Interview with ACCEPT Bassist Martin Motnik

                                                Photo by Scott Diuusa

By Mick Michaels

COSMICK VIEW: Hello, Martin! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it's greatly appreciated.
Martin Motnik: Thank you for having me!

CV: In the music world, artists come and go. Like David Lee Roth once said, “Here today, gone later today….” However, ACCEPT has continued to stand the test of time. What do you feel has separated ACCEPT from many other bands, from their contemporaries, over the last 40 plus years of the band’s career?
MM: You’re right! I’m from Germany, and when I was growing up ACCEPT have always been there. I remember having a bright yellow Judas Priest tour poster hanging on the wall, with ACCEPT being the opening act. It was that classic logo with the lion head. I hadn’t even started playing bass at that time, and they were one of Germany’s biggest bands; I think only the Scorpions were bigger. I never thought much about their success, they were just always there, like an institution. I always thought it must be luck that makes a band famous. But now that I’m a part of it I feel that it was a combination of things that contributed to the success. Besides catchy songs that people can relate to, it’s a strong work ethic, a fantastic management, a sense of family within the band, and the constant drive to improve. We record our concerts every night on multitrack, and Wolf reviews the show and sometimes tells us where we need to tighten up. It’s like a well-trained sports team that always wants to play better, in every match.

CV: How would you compare working with ACCEPT to other previous projects you have been involved with? Is there a level of distinction in your opinion?
MM: I remember playing Balls To The Wall and Losers and Winners in cover bands in my early twenties. So to be a part of a band that shaped my musical development is an honor and a challenge. Accept is different that even though I try to be as versatile as possible, I think I have had a certain style which I had to adjust when joining the band. I was always more of a finger style player and had the bass hanging up high, but I was politely asked if I could hang the bass low and play with a pick, and of course I do what the music needs (and what the boss wants, ha ha). Besides the adjusted playing style, I think the biggest distinction is that it’s not about virtuosity but accuracy and energy. Especially now with three guitars, there’s already a lot going on, so the music needs a solid foundation. Luckily we have Christopher Williams as our amazing drummer who makes it very easy to lock in with. He and I provide a solid backbone that the rest of the band can rely on.Also, I’ve played with some amazing and famous artists in the past, but to now be an official member of a renowned band is definitely an honor and different than “just” being a hired gun.

CV: “Too Mean to Die”is the new album from ACCEPT, set to release January 29th. Tell us a little about the album. What can fans expect and what are you hoping fans will take away after their first play through?
MM: My biggest hope is that people will think: “Wow, that’s a killer ACCEPT album! I want to listen to it again, right now!” I’m aware that some people will probably scrutinize the record since it will be the first one without Peter Baltes, and maybe expect a change in songwriting or performance. I have nothing but respect for Peter, he’s been a tremendous influence for metal music and bass players all over the world, and I commend him for a successful career in the music business. I’m honored to have gotten the chance to fill his shoes after he decided to leave the band, and I will always try my best to carry on his musical spirit. So I hope I was able to continue the energy and the familiar sound on “Too Mean To Die” like Peter had done on the previous album. I think we did a great job and I think the album is fantastic, and to play on it and even contribute to the songwriting was a huge honor and tons of fun! We’ve already gotten feedback from several writers and critics and they all said it’s a great album, and 100% ACCEPT. So I think the fans can look forward to some fantastic songs; new but familiar!

CV: Martin, your personal musical journey is one that has taken you around the world, performing, touring and recording with countless artists and bands and as a solo artist. As well, your website has made you a sought-after, freelance bass player. With so many accomplishments to your credit, are there still a number of things you find yourself striving to achieve, even amidst all your success?
MM: Wow, you really know how to make me sound impressive, haha! Can I hire you as my promoter? Well, there’s still a lot I want to accomplish, and as a musician there’s always more you can learn to expand your artistic horizon. There are a lot of countries I haven’t been to yet, where I would like to play and explore their culture as much as possible. I’ve only gotten started with ACCEPT and we still want to tour as much as possible, which is something I love doing. At home I get to record on a lot of songs in styles I’m not completely familiar with. That’s always a great chance to learn something new. Like right now I’m recording on an album of an up and coming R&B artist. He’s very inspired by D’Angelo whose bassist is Pino Palladino, a true bass playing legend. One key element of that music is that the groove is deliberately loose and not on the grid, but in a very precise way, if that makes any sense. I usually try to play as tight as possible, but here it’s about approaching rhythm in a different way, to feel the groove and to lose the metronome, but to still be locked in with the guitar and the drums. That’s a challenge I enjoy and that opens my mind. And as a solo artist I’m in the middle of recording a new album, since the last one with Gregg Bissonette was in 2005. It will focus again on bass, but will have some great guest musicians on it. I’m very excited about that! 

CV: Do you believe your diversity as an artist and musician has provided you the chance to reach a larger audience in your career, thus creating more opportunity?
MM: I think so. I always say the more music and styles you know the more you can make yourself valuable to other musicians. I’ve always regarded studio musicians as some of my biggest role models because they can just walk into a studio and play basically anything. That’s the level or proficiency I always wanted to achieve. I’ve played in many cover bands, for instance in Las Vegas and on cruise ships, where we played all kinds of music. Particularly on ships we would have themed nights, from Motown to country, R&B, disco, jazz, to Latin, and it all helped me to expand my musical repertoire. I’m not saying knowing so many styles is mandatory to make it in the business, but if you want to make a living as a musician it helps to be versatile. I kinda see myself as a musical service provider, and I want to be able to give whoever hires me the sound and playing they would like to hear. Ideally even better than what they’ve expected.

