Wolf Hoffmann - Return of the Teutonic Terror!

When I first interviewed Wolf Hoffmann back in 2002, Accept had disbanded, and Wolf had moved on to photography as his profession.  He had been out of the music business for a few years, and was selling off gear (some of it, to me).  Still, he patiently answered all of my questions about his past life as a guitarist and his time with Accept.  He gave me loads of info, but he also left me with the very real impression that unless he could come back at the level he'd reached in his past with Accept, that he wasn't coming back at all.  Wolf is very much an all-or-nothing kind of guy, and doesn't do anything half-assed.  If he can't give something 100%, he's not going to do it at all. He'd rather just do something else. That something else was photography, and at that time, Wolf was giving his 100% and full focus and attention to commercial photography and enjoying that life. So I was glad to have connected with him for the interview, but I honestly didn't think I'd hear him pick up a guitar again. 

Fast forward to 2010.  When I heard Accept were coming back with a new singer, I was a bit skeptical for the band, but I was also just pleased to hear that Wolf was getting back in the game, and that I would get to enjoy hearing him play guitar again.  That alone would have been a treat.  But when I heard the new tracks with the band's new lineup, and started seeing the live fan-shot footage that has appeard on YouTube, I was blown away.  Accept ARE back! And at a time when I had been out of work and in low spirits for a long time, the knowledge that Accept was coming back and kicking serious ass was the most welcome news I had received in a long time.  So I figured, I better contact Wolf and get the scoop first hand.   As was the case whenever I've spoken with Wolf, he was friendly, forthcoming, and this time, he was also genuinely thrilled that he's back making music again. That makes two of us!

Interview conducted by Dinosaur David B. August 7, 2010.

DRG: The last time we spoke back in 2002, you were doing full-time photography.  How easy has it been for you to fall back into being a guitarist after being out of it for so long. How rusty were you as a guitarist? How about the lifestyle being on the road?

Wolf: Well, I always played guitar, even when I wasn’t a full-time musician, so that part came back really easy.  I was a little rusty at first, but after about a week or two, it felt like I had been doing it for a long time.  And of course, being on stage again, now that we’ve done 20 shows, it feels like we’re right back in the game totally.  And I gotta tell you, the first time I went back on stage, it felt like this is where I belong.  This is home.  So it wasn’t a big adjustment or anything for that part.  But certainly the lifestyle of touring and traveling – you forget the negative aspects of that.  All of the endless waiting around in airports. That part is no fun. (laughs)

DRG: Do you find you have to take better care of your health now?

Wolf: Yeah!  It actually wears you out a lot more now. You know, in your 20s and 30s, you don’t feel that stuff too much.  But now, when you’re traveling internationally, and you have an eight or nine hour time difference, that stuff wears you out more.  So I’m really more careful with what I eat, and I try to exercise much more than I ever used to, and just try to stay in shape.  Back in the 80s, we’d leave after a show and the tour bus would stop in the middle of the night at a truck stop or at a McDonalds or Burger King, and we’d all go in and get double Whoppers – stuff like that. Then we’d get back on the bus, go straight back to bed, and it never bothered anybody.  But now – oh gosh. Can’t do that stuff anymore! (Laughs)

DRG: A lot of your recent interviews have focused on how you (Accept) found your new singer, Mark Tornillo.  Since you’ve covered that so many times already, I'd like to discuss how the rest of this reunion took place.

Most bands that were inactive for a long time, if they come back at all, they often have a very DIY mentality.  They record in home studios, they produce the music themselves. etc.  
You guy have come back at a very high level.  You recorded the album with a big name producer.  You did, what is for these days, is a large scale pro video, with a pro director, video crew etc.  You went out on tour before the album has even been released. All of these things require an impressive level of management and backing. How did all of these things come about? And seemingly so quickly after you found Mark.



Wolf:  We’ve been really fortunate, in the sense that we’ve all been very dedicated.  This whole thing was very spontaneous.  We just sort of announced to the world: Hey, we’re coming back! Without really thinking about: how do we do this? You know? (laughs)  So we started writing songs and doing things step by step.  But we were fortunate that we hooked up with (producer) Andy Sneap after only a couple of months.  And then we were super fortunate to hook up with (video director) Dave Blass.  These people just all of the sudden walked into our lives.

DRG: They came to you?  They just heard you were getting back together, came to you and said: “I want to be involved”?

