Any heavy metal fan of worth knows the name, Wolf Hoffman. Wolf has been instrumental, ignore the pun, in developing techniques of heavy metal guitar work and song writing, that have been emulated over and over by latter generations of guitarists. He obviously is known for being the founding member, principle songwriter and driving force behind Accept, but he is also a connoisseur and amazing source on classical music.
Twenty years ago he released his debut solo album, Classical (1997), where he dabbled in classical pieces, bringing them to life with his metal signature sound and tones. This album was well received despite its poor promotion from Sony BMG at the time of its release. It is an album that has actually ignited a lot of discussion over its twenty year life span amongst fans, and by many, appeared to be an anomaly amongst the metal anthemic back catalogue of Accept. However, if you listen closely to the arrangements and melodic subtleties of Accept’s work, right from the 1970s, classical music and phrasing is not only prevalent but a staple within the music.
But now, fast forwarding to 2016, Wolf has released another solo album, a re-working of classical masterpieces, entitled Headbangers Symphony. On this album Wolf has taken his love of classical music to a whole new level, not only reworking classical pieces but reinventing them with his metal guitar sound. I was lucky to catch up with Wolf after listening to the album to explore where it all had come from
Wolf, the Headbangers Symphony is definitely a metal album, intertwined with the essence of what these classical songs represent. How did you go about arranging the layers of guitar work on the album?
“This has been a product brewing over many years actually. I found a collaborator, Melo Mafali who is a string arranger and pianist. He is the classical fan behind this with a love of metal and I am the metal fan with a love for classical music. Se we just went through a bunch of songs that I had collected over a couple of year that I knew I could translate to electric guitar but beyond this there was no rhyme or reason to it to be honest.”
I have read that this album has been an ongoing project for some time, so did you time its release for now, or was it just that you have recently completed it?
“Well both really. I thought, recently I have been sitting here and now that Accept is taking a little break from touring that it was the perfect time to finish it and release it. So with no new Accept album on the horizon for this year it was a great time to release the solo project.”
A number of metal guitarists have released classical albums, how do you see Headbangers Symphony, different to those that have been released by other guitarists in the past?
“Honestly I don’t listen to those other projects that are out there. But what I tried to do with the songs is about the feeling of the piece and the song writing. This is not about the virtuosity of the guitarist. I wanted the orchestra to have a lot of room and to have ground to expand and really contribute and at times where appropriate drive the pieces. I didn’t want it to be a guitar players album and I can happily say it isn’t.”
How did your passion for classical music develop, was this your first interest in music or was it heavy metal and hard rock first?
“It was heavy metal and hard rock first, definitely. Then in my early twenties I discovered classical music. First of all the big names Mozart, Tchaikovsky and then on to Beethoven, it was really a step by step thing. I am not what I would call an expert but someone with a love of this music and a person who really appreciates it.”
So where to from here with your passion for classical music, is this something that you will continue in further releases or projects?
“Maybe at this rate I might live long enough to release other albums, I wouldn’t rule it out. This is something that I enjoy that is a part of my life and there is so much more out there for me to explore and interpret as a musician.”
This album has been collaborated with musician and composer, Melo Mafali, you did mention him earlier, but what can you tell us about him and your working relationship?
“That was many years ago actually after the release of my first solo album Classical. I was in Germany back then and we met when this album was released. He approached me that he likes the idea of classical and metal joining and he said if you ever need string arrangements in the future, please give me a call. So when this album was beginning I tried to find people to work with and he was the man you know. I looked him up, which took some time, and I found he had moved to Italy. So we talked and he was keen and we got together. His is amazing, perfect for this project, an amazing musician and arranger. I hope we can work together again some time.”
Are there any other musicians, metal or classical, that you would like to collaborate in the future on a solo or side project?
“I don’t know any to be quite honest. I am sure that other people are into this and are doing it but as I said earlier I haven’t actually sort any other material like this out. I guess I would have to say no at this stage but if someone came along that I gelled with it is a possibility.”
Are there any plans to take this concept on the road?
“Yeah that is the next step now that the album is finally out it. The logical step would be to take it on the stage. At this point we are getting ideas and I can already tell that it is quite complicated so there might be a special occasion when we can present it live but as for a tour, logistically, this would not be viable unfortunately.”
So , finally, to end our interview, what does Wolf listen to when he is at home and off tour, do you listen to more heavy music or classical or are there other genres that you listen to?
“It is strictly classical if it is for my own enjoyment. Anytime that I want to listen to something it is classical. Turn the stereo on, sit back, relax and take it all in. This is my time and this is when I tune in to music the most.”
Wolf is an amazing musician and an extremely modest and humble human being. On some levels it is hard to believe that the mastermind behind Accept is a classical music genius, but when you think about it on a deeper level, it makes perfect sense as stated earlier. Wolf’s Headbangers Symphony is released through Nuclear Blast on the 1st of July and for any metal fan, let along Accept fan, it is well worth a listen.
Interview By Mark Snedden