tour bus or wherever. From very early on we were aware of the speeding-up thing.
Question: You personally always seemed so musically relaxed on stage. You never seem to rush in the groove, in fact I've always been impressed by your ability to lay back while soloing. Both live and in the studio.
Wolf: Thanks. Well, I didn't think I always succeeded, but I was always trying to.
Question: So the band deliberately worked on this?
Wolf: Totally, and that's why it came together pretty well. We were known as a tight live band, but we were constantly working on it. It was not by accident! It was because we were talking about it all the time after the shows. It was like: this part sucked, that parts great. We were always in touch with it. That's why we . . . we were in this more for the love of music and musicianship more than partying and all that shit. That's the big difference between a European band like us and a band like Motley Crue. We didn't have any idea that these guys were just in the music business to get laid and get high and all that kind of stuff. What did we know? We were just German kids who loved to play. And I think it showed.
Question: I've always loved the compositional nature of your guitar solos. They always had balls, melody, and attitude. They always went somewhere and meant something. How did you approach creating them? Did they come rather naturally, or did you have to really work at crafting them?
Wolf: I did (work at them). I always wanted — like you say — the solos to be another special part. It depended on the song. But for a lot of those early songs, I would sit down and try to come up with a different part for the solo. Sometimes I would write little melodies and stuff . . . I didn't always have an immediate use for them. Kind of put them on ice until the right song came along, then I pulled them out of my pocket somewhere and said: I'll stick this here. And that's why odd little sections sometimes come out of nowhere. And you know, if they work, they work. But sometimes they weren't specifically created for that song. It could have been lifted just as a little solo piece or snippet before the song (it ended up in) was ever written. So it was a big old puzzle sometime to put together pieces that worked. Or sometimes I would sit down and try come up with something that made sense in the context. Write a melody or something.
Question: Did it come easy?
Wolf: Not always. I usually had to sit down an squeeze my brain a little bit to come up with it. But I loved doing that — still do. It's my most favorite aspect of making music. It's that — writing music.
Question: You seemed to tap into an endless supply of great guitar riffs. Did you require inspiration — were they just coming to you all the time . . .
Wolf: Yeah, they still do. I can cough up guitar riffs like there's no tomorrow.
Question: That's amazing.
Wolf: I don't know, maybe that's a natural gift of mine if there is one. I can still pick up a guitar and spit out five riffs in an hour. I don't know how, but I can.
Question: So when it came time to do an album, did you have a lot of riffs ready, or did you just rely on your ability to come up with them on the spur of the moment?
Wolf: No, when it came time to do an album, we always sat and wrote for weeks and weeks and months. We'd get together, and I'd start jamming away . . . (we'd say) lets work with that riff — until we kind of liked it or threw it away and stated with something new. We wrote a lot of these songs as a group effort. One guy didn't come in with a whole song laid out. Maybe I would start playing a riff, somebody else would throw in a verse riff or something. Udo was never there when we did any of this. He came in afterwards. He can't play an instrument, and we always finished those songs without him. Peter was mostly our demo vocalist for that. We would make demos, and it would be either him or Stefan doing some sort of scratch vocals. We tried it out until we were happy with a full song. And when we had ten songs, or enough for a record, we would present them all to Mr. Udo, and he would do his version of the whole thing. We'd just teach him the songs and he'd step into a finished product.
Question: But your wife (a.k.a. Deaffy) was writing the words for him, right?
Wolf: Right. Yep. It was kind of an unusual approach, because a lot of people think Udo wrote all that stuff. He never did.
Question: So the arrangements were always pretty much complete when Udo came in?
Wolf: Yeah. Always.
Question: So the guitar riff usually came first?
Wolf: A lot of times, and on the later records, yeah, it did. It's usually what inspired the whole groove and vibe of the song.
Question: Were you ever inspired by the drum groove?
Wolf: Yeah, but I can't think of a good . . . I mean Fast as a Shark isn't really a guitar riff, it's more of a drum beat.
