Interview by Teresa Hopkins
Late last year, upon hearing the news that ACCEPT were undergoing a major lineup change, we all looked forward, admittedly with a bit of trepidation, to the band continuing. The new guys were gonna have big shoes to fill, and our speculations went to the extremes. After the big April 12 announcement of new members Uwe Lulis (guitar) and Christopher Williams (drums) and a video teaser to boot, we were fired up to hear them and curious to know more about them.
So I asked Christopher if he’d be up for a quick interview. He was happy to oblige, but things got busy for him, very fast. As you may recall, within 6 short days of the official announcement, ACCEPT was flying down to Mexico to kick off the next leg of their Blind Rage tour. From there, it was on to Brazil and several dates in Europe. Fans’ feedback about the new lineup has been very positive from the get-go. Check out some live footage of ‘Fast As A Shark’ at Rockavaria München Olympiastadion on May 30, 2015 to see one of the many reasons why. Williams is a total animal behind that kit!
Christopher, who has performed in various genres with such artists as Kid Rock, Jessta James, Funkadelic, Lee Greenwood, Blackfoot, and Nashville metal band War Within (to name but a few), was destined to be a drummer even before he made his first appearance in the world. His warm, friendly demeanor, dedicated work ethic, and great sense of humor are immediately evident, and these are qualities that fit right in with the rest of the band. I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know Christopher in the interview that follows.
It was ACCEPT’s first show of 2015 on the Blind Rage tour and your first public performance with them on Saturday, April 18, at the House of Blues in Chihuahua, Mexico. I heard that there were a few problems getting the equipment to the venue. What was going through your mind?
CW: The drum kit in Chihuahua was…interesting. When touring without your personal backline, especially in other countries, you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. Sure, you send out your list of preferred equipment and alternatives long in advance, but there’s no guarantee the equipment you need will always be available wherever you go. So, you make do with what’s provided, tweak it the best you can to suit your needs, and put on the best show you can (and pray nothing goes wrong).
In this case, the kit wasn’t near what we had hoped. The equipment simply wasn’t available in the area from a rental company or anything like that. The promoter found a gentleman (his name escapes me) who was kind enough to provide me with his personal set of drums. My drum tech and I got the kit as close as we could to my usual setup, tuned the drums the best we could, and taped EVERYTHING down to the drum riser so nothing would fall over. Not exactly ideal, but again, you make the best of what you have in situations like that. We had the drums sounding good and the show went great, even though I did break one of his crashes (If you’re reading this, I’m really sorry about that).
Well, you guys handled it like champs. Those crowds were fired up and very happy to see you all. I’ve heard nothing but positive responses since.
CW: We had a blast and so did the audience. VERY loud!
When did your equipment finally arrive? And how did the next night go at SALA in Cuauhtémoc?
CW: The Mexico/Brazil run was all rental gear for me except for sticks and pedals. The gear for SALA was great, as was the show, and we had another kit for the two shows in Brazil. The Brazil kit was pretty big and powerful—just what this band needs!
ACCEPT was on the bill with Judas Priest at Vivo Rio, Rio de Janeiro on April 23, and again with them and a very impressive lineup including KISS at Monsters of Rock on April 26 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I’ve heard a lot of good feedback about these shows, but I’d like to know your perspective as well.
CW: For me, it’s always a blast to see ‘Priest. Scott Travis is kicking ass as always and it’s still inspiring to see him live. Also, growing up a huge KISS fan, to share the stage with those guys was a dream come true. The audiences at those shows were great as well.
It’s funny in a way; I was WAY more comfortable playing the Monsters Of Rock show for such a large crowd (38,000 people I think?) than I was for the other three shows. Venues like we did in Mexico and Rio can be a little intimidating sometimes for me. Maybe it’s the intimacy of it, I’m not sure. I don’t know, maybe I’m wired differently. A few friends told me they would have freaked out trying to play to a crowd like the one at Monsters Of Rock. Who knows?
So, we’re all wondering: How did you learn that ACCEPT were looking for a drummer? And how did all that come together?
CW: I’ve known Wolf and Peter for a while now. A mutual friend introduced us and we built a friendship over time. In the touring world, anything can happen at any time. It was no secret [that] Herman and Stefan had their band Panzer on the side, and I think it was just a matter of time before they decided to go ahead full-time with it, as they should. Often times, a musician will have a tech or close friend that either knows the material or can come in and learn the show fast in case of an emergency. Case in point: a few years back, Tommy Lee burned his hands during an accident on tour with Mötley Crüe. Tommy called his good friend Morgan Rose to come out and sub for him. No rehearsal, just a phone call, flight, and he was on stage that night. It’s rare, but those things happen.
