Fireworks Magazine

Fireworks Magazine Online 78 - Interview with Monster Truck

MONSTER TRUCK hit the road

Interview by Carl Buxton

Monster Truck have been touring again throughout February and the beginning of March in their Canadian home country as support to Billy Talent and, just as this issue of Fireworks hits the shelves, will be bringing their show over to the UK and Ireland before continuing across Europe. A very hard working band, the amount of touring is paying off as their profile is ever increasing, culminating in the prestigious opening slot on Nickelback's arena tour last year. The latest album, 'Sittin' Heavy' came out a year or so ago now, so Fireworks was invited to talk to guitarist Jeremy Widerman about how well all this touring malarkey is going.


Definitely very well, yeah. Trying to follow up 'Furiosity', which has opened the door for us in the UK and Europe, was going to be a bit of an undertaking but we kind of ran the same game plan with 'Sittin' Heavy' as we did with 'Furiosity', knowing full well that the process we had before worked for us and we kept the dream rolling with the follow up.

I was watching some videos of you guys touring Germany, with the video blogs, and I must admit they're quite amusing in some places. There was one backstage where you were saying one of the worst things about touring is having to do interviews, so let's wrap this up in the next five minutes...

Yeah, chaining together six or seven of them in a row where you're getting asked the same question in each one and making sure that you still sound enthused the fifth time that you're getting asked that question... I much prefer doing them piecemeal like this where I'm only doing one a day, and typically for some reason or another, you don't seem to get the same question over and over again when you do them like this. I don't know why that is.

I guess the shows in Canada will pretty much sell out because you guys have got such a high profile now?

Yeah, although at the end of the day we're opening for Billy Talent and they're the main draw on the tour, so that will enable us to go into those arena size venues because we aren't quite there yet in Canada. But yeah, we're definitely going to be helping the bill and adding a draw to those shows.

Prior to the Billy Talent tour you did the arena shows with Nickelback – how did that go?

Fantastic! Yeah, really a lot of fun and kind of a real introduction to us as far as getting used to playing on the arena stages on a consistent basis, which is something we've only done in small doses before. Just kind of learning what worked for us on those big stages, and interacting with the crowd and taking the show that we're used to doing in the clubs, and putting it into that arena scenario which was something that was a little weird for us - took us about a week and a half or two weeks to get it really working well. Now we've kind of gotten the feel, we've got that. It was actually really nice to be able to do that now and bring it back to Canada where we feel pretty comfortable in those bigger arenas and it's not going to be such a shell-shock when we come out on that first stage on the upcoming tour with Billy Talent.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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With the European tour, and watching some of those tour blog videos of your escapades, I was wondering how much down time you had between the shows to go out and visit the city you were playing in?

With Nickelback we had loads of time because due to the size of the stages they were putting together and the massive amount of trucks that they had travelling to build their set up we were given usually about a day off after every show. So those of us in the band that didn't want to explore and see different sights in the city that we were in, we were able to see that set-building because there was all this downtime between each show. So there was a lot, a lot more than we were used to in fact on this tour. To the point where I think some of us even felt it was a little too much because we like to be in that groove playing back to back to back so that we can get some kind of momentum building. So it was also an experience for us too, to be able to just do the one show and to have a day off and then another show and finding alternate ways of keeping that momentum flowing and keeping the vibe of a live show up.

You got sick with a throat problem during the German leg of the tour several years ago? How did you cope with that?

What you're hitting on there is really kind of an example of what I've been able to avoid, based on the experiences I gained from those tours. Being in those foreign countries, being in the cold in those tough conditions, and in that case, me getting strep throat on a really long European run. That's something that was a horrible experience and something, when I got home from that tour and started to investigate why that happened and why it took so long to get over, I kind of modified my diet and my lifestyle a little bit to ensure that it didn't happen again. It was like the removal of a lot of sweets, generally taking care of myself a lot more, which is something that I've been able to do in the last year or two and it's kind of minimised those sicknesses and allowed me to stay at the top of my game for the tours. Which is obviously extremely important when you're doing runs with Nickelback in arenas.

Exactly, and would that same attention to detail apply to Jon (Harvey), Brandon (Bliss) and Steve (Kiely) as well I take it?

Yeah, I mean everyone's gotta find their own way, right? For me I was finding that I didn't realise that sugar was having such a massive impact on my immune system and kind of causing me to get sick and stay sick for a lot longer than the average person. For other people, maybe drinking less, for others, exercising more. Our singer Jon, he's just lucky enough that he can keep doing the same thing he's always done and he stays as healthy as an ox. Everyone's got their own kind of method to their madness and it allows us to kind of learn from our experiences and find ways to keep our crew and everybody as healthy as possible.

