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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: MICHAEL SWEET OF STRYPER

by Michael McCarthy

As some of you may recall, I published a heavy metal zine back in the ’90s before I started writing for actual magazines like LiveWire and Lollipop (rest in peace x2). It was called ANT, The Only Cool Magazine That Bites. (Weird title, but, hey, people remembered it.) I’m bringing this up now because during that time I was able to interview just about every rock star whose posters had ever graced my bedroom walls. Heavyweights, too. Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath. Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden. Every member of Motley Crue. But there were two people I could not land interviews with, the late Jani Lane of Warrant and Stryper’s Michael Sweet. (Michael had just put out a solo album and his label told me they didn’t have their artists do interviews for publications with a circulation under 10,000.) As you can see here, I’ve finally interviewed Michael, roughly 20 years after I stopped publishing ANT. And I certainly think it was the worth the wait, as we were able to talk about two of the albums he’s done that are favorites of mine – Stryper’s Against The Law and his solo album Truth – as well as Stryper’s fantastic new album Fallen. He also spoke candidly about several different topics that have caused Stryper controversy over the years and revealed the probable title of his next – and very promising – solo album and what we can expect to hear on it. Whether you’re a die-hard Stryper fan or just someone who casually comes to our site, I think you’ll really enjoy this one. And if you’re not familiar with Fallen, I highly recommend you read my review here.

MM: In my research, I came across an interview – a pretty recent one, I think – where you said you don’t like the term “Christian rock.” I understood your perspective but I was wondering if you could explain it to our readers?

MS: Sure. Absolutely. It’s a confusing thing to say for many people. What I mean by that is I personally believe that anytime you use the Christian label with whatever you do in life, be it a plumber, be it a musician, be it a pilot – whatever it is – some people may not care, but you’re instantly going to put limitations on yourself. Because the world does not like Christianity. You know, there are many people who are not Christians. Many people who speak out against Christianity. There seems to be a force, to some degree anyway, to drive Christianity out of our schools, off television, out of our movies, and on and on and on. So, that’s what I meant by that. When you label yourself, a Christian rock band, I feel that you’re instantly shutting yourself off to many people.

MM: Yeah, that makes sense.

MS: That’s all I meant by it, but I – in no way, shape or form – was downplaying or running from our faith. Or my beliefs, who I put my trust and faith in. I’ve waved that flag high for thirty some odd years and I will continue to do so. I’m proud to be a Christian. That’s all I meant by that. And people were up in arms over that. It was crazy. I actually lost some followers. People who don’t understand what I’m trying to convey.

MM: I understood it, but you could see why some people would be like, “Oh, he must not be a Christian anymore because he doesn’t like the term Christian rock.”

MS: Yeah, I love the term Christian – to exemplify Christ and to follow Christ – I’m proud of that, but I absolutely despise the term “Christian rock.” It’s silly. Why put all these names on things? You’re a rock band comprised of Christians.

MM: Exactly.

MS: Or you’re a rock band comprised of Satanists. If you’re comprised of Satanists, you’re not labeled a Satanic rock band. You’re still just a rock band. It’s just kind of funny to me, how the world puts those tags and labels on. I think for the most parts Christians want their own and when they have a band they call their own they don’t like it when the band says they don’t care for the term “Christian rock.”

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MM: Getting onto Fallen, you wrote the epic opening song, “Yahweh,” with Clint Lowery of Sevendust. How did you first connect?

MS: Well, I had heard of Sevendust for a long time – my wife was a big fan when we met – and I’ve read about Sevendust and seen interviews, watched videos, and heard different pieces of music here and there. But I don’t really know that much about Sevendust. I ran into LJ and Clint on a plane. I was flying and they introduced themselves to me and I got off the plane and we took pictures and, eventually, Clint and I started following each other – and LJ, too – on Twitter and all that and I reached out to him and asked if he would like to co-write a song or two with me on the new Stryper album. And he said yes. It was as simple as that. He submitted a couple ideas and I really liked one, which was that opening riff of “Yahweh,” then I ran with it and created the song. He heard it and he said, “wow,” you know? I think he was a bit surprised how it turned out.