I was familiar with ACCEPT’s catalog, had a friendship with Wolf and Peter, and basically said “Hey, if you guys ever need me, I’m there.” As we now know, Stefan and Herman left to pursue Panzer and here we are today. It’s crazy in a way, but those things just kinda happen in the music world.
What has been the reaction from family and friends?
CW: Everyone’s been very supportive and very happy. I’ve always tried to surround myself with positive people and since joining the band, there’s been an almost overwhelming amount of love and pride from my friends and family. It’s a great feeling knowing there are great people in your corner that have your back.
How does the chemistry feel with these guys? Has there been any “new guy initiation” of sorts?
CW: So far everything has been great. Everyone gets along just fine, the crew are all great people, everything’s good. We all interact and have fun on stage, just as well as off stage.
What was your childhood like? When did you first get the fever to play music?
CW: [My childhood was] fairly “normal” I guess, considering. I was a “normal” kid, outdoors as much as I could be. My father passed away when I was three, and my mother raised my brother and I as a single parent. She worked her ass off to support us and I owe her the world. We weren’t “poor”, but there wasn’t a lot of money around. The great thing about my mother though is I never realized the reality of our situation until I got a lot older. My mother has always said I was a drummer, even while in her womb. She and my dad would listen to records and I would kick along with the music. When a song stopped, I stopped kicking. The same thing with live concerts.
She has a really great story about being at a Winter Brothers concert when she was pregnant with me. She was a few rows back from the stage and somehow the band saw her stomach moving around, A LOT. They stopped the show and insisted she needed to go to the hospital, thinking she was about to give birth! She told them I was a drummer and just kicking along with the music, so the drummer began to play, I kicked along with him, they were convinced and continued the show.
Wild! I love that story! Sounds like you were always meant to do this.
CW: I used to “jam” on pots and pans, like almost every other drummer in the world, and would build imaginary drum sets out of whatever was lying around. I had a few inexpensive children’s drum kits that I went through in no time. I would put them on the hearth of our living room or on the front porch and play, pretending I was on stage in a stadium. My Uncle Peter usually had a set of drums in his basement that belonged to a long time drummer of his, so I would play those all the time whenever I visited. The kit didn’t have cymbals most of the time, but I made the most of it and we would record little “jams”.
When I was ten years old (maybe nine, I’m not sure) my mother had set aside money to get me a real drum set for Christmas. My Uncle found a used Ludwig SL five-piece kit with some entry level cymbals and bought it. December 19th was the day. From there, that was it. All I did was practice, constantly. I remember in middle school I was averaging seven hours of practice PER DAY. Music consumed me 24/7. It always had, but it seemed to intensify that much more after getting that first kit. I still have that drum set and still play it from time to time.
From there, I just played as much as I could. I studied just about everything I could get my hands on related to drumming, and had all kinds of bands from a Jazz quartet to multiple death metal bands. Sophomore to Senior year of high school I would spend half of the school day at a school of the arts, the other half at my normal school for academics. The school was The Fine Arts Center in Greenville, SC and it changed my life forever. Not just in music, but it taught me to appreciate everything in the arts. I would skip out on a percussion, jazz, or theory class from time to time and go sit in on a vocal class or a sculpture class, or metal working. This, of course, was frowned upon, but wasn’t uncommon at the school. They only accept a certain number of students per year and you had to pass an audition to get in. Once you were in, your grades at both your high school AND the F.A.C. had to stay above a certain level, and you had to pass an end-of-the-year playing jury to be re-admitted the following year. You would perform in front of your peers and other teachers, showcasing what you had learned and how you had developed over the year.
I went to college for a year, but it wasn’t the school I’d really hoped to attend. I’d wanted to major in jazz actually, but it didn’t work out until I’d taken a scholarship with another school. The school I’d hoped to attend sent my acceptance letter two weeks late and the time had already come down to the wire to decide. I made the best of the situation and decided afterward that it was time for me to move forward with my life and try to get my career going. Sort of “I tried it, but it’s not for me, time to move on”. I still wonder time to time how things would’ve turned out if I had gone to the other college. Who knows? I’m not complaining though; I think it worked out the way it was supposed to!
It sure seems that way! So what was your first pro gig? How did that help to shape your musical perspective?
