“As I was writing the album I was really trying to make sure that each song made its own statement, musically, lyrically, in terms of energy it was very important to me that every song stood on its own yet at the same time that we retain the continuity and it had a great flow from beginning to end that’s important too.”
From Release: Continuing a trend started with their 2013 release, “No More Hell To Pay”, Stryper’s 10th studio album, “God Damn Evil” sees the band offering up their heaviest release yet! Opening track, “Take It To The Cross” immediately shows you that Michael Sweet and company have zero intentions of mellowing with age. There are classic Stryper anthems, but with a modern heaviness and edge that carries the band’s sound into the 21st century and beyond. While only time will tell, pound for pound, this very well and truly might be Stryper’s best album yet.
Outside of Boston in a town called Plymouth where the Pilgrims landed as he tells us, we gave Mr Sweet a call to talk all about Stryper’s new album ‘God Damn Evil’, changes, thrash, their new bass player Perry Richardson, touring, the future, and much more.
You’ve probably answered this a million times, can you tell us why ‘God Damn Evil’ represents and why this was the perfect title for this album?
Well my brother came up with the title a few years back and we didn’t feel comfortable using it at that time, for a number of reasons. Fast forward to 2017 I re-suggested the idea of using the title, everybody loved it, we felt that it was relevant to the world that we live in now, the society that we live in now and was a perfect year to release an album with such a title ‘God Damn Evil’. Some people are confused by it thinking that we’re just trying to be shocking and controversial or some people and some of our fans think we’re swearing and we’re just trying to be bad boys or whatever and it’s not any of the above. The meaning of it is a prayer request to God from us asking God to condemn evil, God damn evil, it’s a prayer and when we explain it that way it makes perfect sense to most people, they get it and the times that we live in, the level of evil that we’ve seen in recent times obviously with the Las Vegas shooting, the most recent school shooting here in America, but worldwide we see it on the news daily. It’s a good time for all of us to be praying and asking God to condemn it, so it’s a powerful statement for all times, man.
This at times feels like a completely different Stryper, there’s stuff I’ve never heard the band do on this album, so what if anything did you set out to do differently with this album compared to anything you’ve released before?
Well we went into it with a different attitude, almost like a resurgence and a renewal within the band, obviously everybody knows or at least I think everybody knows that we have a new bass player, his name is Perry Richardson he used to play with Firehouse, and with Perry being a new member of the band and having this new sense of energy, a new level of energy that’s how we went into the studio with that in our hearts, our minds, our souls, and I think it translates over to the tracks themselves as we would record everything we were really extra excited about doing so, and it comes through in the music . As I was writing the album I was really trying to make sure that each song made its own statement, musically, lyrically, in terms of energy it was very important to me that every song stood on its own yet at the same time that we retain the continuity and it had a great flow from beginning to end that’s important too. I hate albums I don’t care for albums that you pop in and every song kind of sounds the same, even though it’s good and it sounds great but every song just kinda sounds the same. I’m not a fan of those kinds of albums so it was important for us to really have a lot of diversity with this album.
Talk about diversity, ‘Take It To The Cross’ is like a thrash song, it’s amazing…
*laughs* Well you know, man, the reason why we did that song is we had a number of fans over the years asking us specifically to do something really heavy that bordered on thrash. That was our answer to that, like OK, we’ll do it. We enjoyed doing it and that was probably the most fun we’ve had recording any of the eleven songs on the album that was the one that was extra fun because we just had a blast doing it.
What about playing that one live, is that going to be hard to sing live?
Yeah it probably will be but I’ll be honest with you I don’t know if there’s an easy Stryper song to sing live. I think they’re all kind of hard you know *laughs* they’re all in that upper range, belt it out, the only time I get a little bit of a breather is when I’m singing in a much lower range or I’m not singing.
