Interview with Wolf Hoffmann (Accept)
The earliest adopter of the PROFILER
Wolf Hoffmann (Accept)
Accept from the German City Solingen were among the bands who paved the way we perceive heavy metal music today. Wolf Hoffmann is Accept's musical backbone and a well-renowned rhythm and lead guitarist. He was one of the first players of the KEMPER PROFILER and he used it exclusively for the band's latest and 16th studio album "Too Mean To Die".
Accept was formed in 1976, but it was their third album Breaker (1981) that defined a new style of Heavy Metal music from Germany. Their next album Restless & Wild (1982) featured "Fast as a Shark" – a track that was certainly inspirational for the speed and thrash metal genre which was to follow. Accept is among the biggest classic Heavy Metal acts of our time – thanks to Hoffmann's highly recognizable songwriting, riffs, and melodic approach to solos.Where are you currently?
I travel between my home in Florida and my studio in Nashville. It’s pretty easy to take a flight now because the passenger numbers have decreased so much because of the Pandemic. Before Corona traveling wasn't fun at all. Flight schedules were so tight that even small hiccups would lead to problems. This is a reason why we as a band, arrive for fly-in-shows the day before, otherwise, it's too risky!And possibly one of the main reasons to switch over to the KEMPER PROFILER?
Of course, it was a dream come true. The problem has always been: How can you guarantee consistent sound quality as a worldwide touring band. Rental equipment is not always an option because you often find a different amp on stage than what was ordered. I find it necessary to use my own instruments and amps to be happy. And that way I play better. For years, I took a Marshall and a small rack on the road. But the airlines make it more and more difficult these days. We were able to check-in big road cases back in the 90s, but not anymore. Before using the KEMPER PROFILER, I used a small transistor amp made by PCL Vintage from Germany (www.pcl-vintageamp.de). It sounded great, very close to a tube amp, but was quite limited compared to a KEMPER. The PROFILER has lots of more options and sounds to offer.What's your amp history?
I have always used Marshalls – usually modded on some level. When we started making music in the 70s, the Marshalls didn't have enough gain, so you had to really crank them to get a good sound…and even then, it still wasn't tight enough, so we tried using MXR pedals as well which sounded OK, but they were also pretty noisy. In the 80s the first amp modders started showing up on the scene. My amp tech back then was Dirk Baldringer from Leverkusen (Germany), he is still doing his thing today. He modded all my amps, and I used them in the studio and on the road.Did you take the profiles by yourself?
Over the years I have tried so many amps. I was looking for more flexibility in switching between different clean, rhythm, and lead tones. At one point I was using MTS modules made by Salvation Audio until I discovered Wizard amps. They basically sound like a hot-rodded vintage Marshall with a really nice musical harmonic sounding distortion, with great string separation. Nowadays there are so many awesome-sounding amps … So I made profiles of all my favorite amps to use with the KEMPER.
I was one of the first players of the PROFILER in the metal scene. The first time I tried it was at Summer NAMM 2011 and I used it immediately for our album Stalingrad. Not long after that, I met up with Michael Britt in Nashville who was also interested in getting one. A couple of years later, Michael came up with some great-sounding profiles. So I went over to his place and he showed me how he did it. It was really fascinating because he got his sound with really simple equipment. He just used a Mackie mixer and a Shure microphone and that was it. Just goes to show: It’s whoever is using the gear making the difference, not so much the equipment! One day Michael came to my place and we made some profiles of my amps, and they turned out amazing. He has the right feel for it. I still use those profiles now.What's your amp choice in the PROFILER?
The EVH 5150. It awesome, nice and tight, and captured nicely into a profile (because weirdly enough, not all amps do). So this is what I use in the studio. For live shows, I mostly use a Marshall profile.I can confirm that several users of the PROFILER are fine by using just a few sounds in the unit, even though it offers thousands. You could also say: Let's use a different sound for each track …
After over 30 years of searching for tone, I have finally ‘found it’ - the KPA and my signature Framus WH-1 guitar, that’s all I am using now. I am completely satisfied! It’s hard to believe after so many years of searching …
Typically, I would use the same sounds for an album and live. I don't want my sound to change too much from song to song, or even during the same song. So I use two or three profiles which I fine-tune to compliment each other. The amount of gain can vary, and I always match the delay for solos. So actually, I do have individual sounds for different tracks live, but they generally use the same profile.What about the solo sound?