Wolf: Absolutely.  That was a miracle in itself.  Both of them had been Accept fans all of their lives, and they were both in a position in their lives where they could offer their services, and do it in a very professional and dedicated way.  Much more so than if you just went out and hired somebody.  Both of these guys are on top of their game, and having been Accept fans, they really came forward and wanted to be involved. It was awesome.  

DRG: That’s great!  Because I assume that if some other band that didn’t mean anything to them just wanted to hire them, they’d be very expensive.

Wolf: Of course. And deservedly so, because they are really great.  We just figured we’ve gotta do this right, or not at all.  Because like you said, we really didn’t want to do the home recorded album.  We discussed it within the band, and mostly with Gaby, our manager – who also happens to be my wife.  She’s the one who’s responsible for hooking us up with the record deal, and pulling the right strings for us.  We wanted to come back at a high level.  We didn’t really want to do the home-grown version.

DRG: Yes, but when bands do that, it’s usually out of financial necessity.  

Wolf: Sure.  Well that’s an important thing to understand.  When I sort of quit the music business 15 years ago, I didn’t want to go down that road of having to make music to survive.  I felt it was better to leave the scene with my head held high, and go on and focus on something completely different.  And now that I’ve done that, and I’ve been pretty successful at it, I make good money doing it, I don’t really have to make music to survive.  So I felt if we were to come back, we don’t really want to cut all of these corners.  We really want to do it right!  It’s more fun.  You give the fans a better product.  You make a better video, and you make a better record.  And we did all this stuff without any label support at first.  Then we shopped around for a deal after.

DRG: You shopped for a deal after you recorded the album?

Wolf:  Yeah.  Because you have to understand – everyone was skeptical . . . when you’re coming back with a new singer.  The fans were super skeptical that it would even be possible, but at the same time, the label people and the industry people . . . they wanted to hear something first.  And you can’t just play them a little demo or something.  We felt that to do it right, we might as well do the record right, and convince people that way.

DRG: So what was it like working with Andy Sneap?

Wolf: It was fabulous! It was better than ever.  This was the best time we’ve had in a production in a long, long time – maybe ever, because Andy is really a world class producer, and he knows his stuff inside and out. But at the same time, he works from the perspective of an Accept fan.  He grew up listening to Accept.  His first record, I guess was Restless and Wild, and knows Accept and all the old catalog and the old songs, and he probably knows them better than we do.  So he clearly steered us in the direction of trying to capture what Accept is best known for. We wanted to really make a typical Accept record, and not change that in any way.

DRG: What kinds of things in that respect, did Andy feel were the Accept trademarks that he wanted the band to capture?

Wolf: Well, the typical trademarks of Accept have always been the anthemic background vocals, the strong guitar riffs, and certain classical melody lines in the guitar solos.  But really, I think when it comes down to it, we wrote something like 30 or 40 songs – or started on all those songs, and somebody has to sit down and decide which of those songs are most typical of Accept. And that’s where Andy was really invaluable.  He was the guy who would say: yeah, do this one, and maybe not so much that one.

DRG: So along with being the huge fan, he brought the objectivity.  He became the filter.

Wolf: Exactly.  And that helped tremendously.  And he clearly steered us toward that 80s vibe, but obviously with a modern sound.  We kind of tried to put ourselves back in time a little bit, and we asked ourselves: how would we have done it back then?  So lets try and think like we did when we were in our 20s.  Which is easier said than done! (laughs).

DRG: How about the process itself?  That has to be different, too, with modern digital recording techniques and everything.  Did you go real old-school, or take advantage of all the new things?  How did he want you to go about creating your sound?

Wolf: Initially we thought we want to go old-school, and go analog and even record to tape, because we felt most familiar with that.  I also always felt there was some comfort in not having a gazillion choices later on.  Sometimes it’s nice if you make a decision and live with it – which is what you have to do when you record analog.  But slowly but surely, we got convinced – especially with Andy because he’s so comfortable in ProTools, that we really saw the advantages of going digital with hard disk recording.  So he came over with his ProTools rig, and we stared doing demos into ProTools, and we pretty much kept the demos, and began building on those.  So we always played to a finished product – which was really nice.  Cause in the old days, at a certain point, your demo was done. Then you went into the studio and start over from scratch.  And that was a point where a lot of stuff always got lost.  All of the spontaneity of the demo is usually replaced with something sterile and not as lively.

DRG: Yeah, that desirable organic looseness.

Wolf: Exactly.  And it was always a struggle to recapture that once you started to record for real.

