Trad metal titans Accept have unleashed new album Too Mean To Die. Founder Wolf Hoffmann bared his teeth in an exclusive interview with Rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth.
Rushonrock: Just how strange is it releasing new music in the midst of a global pandemic?
Wolf Hoffmann: Well the new album happened mostly before coronavirus but these times are kinda strange. I honestly don’t know what to do with myself most of the time. I’m a musician who can’t play live music. I’m grounded and that sucks. Musicians want to be out there performing. The prospect of no concerts for the foreseeable future is just something I can’t get my head around. It’s never happened before. We couldn’t see this coming. I just never thought this day would come. Accept’s main goal for more than 45 years has been performing our songs to our crazy fans. If that’s all taken away then what’s left?
Rushonrock: So have you struggled mentally during the last 10 months?
WH: I do find it hard. I think it’s harder now because all of us hoped and imagined that things would be back to normal by now. Last summer it looked like the worst was over. Now we don’t even know if we’ll get back out there this summer. It just seems to be getting worse and worse and I don’t think anyone has any idea when it’s all going to be over. The difficult thing is having no closure or no set date when we can plan for the future. Who the hell knows when things will go back to normal? It’s the not knowing that plays with your head.
Rushonrock: Did you ever foresee a global pandemic on this scale in your lifetime?
WH: No. But then we did write a song called Pandemic on 2010’s Blood Of The Nations. It pretty much describes what’s going on now but it was meant to be a crazy, fictional story! We wrote it from the perspective of metal infecting the world without ever imagining a real virus would infect the world and affect everybody in one way or another. Ironically the virus is inhibiting metal’s ability to spread positivity and it’s just the worst situation for everybody. Even if you thought to yourself ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ you’d always hope there was music. Even if one country was dealing with a natural disaster or war — or Brexit was causing problems — and borders were being closed then you’d always be confident that there’d be somewhere else to play. But this has stopped everything. Even the Olympic Games!
Rushonrock: How do you feel your home country is dealing with the pandemic and what’s your impression of how the rest of the world is coping?
WH: Germany is coping reasonably well but then Germans abide by the rules and do as they’re told. But even back home the numbers have been rocketing during this second wave. It’s been much worse than people imagined. But I live in the States and that’s a whole new level of crazy. They’re not doing well at all. My God it’s crazy.
Rushonrock: Is there a deeper meaning behind the title of the new album, Too Mean To Die?
WH: It really seems to fit the times we’re in. As I said, the album was more or less done before the pandemic struck but we chose the title for a reason. It’s a cool little metal statement and I suppose we’re saying that nothing can faze us – we’re too mean to die. I liked the way it sounded and we decided to use it as the album title. We didn’t want to make a so-called ‘pandemic’ album and, as I said, we’ve been there and done that. The last album was called Rise Of Chaos and of course that would have been a good fit for 2021 too. But we didn’t want to be any more specific this time than we’re Too Mean To Die. We resisted the temptation to include anything coronavirus related on the new record. We just said ‘fuck it – let’s stick to our guns’.
Rushonrock: Overnight Sensation references the Kardashians. Are Accept big fans of reality TV royalty?
WH: Well we were toying around with the idea of writing this sound about the YouTube generation and I initially called it something like ‘These Annoying YouTube Kids’ or something…but it wasn’t the best title and didn’t quite gel! Overnight Sensation seemed to flow better rhythmically as a title but the idea of the song was still there and Mark [Tornillo, lead vocals] wrote some fantastic lyrics. He’s an old school technology hater so he really got his teeth into the song. He wishes it was still 1985 without any mobile phones or computers and so he really latched on to what we were trying to get across. He started bashing out the lyrics and all that Kardashian stuff was his idea. It’s a great song and we love it.
Rushonrock: The Undertaker is another standout track…any link to the recently retired WWE legend?
WH: A few people have asked that but I’m afraid not. Mark just wrote the lyrics about a mysterious undertaker and I put the music to his words. It’s unusual for us to do things that way around but it worked really well for this song. Mark was talking about some creepy dude burying the dead for a living and there are loads of cool little twists and turns in the song. When I was writing the music I was thinking about an undertaker in a classic western movie – some creepy guy all in black and that idea inspired the whole song. There’s that spaghetti western element to the intro and the guitar solo develops the theme.
Rushonrock: The Rise Of Chaos still enjoys regular rotation at Rushonrock HQ…four years down the line do you feel Too Mean To Die is a worthy successor to that critically acclaimed record?
