Metal Church are heavy metal. There is not a lot more that needs to be said, however, I need to say something. Metal Church, from the early 1980’s, has been a stalwart of the scene, and they are celebrated for riff-age, melody and fast paced tracks. Mr Mike Howe exploded into the band’s history in 1989 with the album Blessing in Disguise, and left in 1993 after the release of Hanging in the Balance, only three albums into the band’s history. Fans never really got enough of Mr Howe, and for years there were talks and pressure to have him re-join the fold. Mike was essentially the “icing on the cake” for Metal Church and the albums they made, all those years ago, still remain as classics and remain on a true metal heads high rotation.
In 2016, he headed the call, fan prayers were answered, and he came back into the band with the release of XI. This album was so well received and saw the mighty Metal Church get back to the peak of the scene, where they belong. So now in 2019, the band released a further album Damned if You Do, and the band are heading our way at the end of the month. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Mike, discuss the band’s latest release and the up and coming tour.
Mike, how do you feel about coming down to Australia at the end of the month?
“Well we are very excited because it is the first time we have ever visited Australia. So I don’t know how to express it more than this, we are very excited and can’t wait to get down there.”
Has this tour been in the wings for some time? I know we have been waiting for this tour for a very long time?
“As far as my knowledge, this is the first time we have been offered to tour Australia by a promoter, so as soon as Metropolis contacted us we jumped at it!”
Mike what can you tell us, from your perspective, about Damned If You Do, a year after its release?
“I think it fits in perfectly, and I love the album. I was so surprised and pleased with how it came out, the sounds, the energy and frankly it just slams through the whole entire album. We worked hard on it, and you hope when an album comes out that the work pays off and it did. There is still a lot of excitement around it and I still see it as amazing.”
What is the dynamics in the songwriting, in 2019, with Metal Church? Is writing different with the band from the 1980s?
“That’s a good question. We don’t write exactly the same way but it is the same feel and vibe. We don’t overthink, it is always organic. Kurt will start laying down some riffs and structures, and come to me with over six basic tracks, sending them to me over the net. We don’t live in the same state so this is how it is different, and so we go from here. When we get enough material I fly up to his studio and put some melodies over the music, and then we go from here. We can now do post-production whilst recording so we have great writing tools. This is basically how we go, but importantly and purposefully, we don’t beat it into the ground, if it doesn’t feel right, we move on and find another track.”
Looking back on your re-joining Metal Church in 2016, can you talk us through the events leading to your re-joining?
“In the fall of 2014 I received a phone call from Kurt and he was telling me that there old singer was leaving the band and he didn’t want to look for another one and that he was at the point of just ending the band. So he was trying to see where my head was at about coming back. At first I wasn’t interested but I was open to discuss it with him. So he convinced me over a series of phone calls, and talked around file sharing and not having so much time away from families, and the fact that we don’t have major record company or management, who have so much say. You know we have full control over this, and that meant a lot if I was to come back. This was a big reason why I left in the first instance. You know I wasn’t willing to come back for nostalgia, I wanted to write and record current music. So we worked a bit together, I felt excited, and we still had this chemistry, and it reinvigorated me. Once we did the album (XI) I just wanted to go and play, and so here we are and things are great and we are enjoying this.”
Looking back to the release of Blessing in Disguise in 1989, how do you see this amazing album nearly thirty years later?
“This goes back to me saying I am not interested in playing unless we have new material. So I don’t look back a lot, I am not nostalgic. I did go back through them when I re-joined and it was a snapshot for me in time and I am proud of those albums But I dont go back and listen to that stuff really.”
Hanging in the Balance was an album that polarised Metal Church fans, and an album I still love. Do you see this album any differently to what you have recorded in the band?
“This was the beginning of the end for me really. I was really proud of the songs but at that moment in time we were having inner band and management issues and were being forced to do things we didn’t want to do. For me it was a sad period for the band, it was an album that was taken out of our hands. You know the cover, was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so it has a bad taste to a certain extent. I didn’t want to continue and be unhappy in the band. Now that I am back in and we have that control it is great.”
Which singers in Metal, do you value?
“Well I would have to go back to my early influences to who helped create my sound. I played in a band of Judas Priest and AC/DC covers when I was young, so my two mentors were Rob Halford and Bon Scott. I loved Rob for his range and Bon was for his attitude in his voice, and I have tried to combine those two singers in what I do.”
Finally Mike, do you have a final message for your Australian fans ahead of the tour later this month?
“I am super excited beyond belief that we are actually finally coming down there, it is going to be a huge celebration for us and to share the love of heavy metal music in a sweaty, loud and screaming atmosphere. We are look forward to sharing this for the first time in Australia.”
For any metal fan, let alone Metal Church fans, this is a tour not to be missed. It has been a very long time coming so don’t miss out on the shows in August
Interview by Mark Snedden
Tickets via Metropolis Touring
Metal Church – Debut Australian East Coast Tour
Wednesday 28th August – MELBOURNE – Northcote Social Club
Thursday 29th August – MELBOURNE – Northcote Social Club – SOLD OUT
Friday 30th August – SYDNEY – Crowbar
Saturday 31st August – BRISBANE – Crowbar