METAL CHURCH really made some noise last fall and this winter with a killer album in Generation Nothing, and a tour that kicked the teeth in of every city it came to. In the first of what I can only call “The Lost Tapes Interviews” I am pleased to share with you all my conversation with legendary guitarist and founder of METAL CHURCH Kurdt Vanderhoof from Fuzzy’s Taco Shop (one of our go-to places to eat before a show!) directly across from Trees Dallas. I thought that all my files from the first part of 2014 were inexplicably lost, but they have since been recovered, so without further ado here is the first of many that I plan to bombard you guys with:
Kurdt: It’s been amazing! The reception has been better than we could’ve hoped. That was kind of the intent, to go back and get people aware of the band again, and that’s why we’re back out doing it.
Amps: How are the new songs going over live?
Kurdt: We’ve played a couple of ’em and people are getting it. After the show they’re going over to the merch table and buying a copy, so hopefully that’s an indication that it’s working!
Amps: With regard to the record, I know that you’re the big writer in the band, and I know that all the songs are like your babies, but do you have a favorite track?
Kurdt: The song “Generation Nothing” and “Suiciety” are my two favorites, I think. But it could change, so I’ll leave that option open, how’s that (laughs)?
Amps: Mine are “Noises In the Wall” and “The Media Horse” all day long. Whole album’s great but those two really spoke to me.
Kurdt: Thanks, man. You know the thing that’s an indication and that’s really cool about this record that says people really like it is that everybody has a favorite track. So we’re like, “OK, cool!”
Amps: I have to confess that back in the heyday I was not a METAL CHURCH fan and that’s largely due to the vocals. No disrespect to David Wayne, his voice just didn’t click for me. I think Ronny is in a class by himself, that’s just me. And I think that these records you’ve done with him, the second half of your career has been your best work.
Kurdt: Oh thank you, thank you. Thank you very much. I would have to agree with a lot of it. It’s really tough for a band that’s been around so long and you have a history of listening to them as a kid. Even if the new stuff is better with new people, it’s still not what you grew up with and I TOTALLY get that. But now I think the band’s been around long enough with this line-up that they’re starting to accept this as a valid version of METAL CHURCH. And I think with this record we’re starting to get a little more acceptance with that. And I get it, I do, with line-up changes, especially singers. People have their favorite singer and especially when it’s part of their youth. And even if the stuff sounds better it doesn’t sound like what they grew up with. So the fact that people are really coming around on this record is really cool.
Amps: There have been a few break-ups. Then you did 70,000 Tons of Metal where you went over huge. And that was the spark that got you back in the studio for Generation Nothing?
Kurdt: We kept getting these offers and we’d been apart for a while, we kinda chilled out. So we figured, “Let’s do 70,000 Tons as our reunion gig, something special.” Then we figured we’d do a couple more shows, get the word out, and get a vibe goin’ to make a new record. That was kind of the start of the whole thing. And doing it on my label with Rat Pak Records gave a whole new appeal to the whole thing s we’re trying to embrace the new music industry. We were fighting it before because we’re old and we thought that’s how you do things. It’s a whole different ballgame now. And that’s why when we pulled the plug five years ago we were trying to do it old-school and it just ran into the ground. We didn’t break up for any internal reasons or anything. It was just, “Take a break so we all stay friends.”
Amps: What is it about METAL CHURCH that, much like The Godfather, you think you’re out but they pull you back in?
Kurdt: (Laughs) because it won’t die! I don’t know, music in general is part of your soul even though I do lots of other kinds of things. It never goes away, it never stops. And again, to do it the way we’re doing it now, to be in complete control of it on our own, we put out a record, we know when we sell a record and we get the money for it. We go on the road when WE want to, we put out what we want, and no one’s telling us what to do. And THAT, that was an inspiration. And now there’s no expiration date on musicians because that record company filter is gone. So doing it this way is a blast, and I think that shows in the music.
Amps: Now that you are getting to do things your way what does the future hold for METAL CHURCH?
Kurdt: More records and more gigs! We’re gonna do another studio record and just keep doing the thing, you know? Bringing the metal to the children (laughing)! And hopefully it will keep getting bigger so we can pay some bills and survive. Because all of us are pretty unemployable at this age. I can’t get a job because I can’t DO anything (laughing)! And we’re not doing it for the money. I mean yeah we wanna get paid but it’s not about the money. It’s about doing what you love to do. Even if I didn’t get any money I’d still be doing this.
Amps: What’s your favorite guitar to play and who are you playing right now?
Kurdt: Les Pauls. I’ve got my custom that I’ve had forever and I play my Alpine White custom now which is fun. I’m always Les Pauls and Marshalls.
Amps: So when you’re not playing or writing what do you do to relax and unwind?
Kurdt: I don’t really stop. This is all I do. I’ve got my other band PRESTO BALLET which I do when I’m not doing this. But I don’t really do anything else, this is it. I like movies, try to work out a lot. I like to challenge myself when it comes to writing just to be in a state of creation all the time.
Amps: What are you listening to when you’re driving around?
Kurdt: Usually I have my head up my ass in 1973, but as far as new stuff I love THE DARKNESS. They’re doin’ it right! They got the balls to be like, “Yeah, we’re singin’ in falsetto, what of it??” And they write great rock arena anthem songs. It’s like, “YESSS!” I like PORCUPINE TREE, I think they’re great. AIRBOURNE is another great band, too. Mostly I go back and mine my stuff from the 70’s, stuff that I didn’t have time to pay attention to, like WISHBONE ASH. Now I get to enjoy their whole back catalog, you know? I also can’t get enough BLUE OYSTER CULT right now.
Kurdt: Well that comes back to me learning how to embrace the new music industry. I’m learning how to tweet now and stuff like that. It’s promotion and puts us directly in contact with our fans and keeps us old guys from having an expiration date. As long as people still want to come see you and you’re healthy and playing well, you can still work. But it’s weird, it’s an adjustment, it’s kind of strange to have to be on a computer all the time, but that’s how you promote. And it gets out there and you don’t have to spend or borrow millions of dollars from some record company to go out and do your thing. So, once I got my head around it it’s pretty cool.
Amps: What’s happening with PRESTO BALLET?
Kurdt: We are playing Cruise to the Edge with YES, Steve Hackett, SAGA, all my prog heroes, so that’s gonna be great. Then depending on METAL CHURCH’S schedule we’re gonna go in and do another record. I gotta get my prog ya-yas out!
Amps: What would you like to say to your fans out there?
Kurdt: Thanks for listening, man. The coolest thing about doing this at my age now is you get in a state of being very grateful. And I think a lot of people forget about that. With the history we’ve had in METAL CHURCH you could cop an attitude like a lot of guys do. But I’m just so grateful we’re playing tonight, that there’s at least ten people here in Dallas that wanna come see me play and like the new record. That’s huge! And I just wanna say thanks because that is what keeps me alive and a purpose to wake up in the morning. It’s extremely flattering and I think more musicians from our era need to be a little more aware of how lucky we are to still be in it. Because if things hadn’t changed, we’d be asking people if they wanted fries with that.
Wow. Kurdt Vanderhoof is a very astute guy with a great perspective. This was definitely one of the more eye-opening interviews I’ve done since A&GS started and I’m so glad I got to do it. By the way METAL CHURCH absolutely destroyed Trees that night, and Kurdt and the boys made sure to sign my CD for Mini-Amps after one of THE best shows of 2014. Pick up Generation Nothing if you haven’t already, and fly the flag for METAL!!