Interview: Michael Sweet of Stryper

Man, I\’m excited the album comes out tomorrow. This far your career does the excitement level or type of excitement change when you\’re ready to release record this far in your career.

Well it does, I mean there\’s sometimes more excitement and sometimes depending upon the point, A little less you know I mean what I mean by that is. We\’re excited that we\’re able to still do this and make music and it gets released on a label and that people are still even interested in hearing what we\’re doing, that\’s awesome. You know the part that gets little frustrating sometimes is you know there\’s no radio for bands like us these days. Back in the day there used to be and you know it makes it a little difficult for us to do our job and do what we do. Then the state of the music industry, there are so many question marks right now for  all musicians and all bands, it doesn\’t matter who you are.  So it\’s definitely  an interesting time. But that being said. I mean we love to make music, we\’re passionate about it still and hopefully that shows in all the songs that we record.

What were some things you guys wanted to say the most when you sat down to write this record.

Well, what I wanted to say when I wrote it was that I wanted the message to be equally as powerful as the music and vice/versa .  There\’s one thing when you have these powerful songs musically but then the lyrics just kind of fails. Or you have powerful lyrics in the music fails so it\’s important for both to be equally on the same level in terms of hitting people and touching and moving people.  I drew a lot from the Bible the words in  Yahweh, Let There be Light and Fallen,  which is about Lucifer of being cast out of heaven. A lot of these songs are taken right out of the Bible and it’s a bit of a Bible study so to say but it\’s at the same time it\’s not preachy, pushy or forceful. It  gets tricky because we know our message is always been the same. So with eleven  albums in and  thirty two years later, you\’re writing about the same themes and message for the most part, so you\’ve got to get creative in how to say it. You know you can\’t just keeps it right in the same layer go over and over again and express yourself in the same way. What\’s really cool about that is it manages to work itself out with every album that we do.  I get concerned  out of the box and I think \”oh my gosh how\’s it going to be?\” and I listen to it later and think \”well, there you go it worked out.\” And it always does, so it\’s pretty cool. I don\’t know, I get nervous , it\’s just the perfectionist to me you know.

One song that that really sticks out to me is \”After Forever.\” Can you tell me little bit about where the  song came from?

Well. We all grew up on Black Sabbath,  playing Sabbath songs when I was a teenager so, Sabbath is a big influence of ours. I felt like after listening to all the songs I felt like a Sabbath song would be very fitting for this album. When I started listening and reading the lyrics to \”After Forever\” I was blown away because the lyrics are pretty much as Christian as it gets.  You would never really think that coming from Black Sabbath. I Think most people view them as an evil band or a satanic band or dark band or whatever, they\’re really not. You know a lot of their lyrics were Christian based or God themed and you don\’t know that until you read the lyrics so it was a perfect fit. That song was just tailor made for this album musically and lyrically. Once we recorded it put it in the  right sequence it proves my point because it works out perfectly.

I really feel like in a lot of ways Stryper is kind of like in a second prime of your career these last year or these last few records.  I know that you personally have been very involved with those will media whether be Twitter,  Facebook, Video updates, little guitar lessons here and there. You also ask the fans what they want to hear on an upcoming record and song.. How much do you think that plays into how well received a lot of these songs on the this record is obviously going to be and \”No More Hell to Pay\” was?

I think it plays a big part in it all and it\’s important. Some bands have  an arm up attitude towards a lot of the fans lIke, we\’ll do what we want to do and how we want to do it.  If fans say hey we really want you to get back to how you sounded like you know in your heyday. Sometimes the bands  go as far as to say. F- you. But yet they still have these fans that worship them and think they\’re the greatest since sliced bread and I just don\’t understand it. It\’s almost as if they don\’t care about the fans or with the fans think or say. We on the other hand,  August, Tim, Rob and myself  try to listen to the fans and It\’s important to us what the fans think. If the fans want more solos we want to give them more solos. If they want or that this we want to give it to them, of course without selling ourselves out. Some fans asked us to do trash metal album and it\’s like we\’re not a thrash metal band. We never have been that but when they ask us to get heavier and do this or try that we\’ll do it. I think by doing so especially in the past three or four years with \”No More Hell to Pay and Fallen\” we\’ve pleased not only ourselves but the fans and the critics because I think these are the two albums that people have wanted us to make for a longtime.  We have figured out how to merge in a good way the old with the new and it\’s just working for us and we\’re very happy with the results and the people seem to be very happy with the results too.

You\’ve talked about little bit in the past and social media over the last few months about working with Clint Lowery from Sevendust.. How did that originally come about?

 My wife is a huge Sevendust fan and she saw them many times before we ever met. I\’d  never seen them and  I didn\’t really know that much about them. I had heard the name but never really heard much of the music and one night I ended up  meeting Clint. and L.J. on a plane about six or seven months ago. Clint and  I exchanged information and started following each other and emailed back and forth, just  stayed in touch. I reached  out to him when it was time to write the album and asked if he\’d  would like to submit a riff or  two. One of the two that he did submit was the opening riff for Yahweh.  I loved it! I mean it sounded more modern, more like a Sevendust song but I loved it! I just went \”wow that\’s really cool\” and it opened my mind to being able to write in a range and complete the song Yahweh. Yeah it was crazy, as I was writing it and then I\’d get to the chord progression for the chorus and  I kept singing that melody.  I was thinking God this is really different,  I don\’t know if it\’s going to be a good or bad but I couldn\’t get it out of my head. It just would not escape me and I kept coming back to it and back to it and then we recorded it I had a very specific thing that I wanted to do and I told Oz look I want to sound like a choir of monks basically. And you and I are going to record it and I don\’t know how we\’re going to achieve it but we\’re going to sound like a choir and there you go.

I\’d really like to touch on the cover art that you used on this record. It\’s reminiscent of the \”Yellow and Black Attack\” cover. Was this what you had planned and did you use the same artist as in the past?

The artist was the same one that we\’d used for \”No More Hell to Pay\” and it was pretty much planned as well. I really wanted to portray several of the songs through the art work and give them a taste of what it might\’ve been like to see Lucifer being cast out of Heaven.  We sent the ideas we had to the artist, Stanis Decker and that’s what he sent back. It\’s really amazing!

Are there any announcements for the \”Fallen Tour ?\”

Our agent is confirming those dates as we speak. We plan on starting the tour in April 2016 and touring pretty heavily until about November. We\’re hoping to make it around the world at least once and hopefully some places we\’ve never been before.

Stryper played a show with Petra, is there any chance of seeing that combination again sometime in the future?

It\’s possible and I don\’t see why not. We have always tried to tour with mainstream bands because we are a rock band first that is comprised of Christians. We like playing in bars etc. to people that maybe don\’t go to church and really just give them a different look at what we\’re all about.