CW: My first touring gig was with a seven-piece funk band out of Asheville, North Carolina. Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band. Funny name, but serious groove and vibe, and they’re still touring all over. The band was well established in the funk world by the time I was on the drum throne, and we were supporting bands like Parliament Funkadelic/George Clinton, Fishbone, and Perpetual Groove, playing festivals and doing our own dates on the side.
I’d be curious to hear some of that. I can dig on some funk.
CW: It was a blast! We’d be playing tight grooves, funky, funky stuff, then the next thing you know it was like a rock show and everyone’s jumping up and down, bouncing, I’m playing metal but with funk and all of the guitars are all the way up. It was great.
You’ve shared the stage with some notable artists—a lot more than I was able to discover in my research—and you’ve played many different genres of music. Tell me a little about your gigs with other bands.
CW: Shortly after my time with the Booty Band, I moved to Nashville and became a side guy, a “hired gun” if you will. Anything from rock, country, soul, R&B, metal, punk, funk, I’ve played in Nashville and on the road based from there. Country is the big thing [in Nashville], obviously, but over the years it’s become a very diverse music scene and the players are great. I’m happy to call it home.
Here are a handful that I’ve played, worked or toured with in no particular order: Lee Greenwood, Peter Stroud (my Uncle), John Corabi, Derek St. Holmes, Jeff LaBar, Bernard Fowler, Carmine Rojas, Gary Shider, Kid Rock, Sydney Barnes, Chuck Garric, George Clinton…that’s enough “name dropping”. We’ll just say I’ve been very lucky, very fortunate and at the right place at the right time. That’s how a lot of this business works.
How would you say it’s different now with ACCEPT?
CW: For me, it’s not that different, just a different level and a different scene. Continuing to “climb the ladder”, as I call it. Suddenly, I’m on stage with some of my favorite bands and befriending some of my heroes. That part is pretty trippy sometimes. I come into a situation, whether as a band member or a hired gun with the same mentality: Bring your “A-Game”, do your best, be prepared, be professional, BE ON TIME, and get the job done. This is me doing that, on the next level…on the BIG level, and I’m very happy to be here.
What are some things you like to do in your spare time—if that exists?
CW: On the road, it depends on how I’m feeling. I usually like to go out and sightsee, do the tourist thing, find a nice or cool restaurant…I’ll hit the gym or do yoga, that kind of stuff. I also like to see the places the local residents like to hang at or see, if there’s enough time. Then, some days I just like to hang in my room or on the bus and watch movies and old cartoons. Everyone should have some time to themselves out here at some point, you know?
Absolutely. Many people don’t realize all that comes with the job. There’s a lot more than just playing shows and riding in a tour bus. It’s vital to have opportunities to rest and recharge your batteries.
You seem like a really creative sort and very dedicated to your craft. Do you also write songs or enjoy playing any other instruments?
CW: I do, every now and then. Sometimes I pick up a guitar and nothing comes out, other times it just starts by playing along with albums and then my own riffs come from out of nowhere. It may last an hour, it may last five minutes but I always try to record them, even if it’s just audio on my phone. Sometimes it’s just one riff that may be good enough to keep, may be multiple parts for a song. I’ll back the idea up in a file and save it for later or find another idea that it works with and take it from there.
I also play a bit of bass and piano, as well as sing. I was an orchestral percussionist for years as well. Although I don’t keep up with much of that side any more, I still incorporate that knowledge and some of the techniques into my playing depending on the gig.
Interesting! Will you have some creative input with the band in the future? Endless possibilities come to mind… Or just see how that goes when the time comes?
CW: We’ll just have to feel everything out when we come to that point. I know how the guys work and have an idea how things are, but they’re also open to ideas and outside input so who knows? We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
What are some of your plans and dreams for the future?
CW: To keep playing music and seeing the world, doing what I love with good people around me. Keep “climbing the ladder”, ya know? I have lots of ideas and projects I’d like to take on at some point, but right now they’re just that.
I’d like to have a family someday. I’ve always been a big family person and have wanted to be a father for as far back as I can remember. There’s a lot that comes with this kind of lifestyle AND having a family, but I’ve grown up in and around this business and I know it can be done. Again, another bridge to cross when the time is right. :)
If anybody can juggle all that, I suspect you can! Christopher, it’s been great getting to know you and hearing your thoughts. Thanks much for taking the time to answer my questions. Wishing you happiness and continued success!
ACCEPT resume their 2015 Blind Rage tour in Europe on July 18 at Bang Your Head in Balingen, Germany. Keep up with Christopher and the band at these links: