Interviewed by Marianne Jacobsen (Journalist/Writer) Myglobalmind Webzine
I’m sure there are more than a few folks out there (besides me and Brian Warner) who attended either schools or summer camps where rock music was not allowed. It was the devil’s music and we actually had “Rock Talks” where they would play album backward for the evil messages.
Then one summer in 1983 – all that changed when along came a band dressed all in yellow and black with an awesome vocalist and angelic guitar work that opened the sky and allowed metal to have a “different message”.
That band of course is Stryper – and luckily enough I had a chance to speak to one of the Founding members Michael Sweet via Skype and thank him for saving my summers.
It went like this:
MGM: Mr. Sweet!
MS: How are ya?
MGM: I’m amazing and I just wanted to say that it is a real honour to be able to talk to you today!
MS: Do I detect a Canadian accent?
MGM: Yes you do! Northern Ontario! Happy Canadian Thanksgiving by the way.
MS: Yeah that’s right you got to eat the good stuff already. You know I think I gain 10 pounds every Thanksgiving and then I gotta work it off for the tour and then Thanksgiving comes around again and gain 10 pounds again! I don’t know, maybe that’s the case with everybody.
MGM: Can’t forget good craft service when you are on tour!
MS: Oh yeah for sure.
MGM: And its not like you can be doing sit ups during your downtime on tour.
MS: Well you know its funny because im one of those guys that embarrasses people because im doing sit ups constantly. Im doing them at the airport, im doing them all over the place because im trying to keep my gut at bay.
MGM: As I said – big boobs then big butts – BIG GUTS ARE NEXT!!
MS: Well I don’t know if im ever going to believe that.
MGM: I’m actually kinda down with it. Im not much a trend follower however this to me seems like something I could in to.
MGM: So I literally just got provided with Stryper’s new album Fallen about an hour before talking to you and I just want to say how much I loved the album.
MS: Oh Thanks
MGM: Everything about it reminds me of the anthem music of the 80s. It’s got that sound that I hold near and dear to my heart.
MS: Well you know what? Some of the best music came from the 80s. and for anyone to deny that or to say that’s just not so. Im gonna guess there is either something wrong with their ears because really truly some of the best music came out of that era and Stryper is a band. It took a while.
Like on 2005 we experimented a little bit and released Reborn and try a little bit more of a modern sound.
It took us a little while to realize – why be ashamed of who you are and what you are and where you have come from. On Fallen we’ve come around full circle to what we are all about. And its that sound that you hear on this album.
MGM: I was talking to Bobby Blitz from Overkill and we were discussing reinvention.
Like Stryper signing your three record deal with Frontier and all of these other bands that have been around for decades are getting a second life almost.
MS: It’s interesting because Stryper has always been that underdog band that goes against the grain and swam against the tide that everyone else was swimming. Stryper does their own thing. I think its funny because a lot of people would have written us off and said “there is no way Stryper is gonna be around 32 years from now”. And here we are still – in my mind – relevant certainly for our genre and the type of music that we play. People are still coming out, people are buying the albums. There is still a great strong fanbase out there and its astonishing to me, it blows my mind, its crazy.
MGM: What would you like a new fan of Stryper to know about you if they couldn’t Google?
MS: I actually believe that Styper is one of those bands that you should google. And the reason why I say that is there are a lot of rumours going around about us. Most of them, being false saying that we are this or we are that. Or that we are wimpy and we cant play or “oh they’re that Christian bumble bee band.” – they’re a joke blah blah blah.
I think its important for people to see us on Youtube or live or what have you to understand that those are all lies.
We’re a rock band. I think most people that see us for the first time, leave the venue surprised in a good way because they realize “Oh my gosh these guys are nothing like I thought they were”.
I just got off the phone with a gentleman who saw us for the first time in Italy and he said a similar thing where he had these preconceived ideas and thought we were this or that and that was all shattered after he saw Stryper. He’s wound up becoming a big fan. So that’s my point. I think its important for people to come out and see us live, come see Stryper live and don’t wait.
MGM: For sure. Don’t count Stryper out.
MGM: I really enjoyed listening to Fallen and have to say that it truly is musically par to the classic Black and Yellow Attack. That’s amazing.
MS: Well thank you. We try to outdo ourselves with every album. Like I look forward to the next album to outdo Fallen.
MGM: Oh Wow!
MS: I want to be one of those rarities in the music business that gets better through time then worse.
Because lets face it, most bands – and a lot of times its out of their control – they don’t get better with time. A lot of times they just lose the song ideas and they lose their hair or for whatever reason it’s just not there anymore.
I want to be the band that is kind of like a rarity in the sense that, we’re getting better we aren’t getting worse, we’re turning out some of the best music of our careers and we are just gonna keep doing that.
MGM: Stryper is all the original members right?
MS: It’s all the original members. I don’t know about you but me personally I’m a big Van Halen fan.
MGM: Yeah! I even liked Gary Sharone!
MS: Im an honest guy too. When I heard the last album – not the live album but the studio album they released a few years back. I was let down. I appreciate the fact that Van Halen is still making music but really bums me out is that this material is not even remotely comparable to the Van Halen of old.
I think that they are capable of turning in an album that blows people away. But you know Stryper is one of those bands that we really really go out of our way to make the best music possible or if its not, we’re not going to release it. We’re not gonna put it out.
MGM: Yep. I find there are a lot of bands out there that will record something just to appease the fans or initiate a tour. As I say, “Give the fans a bone”.
MS: Stryper is guilty of that, we’ve done that before. We’ve thrown things out that is sub par but I don’t want to do that anymore and I refuse to just throw something out and if its not good enough seriously I’m the quality control guy I’m the one to say “No. This is not good enough. We are not going to release this.” So we go back and get it right and then we will release it.
