A chat with Kurdt Vanderhoof of Metal Church
If there’s one church that doesn’t spook me that’s Metal Church.
I had a lovely chat with Kurdt Vanderhoof, who turned out to be the most welcoming, eloquent and approachable rock star I have ever met. From the very first moment I felt that I knew him forever, it felt as if I was having a chat with an old buddy who was truly happy to see me again and catch up. “Are you in Greece?” he asked.
I am indeed. He found that cool.
You’ll notice that this is a much longer interview than the ones I originally tend to do, and that’s because we simply chatted and talked about music, attitude and blessings in disguise, just the way you’d do with an old friend…
So, Kurdt! I work with many bands and I have been exposed to a lot of music, but since I am not a musician myself, I was wondering if you could explain to me the following phenomenon. So, I’ve noticed a pattern: The best metal musicians, especially the best metal guitarists have some sort of a punk-rock background (The Lewd 1978). What is the connecting link here and what exactly is that factor that makes you guys so exquisite?
Whoa, exquisite, that’s so nice of you, thank you! That’s an interesting question, I like that! You know, I think that, as far as thrash metal and the metal that we play, I think it gives it the energy, it gives that edge, coming from a more organic place. When I was in the first generation punk movement, I was in it because of the energy, the aggression and the non-commercial aspect of it. So it was done purely for musical reasons and kept that real rock ‘n’ roll spirit, which was rebellion and all those kind of things, that wasn’t about musicality necessarily, it was more about putting across an energy and an attitude. When I started Metal Church, right after that, the thing was about seeing the British heavy metal wave taking the energy of punk but put it in a more musical format, because the Iron Maidens, and Motörheads and Saxons and all that, they all had that punk rock attitude, but more skilled musically. So, that was like the perfect combination for me. It starts the heavy metal music from the right place.
I knew exactly what Kurdt meant. It’s like taking that raw, unpolished punk vibe and combine it with real musical proficiency so that you get the best of both worlds. He agreed. He said:
“If you really understood the meaning of the punk movement from the beginning you are making music for the right reasons.”
What’s the craziest thing your fans have ever done?
“Oh boy, there are probably a lot of things that I don’t know, that they never told me, but one of the things that I find incredibly flattering was to see people tattooing the Metal Church logo on their body. That’s a commitment and a half! And the other thing would be when they follow us and travel around to see multiple shows in a tour, and they keep showing up for four or five gigs. I did that a few times when I was following RUSH back in the seventies, but that was RUSH!” he exclaimed and burst into laughter.
What drives you nuts in this present wasteland?
Oh boy, where do I start? We can start with politics at the moment and I’ve never been political or ever paid any attention until this year, now it’s like “Are you kidding me? Is this really what’s going on?” And I’m also having a really hard time with pop music and the way music is made these days, and what’s accepted as pop music, because everything is so digitized and so fake! I just can’t listen, that’s I stay in the past musically and creatively. My favourite stuff is the late sixties, early seventies, and that’s pretty much what I still listen to. There are few things going on currently, newer bands that are doing it for the right reasons and they are actually playing their instruments and recording their records correctly and not over pro-tooling everything to death. Also the fact that the streaming companies don’t pay us.
Have you ever been injured on stage?
Not really, no. But I have taken a couple of spills. One of the first times was when we were playing a show in Montreal, that was back in the days when we all had very long guitar cables, and our bass player came right behind me and his guitar cable was right behind my knee and I didn’t know and I stepped back and tripped and fell flat on my back making an idiot of myself.
We had a giggle over the thought.
That’s a risk question for me but I have to ask, I’ll be damned if I don’t. What’s the most ridiculous question you’ve been asked during an interview?
I’m gonna have to think about that for a second… Hahaha, how about that one? No, I’m kidding.
Yes, I said, that’s why that was a risk question for me. Maybe you‘ve been lucky and have encountered only very serious journalists so far, which of course changes right now with me. We laughed again.
What’s your biggest regret? I asked crossing my fingers that he wouldn’t say “Oh, boy, this interview”.
I think making some business decisions back in the day, and trusting too much, like first managers and trusting some people, in the business aspect of our career maybe not paying attention to business at the beginning of our career. That’s one huge regret for me.
We both agreed that we are all allowed to make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes turn out to be Blessings In Disguise.
Can you recall a “blessing in disguise” moment in your life?
Oh, many absolutely! The blessing in disguise for me was when I actually left the band, not because of leaving the band, but because I developed and spent my time learning how to make records, production and engineering, which allowed me to stay in the business up until now, because now I can make my own records and work in the studio, I can be in control of what I am doing, creatively so that was a real tough time for me and the band and I felt really bad because I knew I was letting the guys down but I also knew I has to do it for me. So when I look back, I don’t regret it because it allowed me to stay in the business.
What’s something that your brain tries to make you do and you have to force yourself not to do it?
Oh man, this could get really nasty, oh boy! Pizza! And then go lie down right afterwards.
Kurdt, in our home we call that Monday night.
What can we do to make metal popular again?
Boy, that’s a really good question. Everything now in the music industry is so fragmented. Back in the day there a few radio stations and there was MTV, but now with the internet everything is so fragmented, whatever kind of music or genre you are into you kind don’t have to hear it if you don’t want to. One thing that I believe would make metal popular again ig going back to the question that you asked, is if it was made better. All the albums now sound the same all the guitar parts sound the same, the production is so digital and so the same that there is no soul left to it. I think that most people when they think about metal today they think of the screams the death metal, the black metal, but if they would start making it a bit more musical, it would be good. It doesn’t mean that it would have to be softer, it still needs to be aggressive and powerful but smarter, more musical, this way it would appeal to more people.
As we are heading into 2019, I think it’s very safe for us to say that the world that we live in is a very dark place. How do you personally find light in the dark?
Well, the world is a dark place but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to choose that you don’t have to live that way. A lot of the darkness you can turn around and find the light. I am a man of faith, and that has a lot to do with it. It’s a choice you can either pay attention to the darkness or turn away from it. The world as it sits yes it’s dark, it’s getting lighter, even though it looks a bit rough, it’s always the darkest right before the dawn. But you don’t have to live in it this way, you can choose light.
Alright! Please tell us everything we need to know about your new album.
It’s the best album ever and everyone needs to go buy a copy, but physically, don’t download it go get an actual copy, how’s that? He said really quickly and we both burst into laughter again.
He went on to explain that it’s an album that he is really proud of, and as the reviews are coming in, it shows that most people are picking up on the fact that
it was designed to sound old-school
and a little bit different that most modern records, it was recorded and produced to have an analogue, old-school sound to it.
Most people went:
“Wow this sounds like my old records!”
…and that makes me really proud.
Until the next one,