You do it to yourself when you write them that way *laughs*
I know, I know, absolutely and I’ll take full credit for it. Yeah I think that ‘Take It To The Cross’ wouldn’t be any more difficult than singing I would think a song like ‘God’ or a song like ‘Lost’ I’ll skim through it somehow, I’ll figure it out and if I can’t then I’ll grab some girl in the crowd that can.
Back to Perry, I was a huge Firehouse fan from day one and was stoked when he’d joined the band, what has he brought to the band that you never realised was missing before?
Joy. We’ve always had joy but he’s brought a new level of joy to the band he’s a really good person and he’s got a smile on his face that kind of permanent up on his face and he’s always smiling and it just feels like there’s always hope and the world could be ending tomorrow and Perry’s gonna tell you that it’s gonna be OK. So that’s first and foremost then you add to it his incredible bass playing, he’s a really solid, amazing player, plays with his fingers and a pick and switches back and forth and is super solid, then he’s a killer singer he’s one of the best in the business singing the high harmonies and belting them out and got great pitch. He’s got that rock look going, he’s got all his hair and looks the part, dresses the part, he’s a big fan of the band so he’s really excited to be a part of this and that excitement spreads to us and makes us all excited.
After a crazy couple of years what was the feeling like when this album was finally done and you were able to listen to it from start to finish?
It was like to a degree a sense of justification because we’ve been told and we’ve heard by not a lot of people but some people that we should stop or it’s not going to be the same, or it’s not this or it’s not that and blah blah blah… and it was just a great feeling to go and make not only a great record but what we believe, we really truly believe is our best album ever. That remains to be seen obviously the fans and the critics alike will be the judge of that so to speak and they’ll give us their opinion on that if it’s accurate or not, we believe it to be true, we pop it in and listen to it and actually believe that.
This is your tenth album, looking back do you ever go back and listen to your first record and think what you could’ve done differently now?
Oh yeah and we certainly would have, looking back on the first album we would’ve definitely produced it ourselves, if we had the knowledge that we have now and we had it then we would’ve produced it ourselves and I think we would’ve fine-tuned things a little bit more, but those are the stepping stones, there are no regrets we really appreciate and value those years, 83, 84, 85, 86, we learned a lot through them and in them and we wouldn’t change a thing. Obviously it lead to the success of the band and it blew open the doors and took us from clubs into arenas and number one on MTV and so much was accomplished back in those times and we wouldn’t change a thing.
I was a huge fan of ‘Against The Law’, I loved that album man but it seems to almost be the forgotten album, why do you think that is?
Well you know it’s funny, it’s a great album, it really is and again this is my opinion well not just my opinion but many fans opinions too, it’s not Stryper even though were playing on it it’s not classic Stryper. The only way I could really compare it is if someone with a real signature guitar tone and a real signature look threw those things away and made a killer album but his guitar tone’s not the same and they don’t look the same and they don’t sound the same but I really like it. That’s the best way to describe ‘Against The Law’ we kind of threw everything away and started from scratch and some people really like it because it’s a good album, that’s why they like it because it’s produced by Tom Werman and there’s some good songs on it, some good playing on it and it’s solid but it’s not classic Stryper. That’s why I just recently did a list of my favourite to worst favourite album and that was at the bottom of the list believe it or not, top of the list was ‘God Damn Evil’ I think it absolutely blows ‘Against The Law’ out of the water I don’t think there’s any comparison. That’s just my opinion but what do I know? *laughs*
I saw you on your last trip here and was lucky enough to catch a Stryper bible, always wanted one…
Oh awesome. Yeah those are hard to come by we only throw out twenty or thirty per show and they’re definitely hard to come by and everybody wants one and it’s amazing to me how popular those are.
So when do you think we might see you back in Australia?
You know we’re working on a japan trip right now, this year and if we go to Japan we’re going to try and also swing over to Australia so hopefully that’s going to go down as planned and if that does we’ll be there this year. It’s been way too long. If we make that happen we can’t wait to see everybody, we really can’t because we love Australia I mean Australia has always been one of our favourite places and the people there are just so awesome and we have a lot of great memories there and can’t wait to come and rock with everybody.
