Cover Story - August 2020 - Metal Mike
METAL MIKE INTERVIEW
Cover Photo/photos & Article by Exit Hibernation Media
With the past few months being a challenge for musicians and the live music scene, the folks at Exit Hibernation Media felt it would be interesting to hear some thoughts from artists that have a strong perspective on the music industry. Everyone suffers when we can’t see our music heroes play live, or when we can’t be part of the live music experience. Music binds us and inspires us on numerous levels, and when that experience is lacking, it is felt by many. In the hopes of providing a bit of perspective on this present-day anomaly that we are all going through, Exit Hibernation Media reached out to legendary metal guitarist Metal Mike Chlasciak to get his thoughts on a few questions.
Metal Mike is known for being a powerhouse guitarist for the Metal God Rob Halford in the solo project called Halford. Halford’s first album, “Resurrection”, was released in 2000, and was well received by the legions of Judas Priest fans and the fans of Rob’s other work (Fight and 2wo).
Metal Mike’s blazing guitar, along with that of fellow guitarist Patrick Lachman, was right there to grab the listeners by the throat in a fashion that the metal world was yearning for. Metal Mike was not just a guitar player on that release, as he had writing credits to boot (Nightfall, Cyberworld, Temptation, etc.). Halford’s second release, “Crucible”, followed up in 2002, and is arguably one of the best metal albums of all time. Again, Metal Mike was present not just for his skills on the fretboard, but as a writer for such songs as Golgotha, Heretic, One Will, and others. Metal Mike continued on with Halford for two more CD’s, “Winter Songs” and “Made of Metal”, and has shared the stage with the likes of Bruce Dickinson, Geoff Tate, Axl Rose, Sebastian Bach, along with many other bands and artists.
Aside from being a core Halford member, Metal Mike is also one of the world’s leading guitar instructors. His “Chaos Made Simple” is considered one of the most effective teaching methods for learning metal and other styles of guitar. Metal Heroes Music Academy is Metal Mike’s creation for providing not just guitar lessons, but guitar workshops, summer camps, and musical retreats. Now, on to the interview…
EHM: What made you pursue music professionally over other paths to follow?
MMC: I think there were a couple things that pushed me to do so. Even from when I was a kid, I always had a creative approach to things, I had an imagination that was perhaps more vivid than some of my friends. I also remember my grandfather pulling out a violin every so often when I was a kid. He did not play it well at all, but I remember the reaction that people had whenever an instrument was out of the case. I loved it. It was exciting, people started laughing, getting loud. So, to me, that was something that attracted me. I wanted to do something that would make people change their state and be excited about something.
EHM: Many great players have teaching experience as part of their core musical evolution. What has teaching guitar to others brought to you?
MMC: Well, teaching foremost keeps me sharp as far as knowing what I am doing. As the saying goes, if you can’t teach it, you don’t understand it. In some ways, I find that to be true. For me, it is all about spreading the love of the music that I and my students listen to. I enjoy the fact that I’m of help for someone else and that I can provide coaching, so someone else can achieve their goals or dreams. I find it to be a positive experience for me. I feel it matters.
EHM: What is the appeal of heavy metal versus other genres?
MMC: I think to me, Heavy Metal has a tremendous sense of power that is possesses. You feel it when you listen to it or when you attend a concert. It provides a sense of unity between people because the fans are very die-hard. You either like real metal, or you don’t - we are lifers, you know. This is why the motto is Metal For Life. I love it. I’m in. As a friend of mine Pat Mac says … not everyone likes Heavy Metal - You have to be cool first. I have to agree. Metal fans like what they like because they find value in this music that has succeeded without major radio airplay. It’s motivating.
EHM: How did the Halford gig present itself, and what was it like playing with one of the legends of heavy metal?
MMC: When I was a start-up guitarist on the East Coast, I would make and press my own independent records which would get reviewed in local media and often times internationally. My first real album “Grind Textural Abstraction” got me the hot-talent spots in magazines such as Guitar Player, Guitar World and Guitar For The Practicing Music. I was creating a small buzz. I also had an instrumental band that would open up shows for guitar heroes when they came through town. I supported Yngwie Malmsteen, Ronnie Montrose, Steve Morse and others when they played in the NJ area. I found out that The Metal God was looking for a guitarist through an early stage of the internet, which was 1998. At that time, Rob was just about done with the Two project he did with John 5 on Trent Reznor’s label Nothing. I send Rob’s management all my videos of my band playing full houses in front of Marshall stacks, my press, my album and wrote a letter saying that if Rob was looking to do a metal band, I was clearly the guitarist. There were 100s and 100s of submissions, but the rest is history, as they say.