I think more bands need to take note of that because there are so many albums that come out, and you are just kinda scratching your head, thinking, “what were they thinking”.
MGM: …and the level of music consumption by fans is so much higher now than ever before – so there’s a great deal to wade through and not all of its good.
MS: Absolutely. There is so much competition our there and albums are coming out left and right. I cant believe how much music there is out there! And it makes it a little tougher for bands like Stryper to compete with all these bands. We certainly aren’t doing this for competition but, you know, let’s face it, we live in a world where you have to get out there and promote and let people know what you are doing or you are gonna wither away.
MGM: I’m a firm believer that the best way to support your bands it to get out, see a show and buy a shirt.
MS: Absolutely! And I will say that Stryper has a lot of support.
MGM: I also think that providing a respectable album to the fans is important as well.
MS: Yep, and we listen to the fans too. Before we make an album I’ll always ask the fans on social media, “What do you guys want to hear?” “What do you want that Stryper is not giving you?” And we do it and we give it to them.
The next Stryper album is going to be more Country/Polka.
MS: yes! Its gong to be really good and we are very excited about it.
MGM: Ill totally look forward to that! Will it be called Fallin Down?
MGM: Ok – question from Adrian Hextall – one of our contributors here at MGM
Adrian Asks: If you could strip away the lyrical content or messages, what lies beneath and is at the very core of Stryper.
MS: Good question
MGM: Yes it is!
MS: I’d have to say Passion. That’s the very word that comes to mind when I think about what Styper does. We grew up in musical families. We love music to the core and I think that comes out in our lives. Not just with recording and Stryper but just our individual lives as we go our separate ways we all continue on with music and I’m always writing songs and we are very passionate about what we do. And we love what we do. So that’s the core of this band.
MGM: Has there ever been a time in your life where you’ve been discouraged to the point where you had to ask yourself if you should be seeking other employment?
MS: Oh yeah! When I moved back from California to Massachusetts with my family I went through a period – this was in 1995 – a period where my record label at the time was closing it’s doors. I was very discouraged because I had an album coming out during that time that kinda got shelved and didn’t do anything.
And then after 6, 7, 8 months of not doing anything and not being able to get anything going for a long period of time, I took all my equipment, and I packed it all up and put it in its cases and boxed it up and put it in a basement closet. It was quite a big closet mind you. And I went to work for the family business.
MGM: What’s the family business?
MS: Cranberry bogs and Campground.
MS: I did that from 1996 all the way to 2000. That was where I got to a point where I said “music is not doing anything for me now.” I ended up wanting to get back into music and getting that passion and desire.
MGM: What was that reignited the inspiration flame to music?
MS: As I said earlier, when I was working in the bog I couldn’t escape music. Melodies are always going through my head. So I’d come out of the cranberry bog in my hip waders and I’d get in my truck to eat lunch and I’d write down lyrics and record a melody.
So music was always there and never left me and after 4 years of writing and writing and writing I finally decided I wanted to go record an album and I did. From that I wound up getting another record deal and we released an album called Truth in 2000.
Right now I have a recording contract with Frontier Records and I also just signed a deal with Rat Pack Records.
I’m about to go back into the studio to record a solo album that’s going to be out next Spring 2016.
MGM: Is that the country/polka album?
MS: No. This one is gonna be the edgy side of Michael Sweet that’s never been heard before.
Im the kinda guy that likes to inspire people and I think there is enough anger and hatred and darkness in this world – and I’m trying to shine a light – that’s all.
MGM: When are you coming to Toronto.
MS: We were just there recently in 2014. We played the Rockpile East and Rockpile West.
MGM: Oh yeah I’ve been to the one in the West (note: Rockpile West serves cream soda!)
MS: I know that we will come to Toronto very soon again – we always do.
MGM: Well good! Then I can come out and buy a shirt! And if its all ages I’ll bring my niece! (Rockpile is a licenced establishment)
MS: Yeah we do a lot of all ages shows!
MGM: What kind of fun and trouble does Stryper get in while touring.
MS: (laughing) This is our trouble. If you think going to a movie in a mall on a day off is trouble – then Stryper is in it.
MGM: You Wildcat Mr. Sweet!
MGM: What’s the key to keeping it real with your fellow band mates after 32 years.
MS: The key to success in a band is communication and then time away from each other.
For example we toured last year heavily. This year we didn’t tour a lot but 2016 we will be out touring again so that time away from each other is good. We don’t want to kill each other ya know?
MGM: Yeah I mean, how can you miss someone if they won’t go away?
MS: EXACTLY! (laughter)
MGM: Any final words for your Black and Yellow Army?
MS: just that we are thrilled to still be here doing it. Obviously as we all know Stryper has this new album Fallen out and available now.
We are just so thrilled to be still making music and are still able to do this. We love it, we’re excited. Hopefully everyone is gonna hear Fallen and be just as excited as we are.
MGM: Well I heard it and I’m excited and so there’s one.
MS: You know what? One is better than none. We love the fans so much and we realize that we would not be here without them and musically speaking, because of that we need to give the fans what they want without selling ourselves out, which we don’t. We want to make the fans happy. They mean the world to us. They are like family to us and that why we go out always and we always find time to say hello to fans and meet with them and try to spend time with them because that’s the most important side of what Stryper does.
MGM: Passing the love not just the message? That’s cool man.
MS: Absolutely! At the end of the day that’s what matters.
MGM: Ok quick last question…Who is Michael Sweet checking out these days?
MS: there’s some new releases out that I love – Queensryche, Winery Dogs, Sevendust. The new album by Joel Hokestra from Whitesnake is fantastic! So check those out!!!
MGM: Thanks for your time and Peace Mr. Sweet!