Wolf Hoffmann interview by full in bloom music
|FIBM: What's new, what have you been up to lately and what's in the future?
Wolf Hoffmann: Ever since this reunion, I am all into music, playing guitar again...all fired up. Just recently I was a guest guitar player for Sebastian Bach, so I went out there to see him, stayed out there for a few days and we played a show in NY with Yngwie Malmsteen, Twisted Sister and George Lynch and it was cool, it was fun to play with somebody else, because I had never really done that...it was weird because I have never played with anybody else in all my life. I joined Accept when I was a little kid and Accept has always been my only band.
FIBM: How was it working with Sebastian.
Wolf Hoffmann: Different, but a lot of fun, he's a great singer.
FIBM: Different, how so?
Wolf Hoffmann: Well, I mean, everbody goes about things differently, the way they plan a show, the way they do a set, how they put songs together and all that. I'm used to different things and they just do it in their own way and I was happy to learn how they do it and jumped on that train.
FIBM: Is this the beginning of great things to come? Will you be working with him in the future?
Wolf Hoffmann: Nothing right now. I wouldn't turn it down if it came up, it all depends on the circumstances. You know, if there was a major tour or something happening, I would be glad to fill in again. Sebastian is a great singer, has a great voice and is a front man all the way. Plus, it was fun to look at a singer at eye level.
FIBM: Anything else in the future.
Wolf Hoffmann: My long term project for this next coming year is to get this classical project on the road, that I have been working on.
FIBM: Yea, you released it on cd, right?
Wolf Hoffmann: I did. A couple of years ago.
FIBM: So you are going to tour for the release?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yea, that is my plan, it is pretty involved and complicated to get off the ground. But it is a long term thing that I plan on having off the ground next year.
|FIBM: How did you meet Udo?
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.
FIBM: How old was Udo at that time.
Wolf Hoffmann: Maybe 5 or 6 years older than the rest of us....he always seemed old...(laughs) he was old when he was twenty-five.
FIBM: 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 Hoffmann: 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).
FIBM: Any memories come to mind from the Breaker recording sessions?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: 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 Hoffmann: 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 about their (Skid Row) first record sold like 10 million, then the next sold 5 million and the next sold 2 million.
FIBM: Did Accept ever have a platinum record?
Wolf Hoffmann: We never had a platinum, but we had a gold, with Balls to the Wall
FIBM: What about Restless, or Metal Heart?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: How were the early releases distributed?
Wolf Hoffmann: damned if I know.
|FIBM: Were they just in Europe, did they make it to the States?
Wolf Hoffmann: No, I think the first one to make it to the States was "Balls", wasn't it?
FIBM: Then Restless and Wild came later?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yea...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.
FIBM: Any regrets about that?
Wolf Hoffmann: Not at all. It worked well for us. It can backfire also, you know, if you always think about business.
FIBM: What point did you start paying your bills, just playing music?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: Why did Jorg Fischer leave right before Restless and Wild?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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 Jorg 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.
FIBM: How did Jorg not fit in with the band? What do you mean by that?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: How has it been working with Michael Wagener throughout the years?
Wolf Hoffmann: Well he's a great friend, I still see him all the time...just saw him an hour ago. I have a recording studio on my farm here. It's outside of Nashville on a horse farm and we have a separate building on my property that Michael Wagener's studio is in. I have known Michael for almost thirty years.
FIBM: Is he still producing bands?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yes he is. Check his stuff out, he's at michaelwagener.com. The studio is on there.
FIBM: And that is your studio as well?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yes.
FIBM: Did Michael record your classical cd?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yes, exactly, that is where we recorded that.
FIBM: Do you sell studio time there?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yes, I mean, it is pretty much his operation. He recently did King's X here. A bunch of the Skid Row stuff was done here. The remainder of the band was here, Sebastian was here...separate from each other. Bunch of stuff. You should check it out, it has a whole discography online. All the time that I have known Michael, it has always been fun to work with him. Great producer, awesome engineer.
FIBM: Anything that sets him apart from other producers?