For clean sounds, I profiled a 70s Marshall. It has this wonderful British clean sound with a tiny bit of crunch in it. I am not into perfect clean sounds because the contrast to the distorted parts is usually too much. If I need multiple sounds in a song, I pay attention to the transitions and focus on making the changes smooth.
Usually, it is the same profile, but I may add a boost for more gain. I really like the PROFILER's stomp pedals. When the amp was new I combined it with my old boost pedals and delays. But today, I prefer the built-in delays and effects – they sound much cleaner to me.And how do you handle feedback?
So now every sound comes from the PROFILER, including the wah and the old Mutron Octave Divider, which I used to use for such a long time. I came full circle.
In the beginning, I used the PROFILER on stage with a pedalboard and sent its output to a real power amp which was mic'ed up. These days I send the signal directly to the FOH and to my in-ears, or to the DAW. Everything is in the box.
Feedback isn’t that important in our music. But it still works because of how loud the guitar on stage, so it’s easy to find the sweet spot on stage to get it if I need it.How do you switch between presets?
This is something else that has evolved over time. Initially, I switched my sounds on stage manually (by foot, or technically “pedally” haha). For some songs, we play to a click track.So you have your own studio in Nashville?
When the click track comes from a sequencer it can also change my sounds remotely.
I love it because I can focus more on just playing. I don't need to think about the sounds I need, and when to be at my pedalboard to switch sounds– or rely on a guitar tech to do the switching. Of course, switching becomes second nature over the years, but I like this setup more. It’s really consistent and more relaxing. Another nice benefit is, the wah can be active only when I need it. On certain stages, a wah might accidentally be triggered from the subwoofers below the stage, believe it or not! Of course, some of our arrangements aren’t the same every night so there is room for some improvisation. In that case, I do the switching manually.
It is not a commercial studio, but it’s the playground for Accept and a nice place to work. After spending years locked away in a ‘dungeon’ basement without daylight, this is the best music space I’ve ever had. It’s total luxury and I love it.How was the recording process during Corona?
I don’t have tons of gear and I try to stick to what I really need. I guess every musician has the tendency to be a bit of a ‘gear whore’ and collect nice shiny things, whether we need them or not. But I’ve never been a serious collector. These days I get rid of things I don’t really use.
We recorded the whole album in my studio. Initially, Andy Sneap came over from England to work with us in Nashville in early 2020. We all thought we would be touring in summer – Accept and also Andy with Judas Priest – so we thought it would be good to start the album before we got too busy. We recorded six, seven songs and planned to continue whenever it fits in our schedules again. Not long after, Corona was becoming an issue and it was becoming pretty clear that there wouldn’t be any touring. This meant we’d have time to finish the production. However, traveling was now the problem, especially for Andy. So we had no choice but to find a way to work online – the band was in Nashville recording while Andy was in the UK, listening to what we were doing, and then he would comment on it. In a way he was a virtual producer, but still there on our computer screen. A new experience for sure!!! After the sessions, I sent Andy the files for editing and mixing, etc …Did you play as a band or track instruments separately?
It is a somewhat unusual and cumbersome way of working, but it all worked out fine in the end.
It’s not how we prefer to work, but we really had no choice but to make it work.
I’m sure, technology will advance more and more in the future making it easier.
Generally, I demo the tracks first with EZdrummer. Then, Christoper (Williams) comes in and replaces the drums playing an electronic kit. Just to his personal touch and a ‘human feel’ for the track. Once the track is fully arranged, we'll record real drums using the demo as the guide. Then, we'll track instrument by instrument – guitars, bass, and vocals.How did you record the guitars?
