Craig Wells played in Metal Church for over a decade, and his legacy remains intact on the great albums that he recorded with the band. We had a chat with him about his golden days at the "Metal Church".
Q. - So tell me Craig, how did your interest in hard rock and heavy metal music start?
Craig - Personally, I was listening to a lot of fusion musicians while a student of the guitar...I liked Al Dimeola and Jeff Beck because they played lead with distortion. So I became interested in Zep and Sab because of the guitar sounds.
Q. - What other bands did you play before Metal Church?
Craig - I was in a band called Crystal Image with Kirk Arrington on drums and Jess n Us, and Shrapnel. This was while I was growing up in Aberdeen Washington.
Q. - What were your main influences at the beginning?
Craig - At the beginning of Metal Church, it was Zep, Purple, Scorpions, Sabbath, Motorhead, Priest, AC DC, Nugent, Black Oak Arkansas, Van Halen, UFO, Maiden, Saxon, Budgie, Pistols, GenX, Clash, Ramones!
Q. - When did you join Metal Church? Was it around 81/82? Was it when you released the Four Hymns demo, by the name of Shrapnel? What memories do you keep from these early days?
Craig - Yes I was in Shrapnel and played on the Four Hymns Demo, and we changed the name to Metal Church soon after because we decided to write our own songs instead of play cover songs.
Q. - Was it hard to find a label to release the first album?
Craig - No, Seattle at that time was filled with a great music scene. My friend Willie owned a record store called Penney Lane Records and said it was his dream to produce a band and create his own label. So Willie created Ground Zero Records and Metal Church was the first album on this label. Also Shrapnel records wanted to work with us and also Megaforce Records wanted to work with us as well. The Metal market in America was flourishing at this time so we were fortunate to have partners for our vision.
Q. - Is it true that Metallica helped you out with the deal with Elektra Records?
Craig - We met Michael Alago through Metallica because he was their A&R man at Elektra. I believe Lars may have said he liked us and that helped as Elektra was wanting to get many bands for the labels roster. Metallica were our friends and they helped us way beyond getting a record label. They shared song writing knowledge, recording knowledge and drinking knowledge with us and we knew we were fortunate to have their friendship. They were brothers to us first and most. I will always have a debt of gratitude for them.
Q. - Do you recall why David Wayne left the band in 1988, after two fantastic albums such as "Metal Church" and "The Dark"?
Craig - Yes, we kicked him out. We did this because he was partying too much and not taking care of his voice, he was not showing up to rehearsals. It was hard to do, especially because Kurdt Vanderhoof had left the touring band before our first tour on MC1 so we were afraid Elektra would drop us with the loss of two original members. At that point we should have worked it out instead of kicking him out and gave him the chance to correct the issues.
Q. - How would you describe the impact that Metal Church had with all those great albums that you recorded?
Craig - Well, I have never looked at that aspect of it. I just wanted to make good music and let it be songs that reach people. To me there is a relational part of a bands influence around sharing in the music and lyrics with the fans. I remember being on tour and one night hearing the audience sing every song, and that to me was the greatest accomplishment I thought a band could desire. It was the greatest honour to me and at that point I believed that we had given with our music something that was valuable to others. One night we were in Germany opening for Metallica and the entire arena was singing “Gods of Wrath” and David and I were stunned because they were ripping the stage out from our feet at the same time! But they liked the song and that to me was a sign of the fan's approval.
Q. - What lead to the break of Metal Church in 1994? Was it a label problem? Was Metal Church losing the impact that had once before?
Craig - We had kicked out David, we had fired our managers, we had fought to leave Elektra, we had made many wrong moves because we did not make good decisions. This led to the break up as well as our drummer Kirk being badly stricken with Diabetes and he could barely play, this was the worst part because Kirk was my closest brother and I was heartbroken...we then quit.
Q. - Why did you leave the band?
Craig - Changing creative direction...Kurdt was outside of the band and wanted to only be a writer. We used to write together, Kurdt Dave and Myself. Now we have a new singer and he only wants to write with Kurdt. So this to me was Metal Church becoming a whole different band and it closed the door for me to be involved in the creative part. I knew it was time to go as I had poured my life into this and now, I had foolishly allowed the door to close on me by choosing with the Kurdt and the band to kick Dave out. As I said, I left and I pursued a new life and raised my family and focused on a new ambition.
Q. - Was it hard to move your life on, without Metal Church, after so many years trying to keep the metal flame alive?
Craig - It was difficult leaving my dreams behind as the first two Metal Church albums were written and produced in my Grandparents garage. My family was behind us making it in music and it was all I knew to do. So after leaving I married Kim my wonderful wife and we had children and this purpose of being a father helped me to recreate my life. I could not have made it without them. I never had a desire to be in another band.
Q. - A few years later, in 1998, two live albums were released, "Live in Japan" with the last formation, and "Live" with the classic 80's formation, how did you see those recordings?
Craig - I am not sure what albums those are..
Q. - The next year Metal Church did a comeback, but you were not in the line-up, why did that happen?
Craig - I was to be in it but I was not happy with the financial arrangements. I could not leave my job to be in the band when the band offered me no money to live on. I had small children to provide for so I chose to drop out.
Q. - But you recorded David Wayne's solo album called... Metal Church! What can you tell us about this record? Did you wrote those songs thinking about a Metal Church reunion?
Craig - No that is not me...David asked me to be a part and I was going to but he already had the music written and recorded and he put my name on it to convince me to join, but I did not join or perform on the recording. He did that because he was a brother to me but I had no desire to learn other people's songs and tour and make them mine. I think a guy named Roger Bell wrote those with Dave but I could be wrong.
Q. - Did you tour with David to promote that album?
Craig - No, never performed a song with Dave outside of Metal Church.
Q. - What are your feelings on David Wayne's passing? Do you think a part of Metal Church died with him too?
Craig - Yes, he was our voice and he was one of Metals Great Vocalist, he was a central part of our sound to say the least.
Q. - Do you miss Metal Church? Would you like to tour with them at least one more time?
Craig - I miss being a musician, and touring is fun yet can be exhausting, would like to do this again but miss song writing and playin guitar the most.
Q. - Do you keep an eye in what they're doing these days?
Craig - A little bit...I know that Mike is in the band again and I think he is an awesome vocalist and I miss being friends with both him and Kurdt. But I haven't really listened to their music much, once in a while I hear a song of theirs, you know, somebody puts one on my FB page or something.
Q. - Did you stay in touch with the other former members of Metal Church over the years?
Craig - Not very much at all. I have spoken with Kurdt and Duke and Kirk maybe a couple times each in the past 10 years.
Q. - How do you want to end up this interview? Anything more you want to say?
Craig - Yes, my heart is for the fans who liked our songs, it was an honour to have met your approval! You deserve the best! Thank you very much.
Thank you for your time, and wish you all the best for the future!