So sometimes it may be easy to say what’s changed over the years but what would you say is the one thing that’s stayed the same in your time making music?
I think the quality, you know Stryper has always been a band again love us or hate us who has gone the extra mile to give everybody quality and that goes for the stage show, that goes for the recordings, that goes for the song writing, everything that we do we try to give it our all and give people the best. I think we’ve been pretty consistent with that and I think it’s remained the same, yeah there are albums that aren’t as good as others and blah blah blah but if you look back at our quality of work and the history of the catalogue you’ll see that the songs are there and we’ve always gone the extra mile to make it rock and I think that’s always been there and it’s still there too.
What does the rest of 2018 have in store for the band?
We’re going to be touring throughout the year, a lot of touring, and we’re obviously releasing this album ‘God Damn Evil’ on April 20th in The States anyway I don’t know if it comes out earlier in Australia or a little later, but we’re gonna do a lot of touring and also be wrapping up an acoustic album that we already recording, we’re gonna be filming and putting more touches on a documentary that we’re doing and going to be working on for the next two years like a full length Stryper documentary going back to the very beginning and it’s gonna be awesome. Then I’m planning on a solo album, starting on a solo album at the end of the year and then I’m gonna start on an album with Joel Hoekstra at the beginning of next year.
So you’re not busy at all.
I’m not. Nothing going on, man. Not yet but I’m working on it *laughs*
You’ve done a lot over your time in the business, what’s left for you to do that you haven’t yet had the chance to do that you want to?
Just to keep doing it, keep doing what I do, I feel like I’ve got the creative juices flowing and there’s a lot of stuff coming out of me right now I want to just keep letting it come out over the next fifteen or twenty years and I hope that I can look back and say wow, I released another five or six solo albums and another eight or nine or ten Stryper albums, and a few more Sweet Lynch albums and another couple of books. I just want to keep doing what I do and try to inspire people through it and then at the end of my days I can look back and say wow maybe I helped a few people.
How do you keep your voice at the level it’s at? It must be hard work…
You know what, man, I just try to stay healthy that’s the key. If I get sick I’m in big trouble and I try hard to stay healthy and eat right, not eat a lot of sugar although I do I try not to and just keep from getting sick that’s the goal. Then I sing every day, I’m always singing out performing or out recording and working my voice which is a muscle obviously so working it out to try and keep it in shape is important, if I were to take a year off or whatever I’d have a lot of trouble for two to three months trying to make it back to what I had. So it’s just a matter of staying healthy and continuing to sing.
So what are the touring plans like at the moment?
We start in April we go to Italy, we come home for a few days and then go to Nashville and we start a ground run in May that goes all the way until the end of June, we’ve got fly dates in July, August and September a bunch of them and then we do another ground run in October and November. The time we would go to Japan and potentially Australia I think that would be some time in like August I want to say.
Lastly let’s look ahead to the future, so finish this sentence for me, by the end of 2018 Stryper will…
By the end of 2018 Stryper will be enjoying the holidays and taking a long nap because we’re gonna be busy throughout 18. *laughs* yeah man we’re gonna do something different, usually we’re working during the holidays but this album ‘Gad Damn Evil’ we started on it in October and we were working on it through the holidays and I’ve gotta be honest with you I don’t like to do things that way, I like to enjoy the holidays and just take some time off for December certainly, Thanksgiving on to Christmas, we didn’t do that last year so this year we’re gonna do that after the ground run in November we’re gonna take some time off.
From: Orange County, CA, USA
Band members: Michael Sweet – lead vocals / guitar, Robert Sweet – drums, Oz Fox – guitar, Perry Richardson – bass guitar
Forthcoming Release: God Damn Evil – (April 20 – Frontiers Music)