The new European tour is in March and April. You have five dates in England, one in Scotland, one in Northern Ireland, including one in Eire but none in Wales – any particular reason or was it down to promoters?

A lot of those little one-offs over there, outside of the UK and the German runs was a lot to do with what we saw kind of happening on the Nickelback run, where we had a better reaction in some places than others, and it was up to us to kind of bust the timeline down into a way that makes the most efficient use of our travel time and our expenses. So that was just kind of our hunches that we had, based on the reactions that we were getting on those previous opening slots, and making sure that we returned to the places that gave us the best responses so that we can maximise the exposure and efficiency of the touring.

The UK tour starts in Bristol on March 15th with many dates selling out fast.

Fireworks Magazine Online 78 - Interview with Art Of Anarchy

ART OF ANARCHY: An interview with Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal

Interview By Brent Rusche

For those who have completely ignored the headlines concerning Hard Rock music in the last ten years, guitarist and true multi-instrumentalist Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal crashed into the mainstream as part of the newly energised Guns N' Roses, of which he was a part for eight years. In addition to maintaining an active career as a solo artist, launching his own brand of hot sauces as well as engaging in numerous philanthropic pursuits, he has somehow found time to engineer, mix, master and play on the second album with Art Of Anarchy. Entitled 'The Madness' and due out on the 24 March 2017 on Century Media, AoA is revelling with delight with the newest member of the band, vocalist Scott Stapp. In between stints on multiple Rock cruises and an upcoming trip to Thailand, Fireworks was able to bend his ear to about the band, the new album and the re-release of his first two solo albums.


Being relatively new to the scene, AoA loses their lead singer shortly after the debut. For some, that tragic event would have instigated an abrupt end to the band. How did AoA handle the loss?

Well, it's been a very strange take-off for this band. I should really start by going back about twenty years. The guys who really founded this band, Jon and Vince Votta, are twin brothers from New York where Jon plays guitar and Vince plays drums. At the time, I had a studio in Staten Island and when they were still teenagers, they would come in with their band and I would engineer those recordings. Sometimes I would act as producer and become more involved and sometimes they would bring in an outside producer. At that time they always seemed to bring in outside influences who were trying to change them into something they're not instead of revealing who they really are, embracing and enhancing it. Instead of allowing the brothers to put their best feet forward, they were always trying to give them different feet [Laughs]. Years later, they came to me and said, "Look, we wrote ten songs and we want to make the album we never got to make." So, I brought them into the studio and said, "Yeah, let's do it" and we tracked all of their material. During the recording process they would ask for me to lay down a guitar solo or do a rhythm track. The next thing you know, I'm playing in addition to engineering the music. For vocals, the original idea for the album was to recruit different singers for each song. Scott Weiland originally sang one song, 'Till The Dust Is Gone', but did such a great job that everyone agreed that he would do the entire album. Then bassist John Moyer from Disturbed joined the band and all of sudden this project started to outgrow everyone's expectations, and the next thing you know we have a record deal on Century Media. Once it got to that point, Scott Weiland distanced himself from the band and denied any involvement when the album was released back in June 2015. It became immediately clear that if AoA was to continue that we were going to have to find a new singer.

Based on your description of everything would you agree that Stapp and his personality has contributed positively to the band's overall mental health?

Scott Stapp definitely added structure which we needed and has been a really good thing. Musically speaking, he offered a different approach to the way the band had worked in the past and those changes that he brought have been welcomed.

This time around, did Stapp have the same type of input with the lyrics and melodies for 'The Madness' as Weiland did on the first album?

Oh, yeah. All the lyrics he wrote are very personal and autobiographical topics. As for the melodies, most were his ideas but I was with him every step of the way. I produced, engineered, mixed and mastered the album as well.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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'The Madness' seems to possess a darker and heavier vibe than its predecessor. Bands like Alice In Chains and Tool come to mind. Is that a direct reflection of the band working through the loss of Weiland or was it simply the influence of Stapp's vocal approach?

I think it is a combination of Stapp's vocals along with our own inspirations and individual songwriting style. At times, it definitely has a "Grunginess" to it which I am fine with. Some songs are more modern like 'Echo Of A Scream' while others are more Creed-esque. I think the first songs we wrote were more melodic and as we continued, things started getting heavier.

Speaking of 'Bumblefoot, the solo artist', you recently launched a campaign on which focuses on the re-release of your first two solo outings, 'The Adventures Of Bumblefoot' and 'Hermit.' What was the impetus behind this endeavour?

