Intervju med Michael Sweet i Stryper.
Världens mest gulsvarta band är tillbaka med ett nytt album som låter väldigt bra. Michael Sweet har rattat hela projektet själv och det bjuds på en ganska enastående ljudbild.
Nyligen ringde jag upp sångaren för att snacka om albumet och han berättade då bl a om att han är fullt övertygad om att den kristna stämpeln skadat Stryper en hel del. Dessutom berättade han även om en del kommande och planerade skivsläpp.
Why is there ”no more hell to pay”?
Michael: Well, the answer to that spiritually, is that when you believe in God, and from our perspective that´s what Stryper believes and it´s where we place our faith, there´s no more hell to pay. Not only here on earth, you have a god that you can go to and pray to and put your faith and trust in and call on and then later on in life, the hell that the bible speaks of, you don´t have to pay the price because the price has been paid. That was the whole point of Christ dying on the cross for our sins and paying the price for hell. That´s really the meaning behind the lyric. The song itself is just a real, in your face, straight ahead, melodic, riffy rock metal tune. It´s what Stryper does the best and this one took us a few years to kind of rediscover that. We went back to our roots. Not just on that song, but on the whole record.
It´s really heavy and the sound really comes through on it.
Michael: Thank you! I basically have co-produced all the Stryper albums from the very beginning. It´s really nice to finally get a little acknowledge as a producer. I grew up in the studio and played on my dad´s sessions when I was a kid. I´ve lived in the studio my whole life. I produced this record on my own and I´m very happy with the sound and with the sonic quality. Especially considering how much we made it for. I talk to bands daily and hear that they spent $50.000 to $200.000. far more than what we spent on this one. We wound up spending around $25.000 to make this record and it´s quite a feat, you know. We´re pretty proud of how it turned out. I think that most of that sound comes from the energy of the love of what we do.
Wouldn´t it be easier working with someone from the outside telling you what to throw away or what to keep?
Michael: It´s not simpler. It is for some bands that don´t know what they´re doing or don´t know what they want. We know this band ourselves much better than any producer does. We´ve gone down that road with producers and it´s been a horror show. It´s been a nightmare. It´s been great at times, like working with Michael Wagener who was phenomenal. Then we worked with Stephan Galfas on “To hell with the devil” and that was a nightmare. A total nightmare. In my opinion he brought nothing to the table except his name, which really wound up being nothing. The reason why we hired him was that he said he produced the “Missing you” single by John Waite and we found out later that he did not. We were misled and when we got to the studio we were sitting there the whole time going “What is this?”. Thank God it wound up being our biggest selling album and it was a success despite the fact that there were a lot of lies and delusional information. My point is, and I´m not trying to bag on Stephan, my point is that we´ve learned the hard way over the years, that nobody knows how to capture the sound and produce the material better than we do. Back in the day we would walk in with all the songs, like with the Michael Wagener record. Everything was arranged and ready to go. He just made it sound good, but we didn´t change a thing. We were playing those songs live a year before we recorded them. It´s one of those situations where I think sometimes, when you´re in the band, it´s quite a hurdle to jump over to be acknowledged and recognized respectfully as a producer. I don´t know why, but I hope this proves that I´m a legitimate producer. I think it´s a great record and maybe I´ll get some more opportunities to work with other bands. I´m producing a record with George Lynch, Brian Tischy and James Lamenzo in February, that I´m playing on and that´s exciting.
What can you say about that project?
Michael: It´s gonna be a super group kinda thing. A melodic rock record released on Frontiers and it´ll come out next year. No name yet, but George and I are writing all the material and I´m sure they´ll start talking about it soon. Frontiers reached out to me in an e-mail and asked if I wanted to be part of a super group project? We were throwing around ideas and what not. One thing led to another. It ended up being George Lynch and I suggested Brian Tischy and James Lomenzo. Originally I was just gonna sing. It´s really cool how it´s progressed and I´m pumped about it, man! We´ve got a lot of work to do. I think it´s gonna be a great record when it comes out. I guarantee it!
Would you say that now is Stryper at its best?
Michael: I would and I don´t think that is based on the excitement of the moment. I think there´s weight to that and validity to that and I think we are at our best and we´re proving that night after night on stage after stage and with the release of this record. If some people don´t agree that it´s our best record to date, I think you have to at least minimum, agree that it is one of our best. If you don´t and I say this with all due respect, I think you need to have your ears cleaned. Like seriously. I´m not being prideful or trying to come across as pompous. I´m just excited and I really believe, we all believe – the label, the people that are working with the record, the band, everyone is very excited and we all feel that this is truly one of, if not the best, Stryper albums to date.