MM: Will you be writing anything for Sevendust with him?

MS: [laughs] You know, you never know. I have no idea. I mean, I doubt it because they have such a different sound from Stryper – a bit more modern – but I do modern rock as well. I listen to modern rock bands and I’ve definitely gone down that path. So, you never know.

MM: How does the writing process usually work for you? Do you start with the lyrics first or a melody – how does the magic happen?

MS: The way it works for me is – and I’m not advising this for any writer or musician out there – but if I have an album scheduled on a calendar, say for October, because I’m so busy I won’t start writing for that album until October. If it’s, say, October fifteenth we go in to start recording I start writing October first or second. Because I don’t have the time to do it at any other point in the year. With that being said, I really work well under pressure. I lock myself in a room for a couple weeks and I write the album. Usually the riff comes first then I program a drum groove, then I complete the song, and then I finish the drum groove, then I write the lyric.

MM: How do the guitar solos get written? Does Oz write his solos or do you write them both and then he plays his?

MS: No, no, no – Oz writes his solos. Absolutely. But the way it usually happens is, we’ll go record the album and get the basic tracks done and I’ll go through all the songs and kind of split up who’s gonna do what. And based on what’s fitting for each guy. Because Oz has a little different style. And I have a little different style. So, I’ll typically take the songs that are a little more melodic or straight-ahead and he’ll take the songs that might be a little more speedy or heavy or metal. And that’s usually how we do it. And I’ll write up a list and show it to him and he’ll agree. He’ll say, yeah, perfect. He’ll go work on his solos and I’ll go work on my solos. Now if it’s a harmony solo, I’ll work that out and then I’ll show it to him or send it to him and he’ll work out the harmony for that, be that the third or the fifth, or back and forth between thirds and fifths, or what have you. And that’s it.

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MM: How did the writing process go for the Sweet & Lynch album?

MS: Oh, that was really unique. That was cool. George just went into the studio with Chris Collier and started working on riff ideas and pieces of songs with a drum program that were about a minute to a minute and a half long. He called me first and said, “So, what do you think?” And I said, “Man, you know, I kind of want this album to be eclectic and all over the map but have a focus. I’m thinking ’70s, ’80s, give me something that’s kind of Van Halen-y and give me something that’s like ‘The Hunter’ by Dokken. I gave him ideas. Then he would send me ideas. Like he sent me the riff idea for ‘Dying Rose.’” And it was very Dokken and “Hunter”-sounding. Then he sent me “Only to Rise.” These weren’t titled yet. I think he labeled it Van Halen-y. [both laugh] And I ran with that and arranged the song – I only had a minute and a half so I literally had to write the melodies and the lyrics and then when I went in the studio – not a lot of people know this, but the sections that weren’t there – like, say, a bridge – I’d have to cop George’s guitar tone and add those sections. That didn’t happen too much, but it did happen. And then there were a few songs we didn’t have that I wrote and sent to George for him to put the final touches on. But it just worked out, man. We really worked well together. Especially since we weren’t even in the same State or studio together.

MM: That’s interesting.

MS: It’s pretty crazy. Now Brian [Tichy, drums], James [LoMenzo, bass] and myself were in the same studio. I flew them out and I was able to produce their tracks and oversee that. Everything, once it got tracked, got sent to George, and he laid down his guitar solos and overdubs over that.

MM: I understand it was the record label that put you guys in touch?

MS: Not a hundred percent accurate. The record label had the idea of a supergroup album. But the original idea that Serafino [founder of Frontiers Records] had was for me to work with a guy named Jon Levin, who plays with Dokken. So, Jon plays a lot like George and Serafino had suggested that. I kind of reached out to a few people but for whatever reason that didn’t work out. Then I suggested George. Because I knew George. Then I suggested producing it and they said yes and that’s when I hired Brian Tichy and James LoMenzo. So, I kind of put the band together. I mean, just being completely truthful so everybody knows, you know? Not that it matters but…

MM: I read a rumor that you’re going to make a second Sweet & Lynch album. Is that true?

