Ronnie Munroe Discusses Band's Current North American Tour And The Circumstances That Got Them Back Together
Band Photo: Metal Church (?)
From the operatic range of Ronny Munroe's voice to the tight presentation of guitarists Rick Van Zandt and Kurdt Vanderhoof, Metal Church's performance at Backstage Live in San Antonio brought to mine the term professional. Songs like "Ton of Bricks," "Gods of Wrath" and "Metal Church" whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Some of these songs have held their fans in thrall for thirty years.
Besides legends like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Kiss and Metallica, few metal artists have the power to stay relevant like Metal Church. In fact, if it weren't for Metallica guitar tech and then-Metal Church guitarist, John Marshall, stepping in as James Hetfield's guitar hand on tour (Hetfield burned his hand on a stage pyro), Metal Church would have never made its way into my ears.
The group's success isn't linear, though, as the group has stepped away from the big lights a couple of times. Their most recent hiatus came in 2009 after releasing "This Present Wasteland." The group issued "Generation Nothing" last year and followed the release up with a reunion show at 70,000 Tons of Metal. Now that the band has returned to its former glory, they've assailed North American crowds with their no-bullshit-brand of true heavy metal. Before speaking from the book of heavy metal in San Antonio, vocalist Ronny Munroe and I grabbed the green room at Backstage Live to Metal Church's experiences on the road and the events that helped make the tour possible.
Rex_84: Metal Church has been on the road for about a week. How is the tour going so far?
Ronny Munroe: This is our fifth show here in San Antonio. It's been going alright. We've had some things along the way--flat tires and some issues here and there, but an hour-and-a-half on stage is what we live for, so the shows are going really well so far.
Rex_84: So you've had some issues. Did you miss any shows?
Munroe: No, just we blew a tire on our trailer after we go to our hotel after a very-long drive. There were a couple of mechanical things, some lights here and there and this and that. After the very first show, some drunken editor almost ran over Rick Van Zandt, our lead guitar player, and backed over our drummer's brand new rack and broke a couple of clamps. It became this big fiasco. He and a couple of his buddies all got arrested. It was stupid, drunken stuff.
Rex_84: Did they do it on purpose?
Munroe: I don't think they did it on purpose. I think they were just too hammered because when the guy got out of truck, he was wobbling back and forth. Just too many beers. But no one got hurt.
Rex_84: How did you make up for the equipment loss?
Munroe: We replaced a couple of equipment clamps and one of the cymbal stands got bent, so we jimmy rigged it a little bit. We'll be fine. Big fan of MacGyver (laughs).
Rex_84: Now that "Generation Nothing" gives Metal Church ten albums, how do you choose your set list every night?
Munroe: That's pretty self-explanatory: you've got to play the songs that the fans really know the most. Actually, true fans know all of them, of course, because it's such a classic band--but you've got to throw in "Watch the Children Pray," "Ton of Bricks," "Start the Fire," and stuff off the first record. It is kind of hard, but then again, we do what we think the fans are going to want, and usually that pans out. The first show is always going to get requests for songs that we don't do, but down the road maybe we'll throw one or two of those in.
Rex_84: What are some songs you like to play from the albums you star on?
Munroe: Off of "Generation Nothing," we're doing "Generation Nothing," of course. We're doing "Scream" and "Dead City." Out of my era I like...we're actually not playing it right now but we'll probably put it in later, "Leave Them Behind" off "The Weight of the World." We do "A Light in the Dark," the title track from that, which I really dig. "This Present Wasteland," we're not touching on that this time around, but when we come back out before we did "Company of Sorrow." Solo-wise, when I come out and do my own thing, I usually do "Crawling to Extinction."
Rex_84: No "Hero Soul?"
Munroe: I do that not with Metal Church, with my solo. Thank you for brining that up because it's one of my favorites (mine too-Rex).
Rex_84: Rick joined the band and he has played on the last two albums. What has he brought to your band? How has he changed the group or has he changed the group?
Munroe: I wouldn't say he has changed the group, but he has brought more professionalism than what we've had in the past. He's a solid player and he's a solid guy, too. He's a good human being, which counts. When you've been around as long as we have, it's not always about having the hot-shit players because we could have brought in whoever we wanted, basically. We had Rick there when we had the episode happen with Jay Reynolds when we were going to originally reform with him. There were problems from the very start, so we called Rick immediately and said, "Hey, do you want back in?" He worked it out, and we're all really happy he's back in the fold because he solidifies things. He was on the "This Present Wasteland" album with us, but only did 3 or 4 shows before we called it quits. This was in 2009. We ended at Rocklahoma. We were away for about four years, and not to go into a long thing, we experienced a lot of disappointing stuff--not the right agencies, management, the way the record industry was going at the time. Basically, Kurdt [Vanderhoof] and I talked about it and decided "let's take a break for a while before things get worse. It wasn't about any of us nothing liking each other; we all stayed friends and we all talked all the time. Finally, quickly on how we got back together: 70,000 Tons of Metal had contacted us about three years in a row. Finally Kurdt called me up one day and said, "Hey, we have another offer to go. What do you think? I think I'm ready to do this, what about you?" I said, "Hell yeah, let's talk to the rest of the guys and let's do it!" So this is our second shot, and that was a great opportunity to play 70,000 Tons. I can't thank them enough for that because there was press and bands from 40 different countries. That was our reunion show. That was awesome for us! For us, coming back, you couldn't ask for a better reunion gig! I think we got more attention from that than with the first record I did with the band.