Michael: I think so. Maybe should´ve is the wrong terminology. Maybe “would have” or “could have”. If it had been the album to follow “To hell with the devil”, this is my opinion and we´ll never know, but when it came out it did two plus million at that time. Then “In God we trust” came out and did less. It did a million plus and I think this new album would´ve been three or four or five or six plus million. That´s my opinion and I think it would´ve gone through the roof and it would´ve taken Stryper to a whole different level and made us a household name.
Do you think you always being labeled as a Christian band, hurt you sales wise and stopped you from not becoming as big as other bands of that time?
Michael: I don´t think. I would say that I would bet my house on that. I know that it has. That´s not to say we regret being labeled a Christian band. We always explained it as, and some people might think it´s odd, but we´re a rock band first that is comprised of Christians. We´re a rock band and we grew up on Sunset Strip playing with Ratt and Mötley Crüe. We didn´t grow up in the church and we´re not your typical Christian band. That being said, a lot of times we are labeled like “Oh, they´re that Christian band.” or even worse “Oh, they´re that Christian glam band.”. We´re not a glam band! Poison´s a glam band. We sound like nothing like Poison. Maybe we had as much make up on and our hair was as big as theirs at one point in time, but that´s about where the line got drawn. If you´re gonna call us a glam band, you kinda have to go back and call Guns N´Roses a glam band because they looked more glam than we did for a while. My point is this, I really believe that it has hurt us and I think, to answer your question, if we were not labeled a Christian band I think we would be bigger. One other side of that is that not only has it hurt us and not only do I think we would be bigger, I belive that unfortunately that´s a bit of a crutch at times. We were proud of who we are and we stand on stage after stage proclaiming Christ and always will, but it´s really kinda sad that that´s the way it is. When bands come out proclaiming they´re Satanic, it doesn´t hurt them. I´m not really sure why when a band comes out and proclaims to be Christian, why it hurts them? What´s the fear? What are people afraid of? I don´t know and I don´t have an answer to this, but the two most controversial subjects at the dinner table are politics and religion and I just don´t get it sometimes. We should be able to talk about these things without getting into a brawl.
With the US being a very religious country, you should´ve sold 30 million records just based on that?
Michael: Very odd isn´t it? We´ve gone to countries that are not religious and sold many more albums, like Japan. I guess their religion is primarily Buddhism, but they´re not Christian. We went there and had a double platinum video and we were back in 86, 87, 88 and 89 and it was, no disrespect to The Beatles, but it was beatlesmania. We´d get off the plane at the airport and there´d be a thousand girls. (laughs) It was insane and here we are, a Christian band. I don´t know. Go figure! Who can figure it out? I can´t.
Michael: Sure. I mean, I miss those days because there were some incredibly great memories with those days. We had such a great time and it was so monumental. So many doors were kicked open, but at the same time I don´t sit and dwell on those days and wish for those days. I´m excited about the future because I think there are some incredible times to come and we´re all very excited about that. This is a great time for the band and I think “No more hell to pay” is gonna be monumental and it´s gonna open new doors.
Any plans for a European tour?
Michael: Definitely plans for Europe next year. We have a European agent who is working on shows as we speak. We´re gonna do more US dates, Canadian dates, South American dates, Japanese dates, Australian dates. We plan to go around the globe and tour heavily for this album.
Any plans for another solo album?
Michael: I have a solo album already in the can. I recorded it almost two years ago. Kenny Aronoff is drumming on it and I´ve got a few guest musicians like Doug Aldrich and Tony Harnell. It´s gonna come out next year, most likely second quarter and along with a book, an autobiography. Like I said, it´s exciting times and I think I´ve done more in the last year than I have in the last ten years. It´s crazy. Not bad for an old fart.
Another “The covering” album, is that something you´d consider doing?
Michael: Yeah, we actually are. We plan on definitely doing another album and another “Second coming 2” of rerecorded songs from “In God we trust” and “Against the law”.
Are all these gonna be out on Frontiers?
Michael: Not my solo album. It´s gonna be on Big3 Records, which is the label Stryper was one right before Frontiers. The next album may be on Frontiers if they pick up the option to do so. They have the first right to pick up the option on another album. If they do so, whatever that album is, it will be on Frontiers. We may talk about a new deal with them. It all depends on how successful things are in this business. We´ll see how “No more hell to pay” goes.