CV: Even prior to the COVID pandemic, many artists felt their shot to make a living playing music was near impossible at best. How do you feel the current music industry climate, aside from COVID restrictions, has impacted new and young artists and their opportunities to make a living creating and performing their music? Is there a need for concern? Are there greater odds than ever before in your opinion?
MM: That’s a tough question to answer because every situation is different. I feel like I’ve hit a jackpot by joining ACCEPT, since being in a globally successful band is a total rarity and a lucky strike. We’re still part of the previous generation of bands with a fanbase that buys physical albums, goes to concerts, buys merch, like it used to be. Today with streaming services it has become more difficult to survive based on music sales. That’s why touring is so much more important, and that’s where COVID really hit many artists hard. We’re all waiting for it to be over. But even when there’s no pandemic the situation is definitely different. I think the Internet is the poison and the cure. Now you have way more possibilities to reach fans directly, and virtually the whole world is your audience today. I think it’ll be way more important to be closer in touch with your fans, be personal and approachable. If you do that I think you can still be successful as an artist, depending on what your definition of success is. My definition is being able to spend the day doing what you want to do. In that regard I feel like I’ve made it.

CV: You currently hold dual citizenship in Germany and the United States. Are there pros and cons to being immersed in two distinct and different cultures?
MM: There’s an author whose writing I really like, his name is Bill Bryson. He’s a journalist and writes books about traveling. He’s American but he’s lived in England for many years, until he eventually moved back to New England (I guess he liked it better because it was newer – sorry, I forgot that Germans aren’t funny). He wrote about his move and the difference between the two countries, and he coined the phrase “when you move from one country to another, there will be things that are better, and there will be things that are worse, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” I can totally relate to that. It has been my dream to live in the United States since I was a teenager. I think it was because of American TV shows and movies that always made the U.S. look way cooler. Plus, I always admired American rock music and the L.A. scene of the 80s, and the musicians in those bands were my heroes. I visited many times until I finally made the move in 2008; I was able to stay for a year thanks to an artist visa I got by touring with Uli Jon Roth, and later I was able to apply for a Green Card. Musically, coming to America felt like coming home. At first I didn’t really think much about Germany, until I started to notice some difference that annoyed me a bit. Germans are very punctual and reliable, which is something that’s not as pronounced in the U.S., at least not between many musicians. Driving a car is a bit of a hassle in the States because drivers’ education is definitely better in Germany, but then again a driver license can easily cost you a couple of grand and more over there. The quality of the food in grocery stores is usually better and healthier in Europe, while at the same time being significantly cheaper. On the other side there’s way more red tape in Germany, the taxes are higher (although you do get health insurance and a low but guaranteed minimum pension), the people are way more open for spontaneous conversations in the United States, and depending on where you live the weather is warmer in America which I like. In the beginning after my move I wasn’t able to visit Germany very often, but now I’m able to travel back regularly, especially now when we tour Europe with ACCEPT. So I feel I get the best of both worlds now.

CV: How would you define self-expression as it relates to your bass playing? Is it a unique way of communicating for you?
MM: I’ve never really seen playing bass as a way to communicate. I feel music itself is communication, and I’m playing an important part in that. Although bassists are often not seen as that important since it’s usually the singers and guitar players who get the spotlight. But as Victor Wooten said, the bass is like the foundation of a house; nobody walks into a beautiful house and says “wow, that’s a nice foundation!” But without the foundation the whole house would collapse. As a bass player you have to find the validation of your job within yourself and the music that is being created as a team. I often say you’re not supposed to notice the bass until it drops out (or if there’s a wrong note…). At any rate, I get my satisfaction when I see people dancing, or headbanging or tapping their feet, depending on the gig. If that happens I know I did my job well.

CV: If you had to describe your career so far, using only three words, what would they be?
MM: Wow, three words? Hmm.. maybe: Great so far!

CV: What's next for you following the new album's release? What can fans expect to see coming from ACCEPT as 2021 soldiers on?
MM: We do have several festivals on our calendar and I’m still hopeful that we’re able to play at least the majority of them. We were supposed to be on tour already with the new album, but that has been postponed. So I hope that we’ll at least be able to perform when summer rolls around. If the pandemic lasts much longer then that I don’t know yet what’s gonna happen. I guess we’ll have to continue to wait which would be a bummer, but we’re all in the same situation. Let’s hope the vaccine is available soon, and that in the meantime people are responsible by wearing their masks, washing their hands, and not getting more people sick. I’m fairly optimistic that we’ll be on stage at least a few times this year. Everybody is hungry for live music.

CV: Thank you again Martin for spending some time talking and sharing with our readers. I wish you all the best and continued success.
MM: Thank you very much! Stay happy and healthy!

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My name is Mick Michaels...I'm an artist, music fan, songwriter, producer, show host, dreamer and guitarist for the traditional Heavy Metal band Corners of Sanctuary. Writing has always been a creative outlet for me; what I couldn't say in speech, I was able to do with the written word.  Writing has given me a voice and a way for me to create on a multitude of platforms including music and song, articles, independent screenplays, books and now, artist interviews. The Cosmick View is an opportunity to raise the bar and showcase artists in a positive and inspirational light. For me, it's another out-of-this-world adventure.

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