EHM: How has the music industry changed since you became a professional, and what has remained constant?
MMC: Well, the industry changed in the way that the number of physical copies bought of the albums has gone down. You can definitely see a difference between sales in 2000 and today. This could, and usually mean less publishing royalties and much smaller record label advances which both were a good addition to any professional musician’s bottom line. One constant that stayed true is that the way to approach playing metal as a professional is to do it for only one reason – and, that is because you love it. It has always been important to be better on your instrument, write better songs and provide great value as a musician. This must be the core. The love of it. The love of the music, the playing, the tour whether it’s in a van, RV or whatever. The monetary aspect of it is the icing on the cake, which becomes available, but only really once you have the other items in place.
EHM: What are the rewards with playing live, and what are the challenges with playing live?
MMC: I love playing live. I enjoy making records, but not as much as playing live. Making records is a fun work, but playing live is the best. The reward is the ability to connect with others through music and feel the sense of unity with others. The greatest emotions have been experienced by me when I had the guitar in my hand playing music for others. When I did not play live as much for a few years, I kept chasing that feeling, but nothing comes close. The challenges are, in order to do so, you are away from your family, it costs a lot of money to put a band on the road, it’s physically challenging so you have to be in shape to perform your best. It is always a challenge to break away from daily life and start concentrating on getting ready for a show or a tour. Your family wants you back, but a part of your brain lives somewhere else. That’s always difficult.
EHM: With social media being so pervasive and central to consumers, what are some pros and cons of this format for the working musician?
MMC: Social media changed everything, didn’t it? Musicians these days spend so much time on Facebook, Instagram and things like that. It takes away from your practice time. It takes your focus. I mean things have changed. When before bands would create a local buzz, play all around town collecting new fans here and there …. Now, it might be much better to build your fan base on social media first. It’s different. You can reach a lot of people, but it’s very noisy. Everyone has something to show, whether it is good or not. But, this is where we are now, so you have to adapt and keep the core of why you are doing this clear.
EHM: What do you see as the future of live shows?
MMC: I’m not sure just like everybody else at this moment. I have seen some of these drive- through concerts take place and I don’t think they would work for many metal bands. You need the cranking amps, sweat, smoke. So, for me, these separated metal shows are not something that will work. Not for metal. I can see why some bands would try, to do it for the fans, for themselves. What I really hope is that a vaccine will be developed and then we can resume playing heavy music the way it was meant to be played. So, I hope that will become a possibility soon.
EHM: What advice do you have for aspiring musicians in today’s volatile world?
MMC: I think, as I mentioned before, musicians should really think why they want to be a musician. It takes work. Playing an instrument at a high level these days is the starting point. There are guitar players at every corner of Quick Check. You have to have the love, the reasons why, the passion for playing metal. I’d also tell them that having a job and playing music, well, there is no shame in that. There is nothing glorious about playing in a metal band and being broke. Once the opportunity arises to quit their job and do music full-time, then wonderful. I am all for that. These days are not the 80’s. Actors own restaurants, metal musicians own tattoo parlors, I own my Metal Heroes Music Academy. Reality is that we need many buckets to draw from financially these days as musicians, so we can do what we do. I think it’s important to keep these things in perspective.
EHM: What does the future have in store for Metal Mike Chlasciak?
MMC: For me, I’m going to continue to perform with my solo band, doing guitar seminars, special events and of course teaching with my Metal Heroes Academy. I will do some of my past album reissues soon as well. Most then likely do another solo album soon enough. Additionally, I enjoy performing with other people and bands, so I do foresee doing more of that. There are a couple bands out there I’d love to be a part of, so that’s part of the plan, too. It’s all steered toward music that I love to play and share, which is Heavy Metal.
For more on Metal Mike Chlasciak, check him out at the following links:
www.metalmike.net www.metalheroesacademy.com https://www.facebook.com/MetalMikeC/ www.metalforlife.blog www.instagram.com/metalmikec www.twitter.com/metalmikec https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Chlasciak
About Exit Hibernation Media: A.G. with Exit Hibernation Media (www.exithibernationmedia.com, https://www.facebook.com/exithibernationmedia/) is a freelance photographer and artist relations representative who works with musicians, bands, models, makeup artists, and other media talent on a variety of projects and efforts. Band photos, EPK’s, bookings, comp cards, and modeling portfolios are just a few of the things that Exit Hibernation Media can do to help established and aspiring artists for a variety of mediums and genres. For more information, contact A. G. at 717- 504-5737, or email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.