I’d like to know your opinion on your guitaring skills and if you have any methods?
W: “I don’t think I really have a method – it really comes as second nature to me at this point in life. I guess I’ve been playing for so long and writing songs for so many years, it’s nothing I actively think about much any more. For me, the challenge is always to come up with something that I find exciting and if I find it exciting, then hopefully other people would too. You know, after you’ve written hundreds of songs in your life, of course it doesn’t get easier to come up with something that’s totally typical, but at the same time something new that you find yourself exciting.
So that’s why it sometimes takes many weeks and months to write these songs. In this case it took us the better part of last year, Peter and I were sitting there for months at a time.”
How does a song come together?
W: “It’s a little different each time. The Rise Of Chaos for instance for the longest time was just an empty riff song. It was just really almost like a jam session with a bunch of riffs and I had this just sitting there for a long, long time never really knowing what to do with it and I tried several other approaches. First of all where to sing and what to sing. And finally we came up with that line The Rise Of Chaos and it seemed to fit the spirit of these riffs, because they’re all very wild and a bit crazy in parts.
So The Rise Of Chaos was something that grabbed our attention. Other times it’s hook lines, like we’re talking about with Analog Man. It’s a saying that’s been around the band for years ’cause Mark has always been bitching about technology when things go wrong. He’s always been saying ‘I’m an analog man trapped in a digital world’, so we thought ‘wow that’s cool, we should just write a song’. So, with that in mind you sit there and think how you can sing that, what’s a good phrasing, what’s a good tempo, what’s a good riff to go with it.
But most of the time it’s the music first, where you have some sort of riffing and some groove and a drum beat. And you find that exciting and then you start thinking what to sing on that, ’cause it goes hand in hand. One without the other doesn’t help at all.”
How was working with Andy Sneap again?
W: “Oh it’s great! He’s like an old brother, he’s part of the team at this point. We didn’t really want to change any of that because we knew it works. We really wanted to concentrate on the songs and the material and not on any of the peripherals.”
Indeed on The Rise Of Chaos you were loyal to the ACCEPT traditional metal style, but I can say that you made it a little different this time with some elements – it’s more melodic, especially in the riffs and solos and song structures.
W: “It really just so happens. You can never go out and say to yourself ‘ok I want to make an album that’s 20% different and 30% the same’, it just doesn’t work that way. You just write the best songs you can and they shape up in a certain way. It just takes on a life of its own and leads you to do different things, until one day you arrive at something that you like. And you do that many times over until you have a complete album.
It’s only now the album is finished and people hear it with fresh ears and they’re telling me it’s this or that and I always have to say ‘ok I have to take it for what it is’, it wasn’t planned that way.”
Since 2010 when you returned to the business, it’s obvious that your lyrics are now more adult, more serious and more about the world today in a direct manner unlike the days of ‘Fast as a Shark’.
W: “It’s usually Peter and myself together exchanging ideas, demo stuff. It can be quite funny sometimes (laughs). Sooner or later we’re looking at lyrical content and what inspires us. We have a cheat sheet of many hook lines and ideas and we go through that and see what’s best.
Those are usually based on stuff we find interesting that comes up in conversation and stuff we see on the news. We’re not doing fantasy because we have no interest in fantasy. Actual events or occurences right now.”
So let’s talk about the lyrics….
“Mark writes the lyrics, Peter and I usually just have a title or a hook line then we say ‘we’ve got a song called The Rise Of Chaos, here it is Mark. Write whatever comes to mind, whatever it means to you.’ I’m not involved in the actual writing and meaning of the lyrics that much.”
So let’s talk about the ‘Night to Remember’ at Wacken – are you excited about it?
W: “Very excited – this is the first time we’re gonna be onstage with an orchestra, it’s gonna be crazy.
It’s the first time that I’m gonna play songs from my solo album Headbangers Symphony. And it’s the first time you’re ever gonna hear Accept songs that you’ve heard before, but they’re gonna be completely differently arranged for the orchestra. I think it’s gonna sound killer.”
Accept seems to be built to create flames on stage and I know very well that you love to be on it, so can you tell me what is magical about it and if you have particular memories?
W: “It’s just something that’s unlike anything else in life. Just being out there in front of people and just playing songs and everyone reacting to them. It’s an unforgetting feeling, it’s almost like a drug – once you’ve had it, you want it again and again and more of it, it’s crazy man. I don’t know that there’s anything else in life that compares to it, at least I haven’t found it.
It’s an amazing feeling to start a riff and everybody recognises it and arms are flying in the air, people are singing along – it’s goosebump material right there. It’s just an amazing feeling.
I’m not interested in perfection, I’m just trying to get there and realising that nothing ever can be perfect, you take it for what it is. It’s why people like live shows – we’re not trying to have the kind of show where everything is choreographed and scripted and everything runs off a laptop, because there are performers nowadays where everything is basically run by a computer and they’re just lip synching along and moving to a scripted show. Not so much in metal. I think metal is something that’s made by humans and humans have their own characteristics and they perform slightly different every night – that’s why not every show is 100% the same.”
My next question might sound a bit silly, but it’s something that concerns me – do you think about retirement?
W: “No – because I’ve been retired already. I came out of retirement to start this whole thing again. I know what retirement is like and this is much more exciting, why would I look forward to retirement? (laughs)”
I would like to know what is the most interesting thing about heavy metal for you?
W: “It’s the fan connection I believe. It’s a very unique metal thing, where you have such a strong (or we as metal bands) loyal followers.In our case, they’ve been following us for years and years, decades really. I think it’s something quite unusual in the music world, where a lot of times it’s here today and gone tomorrow. The metal community is so loyal and so long term and this is something quite unique. I’m very aware of it and I think it’s fantastic.
It’s such a gratifying feeling to see that fans are listening to albums or songs we wrote thirty or forty years ago. If we make an album today, The Rise Of Chaos, who knows, it might be around twenty or thirty years from now, people might still be listening to it.
That’s why we have such a respect for what we do and for the fans, because it’s got such a long staying power. So we wanna be super careful not to release something that won’t stand the test of time.”