DRG: Especially after you’d been hearing it on the demo for so long and liking the way that it sounded.

Wolf: Yep.  So this time, we just said we’d just keep what we have and build upon that.  That also has the advantage of that you can do the guitars first if you want, then replace the drums, and do all this kind of stuff. If you’re always playing to a click track and you’re always playing in time.  And I really enjoyed working that way. It was really great. Because you’re always listening to a semi-finished song. With vocals and everything in it. It’s never just a dry old basic track.   But the only danger you have when you work in ProTools like that is that you over do it.  And it becomes so perfect that it becomes boring and lifeless.  So we were very conscious of not letting it become that.

DRG: So Andy came to your place to record, or you went to a studio?

Wolf: It went through different stages.  During the songwriting and demoing phase, he came to my house, and we all jammed around and started laying down tracks.  Sometimes we used what I had already recorded. Then we went over to England to do the basic tracks for real.  He has a fabulous studio in Derbyshire in the middle of nowhere.  Some kind of old castle type of building, farm, whatever you want to call it.  And that’s where we recorded the drums in a proper big room.  He got some great drum sounds there.  And we did most of the basic guitar tracks there.  Most of the vocals and all of the bass.  So the whole band was there in England for three or four weeks.  Then we took a break because Andy had to do another project – Nevermore or some other production – I forget what it was.  But he had to sort of quit for six weeks and take a break, which was great for us, because I took the basic tracks back to my house and did all the guitar overdubs – alone – which I like to do anyhow.  So I took my time to work on the solos, and all the guitar overdubs, and just piled tracks on top of tracks using the system in my house.  Then we met again to finish everything up, and to finalize everything, and Andy took it back to England to mix. So it was a lot of back and forth, and a lot of traveling, but it worked out really smoothly, I have to say.  

DRG: So in his studio, he recorded the drums and the band with the drums?  You put your rhythm tracks down there, too?

Wolf:  That’s right.

DRG: Was he doing that to get a room sound on the guitar or just to get the guitar performance with the drummer?

Wolf:  Well, it was for the room sound for the drums, yeah, but the guitars are usually close mic’d so that wasn’t much of a factor (for the sound), but it was good for us all to be in one place and try and capture that band feeling.  Though we really didn’t record all together.  We really did it more step-by-step.  First the drums, a little bit of guitars, little bit of drums – back and forth.  We really didn’t jam together at the same time.  But yeah, man, it still worked super smooth.  

DRG: So when you got back to your house, what did you use to record all the solos and overdubs? What kinds of guitars, amps and recording gear?

Wolf:  I have a whole collection of different stuff.  I have six or seven old Marshalls – which rarely get used these days, but I still have them.  I have a Randall RM-100 which I like a lot. An EVH Eddie Van Halen Fender amp.  An Egnater Mod 50.  An assortment of 4x12 cabs, some Marshall, some homemade – all kinds of different stuff.  I went through the different combinations, and sometimes did different stuff for different songs.  And usually it’s just one or two microphones (close mic’d) in front of the cab, but I really took my time to test different amps and different mics and see how they all sounded in the song, and I usually settled on something, and kept it for a little while, and on a different song, I’d try something else. Which was super nice – taking my own sweet time.  I did this for days and days and weeks, actually.  And I have a very simple set up with just a Mac, and some good speakers, and a digital interface.  I don’t really have a lot of recording gear.  I use Nuendo, whereas Andy uses ProTools, and even that worked flawlessly – the different recording software systems.  Just transfer it over from one system to the other, and boom. It works!  In time, in sync, beautiful.

DRG: Yes, it’s really a pleasure these days when you can work like that and do things intra-studio.

Wolf:  Even during the mixing sometimes, when we felt like there’s a little bit which we could do better, or we need another little bit there, can you play something?  And I’d play it at my house and e-mail it over to Andy.  It’s amazing how it works, honestly.  I was blown away.  

DRG: So what did you end up using mostly for guitars and amps.  Did you use a lot of stuff, or mostly settle on one or two things?

Wolf:  Like I said, I used that EVH amp quite a lot. That was nice.  I used the Egnater a bit.  I have a bunch of Hamer guitars I use a lot.  They all have Floyd Rose’s on them and EMG pickups.  One that I probably used most was a Hamer strat-type that I’ve had for 15 or 20 years.  Of course, I still have my old Gibson Flying V, which I use from time to time. And my old Fender Strat, and they all have their own individual characteristics, and I like to not just use one sound over and over again.  I try to do different stuff.

