METAL CHURCH drummer Stet Howland says that he and the members of the band are beginning to "communicate again" for the first time since the recent passing of singer Mike Howe. "I just talked to Kurdt [Vanderhoof, guitar] last night; we just had an amazing conversation," Stet told Chris Akin of "The Classic Metal Show" in a new interview (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). "And that's where we're at — we're all talking again. That's where we're at. But we were so broken, man — I mean, all of us. When I talked to Kurdt a few weeks ago, he was, like, '[Mike is] in Barbados.' We were trying to digest the loss of Mike, because he was so much more than just our singer. He was Uncle Mike here at my house, and he was my friend. He would talk me down when I'd get heated, and I'd talk him down when he'd get heated. And he was such an amazing human.
"So we're all digesting that in our own way," he continued. "I had just lost my mom — I had a couple of losses — so I was fairly fresh at facing the realities associated with death and loss. Not everybody — everybody handles it different in our band. For some of our members, Mike 's in Barbados on vacation. And so we're all slowly digesting… And we just started talking again a few weeks ago, and we're barely talking about anything except making jokes. We have our banter, and we're starting to joke and communicate again together. And building on the future will come. But right now it's just… We're just hugging right now. We're all, like, 'I love you, man. I love you too.' That's kind of where we're at. I know everybody wants to know more. When there's more, you'll hear about it."
Howe was found dead at his home in Eureka, California on July 26. According to TMZ, Howe's official cause of death was determined to be asphyxia due to hanging. A spokesperson for the Humboldt County Sheriff's Dept. told the site authorities are calling it a suicide. He was only 55 years old.
TMZ stated that cops in Eureka got a call just after 10 a.m. reporting an unexpected death at a home. By the time deputies arrived, they found Howe dead at the scene.
According to police, drugs and alcohol are not believed to be factors in the death and no controlled substances or paraphernalia were located at the scene.
Four days after Howe's death, the surviving members of METAL CHURCH shared a statement on social media in which they blamed his suicide on the fact that he "was victimized by a failing health-care system and subsequently poisoned by the venom of Big Pharma," a term which refers collectively to the global pharmaceutical industry. "In short and in essence, he fell prey to the real 'Fake Healer'."
METAL CHURCH's statement was quickly met with criticism from some of the band's fans who felt that the long-running metal act was using Howe's death as a platform to assert its political views. As a result, METAL CHUCH pulled its original post from social media and replaced it with a revised version, in which the musicians said they were "in no way, shape or form referring to anything in relation to vaccinations, COVID or politics. We were saying our brother was hurting and while he was seeking medical care for it, the treatments he was utilizing did not protect him," they wrote. "Otherwise, he would still be with us today."
Howe, who fronted METAL CHURCH from 1988 until 1994, officially rejoined the band in April 2015.
Prior to joining METAL CHURCH more than three decades ago, Howe spent two years fronting California metal act HERETIC.
The reunion between Mike and METAL CHURCH was put in motion in July of 2014 when Mike started working with Vanderhoof on a side project Kurdt was forming with Nigel Glockler from SAXON. Through these initial conversations, Kurdt convinced Mike to ultimately return to METAL CHURCH. The idea was to see if they could recapture some of the magic from the three albums METAL CHURCH released in the late '80s: "The Human Factor", "Blessing In Disguise" and "Hanging In The Balance". Out of those sessions, 2016's "XI" was born and captured the sound that made the band fan favorites in the '80s and mixed it with a new, invigorated sound.
METAL CHURCH's latest release was "From The Vault", which arrived in April 2020 via Rat Pak Records. The effort was a special-edition compilation album that featured 14 previously unreleased songs from the Howe era, including four newly recorded studio tracks, among them a redux of the band's fan favorite classic "Conductor".
Howe is not the first singer of METAL CHURCH to die. David Wayne passed away in May 2005 from complications following a car crash. He was 47 years old.
Wayne sang on METAL CHURCH's first two classic offerings (1984's "Metal Church" and 1986's "The Dark") before leaving the group and being replaced by Howe.