I did this interview with Kurdt Vanderhoof for the release of his solo project ‘Vanderhoof’, in March of 1999. That album was an amazing set of classic rock & metal influences, lots of killer guitar and Hammond organ.
Kurdt Vanderhoof is a founding member of the band Metal Church , who have recently reunited the original line-up and recorded a new album, as well as releasing a live disc from 1986. Kurdt had left the band in the late 80s, but continued to write songs for them and play on some of the albums.
Last year he put together his own project “Vanderhooof”, and recorded an album with all the qualities and trademarks of a classic 70s album from the likes of Heep, Purple, Sabbath, etc… Those that have heard the album will agree that it’s brilliant, with plenty of hammond organ up front, heavy guitars, great vox, and cool production techniques that give it an authentic 70s sound and feel. The album is highly recommended! Here I had the chance to discuss this album with Kurdt, as well as some of his 70s influences. Also worth checking out is Kurdt’s 1991 project “Hall Aflame”.
Q– As you also write most of the Metal Church material, how did you approach writing your solo album differently?
KV: I took the approach that I wanted to create a record that was a collective of all my favorite styles of music and my biggest influences growing up. Basically, I wanted to form a band that was completely my ultimate band as opposed to following any trend. I also needed an avenue that had no musical restrictions that I could always write pretty much what I wanted. I have to say a lot of my inspiration was in response to the ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE state of rock in the 90’s. And try to do what I could to provide an alternative to alternative. New bands can’t play and they can’t write songs and they have become so cliché phobic that all the things about Rock&Roll that made me want to be a musician are totally non existent in modern music. We need ROCK STARS again. The kids need to have musicians that are worth looking up to and are something to aspire to. If I could, I would stop this Hip Hop movement in its tracks!!! Kids have not learned to play or sing, they have learned to run a computer and samplers and have developed no musical skills what so ever!
Q- what can you tell me about some of the people who played on your album? (reference to Damon Albright, Brian Cokeley, Dave Hawkes, Kirk Arrington)
KV: Damon Albright lives in Sacramento and spent his early days playing bar bands around Tacoma and Seattle. He also hates the state of Rock in the 90’s and was a perfect fit into the project. Dave Hawkes and Brian Cokeley are 2 musicians that I have known for quite a while and had work with both of them quite a bit in the studio, producing their bands demos etc.. They were also very excited to work on a project that was going in the direction that I had planned. Kirk I have worked with for years growing up and in Metal Church.
Q- VANDERHOOF has a lot of variety on it, what did you set out to accomplish musically and commercially with this album?
KV: I refuse to make one dimensional records. I was just drawing off my favorite records in the sense that the best bands always were capable of making “Music” and not just one style. Most records these days are like “you’ve heard one song then you have heard the album” and that has got to stop or we will not have any Rock music in the future.
Q- what inspires your songwriting – lyrically & musically? (any process to it?)
KV: No real process to it. Its just something that I’m very passionate about and I’m constantly trying to create music, and hope that I will always be writing.
Q- A lot of the album has a very 70s influenced sound to it, as well as the ‘vinyl’ cracklings, was this deliberate to make it a more 70s inspired sounding record?
KV: The 70s sound was extremely deliberate!!!!!
Q- “Take To The Sky” ( a fave of mine) features some great hammond & drum sound, and when it reminds me of Uriah Heep’s “Look At Yourself” album (that sound). What can you tell me about how this song came about? KV: I really wanted to use the Hammond Organ in a hard rock context. No one is doing that anymore and wanted to start having the keyboard player be an actual member of the band again. These days they seem to be just nameless side-men playing behind the P.A. And I really feel that it was an obvious acknowledgment of what a great band Uriah Heep was. I would like to bring back the days when keyboard players were heroes as well as the singers and guitar players i.e.: Wakeman, Hensley, Lord, Emerson, etc
Q- what can you tell me about inspirations or influences to some of the other stand-out tracks (few words required, small antedates) – like “Falling To earth, “Angel Now” (again love the Hammond!), “Out Alive” (great heavy riff!), and “Beg” (another great heavy track).
KV: Again, I really felt it important to make a record that was not one dimensional and had a lot of different moods and styles.
Q- are the string sounds on “50 Cent Symphony” all synthesized or authentic? they sound great! what else can you tell me about this song?
KV: Everything on the album and every album that will follow are all the real thing!!!! The strings are real Mellotron and it’s all analog synths. If you read in the credits it state that all instruments were played by carbon based life-forms and everything is analog. No computers, no samplers, no drum machines. Recorded on Tape etc…
Q- were you very pleased with the final album, and will you plan to do another in the future?
KV: I’m very pleased and proud of the record ! It will be re-mixed for release in North America. That should take care of any Sonic problems that I would like to fix.
Q- were you pleased with the reception the album got? everyone I know who’s heard it – loved it!
KV: I was pretty stunned by the response but I guess I knew in my heart that if it did get a chance to be heard that there was enough people like myself that would “get it”.
Q- A lot of Uriah Heep fans have commented that some of the tracks on your album sound very much Heep inspired/influenced. Any truth to this? Are/were you much of a Uriah Heep fan? (if so, can you tell me about the band’s influence, your favorite Heep songs, albums, etc..??)
KV: Yes, A BIG Heep fan!!! Very Heep influenced and proud of it!! Faves are: Gypsy, Look at Yourself, Sweet Lorraine, 7 Stars, Traveler in Time, and many more !! Albums: Heep Live, Demons and Wizards, Sweet Freedom.
Q- Who are your own favorite singers, guitarists, keyboardists, songwriters, and albums.. ??
KV : Fave singers: Ian Gillan, Robert Plant, and I’m sure quite a few others. Fave Guitarists: Alex Lifeson, Michael Schenker, Tony Iommi, Brian Robertson, Scott Gorham, Steve Howe, Pete Townshend. Fave Keys: Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Ken Hensley, Jon Lord. Overall idol: Pete Townshend!!
Q- Early biggest influences?
KV: Earliest BIG influences: The Beatles made me want to do it, Grand Funk Railroad and The Who made me want to make it REALLY REALLY loud!! RUSH made me want to skip school and learn how to play.
Q- What do you currently listen to a lot of?
KV: Currently I’m listening to a lot of early 70s Prog. And of Course Thin Lizzy UFO, Rush, Styx, Grand Funk, Max Webster, Zep, and a lot of KANSAS
Q- What are current plans (recording & touring) for Metal Church? When is album due out? (label?)
KV: The Church album will be coming out in June on Great Northern/ Nuclear Blast. Touring is something that might be kinda difficult due to the fact that most of the guys are in the Wife-Job-Kids thing. But are going to try to get out there for at least a few shows.
Q- where are yourself and Metal Church based out of?
KV: We are based out of Olympia Washington.
Q- any other current or future projects you are involved in or planning ?
KV: The minute I deliver the new Metal Church record we shall begin the new Vanderhoof record. Which I’m more excited about than any other record I have ever done!! It will be more progressive and heavier and just more everything that isn’t being done anymore!!! Hope you like it!!!!