I found out that The Orchard, a digital-only record label in New York, acquired the entire Shrapnel catalog. Last March (2016) I met with them to see if I could get back the rights to those two albums since I forfeited everything when I was signed to Shrapnel. However, The Orchard had done so much in order to acquire that catalogue, they weren't looking to split it up. However, they ensured me that they were going to give those albums the support that they didn't get in the past. It was The Orchard, in fact, who approached me with the idea of starting this online campaign to help cover the cost of manufacturing physical product. I don't know if I will be seeing any money from it and honestly, that is not even a concern of mine. I'm doing this because it has taken 20 years for 'Hermit' to be available to fans in the way it was always intended.

Whether solo or otherwise, what is currently in the works with Bumblefoot?

I was anticipating doing some solo shows and clinics in the US, Europe and wherever else during the month of May but it appears that AoA may have some shows booked during that time which will take precedence. The two things I have scheduled for myself are Corfu Rock School in July and in a few days I will be participating at this biker/charity benefit coming up in Thailand for a children's organisation called Jester's Care For Kids. A few years ago I was the first international artist they hosted at this festival which continues to grow every year. They said that my involvement really helped with the organisation's awareness and the increased participation and contributions it is now receiving. Since its inception they have been able to donate upwards of $163,000.

I definitely applaud your efforts, contributions and willingness to give back to communities all around the world. It is humbling to know of everything you do for charitable organisations.

Thank you, it is. The kids, well they just melt your heart.

Fireworks Magazine Online 77 - Interview with Pretty Maids

PRETTY MAIDS - An interview with Ken Hammer

Interview by Dave Bott

Despite having been around for over thirty years, Pretty Maids have hit a truly purple patch with their 'Pandemonium' and 'Motherland' albums, some of the best of their lengthy career. Well known and much loved for their music being equally heavy and melodic, the band have always made regular appearances in Fireworks, so we couldn't resist a jovial chat with the band's guitarist Ken Hammer to discuss their latest release 'Kingmaker', amongst many other things.


Earlier this year there was a personnel change within Pretty Maids. Are you able to explain what factored into Morten Sandagar leaving the band?

Well you know how it is, this is like a marriage... sometimes people get fed up with each other. I have tried it three times so I know what I am talking about, ha-ha. I think regarding Sandagar, it was a personal issue and to be completely honest with you, I am not totally sure why he left. I think he had some things he needed to sort out. We are still on very friendly terms and we talk to each other a lot so there are no hard feelings. In short, we have been working constantly and he had some personal things as well. I think he just needed a break.

I'm aware you had somebody step in to help on keyboards for the new album but who have you drafted in to replace him permanently?

Chris Laney is a very good friend of mine and has been for many years. He is a producer, a song-writer, plays keyboards, obviously, and also plays guitar and bass. I always wanted to try and see if we could bring in another guitar player because I like the two guitar sound, especially on some of the songs. As Laney could play both keyboards and guitar, for me, it was an obvious choice to try and check him out. Everything is going very well too, we have done three shows with him now and he is a good guy. We also wanted to see how it would work with us socially... we are a bit nuts and maybe he wouldn't like that. Ronnie Atkins and I have been together for almost forty fucking years, it's difficult for people that come into that to try and be a total part of it. We are very tight and we have pretty much done everything together. We wanted to see how Laney would work with that and it has worked out really well.

Your new album is entitled 'Kingmaker', how did you come up with the title?

We had been working on that because we had to find something good. We thought that the last album, 'Motherland', was a strong album title and we thought we needed something that had the same power and impact to it. We went through a lot of different titles, we thought, what about this and what about that. We also had a lot of back and forth conversations with the guy who did the cover and he actually said "I have a great idea for a title" and me and Atkins said "bring it on man, bring it on" and he suggested 'Kingmaker'. It's funny because I had something different in the back of my mind but with King or Maker or something like that. He came up with that and Atkins and I said right away "that's it". Fuck man, it was just one of those things and it sounds good when you say it.

As you mentioned, Chris has joined the band, but before that it was Kim Olesen of Anubis Gate who stepped in to help with keyboards for the recording. How did that come about and why did you opt for him?

Well, Sandagar left a couple of weeks before we were due to go into the studio and while we were there our producer (Jacob Hansen) asked who was going to do the keyboards. We replied "fuck, we are not really sure... guess we are going to have less keyboards on this album!" That was the obvious choice to take but then he said "I know this session player that I have worked with a few times, maybe he could do it". So he came up with that name and Atkins apparently knew him from way back because they have lived in the same town; I didn't know him. He came down, we had a talk and he came up with a few ideas so we decided to see if he would work out. He did and we thought what he suggested sounded great. We were very happy that it all went smoothly so there isn't really a big story in that. We have been very lucky on that front.

