Metal Church is currently on tour in Europe performing at many of the summer rock and metal music festivals, but has a big tour coming up in the USA later in the year. I wanted to catch up with them before Wacken Open Air to see how this year has been for them so far. We will be out at Wacken Open Air next month covering the Metal Church show so make sure to keep an eye out for the show review and photos to come.
I sat down this past week with guitarist and original member of Metal Church, Kurdt Vanderhoof, to discuss the 2016 release of “Metal Church XI”, the current would tour and what’s next. Now let’s get to the awesome conversation with Kurdt.
YDN: So the new album, Metal Church XI (11), came out in March. It’s had time out in the world where fans can listen to it, so how do you feel now that you’ve had time away from the studio that the album turned out for you guys?
Kurdt: The only thing we have to go on is the response that we’ve gotten from the fans. It’s been more than we could have a expected and I don’t think that’s really even changed. We just got off the road with Armored Saint. We did a west coast thing with them and the response is still over-the-top. All the CDs we have at the merch tables all sell out. Reviews are still great and people love the music and sing-along when we’re live which is really rare for an older band like us, usually they all want the classisc. We’re playing the new stuff for the audience, I wouldn’t say kids because it’s not kids anymore, but the audience is singing along to the choruses and the new songs so that to me speaks volumes.
YDN: I noticed too and I was going ask about the fan base. I remember when KISW was talking about the new album coming out and one of your old fans called in and said that Mike Howe had to cut his hair and because of that he wouldn’t listen to the new music because they will be shit. <Laughter>
Kurdt: I know right, that’s a true music fan.
YDN: So what is the fan base looking like now? Is the crowd older, is it younger or is it a mix? Or is it still the diehard old fans?
Kurdt: Well it’s a little of both I guess right now it’s the diehard fans because they are more aware what we are doing, a lot of the general fans might not know that were even around anymore let alone with Mike. That’s hopefully going to change your shortly and that’s why we are out touring, we are making a point to try to spread the word. But the crowd is mostly older people and sometimes with their kids. With the kids in tow and the kids have dad’s old metal church shirt on. It’s really really cool.
YDN: It’s really cool to bring the young ones to the shows. I was just out at Sweden rock and parents bring their young ones to the shows. I was seeing children that could’ve been four and five years old wearing big earmuff style ear protection and earplugs to protect their hearing. The kids were just rocking out and I have these amazing photos of these kids going like yeah this is great. I have a nine month old granddaughter and I put my phone down and Twisted Sister came on and she just starts bobbing her head in a head banging motion because she likes the sound of the rock music, she doesn’t really like the other stuff and of course to me, I’m like that’s cool because I am all for getting the young ones started in rock n roll music.
Kurdt: To me that says it’s more of a spiritual thing or a soul thing then the product.
YDN: Since you’ve had some time away from the album do you feel as you look back there’s anything that you wished you would have done on this album or that that you wanted to change that you may do for your next album?
Kurdt: Oh there’s always stuff like that. No matter what and no matter how many records I’ve ever made or how much people like or what, no matter what there’s always an oh god I should’ve done this or oh I should’ve done that. Yeah that always happens but I think it’s more from a technical aspect. As far as the songs or the record I can’t say I would change a thing because we did it the way that we always wanted to do it. Mike and I, we did it without any outside influences other than the band and we did it until were happy with it and so when we got happy with it, we figured everyone else would be so there’s really nothing that we could’ve done differently. I don’t think I would have because the response has been again more than we could’ve hoped so even being away from it a little bit, actually I kind of like it more now that I’m away from it a little bit, when I do hear it when I listen to its a little more fresh.
YDN: Now that you have had time away from it do you still here just the parts you contributed to the songs or did you hear the song as a whole?
Kurdt: Well after mixing it and mastering it, doing all that I pass the part, part of it and move onto the technical aspect of it which is sometimes really frustrating because sometimes I just want to listen and sometimes you just can’t because ooh there’s too much high in there. There’s too much hi-mid about 7K in there and I’m like stop it, so when I get past that, the farther away I can just put it on and listen to it and it sounds great. And again the response from the fans has been the answer to that.
YDN: I can understand that. I was at the prerelease show at Louie G’s (venue in Fife, WA) in February and I was looking around at all the fans faces and seeing their reactions as you guys performed and thinking to myself that this is some really great stuff. And the vibe in the room was just like yes. And it’s nice to see it on that small-scale but I know you guys are getting ready to go back to Europe and hit the festival circuit. How is that for you guys as a band when you’re coming from playing a small stage one week and then the next you’re on this massive festival stage with the fan count up 100,000 people? What is that like for you when you step out there on the stage?
Kurdt: There’s nothing like it, you know it’s everything you’ve heard it is and it’s the reason that we do this and the reason we got involved in it (the music industry), it’s all of that but at the same time what it takes to get to that point, we can’t get away from the fact or escape the business side of things. It’s not like you just wake up and you’re there it’s like it took all these things to get there. And you’re worried about the equipment and you’re worried about by what time we go on, is there sun or is it going to rain? What about the lights, the sound man, do we have a sound check. The business part of thing start entering into it but once you walk on that stage and you’re in front of that many people and they’re singing the chorus to “Watch the Children Pray” it’s just like whoa, there’s nothing like it really nothing like it.
YDN: Before you step out on the stage, do you still get nervous or excited?