WH: I’m totally happy with the new album but I’m not really the one to ask. It’s the fans out there who will make that decision. But from all of the interviews I’ve done in the last few weeks it seems as if there’s a bit of a buzz around Too Mean To Die. Some people — whose opinion I respect — are even saying it’s the best of the five records we’ve done with Mark as lead singer. Is it better than Blood Of The Nations? Who knows? Maybe it’s even better but I’ll let the fans decide. We didn’t really do anything different. The new album just represents a moment in time and where we’re at right now. I do feel as if the chemistry within the band is really good at the moment and the new guys [Martin Motnik, bass and Philip Shouse, rhythm guitar joined in 2019] have settled in so well. Martin contributed a load of song ideas so that might have something to do with how Too Mean To Die sounds but that can’t be the only reason. All I know is that there’s a great vibe around Accept right now.
Rushonrock: Going back in time and it’s 40 years since Breaker was released. What do you remember about that period in Accept’s history?
WH: Every year there’s an anniversary! So that would be 1981 right? I guess so. The band was still in its early stages of development and we were still searching for our identity. But Breaker was a huge step in the right direction and it’s the first serious Accept album that you’d still want to listen to in 2021. The previous records [Accept and I’m A Rebel] have a few good moments but looking back they’re all over the place musically. Breaker is probably the first record that was taken seriously by most fans and we still play a lot of the good stuff from the album. We were a bit more independent and ballsy by the time Breaker was recorded and we just ignored where the mainstream music scene was going. We were so young and impressionable when we made the first two records. In our early 20s we didn’t have much of a clue about how to formulate our song ideas or about which direction we should go in. By contrast Breaker was a bold step forward. We said ‘this is who we are and this is how we sound’. I think that comes across.
Rushonrock: It’s called Breaker but did you hope it would also be Accept’s breakthrough album?
WH: With each new album — especially early in your career — you hope it’s going to be the one that’s going to get us here or put us there. The funny thing about a music career is that it’s never one thing that takes you to the next level. It’s a combination of circumstances but what keeps you going is that next little step and the expectation of what could be around the corner. You always hope it’s going to get better and then when you reach that next stage you’re always looking ahead to the next step. With Breaker we always hoped it would see more or capture the imagination of fans or the media or whatever. But 40 years later that’s exactly the same with Too Mean To Die. Even after all of this time I’m still hoping the new album takes us another step forward.
Rushonrock: Breaker did bring you to the attention of Judas Priest and you ended up opening up for them on the World Wide Blitz Tour. How cool was that?
WH: Oh my God that was a huge stepping-stone for us! That was the first professional tour that we’d ever been on. Like a lot of bands all we’d done up until that point was fiddle around in our own back yard and do a few local shows. We’d never toured properly before Priest took us on the road — we’d only played single gigs here and there. The most we’d done in a row was a couple of shows back-to-back at a weekend! We’d certainly never been away from home for three or four weeks and never been to the UK before. Here we were playing live with Priest and travelling on night liners! We were huge fans of the band and it was an incredible experience. We had no idea how things were done in the real world or how to present ourselves on stage or off stage. We learnt a lot of things on that tour that helped to shape our career.
Rushonrock: Did you ever imagine bands like Priest and Accept would still be relevant — and popular — 40 years later?
WH: If you’d have told me on that tour that people would still be listening to metal bands in 2021 I’d have laughed at you. Just the idea that you could spend your whole life in a band seemed so outlandish at the time. Back in 1981 nobody had actually done that. The bands from the 60s and 70s weren’t old enough to have been through their entire lives in music. There was no template or reference point for whether bands could last forever. And if I’d presented being in a band as a long-term career option to my parents they would have rolled their eyes in disbelief. They were happy enough for me to be in a band but they always asked me what I was going to do when I was 30 and when I was going to get a real job. That was definitely the attitude in Germany in the 70s. A career as a rock star really wasn’t an option. I think it was different in the UK. Britain and London ruled the world when it came to music back then and maybe musicians (and their parents) were thinking differently over there. But in Germany? It was like wake up and get real. Nobody had proved you could be a professional musician for 40 years at that point and I don’t think anyone back home believed that would ever be an option.
Rushonrock: So why has metal endured?
WH: That’s the strange thing. Back in the 70s listening to heavy music was a rebellious thing. It was for young people who wanted to be different. Nobody over the age of 25 would listen to a band like Judas Priest. My parents always said ‘turn that noise down’ and they simply couldn’t understand any of it. And of course that made it even cooler and edgier for the kids. We wanted to make music that our parents hated and the whole goal was to shock. Now that sense of rebellion has disappeared. Entire families head to metal shows and nobody raises an eyebrow. Grandparents are turning up with the grandchildren to watch bands like Maiden! Heavy metal has become totally mainstream.
Read our review of Too Mean To Die here.
Check out Rushonrock’s Top 20 Trad Metal Albums Of 2020 here.