MS: Well, I think so. I mean, George and I have talked about it. We want to do that. We tried to do it this year – like, right now, at this time, I would be in the studio – but, you know, everybody was just too busy. I just finished tracking a solo album. We mix that in three days. I had to focus on that. I felt like I was taking on too much. I’ve got the Stryper tour coming up in April. So, George and I – and Brian and James, hopefully – will go in the studio probably later this year.

MM: What’s the title of your new solo album?

MS: You know what, man? I have a title song. And a track that I really like – that I love – it’s called “One-Sided War.” And that is right now the working title and I think it might just become the official title.

MM: Could you tell us any other song titles?

MS: Well, you know what man? I don’t want to quite yet. I would love to. But I’m trying to, on this album, to take a different approach. And the label agrees. Where it’s a little bit more of a sneak attack. And we keep the surprise element. Like with Stryper’s Fallen we released everything way ahead of time – I think we released six or seven songs before the album came out – I don’t think we’re gonna do that on this solo album. We might release one a couple months before the album and then the video maybe a few days before the album and then another video after the album’s out. It’s gonna be a little different. But the one thing I can give you pretty much is the probable title, which is One-Sided War.

MM: Sounds cool.

MS: I’ll tell you about it, musically, it’s my heaviest solo album. It’s not thrash metal or anything – there are some songs on there that are definitely popping. There’s some songs that have a little bit of a Maiden feel. There’s some songs that have a little of a Van Halen-y feel. There’s songs that just have a metal – Metallica – kind of vibe. It’s all guitar-oriented hard rock slash metal. But with lots of melodies and hooks. I’ve got Joel Holkstrah on three tracks. Killed it. Amazing. I’ve got Will Hunt drumming on the whole album and I’ve got a local guy by the name of Ethan Brosh, who’s a Berkeley grad – he’s not unknown, people know who he is – but he certainly hasn’t made a big splash yet but I think he will with this album. If you were to merge George Lynch with Eddie Van Halen and sprinkle in a little Yngwie and a little Steve Vai, you’re gonna have this kid. He actually did a video with George Lynch. You can see them playing together and you’ll hear that Lynch vibe in his playing. He’s killer. He’s a great player and he did a great job. He did some tracks and then I did some solos, too. I started [the album] doing the solos but I felt like it was sounding too much like a Stryper album. And I decided – last minute – that I didn’t want to go down that road. What’s funny is, I’m gonna kind of have a little egg on my face because in all the interviews I talk about showcasing my guitar playing, you know? Well, I’m still doing that, but just not as much as I had originally planned. Honestly, I think people are gonna be pretty blown away by this album. I am. And everyone that’s heard it and played on it so far is – Joel and Will and Ethan – they’re all like, wow. They’re pretty floored. And it’s just turning out incredible. I think it’s gonna surprise a lot of people.

MM: On Fallen, you covered Black Sabbath’s “After Forever,” and it’s funny because even though I knew the song I really didn’t recognize it as being a cover the first couple of times I listened to it. You did such a great job of making it sound very Stryper-y. And I think it’s also because the lyrics really aren’t that far off from a Stryper song. What’s been the reaction to you guys doing that one?

MS: Well, to me, the lyrics, that’s the reason why we did it. It’s not my favorite Sabbath song but I like it. I read the lyrics and that’s what made me decide to do the song. I passed the idea around to the other guys and they loved it. And I just felt like, musically, too, it is very fitting. It just fits beautifully with all the other songs that are around it and are on Fallen. And then lyrically, I mean, you’re not gonna get any more Christian-based than that song. And it’s kind of surprising for all the Sabbath fans out there to hear and know that. I sometimes joke around and call Black Sabbath the first Christian metal band. And people get up in arms over that, you know? [both laugh]

MM: I really like the video for “All Over Again.” Whose idea was it to show you with your wives?

