“I owe it to [the fans] and I’m grateful.”
While it can be argued that time heals all wounds, there is no denying it creates opportunity. Logic dictates, the more you play the more chances you receive. What we do with those chances or ‘breaks’ is often what defines a career.
Metal Church has played the game for a long time (established in 1980) and although they’ve had their share of breaks, the band hasn’t enjoyed any in a really long time, until recently….
Mike Howe has re-joined Metal Church and it’s for all the right reasons! I recently had the opportunity to speak with the vocalist prior to the band’s live date at Reggie’s. Please enjoy some excerpts of our April 4th interview…
David Halbe: How’s Rick Van Zant [Lead Guitarist – Metal Church] doing? What happened, who’s filling in?
Mike Howe: Ok, the day before our first show, last month, Rick had his retina detached from his eye. This is a very serious thing because you can lose your vision if you don’t get it taken care of. He immediately that day went into surgery.
Dave: How did he do it? Did he bump it moving equipment or something?
Mike: We don’t know at this point. He had some eye troubles in the past. He was having these floaters and some other weird stuff going on. He thought it would go away and it did not, it got worse so that’s what was happening. We’re not sure what caused it but he’s in recovery and he’s doing great. As part of his recovery he’s not allowed to travel for eight weeks. So we picked up Chris Caffery from TSO [Tran-Siberian Orchestra] and Savatage to fill in.
Mike: Yeah he’s friends with Jeff Plate [Drummer– Metal Church / Savatage] of course and he was on the Monsters of Rock Cruise playing with Doro so we got to see him and meet him there, it’s seemed like the perfect fit for our next leg.
Dave: That’s excellent ok, I’m glad to hear that Rick is doing alright.
Mike: Yes for sure, us too.
Dave: What made this the right time for a Mike Howe comeback?
Mike: That’s a good question. I don’t really know it was just a perfect storm. Kurdt [Kurdt Vanderhoof – Rhythm Guitars Metal Church] called me at the right time and we discussed how it would be different from the past, which is why I stepped away from the music business. How things have changed now and how we would be fully in control of the writing, recording and image, the entire process of what we wanted to present this time around.
Kurdt and I had many conversations over the phone throughout 2014 and 2015 so I was never fully back until now. It was a whole process, ‘let’s take some baby steps and let’s take them one step at a time’. The first step was let’s see what kind of music we could come up with together, that’s how it all started.
Dave: Hell yeah!
Mike: Yeah, it was many takes through Dropbox, I’d listen to them and say ‘these demos you’re sending me are awesome, you still have it’ so that’s really what enticed me to come back. It eventually led me to say ‘let’s get together in your studio and see what kind of writing we can do’ and when we got together it was just like going back to the time when we wrote The Human Factor or Hanging in the Balance in Aberdeen studios. The joy of writing and being together with Kurdt as a friend was just; I have to say it was magical. We got together and we had so much fun. When we were finished we were really happy with the results and we said to each other, ‘let’s take this out to the people and see how it goes.’
Dave: That’s an awesome story. So, you were involved with the writing process of the record from the beginning?
Mike: Yes. Kurdt is Kurdt as you know. He gets in his studio and he has this awesome talent of writing a riff. I call him a ‘riff master’ every night because that’s what he is to me. He just puts these riffs together and writes these amazing structures. He writes a song and he presents it to me and then I get with him in the studio and I start singing melodies, blurting out things, possible lyrics to the melody he’s written and then the magic of today is we now have computers.
Dave: Oh yeah.
Mike: We can edit and basically do some simple pre-productions as we’re writing the song. I can go ‘Alright Kurdt great melody but it doesn’t go with that transition so we snip and move stuff around. I mean, it is a great tool. It kept the creativity flowing instead of allowing it to be stagnant for long periods of time.
Dave: Technology is awesome. How excited are you to be touring and if you have a family, have they been supportive of these decisions?
Mike: Of course I’m excited and yes I have a family. I have a wife and two great boys who are ages eighteen and thirteen.
Dave: Ok, so your children are older that makes being away a bit easier.
Mike: True, but if it weren’t for my wife and her support this would not be happening. I owe a great deal to my wife for her support. She’s keeping the household running and holding the fort down, basically.
