Interview With Michael Sweet

Jason Bullinger For Alternative Revolt

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” features a guest appearance from Matt Bachand (Shadows Fall, Act Of Defiance) on death growls, yes, death growls, and immediately shows you that Michael Sweet and company have zero intentions of mellowing with age. Michael was kind enough to take a few minutes and discuss the new album, his new bass player, and plans for a tour in support of “God Damn Evil”.

Alt Revolt: Have you been surprised with the reaction of the first single “Take It To The Cross” and the title of the album “God Damn Evil”?

Michael Sweet: We don’t sit around and plan like some people think we do. We don’t plan shock value and controversy. We just go with our gut and what we feel led to do. We actually had the title a few years back and we didn’t want to go with that because we didn’t feel we had to do it at the time. And then 2018 comes around, we’re seeing all this craziness in the world and we felt like this is a good time to release such a title. God Damn Evil! It’s a prayer request and not us trying to be controversial, shocking, or swearing. It’s a request like, God will you damn evil? Please damn all this evil in our society because it’s just out of control.

We wanted to go with “Take It To The Cross” as the lead single because it’s the most out there song on the album. There’s no other song like it on the album and we really dig it. It’s as simple as that. The band actually digs the chorus. That’s probably our favorite part of the song.

Alt Revolt: I like that you’re reaching out to do something different.

Michael Sweet: Yes. We we tracked it and it came to the chorus we all looked at each other and smiled. People I think are thrown off for the most part because it’s not what they expect from Stryper. But if it was Deicide, Overkill, Judas Priest or any other band that has tapped into that style or done that style before it would have been like, wow this is the coolest thing you’ve ever done!

Alt Revolt: Was the writing and recording of this album any different from the past two albums?

Michael Sweet: No. Is it very similar. It was written in a week.

And it seems like it keeps getting shorter and shorter. I think it’s our best in terms of songs, production, and performances. We are so excited for all the fans to actually hear it and for the reviews to come in. We still believe it’s our best album. We just have this feeling about it and it excites us in a new way that we haven’t been feeling since the 80s. We experienced that with “No More Hell To Pay” and “Fallen”. Those were exciting. But this was a whole different level of excitement!

Alt Revolt: Are any of these songs going to make it into the setlist when the tour starts?

Michael Sweet: Absolutely. We’re going to do it at least three hopefully even four maybe even five of these songs. And you know we’ve got a new song coming out called “Sorry” that’ll be on the set list for sure. “Take It To The Cross”. It could be. But we’ve got some other songs too. There’s a song coming out called “The Valley” that is killer. It’s like midway through the album and that’s a very Black Sabbath Heaven and Heaven kind of vibe. And we’ve got a music video to go with it that’s really cool and very different for Stryper. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done.

We have a couple songs that are more straight ahead melodic. They are typical of what people would expect from a Stryper. There is a song called “Beautiful” and then we’ve got a rock ballad that is called “I Can’t Live Without Your Love”. That’s a really cool but not a sappy piano ballad. It’s in your face but really cool. We are so happy with how this album turned out. Every song is different. You know there’s not one song that’s similar. The title track “God Damn Evil” is a straight up anthem. It is the modern day “To Hell With The Devil”. There’s a song called “Lost” that’s got a lot going on musically speaking. It’s a very eclectic diverse mix of songs but they all oddly work perfectly with one another. Everyone that has heard it in our camp and other publicists and press have said it flows really well.

Alt Revolt: Can you tell me who created the artwork for the cover?

Michael Sweet: His name is Stan Decker and he did the last two albums “Fallen” and “No More Hell To Pay” cover. He also has done other brilliant covers as well.  He is really good. He has done a good job and there’s a lot to look at if you zoom in and you look at everything going on. It says a lot. Obviously it’s God coming down from the heavens throwing his staff down in the city and just saying, I’ve had enough! You see all the signs of the love of money, food, and pornography and all this stuff that you know represented evil of course and God just saying look enough is enough. Get your act together you idiots.

Alt Revolt: Did you give him a concept and let him create something?

