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In Words: Metal Church

- Duke Erickson - April 1994 - Claudia Ehrhardt -
- Ronny Munroe - Sept. 2008 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

- Liner notes for Hanging In The Balance -

Metal Church promotion photo
Metal Church

Ronny Munroe - September, 17th 2008 (by phone)

The new album This Present Wasteland of Seattleites Metal Church is coming out these days and so a good reason to talk to singer Ronny Munroe! "We started writing This Present Wasteland about a year, a year and a half ago. It took us about a year to finish it. As far as the title of the album... it's about the state of the world, about the world going down." The artwork goes well with it and I already thought that the title is meant that way. It's a great idea to bring back the guitar and the cross... "We had an idea for the artwork, but for awhile we had the idea for the fan contest. Now the time was right, we gave the fans the album title and we got a lot of entries. Kurdt's vision for the band was always a positive one. Guitar-cross... First there was only the cross and we really liked the cover, but asked the guy to add the guitar. Now it's very simple, very basic... And it looks great!" But then it was time to talk about the music and I told Ronny that for a brief moment at Breathe Again his phrasing is like Geoff Tate's.... "Wow, thanks for the compliment! When I was younger I was singing in a Top 40 band and we did some songs from Queensrÿche like Jet City Woman." The other thing I recognized is Ronny singing in a lower tone - partly. In other reviews it was mentioned that Mr. Munroe sounds this time quite like Bruce Dickinson... "Well, Bruce Dickinson is a great singer, but.. The song Breathe Again is Maiden-ish. I really dig Dio... Dickinson..." Seems that he can't really agree... And me too. And Ronny continues: "The album has no fillers, all songs are good. I do belief Kurdt was able to pin it down... Crawling To Extinction is like old Metal Church. So far nobody had the balls to put down the CD." As Metal Church always been a live band and with more albums it gets more difficult to choose songs. "Nothing set in stone about a tour. There are classic ones and we will have a couple. Company Of Sorrow and one more of The Present Wasteland in the set. But we will rehearse all songs and change the track list." This time the album is closer to the live sound and I wanted to know from Ronny what he think is the reason for it. "We had more time to record. Te last time we hadn't much time for a pre-production. The label was pushing, this time no label was pushing us and we did a pre-production. That makes the album stronger. Sometimes messing around makes a lesser product, sometimes its a label pushing." The label is doing their business, but sometimes it would have been worth to give a band more time... This Present Wasteland is somehow mirroring reality. Ronny explains: "In time of economic struggle and war the metal scene comes to the forefront. The world is struggling and the people need to let out aggressions. Metal music is the perfect music to do that." And so metal is rising again which already shows in TV commercials, etc. Metal Church always stayed away from the typical cliches lyrically. So I wanted to know which song is most important lyrically for Ronny. Without thinking about it he answered: "Breathe Again! We all lost a love one in our lives and that's what the song is basically about. The song is about being able to let go, to know that someone is watching over you and to feel like you can breathe again." If you lost someone close you need time to get over it and then one day you feel free again, but it doesn't mean that you have forgot your loved one! "On my MySpace profile I received a message, someone telling me that he knows exactely what I mean and he ended his message with the words 'Now I can breathe again!' That really meant a lot to me!" But what fans might want to know too, is why Jay Reynolds left the band and how Rick van Zandt came in. Some might know that Rick is playing in Ronny's solo band... "Jay had some personal issues and the road wasn't the best place for him. We are still friends, he decided to step down so that we could move on. I knew Rick from my time in Rottweiler and we are still friends. We had a lot qualified people auditioning, then I hooked up Kurdt and Rick and he was the perfect fit! As soon as Kurdt and Rick played together, he knew that the search was over." So we can look forward to see the new Metal Church on tour... And Ronny continued "We already played live - with Queensrÿche in Puerto Rico! Rick is the best lead guitarist for Metal Church! Playing Puerto Rico was cool! We were going down there for a few days, had a nice hotel and played the show." Sounds like a holiday trip spiced up with a show... "We really had a good time, it was great to hang out with the Queensrÿche guys. The show was awesome and it's a start to build up a fan base there." Time was running out, more phoner interviews to do, but there will be a chance to continue when they come on tour. Meanwhile enjoy This Present Wasteland!

Claudia Ehrhardt


Duke Erickson - Cologne (Germany) - April, 20th 1994

On the 20th of April, the birthday of Adolf Hitler, about 600 fans come to party with Metal Church and don't think of the past. The rockers come to see one of the most understated bands of the last century. More about the band from bass player Duke Erickson.

Duke, please tell us about the beginning of Metal Church. Let's travel back in time!

Okay, we been a bunch of friends who know each other from school. We all come from a small town in the US state of Washington, about 100 km far from Seattle. It was just for fun at first. Starting by playing cover tunes that been in 1982. About a year later we wrote our first songs. After doing some shows with Metallica in the Bay Area the boys helped us with their contacts to Electra Records. The label signed us and in 1984 we released our debut. That was with our former singer David Wayne and guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof. We toured for awhile e.g. with Exciter in Germany and when the time was right to record our next album The Dark (1986) we have to recognize that we don't know anybody at the label. All the ones who supported us left or been fired and the new ain't interested in us.