MS: Believe it or not, my wife Lisa is co-managing the band with myself – she really does most of it and just comes to me for questions and answers and what not – but she just kind of threw that idea out about the possibility of having that. Going back to a video we did way back when called “All of Me.” Kind of going back to more of that. And I loved it. I said, you know, that’s great. And the director loved it. We felt like it was gonna give people a little piece inside the band. That’s why we did that. And it worked. It really worked.

MM: I was wondering if it was difficult at all to decide to share all those private photos?

MS: Well, you know what, not really. There was nothing that was too private, you know what I mean? It was just basically the four of us with our wives over the years and it was fine. We’re pretty open anyway. I post a lot of pictures on Facebook and Twitter. So does my wife and the other guys. So, we’re all about that anyway.

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MM: Which songs from Fallen have you been doing live?

MS: Oh my gosh, we haven’t done any yet.

MM: Ah.

MS: Yeah, that remains to be seen. We start rehearsing in April and we start touring in April. I think our first show is in Vegas on the 23rd. And from that point on it’s, boom, go, go, go. We’re gonna do – I can pretty much guarantee certain songs that we’re gonna do, those being “Yahweh” – we’ve gotta do that one – I would say we would do one of the two between “Fallen” and/or “Pride” because those were released [as singles] and they’re very popular. We’ll probably do some side tracks like – there’s one of my favorites on there called “Let There Be Light” and another one called “Heaven.” We might do one of those. I really don’t know yet. There’s another one of my favorites that ends the album and I definitely think we have to do that. It’s a song called “King of Kings.” That’s a real up-tempo [song] – it’ll go over great live. It’s an old song, so it’s got that classic Stryper sound. But we won’t be able to do them all. We’ll probably do four or five tracks. We’re also gonna try to do four or five tracks from No More Hell To Pay. We’re gonna focus less on the classic stuff. Which is gonna be tricky because there are songs we have to do like “Soldiers Under Command” and “To Hell With The Devil.” It’s gonna be really hard, man, to put together the set list. Because we’re only allowed so much time.

MM: I saw you at Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut not too long ago.

MS: Yeah, yeah.

MM: Are you going to play there again?

MS: I’m sure we will be. I just don’t know when. But I’m sure we’ll play there again.

MM: Cool.

MS: We loved it and we’re only a few hours from it. So, it’s kind of a no-brainer.

MM: Yeah, I’m from Mass, too, so I go down there for a lot of different shows.

MS: Yeah, it’s a great place, man. We’ve performed at a place called Showcase Live a few times and I loved that place and I guess they closed. I heard they re-opened – I don’t know but that’s a great venue. Obviously, House of Blues in Boston’s a great venue. So, it’d be one of those three venues for sure.

MM: When I saw you at Mohegan, I was surprised that you didn’t do “Honestly.” Was that one of those things we’re you’re only given so much time to play, so you have to drop a few?

MS: Yeah. You know, it’s one of those things where I think we probably just need to leave that song in the set. We’ve kind of toyed around with the idea of taking it out of the set because we’ve played it so much and we want to incorporate new songs. But that’s kind of like Journey taking out “Open Arms.” It’s such an identifiable, signature Stryper song. So, I’m not sure why we took it out – there’s been a few shows over the last few years where we have not played “Honestly” and they were pretty bent out of shape over it. [both laugh.] We heard about it later, for sure.

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MM: I wanted to talk a little bit about the album covers of the last couple albums.

MS: Sure.

MM: Who did the album covers?

MS: It was the same person. It’s a guy by the name of Stan – his name is Stanis Decker – and he’s overseas – European – and he’s phenomenal. He does some album covers for Frontiers. He’s a little bit more on the pricey side because of the quality of work you get from him. His stuff always looks amazing. And we obviously didn’t want to cut any corners on the covers. I wanted the covers to be as powerful as the music. And I think he nailed it with those covers. I mean, some people said, oh, man, Fallen looks so much like No More Hell To Pay and they both look so much like To Hell With The Devil. Well, that was purposely done. Specifically. I even sent him To Hell With The Devil to look at and work off of.