Michael Sweet: We did. We gave him some ideas and then sent him the lyrics to “God Damn Evil”.  He sent back something that needed just a few little tweaks here and there. But for the most part he pretty much nailed. He is artistic and very creative.

Alt Revolt: Do you still enjoy the physical tactical product (CD’s, Vinyl) that you provide to the fans?

Michael Sweet: I do. The technology times we live we have to accept it. It doesn’t mean you want to accept it. Streaming is the think right now. Five years ago it was about downloads and 10 years ago it was about CD’s. You now pay a subscription and you can go and create your own playlists  and listen to the stuff you want to hear and it’s very convenient. But the quality isn’t the same. You’re not holding and smelling the package and you’re not reading the liners. You are not reading the lyrics and not looking at the pictures. You are also not hearing it in the quality that it’s meant to be as the whole album. And that’s the thing that drives me crazy about downloads and iTunes you can literally go and see the songs that people download and you’ll see one song that you know has been downloaded at a zillion times and the next one down hasn’t been downloaded at all. You’re just thinking what a waste.

And sadly though all these people that are still downloading one or two or three songs, you get in an argument with them about that because they’re right you’re wrong. Because they didn’t live in those earlier times. You know when you went and bought an album and held it your hands and put it in your car and listened to every single song. Good or bad. There’s something to be said for those b-side songs. They’ve turned out to be some of my favorite songs on the album. Whether it’s Van Halen or Judas Priest or Maiden or whoever. But you’d never know that in today’s times because they’re not given a chance.

Alt Revolt: It’s very sad. It’s crazy to be devaluing the art and it’s frustrating. I agree with you. It’s scary and you have to accept it.

Michael Sweet: There’s nothing you can do about it. It also financially hurts the bands at our level. The budgets are small. There are less people buying albums so therefore less money comes back to you to pay the advance and recoup. And then some bands can’t afford to go make an album anymore. Thank God that is not us yet!

Alt Revolt: How is your new bass player Perry Richardson fitting in with the band?

Michael Sweet: Unbelievable! We haven’t even played a show with the guy yet. He’s such a breath of fresh air and such an amazing human being and we can’t wait to get out on the road with him and really hang out with him and play with him. And we’re so proud to have that guy in our band. He brings joy to the band because that’s kind of been missing for a while. But I mean it hasn’t been a complete joyful experience for a while in many ways. He’s one of those guys that just he always has a smile on his face. You know it could be the end of the world and Perry would walk in with a big smile on his face and say, man it’s going to be OK. I mean he’s that kind of a guy. He is a really great bass player, great singer, and team player. It’s infectious. I’ve said this before I’m just being truthful. It feels like the 80s again to us right now. You know we’ve got that level of excitement where a new band and we’re kids we’re raring to go and it’s a really cool feeling.

Alt Revolt: How much of the tour has been planned so far?

Michael Sweet: We’ve got a bunch of shows on the books. We are pushing 50 plus shows right now and more and more are coming in and we just added a Puerto Rico show. We just added a Spain show. There will be some Canadian dates coming in. We’ve got probably 75 to 80 shows by the time we’re done here. It will be our busiest year since 2003 for Stryper. We start rehearsing in April. Then we hit the road in May. We’re going to try our best to fit in as many songs as we can. We try to please everybody. It’s hard because we’ve got to do some of the classics and we want to do some of the new songs too and we’ve got a big catalog and before you know it you’ve got an hour and 90 minute set without including many of the songs you want to include.

Alt Revolt: What bands so you see opening for you on this tour?

Michael Sweet: We’ve got Iron Maiden and Judas Priest opening for us. Yeah. Couple of newer British bands. (laughs)
We haven’t gotten that far for the most part. I know we’re playing with Firehouse which is kind of funny. When we play Spain wee will be playing with Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss, and Megadeth. We are all over the map in terms of who we play with and how we do it.

At the end of the day we’re a rock band.  We are a rock band that believes in God and sings about Jesus. Most people have all these preconceived ideas when they come to one of our shows. Usually people walk away with those obliterated. We go up and rock and put on a show and people are blown away and have no idea. I thought they were going to pull out a bible and sit on a stool and preach to me for two hours.