So you looked for another company!

Yes, but with Epic the same happened after a while. In the mean time we toured with Metallica in Europe and played in the USA. Than Kurdt told us that he is tired of touring and that he dislike to be on the road any longer. He wanted to take the consequence and wanted to left the band. We are very glad that we found another way.

Kurdt is still in the band, as far as I know, right?

Yeah, he is our 6th member, he still writes the songs and is just missing on tour. So we searched for a guitarist and fortunately found John Marshall. With our former singer it was different. But we had the luck to find Mike Howe, he came from the band Heretic.

Mike gives you more variety in what you playing.

Mike was our lucky chance. With him we made Blessing In Disguise (1989). I remember I always told, it won't take again so long until we release our next record, but the time give me the lie. So now I say, okay it will take about 2 years, perhaps longer. In 1991 we brought out The Human Factor. Than the company dropped us.

You had a cult status, but the sales didn't satisfy the record company.

That was just one problem for us we had with the company. Now we nearly run our own business and we are free in our decisions. It makes it easier. Sure we have to watch the sales, but it turns out very well for us.

That brings us to the current album Hanging In The Balance. What is the difference to the last one?

It's just a natural progress, since our debut we grow and you can hear it in our music. In 1984 it was trash, now we're more melodic, but even hard. The lyrics changed. On our debut we wrote about killing, murders, death, etc. Now we bring in things that happen to us, we write about everyday-life, society problems, e.g. racism or drug abuse. I think these are the themes of heavy metal. Lyrics about flowers or so wouldn't fit. Heavy Metal is to bring out aggressions to find a way to deal with the bad.

Do you all write together on the material? Or does Kurdt come up with an idea and you all continue? Who write the main part of the lyrics, Mike?

We do it in all ways, sometimes Kurdt presents us a finished song, sometimes he had an idea and work it out with John. Or we all sit together doing it. It depends. The lyrics been mostly written by Mike, sometimes together with Kurdt. Sometimes John also helped.

You give yourself the space to work in different ways.

That's it!

What are your plans for the next time?

We'll play wherever we can. Last time we played in Italy, it was great, but the promoter think he couldn't profit from it. He won't do a thing like that again. That's the problem. Definitely we play in the USA after returning from the European tour in the end of May.

You would like to play in Russia?

For sure, but we have no deal there, that make it difficult. As soon as we have a distribution deal for Eastern Europe we will tour there. Perhaps it won't pay out for us, but we definitely will have fun there and that's what it all is about.

Thank you very much, all the best to you and hopefully you'll soon get the chance for releasing and playing in Russia.

Again I met a very nice guy and I learnt a lot about the band. Perhaps I'll get another chance and can talk to Mike Howe next time...

Claudia Ehrhardt


Metal Church - Hanging In The Balance (Liner notes)

To give you more information about the lyrics I will quote what Mike Howe told about it in a German magazine:

Gods Of Second Chance: This is not about suicide, it's about nasty situations which everybody is in sometimes. In this situation you just wish to get a 2nd chance. This album have a depressive touch, but always there is a trace of hope in it.

Losers In The Game: At first it was a song about us. Even if we worked hard to reach our goal, we been the losers in this business. Finally we don't want to feel sorry for ourselves. So we wrote the lyrics more universal, coz many people have to cope with even more worst things.

Hypnotized: Fun lyrics, based on the novel Interview With A Vampire it's about vampires who are keen on blood of young women. It's a parable to be interpreted by everyone themselves.

No Friend Of Mine: It's idiotic that the people hate each other e.g. because they look different. We wrote about racism in general, just the line hide behind your bedclothes is an attack against the Ku-Klux-Klan.

Waiting For A Savior: Music and words are written by Paul O'Neill. It says that everyone should manage ones life oneself, it's senseless to wait for a savior from outer space.

Little Boy: John had the idea. He is a huge fan of Rush and he wrote an epic song from that kind of music. But the track is even heavy. We wrote lyrics which fits, it's about war, the atomic bomb in Japan which been named Little Boy by the Government ... The lyrics describe the impressions of a small American boy who suddenly wake up in Japan. This boy see the follow-up of the drop of the atomic bomb. A really depressive song - with two meanings.

Down To The River: Yeah, the priest in us is coming out! The track is arranged like a Judas Priest song, a kind of party song, but not like Poison's party rock, more like "Come on! Let's have a party!"

A Subtle War: Been written during the pre-production by Kurdt and John. It's a kind of March. The lyrics are about nowadays you can look in some­one's face on the street, especially in L.A., you have to fear to be shot. Because people fear to get killed on the streets and so they buy themselves weapons and use them. It's necessary to find a way to check potential buyers of arms. The time to end this street war is coming, in my family no one needs weapons.

Low To Overdrive: A bonus track, written after the main production by Kurdt. A songs about a girl who feel life has no sense after the end of a relation.


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