How do you, as the artist, feel this album compares to 'Motherland'?

We have done it the same way, using the same procedure, as we did for 'Motherland'. It is pretty much the same thing we do, but obviously sound-wise and the way it develops, with keyboards or whatever, changes a song from where it started to the end result that you hear on the album. In general, it is the same thing we do when we write songs... at least eighty percent of the time. I feel that this release is more complete. We started off with 'Pandemonium', which was a great start... I thought 'Motherland' was complete as a whole album, but I think this one is even more complete than that. It sounds great and I think this album... I think that it grows. Maybe the first time you hear it you go "okay, this is alright". Then next time you hear it you think "umm, oh yeah" and then some of the songs start to stand out a little bit.

And that sometimes makes for a better album. The growers are the ones that last.

Exactly, that is the sort of album that will last a long time. You have got to have one song right away that catches people's attention, then later on, when they have bought the album and have given themselves time to listen to it a little more, they go "wow man, fuck".

So everything was done as before, you haven't tried anything new for this album or something that you haven't tried for a long time?

I have to think back man, it was very stressful at that time because most of the songs were written within a two month period, except for maybe 'Face The World', I think we had that going earlier along with a few riffs and stuff here and there, but most of the songs were written in that two month period. We were kind of pushed on time because we had already booked the studio, then Sandagar left us. We were sometimes standing there thinking "okay..." because a keyboard intro can sometimes inspire you to do something. Since he wasn't there we were like "fuck, we are going to have to think, or pretend for now, that this will be a keyboard intro". We were a bit pushed at that time but it worked out quite luckily in the end.

What songs stand out for you personally?

'Humanize Me', definitely... 'Bullseye' I like because it is just a good live song and has a good live feel to it. Fuck man, it is difficult, I like 'Face The World' as well because it's a good tune, it could have been a fucking smash hit if that came out in the eighties. That could have been a song like when Van Halen did '5150'. If that song had come out at that time, man, I would not be living here where I live now... I would have lived in bloody Los Angeles because then I could have afforded it, ha-ha.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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Timing is everything isn't it?

Yeah man... our timing sucks I tell you that, ha-ha. It always has, we are either late or very late, ha-ha!!

Turning to the album in general, what other lyrical themes do you explore on the new album?

It is all about stuff that we see happening everyday throughout the world. That's pretty much where the main inspiration comes from. It is not a concept album at all, although it could have been because some of the songs are similar in terms of what goes on in the world today... the fucked up world we are living in!

I must admit there are times when you look around and wonder should you be in an asylum or whether you are already living in one...

Exactly, you have this feeling sometimes; are you going to wake up and find someone saying "it was all a joke". I watch TV and I think, where are we going and what is going on? It is scary shit man.

You're a band well known for being equal parts heavy and melodic; do you ever find it difficult to balance the two sides or is that something that just comes naturally to you all?

We have done that since the first album. The funny thing is that a lot of people ask us about that and I have started to think about it and come to the conclusion that this is just our style. We can be Judas Priest or we can be Journey. We have to limit ourselves sometimes to one of the directions because we find them equally interesting. I like Journey as much as I like Pantera. For me, there are really only two types of music and it is that simple – good and bad. After that, it really comes down to the moment; sometimes I like to sit and listen to The Eagles then the next moment I can be listening to Five Finger Death Punch. You couldn't be fucking further away from each other... it is just music that I like. I have heard people say "how can you say you like Keith Urban if you play Heavy Metal"? What the fuck has that got to do with it? I like Earth, Wind And Fire as well so does that mean I can't listen to Iron Maiden? That is what inspires me. I can't understand why some people want to be so limited. They confuse loyalty and in doing so can miss out on so much other stuff. I just feel sad that people won't let new music inspire them. It is just music... we are not at war. I can hear a Country song and feel the emotion and I can listen to another from that genre and think that it is far too corny. If they sing great, the harmonies are brilliant and the sound is good, that is what I listen to... how it sounds.

I can see how listening to varied types can provide not only enjoyment but also inspiration.

Absolutely. I know towards the end it will sound like Pretty Maids one way or another but that doesn't mean you can't suck out some of the good things from elsewhere.