Question: You guys always knew the value of creating tension and releasing it in a song. You'd give the listener a quick tease with a songpart, take it away and return to it later. Dynamics — the value of leaving a enough space to let a song breath.
Wolf: We worked on that intentionally — in the last years especially. We brought it down for the verse, and then full force in the chorus. Yeah, that sort of thing. Even live we did that a lot. We loved doing that, too. I hated those bands that would thrash all the way on one level for an hour and a half. It's so tiring to the listener.
Question: So where did Accept learn to employ these compositional lessons?
Wolf: (You just learn) over the years, man. You try it out one time, come back to it. We taped our shows. We saw, and we felt it while we were playing — what parts the audience would love. Especially those sing-along parts, you know the audience participation parts — we loved those. And if one thing worked, you do it again. It's just a natural thing. And we tried to work on it. Sort of perfect it. A lot of it is that you cannot replace or forget the fact that we played together — Stefan, Peter, and me for so many years, that it became second nature. That's really hard to achieve unless you play together a lot. And that's one of those things I would immediately miss being in a new band. Once you've experienced that, it's pretty tough to not have it anymore. And I've played with some other players over the years, and as good as they ever were, it's still not the same.
Question: After the band's initial break, you guys came back with a vengeance on Objection Overruled and Death Row — and both of those albums totally kick ass. But it seemed to me that after that, with Predator, the band seemed to be on it's last legs.
Wolf: Oh, totally. I mean, I didn't even think Predator would see the light of day. The situation by that point had become ridiculous. We felt like we should at least put an effort forward and try, but, it was kind of hopeless by that point.
Question: Well I don't wanna dwell on this topic because I know you've been asked before, but why did Accept break up?
Wolf: I don't know that there's one . . . I haven't really thought about it in a while actually. I try not to think about those last couple of years. Well . . . it all started with . . . we were really having success with this reunion thing, and then Stefan pulled out of the band overnight because of his back problem — officially. And to this day it's sort of a mystery to me what really happened. And that was like the cornerstone of the band was suddenly gone. And then more and more we had sort of a split in the band; with one group being Udo, and the other being me and Peter — Stefan was no longer there. It became us two vs. Udo, and he didn't want to do what we wanted, and we didn't want what he wanted. In the end, we couldn't agree on anything. Shit. Now that you ask me like that, I don't really have a good answer. But in those days, it was also getting tougher and tougher to stay on the road. And nobody was into that music anymore — that certainly didn't help. I mean, the mid 90s was kind of terrible for metal music. A lot of our audience just wasn't there anymore. And we were struggling to keep our identity. We could just keep doing the same shit again, and again. You need to kind of progress a little bit.
Question: Well Death Row sounded pretty different to me.
Wolf: It certainly did. We tried to go with the times a little bit. More raunchy, repetitive riffs. We'd grown tired of doing the same thing over and over again. You know, the big, massive backing vocals, the Teutonic German melodies. We were tired of that — at least Peter and I were. So we wanted to try and move along, but we didn't really find our way through it all. In retrospect, I still don't know what we could have done or should have done. I personally felt like I'd played every solo I could think of. I wasn't inspired, sort of running out of ideas maybe. It felt like we'd done it all already. I'd play a riff, and immediately I'd think: shit, I've done that a million times. And that was bad. So that's why we were trying to expand stylistically and try things we hadn't done, and we were very excited about it. But I guess the audience wasn't quite as excited about it.
Question: Well, it may not have hit people right away, but I'll tell you — when I listen to Death Row now — there's some great stuff on there.
Wolf: Well, we loved it when we did it.
Question: But when I first heard it — and I was a huge Accept fan at the time — I thought: wow, this is really quite different.
Wolf: Yeah, but what do you do when you're in a position like that? If it would have been exactly the same thing (as previous albums), people would have said: oh, it's the same old same old. Here they go again. It's a fine line that you walk. It's a curse almost, and not many bands pull it off. That's why I have a lot of respect for bands that do pull it off. Like U2, it's just incredible. They've never been my favorite band or anything, but, man. How do they stay on top of things for so long? But bands like AC/DC — they've had terrible records. Even they were running out of ideas on their records. They put some terrible songs on there, and you think: gosh, the fire is gone.
