by Randy W Skanes
Hello Metal Church! Thanks for agreeing to take the time to do this interview with us here at Metalheads Forever Magazine. It’s an absolute treat to have the opportunity to chat with a group that’s had such an interesting and impactful career.
Kurdt, you started off playing with a punk band called The Lewd before you decided to forge Metal Church. What were some differences in the style of music you were playing with them versus the kind of music you started writing for Church? What inspired you to start writing music in the vein of Metal Church in the first place? Where did the name Metal Church come from?
Well the main reason I went from the Punk thing to metal was the fact that it had the same energy and attitude but had a more musical skill level that really appealed to me. And also with the metal thing you could incorporate more of the fun elements to the shows and the presentation that you really couldn’t do with the Punk thing. The inspiration came from the new wave of British heavy metal. It was just was exactly what I wanted to do at that time.
Kurdt, in 1980 Metal Church started off in San Francisco but quickly relocated to Aberdeen Washington. What was the reasoning behind that move? Do you feel location had an impact on the level of opportunity and exposure a band could receive at that time? If so do you feel that location is still a major factor today in the wake of social media and the accessibility of the internet?
I moved back to Aberdeen after repeated attempts to Metal Church going. I had a hard time finding musicians that wanted to do it and that didn’t have drug problems. So coming back here I knew musicians that I could actually get something stable going. Guys I played with in and after highschool etc.. And at that time the New Wave thing was the ‘Cool” thing to do so it was kinda hard.
What was the musical community like at that time? I know you were playing shows with the guys from Metallica and Megadeth. Was there a sense of comradery between the bands at all? Were you guys sharing music and ideas or was it more of a competitive scene where each band was trying to cut their own piece out of the pie? Have the attitudes of those days changed at all over the years leading into the present day? Do you think a sense of community is important for a band that is just starting off?
It was definitely a community vibe for sure! We were and still are friends. Attitudes haven’t really changed at all as far as I can see. I think it’s very important to have a sense of community when you’re starting off. Especially when you are part of new “movement”.
Over the years you guys seemed to be almost plagued by lineup changes, from guitarists to vocalists and pretty much everyone in between save for Kurdt. How does that affect the dynamic of the band? What are some of the challenges and rewards when it comes to facing that situation as a band? Had you ever considered changing the band’s name during those lineup changes?
Its very hard to keep momentum when you have line up changes. But sometimes it is the only way the band can survive. Before Mike came back I was thinking of calling the band something different or just throwing in the towel with Metal Church. I didn’t feel there was a 4 th singer for MC. But Mike came back and the band is stronger and better than ever.
In 2014 you guys released Generation Nothing. Shortly after the album came out the singer quit the band, and Kurdt, you decided to call on an old friend to come pray at the Church with you again. What inspired you to not only keep Metal Church alive but to also reunite with Mike Howe? And to that point, Mike, I understand that it took some convincing before you did agree to rejoin the group. Where was that hesitation coming from and what finally got you to say yes to the whole idea?
Bringing Mike back was the only way I could see that MC would continue. Fortunately Mike and I had been in contact about a week prior to the other singer leaving. He was hesitant because of the way the business was when he left the band in the early 90s. When he and I spent some time discussing the new music biz and informing him of how we did business nowadays. He also wanted to make sure that the new material would be great. After all that was sorted out he decided to come back.
It has been well documented that over the years you guys have had some serious disputes with record labels and the way in which the music industry was running. You’ve been with both independent and major labels throughout your career. What do you feel are the pros and cons of being with a major label vs being with an independent label? How do you guys do things today? Do you feel that the way the industry runs has changed at all and if so, in what ways?
Back in the day, being on a major label was the only way to ‘make It” but now with the new way of doing things it’s much more direct artist to fans now. Working with Rat Pak Records is the perfect way to do things for a band like us. We make the records, they sell them. Its very simple. All other decisions we make together and with one call as opposed to having to deal with a bunch of corporate crap. They are great and we are very happy with the way things are now. And we can keep going as long as we feel we want to.
One of the things that makes Metal Church such an attractive entity is how well the vocals and lyrics meld with your overall sound. I was wondering what your writing process is like. Do you already have the music ready to go and present it to Mike to work his lyrics around what he is given or are you all actively involved in the writing process? If so, Mike, what inspires your lyrics and as a lyricist do you find it challenging to navigate your word choice based on the confines of the musical structure? Do you ever feel like you have to edit what you are saying slightly to fit the music or does it all seem to come together naturally?
I write the music and demo it. I send it to Mike and he starts getting his ideas together then we collaborate on the melodies etc.. I give the demo’s to the rest of the band and they put their stamp on the parts and make suggestions and present their ideas to all the material. We do have to edit the lyrics to make it musically fit the song but we don’t really edit the subject matter. Melody is very important to Metal Church and I feel that that is the main thing that separates us from most of our contemporaries . Some people don’t care for that but to me, the music HAS to be melodic. It can still be aggressive and loud etc… but it must be musical.
Earlier this year you guys added the 11th installation to your discography. I’ve had the opportunity to listen to it a few times, and I have to say that you have delivered a truly classic piece of modern media. I was wondering what was the inspiration and creed so-to-speak behind this particular album?
It was to do the best possible heavy metal album that we could do. The inspiration came from Mike’s return and the new injection of life he brought to the band. His vibe and personality really changed the whole feel within the band. He is just s good soul and we are lucky to have him back and in such good form.
In the wake of social media, music as a medium has become widely more accessible. I’ve heard stories of Canadian bands hitchhiking from city to city to get the albums that weren’t available in their hometowns back in the ‘80’s. That is obviously no longer the case. Do you think that this change in distribution and accessibility has affected the industry for the better or for the worse?
Yes it has definitely changed the entire way of doing business. It took me a long time to appreciate and get a feel for the new way of doing things but now I love it. The down side is obviously the piracy but the good outweighs the bad. No more Major label filters to contend with and no more groveling for a record deal etc.. We are in control now. We don’t make nearly as much money from record sales but you don’t need to sell as much to make the money if you do it yourself.
2016 has been a big year for you guys. Not only did you drop XI but you’ve also been doing quite a bit of touring and playing quite a few shows. In August you had an incredible set at Wacken and you guys just finished up touring with Megadeth and Suicidal Tendencies just this past October. How do you find being on the road after all these years? Is it a much different experience? What can we expect from Metal Church heading into 2017? Do you have any big tours coming up or any other projects in the works?
We laugh about how different being on the road is now. But that’s only because we are a bunch of old guys LOL The party days have long gone. We now enjoy it for what it is. I am so very very grateful; to still be doing this after all these years and to be having so much to look forward too. I have just started writing new material for the follow up to XI . And we will be doing some more road work after the new year.
Well, thanks again for taking the time to chat with us here at Metalheads Forever Magazine. You guys have had an incredible career with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. I’m excited to see what you’ll be doing next. In closing is there anything else you’d like to add to the conversation?
Metal Church is TRULY grateful for all the support and the fans sticking with us all these years. It’s not lost on us in any way shape or form. We Love all of you!
Randy W Skanes / Metalheads Forever Magazine