Rex_84: Going back to when you started in the band, do you remember any songs you felt were really hard and took you a while to perfect or was your voice like "boom," you hit it?
Munroe: Basically, this is my range. I've always been at that. I practice all that stuff. I was a fan of the band from the very start. I was one of those guys driving around in his beat-up car screaming my ass off to "Gods of Wrath" until I wore the tape out not knowing that twenty years later I would be the front man of the band. As far as any song being harder than another, not really because I'm pretty much on auto pilot. Being a fan of the band and singing this kind of metal, it comes pretty easy to me.
Rex_84: Your bio states that "Generation Nothing" is a mix of old and new. Was that your intention when going into the studio? We're you trying to update your sound while still staying with what people know as Metal Church?
Munroe: You kind of have to still sound like that, but I don't think that Kurdt goes in with any preconceived notion. He just goes in and starts writing. When he gets in the zone, he gets in the zone! Then he sends the stuff to me. Vocally, this time around I just went in and loosened up a bit more than on the previous three records. We did a lot more pre-production than we did on any of the other three albums, so I was really able to wrap my head around it. We did two or three rewrites on certain songs. I went in and was well-prepared and I went for it. I just did my best.
Rex_84: The record came out through Rat Pak Records. How did you connect with those guys?
Munroe: Joe O'Brien at Rat Pak Records is the label I put out my first solo record out on. He's a huge fan of the band. When he and I were talking about Metal Church getting back together, he of course, started sniffing around asking what we were going to do. It's also on Kurdt's Body of Work Recordings--he has his own label as well. The majority of my stuff that has been done was through Rat Pak Records, so I brought that to the table and hooked Joe and Kurdt up. They quickly became friends. Kurdt realized what a great job Joe and his team could do for us, and the rest is history.
Rex_84: Some of your song titles consists of puns, which has me wondering about the album title "Generation Nothing." What does this say about the new generation, if that is what you're referring to?
Munroe: Right off the bat one would think we're talking about the kids of today that they are screwed and blah, blah, blah--that's not it, really. It's really talking about we're living in a digitized age. When I got home from school, I went out and rode my bike. I went and played football or baseball with my friends. Boxed or whatever we did. Nowadays, it's straight home, if you go to school, and you're in a dark room with your face buried in a video game or in your phone texting. Kids at the mall, if you sit and watch them, they're running into walls because buried in their phone. It's kind of sad because it's a necessary evil for all of us, but that's what that is all about. It's not really a knock on today's youth. There are a lot of great kids out there. It's really about that. I kind of wish we could go back to those days, but those days are long gone.
Rex_84: You being from Seattle, Washington, I wanted to ask you about your states recent ruling on marijuana. Along with Colorado, Washington has passed a law making marijuana legal. What do you think about it in your home state? What is going on out there?
Munroe: First, I want to say, anything and everything in moderation. Life is about balance. If you're into that kind of thing, then more power to you, but just do it in moderation. It's bringing a lot of money to the states. I know a lot of other states are going to follow suit, which in my mind, should have happened long before alcohol was legalized because millions of people have been killed by drunk drivers. You know those old commercials where the guys are getting stoned and then they run over the child in the parking lot going through the drive-through? That doesn't happen. I still do not condone that. Don't get thoroughly stoned and go out to drive. There are medicinal purposes for that. Again, everything in moderation. Life is about balance.
Rex_84: Last question, what is going on with the rest of the tour?
Munroe: Tonight is our fifth show. I believe we have twenty-seven total. We go to Houston tomorrow. We are going to shoot a couple of videos for our upcoming thing. I can't really talk about that right now, but we've got something in the works for our next release that I think the fans are really going to dig. We're doing the best we can to get through this month-long run in our RV. So far, we're having a good time, man. It's been a little hectic; a couple of guys have a cold right now because of the temperature changes, but we're road dogs, we're road warriors! We've been doing this forever. We're hear to bring the Metal Church back to the fans and just let everybody know we're back and we're hear to stay as long as the fans want us. Make sure to check out Metal Church's official Facebook page and go to metalchurchmusic.com and ronnymunroe.com and all of our sites on Facebook. You can always find links to whatever we're doing and google us. I appreciate the time and also to all the fans out there for the years of support, we very much thank you for that. Just keep coming out to the shows.
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