Question: Well, Mutt Lange was gone.
Wolf: Yeah, that too.
Question: How much was Dieter Dierks part of Accept? In terms of what he brought to the band.
Wolf: He was a huge influence when we first recorded with him on Metal Heart. He was also a guy who taught us a lot about how to play tight; how to play together well; to slow down. He was a huge influence for us, musically. He didn't always have the best sense of what was good for our audience. But (he was) certainly a musical mastermind — he was a genius in a way. A bit crazy at times. He kind of got carried away — certainly on that Eat the Heat record. He was totally out of control on that one.
Question: In what way?
Wolf: Well, we gave him way more influence just to see what would happen. And he just lost it, I think. There was stuff on (Eat the Heat) that started real nice, and in the end, turned out not so good. We got lost in the process. The recording took forever. It's very hard to make a good record if you lose touch with it. That's another whole conversation: how to make a good record. In my mind, it's gotta be in a timely manner. Anything that takes over a few months, you get so close to it that you start to lose (something) — it's very hard to make a good record when it takes so long.
Question: How long did it usually take to make an Accept album?
Wolf: Maybe two months. Six weeks, eight weeks.
Question: And that's going in with all the songs written and arranged ahead of time.
Wolf: Right. Well, mostly. I mean the early records certainly went faster. We did Breaker in like two weeks.
Question: Were the arrangements you brought into the studio the arrangements that got recorded, or was Dierks involved at that level?
Wolf: Dieter Dierks was a very musical producer. He would sit down at the very early stages with us, and arrange songs. And we had never really done that before. The other guys we had worked with, like Michael Wagener, he would just take the song like it was, and record it. Make it sound good and that was the end of it. Dieter took every song apart, turned it upside down, shook it, turned it, and whatnot, and in the end, it was a little better than it was before. Quite a lot better, actually, a lot of times. He was a very musical kind of guy.
Question: I think bands often need that.
Wolf: I think they do, but it's a very undefined role that a producer has. It's never quite clear: should he get involved, shouldn't he? A lot of times it's better if he doesn't. Dieter often had a tendency to get too involved. I mean, as a producer, if there is genius in front of you — and I'm not saying we were (geniuses), but if there was, like a Stevie Wonder in front of you, let him do his thing. Don't interfere with everything for the sake of interfering.
Question: No, but when guys are young especially, and green . . . whether it's Mutt Lange with AC/DC or Mutt Lange with Def Leppard . . .
Wolf: Oh yeah. Well Mutt Lange was Dieter's big idol. (Lange) is another one of those guys who gets terribly involved. Totally. To the point where it's mostly his record almost. To the point where Brian Adams sounds just like Def Leppard or anybody else. It's mostly a Mutt Lange record with just somebody else singing. Himself singing too, on a lot of those backing vocals.
Question: So which are your favorite Accept albums?
Wolf: I never listen back to them, actually. I mean my favorite album that I did — I know it sounds corny — is my Classical album. That's the one I can listen to and feel good about. To this day I can. Maybe because there's no vocals on it, I don't know. When it comes to the vocals, I still have a hard time. Because I know how the songs (started out) — it's weird — you only hear the finished product. But I always hear . . . I went though all the different drafts of the songs. And along the way I had some sort of idea how this song could turn out, or should turn out. And then Udo . . . his version is always different from what I thought it should be. I'm not saying that to criticize him, but it's just a natural thing with a vocalist. He always puts his own thing on there, and especially Udo does. Probably more than any other guy. So it's always hard for me to listen to those early songs and not think about what they should have been like.
Question: But you played them live for many many years — you must have enjoyed them on some level.
Wolf: Oh, I did enjoy them. I'm just saying that it's hard for me to listen to an early record — all these records actually — and not find lots of things that I would change now. You know what I mean? And on the last little Classical record I did — a lot of times I'm pleasantly surprised when I hear something on it.
