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Mike Howe Metal Church - Interview
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MIKE HOWE

METAL CHURCH


Metal Church

The return of Mike Howe on vocals in Metal Church was a big win not only for the fans but for the band as well. Their latest album "XI" charted the best since 1993's "Hanging In The Balance" which ironically was the last album to feature Mike as the frontman for the now veteran heavy metal band from San Francisco. We caught up with Mike himself during a break from their touring schedule to discuss his return to the band and the new songs in which he was excited to release.

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Andrew: First of all, are you guys on the road on tour at the moment?

Mike: No I actually just got home from tour Sunday 4 days ago so we're having a little break here.

Andrew: How has the tour been going so far?

Mike: Well we just had 3 weeks in the midwest and east coast and it went great! We had an awesome reception and the fan reunion was just better than we could of ever expected.

Andrew: How does it feel to be back in the band after all these years?

Mike: It's surreal, it feels amazing! I'm a 50 year old guy reliving his youth in a big way and also in a way of a 'mature' way where I can appreciate it in a much better way than I was when I was 22 so I'm a very lucky man.

Andrew: I know that Kurdt (Vanderhoof, guitar) had asked you to come back in the band but how did that whole thing sort of happen?

Mike: He had gotten a hold of me because Ronny (Munroe, ex-vocals) their last singer was leaving the band so he was a little at the end of his rope as far as Metal Church went and he didn't have it in him to search out a fourth singer for Metal Church and go through that whole thing again and start over. So it was kind of a last hope for Kurdt to call me and try to coax me into coming back and giving it one more shot. When he called me, I was still in the mind of 'No not really into that Kurdt, when I was done I was done', but I have much respect for Kurdt and I felt that I really owed him for what he had done for me in my life and my career to at least listen to him and talk. We had several talks about how things had changed in the music industry, the reasons why I left and my station in life now and how things have changed and how we could work it out in a modern day with technology and no pressures from management and record companies which kind of spoiled it for us in the past and we kind of took it from there. Took it step by step and did the record, wrote it and recorded it and mixed it all by ourselves and that was something we hadn't done in the past, is put out a product that was unencumbered by outside influences and we can be proud of something that we made as an art form and put it out there good, bad or indifferent to the fans and let them make their choice whether they like what we did.

Andrew: Was that the biggest difference from last time, not having those external influences coming from the outside? Or what were some of the other changes that happened?

Mike: That was the main big one and I'm gonna reiterate because I know I went a bit fast there. But just being able to get back to a point of creativity, the chemistry that Kurdt and I had in our 20's, reinvigorating that. He sent songs to me over the internet and I listened to them and just by me saying, 'Kurdt, I'm interested in coming back if we can write some great songs', it really motivated him to excel and try to do his best. He wrote a bunch of songs with my vocal style in mind and sent them to me and what I heard really excited me because I really felt that Kurdt still had his magic in his writing. A lot of song writers kind of dry up on their ideas over the years and I felt that Kurdt was really still fresh in hs ideas and what a great riff writer and song writer so I was like, 'This is very interesting, I'm going to keep going on this'. And that's how we took it, baby steps at a time saying, 'This is good, let's take the next step. Now let's write some more, this is good. Now I'm going to come up there and start singing melodies on what we have'. And that worked well and we were having a good time, a fun time in the studio like we were young again and there was nobody else on the planet but he and I just writing music together having fun. I believe that's what carried us through this whole album to where we are now, we're focusing on just enjoying music like we did when we were young.




Andrew: So it was important to enjoy the process as well and not have negative influences and negative feelings and all that stuff I guess.

Mike: Exactly. When you're a band trying to survive and make money in your 20's and there's a record company and management company all trying to shape you in a way that they think you should be, it's very frustrating and you have regrets about letting them do certain things that you didn't believe in. Just to point one example out of many straws as I put them, that broke my cows back in the end, was the record cover for "Hanging In The Balance" which was to me very embarrassing and it was something I did not want to have go out. But at 20 something years old, I did not have the strength in me to stop that and in hindsight I wish I could of stood up for myself and make sure that did not happen but now that Kurdt and I are older and back together, things like that will never be out of our control and we will present ourselves exactly how we want to be presented and that's a very important thing to us. So we're very happy to be in this stage in our life in this kind of control of our destiny.

Andrew: Yeah that is good to hear! This album has done really well hitting the charts, Billboard has hit number 57 or something like that and you haven't hit the charts like that since, funnily enough, the last album that you were actually on which is a coincidence or not maybe? Or maybe that's in part to the fact that you're on the album again but it's great to see!

Mike: It's a very rewarding feeling. Kurdt and I have talked about this, that it kind of vindicates you. We feel that the way we want to present the band and the way we want us to sound is what people respond to and it's very rewarding to feel like 'Yeah we did it the way we wanted to and it's being received well', so it makes us feel great.

Andrew: Yeah it must feel great to still have success like that so congratulations on that!

Mike: Thank you! It's sort of like vindicating something that you left unfinished when you were younger, you walk away proud of what you done but also a bit bummed that you were not in control as much as you should of been. And then you come back and you get a chance like this which is an unbelievable chance and you can kind of vindicate yourself, I think you kind of finish some unfinished business in your life.

Andrew: Let's go through some of the songs on the album. I really dig this album, obviously it has the trademark Metal Church sound but there's a lot of groove on this album. There's a song called "Needle & Suture" which has got to be my favorite song, it has such a cool beat to it. Do you have any favorites on there at all?

Mike: Well that one right there that you just said is one of my favorites, "Needle & Suture". Yeah that chunking of the guitar and that was the purpose of the style was to try and get some heavy riffing going with melodic choruses going over it and trying different things that feel good to us and that one hit a home run for me. "No Tomorrow" was one of my favorite at the beginning, that's why we did a video for it. But they're all like you're babies, you have a special place in your heart for all of them. "Shadow" I love that song as well.

Andrew: How many of these songs are you playing on tour at the moment?

Mike: We are playing 3 of them right now but I'd love to play more. That's what excites me and that's what I told Kurdt when we first started this project is, it's not a nostalgic thing for me. I really love the music we've done and I'm proud of it but if I'm coming back, I'm in it for new music and the new voyage of Metal Church and that's what excites me. All these new songs is what is motivating me right now.




Andrew: Obviously you have a huge back catalogue to pick from so it must be quite difficult to pick out songs and to fit in some of the new ones as well.

Mike: Yeah it is difficult and we say how lucky are we to have this problem!

Andrew: Yeah it's a good problem to have I suppose isn't it [laughs].

Mike: Exactly! A great problem to have [laughs].

Andrew: Will there be any chance for you guys to come down to Australia at any point at all?

Mike: We would love so much to come to Australia, you can't even know! But it's all about the powers that be and putting out tentacles to see what kind of reception we'll have down there and if it can get us over there monetarily. That is always the bottom line in the business of course so we're definitely putting those vibes out and hopefully a booking agency can hook us up with coming down there.

Andrew: Well someone has to do something as I have been a fan for a number of years and never seen you guys live so it's been quite unfortunate that you guys can't come to Australia. Hopefully someone will read this and do a lot of press for you guys and get you guys down here as I know there's a lot of Metal Church fans in Australia, always has been so I think you guys would do really well down here.

Mike: I would love to do really well down there [laughs].

Andrew: [laughs] Well congratulations on the new album, I'm really happy for your success and welcome back to the band as well, it's great to see! Thanks for your time today, it's really appreciated.

Mike: Andrew, thank you so much. It's appreciated that you would take the time to support our band.


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Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on April 15th 2016