You mentioned that these songs were written in a short time frame and that it was a little bit stressful. Was the actual recording a little easier than for 'Motherland' because I know you had some issues when it came to touring and recording at the same time for that?

Ha-ha... yes because this time we could actually focus on doing this whole album. Of course there was the other stress factors of going into the studio with only four guys instead of five but I guess that is the story with this band. There will always be something, it just goes on and never stops but then again, it keeps you excited and life interesting. Sometimes I wish it would be a little less fucking interesting, just for once, ha-ha.

You have once again turned to the same producer, Jacob Hansen; what makes him such an important and now regular part of the Maids sound?

First of all, it is his sound itself. That's the sound that, in my head, I have always heard that Pretty Maids should have since bloody day one. That in itself is, for me, enough really. I think his sound is brilliant, he adds ideas and craziness to the songs that we wouldn't have come up with ourselves. He is a brilliant producer, his sound is heavy, it's round... oooo I just love it!

I have seen you have already announced tour dates for the continent, have you got any plans for any dates in the UK?

I'm quite sure it is being worked on at the moment, but whether there is any facts and stuff to it yet, I am not sure, but I would love to. On the last tour we only did one gig in England and that was in Camden. I would love to do more shows in the UK. The first tour we ever did back in 1983, we did a full UK tour. I promise you we will try and work on that.

Given you have been together for over thirty years, what is the secret to the longevity of your relationship, both musically and personally, with Ronnie Atkins?

Alcohol ha-ha... actually I'm not that far from the truth. We have had a lot of parties and a lot of beers together but of course mutual respect is a huge part of it. It is funny to think that I have been with Atkins longer than any women in my life. Bit scary isn't it ha-ha? We have our moments of disharmony where we are not that close but of course, when you spend so much time together there will always be those moments. Even with girlfriends and wives, you can't always be friends but as long as it doesn't get carried away, it is all part of it.

The band has appeared rejuvenated since 'Pandemonium', what do you attribute this new found energy and creativity to?

Jacob Hansen is a good answer to that I think; he brought in a new sound, a new inspiration and a new way of looking at things. I also think the fact that maybe I started listening to new kinds of music and bands kind of inspired me a lot. For me, it is fantastic that there are new bands out there that when they come out with a new album it can inspire an old guy like me. I want more new bands bringing out some good shit... there is not enough of it.

Fireworks Magazine Online 77 - Interview with HammerFall

HAMMERFALL - An interview with Oscar Dronjak

Interview by Ian Johnson

Back with a brand new album, a huge Metal monster called 'Built To Last', Sweden's HammerFall are taking no prisoners. Full of powerful guitar riffs, commanding vocals and great songs, the band show just why they are so highly regarded in the Power Metal world. The band's founder member and guitarist, Oscar Dronjak, talks with Fireworks about the new CD.


'Built To Last' has a real retro feel to it, sounding a lot like your first two albums, 'Glory To The Brave' and 'Legacy Of Kings', but it still has that more up to date sound and production you're now known for. How do you see the new album?

I can see what you mean. What happened this time was that probably for the first time ever the writing process was a difficult one for us. What usually happens is that we come off tour and we have about six to eight months to get everything written and arranged, then we go into the studio to record the new album. This time what happened was we never stopped touring; there was always some date or show to do, so we never got those months off to relax and settle in to our natural way of working. As the recording date got closer and closer I realised that I needed to really get going with the writing. Usually I love to write when I'm at home in a relaxed atmosphere but this time everything was hectic. So my rhythm was off and I didn't get a feel for how the songs would sound until we got into the studio and started recording them. That's when I noticed, like yourself, that they had a kind of mix of early and new Hammerfall going on, yet they did retain our modern way of working.

You are now regarded as one of the eldsters of this genre. Do you still have the same passion and hunger that you did when HammerFall first got together?

Yes and no I think. When we got together all we wanted to do was play and write Metal music, that was it. This was never supposed to be a career; we did it because we loved what we were doing. When we started playing Metal it wasn't doing well and who knew if it was going to last a week a month a year? No one! The hunger thing is also different – you're young and hungry when you start out but over the years you grow as a person, your values change. Other things like wives and families become your main concern. Of course you still love what you're doing musically but other priorities take over so the hunger might be different but the musical passion is still and always will be there. The problem for bands is we get accused of lacking the hunger by fans who forget that we, just like them, change as people over time. Yet you'll still get people coming up to you at shows saying you don't sound like you did back in '97. My answer is always why should we? We aren't the same people as we were back then, so why should our music sound the same as it did?

Napalm Records, your new label, have really gone to town on the new album. Why the change from Nuclear Blast?

