How Accept Finally Broke Out With ‘Metal Heart': Exclusive Interview
Decades may have passed since the March 4, 1985 debut of Metal Heart, the sixth studio album by the German heavy metal band Accept. But the group remained strong, even revitalized, as they promoted the album Blind Rage. We caught up with guitarist Wolf Hoffmann in 2015 to talk about the 30th anniversary of Metal Heart and the future of Accept.
Can you believe Metal Heart is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year? Does that even seem possible to you?
No, man! It feels like we recorded it just a few years ago. I can’t believe I’m that old!
What do you recall about recording this album?
It was the first time we ever worked with producer Dieter Dirks, and it was our first real “big time” production. You have to remember that in the mid-‘80s, record labels were willing to pay for large, inflated recording budgets, and getting the right producer on board was seen as really important to help expose a band to a broader audience worldwide. Before Metal Heart, with Restless & Wild and Balls to the Wall, we’d pretty much handled everything ourselves and never spent that much time on our records. But for Metal Heart we put in weeks and weeks into writing and rewriting before selecting the songs we wanted to use.
What inspired the Metal Heart concept?
I think the idea came from a magazine article or a book that was read by our manager Gaby Hauke [a.k.a. Deaffy], who is now my wife and wrote a lot of our lyrics during those years. If I recall, it was literally about a mechanical heart, and how one day people would be walking around with these machines inside their chests instead of human organs. And now we kind of have these things! So Gaby came up with that idea and hook, and we sort of wrote the song around it.
"Too High to Get It Right" has some of the highest screeches ever heard from singer Udo Dirkschneider. Did that range come naturally to him?
Oh yeah, Udo just had an insanely high voice – it was amazing!
Listen to Accept Perform 'Too High to Get It Right'
Were you conscious of how racy Accept's lyrics often seemed to many Americans? Or was sexuality something you guys simply didn't think about?
I think we wanted to have a certain shock factor, always, and to talk about subject matter that other bands weren’t talking about, instead of recycling the same old rock 'n' roll subjects. Plus, being European I suppose we were a little more open-minded about sex anyhow, and with Gaby writing a lot of those lyrics, I’m sure her female perspective confused some people into thinking we were a gay band – ha ha! And we didn’t care. The last thing we wanted was to have generic lyrics. We wanted to be a serious metal band, sure, but we also wanted to provoke people – make them think, one way or another.
Your guitar work has always been filled with classical music influences, but they seemed especially prevalent on Metal Heart, especially on the title track and “Bound to Fail.”
Yeah, I can’t remember for sure what brought this on, but I’ve always dabbled in classical stuff and maybe it just clicked during the recording of Metal Heart. I’m pretty sure it didn’t come from Dieter, because we already had those elements in the demos we brought into the studio. You see, we had been touring for months and months behind Balls to the Wall, and there was so much energy in the band, we didn’t want to go home to Germany. So we wound up finding a house in Vermont, of all places, and did all of the pre-production there before meeting up with Dieter to record.
Any current plans involving your classical music interests?
Yeah, I put out my first classical album some 15 years ago, and I’m actually flying out to Prague next week to work on the next one with a symphony orchestra. And if all goes well, that should come out later this year. I can’t promise when I’ll finally finish it, but it’s only a matter of time now.
Listen to Accept Perform 'Bound to Fail'
Do you see any parallels between Metal Heart and Accept’s latest album, Blind Rage?
Oh yeah. We’re still trying to tell good stories. Stories that interest us and hopefully other people too. And I think our sound has become a trademark that connects both albums, and most of the other ones we’ve done.
So many of the new songs hark back to the classic Accept sound. “Stampede” and “Bloodbath Mastermind” have that signature Accept speed metal attack, and “Fall of the Empire” is one of those majestic metal anthems you guys almost invented.
Well, normally, you play two or three new songs on tour, but we’ve been playing six or seven new songs for much of the Blind Rage tour. That’s quite a lot considering our back catalog, but they feel so great and we’ve played them so much, I’d say a lot of songs have already proven they can stand the test of time.
How would you compare Blind Rage with the other albums you’ve recorded since Mark Tornillo replaced Udo as Accept’s singer?
I think Blind Rage is the most mature album out of the three we’ve done with Mark. The first one, Blood of the Nations, was pretty special because we hadn’t done any records for so long, and there was so much energy. The second, Stalingrad, was a little rushed, so we made sure to give ourselves plenty of time on Blind Rage. And we couldn’t be happier with the results.
Do you feel fans have fully accepted Mark as well?
Absolutely. He’s well established now as the man in Accept, and we’ve been getting a great reaction all over the world. And, man, we’ve done a lot of shows together to prove ourselves – not to mention putting our three albums in five years, so I think we’ve really proven to the fans that we mean business.
Watch Accept Perform 'Stampede'
Can we expect more touring for Blind Rage, or are you ready to begin work on the next Accept album?
No, we plan on staying on the road deep into 2015 supporting Blind Rage. Maybe toward the end of the year we’ll start thinking about collecting riffs and writing some new songs, but this year will be very much dedicated to touring.
Could you ever have imagined that Accept’s music and historic albums like Metal Heart would one day qualify as a classic rock?
Hell, no! I don’t know if we really fit that category, though I’ve heard the term "classic metal" used for us as well. Funny thing is, when we started, the term “heavy metal” wasn’t even really established yet. We just saw ourselves as a hard rock band in the beginning. But over time we obviously helped develop that sound, and now our style is so old-school compared to what the kids are doing nowadays that it may as well be called classic rock. At the end of the day, it’s just an honor for us to know that fans still like us. They can call our music whatever they like!