Wolf Hoffmann: I don't know that many producers. He's great to work with and everybody loves him. He get the sound, he gets the job done.
FIBM: Where did the intro for Fast as a Shark come from?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: Do you know who recorded the song?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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 yea, 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.
FIBM: and he recorded himself back then?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
|FIBM: 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 Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: So no memories from the sessions for Balls to the Wall?
Wolf Hoffmann: I know where it was recorded....it was recorded at Dieter Dierks studio in Cologne.
|FIBM: Was the band pumped about the record? Did you have any idea of what was to come?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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 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.
FIBM: With the success of Balls to the Wall, the single / video, why did the band not do another video?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: Now on Balls to the Wall, we see the addition of Deaffy as the lyricist. Who was Deaffy?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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?
|FIBM: Wow. What the hell was London Leather Boys about?
Wolf Hoffmann: You would have to ask her...biker gangs in London. You know we always had this misconception about this gay / homosexual thing.
FIBM: (laughs)That is just what I was about to say.
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: Did she come up with melodies as well?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
|FIBM: That just seems amazing to me to think that she would write the lyrics with no melody in mind.
Wolf Hoffmann: Either Peter or Stephan were ok singers and they did all the melody lines, before Udo ever came into the studio.
FIBM: So Udo didn't really do anything when it came to the melody of it.
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: Describe a typical day in the life of Wolf Hoffmann during the early to mid eighties.
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: Well you guys weren't a drugged out band.
Wolf Hoffmann: Hell no....Never even smoked pot.
FIBM: You're kidding?
Wolf Hoffmann: No, never even had a joint in my life.
FIBM: But you guys drank right?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yea, but not excessively. We're like almost boring, in that regard.
FIBM: That's probably good, because...
Wolf Hoffmann: I'm still around.
FIBM: Yea, I saw some pictures of you and thought that you still looked the same, other than you now shave your head. But some of these guys, from the 80's, look very worn down.
Wolf Hoffmann: I know, I see them all the time.
FIBM: How has your catalog sold through the years?
Wolf Hoffmann: I don't know.
FIBM: You still receive payments right?
Wolf Hoffmann: Yea.
FIBM: Well then you would know if they have sold well through the years.
Wolf Hoffmann: Yea, I mean it didn't sell millions, I know that.
FIBM: Any differences between crowds in Europe and crowds in America?
Wolf Hoffmann: None. See we just did this reunion thing this year. First shows we've done in 10 years and probably the last. So we are not really a working band as of now. Just now we have done these huge festivals in Europe, where we had 50,000 in Germany and 35,000 in Sweden. So they were huge, but those were festivals. We are bigger in Europe than the States.
FIBM: Back in the 80's were you able to survive on record sales alone, or was the band always recouping?
Wolf Hoffmann: Made a very good living, yea. We have always been pretty smart about things.
FIBM: Probably because you guys were sober during it.
Wolf Hoffmann: That has something to do with it.
FIBM: Didn't waste a lot of time in the studio?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: 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 Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: How did he record the guitar tracks for Metal Heart?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: So you don't agree that Metal Heart was your best sounding record?
Wolf Hoffmann: Um...I thought Balls sounded every bit as good. I'm not sure which one is better, they were just different from each other.
FIBM: 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 Hoffmann: Right, right. We spent a lot longer on Metal Heart than we did on Balls.
FIBM: How long did it take to record it?
Wolf Hoffmann: Maybe 3 months, 4 months. A long time for us...I forget exactly, but it seemed forever.
FIBM: How long did it take to record Balls to the Wall?
Wolf Hoffmann: 3 weeks, 4 weeks..something like that.
FIBM: 3 fond memories of your days in Accept.
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: How many people were there?
Wolf Hoffmann: I don't remember...ten thousand, maybe.
FIBM: Really? It was a festival?
Wolf Hoffmann: No, it is our own show.
FIBM: 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 Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: Did Udo tour with you guys for Russian Roulette?
Wolf Hoffmann: Oh yea, that was maybe a year or two after Russian Roulette when he left.
