INTERVIEW: Mike Howe (METAL CHURCH)
On the band's new album, "Damned If You Do":
Mike: "I'm very happy with it. Kurdt [Vanderhoof, guitar] and I go into the studio in his house and write and record albums like we have from the very beginning. We approach it just trying to have as much fun as we possibly can and not overthink it. If it feels to good to us, then we carry on with it. If it doesn't, we move on. Having said that, we went in the studio and had a really good time, and [now] we just hope for the best. Since it came out, we've been getting very good reviews, and that just really makes us feel great."
On rejoining METAL CHURCH in 2015:
Mike: "I think the most important thing about being in a metal band in our age group now is we're all adults. I think that helps, and we all know who we are, pretty much. The other guys in the band are great guys, and we get along just fine. It adds to the chemistry, and it's very enjoyable to be in a band with such fine musicians."
On the 20-year gap between his stints in the band:
Mike: "I lived my life just like everybody else. I was a carpenter/builder, and I raised two boys. Out of the blue, I got a call from Kurdt, and he invited me back. At first, I was apprehensive — I was happy to be retired [from music]; I had a great career and [was] very grateful for what I had — but because he's an old friend, I was open to listening to his proposition. We had long talks — a lot of talks — about how the music industry had changed, and how file-sharing was making it more possible to live in different areas and have family life and not cutting into your personal time as much. With the advent of technology in that way, it really helps facilitate being in a band. We just started with writing the record, because I said, 'I'm not coming back to METAL CHURCH for nostalgia's sake. If I'm going to do this, I want to make sure we can write music just as good, if not better, than what we were doing before.' We took baby steps and started writing some songs... if we like the way it sounds, we keep it; if we don't, we move on. We do that a few times until we had a good amount of songs, and we really liked what we were doing, so we put it out. That went well, and I said, 'Okay, I'm ready to go on the road with that.' This album, we took the same philosophy, and we're very happy with the end result."
On the band's consistent style:
Mike: "For us, we're just being honest. The songs we write and how we write is what comes out of us naturally. We don't really think about it. We don't overthink it; it's just who we are as people, and what we like in our music. The style of metal we play and write is what we like to hear. We don't ever think about, 'Oh, we should try to do this.' We just play what comes naturally to us, and our chemistry together is something special to me. This is what is the product of that. You don't ever try to second-guess it or overthink it and change it... it just becomes what we do together and what we've always done together."
On the cover artwork for the group's 1993 album, "Hanging In The Balance":
Mike: "There's a huge story behind that album cover, and the huge story is that album cover right there was one of the final straws that broke my [camel's] back and led me to leave METAL CHURCH and the business. That was an album cover that was paid for and designed by our manager [with] an artist he liked, who did some GRATEFUL DEAD stuff and presented it to us. I said, 'That is ridiculous. I hate that cover,' and [he] pushed it out anyhow. That right there is one of my case-in-points how messed up the music business was back then, and how I had to get out before it ruined my love of my band... I was proud of the music that we had written. It was just being marred by bad decisions from management and [the] record company. That's why I left."
The album cover which caused Mike Howe to leave the band in 1997
On how his musical tastes have changed over the years:
Mike: "When I was younger, I was influenced heavily by JUDAS PRIEST and AC/DC. Bon Scott and Rob Halford were my two heroes, and I tried to meld their two styles together — Rob's incredible range and power with Bon Scott's attitude. Those were my two heroes, so that was the kind of music I listened to when I was starting off. Now, 25 years later, I love all kinds of music. I try to keep an open mind and listen to many different styles. I'm just a music fan."
"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.
Listen to the full interview
Metal Church "Damned If You Do" Official Video
Metal Church "By The Numbers" Official Video