DRG: So you were able to bust them all out for the album?

Wolf: Pretty much, yeah.  I’m not a huge collector, but I have about ten to 15 guitars, but they’re all quite different.  I even have a PRS guitar that I’ve used on the song Kill the Pain.  It has a really smooth tone – more of an active type pickup.  And of course, more of the aggressive type EMG pickups for other songs.  And I have quite a collection of Wah pedals and that sort of thing. So I really like to fiddle with stuff when I have the time.

DRG: It’s great that you had the time and were able to do it that way.

Wolf:  It was a dream come true!  I’ve always – even back in the 80s – recorded the solos and the overdubs alone.  Cause, for some reason, I work better that way.  I can’t stand an Engineer sitting next to me.  I always feel like I’m wasting his time if I take hours and hours to work on stuff.

DRG: Well I remember you told me the last time we spoke about how meticulous you were about getting everything just right, and how many takes that took.  Now, you just loop the track and everything goes into a take folder, so it’s really much easier.

Wolf: Right!  That’s another beautiful advantage to working in modern recording software.  You can just do endless takes over and over until you get it just the way you want it perfectly, or you can take the first couple of bars of one take and comp it with the second half of another take, and splice it together to where it’s really perfect.  Or at least you can optimize it that way.

DRG: Did you end up doing all the lead work on the album?  How did things work out with Herman Frank being on the album this time?

Wolf: Herman ended up recording some stuff at his studio.  He wrote a song called Rolling Thunder, which we liked a lot, and he recorded his stuff in his studio in Germany, and sent it to us that way.  I did everything else at my house.

DRG: So he played lead on his song?

Wolf:  Yeah, he did.

DRG: What about the songwriting in general?  You told me that in the past, you would present Udo with a finished product, words and all.  I’m assuming it was different with Mark, in that he would probably write his own words, right?

Wolf:  Yeah.  It always starts sort of the same.  Peter and I get together and jam on ideas, and pretty much come up with a fairly finished product.  At that point, we really don’t care much about vocals, but Peter will usually sing some sort of gibberish English.  We don’t want to be held back or start thinking too much about the lyrics at that point.  He just sings some gibberish – just some English sounding nonsense (laughs), and sometimes there’s a hook line in the chorus that we like, or some kind of vocal idea that may survive or it may not.  And that’s how we did it this time.  We wrote all the songs this way and presented them to Andy to see which ones were the best ones, and which ones we should focus more on.  And once we figured out which those were, we gave them to Mark.  He took some of the lines we’d come up with and kept them, and on others, he changed them.  It was pretty much up to him.   But it was a very open dialog.  If something was better than our original idea, we took that, if it wasn’t, we stuck with the original.  But is was really and easy-going work environment, and very productive.  We felt Mark came up with some killer lyrics, so it was cool.  But yes, the big difference with the lyrics this time is that Mark wrote them.  Usually it was Gaby who wrote the lyrics for Balls to the Wall, and Restless and Wild back in the day.  And all that stuff was finished before Udo ever saw it.  In this case, obviously, we let Mark express his own thoughts and do his own words.  Now that we have a (native) English-speaking guy in the band, and he’s a good lyricist, we felt it was better to give him the chance to sing his own words.

DRG: With a second guitarist back in the band, do you come up with the second guitar parts for the songs, or do you leave that to Herman?

Wolf:  He also joined us and contributed on some of the stuff, but most of the playing was actually done by me.  A lot of the second guitar parts are really identical to the original part.  I think a lot of the power in our music comes from the fact that the riff is pretty much identical on each side.  We play it pretty much exactly the same.  

DRG: In the same position?  You don’t voice things differently sometimes?

Wolf:  Well, yeah, sometimes we do voice it a little different, but a lot of times, we even double that (voicing) then.  Andy was actually a stickler for that.  He didn’t want to have, for example, high voicing on one side and low voicing on the other.  He wanted everything pretty much equal on each side.  So even if we would voice it differently, we’d then do that on each side.

DRG: Wow, so how many rhythm tracks per song did you guys generally end up with? Two? Four? More?

Wolf:  I don’t think ever more than four.  Usually two, all the way through, and then maybe on a pre chorus or something, we’d overdub something (more) with a different voicing just to beef it up a little bit, so they’d jump up out of the mix a little more, you know?  But in general, it was just two rhythm tracks.

