During this years Dynamo Metal Fest I had the chance to talk to Metal Church's Kurdt Vanderhoof and Mike Howe who recently returned to the mighty metal institution. The band came from Balingen, Germany where they performed at Bang Your Head, before coming over to The Netherlands. Everybody has been in a good mood, looking forward to a great show. Read here what Kurdt and Mike had to say about the new album, some pressure connected to success and the fact that both musicians are together on stage for the first time.
Markus' Heavy Music Blog: Hej guys, first of all thank you for finding a few minutes for Markus' Heavy Music Blog. You guys released your new album "XI" a few months ago and it has been a huge success. Did you expect all of this very positive feedback - for the album but also for Mike being back in the band?
Kurdt: Well, we knew it was going be 'new' and we knew that people were going to be excited, but we didn't know it was going to be like this. It's pretty amazing.
MHMB: Did this positive resonance put any extra pressure on you.
Kurdt: I did the music and we were demoing the songs. Mike and myself, we sent the songs back and forth. The pressure was modest at that time and that was the great thing about it. All the response was after the record was done. So, we just knew that people would actually pay attention to what we did, but we didn't let it affect us this time. We were just happy to work together again and wanted to make the record that we were trying to make for a while.
Mike: We purposely started this project saying "we're not a band yet". We were just trying to write some new songs, do a record and take one step at a time, seeing how it goes. That was one way to keep the pressure off ourselves.
Kurdt: We did the announcement that was is back in the band when the record was basically written and we knew that we had a good one. He didn't even decide till we knew that we had a good record. So there was no pressure. But now it's the next record, OMG (laughing).
MHMB: Indeed, now expectations are pretty high.
Kurdt: True, now I'm doomed (laughing again).
Mike: But seriously, in the meantime we are old enough. We don't feel the pressure; we just do it for the fans and hopefully they like it.
MHMB: "XI" has a certain ease. It doesn't feel forced or like 'we have to it'. Is this because Mike is back or was there more?
Kurdt: It was definitely different for me, because the Mike Howe era of Metal Church was much more rock'n'roll and much more melodic than the David Wayne era, something that actually appeals to me much more. So, the prospect of Mike coming back allowed me to write songs that are much more in a vein, in a style, that is still heavy and 100% Metal Church, but leaning more towards rock'n'roll, which was very exciting for me. It was really great for me to write from this aspect.
MHMB: Mike, you have been out of the music business for many years. Actually since you left Metal Church in the 90s you haven't been part of any band. How is it to literally be back in the spotlight after all those years without being on stage?
Mike: It feels fantastic.
MHMB: That's great. Was it a big change for you or did it feel more like something natural?
Mike: It was surprisingly natural. It's like riding bike. You get back on and your memories, your muscle memories and all that comes back. You just feel like a kid again. That's also what we get back from the fans saying "You make us feel like we are 20 again", something that goes for us too.
MHMB: Looking at the setlist, you're focussing more on the earlier releases plus the new album.
Kurdt: Yes, we are focussing more on the Mike Howe era, that's right.
MHMB: Thinking about 'Dynamo' and 'Eindhoven', you guys had some good shows here. The 1991 concert was even released as a VHS video. How does it feel to be back?
Mike: It feels great. It's not the same place, that's the thing for me, but, playing music festivals in Eindhoven is a great thing. I'm ready and I'm very excited about it.
MHMB: Speaking of live recordings, there aren't that many live releases from Metal Church. Do you think that we can expect a live album / DVD in the near future?
Kurdt: That's right, there are no proper ones out there. It was more like fulfilling contract obligations and it wasn't like 'great'. I would love to do a proper double real live album and we talked about it. But the timing for that is very important and we have to make sure that the moment is right for such a release. Anyhow, I would love to do it and we'll know when it's the right moment.
MHMB: Kurdt and Mike, it's the first time that you're together on stage. In the first Mike Howe era, Kurdt you were more a crucial player behind the scenes.
Kurdt: That was actually another inspiration for us, because this time we made a record and we have to play these songs together on stage.
Mike: It feels great for you to recognise this question because most of the time we bring this up.
MHMB: One of the reasons I'm asking this is because I have the feeling that very often it is important to have a guitarist and singer on an equal level, something you guys represent too. Does this have such an important impact on a band and the music?
Mike: Yes, it's the chemistry that is important.
Kurdt: Yes, definitely. Of course we are a band and everybody puts their stamp on it, but maybe it affects the initial part of writing new songs when Mike and I are collaborating together.
MHMB: Kurdt, how about Vanderhoof? I liked the two albums you released, but is it frozen forever or are you thinking about another release?
Kurdt: No, it's not frozen at all. The Vanderhoof thing turned into Presto Ballet, which was a natural progression. That's my 70's rock ideas that I need to get out of my system and then it morphed into the prog-rock thing. Actually we are hoping to release a new Presto Ballet album this coming November.
MHMB: Kurdt and Mike, thanks again for spending some time with Markus' Heavy Music Blog and let's look forward to a great show tonight.
Kurdt & Mike: Thanks for having us.
Thanks to Eron Witzel for support...