Interview: Robert Cavuoto
Michael Sweet of Stryper will be releasing his 7th solo CD One Sided War via Rat Pak Records on August 26th. His solo band is comprised of Whitesnake guitarist Joel Hoekstra, Evanescence drummer Will Hunt, bassist John O’Boyle and East Coast shredder Ethan Brosh.
The new album showcases a full plate of hard rock & classic metal riffs that Michael has come to be known for throughout his illustrious musical career. A powerhouse vocalist with tremendous range and a guitar playing style that is equally impressive. Michael has uncanny ability to write rock songs for our generation with memorable riffs, thought provoking lyrics, and strong melodies. Songs that sizzle and make the hair on your arms rise like on “Bizarre” with it flame throwing intro solo by Ethan or “Can’t Take this Life” with it infectious lyrically melody. The album is available for pre-order at: http://ratpakrecordsamerica.com/michaelsweet.
Michael is already filling his 2017 calendar with a One Sided War solo tour, a second Sweet & Lynch CD, a new Stryper CD, and all of this on the heels of a Stryper 30th Anniversary Tour that starts this September. I caught up with Michael to talk about his new CD all of these projects.
Robert Cavuoto: You have some great players on the CD with Ethan Brosh and Joel Hoekstra.
Michael Sweet: They are both equally great in terms of guitar players. I couldn’t be more proud to have them on the CD. I also have Will Hunt as he is a powerhouse drummer and John O’Boyle a monster bassist. I also have Moriah Formica, a 15 year old girl singing on “Can’t Take This Life.” The CD as a whole is very diverse as it goes in different areas and down different paths. There is still a lot of continuity to it as well and it has nice flow. I’m really happy with it musically and lyrically. I enjoyed recording it and really excited about it. I can’t wait for August 26th for it to come out.
Robert: Who did the opening guitar solo on the first song “Bizarre,” it’s pretty impressive?
Michael Sweet: That was Ethan, he is such a shredder. At times he reminds me of George Lynch and other times I hear some Steve Vai. He is very electric in terms of his style yet very diverse with a unique tone.
Robert: When you are writing songs how do you discern what will go to Stryper and what songs will go on your solo CD?
Michael Sweet: It’s not like I write 50 songs and say 12 will go to Stryper and 12 will go to my solo CD. I approach each CD as it comes up. All of these songs were written for my solo CD and I haven’t written anything since. When it’s time to do a new CD, I’ll go into writing mode, hit my studio and in two week I’ll have 12 songs. I don’t like to write 20 songs and then pick the best 12. I think it is a waste of energy and time. You typically know if a song is good when you’re working on it. I’ve made the decision to cut a song many of times. If I’m working on a riff and it has a good vibe, those are the songs I go with. That applies to every CD I work on. For example when I was working with George Lynch, he sent me some ideas that didn’t resonate with me. He sent more riffs and I thought those were great. What he didn’t have I wrote myself.
Robert: Have you ever experienced writer’s block?
Michael Sweet: I went through a period in the 90’s when I had writers block. Since 2005 to now, it hasn’t happen to me. I do procrastinate when the label says they want a CD. I’ll put it off until I’m almost out of time, like two week before recording. I’ll think “oh crap,” I don’t have any songs and then go downstairs to my studio, emerge a couple of weeks later with the material and think “Thank God.” [Laughing]
Robert: Tell me about the significance of the artwork with Jesus and the title track “One Sided War.”
Michael Sweet: Its funny as a lot of fans thought that was me on the cover! I would never portray myself as Christ because he is wearing a crown of thorns. Some people even thought he had a bullet in his hand; it’s funny what people see in artwork. The people at Rat Pak put it together and I think it looks incredible as it says so much. The song is about we as people fight one sided wars all the time. For example how many times do you hear of a rock star verbally attacking another rock star and the other rock star just saying “Dude go away.” It’s a one sided war when they keep it going; it makes you wonder if it is for publicity. Same goes for our daily life with our family and friends, there is always one person that wants to keep it going.
Robert: Any plans for a solo tour for One Sided War?
Michael Sweet: I have to, it would feel like a crime not to go out and tour for it. I want a killer band and it’s something that will happen in 2017.
Robert: Speaking of George Lynch and touring, when we last spoke, you promised a Sweet & Lynch tour, what happened?
Michael Sweet: We tried. We were both busy and our schedules didn’t align. We are working on a second CD. We will start the early part of 2017 and we will make it a point to go and do numerous shows. I talked to George about it multiple times. We are on the same page and just have to make it happen.
Robert: You are going to be quite busy between Stryper’s 30th Anniversary Tour, a new Stryper CD in 2017, and a Sweet & Lynch CD in 2017.
Michael Sweet: The 30th Anniversary Tour will start in September and go to December. I also want to do a CD with Joel Hoekstra it’s just a matter of when. I know I’m a busy man and blessed. I have no complaints expect for the circles under my eyes.
Robert: How is everyone getting along in Stryper? It’s the original lineup for 30 years!
Michael Sweet: To be honest there are times when we don’t all get along. There are four strong personalities and like a marriage you are going to have things to talk and work through. It’s no different than with Stryper, the only thing that is different is we are able to work it out. That is why we are still together and will remain together for a long time.
Robert: For the 30th Anniversary tour you’re putting back on the yellow and black costumes, are they original or new?
Michael Sweet: Some are original but have been retailored. I’m not going to name names and let you figure that out [laughing]. Mine was stolen in 1994 and I had to have it completely remade.
Robert: What happened to the Stryper’s New York show last month, it was cancel at the last minute?
Michael Sweet: We were loaded in and on stage getting ready to do sound check. The venue was having a lot of issue technically and the console blew so we had no front end console. They couldn’t get a new one in time so due to the number of issues going on we all met and decided to cancel the show.
Robert: You interact and engage quite a bit with fans on Twitter. What pushes your buttons that warrants a response?
Michael Sweet: How I respond is determined by when I go online. I’m not on Twitter 24/7. If I’m eating lunch and go on Twitter and if there is a response that “pushes my button” as you put it, then I’ll respond to it. I don’t go back to people’s tweets from four days ago. I don’t have the time and wouldn’t have a life if I did that. I’m a very honest guy and don’t always approach things from a “What would Jesus Do?” point of view. Maybe that’s wrong of me. I approach things from what my heart is telling me at the moment. Sometimes that’s a bad thing [laughing].
Robert: What’s your tipping point to respond to a tweet?
Michael Sweet: Usually the moronic tweets that leave me dumb founded. I sometimes have to ask myself, “Is this person saying this just so I respond and they can get 100 more followers?” Sometimes I just have to respond.