DRG: Did Andy have and specific things he wanted in terms of creating the overall sonic landscape?  I know you worked in the past with Michael Wagener and Dieter Dirks, and they each had their ideas of what the sound should be like, and I’m curious to what Andy’s thoughts were on how he was trying to make things sound?

Wolf:  Well, we pretty much let him do his thing, and we were constantly amazed at how good he made it sound.  We really didn’t have to talk a lot about it, honestly.  He just came up with stuff that we felt sounded amazing.  Starting with the drum sounds, he whipped up that drum sound in a few hours, and it was awesome.  Some producers, that process of getting the drum sound goes on for days.  They change skins, and they change mics, and again and again.  But Andy just set it up, and it was pretty much perfect from the start. Boom. No problem.  So that alone was amazing.  And then we took our time to go through the cabinets – for the guitar sounds.  We probably took a whole day to come up with a sound we both liked.  And we changed it again the next day.  Then again.  It was constant tweaking.  We tried to have my typical sound, but we couldn’t quite get there initially.  Because I used to use what’s called a Rangemaster.  It’s a treble booster pedal that I used to use on my old records.  I still use it from time to time, and we experimented with that, but it really gave us more headaches than anything.

DRG: Did you find it was a little too noisy now?

Wolf:  It was a little too noisy, yes, but what you also have to keep in mind is that everything sounds a certain way in the context that it was recorded in.  Back in the day, everything sounded slightly different.  The drums sounded different.  So the guitars might have sounded good, or perfect in that environment, but now, as things have changed, and we have a different drum sound, and everything is digital, and probably a better sounding environment now, then maybe the guitars don’t sound as good as they did back then.  So it’s all a big balancing act.  And people always rave about the guitar sound on Balls to the Wall – yeah, it was great , but maybe it was only great in that environment.  If you took that sound out and stuck it on the new record, it might not sound as good.

DRG: Well that may also go back to that analog vs. digital discussion we were having before.  Analog gave you that warm, tape compression when you went to two inch tape that you don’t get anymore in the digital environment.

Wolf:  Right.

DRG: Did Andy use any kinds of tube preamps or anything to warm up your signal to try and get some of that back?

Wolf:  He did, but he’s kind of a minimalist, though.  And that was something I found spectacular.  He really didn’t need a lot of gear.  Where as some guys use a room full of stuff, and it doesn’t end up sounding better than what he did. But yeah, I think he used some kind of little device – I forget what it is, but I think he used some sort of special deal preamp.  But don’t ask me what it was. I don’t pay attention to these kinds of things, honestly.  It was just close mic’d and very basic.

DRG: And you didn’t use a preamp at your house when you were doing your lead tracks?

Wolf:  No, I didn’t.  I went straight into this (audio interface) I have called an RME Fireface.  And I felt it sounded good.  He made it sound good in the end.  That’s all I know.

DRG: Well it sure sounds good – the parts of it I’ve heard so far.

Wolf:  Yeah.  People get so hung up on the equipment, but I happen to believe that it’s mostly in the ears.  If you know what you’re doing, you don’t need all that expensive gear.  I mean, it never hurts to have it available – it’s certainly nice, but I think people focus on it too much and believe it has some kind of mystical quality that, if you objectively compare it, A to B, it’s hardly there.  But all the equipment in the world won’t help you if you don’t have the right ears, and you don’t know how to get the sound.  But yeah, that is why they – during the mix phase or something, they run it through some kind of tube preamp or compressor or something to warm it up.  There’s a lot of benefits to that – don’t get me wrong.  I’m just saying that from my perspective, when I record a guitar or something, I just try to get it on tape and get it to sound as good as I can, and then hand it off to someone who knows what they’re doing, like Andy, and let them make it sound right in the mix.  He certainly did that.

DRG: So other than the conveniences of recording digitally, there weren’t any new things that used that you had been wanting to try.  You went old-school for the most part?

Wolf: Yeah.  During the songwriting phase, we used something that was super handy and super nice, which we didn’t have in the past and just sort of discovered.  And that is a program called EZDrummer.

DRG: Yeah, I use that too.  That’s my drummer!

Wolf: That is just a mind-blowingly nice product.  It’s the shit.  There are some awesome sounding drum kits on there. So that was really helpful when we started building the songs, we used that program to get the feel, and it already sounded so good.  It really helped the process.  I remember having to do that stuff with simple drum machines, and that was never inspiring because it never had that human groove that we were wanting.

