By Carol Anne Szel
The band Stryper’s vocalist Michael Sweet and I had the chance to catch up on everything he’s been doing lately from the band’s “Stryper – Live at the Whiskey” cd/dvd released this Fall, to the singer’s upcoming 2015 tour with his new band alongside George Lynch, and everything in between!
CAROL ANNE SZEL: Stryper has sold over nine million albums. Is that mind-blowing for you?
MS: Yes, we’re approaching the ten million mark. It’s not certified yet, but just going by doing the math and looking up what has scanned from the early 90s to now, and all the other numbers that have come in, it’s pretty astronomically high. It’s amazing.
Who would have thought? I mean for a band that is comprised of Christian guys that are hard rock/metal, we get termed glam metal and hair metal, from Orange County. Just four nobody’s basically. And we wound up shaking the industry. And I think people are still scratching their heads.
CAS: I know you’ve been asked this a thousand times, but how did you guys, a Christian band of guys, get into the metal world of music?
MS: Well, what happened was we started out in the music scene doing everything that everyone else was doing. You know drugs, alcohol, women, you name it. And we grew tired of it at a very young age. Because we started at a very young age, I started playing clubs when I was thirteen years old believe it or not. Began really young, and by the age of twenty I said ‘I really don’t want to go down this road anymore; it’s just leading to nowhere. I’d like to get out now.’ My brother and I made the decision along with the other members of the band to do that. So we made an important decision early on.
CAS: So how did you go about handling it?
MS: We just made a decision and an effort to change the words and deliver a different message. It wasn’t so much about becoming ministers or preachers, beating people over the heads with bibles or whatever, even though we do throw those out to the crowds at shows. We just wanted to continue on with the style of music we grew up with and we were inspired by. But give and deliver a very powerful and positive message.
I just think this world has enough darkness in it and it doesn’t need any more. And if there’s someone like Stryper, or anyone else for that matter, who is going to turn on a light and shine it for the world to see in the darkness, then more power to them and I applaud it. I think it’s awesome.
CAS: You guys are known for being extremely connected to your fans.
Michael Sweet: You know we try to be. It comes down to, at the end of the day when the lights dim and the amps get put away you have to realize that it’s all happening because of our fans and our friends around the globe. We go the extra mile to show them that and make them aware of that fact.
CAS: Tell me about your solo work versus Stryper. How does the music differ?
MS: Well the music’s a little different. I mean I throw in the songs that are fitting for Stryper that have more edge to them. But I also get the opportunity when I do a solo album to experiment a little more and try things that I normally wouldn’t try on a Stryper album. And stretch out a little more. Like I did a song that borders on country on the solo album. You know I grew up with so many styles of music, like I loved ELO. So I kind of went a little bit more in that direction with a song called “This Time.” And I enjoy doing that, it’s like ‘Hey you want to do that? Sure, let’s do it!’ That’s the beauty of making a solo album; you can experiment a little more.
CAS: Tell me about your upcoming work with George Lynch.
MS: Yes, I had the opportunity to work with George Lynch which is really crazy! The album is coming out on January 27th of next year and I’m really excited about that. That is George Lynch, myself, James Lorenzo, and Brian Tichey. It’s a really cool band.
The album takes you back musically to the late 70s and the early 80s. It’s definitely got that vibe to it. You’re gonna hear George, when you hear him play on this album, it takes him back to the early Dokken days. Or that feel to it.
The band is called “Sweet and Lynch.” It comes out January 27th. Exciting. First music video in January, second one in February. It’s very exciting. We’re pumped. We’re thrilled and we’re ready for people to hear it! It’s a cool project, I think it’s gonna be a great time!
CAS: Who were some of your musical influences?
MS: Oh my God, growing up I had so many. I mean, one of my first influences was Chuck Berry. I used to air guitar to Chuck Berry when I was a little kid! And then I moved on to Creedence Clearwater Revival. Huge influence of mine. As I got a little older I moved on to bands like Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, as I mentioned ELO, Bad Company. Journey, and then eventually Van Halen. As the music evolved I started getting more into the edgy stuff with bands like Judas Priest, you know, I love that stuff.
CAS: What was the first album you ever bought?
MS: Oh my gosh, I think the first album I ever bought was a Creedence album. One of the other first albums that I ever bought was the first Boston album. I heard that and I just thought ‘wow, what is this?’ So I went out and bought it as did twenty million or so other people!
CAS: If you hadn’t been a musician what do you think you would have done?
MS: That’s a good question, that’s a really good question. I mean, I always thought, early early on, I always thought of being a doctor. I actually considered going to school and getting my degree in medicine, and I never did obviously! And then going to the opposite end of the spectrum, and I love working in the yard. Very therapeutic to me! So I always look at the landscape companies and I go ‘Man I bet I would have enjoyed doing that.’ I mean I love trimming trees, making things neat and pristine and stuff. So I don’t know. I love animals, maybe a Veterinarian. A dog walker. I mean, who knows! I am a dog walker actually because I walk my dog Caleb every day! So I am a dog walker!
CAS: And as far as your biography entitled “Honestly.” The book is so real. A great read.
MS: Thank you, it really came from the heart. I opened up my heart and I just poured it out. I wanted people to get the sense that when they were reading the book that they were reading me, and they were getting a piece of me. It’s not painted, it’s not written by someone else. I mean I had a co-author who helped, but what you’re reading is me. And I wanted to be very honest. I didn’t want to basically make up stories or embellish something that I went through from thirty years ago. I wanted to be very open and honest, and in doing so I kind of opened up that can of worms, so to speak, and being under attack. Some people came up to me and said it changed the way they look at me, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad but what you get in that book is the truth. It’s me and what I went through and how I felt from my perspective, and there you go. I just wanted to tell people, ‘here I am. Hate me or love me, this is me.’ That’s what I really tried to do.
CAS: Writing a book must be very cathartic for you.
MS: Well yes, and therapeutic. I talk about that a lot. In writing the book and doing music, it’s therapeutic for me, it’s healing for me. It helps me to mend and move on and strengthen and all that stuff, so it’s really cool.
CAS: Well, is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans?
MS: Just how much we appreciate them and love them and thanks for always being there and supporting what we do!
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