Well we were with Nuclear Blast for almost eighteen years and they were and are a fantastic label to work for. They did everything they ever promised and were a joy to work with. When it came time for us to do this album we felt like a change and Napalm, although a smaller label, were so passionate about our music and what they could do with it, that we had to go with them. We think we can grow as a band on Napalm – if you can, take a look at the box set of 'Built To Last' which comes with a small statue of our mascot, Hector. The whole package is amazing. Also if you get the two disc version, one of the discs is a live DVD.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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As one of the main song-writers for the band do you find it hard to have a favourite song on a new album? Can you choose or are you too close to them?

I do have songs that I really like from all our albums but it can be hard because you work on them for so long that you always want them to be good. 'Built To Last', because everything clicked on that track, and 'Twilight Princess', which is a big production song, are ones I like from the new album, 'Twilight Princess'. Mainly because I wrote that one all by myself. What happens mostly now is that when we write a song and play it we all know when it's a good song. I'm sure other artists have that same feeling, you just know when you've written something good. However there are a lot of levels of good (laughs). So it's hard as a writer to have favourites but over the years I have fallen in love with a lot of our songs.

You released your first lyric video, 'The Sacred Vow', before the new album's release. Have you been getting good feedback from this?

We have and 99% of the feedback has been great and very positive. With today's technology people can get to hear and see things much quicker than ever, so it's a great way to gauge what the fans think of the new material. Okay, you always get that 1% who say why can't you make 'Glory To The Brave' again or why don't you sound like you used to but that's a minority. Thankfully most of our fans have loved the song. The idea for the lyric video was another Napalm idea and it's really worked well for us.

The production on the album is, as you would expect, big and bombastic. An in house job?

Yeah mostly. We recorded the album at my home studio, then Fredrik Nordstrom of Dream Evil, who records the drums for us, mixed the album at his place, Studiofredman. As you probably have heard before it's the mix where the magic happens and Fredrik makes us sound good. The vocals for the last three albums have been recorded in America with James Michael of Sixx: AM and working with him has meant that Joacim Cans, our singer, has been sounding better and better over the years. We also have the big advantage of having Pontus Norgren in the band who's a great producer and sound engineer himself, which helps when we're trying to get the guitar, bass and vocal levels right. Got to say I love that word you used - 'Bombastic'. Sums up the album sound perfectly (laughs).

You've got a big tour coming up soon that takes in Germany, Belgium, Poland, Hungary and then you're off to the States with Delain. When can we see you again in the UK?

We have things in the works for the UK. First off we'll be playing at Hammerfest which is in March of next year, then well, let's just say we have a few things planned for Great Britain but I can't go into details just yet. So keep an eye out for us and one day very soon we'll be there (laughs).

What next for HammerFall? As it's your twentieth year as recording artists have you anything special planned?

Not really, no, is the honest answer. Promoting the new album is the priority for us and we want to tour it all over the world because we're very, very proud of it and want to play it to as many people as we can. We have talked about doing something special for 'Legacy of Kings' which came out in 1998 but that's just us as a band shooting ideas around the table. We actually did celebrate our twenty-fifth Anniversary as a band at Wacken Open Air in 2014 where we played the 'Glory To The Brave' album in its entirety. We did this because Wacken was the very first show we ever played outside of Sweden. So no, nothing on the cards just yet. We'll have to see what the future brings and as I said before just keep an eye out for HammerFall and we'll be there one day to surprise you.

Fireworks Magazine Online 77 - Interview with Accept

ACCEPT - Still Restless And Wild: An interview with Wolf Hoffmann

Interview by Steven Reid

Few could have predicted the huge success that greeted the return of German Metal masters Accept, the veteran genre leaders riding the crest of a wave since their 2010 comeback album 'Blood Of Nations'. With their most recent release, 'Blind Rage', reaching the top of the charts in their homeland – the band's first to gain that honour – and a stunning live bluray/DVD/CD release set to start 2017 in impressive style, guitarist Wolf Hoffman settles down with Fireworks to give an honest and open account of his band's many years and counting.


"There are some things in Accept that have never changed, even since I joined the band when I was 16 years old, and that format is the foundation of everything regarding Accept," Wolf begins, candidly assessing why his band are having greater success than ever since their 2010 resurrection. "Without a song you don't have much, no matter who is performing it. It is pretty obvious that we as artists need to be bold and sometimes take risks. Sometimes you lose your way and other times you find your core. I believe there is a special chemistry between us that has, in its various forms, survived all winds and weathers coming our way!" However it's the awareness the guitarist shows towards his fans' desires that maybe explains that phenomenon best. "Diversity without change is probably the hardest thing," he continues. "We have certain cornerstones we want to hold on to. If you follow our songwriting it is easy to see what we are trying to do."

