Accept: New Singer, But "Balls To The Wall" As Ever

Screaming out of Germany like a Teutonic Terror - which also happens to be the name of their current single - Accept spent a lot of years on the road and in the studio before having heavy-metal success with the albums Restless and Wild ('82), Balls to the Wall ('83) and Metal Heart ('85).

And while the often underappreciated group has gone through numerous lineup changes, hiatuses and reunions, they are back with Blood of the Nations, Accept's first studio album in 14 years. It's a powerful, punishing and better-than-expected effort that flirts with thrash and sizzles with anger and energy on tracks like "Beat the Bastards," "Locked and Loaded," "Rolling Thunder," "Bucket Full of Hate" and the title track.

The current lineup includes original members Wolf Hoffmann (guitar) and Peter Baltes (bass), classic lineup guitarist Herman Frank, drummer Stefan Schwarzmann, and new vocalist Mark Tornillo (ex-T.T. Quick), who has to fill the very formidable studded boots of one Udo Dirkschneider.

Rocks Off spoke with Hoffmann about Blood, working with Tornillo, and one interesting bit of info about that famous video for "Balls to the Wall."

Rocks Off: Hi Wolf. People have been waiting for you to come back.

Wolf Hoffmann: Well, we're waiting for the people! (laughs)

RO: I understand that the band's reformation stemmed from some informal jam sessions you had with Peter in the spring of 2009. Was that the case?

WH: Absolutely. But we didn't have a singer, so somebody suggested that we give this guy that lived nearby who might be familiar with some of our old songs a call, and just jam for the day. So Mark came over and sang and it just blew us away. And that was it. It was that simple! Prior to that, it was clear that Udo didn't want to do anything with us anymore. So we found the perfect guy just in time.

RO: So Udo was asked to participate, but he declined?

WH: Exactly. It's crazy, but it's a fact.

RO: Mark's vocals have some of the same growling intensity as Udo's, but he's not attempting to sound like him at all, which I think is good.

WH: Yeah. We wanted him to be [his own] singer. We're excited about opening a new chapter of the band with Mark. We didn't even audition anybody else! And then we started writing right after that. And we had enough material to make another whole record.

RO: What did you want to try musically with this record that maybe you hadn't done on any other?

WH: We weren't out to reinvent anything, we just wanted to give fans a good, old-fashioned dose of '80s heavy metal with fresh songs. There was no point to us in trying to change something that we know works and we know our fans want to hear.

RO: Your U.S. tour hasn't even started yet, but last night I was able to go on YouTube and see about ten full performance clips from some of your recent shows with the new lineup. Do you think having stuff like that on the Internet helps or hurts the band?

WH: In our case, it's been overwhelmingly positive. If you hadn't seen the clips, you wouldn't have a good idea of what the band looks and sounds like now. I don't think it will keep anybody from seeing the show and buying the record. Especially metal fans - they want to own the actual CD and the booklet.

I know that record sales aren't what they used to be, but we just want to play. And everything else will fall into place.

RO: How did "Balls to the Wall" end up becoming your signature tune?

WH: Well, that catchy hook line! (laughs). And it's pretty easily summed up - "balls to the wall!" It's got a catchy riff, but without that phrase, it wouldn't have been nearly as successful.

RO: In the video, the collective power of people headbanging made the wall collapse. It symbolized something greater to metal fans in the '80s. Whose idea was that?

WH: Oh, the director. But here's some funny trivia about that video. All of the fans in it were actually volunteers. The whole idea was that they had to rise out of the rubble, and these poor guys were down there in the cold for a long time before they could move, and probably for two or three hours overall.

But the funny part is, they were all recruited from the Iron Maiden fan club!

RO: You've got our hometown boys King's X opening a lot of dates on this tour, including here in Houston. How did that come about?

WH: A lot is involved with management, but we have the final say and we like those guys and are looking forward to playing with them. And Texas has always been a hardcore heavy-metal state, especially in the '80s.

RO: Finally, as you know, the Scorpions are retiring. With all apologies to Helloween, that probably leaves you as the highest-profile classic heavy-metal band from Germany.

WH: Yeah, we'll take that torch! (laughs). Those guys are good friends of mine, and they deserve all of their success.

For more on the band, visit www.acceptworldwide.com.

With King's X, 7:30 p.m. tonight at the House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, 888-402-5837 or www.hob.com/houston.

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