Metal Church at Wacken Open Air 2016: A Whole New Chapter

Welcome back Mike!

Metal Church! This classic metal outfit have been thrashing their way around the globe since the eighties. Although they’ve had quite an array of different members over the years, driven by the bands strong hold, guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof, they’ve still managed to keep their concrete sound and their fans hungry. With the recent return of ex-vocalist Mike Howe, who was absent from the band for over 20 years, they are back on everyone’s wish list to hear all the classics, especially with Mike Howe front and centre. They played on the Saturday afternoon on the True Metal stage at Wacken Open Air 2016 to an infield of gleaming fans chanting away. To get the scoop for Metal as Fuck, Lauzzie Vee and I shared our Aussie treats with the guys after the show....


Welcome to Wacken, how many times has Metal Church played at wacken and how are you feeling? Mike tells it like it is, “Well this is the third time Metal Church have played Wacken, but only a first for me. So far the stage and the show was awesome and the backstage was like the backstage! That’s all we’ve seen today [Laughs] I mean we are a little bit jet-lagged and a little bit crazy so we are just trying to survive the day. We’re only two days into our tour, but we had a 34-hour travel day from California, then played a show in Finland; missing a flight in the middle somewhere, then another flight here at 6am this morning and now we are here!” Wow! That’s quite the big few days for you guys, then to jump straight into the chaos of Wacken. How does playing at a festival like Wacken compare to playing the smaller shows? Kurdt takes this one, “Well there is good and bad with both, obviously playing in front of a crowd this size and the fact that Wacken itself has become such a thing, you know, playing a show here with the response we get from the crowd, nothing compares to it. But the downside is that we’re way out there, the stage is huge and a lot of other bands are playing at the same time. There is some club show stuff that’s great too, you know, interaction with the crowd and the fact that they are closer is always a plus. They both have their positives and negatives, mostly positives, but as far as I’m concerned, as long as we’re playing, that’s everything!”


How would you describe Wacken to the team back home and how has the support been from them? “Well I don’t know if its necessarily about being at Wacken, but it’s more about that we are still out doing it and our profile has now been raised again. People back home have been very supportive; they are all kinds of like “Go get ‘em!” Our hometown has been very supportive that we’re even doing this again, especially at this level and I think they all know that we are very grateful to be doing it.”


Well of course having Mike back on vocals after such a long absence from the band would be another thing entirely, how has the reception been? Welcome back Mike! “Oh thank you!” Kurdt gives us some insight, “It’s been unbelievable, on all levels, besides the fact that now the band, eternally has a whole new vibe now, we’re having a blast. We all like each other and we all get along great. It couldn’t be better and it’s a whole new chapter.” The band just released the new album ‘XI’ with Mike back on vocals, how has the response been for the new music? “Steller! We’ve been very blessed that our fans like the new music and now we are ready to start working on the new album!”.


Mike you’ve been a vocalist for such a long time and your vocal range is still so extensive. Do you have any advice to offer to new vocalists on longevity? “Well firstly, to take care of yourself, you know I don’t drink much on tour, I try to stay healthy. If you keep a healthy lifestyle and take care of your instrument, which is your body and your vocals, that’s the key for me. But I’m a classically trained vocalist, I practice diaphragm support and it depends on the type of vocalist you want to be. There are many different styles of vocalizing, I am a controlled yeller, like an operatic singer. Then there are heavy metal singers that are screaming throat singers, which is great, for those who do that style, but that’s a little bit harder for me and I guess it’s a bit harder for a vocalist like that to keep their voice going for so long.”


We hit them with the million-dollar question, if you guys were ever to actually create a ‘metal church’ what would you have to do to become a member and what would be its ethos? Kurdt laughs away, “Well, now that’s a great question, we’ve never been asked that before!” Would you serve wine? “Hell yeah, of course we’d serve wine, I don’t know why Christians have such a hard time with drinking. If Jesus was against drinking, he wouldn’t have turned water into wine! But as far as the ethos of the church, [Mike and Kurdt exchange cheeky glances then join in together] Have a good time…. ALL THE TIME!” By this point we're all laughing and cheers our drinks. Mike continues, “But I think the main ethos would be play real music by real people, enjoy what you do and spread joy with your music.”


Mike and Kurdt then announced that we would immediately be accepted into their Metal church and then they gave us permission to start writing the Metal church bible! [Winning!] We then put the hard word on to find out if they would tour Australia soon. Australian promotors take note, Metal church have never been to our shores but are very keen to head over for the first time and see how venomous our creatures actually are. By this point Laura whips out the vegemite. Its time! Neither of them have tried it before, Kurdt politely refuses but Mike gets a big dollop of our black breakfast tar on his finger and tries it straight up! After quite a pause he gives us his review, “Wow! I didn’t expect it to be that strong, it’s very salty, its bitter but it’s not that bad!” Metal Church have had their first official taste of Australia and now they want more!