DRG: And they were a bitch to program, too.

Wolf: Oh God, were they ever!  But this thing is just rockin’.  Within a minute or two you have your fills, and all of it sounds so natural.  Sometimes you have a hard time getting it as good with a human drummer!  Ultimately, Stefan did a fantastic job and came up with his own parts.  But we did everything in EZDrummer at first, and went to England to have Stefan to do the real drums the proper way.

DRG: So before you got into the actual recording process, you said you wrote a lot of songs.  Did you get together with Peter with the specific goal of songwriting, or did you have a bunch of ideas or riffs kicking around in your head that you had come up with on your own?

Wolf: From specifically working on it.  We got together and said we really have to make a record.  We’re gonna start Accept again, so let’s start writing some songs. So that’s what we did.  We got together several times, of course, for like a week at a time, or two weeks, and met either at my house, or at his house, and just started working on tunes.  I believe that there’s a certain dynamic – something happens when you dedicate yourself.  You meet with somebody, and you say: tomorrow, we’re gonna write a song.  For some reason, that commitment, and the fact that you’re in the room with someone together – I can guarantee you that we will walk out with a song at the end of the day. Or two, sometimes.  Whereas, when I write by myself, you know, you don’t always quite feel like it, and the outcome is never the same.  There’s always a million excuses when you’re alone.  But spending time with someone else – especially my buddy, Peter, I can guarantee we’ll come up with a song.  And that’s what we did back in the 80s.  We said: let’s write a song.  We’d meet at the rehearsal studio, and just start working on songs. And at the end of the day, there was always something that was worth while.

DRG: So your inspiration definitely comes from that interaction.

Wolf:  Definitely.  When you’re by yourself, your mind immediately starts wandering.  And you write some stuff and the next day, you listen back and wonder: what the hell was I thinking?  But when someone else is there with you, it always seems more focused, and the interaction of throwing the idea back and forth, and for whatever reason, something gets done in no time.  It’s amazing.
 
DRG: When you finally did get back together, and got focused and serious, and realized that it was gonna happen this time, did you notice any difference between the player you are now and the player you were back in the day or when you stopped the band?  Do you think that you’re coming up with different kinds of ideas, or do you feel that you’ve progressed as a player in any ways you can put a finger on? Do you think you’ve changed or gained anything as a player as compared to that earlier era?

Wolf:  I think I did.  I don’t know that many people are gonna pick up on that, but I certainly feel that I’ve matured and feel more sensitive to certain things.  I guess that just comes with age, but I wouldn’t say it’s radically different.  My playing is still very similar to what it was back then.  Like I said, maybe a little more mature. I’d like to think so.

DRG: A lot of the guys on the forum are rather interested in your new, white, Jackson Flying V – the one that’s in the Teutonic Terror video.  

Wolf:  (laughs)  Yep.

DRG: I wanted to ask you about how that guitar came about.  I know Dave Blass said you got it literally just before you started filming the video, but I know it had to have been in the works before that.

Wolf:  That’s true.  I can’t remember how the contact came together with Jackson, but I’ve known them for some time – especially the guy who’s in charge of their artist relations now.  He used to be with Marshall, so I’ve known this guy for some time.  And finally I figured, you know, it’s a new era, and I don’t really want to take the old Gibson V out on the road.  I’d really like a new V, and I asked them to build me one, and they agreed and were all on-board.  So I went with my old Gibson V to the Fender factory in California, and met with everybody there.  They spec’d out the guitar so that it was reminiscent of the old V, but with a lot more of the modern features that I wanted – which was the Floyd Rose, the EMG pickups, and the neck a certain way.  



DRG: They didn’t try to copy the neck dimensions on your Gibson, did they?

Wolf:  No.  I just went through a bunch of different necks they made, and I liked what I saw, and picked one that felt right, and that’s what we used.  And I said I want this fret wire, and these inlays, and they made it for me.  It came out fantastic!  It’s a comfortable playing guitar. It sounds cool and looks good and feels right.  Everything about it is perfect.

DRG:  You like that single coil in the neck position, don’t you?  Why do you prefer that to a humbucker in the neck?

Wolf:  Yeah, always.  Because I’ve always been a Strat player and a V player.  In the studio, I like the Strat just for the neck pickup alone, really.  It has that certain . . . Stratyness in the neck pickup with the single coil that only sounds right when it’s in that certain position on the 24th fret harmonic.  So that’s why I had them put that in the neck position, because I wanted a little bit of that Straty tone there, and it does it.  It works great.  Also when you roll back the volume, I like the way that those single coils clean up much more than humbuckers.  The humbucker in the neck position never did much for me.  I always liked single coils there. I guess it’s leftover from my Strat days.  

