Interview and Live Photos By: : Robert Cavuoto
One of the hottest musical acts, Skillet, has just collaborated with Z2 Comics to deliver a riveting graphic novel entitled, Eden; A Skillet Graphic Novel. It’s an original story written by lead singer, John Cooper along with Random Shock and artist Chris Hunt. A suspenseful and intriguing science fiction story that incorporates the band members John Cooper [vocals/bass], Korey Cooper [guitar/keyboards], Seth Morrison [guitar] and Jen Ledger [drums] as they look for redemption and finding the light through the darkness in a post-apocalyptic world. Also, on August 2nd, the band released their tenth CD, Victorious, which is destined to go platinum!
I caught up with lead singer and bassist of Skillet during New York’s Comic-Con for an insightful and inspiring interview about the graphic novel, what it’s like to sell 12 million CD’s and his partnership with his wife/guitarist Korey Cooper.
Robert Cavuoto: I enjoyed the story behind your graphic novel. When did you decide that you wanted to create a one?
John Cooper: My love for comics goes back to being a kid. Five years into Skillet, I noticed that the members of the band were a little different than most bands we toured with. So many of those bands had one look, yet Skillet’s members all had their own individual vibe. I thought a comic book would be cool but then I immediately thought better of it as it could be cheesy. Time goes by, and I get a call from Z2 Comics asking if I have ever considered doing a graphic novel. I told them I have a story, but no idea on how to turn it into a novel. Being the experts, they said they knew how to do it [laughing]. I gave them the story which is not in the superhero realm; its science fiction. I told them if they were up for doing a serious science fiction book, then I’m in. Luckily we got involved with an amazing writer who put the meat on the bones of my idea. I had the concept, but they were geniuses at making it all come to life. It was a beautiful and wonderful experience. Choosing the artist was fun. I was given five or six names and looked them up to see their online galleries. It was like shopping for a new car, and you had money to buy it. [Laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: You picked a great artist as he made the story come alive.
John Cooper: I’m thrilled and couldn’t be more of a fan of the book. It sounds weird that I’m bragging on something that was a team effort. The colorist crushed it. When I saw the first proof, I was blown away. The purples and greens popped, yet it still has a dark feel.
Robert Cavuoto: You have a new CD out, Victorious, when writing for Skillet; is it difficult to strike the perfect balance of metal riffs, melodic hooks, and spiritual messages in the songs?
John Cooper: The spiritual messages are not difficult for me as my songs will tend to have something hopefully in them. I tend to write spiritual things without even knowing it, as it’s just how I feel. What is difficult is finding the melody and being heavy at the same time. I like to think of Skillet’s music as very modern. We draw influences from the hip hop world as that’s how things are recorded now. We are influenced by that as much as metal ideas from Metallica and Linkin Park. It takes a lot of massaging but the magic comes when Korey and I work together. She’s The Cure and I’m Metallica; that’s how we ended up with Skillet.
Robert Cavuoto: Was there ever a time when you wondered if the path of playing Christian music was the right path?
John Cooper: Sure, let me split some hairs; it never hit me that we shouldn’t go down that path but there was a time when I realized the weight of how we did it. I never believed that fans would care if we were a Christian band. The reason I never felt that was when we played in college bands I would talk about my faith on stage. I had tons of friends and fans who were atheists, agnostics, and Buddhists that didn’t care the songs were Christian theme. They just loved the music, so we believed the other fans wouldn’t care. What I was naive about was that the gatekeepers at the radio stations cared! It’s this old guard of sex, drugs, and Rock & Roll. They would want to take us to a strip club to get hammered, and if we didn’t go, they were not going to play our music. I was surprised as I thought it was about the music! For me, it was always about the music. I grew up listening to Metallica, Yes, Kansas, and Journey. It was a rude awakening as we were going to have an uphill battle because some of those people didn’t think we belonged. I don’t regret it as I’m proud of my faith, and we’ve had such a great career; it’s hard to regret. I’m so thankful for what we have and how we did it.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about the importance of sticking to your convictions of incorporating positive and spiritual messages as you have sold 12 million CD’s.
John Cooper: I never dreamt we would see 1 million! When you first start off, you’re so dumb you think when you release a CD it will go diamond. Then you go on the road for three months and realize, “no one likes you at all!” [Laughing]. It took us ten years to get our firsts gold record, and I was still in denial, “This can’t be true?” I was like, “Are you sure people like us now?” Honestly, it’s been a shock, but I could never ask for more than this. What is unique about Skillet is we have our drawbacks as I discussed, but there are portions of Skillet fans that hate Christian music, but love Skillet. There are portions of Skillet fans that would never listen to rock music but listen to Skillet. Then there are people who only listen to Christian music and would never listen to Metallica but listen to Skillet. It weird as we all pulling from a lot of different areas and the best thing we did was stay authentic. We never tried to change to make a certain group of people happy. I think that makes people believe in us and the music!
Robert Cavuoto: The entertainment industry is known for short and inconsequential marriages. What would you say has been the secret to your enduring marriage to Korey and partnership in Skillet?
John Cooper: I’m not trying to be judgmental to anyone who has been through a divorce, but philosophically and spiritually, our society is not doing a good job of defining love, loyalty, and respect. They don’t teach those things anymore, and what I think is happening is people believe that love means you have to feel a certain thing every day. Coming from my biblical insights on what love is; it’s about trust, loyalty, and commitment. It’s not about the things that our society worships. Being married for me is about serving someone; it’s not about being served. It’s not just in the bible, you can see this in lots of religions like Buddhists with karma; what you give is what you get. The Beatles said it best, “…the love you get is equal to the love you give…” that’s the same thing the Bible teaches us about love.