Since I write most riffs and songs, I play almost all the guitar parts by myself and have been doing so since the 80s. Back then this was the only way because the other guitarist wasn't there, or had just left the band. And it makes sense for one guitarist to double-track the rhythm parts instead of two players because you want the tightest possible guitar sound in metal. And to achieve this, you need identical playing and phrasings on the left and right channels. The timing needs to be spot on. With solos and overdubs, it’s a different story. There it makes sense to feature the different characteristics and playing styles of each player. Especially now, that we have THREE guitar players in Accept, we wanted to feature the new guy (Phil Shouse) and give him enough space. So we have longer solos where I play a part, then Phil does the next one before we play leads together. This is a nice addition to the album, it adds a different color.
The amp sound always comes from the PROFILER. I haven't changed my sound much over the years. You mainly hear the profiled 5150 on the left and right, and sometimes a profiled Marshall used for overdubs and clean sounds. Solo sounds sometimes come from a Wizard profile. I have 3-4 profiles I use most, but I own lots of others. These work for me and I can focus on different aspects of the production. My favorite speakers for many years have been the Celestion G12H-30 and these are obviously part of my profiles. I always record a DI track at the same time so that it’s possible to re-amp the guitars during mixdown if we need. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen. If the recorded sound doesn't fully fit the mix, Andy will use the DI-track and his PROFILER to replace that sound, which is why we also exchange our profiles.Which guitars did you use on the album?
It is super convenient because I can focus on my playing, the performance, and the song as a whole. But of course, we try to make sure that the sound is spot on from the start. But still, you need a different set of ears for the mixing stage, and you have to build the sound from the ground up. Sometimes you notice that your guitar sound might need a different flavor, or that the unit was accidentally misaligned. It's awesome to be able to do this, including gain variations or even full sound replacements. I leave this up to Andy, because he is a real expert, and really goes into detail with that.
I can't remember a song that I didn't use my Framus WH-1, with active Fishman pickups. Over the years, I have come up with a nice collection. But I feel like I have arrived at home with this guitar. And that's a reason why I recently sold most of my old guitars. Guitars, amps, and cabinets which I haven't touched in years were all collecting dust. We‘re often nostalgic and misty-eyed when reminiscing about "the good old times" when supposedly "everything was better".Over these decades, you were pretty true to your sound. Back in the early 80s, you possibly used passive humbuckers with a Marshall.
But if you put it to the test, my experience is that this is often not the case.
That's the funny thing. I’ve tried countless instruments, pickups, speakers, and amps, and have been searching for my sound for decades. The never-ending search for ‘the tone’, the holy grail! I always loved doing it … but looking back, I always seem to have come up with a result that is more or less the same - or at least very similar. I have come to realize that the guitarist is most recognizable for the sound from his performance, not only the gear.That's true. By the way, did you get guitar lessons back in the 70s?
Not at all. I went for acoustic lessons for maybe two months in an adult education center. A neighbor taught me some chords, and then I continued by myself. I’m not a trained musician even though we play classical pieces. I am more a fan of the music who pays respect to the genre and sometimes borrows a few elements – for the excitement and fun of it. In the beginning, I played for hours and hours every day. It's great to feel yourself improving, especially as a beginner.Did you have musical idols?
Absolutely. Deep Purple and Ritchie Blackmore. Live in Japan was the gold standard for me when I grew up. Judas Priest was influential as a band and for their riffs. So were AC/DC. You could say that Accept is a mixture of all three.Is there anything you would wish the PROFILER could do?
When Accept came up with Breaker it was a new and different sound coming from Germany – more Heavy Metal.
It seems that Accept was the German part of the NWOBHM. When Iron Maiden, Motörhead, and Saxon became popular, Accept was amongst the heaviest bands in Germany, I would say we were maybe the first Heavy Metal band in Germany back in those days. Many bands followed and a vibrant scene of German heavy metal bands developed later. The Scorpions were obviously there and well established long before us but I guess most people would consider them more ‘rock’ than ‘metal’. I always had huge respect for them as songwriters and for reaching international status, but they were not a major influence for Accept, musically.
I have used the KEMPER PROFILER for almost ten years now, and would certainly enjoy a playback device that would be even more compact. Simply load in your favorite profiles, and go. Another thing I find a little strange is the fact that your data is not protected in any way. We need passcodes for everything nowadays, from cell phones to websites, but the KPA is wide open.