Metal Church: Demigods Among Men
Interview With Kurdt Vanderhoof, Founder Of Metal Church
Artist: Metal Church
Title: The Weight Of The World
In the heyday of Heavy Metal, longevity was a word known by few. Bands came and went, the underground rose to sea level and record deals were as easy to get as Hit Parader's fastest guitarist award. Only a handful acts went on to gain legendary status, but Metal Church sits right in the palm. With their self-titled debut album becoming an instant classic, Metal Church dominated the ‘80s and early ‘90s as the aficionado's Metal band, with millions of future musicians picking up an instrument just to be like them.
Now with a new album on the racks, the band is in the midst of a world tour in support and I managed to get together with Kurdt Vanderhoof, lead guitarist and founder of Metal Church. He brought with him a very giving personality, love for his fans and a great insight into the mind of one of the greatest Metal bands ever to grace the scene.
[John Foxworthy] How's the tour going so far?
Kurdt Vanderhoof So far so good, man. It's been great ... It's really flattering to have the people still remember the band after all these years.
[John Foxworthy] I've noticed you've been having some great turnouts. I remember seeing you guys at the San Francisco Civic Center in 1986.
Kurdt Vanderhoof Was that the New Year's Eve show?
[John Foxworthy] I don't think so ... you were on tour with a few other bands. We were the ones throwing all those glowsticks from the balcony … now you’re on a primarily club tour. What do you think of the atmosphere as opposed to back in the arena days?
Kurdt Vanderhoof The obvious difference is ... well ... obvious. The fact that we can even go out and play and to do clubs and have people show up is quite amazing. I mean, it's a different time ... it's a different era. It's not the ‘80s anymore. Metal in America isn't as popular as it was back in the day. But there's enough out there and I think there's a resurgence going on in America. It might get bigger ... it's kind of underground now. We're all cool again [laughs]. All us old guys in Metal bands are underground again.
[John Foxworthy] It's kind of funny how that all came full circle.
Kurdt Vanderhoof Yeah [laughs].
[John Foxworthy] Your Indianapolis show was cancelled and instead of just saying “Thanx for playing” and going to the next venue, you guys went and hung out in a record store to meet your fans. In Milwaukee, you guys hung out till club management kicked you out … then you had a parking lot party at the Rictus Grin tour bus. Do you guys try to mingle with your fans at every show?
Kurdt Vanderhoof Yeah. Absolutely. We definitely do ... we try to sign everything, sign all our merch and we try to meet everyone as much as we can, because we're totally grateful that we still get to do this.
[John Foxworthy] Very cool ... and you guys have been doing this for a while now. You've got 20 years as recording artists ...
Kurdt Vanderhoof Yep. 20 years this year.
[John Foxworthy] So how does it feel to still have so many dedicated fans after all this time?
Kurdt Vanderhoof It's really amazing, because when you're in it you don't think of it in terms that you're really affecting people ... because you're in it. I mean, you think of bands you like and that you’re a fan of, and how much they've affected you. Then when people come up and tell you the same thing that you would tell some of your idols and influences, it's really bizarre. It's the ultimate in flattery ... sometimes you don't know what to say or even how to respond. I mean, people come up to you and say things like, 'Hey man. I've been listening to you guys since I was twelve,' and you're like, 'whoa!' [laughs] I think it's wonderful ... I mean, it's what it's all about.
Metal Church: Steve Unger (bass), Kurdt Vanderhoof (guitars), Ronny Munroe (vocals), Kirk Arrington (drums), Jay Reynolds (guitars)
[John Foxworthy] You guys are touring pretty heavy through the end of the year and you have been since the spring. Are you planning on a European tour after you finish up in the US?
Kurdt Vanderhoof Yeah. We head for Europe about the middle of February, so we'll have about a month off after the holidays.
[John Foxworthy] So at least you'll get some time off.
Kurdt Vanderhoof We'll do some laundry ... take a nap.
[John Foxworthy] Now you guys have seen a few member changes over the years.
Kurdt Vanderhoof It's a revolving door ...
[John Foxworthy] I noticed on your web site that you had a couple of old members stop in for jam sessions in California ...
Kurdt Vanderhoof Yeah ... well John Marshall played with us in Santa Rosa, you know, that's his home town and he jammed with us there. Duke played with us in Tacoma, which is where he lives ... based out of that Puget Sound area. And then Mike Howe came over in Reno and jammed with us ... so yeah, everything's going great. Everybody's still acknowledging it and we're still in contact with all the members. Those guys unfortunately couldn't partake in the reformation of this. Their raising their families and doing the normal thing ... you know ... growing up, unlike some of the rest of us [laughs].