FIBM: How was it playing with Udo again after all these years?
Wolf Hoffmann: That was actually fantastic, it was great. It was a little bit difficult trying to convince him to do the shows. As I said before, he has his own band now and I guess he just really loves being in control and being his own boss more than anything. We almost had to beg him to do it and pay him and do all that kind of stuff. But once we were up on stage, it was awesome. We really had a good time.
FIBM: How many shows did you guys play?
Wolf Hoffmann: About 25.
FIBM: Well surely Accept can sell a lot more tickets than Udo's solo band.
Wolf Hoffmann: Yea, about forty times more.
FIBM: I just don't get it.
Wolf Hoffmann: You and the rest of the world don't get why he would be so difficult about this and I can't explain it, other than the fact that he hates that we are so much more successful, even though he would be part of it. Maybe it's better than 25 percent of a lot.
FIBM: So that's it? No more Accept?
Wolf Hoffmann: That's it, according to him and his people agreed on it.
FIBM: He actually said that he doesn't want to do Accept anymore?
Wolf Hoffmann: Oh yea, he said that from the get go. He gave us a time limit and only these months and then we had a couple of more shows and we had to ask him, would you possibly do one more show.
FIBM: But you still get along with each other?
Wolf Hoffmann: Oh yea
FIBM: Tell us a little bit about your photography career. Are you still doing it?
Wolf Hoffmann: Still doing that. I am having a bit of an inner struggle with that, because I love playing music so much more.
FIBM: But you have become quite a successful photographer though.
Wolf Hoffmann: I hate to give that up. So I have two things, it's not a bad choice to have, but I have worked pretty hard in the photography field, but my first love has always been music and I just sort of rediscovered that this year. How much fun it is and that I almost feel bad if I don't play more.
FIBM: Well you're showing up in the music news a lot these days. I keep seeing your name pop up on the internet.
Wolf Hoffmann: That has changed everything too, for the better in my mind. The whole internet thing. I really love that. For me as an artist, it is just so unusual. Back in the old days the only feedback you would ever get would be if you talked to someone directly, or the occasional letter. I don't really like writing letters, but everybody does a quick email and I get those all the time from all over the world now. So you can get a much better sense about what your music meant or means to the people. Which songs they really love and what they don't love, or questions they have. Totally new experience, that I find super exciting and that really opened my eyes. Made me think, well shit, I need to really stick with it. Honestly, there were years when I didn't know that I had that much of an impact on people. We never sold millions of records, so how would you know.
THE FAST 5
FIBM: What is your most disgusting habit?
Wolf Hoffmann: chewing gum
FIBM: What is the most feminine thing you do?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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.
FIBM: If there is a God, what is the first question you would ask God when you arrive?
Wolf Hoffmann: 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?
FIBM: Greatest Rock band of all time?
Wolf Hoffmann: ACDC
FIBM: What were you doing 40 minutes before you sat down to do this interview?
Wolf Hoffmann: I was actually giving another interview believe it or not.
What can I say? Love Accept, I believe their music still sounds great today. Restless and Wild, Balls to the Wall and Metal Heart are all pure classics. Complete thrill. Of course, it hurt a bit when he didn't remember recording sessions, or other highlights, you know how much I like to ask that shit... We eliminated a lot of great questions, because of it.
Here is the holy word to Udo....MORE ACCEPT.
You have to show your love for a band that never sold their ass for food. Recently, while driving from Colorado to Texas, I listened to the split cd, you remember, the one with 1/2 Balls to the Wall and 1/2 Restless. 18 hours and I never took it out and it was somewhere during that moment that I realized how well they sit in history and maybe if Udo would have looked like David Lee Roth everyone would know it. To the youth, this is one of your icons, you lizards take it in...start with Restless and go from there.
Well another phone interview and as long as it takes to lay that fucker out....hopefully the last. But in this case, it was worth it....and now for my best Chris Farley impression, "That's Wolf fucking Hoffmann MAN!!" Thanks Wolf. -AI
Don't forget to visit Wolf at his website