DRG: I see you’re using the Jackson on tour a lot.

Wolf:  It’s my main guitar on tour now.  That and a Charvel strat.

DRG: I’ve been noticing that in the fan videos that people have been posting on YouTube from your tour, I noticed that you have your amps on the side of the stage now rather than behind you.  Why are you doing that?

Wolf:  Because that way, they act like side fill monitors.  We actually started that in the last years of Accept in the 90s.  It all started because we were continuously frustrated with the way guitars sound when they go through a side fill.  They always sounded nasty coming out of those big side fill monitors.  So we figured why not just have the guitar speakers as side fills. It fills the stage much nicer no matter where you go.  Because everybody knows when you have the speakers blowing into the audience, once you step away, even three feet, you don’t really hear a thing.  So if their on the side, no matter where you go, to the drum riser or even to the other side, you can always hear the guitars much better, and you don’t contaminate the PA sound for the mixer.  It’s much better for them if the stage volume doesn’t compete with the PA.  So we found it works much nicer.
 
DRG: That makes sense.  I wanted to ask you what amps you’ve been using on tour.

Wolf: Actually, since we’ve be doing a lot of flying dates, I’ve found this incredible new amp that can act as a preamp, or a full blown amp by itself.  And it’s a transistor amp, believe it or not.  And it sounds just like a tube amp.  You wouldn’t believe it.  This guy in Germany makes it.  It’s a PCL Vintage.  The company is called Vintage Amps, which is a very generic sounding name.  He custom made this amp for me.  It’s just incredible.  It’s only like 5 lbs.  It’s about two units high, and you can pretty much take it in your suitcase.

DRG: Really!

Wolf: Oh yeah.  I take that with me wherever I go, and that’s what I have been playing through.

DRG: Is it like an amp head, or a rack thing or what?

Wolf: It looks like a rack thing.  It really doesn’t look like much.  Like I said, it’s super light weight, and it sounds just like a killer tube amp.  So that’s what you’re hearing on those YouTube videos.  Sometimes I use it like a preamp and run it into a Marshall or something that is available locally (at the gig).  You know, when you play these festivals, you sometimes have to do rental gear, and you never know what you’re gonna get.  

DRG: So this amp isn’t a stock product?  He made it specifically to your specs?

Wolf: Yeah, but he has something stock that is very similar.

Stock PCL SM-60 19" rack top.  This is the most similar model to Wolf's PCL.

DRG: How did you find out about this?  

Wolf: I have my ways (laughs).
 
DRG: I know, but when I tell my forum guys that Wolf Hoffmann is getting his great tone from a transistor amp, the guy making these thing is gonna have his phone ringing off the hook.

Wolf: Hopefully. He makes good stuff!  Our tour manager put me in touch with him.

DRG: That’s amazing.  You say it weighs five lbs.

Wolf: Five or eight or something like that.  It’s very transportable, and when you’re flying it’s great, because you can’t take something like a Marshall head on a plane these days.  It’s either insanely expensive, or half the time it gets lost.  So I take this thing as carry-on.  And this way, I make sure that wherever I go, I have my sound.  I have my guitar and my amp with me at all times.

DRG: So lets talk about the album release. It’s coming out in a couple of weeks, right.

Wolf: Yep.  In Europe it’s coming out August 20, and in the US, September 10 (2010).

DRG: And you’ve been out on the road for a while even before the release.  Are you going to tour North America to support the album?  

Wolf: Yeah.  Next month we’re gonna start our North American tour.  We’re gonna start with this festival in Atlanta, Prog Power.  And shortly after we’re going to kick off our American tour with Kings X.  We’re gonna do six or eight weeks of that, and in between, we’re gonna go to Japan for one big festival, and after that, we’re planning to go to South America, then Europe again.  

DRG: Wow.  That ought to take you through the end of the year.

Wolf: And beyond, into the beginning of next year.  We’re booking shows left and right, right now, and we’re gonna do next year’s summer festival.  So we’re gonna be on the road quite a lot.  Which is what we always wanted to do.

DRG: Well, with your wife doing the managing, at least you won’t be away from her for months at a time.

Wolf: That’s right.  