Kurdt: I think some of the other guys might, but I don’t get nervous, I get excited. I’m like, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go. So sometimes I will have a beer before the show.
YDN: Haha, some will have a few more than one beer.
Kurdt: True, but I can’t function like that. I have a beer to kind of like, ok settle down because I am so like, let’s go, let’s go do this and am excited.
YDN: When you put the album out, it was March 2016. Did you expect at the time to be out on such a big world tour?
Kurdt: We didn’t expect it, we hoped. Everything is going better than we could have hoped. Everything, my career and just on a personal level. At this point in my life and this point in my career it’s the best time of my life and I am like, if you would have told me when I was 24 when Metal Church was taking off that no when you’re 55 that’s when it’s going to be really cool. I would have been like, ha yea I won’t even be alive that long, no way. But now it’s amazing because of the new music business and because of the fan response I still get to do this, you know legitimately. That is such a wonderful feeling. I am not taking anything for granted now, the fans are showing up and people are loving the record and that’s huge. I’m in a state of being very grateful these days.
YDN: I have been looking at Metal Church’s tour schedule and I see Wacken and Alcatraz open air festivals on it and those are shows with 80,000 to 100,000 people in attendance and that’s really intimidating. For me the largest festival I have attended to date has been about 33,000 people and that’s a massive crowd.
Kurdt: Have you been to Wacken before?
YDN: No, this will be the first year. And that large crowd is very intimidating lol!
Kurdt: Who’s headlining this year?
YDN: Twisted Sister, Iron Maiden and I believe Blind Guardian.
Kurdt: Twisted Sister? They are headlining?
YDN: From the schedule it appears so. Twisted Sister also just headlined at Sweden Rock Festival. They are on their final tour before they retire. WhiteSnake is also on the bill, but I don’t believe they doing any headlining. But Iron Maiden for sure is one of the headlining bands.
Kurdt: I believe that Steel Panther goes on after the Metal Church set.
YDN: I have not had the opportunity to see them yet.
Kurdt: They are actually very good. Their lyrics are very masoginistic, it’s a joke as they are a spoof band. Which is cute, but the problem is, they are actually really good. Their records are really good, they sound really good, the riffs are really good, their playing good and their singing good. The lyrics are a little bit like, oh really, but they are fun. I’ll be anxious to see them.
YDN: Metal Church was on the schedule for Japan’s Loud Park, but your appearance has since been cancelled. Can you talk about that?
Kurdt: Yes, it was cancelled. I can’t officially announce it, but the word has been leaked and is out there that we are going on tour with Megadeth. Megadeth, Amon Amarth, us and Havoc and maybe one more band. We are really excited about it, it’s going to be an arena tour. We are like second or third on the bill and that’s fine because we are in a rebuilding process and the fact that we’re out there doing this tour at this point is huge for us. So that is why we had to cancel Loud Park. And I feel really bad because we’ve had to cancel twice in a row.
YDN: I get that and it’s a fair reason to cancel when you have the opportunity to be put on a large multi-city tour. But I also feel bad for the Japanese fans because they are such loyal fans of the bands they love. And I am sure they are asking why you guys have canceled this year.
Kurdt: It happens and it really sucks too because we really love our fans in Japan, but we just couldn’t turn down Megadeth’s offer.
YDN: You guys have been touring alot and have been able to get a few breaks. Are you working on anything new?
Kurdt: I just got done putting the touches on the new Presto Ballet album (Kurdt’s other project). The records actually been done for a year, but we decided to hold off on releasing it to concentrate on Metal Church and now that the Metal Church thing is rolling, we want to put it out now so more people can know about the project. I just put the finishing touches on it last night and we are hoping for a November release. We have alot of things to do with it. We have to do some videos and things like that. We are trying to really make it legit this time rather than just throwing a record out.
YDN: Are you (Presto Ballet) planning on touring?
Kurdt: We’d love to if we can, but being the kind of music it is there’s not alot of gigs available for it, but we’ll play anywhere we can.
YDN: Thank you for your time and best of luck on the rest of the tour.
Update on Rick Van Zandt’s eye injury: As some of you may know and some of you may not, Rick Van Zandt had an eye injury back in February 2016, the night before the first Metal Church show in Washington which caused him to miss some shows and have a temporary replacement in the band. I am happy to let you all know that I ran into Rick last week at the Q5 album release show (Rick played with Q5 in 2014 at Sweden Rock Festival and a few other shows) and had a chance to ask him in person how his recovery has been. He’s says he’s healed nicely, although he now refers to having one good and one bad eye that even each other out, he is back on the road with Metal Church performing without issue. So great news for the band and for Rick. Happy to hear he’s doing much better!
So Metal Church’s new album, “Metal Church XI” is out now and available most every place you purchase music. Make sure to pick up or download a copy of your own. So you can enjoy the new music.
The new tour dates with Megadeth have not been released yet, so keep an eye on the Metal Church Website and Metal Church Facebook page for tour dates to be announced in the near future. If you happen to be in Europe or headed that way in August check and see if you can catch the guys at one of the tours below. If you are going to one of these festivals, check the schedule and make a point to see Metal Church.
Remaining European Tour Dates:
August 05 Porisphere Festival
August 06 Wacken Open Air
August 09 Beast Coast Festival
August 10 Phenomenon
August 12 Turock
August 13 Alcatraz Metal Fest
August 14 Sportcampus Lange Munte