MM: Yeah, it kind of brought things full circle when I saw the cover of No More Hell To Pay.

MS: Exactly. There’s a theme with Stryper. And that’s never gonna change. We might do something totally different down the road but it’s still always going to come back to who we are and what we sing about.

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MM: The Fallen cover is Lucifer being cast down to hell by God, right?

MS: Yes.

MM: When No More Hell To Pay came out, I mistakenly thought that it meant that Lucifer had suffered enough and was being freed from hell. What was the true meaning?

MS: It’s not. That’s not the true meaning. The true meaning was basically, if you recall, Lucifer slash Satan had a guitar that had been taken away from him and was broke in half and that was to signify the hold that he’s had on music over the years. We’re not weirdos and fanaticals and going out and burning albums. I listen to everything and anything right now. It might shock many people to see what I listen to. But that was just kind of to signify the negative hold that he’s had on music. And, you know, after all, if you believe in the Bible, he was a beautiful creation and basically an angel of music. He did have a big part – the part – in music. So, of course, when he’s fallen and he becomes this evil, hideous creature, who goes out and does what he does, of course there’s gonna be a big part in music. At least that’s what I believe. That’s what I feel. So, that’s signifying that. There’s four angels that are taking Satan and casting him down to the pit, into the lake of fire. That’s Biblical. That’s in the Bible in Revelations. The angels all kind of look like us – to a degree – you’ve got a blonde, you’ve got an angel with black hair and two brunettes – so we tried hard to create this image that said a lot and was powerful and, obviously, it goes right along with To Hell With The Devil. That’s where the devil should be. It wasn’t him being freed.

MM: I love The Covering and was pleasantly surprised that you covered songs by bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, but was there any backlash to that?

MS: Oh yeah. Yeah, Stryper gets backlash if we buy a cup of Starbucks coffee. I mean, it’s ridiculous. If I post a picture of me drinking a Coke, I get backlash from people telling me how bad it is for me. And that’s all fine and dandy. I’m sure everyone goes through that on the internet. But, you know, we get a little bit more because of what we stand for. So, we got a tremendous amount of backlash for that. Literally, people saying on our Facebook page that we’re no longer fans as of this day. We don’t follow you anymore.

MM: Wow.

MS: Yeah. And I’m just sitting there reading it, thinking, man, this is 2011 not 1911. No matter how much you explain yourself there are always going to be those people that just never get it. And there are those people out there that will never get or understand Stryper. In what we do and how we do it and what we mean by it. The reason for that album wasn’t to glorify those bands. Or to hold those bands up high. It was just to say that this is the music that made us who we are. We wouldn’t be here without this music. So, let us show you how we came to be. Here’s our history. That’s all it was. And we were very careful in how we picked the songs. We didn’t pick any songs that were lyrically too far off or evil or crude. We tried really hard to keep it clean and keep it direct and I think we did a great job of it. I don’t know what else to say. There are those people out there that are so close-minded – people that, once they become Christians, they get rid of all their records. It’s sad. That’s not what Christianity is about. That’s crazy.

MM: That actually brings me to a story I was going to tell you, how I first came to hear of Stryper. I was in junior high and somehow I ended up doing the props for a play over at the high school. It was a play that took place at a radio station. I brought in a bunch of my records to hang up in the radio station. Stuff like Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil and Ozzy’s Bark at the Moon. And when I went back to get my records the day after the play they had all been completely defaced. People who called themselves Christians wrote, “this is the devil’s music,” “you shouldn’t listen to this, it will brainwash you,” all crazy ideas. And so as I’m taking them down I kind of look like I’m about to start crying and along comes a few of the high school kids and they say, “Is something wrong?” And I say, “Yeah, someone messed up my records.” And then they’re like, “We did that!” I just kind of looked at them dumbfounded. And they’re like, “Yeah, you don’t need to listen to that stuff to listen to heavy metal.” And I’m like, “Well, what the hell am I supposed to listen to?” And they told me “Stryper and Barren Cross.”

