Mark Tornillo has been the vocalist for Accept since 2009. In those eight years, he’s been the front man over a four-album run that is arguably the strongest in the band’s history. He’s well past having anything to prove, to the new generation of fans, he IS the singer of Accept and the older fans have also embraced him and the music the band is making now. So, it’s a relaxed and happy Mark that joined us for a chat about their newest album, Rise of Chaos
Mark is no longer the new member of Accept, with Herman Frank and Stefan Schwarzmann both stepping away from Accept since the last album. Mark explains what impact this had on the band. “I don’t think it made a whole lot of difference in the studio. Christopher (Williams) is an amazing drummer, which sped things up”. The most important point was that “everyone gets along so well now and it’s just so easy. A band is like a marriage and there’s often drama, but right now, there doesn’t seem to be any.” When Mark says that this is ‘quite refreshing and we’re all enjoying it’, it leaves the impression that perhaps there had been some drama leading up to this change.
Wolf (Hoffman, guitarist) has stated in interviews that the cover and title concept are based on is concerns for the direction the world is going on. He’s talked about the refugee crisis and global warming as things of concern to him. At least one other song, ‘Race to Extinction’, explores these ideas as well. Mark was happy to expand on his thoughts on the concept. “That’s a song we were tossing around with different ideas, and struggling to find something that worked for the song. When Wolf came up with the title it all gelled, and I took the ball and ran with it from there.” Does this mean that Accept typically writes music first and words later? Not always. “It’s always different, sometimes we start out with a lyric idea, or a title, or even a riff. We come at it from different directions and try to roll with it”.
Writing seems to be something that happens all the time for Accept. “It’s an ongoing process, it sure was on this last run. We were in the studio before we went out and recorded a lot of this record, but we had to finish it up before touring. We were really woodshedding out on the road. Wolf had his laptop and he was recording stuff while we were out there. I was writing out there, for sure. It’s a lot easier when you’re not touring, but you gotta do what you gotta do”.
The song ‘Koolaid’ (which has had a lyric video release) is about the Jim Jones cult and their mass suicide. Mark was happy to expand on where this idea came from. “The concept was something Gaby (Hoffman, band manager) came up with”. Mark says he wasn’t sure how to approach the idea, and that’s why he decided to try speaking in the first person. He says “it’s a different kind of song for us but you have to take a chance here or there and I like it.” He obviously did his homework, and encourages people to read up about it because what happened was just crazy. “An American governor and some of the families came to pick people up and it was just crazy, there’s only two verses, but I tried to squeeze in the whole story”. But that is where that phrase came from, “don’t drink the Koolaid”.
Now that Accept have a strong history of recent work, but also a huge catalogue of classic songs, it’s hard for them to work out what songs to play live. Mark agrees, it’s a ‘tough one, and with each new record, it gets tougher and tougher’. He says the set is about half and half, old and new. With a new tour coming up he says they are ‘talking about what older songs to do that we haven’t played in a while, or perhaps not played live at all”. Of course, there’s also songs from the new album to choose, but he says with that “some songs don’t seem to click live and you don’t know until you try it”. Apparently, ‘Blood of the Nations’ was a song they looked forward to playing live and it just ‘didn’t work’ in a live setting. Other songs like “Burning”, he says can be used for an encore, but they “just get tired”.
One of the great songs on the new CD is called ‘Analog Man’, a song about being old school in a digital world. It seemed to us that this song was also talking about the stuff that attracts people to metal, the live shows, the merch, the box sets, the festivals, all things very different to the world of people for whom music is just an mp3 on their phone. There’s certainly teenagers discovering this world and going to see bands like Accept. Does Mark agree that metal is successful because it is real in those ways? Yes, totally. “The metal community is more down-to-earth than any other. Where-ever we go in the world, you know when you’re getting close to where you’re going because everyone has long hair and black t-shirts. Nothing has changed there”. And, on the theme of being an Analog Man, he points out that ‘vinyl is selling better than ever. They’re going to stop making CDs now’. Where did the title came from? Mark says he would “say that constantly”, when things get too technical he says “look: analog man”. We put forward the idea that Accept should make merch that says ‘old school son of a bitch’. Mark said he likes it, so we’ll look for that.
Accept are about to play Wacken (Open Air, Festival) with an orchestra, and Wolf has done two solo classical CDs. Of course, everyone knows that the solo in ‘Metal Heart’ contains a classical piece (it’s Fur Elise). Can Mark relate to the idea of Accept having a strong classic influence, even today? He says that it’s Wolf whose classical influence permeates the entire band, although Christopher (new drummer) is also classically trained. He continues “I was classically trained, I did 9 years of classical piano as a kid, I played in orchestras”. “We’re really looking forward to the Wacken show. You can hear Wolf’s love of classical music in all of the music, in songs like ‘Princess of the Dawn’”. He says Wolf writes ‘all those guitar melodies’, but they all pitch in on the vocal melodies.
‘The Rise of Chaos’ is out on August 4 and Accept play Melbourne, Australia on September 17. Anyone who made the last show will tell you, this is a band firing on all cylinders and a show not to be missed. The new CD is also highly recommended, with a box set still available direct from Nuclear Blast as well as standard releases.