A couple of days ago Metal Church released with ‘From the Vault’ an interesting longplayer that features new songs as well as cover versions, live songs and other stuff from the archive. Metal Church main man Kurdt Vanderhoof made some time for Markus’ Heavy Music Blog to give some insights into the background of the album and also shared some thoughts about the impact of the current pandemic on Metal Church and the business.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: Kurdt, thanks for making time for MHMB. To start with the most important question these days: how are you?
Kurdt Vanderhoof: Good. I mean yeah, hanging in there. I’m in Southern California, so the weather is beautiful. I’m feeling great and I get a lot of song writing done and a lot of guitar playing. I’m very fortunate that I’m self-employed and the only thing that is changed in my life is that the gym is closed.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: It’s pretty much the same here in Germany. I mean the weather is beautiful too, probably not as warm as it is in Southern California, but the sun is shining and that makes life a bit easier.
Kurdt Vanderhoof: How are things over there in Germany right now?
Markus Heavy Music Blog: It’s under control as much as it can be under control, but of course there are also pretty strict regulations. Bars, cinemas, clubs, shops and so on are closed but you can go outside with a second person or close family.
Kurdt Vanderhoof: Yeah, same thing here. We just need to get over it and it will be fine.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: Before talking about the new album, let’s just quickly talk a bit more about the current situation. Great to hear that everybody is well. Nothing’s more important than health these days. It was a different world the last time we talked. It was at the Dynamo Metal Fest in the Netherlands and in the meantime things changed dramatically. Live shows aren’t possible these days, one of the most important financial income segments for a band. What’s the affect of the current corona crises on bands like Metal Church?
Kurdt Vanderhoof: Well, I mean only on an individual basis depending upon where they at. A couple of guys are still up in Washington. You know, it’s pretty much the same. In fact we had nothing on the books or anything planned for this summer. So it didn’t stop anything. The only thing that personal affected me was Presto Ballet. We were booked for ’Cruise to the Edge’ and that got cancelled. It’s gonna be rescheduled obviously but that was the only thing that really affected us. And to Metal Church as group, it didn’t do anything.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: Good to hear that it didn’t affect you guys a lot.
Kurdt Vanderhoof: Yeah. I was thinking this morning, imagine like all the festivals this summer are probably cancelled or at least postponed or on hold I would imagine, right.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: Yeah, there are certainly discussions and some of them are already cancelled or postponed what brings me to live streaming shows. Live stream concerts are really gaining momentum at the moment. Did you guys consider to do such a show too?
Kurdt Vanderhoof: We probably will discuss it now to do something like that, but no, we haven’t. We kind of shut-down basically cause after the last record we have literally toured the world. Furthermore I have just relocated and still in the process of relocating with selling my house and moving. I want to really concentrate on that, get the studio back, set back up and all that stuff. So I said look, we have done enough. I don’t want to do any touring until I settled into a new house and we have a new album, I mean a studio album. So we’re kind of on ice for a while. We certainly haven’t stopped. We did the world and we recorded the last record and we will pick things up at the right time. Let’s make a new record and then we will move forward and get back into it.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: Let’s have a look on more positive things. Metal Church has a new album out on the market. With a mix of new songs, live songs, cover versions,… it feels like this release is to bridge the wait for a new album. Was this the intension?
Kurdt Vanderhoof: Yeah, a kind of. It was something that we have discussed before cause we have been accumulated a lot of bonus tracks and had all kinds of stuff. Joe (O’Brien) at Rat Pak Records, him and I started to talk about to put out a ’from the vault’-record. It was like “hey, that sounds like a great idea to add that stuff”, because we have some ‘Live in Japan’ stuff, you know. We just had a bunch of stuff and we thought it would be really fun to put something out there and also kind of empty the archive, so that we can start again. We don’t call it an official album. It’s something for collectors, it’s something for fun, just something we wanted to do with some left-over material.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: The uptempo opener ‘Dead on the Vine’ is a great start into the album while ‘Above the Madness’ shows a bit more complexity. However, both songs are 100% Metal Church. Can you talk a bit about how the new songs have been created?
