By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Heavy-metal superstar guitarist, Metal Mike Chlasciak, (Rob Halford solo band – Halford, Sebastian Bach) is one of the most intense, dedicated and talented musicians in the world of rock and metal music.
From his humble beginnings as a teenage Polish immigrant who moved to New Jersey in 1984, to performing at Madison Square Garden sixteen years later, (as guitarist for the legendary Rob Halford) Metal Mike is living proof that if you work hard and dream big, anything is possible.
Metal Mike has always taken his craft very seriously. He has developed a very distinctive guitar style that combines elements of vintage metal, coupled with his own modern twists. His unique talent was impressive, enough that it was noticed by metal god, Rob Halford, who recruited Metal Mike into his new, return-to-metal band, Halford, in 2000.
Since then, Metal Mike has truly become Heavy Metal personified, and has earned the reputation as one of best guitarists in hard rock/metal. In addition to Halford, Metal Mike has also performed and recorded with ex-Skid Row vocalist, Sebastian Bach, and his own band, Painmuseum, as well.
In 2018, Metal Mike was inducted into the Hall of Heavy Metal History alongside with Lzzy Hale (Halestorm), Bill Ward (Black Sabbath), Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, Talas, David Lee Roth), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater).
Metal Mike will be returning to the stage for two highly-anticipated performances next month. He will be direct support for multi-platinum, glam-metal rockers Dokken on March 8 and 9th, in Rochester, NY and Sayreville, NJ.
What follows is an exclusive Rock Music Star interview with Metal Mike! During this discussion, we talk about his two upcoming shows supporting Dokken, his new band, his time as guitarist in the Halford band, and much more!
RockMusicStar: Let’s start off by discussing your upcoming shows in Rochester, NY and Sayreville, New Jersey on March 8th and 9th, respectively. This is a great double bill, and many hard rock/metal fans are very excited about these shows.
Metal Mike : Yes, I’m definitely psyched about it. It’s been awhile since I’ve played in the Rochester area. I know that there are a lot of great metal fans there. I also like Dokken quite a bit too! So for me, its going to be pretty awesome!
RMS: You have assemble a great new band, with some incredible musicians.
MM: Thank you, I agree with you. This is probably one of the strongest band line-ups that I’ve played with. I was friends with all these guys prior to having them in the band.
Mike LePond, who plays bass, is a complete bass monster. He plays with Symphony -X and Ross the Boss, and I’ve know him for years. He is a very chill type of guy and top of the line bass player.
On drums, we have another New Jersey guy- Ron Lipnicki, most people probably know him from the latter Overkill records. The records that he recorded with them are just fantastic records. I always wanted to play with him in a band, but he was always busy with Overkill.
On vocals, it’s Marc Lopes, who has been touring the world with Ross the Boss. He has his own band called, Let Us Prey. He is from Massachusetts, and is a bad ass singer. When we do the Halford material live, it is difficult to hit those notes, you really have to be on top of your game vocally.
I love playing with these guys, it’s really kick ass.
RMS: Are there any plans to record with this band?
MM: Well, there might be. That’s something that a lot of people have been asking. It’s a bit on the back burner right now, but it’s on our radar. I want to come out and do some great live shows for a bit, and not lose focus on that.
RMS: What will you set-list consist of? Will there be a lot of material from Halford performed?
MM: Yes, definitely. I really miss playing those songs live. They are such a big part of my history. We will also be playing some material from Fight! (Rob Halford’s pre-Halford band) We use to play some Fight! songs live with Halford, and I love the Fight! material. We will also do some Painmuseum, and maybe a cover song, just for fun.
RMS: Was there ever any talk of you joining Judas Priest when guitarist Glenn Tipton announced that he could no long perform due to his bout with Parkinson disease. I think you and Richie Faulkner would be an incredible guitar duo.
MM: Well, as you know, Andy Sneap has been delivering the goods supporting Glenn. I saw Priest play New Jersey a little while back and they were awesome. Very powerful. I absolutely love the band. But, I do not want to comment on that further. I owe Rob a tremendous amount for giving me a chance as a young guitarist, and because of that, I was able to build a career based on playing heavy metal guitar, which was always my dream. I’m forever grateful to The Metal God.
