Interview: Mike Howe & Duke Erickson, Metal Church

Mike Howe and Duke Erickson

Note:- The first page of this interview is missing.

........playing so fast," opines Duke. "For a while it seemed if that was all everybody worried about."

Mike again: "You always want to try and better yourself. You don't want to keep on doing the same thing over and over. People get bored of it. They want to see the talent grow, and successful bands have to do that."


You also seem to write quite ambitious lyrics, in sharp contrast to some of the more mainstream bands I could mention.

"Bands like Poison don't need to have depth in their lyrics," Mike opines, "because their music is so poppy it sells by that."

Scrutinizing your lyrics, I was intrigued by some of the topics you covered. Take the title track The Human Factor. That seems to be an attack on some forms of rap. What prompted that?

"What's going on over in America - that's what prompted it," Mike replies matter of factly. "You look at the Billboard Charts and all those guys - it's just all the rappers."

Duke: "The Top Ten songs in the charts use other people's riffs."

A slight exaggeration methinks, but Vanilla Ice would be a good example of that.

"He's the main example," opines Mike. "He's coming on TV and saying, 'Well my riff isn't like their riff. It goes doo doo dee der instead of doo doo doo dee den."

What's the fuckin' difference!?

"There is no difference," he replies acidly. "So when you see an asshole like that come on TV and try to say this is valid, you've gotta wonder what's going on!"

According to Mike, the point is "respect for other people's music." However, he's not thrashing the more authentic, non-contrived street rap:

"No, there's respectability. We hear some of the stuff and at least there's originality trying to get out. It's from the heart more."

Duke takes up the reins.

"It's just the fact that people are making millions of dollars and they're not really that talented," he opines in between mouthfuls of a salmon sandwich. "They shouldn't be where they are. They wouldn't be there if they didn't use other people's stuff."

In Harms's Way tackles the disturbing and tricky topic of child abuse that has now been exposed as being more widespread than many of us could have imagined. Mile explains his interest:

"It's just a subject that we talked about that was preying on our minds. It wasn't a big revelation. It's just topics that have been under our skins that have really interested us lately and it has to fit well with metal."

He clarifies his point: "It's hard to pick subjects to sing metal to because they can't be too wimpy, otherwise they won't come across right."

"The difference with Metal Church is we take a bad topic like that and say something good about it or say something against it. We're not talking about fuckin' well killing your parents! But you can pick up a topic like that and turn it around a bit, make it a little more of a positive message."

The musical genre that the band operate withing has always been embodied with a mood of anger and aggression. In Metal Church's case its it internal or external?

"Oh definitely from within," declares Mike. "During the passage of your life a lot of shit happens, a lot of bad shit. We were down on our luck pretty hard. When you're down you get, y'know, frustrated."

Duke: "A lot of the songs on the set are just us being pissed off about something."

As opposed to the Bon Jovis and Extremes of this world, out 'n' out metal bands seem to attract predominantly...urhm...angry young males, I hesitantly suggest. Do you think you can ever cross over to a wider audience?

Duke: "You always wish you could sell more records."

"There's no reason we can't," insists Mike. "It's just about getting out there, that's all. I mean, look at Metallica. I never thought girls would like that kind of music!!"

There seems to be parallels between metal, punk, and possibly rap. Mike agrees.

"I think the energy is definitelt there and that's what metal and punk are about, just getting out your aggression and screaming at the top of your lungs. That's great therapy for people."

When you're not giving therapy to others, what's your musical therapy?

"Sting!"

His reply leaves me gobsmacked.

"He's a great songwriter and a guy who can put a lot of instruments together and make them sound great. That's all I know."

So, you find yourself attracted to music that is perhaps the antithesis of what you do?"

Duke: "Always."

"The thrash scene has become really jaded and scared me," Mike says, somewhat contradicting his earlier point, "so I really haven't been able to locate or try to find any bands that I like. So, I can't look at metal anymore unless somebody I know and trust goes 'Hey, listen to this. This is really good."

Long pause.

"I'm a singer," he states. "I listen to soul singers."

Black singers?

"Marvin Gaye's my favourite singer, Anita Baker, and Kate Bush. She's another one that I really love."

Kate Bush! Hey, Mike and me have more in common than I thought!

Metal Church take to the road in the US, their sharp new management having secured them a support slot on the Judas Priest/ Alice Cooper tour extravaganza. This could be the big breakthrough they've been working so hard and so long for, something Mike is more than aware of:

"It was [the management's] turn to get us the gig and the moneny, and they did it. Now all we've got to do is go out there, play well and I think the ball will start rolling."

Yes, roll on!

Mark Liddell
Riff Raff
August 1991
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