Kurdt Vanderhoof: Well, all the stuff was written or recorded and wasn’t finished for the last two albums. Some of it was stuff that just never got finished demo-wise. Some of it was stuff that we never made the record and it was stuff that we just felt it would be good. It’s stuff that for whatever reason didn’t fit the record or wasn’t finished and we decided to finish it.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: The new album includes a re-done version of ‘Conductor’, originally on the ‘Hanging in the Balance’-album. The song was already a great one and became even more powerful compared to 1993. What was reason to record the song?
Kurdt Vanderhoof: Well, that’s apparently according to fans and people of the record company. They keep getting requests because the ’Hanging in the Balance’ album is really hard to get, really hard to find and that was kind of the end of Metal Church back in the days due to bad record companies and bad management and all this sort of thing. So that record, I haven’t been able to try to get my hands on it to release it, re-release, remix, remaster or do what ever, or at least change the cover. That was one of the songs of that record the fans seem apparently really liked. So we thought well, since we can’t really release the whole album just re-record it. Some fun to do and let’s see what happens.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: The album also features some tracks from the “Damned if You Do’-session. Why didn’t they end up on the album and why are they released now?
Kurdt Vanderhoof: Yeah, I don’t know exactly and I can’t really speak to it exactly. It’s one of two things. Either it didn’t kind of fit into the record. Or it was because I usually like to write and record a bunch of songs, so we can pick the best that make a collective album. Sometimes you can write some songs and some work and some don’t. I always like to have a bunch of extras, just in case, because you can finish them up and you think the song’s gonna be great. You start recording and finishing it and you know, this isn’t happening. So it’s just kind of stuff what either wasn’t finished but I think most of the stuff that didn’t make it on the ’Damned if you Do’ album was stuff that we think didn’t really fit or we have enough songs already.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: A title that stands out is ‘Insta Mental’ and I guess it’s about the hype of Instagram, making some people go mental in a way of self-display. On the other hand, especially these days social media shows its benefit to stay connect. What means social media for you and Metal Church?
Kurdt Vanderhoof: (Kurdt laughs) Well, not really that. There was no really hidden meaning. There was not really that much thought into it, but I may use that if people ask me again.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: Kurdt, tell us a bit about the cover versions, Metal Church has recorded for the new album. Looking on bands bands like Nazareth, Ram Jam and Sugarleaf it seems like the ’70s have been a criteria, or?
Kurdt Vanderhoof: Well, we had all decided over the years, let’s all pick a cover tune. So we did and what I picked didn’t work at all. And there was one other one that did’t quitework either. So just ended up recording those and I think there is more that didn’t make it on the list because it wasn’t finished. Mike picked ’Please Don’t Judas Me’, Stad picked ’Green-Eyed Lady’ and Rick picked ’Black Betty’. That’s all. We’re all children of the ’70s and that’s our biggest influence.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: Do you want to share the songs you have picked?
Kurdt Vanderhoof: I approached it from the mindset of how Judas Priest did ’Diamonds & Rust’, which is a Joan Baez song and they also did Fleetwood Mac (’Green Manalishi’). So I wanted to take something that was completely left-field and metalize it. The song I picked was a Joni Mitchell tune, which I really like. I mean Joni Mitchell is great but it didn’t transfer. It didn’t work. So I said, OK, this isn’t working, so let’s go with these. We’re just having some fun. That’s the whole thing about this record. It’s just for fun, it’s just for collectors, it’s just for fans of the band to have more stuff and now we’re comic book characters too since there is a comic book in it and that is cool in itself. It’s part of one of the bundles and yeah, we have a Metal Church comic book. That’s really fun.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: Talking about the ’70s, is there any news from Presto Ballet, your prog classic rock band?
Kurdt Vanderhoof: Oh yeah. We play any time we get a chance. We are definitely working on a new Presto Ballet album and I’m really looking forward to it because this is a passion-project of mine. Maybe it doesn’t make any money and we play very rarely, but I just love that kind of music. The new album is gonna be a double concept album, which is if you’re a prog band you gotta at least release one of those. It’s the continuing story of ‘Relict to the Modern World’.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: Kurdt, is there anything more you want to share to the fans?
Kurdt Vanderhoof: The only thing that I gonna share to the fans: do not despair, do not get buy into the fear. Do not buy into the propaganda. We will get through this and everything is going to be way better on the other side of this.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: Kurdt, thanks a lot for spending some time with Markus’ Heavy Metal Blog. Stay healthy and also best regards to the rest of the band.
Kurdt Vanderhoof: You’re very welcome.