Question: Speaking of Classical, one of my best friends is a guitar teacher in the local public school systems. He asked me to tell you: I use Wolf Hoffmann's Classical CD to teach these kids how to play and turn them on to guitar and to classical music at the same time.
Wolf: No kidding? That's amazing, man. That was a fun little record for me to make. Mostly because for the first time, I was able to do . . . well, I kind of did it backwards. That's probably why I liked it so much. All the stuff that was important to me — I did that first. All the guitars, the guitar arrangements, and then I added the drums then the bass. I started with the core — what I felt was the most important part. Did all my little guitar bits first — until I was happy with the arrangement, happy with the expression. All the leads were done first. That's what I meant earlier, actually. You know, with this stupid way of recording a lot of the time: first the drums, then the bass, then you get your stupid little snippet of song — and they throw it at you and say: here, play a solo on that! Then you sit down, while everything else is already recorded and it's too late (to do anything else). You sit down and try to make sense of it. They throw this meaningless piece of song at you, and you're supposed to make something great happen with that. But the only way that really works is if you can think about it first, you can maybe change that part to where you can play well over it.
Question: But weren't they your rhythm guitar parts you were playing over anyway?
Wolf: Yeah, it was, but if you don't think about what you're gonna play there . . . it's so much easier if you know what you're gonna play, because then you can model the part to make more sense with the lead.
Question: So you're saying you hadn't worked out the solos before you went into the studio?
Wolf: A lot of times I didn't. No. But the good ones, I did. Like the ones I'm really proud of, like Love Child, all those early songs that were so special — like you were saying. A lot of those songs had the solo worked out in the songwriting process. But a lot of times, when I didn't (work them out before), I regretted it afterwards. So then you sit there and sweat over it (in the studio.) It wasn't all worked out. We didn't have much time beforehand to come up with anything. So I had to do it in the studio, and by then it's too late (to change anything). So I'd sit there and wish there was an extra bar in there, or a different chord change or something. Can't do it. It's all recorded. So that's why I did my little Classical record backwards.
Question: Did you need a lot of takes?
Wolf: Yeah. I'm not a first take kind of guy. I always did it over and over again for hours. Recording it and recording it again until I was happy with it. I probably did a hundred takes of some things and just took the best parts of each. Listen to each bar, pick the best ones, edit them all together and then try to play it that way in one go. Being fully aware of every little bend and nuance that can make or break the thing. It's all in the details. The Devil's in the details. It's something you have to work on. You don't just wake up and have it. Like an actor or a golfer working at his craft, you have to be fully aware of what your doing. Get better, polish your craft.
Question: So did you initally play the songs on Classical to just a click track?
Wolf: Yeah, I did. I actually had a little 8-track ADAT, a Tascam thing, and I recorded everything to some sort of drum loop or click track. I did it until I was totally happy with the performance. And after that, I had the drummer play to it. But I did all the solos first. Then I added some (more) little touches after that. But bass and drums were done after-the-fact.
Question: On the last couple of Accept albums you had some instrumental music on them. Pomp and Circumstance, and some of these other things. And they were wonderful. It seemed like a natural that those would lead you to something like Classical.
Wolf: Maybe I'll do another one like that someday.
Question: Well it seems like a natural direction for you. I think you just need to find a way to do it on your own terms. Something that'll scratch your itch, but not give you a bunch of headaches.
Wolf: Exactly! Actually the Classical record was mostly that. I didn't think anything would really happen with it. It was just more a labor of love. That's why I really like that record, too. To get it out of my system and just do it for myself.
Question: Well, there's nothing that says you can't do it again.
Wolf: That's right! And I might.
Question: Well, it's been a pleasure talking to you.
Wolf: Same here.
We at Dinosaur Rock Guitar would like to thank Wolf Hoffmann for taking the time to answer our questions. Copyright ©2002 All rights reserved.
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