With the band parting for a second time with singer Udo Dirkschneider nearly twenty years ago (barring a brief get together in 2005) and the memory of a failed, if misunderstood and under appreciated attempt to replace him the first time around, it's little surprise that Wolf is honest enough to admit he and his band mates were surprised by just how enthusiastically their third singer, Mark Tornillo, has been welcomed into the fold. "Of course!" He says with a mixture of shock and pride, "we were floored. None of us expected that. We hoped for it, but the chances were really slim... and yet it happened." Although in the founder member's assessment, the reasons couldn't be more obvious. "His voice and our music is just a perfect match, it is that simple and the fans – old ones and new ones – get it. We just look at each other and say: 'MISSION ACCOMPLISHED'. It fits like a glove and we grew as a team with Andy Sneap, who has a very clear vision of us, and who pretty much operates on our wavelength all of the time. To have a producer working with us for so long now [since 'Blood Of Nations'], is a pretty sure sign that we are walking side by side with one goal in front of us; to be better each time than the last. According to the record sales and publicity, online presence and touring, I feel very confident that we are doing something right!" Something that was proved by that #1 spot in the German album charts for 'Blind Rage'. One can only presume it was a proud moment for Accept? "Yes, heavenly and very, very rewarding!" Wolf confirms. "We were the last ones to believe that it was true – but it is and we enjoyed every minute of it. We have always felt that the next album has got to be more challenging than the last one... sometimes that works and sometimes perhaps it doesn't. There is an urgency in me, which is always pushing and pushing. I am lucky because Peter [Baltes, the bassist who has been with Wolf in Accept since 1976] is right there with me. Our waves, as always, are similar, crashing at the same time and waning at the same time."

Although surely this turn of events was unthinkable after the band's 2005 reformation floundered after a string of well received festival shows failed to go any further? "'Slipping away' has never crossed our minds," Wolf says, before further justifying that comment with a slice of realism. "The long break we had showed us just how fast things can change and life shattering events occur. I guess it is more our addiction to the sea of happy faces, to hearing the fans singing along. We can't let that go and we can't be without it for long. It took us a while to admit it... we NEED our fix... every night, everywhere." Although with the departure in recent times of two men who have helped make the band's resurgence so complete, it's not an addiction Herman Frank or Stefan Schwarzmann will continue to share. "If you look at our situation in 2010, it is easy to understand," Wolf says, explaining the exit of the guitarist and drummer. "All of us had a career going prior to reforming and none of us had a clue if we would be doing more than one album and one tour...ever! So we were looking for musicians who have their own career, their own life and interests. From the beginning it was agreed that everybody would be staying with Accept ONLY as long as they wanted to, and that we would all be supportive if they wanted to return to their own path. It was good for them to be with us, we took them around the world, several times, but they are ambitious and talented musicians who have had their own dreams for decades. When Panzer came along the opportunity was there and we supported them from the get go. Anybody who knows Accept knows who the heart of Accept has been, and due to all of the reasons that I have mentioned and some more, it made it pretty natural that one day they would leave. The fact that we live in America and they live in Germany has not really helped... not in the 80s, 90s or 2000s," he adds also alluding to previous inter-band issues over the years.

So what of the new blood of nations in the band, drummer Christopher Williams and Grave Digger and Rebellion guitarist Uwe Lulis? "Nashville is full of talent," Wolf enthuses, detailing how the band teamed up with American drummer, Williams, "more than anywhere else on the planet, but Metal drummers are hard to find among them. We knew him for a while and he totally surprised us, and maybe himself as well, because there was not much 'testing' or 'growing together', no time wasted. Just like with Mark, it happened and it is hard to recall... have we not always been together? No? Really? Ok... let's go!" But surely it was more difficult than that for Wolf to click in so tightly with a new guitar partner? It would appear not! "How quickly it's come together could almost be seen as a sheer accident, nothing that we could have foreseen. He grabbed a guitar and followed my playing. 'Darn, Uwe', I said, 'you FIT! Let's try it.'" So does that instant chemistry mean Wolf's new six-string partner will become part of the legendary Hoffman/Baltes writing team? "Look," the guitarist says warily, "every musician is bringing something to the table and we've found a formula that works so very well for us, for over three decades. Never change a winning team, right? We have a great situation right now, everybody has found their place and their purpose in Accept and is fully embracing it. There are many levels of involvement and the most important is that it works for us! And it does!"