DRG:  Mark seems to be a great fit for the band, and I think the fans are as relieved and pleased about that as you guys probably are.  I noticed on the videos, you guys have resurrected some old songs that maybe didn’t get played live much back in the day.

Wolf: Yeah, there’s some stuff like Demon’s Night that we never played live before, and Losers and Winners.  We hadn’t played that stuff in forever!  If ever.  So we just went back into the catalog and dug into some obscure stuff – stuff the fans had always been asking about online on forums.  So we wanted to make this a special occasion now that we’re coming back.  After all these years, we felt we wanted to do a long set of not just the recent, and not just the obvious songs, but maybe some things that we had never played before.

DRG: I would assume that would be fun for you guys, too. Digging out some old stuff.  

Wolf: Yeah, because you sort of rediscover these songs, and you think: gosh, they were really good.  Why did we never play this?  And obviously, we’ve been playing the two new tracks, (Teutonic Terror and The Abyss) and they hold up really well along with the old standards.  A lot of times when you do new songs, you can definitely feel it’s a new song.  Hardly anybody knows it, and there’s a big difference in the audience reaction, but, I’ll tell you – this time around, people are just really into it!  Right away.  

DRG: Well I think the new songs kick ass.  And I think obviously with you and Peter doing the songwriting and the collaborative process with the rest of the band – and whatever Andy brought to it as a fan of classic Accept has kept things right in that perfect wheelhouse of what you guys do well and what your fans love.  I think the video played right into that as well, with what David brought to that – going back to like the imagery of the burning Flying Vs – there’s not an Accept fan out there that doesn’t know where that imagery came from.  

 
Wolf:  Yeah, I had sort of known Dave online for a few years.  He is a producer for reality TV shows, and for some reason, we hooked up on line years ago, but we had never actually met each other face-to-face, but he was one of those online acquaintances who knew I was in Accept, and was a big Accept fan, and we were always chatting, and one day he mentioned loosely, if you ever need a video, I’d love to be involved.  And low and behold, a few months later, Accept got back together, and we did need a video, and that’s how we hooked up.

DRG: Was it fun making that video?

Wolf: Well, hell yeah!  How much more fun can it be than to be on top of a tank?  It was killer.

DRG: Yeah, taking your guitar solo on top of the tank. I know when I saw that, I was grinning from ear-to-ear.

Wolf: Dude – it was high up.  Kind of scary actually (laughs)

DRG: Well I think it came out great, and between Teutonic Terror and The Abyss, I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the album.

Wolf: Oh yeah.  I think you will dig it.  It’s a very strong album, front to back.  There’s not a song on there that’s a filler.  They’re all equally strong in my mind, and most people who’ve heard it seem to agree.  It came out really well.  I’m very pleased with it.  

DRG: I’ve seen the cover art.  Is that one of your photographs?  Did you take the picture?

Wolf: Yeah, I took the photograph.  The whole design and the artwork came from an art director here in Nashville – another good friend and Accept fan.  So we were really surrounded by Accept fans who know what they’re doing professionally.  Which is great.  It always helps to work with people who appreciate metal and are familiar with the style, and who know what other Accept fans would like.  

DRG: Well I expect that wherever you tour, you’re gonna find a lot of people are thrilled to see you back together, pleased that you are recording again, and all that.  I think it’s terrific.

Wolf: So do we.  We can’t begin to tell you how thrilled we all are.  We’re probably more fired up now than we’ve ever been, honestly.   We’ve made the record, and it seems to get good reactions, and everybody seems to like Mark, so it’s really been awesome.

DRG: Do you have any plans to record any of your dates for a DVD?

Wolf: Maybe not yet, but eventually we will, for sure.  We already have recorded quite a bit of stuff, to be honest.  We’ll probably continue to collect stuff so that one day we can release something.

DRG: Well that’s about all I had for you.  It’s great to have you back.  I assume you’ll still be doing photography in your down time?

Wolf:  Yeah.  As you know, nobody is constantly on tour.  Right now we’re super busy, and I only do a little bit when I’m back home, but I plan to continue to shoot as long as I can, definitely, probably forever, because I enjoy it.  Music will always be my number one passion, but there’s nothing wrong with combining the two.

DRG: Well I’m going to do whatever I can to promote the album and the band.

Wolf:  Spread the word: We’re back!

We at Dinosaur Rock Guitar would like to thank Wolf Hoffmann for taking the time to answer our questions. Copyright ©2010 All rights reserved.