Matt Coe of Dead Rhetoric recently conducted an interview with vocalist Mike Howe of West Coast metal veterans METAL CHURCH. A few excerpts follow below.
Dead Rhetoric: "Damned If You Do" is the twelfth METAL CHURCH studio album and your fifth with the group. How did these recording and songwriting sessions go and how would you compare this effort to your previous records with the group?
Mike: "For my era of METAL CHURCH, the five albums you just mentioned, Kurdt Vanderhoof [guitar] and myself have a certain chemistry, and we've written exactly the same way that we do. Which is Kurdt getting into his studio and coming up with the structure of the songs, presenting them to me after he writes a half dozen or so — gives me some to listen to as he keeps writing. We get together in his studio, he throws up a microphone, asks me which song I want to start on and we work on whatever comes out of me. I work off of feel, I start singing out melodies and sometimes words come out as we go, sometimes words are silly and we just keep them for the melody of the song and move on. We don't beat it to death, we know if we are on to something and if it doesn't work out, we move on.
"I'm not a nostalgia guy. I don't like looking back at the other [albums]. I'm very proud of them. To me, they are like my children, I love them all differently and they are different time stamps of life. Also, being so close to them because we wrote them and we lived them, it's hard to have perspective on how I see 'them' different. It's more like a continuation of the albums, and we are evolving in the way we get along and the way that we see ourselves. I think it's the next record in the history of METAL CHURCH, and I'm very proud of this one. Especially because it's a powerful recording, everyone involved was really passionate in their playing. Kurdt mixed and brought it out where you can hear everyone's passion and aggressiveness and all of that really shines through. To me, it got me really excited and that's what I can say about 'Damned If You Do'."
Dead Rhetoric: What inspires and fuels the lyrical content for METAL CHURCH these days?
Mike: "I think it's like it always was. We think about life in general, politics, personal lives and personal matters that affect us. We don't try to point fingers at an exact thing. Metal, I like to say, is rock and roll angst but on 11, because it's more aggressive. The root of it is just expressing your emotions and angers in life and getting them out in a healthy way. An art form such as metal, each listener can use the lyrics and incorporate them and interpret them for their lives and what it means to them, and that's what I like about it."
Dead Rhetoric: You've made it a point to be available to your fans for meet-and-greets without requiring extra payment to do this and received praise as such. Can you discuss your reasons and philosophy behind this decision?
Mike: "We are just old-school. Back in the day there wasn't any kind of… Why would you have to pay to meet the band? The band's out here, shake hands and say hi. I'm showing my gratitude, and the band is showing their gratitude to our fans for keeping us alive this 30 some years later — that it's the least that we can do. We are a band on the road. We are killing time for most of the day. Our job is playing music, and what do you do after the show? I have plenty of time after the show before we get on the bus and go to the next city. Why wouldn't I want to go out and meet and thank all the fans as I can. I stay out there as long as they want me — I'm the lucky one. I'm the one that is lucky to meet them. I understand that other bands have the model that pay to meet them because of the difficulties of the music business to make money nowadays. They are trying many different marketing strategies to keep themselves alive. I don't hold it against any other band that wants to do that, but it's difficult for me to swallow that."
Read the entire interview at Dead Rhetoric.
"Damned If You Do" was released on December 7 via Rat Pak Records. It marks the group's first album with drummer Stet Howland (W.A.S.P., Lita Ford), who replaced Jeff Plate (SAVATAGE, TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA) in 2017.
Photo credit: Melissa Castro