[John Foxworthy] The line-up you guys have right now is really strong. I was impressed by everything I heard on this CD ...
Kurdt Vanderhoof Thank you!
[John Foxworthy] No problem! Are you looking to make future albums with the line-up you've got right now?
Kurdt Vanderhoof Absolutely. We're already talking about it.
[John Foxworthy] It's been five years since your last release, and The Weight Of The World was just released in September. How's it being received?
Kurdt Vanderhoof It's being received amazingly well, even like at the shows. Especially for a band that's been around a long time and has the third lead singer - and especially changing lead singers - it's really, really difficult. I mean, you have to understand that a lot of bands, when they do change , especially the vocalist, it changes the sound of the band considerably. But the response has been incredible. It's just been overwhelming ... more than we could've even hoped.
[John Foxworthy] I've listened to the CD already many times. In fact, I've been looping it all morning and I just get the feeling that you went back to roots for a more old school approach. Was this planned?
Kurdt Vanderhoof Absolutely, totally planned. When I started writing it I totally immersed myself in all the stuff I was listening to when Metal Church started ... you know ... the new wave of British Heavy Metal stuff and obviously some of the Rock stuff, which I'm also into as well. I wanted to make a conscious effort not to make it sound modern ... not to have it sound like Nu-Metal or any of that kind of stuff. I wanted to keep it old school and I wanted to keep it all the stuff I love about traditional Heavy Metal. I definitely wanted to stay away from the Satanic stuff and definitely wanted to make it known that Metal Church could still make a record that sounds like a Metal Church album, not Metal Church trying to be hip and groovy and all that other BS ... it doesn't have anything to do with us.
[John Foxworthy] Speaking traditionally, your first album, Metal Church, is lauded as one of the all-time great masterpieces of Metal. How do you guys feel the new album compares?
Kurdt Vanderhoof I think it might compare to it ... I don't know. I think the first album was just one of those moments that we captured something on tape, that we didn't really know what we were doing, because we did the album in like 10 days. You know, a bunch of kids full of energy and full of angst and all those kinds of wonderful things ... we just went in and we didn't really know what we were doing. We just went in and played our songs, you know, and that's the way it happened. I don't think trying to recapture that again is ... I'm don't try to put lightning in a jar and I don't know that it's necessarily going to happen again. But the fact that people love it that much and it's considered one of those legendary records, I mean, what do you say to that? That's why you learn to play guitar [laughs].
[John Foxworthy] Off the subject a little bit ... I have two words for you: "File Sharing." Do you think it's as evil as everyone's making it out to be?
Kurdt Vanderhoof I don't know if it's necessarily evil. My take on it is I think it's an absolutely wonderful convenience and a great thing to be able to do. But I don't think you should be able to do it for free, because a lot of people that download the music, and especially in the media-saturated society we live in, people have very little appreciation for what it takes to make these records ... and how much time and effort and work goes into making them. When something you've worked so hard to make is suddenly free, you know, it's like any product or anybody who has a business or anybody who has a job. You don't spend all your time and effort and blood, sweat and tears doing something just to give it away.
I think the convenience of it and the technology is wonderful. If they could find a way to regulate it or just to pay for downloads, absolutely, I think it's a wonderful thing. The downside of that is the thing I love about buying records and being a music fan is that you miss the artwork and the cover ... I miss vinyl, because you got artwork album covers and hopefully you got a poster in it and all that stuff. Even if you're just going to download a couple of songs, that's fine. I don't think it's going away. But it does need to be monitored, because it's already doing an awful lot of damage to the music industry., I know a lot of people think, 'The record companies are taking all the money and blah, blah, blah.' That very well may be true, but when the record companies are getting less money, the new bands are going to have a hell of a time getting record deals, the advances we get, which is what we live on, dwindle because people aren't buying records.
I think a lot of it is downloading ... not all of it is downloading ... but I think a vast majority of it is people aren't liking what they're buying anymore. A lot of albums that come out now have maybe one or two good songs and the rest is filler.
[John Foxworthy] We won't have to worry about that with The Weight Of The World. Not for us die-hard people.
Kurdt Vanderhoof I appreciate that very much!
Thanx to Kurdt for taking the time to talk with me. Metal Church has my well wishes and I think I speak for all their fans when I say, "KEEP THE FAITH, GUYS!"
For more information and to contact this author, click on the author's name at the top.