[both laugh]

MS: That’s the mentality. Here’s the thing, some people have those kind of convictions. In other words, when they become a Christian they feel like they’re not supposed to listen to anything secular ever again. And that’s OK for them. But don’t push that on other people. That’s not everybody’s conviction. And it doesn’t apply to everyone. I don’t care what scripture you think you’re reading. There’s no scripture in the Bible that says that. Yeah, we’re to separate ourselves from the obvious things that you shouldn’t be doing as a Christian. If I go to nudy bars and I become a Christian, yeah, chances are I should probably stop going to nudy bars. Obviously, there are things that make sense that would be hypocritical. But listening to rock ‘n’ roll? C’mon… That’s just taking it to a place that is just not, in my opinion, it’s not sensible at all. It’s wrong. I still listen to mainstream music. I never stopped listening to mainstream music. We play mainstream music. We do covers. We’ll go into a Van Halen song live. And we’ll get so much grief for it, it’s crazy.

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MM: It kind of reminds me of the backlash when you put out Against The Law and everybody was upset that you didn’t have the yellow and black anymore and all that.

MS: The difference with Against The Law is if our hearts had been right none of what we did – the color change, the lyric change, the music change – would have really mattered. It would have been perfectly fine. What made it questionable was our hearts. At the time we really were doing stuff that wasn’t cool. We’d go on stage and tell people you don’t need to drink and then we’d go off stage and go to the bar and get drunk with people. So, we were definitely hypocritical during that period of time for roughly a two year period from ’90 to ’92. A big part of the reason why I left the band. ‘Cause I didn’t want to be that way anymore and I didn’t want to do that anymore. There you go. It was just a bad point in our career – our history – but people get up in arms over these things when they don’t necessarily, completely understand what’s going on. We love mainstream music. The sad part is there’s, for the most part, there’s not as much good Christian music as there is good secular mainstream music.

MM: Yeah, it’s true.

MS: It’s just not good. Occasionally, you’ll get some artists that are. But most of the time it’s not. I try to keep it clean in what I listen to. I don’t buy albums that are explicit. I don’t. I believe there’s a line to draw. But everyone has their own convictions. That’s, I guess, the big point. Do what you feel led to do or what you don’t feel led to do.

MM: It’s funny though – I didn’t know about any of the hypocrisy, so I bought Against The Law and and it’s like, to me, you weren’t dressing the same but the songs were all very positive. It wasn’t like you were praising Satan. I think “Lady” is one of your best ballads to date.

MS: Well, good, man, I’m glad. That was just a love song. And love is great. It’s OK to sing about that. Sometimes it gets taken so far with certain Christian people. The mentality is, it’s OK because you didn’t say the word baby. Once you say the word baby, no, that’s wrong. Or same thing goes if you have a song where you’re talking about God but it’s in a hidden way. You don’t say the word God or Jesus in it so they get up in arms over that. We’ve heard this many, many, many times over the years. I’ve been on a few Christian labels and I’ve sat in a board meeting with them and they’ve literally said to my face, you don’t have enough of the word Jesus in the lyrics, can you rewrite the lyrics?

MM: Wow.

MS: And I’m thinking that is just weird. That’s weird. Whatever happened to art and writing from the heart?

MM: You should just be able to do what you’re inspired to do.

MS: This is the corporate world, unfortunately. Which is less and less these days because of the state of the music business, but that’s the way it is if you’re on Warner Brothers and you’re a pop artist. They’re gonna tell you what to sing and how to sing it.

MM: Nature of the beast.

MS: Yeah. Absolutely.