Dave: That’s awesome. So how’s your live return been received?
Mike: It’s just been incredible and it’s like a spiritual awakening for me, it’s like every night the fans are just so generous and I’m just accepting this outpouring of love from the fans and giving it back and it’s just been an awesome experience for me. We’re in a really great place now and I’m grateful for that.
Dave: What was the thought process behind the ‘Badlands 2015’ single?
Mike: I think that was just a test the waters kind of thing, to see if Mike Howe’s voice still worked.
Dave: (Laughs) that’s great!
Mike: When I sang it we put out as if to say ‘Hey fans, Mike Howe still has a voice check it out!’
Dave: Excellent ok. Was it difficult creating a setlist?
Mike: Yeah, it was very difficult but let’s face it it’s a great problem to have. [Laughs] Right?
Dave: Hell yeah!
Mike: It’s like which ones do we cut out? I don’t want to cut any of them out. Some bands are like oh shit, I need a filler here to make this an hour and a half or a two hour set. We don’t have a problem with that. [Laughs]
Dave: [Laughs] I never thought it of that way but that’s bad ass!
Mike: But you know Kurdt came to me and said ‘Mike it’s your comeback I would like for you to tell us what songs you’d really want to play and we’ll make a set out of that.’
Dave: Wow, that’s a great story. How many songs will you be playing off the new album?
Mike: We’ve got three.
Mike: But the magical thing we’ve got going this year is that every night after the show we hang out at the merchandise table and we sign pictures or whatever you want signed. I mean, we hang out and do the whole selfie thing, as long as fans want us to stand there and take pictures that’s what we do, we’re not in a hurry to leave town, you know, we just want to show our gratitude to the fans, you know? Everybody gets a slap, a shake whatever they need; we are there until everybody gets what they need.
Dave: That is really commendable, wow.
Mike: It’s an honor for me to do that. It makes me feel great.
Dave: I have a lot of respect hearing you say that.
Mike: Well it’s really not me it’s for the fans and it’s the least I can do for them, you know? I owe it to them and I’m grateful.
Dave: Thank you for saying that. How was the “No Tomorrow” video shoot, have any other videos been planned?
Mike: It was a great shoot. We were lucky to have that location. It was just another one of those things that sort of fell in line. I think the stars are aligned and we’re getting lucky with all these great things that are coming our way. I mean the towers, the discovery of that place as a place to shoot was something else, and on the budget we had. It turned out looking like an expensive video but it was really well within our budget so that was good. We are definitely trying put something together for another video.
Dave: Great news! Any idea what song will be featured?
Mike: No, we’re not sure yet.
Dave: Ok. Will the Howe era of Metal Church records ever be re-released?
Mike: That’s really an Electra and Sony issue, there’s two different labels involved in my era [Laughs]
Dave: That’s true, so there’s never been any mention of a re-master series?
Mike: No, because of the whole legalities of it. We don’t want to go back and deal with the record companies we were just sort of lost in. Those two record companies are part of the reason I left because they never really gave a shit about us.
Dave: I believe that Mike but you know what’s going to happen now, this new record is going to make a splash, there’s going to be interest in the success of this tour.
Mike: [Laughs] And then they’re going to be on us like vultures, swooping down, trying to make more money!
Dave: [Laughs] that’s right!
Mike: And not pay me! [Laughs]
Dave: [Laughs] Yep, that’s what sucks, you write something great and get fucked over forever.
Mike: Eh, at this point. It is what it is.
Dave: That’s cool So you’re headed overseas in May and playing Wacken Open Air on August 6th, are you excited about that?
Mike: Oh of course, yes. We’re always excited about playing anywhere and I can’t wait to get overseas and see all the fans we have there.
Dave: Awesome, thanks for your time today Mike.
Mike: No problem. It was a pleasure Dave, thank you!
Metal Church are:
- Steve Unger – Bass
- Jeff Plate – Drums
- Rick van Zandt – Guitars
- Kurdt Vanderhoof – Guitars
- Mike Howe – Vocals
This article was originally published 4/29/16 by Metalrecusants.com