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If any proof was needed that Wolf's assertions are correct, then the band's forthcoming live blu-ray/DVD-CD release,'Restless & Live' undoubtedly provides it, although even he was surprised at just how well this superb release has come together. "We are amazed at how the band comes across. It is proof that the chemistry of five people, who come together to Rock, is something that one can feel, touch and hear!" However, even with that chemistry it's worth highlighting just how impressive Mark Tornillo is on stage, absolutely owning the early Accept tracks with the same conviction he delivers the songs he had a hand in creating. "I could not agree more," Wolf confirms, clearly impressed by his bandmate. "He has his own way of reaching out to the audience and making them very comfortable, and his voice is just right. No just works." And that the new and old songs come together to make such a killer set isn't something the expert songwriter feels is surprise. "How I see it is that there are two situations; in a studio and on the stage, and they are not the same. Accept has mostly been able to spark a fire on stage, something made easier if you have songs which sound familiar and are easy to sing along with. We have some typically Accept style elements that we groom and cherish and want to keep, because it feels right... and when it feels right, then it is!"

'Restless & Live' beautifully captures the intense majesty of Accept's 2015 headline show at Bang Your Head festival. However with the visual and aural document not due to hit the shelves until early in 2017, it begs the question why it's taken so long for the band to let their worldwide fans experience this awesome show? "Oh, that was a chain of unintended circumstances," Wolf says honestly. "First was that we were very busy when diving in to it and second, we needed a bit of convincing to finally release it." Something that when you witness 'Restless & Live' is hard to understand. "Actually, we have to thank the director and editor Bernard Baran for that, he made us look at the first edited song. 'Not bad' was our first reaction, and then we realised it had been only the fourth or fifth show with Christopher and Uwe! Bernard was right, that was pretty cool. He would not give up trying to convince us... this baby had to be pushed out!" Especially when Wolf explains just how much of a thrill it was closing the show at their homeland festival. "We loved it and talk about a high, when fans are singing your songs, that is a major high!" When asked for his final thoughts on 'Restless & Live' Wolf again defers to the real people behind Accept, the fans. "We are pretty happy with it despite the fact that I am a terribly critical person. I always find something about my performance... mostly. But, I like to leave the verdict to our fans. They know better than we do where we stand with 'Restless & Live'."

As is so often the case for band members who have parted ways, as one releases an album, so the other seems to do likewise. In this case the coincidence goes a little further, the band's original frontman, Udo Dirkschneider having just released 'Live - Back To The Roots', a live release showcasing twenty five Accept tracks sung by the long departed original voice of the band. For the first time Wolf isn't quite so keen to take up the subject... "We do not talk about other artists," he says firmly. "The only thing we care is about our performance, our releases and our fans. There is always someone who is releasing whatever, whenever.... you can't avoid this. As I've mentioned so many times, we are where we want to be musically and performance wise and that is all we could hope for and all we can achieve. We are enjoying the best phase ever in the band and seem to be doing better with every album that we release, which has been our goal from 2010 onwards."

As if the opportunity to experience the live prowess of Accept in the comfort of your own home wasn't enough, the band will also be hitting the road in Europe with Sabaton and Twilight Force from January 6th, with dates in the UK around the middle of that month. It must be something the band are looking forward to? "Very much," the guitarists states, much more enthusiastic about this topic for discussion. "First of all we wanted to do our part to support a band which is a poster child of how to conduct business. Sabaton have an amazing organisation and of course, they have, like we all have, fans who love them and others who don't, which is very normal. But what is not normal is the way they conduct their business, their involvement in their career is exemplary. We just want to shine a little light on that fact. Secondly, we have not been on tour for a while, which is very un-cool for us. We cannot wait to get back on the road. The Sabaton tour gives us a great platform where everything is already there. We just want to rock, 60 minutes rocking our socks off... then, getting ready for an album release in 2017, followed by touring ... extended touring! We do the Sabaton tour for fun... and we expect a lot of fun! After that, our machine is still oiled and ready for the next level of the Accept craze!" So does that mean the next studio album is imminent? As Fireworks ends its time with Wolf Hoffmann, for the first time the Accept legend is ever so slightly coy in his answer... "This is the best kept secret! In due time we will make an announcement, but we need all our fans to cross their fingers, because 'Blind Rage' is a tough act to follow."

Accept's brand new DVD/live album 'Restless And Live' will be released on 13th January via Nuclear Blast.
They will be touring the UK and Ireland in January 2017.
They are currently working on new material.

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