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MM: One of my favorite albums you’ve done is your solo album Truth. And I remember when it came out there was a sticker on it and it said something to the effect that it was the album you’d been waiting your entire career to make. Do you still think it’s one of your best or the best?

MS: I do. I feel that it’s definitely one of my best. I don’t think at this point in time it’s the best because I’m always striving to – in a healthy way – out-do myself. And do better and better. Because I’m one of those people who believes that we can always do better. And get better. There’s no end in sight. And I think that I’m Not Your Suicide is just as good an album. It’s different. It might not have quite the edge that Truth had, or that modern feel that Truth had, but I think it’s just as good an album. Especially sonically and the songwriting itself. This new album, I think, has surpassed Truth. I think this will go down to the fans as being the best solo album. I think, honestly, I think it might even be – and I don’t do this to start a war or compare apples with oranges, I’m just being honest – I think that this might be the best best album that I’ve ever done. Stryper or solo. And the reason why I say that is there’s just this certain level of energy on this album. Every song is exciting. You listen to one song and – we’re in the room listening and people will come in – the studio owner Paul and Will, the musicians, and we’re all sitting around listening to a song and everyone’s like woah. Then we’ll listen to another song and everyone goes, oh my gosh. Then we’ll listen to another song – it’s not like there’s just one or two songs that have the woah factor. So, I’m excited for people to hear this album. Yes, I love Truth. That was a turning point in my life. I think it will always go down [as one of the best]. The sad part with that album, and it breaks my heart, is not a lot of people know about it.

MM: Yeah. They really should.

MS: It’s heartbreaking. Because I think it is, really a good album. But when you go on Amazon and you see two reviews it’s like, wow, nobody even knows.

MM: That’s too bad.

MS: It is because it just got shelved. The label closed their doors. It was one of those unfortunate things.

MichaelSweet

 

MM: What do you think of streaming services like Spotify?

MS: I think it’s ridiculous. It’s just one more way to kill the industry. It’s a great thing for the fans. For the listeners. It’s convenient and it’s easy and you go on and pick what you’re gonna listen to and you pay your monthly fee – it’s just nice and easy and smooth. But the thing that people just don’t know is it is killing the industry. Not just streaming but other things. Downloads. Downloads have helped kill the industry. When a band goes and spends three months or four months of their time, and they spend a hundred thousand or two hundred thousand dollars or fifty thousand dollars or whatever – all over the map – they bust their cans to put together the best twelve or thirteen songs, full-length album and then it comes out and it streams and they see not one penny from that… You could see thousands and thousands of streams and you get a check for two dollars. I kid you not. Or, on iTunes and Amazon, you release a whole album and there are people who buy the physical copies, which is great, but there are more people that just download. But they won’t download the whole album. They just go through and listen to snippets and decide, oh, I like the way that one sounds, and they download that one or two songs. And you’ve got ten others that are just wasted and you just spent three or four months and a hundred grand and flushed it right down the toilet.

MM: I’ve always had the perspective that if I like one song on an album I’m probably going to like the whole thing. And that’s proven correct –

MS: – Here’s the thing – and that’s great – but there’s something to be said for the songs that you don’t really like that much, too. I mean, all my classic albums, be it Bad Company or Aerosmith or Boston, there were always songs I didn’t care for as much, but I still liked listening to them. You know what I mean?

MM: Yeah. I like listening to whole albums.

MS: There’s something so great to be said for holding a physical copy in your hands. Reading the notes, reading the lyrics, looking at the pictures, and listening to the whole album. It’s an experience.

MM: That’s why I started buying vinyl again.

MS: Yeah, exactly. And you’re never gonna have that experience when you’re streaming. Or when you’re buying one or two songs from iTunes. Is there anything that can be done about it? Probably not at this stage. But it is kind of heartbreaking when you’re going in knowing that. You’re in the studio for three months, twelve hours a day, literally busting your can – at least that’s what we do. We give our all, just like the old days. And it’s kind of heart-wrenching to know there are gonna be these songs that people won’t even hear.

michael-sweet-im-not-your-suicide-promo-cover-pic-2014

Note from Michael McCarthy: My apologies to readers for ending things on a downnote. That was never my intention and I’m sure it wasn’t Michael Sweet’s either. We were simply at the 45 minute mark already – twice as long as most interviews are usually allowed to go – and Michael had another interview to do. It’s my hope that this interview clarifies the many things that people have misunderstood about Michael and Stryper and perhaps even wins the band back some of the fans that strayed when these things happened.