RMS: Has there been any talk of recording a new Halford record in the future?
MM: No, not too much. Rob is busy with Priest and he loves that band. But, no nothing, but maybe down the road. But, who knows. Rob is from Birmingham, and those guys from there work. But, Rob is never going to retire and stop singing. As long as he can still sing, he will continue doing this.
RMS: I would like to discuss, and get your comments on the three studio records that you recorded with Halford. Let’s start with the first one, ‘Resurrection” which was released in 2000.
MM: It was my first true album that I played on. Before that, I released a few self financed records. But, ‘Resurrection’ was also Rob Halford’s return back to heavy metal and a perfect record for what was happening at the time in the USA.
I think that the record was very strong, and I think that it was as successful as it was, because people loved and appreciated the idea of The Metal God saying I am Back and Metal is important. Bruce Dickinson had just returned back to Iron Maiden. So to have Iron Maiden, Halford and Queensryche on tour together, many feel that was the rebirth of heavy metal in the United States, or at least a very strong steak in the ground for it. After that, bands like, In Flames and other bands from Europe started coming over and playing to bigger audiences than previously.
Also, it’s not about getting credit, but when we were playing the huge arenas (on the Iron Maiden/Queensryche/Halford 2000 tour), I was playing the Randy Rhoads flying-v’s, and that’s something you did not see in the year 2000. Back then people were still afraid to play guitar solos on albums. It was also an important time for Rob, because he was returning back to metal.
RMS: Yes, it certainly was a rough time for metal, until that tour. Now, let’s jump to 2002, when the second Halford record, ‘Crucible,’was released.
MM: That was an interesting record. (pauses) …There are some songs on this record that I really like. I took a while for that record to get it’s legs. Unfortunately, the band really didn’t tour much for that record, we toured Japan and a short run in the United States. And then a crazy trek of European festivals, which was a bit difficult for us with all of the traveling, it was some really bad routing.
Also, when the album came out, it ended up with a mix that was rushed because we were up against a delivery deadline. It was not as clear as we would have liked maybe, especially with the amount of guitars that were present on some of the tracks. However, when Rob’s label re-released all the records re-mastered once again later on, finally ‘Crucible’ sounded like the album we envisioned.
There are a lot of people in the metal community who feel that, ‘Crucible’ was a ridiculously cool album. I was a deeper record, it wasn’t a straight ahead metal record like, ‘Resurrection’ was. The band wanted to show that we could write deeper, more layered record, as well. But, I think the biggest issue with the record was that we never really toured for it.
RMS: And to wrap it up, the most recent Halford record, ‘Made of Metal,’ which was released in 2010, which was 4 years after Rob rejoined Judas Priest.
MM: Rob had lots of songs just coming out of him for that album and I think him and Roy Z were chiseling out these ideas together. About 85% of the album was done, and then the rest of the band was asked to contribute pieces after that. So it was a lot of Rob writing what he likes to write. “Made of Metal’ is a very varied album. It has a lot of different sounds, heavy songs and some that are off the beaten path. There are some really cool songs on it like, “Twenty-Five Years,” and “Thunder and Lightning,” which we use to play live, and it’s a bit poppy, but I love it.
When Priest did some poppy type songs like on ‘British Steel.’ and even ‘Ram it Down,” I felt that they did that (more commercial sounding music) better than any other band, in those days. They had the 80’s lush production, but underneath you could still tell that they were a metal band.
The biggest thing that I remember about this record was that we finally had another chance to do another big tour, and that was with Ozzy in North America. it was really cool touring with Ozzy because my friend Gus G. was playing lead guitar with Ozzy at the time. We were pen-pals for years before we were doing anything major. We were part of the whole guitar underground thing. But we would always trade ideas and talk guitar. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, that after all these years here we were, playing these huge arenas and powering this huge tour with legends.
RMS: Metal Mike thank you for your time, I’m really looking forward to seeing you perform on March 8th at the Historic German House in Rochester, NY.
MM: Thank you Thomas! I appreciate your interest, and I’ll see you in a few weeks.
To purchase tickets for the March 8th Rochester show with Dokken, please click here.
For more on Metal Mike, please click here.
Special thanks to Mark from www.metalforever.com for setting up this interview.