Follow Michael Sweet on Twitter: @MichaelHSweet

Extra special thanks to Michael Sweet for allowing me the pleasure of interviewing him! Special thanks also to Brian Mayes for setting it up!

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Written by

Paris365

An entertainment journalist for 20 years, Michael McCarthy was a columnist and contributing editor for the magazines Lollipop and LiveWire. He co-created and wrote for Cinezine, one of the '90's most popular movie E-zines. The only time he's not listening to music is when he's watching television shows and movies or reading, usually music magazines.

8 Comments to “EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: MICHAEL SWEET OF STRYPER”

  1. chuck says:

    I appreciate the honest interview with Michael. Great job and it was perfect!

  2. Samantha says:

    Very insightful. Lots of food for thought. Well done!

  3. terry says:

    very good story here and i just love the part about to hell with the devil it is speaking about all that i think is evil in this world no one seems to be happy with one and some devil has to always intrude on someone or something that should never be causing distruction in someones life forever

  4. 79 Camaro says:

    Great interview! But how can it be otherwise with Mr. Michael Sweet! I am so looking forward to the next solo release, Michael. One-Sided War it is! Truth is a phenomenal album. I absolutely love it – bother versions of it. The same goes for I’m Not Your Suicide. You obviously hone your talents further with every release, no doubts about that. And I, too, very much enjoy the hard copies of the albums as well. I’ve never only downloaded a release in history, I’ve always picked up the hard copy as well, sometimes multiple copies. It truly is a vastly different experience. Plus, you’ve got something to get autographed at a Meet and Greet one day! Keep rockin’ Bro, you are simply the best the biz has to offer! Love and Light in your future!

  5. Wendy Branham says:

    Great interview! Thank you!

  6. Josh says:

    Just wanted to say how awesome this interview was to the questions that were asked and answers Mr. Sweet came back with. I love his sheer honesty and not being PC about it. He shouldn’t even have to explain himself and the artistic direction Stryper or his solo albums take, but he so kindly does and even is very specific about what kinds of music or things outside of music he probably shouldn’t be doing cause of his biblical beliefs. Wow. Usually I hear stuff from artists or Christians that are pretty ambiguous or quite vague. He was pretty blunt about it and I respect and appreciate that. Cause I was once one of those Christians who threw out all my secular music because of my newfound faith. I look back and regret it because they were a lot of stuff that was so awesome musically and not filthy or distasteful at all. And although there are some great Christian musicians or bands that are fantastic, like Stryper, Barren Cross, Holy Soldier, Deliverance, Recon, Bloodgood, David Zaffiro, whitecross, petra and new groups like P.O.D., Skillet, and a few others….there just are not that many, which is sad. I also loved Keith Green, Sandi Patty, Winans family, David Phelps, (who is one of the best singers ever!. Anyways thank you!

  7. Richard Bromley says:

    I love everything of stryper. Great interview w/Michael sweet. I totally understand where he’s coming from and respect him. We Christians need to get off our high horse and stop giving the devil so much power. From the words of black Sabbath: the devil is not a creator. Just a rip off artist.stryper and other Christian artists get it.

  8. T-Ray says:

    Just wondering what you (and even Michael) thinks about the unfortunate reality for people who live overseas. Getting physical music into my hands is going to cost me up to double what it costs people living stateside. That being the case, I download all my music these days. For the record, I always download full albums – have done the last 3 studio albums of Stryper’s that way – and will continue to do so until it becomes more affordable to buy CDs while living in Japan.

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