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Full Throttle Rock

Interview: Michael Sweet - Stryper / Solo Artist

Posted on October 25, 2016 at 8:40 PM

It has been a great time to be a Michael Sweet fan in recent years. The Stryper frontman and solo performer has over the last several years flooded the market with various products under multiple banners. Fans have been spoilt for choice since 2013 with two Stryper studio albums of original material and an album of re-recorded classics; in addition to a Live CD/DVD album. But when that wasn’t enough Sweet released his autobiographical book, “Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed”. And then came the side and solo projects, like the pairing of Sweet and guitar legend George Lynch and their stunning release “Only To Rise”, followed by two solo records. As you can see, spoilt for choice. So with so much going on in his life I was grateful that he had a spare moment in his hectic schedule to catch up for a chat about Stryper, the forthcoming U.S. Presidential Election, his love of Van Halen and his new solo effort “One Sided War”


Rock Man: Congratulations on all the success and good fortune that has come your way over a 30 odd year career as the frontman for Stryper and as a solo artist. If you could go back in time to humble beginnings would a young Michael Sweet believe all this success was possible?


Michael Sweet: Well, you know what man, I’m just a hard worker and I’m very driven and a go-getter, and I love to stay active and busy. That is what motivates me, that is what keeps me going. I’m very passionate about what I do, I think even more than I was in 1986. So that is really a big part of the reason why I’m so active these days. I love my job and I love new opportunities and I take them and I appreciate them.


RM: Congratulations on the release of the new solo record One Sided War. This is a very edgy, raw and entertaining collection of material. In your opinion how does this body of work compare to previous albums you’ve worked on, both as a solo artist and as a member of Stryper?


MS: Well, I mean, compared to the solo albums I think this is definitely the heaviest one I have done, the edgiest one I have done. It has a real high energy to it, some great collaborations, some great musicians, I brought in Joe Hoekstra, Ethan Brosh, Will Hunt, John O’Boyle, Moriah Formica, you know, it is comprised of some great talent. And compared to Stryper, it gives Stryper a run for its money in terms of energy and heaviness. I’ve heard over the years, many times, people say “Yeah we love Stryper but his solo stuff isn’t as heavy” and this was an album to kind of put to rest comments like that from people like that. So I enjoyed every minute of going in and making a guitar driven, edgy album.


RM: You mentioned some of the high quality musicians you surrounded yourself with on the recording of this record; I am a big fan of bands like Night Ranger and Whitesnake so I am very familiar with the recent works of Joe Hoekstra. Can you tell me about your experience working with him and what he brings to the table?


MS: Well, he brought a lot. He really took the songs and played on a new level, he played on Radio, One Way Up and Who Am I and he just took those songs to new levels, no doubt about it. He brought in some real hooky guitar parts, some incredible solos on those songs and he is a force to be reckoned with. He is a great talented guy, and he’s a great guy. I have known him for a while and we have always talked about working together and we had the opportunity on this album to do so. We are also talking about doing a full length album together, which someday soon will happen.


RM: I’d like to get your thoughts on some of the songs on this new record and I’ll start off with the title track, One Sided War. When you wrote that song did you have someone specific in mind?


MS: Well, I mean, there is a lot of one sided wars that take place. We see on a daily basis online, within our families, with our neighbours, you know, where someone is hell bent on starting a war, a war of words or a physical war or whatever. They make their comments and they don’t let it go and the other person is standing there thinking or saying “What is going on? I’m laying my weapons down I don’t want to fight anymore, this is pointless, this is silly” and the other person keeps it going. So we see this on a daily basis and that is what the song is about, just putting to rest the petty war of words that we have or whatever the disagreement is we have is really silly at the end of the day. And just, you know, getting along more and loving one another more, that is the point of the lyric.


RM: So further to that, and I am not looking to reignite any bad blood, but someone like Nikki Sixx, who you have had disagreements with in the past isn’t being referenced?


MS: Well, you know, Nikki certainly comes to mind. I come to mind as well, you know, it gets heated at times on Twitter and agitated and I realised that it’s just kind of silly to get worked up about. I know that Nikki has done that too before, he did it with me and I have no beef with Nikki though, I have never even met the guy. But I see it on a daily basis on the news, online, there’s so many people and it is just crazy. It is the world we live in and I think a lot of times it is publicity driven; people love to jump on those band wagons at getting their publicity, at getting into something that they don’t even belong in.


RM: I love the fun, tongue-in-cheek nature of Radio and the video that you shot for it. But putting the humour aside for one moment, I am pretty concerned about so many rock and rollers going off to experiment with country music. Do you have any theories on why so many artists are going down this path?


MS: Well I think most of the time it is based on trying to make a buck. They can’t make a buck in rock and roll anymore so they are trying to make a buck in country. If someone is clearly doing that and denies it then they are not being honest and I think it is based on that most of the time. I’m sure sometimes it is legit and it is because they have a love for country music and they have always wanted to do it or they enjoy doing that. But I just think it is disrespectful when an artist jump on band wagons just to clearly make a buck or because it is the easy way out. I’m not a fan of that and I think the fans are smarter than that and can see right through it, they can see what is real and what is fake, they don’t need Michael Sweet to tell them that. So the artists that do that when the album flops it is just proof of my words, the fans aren’t dummies, they are smart.


RM: On the tracks Who Am I and You Make Me Wanna did you take inspiration from you own relationship with your wife Lisa or were you coming from a more general perspective?


MS: No, many times I have my wife in mind, and I did for the song Who Am I. This is a tough lifestyle, it is very difficult to be married to a musician, it is not easy and many times we do take our wives for granted. But that song I had Lisa in mind clearly, but there are other songs I’ve written for her as well: How To Live from my last album I wrote for Lisa and sang it at our wedding, so no doubt about it, absolutely.


RM: The lead single Bizarre is a great fast-paced, edgy way to kick off this record with a great lyrical observation. It really sets the tone for the rest of the album, doesn’t it?


MS: It does and that was the whole point of that song. It just kind of kicks you in the gut and makes you say “Hello! what is going on here” and it is a high energy rollercoaster ride song and that was the point of it. Golden Age was the same thing, I wanted people to really stop and take notice when they heard these songs and heard this album, that was a clear vision of mine, to make people listening say “Wow, what is this!”.


RM: So moving on to some matters relating to Stryper, this year you’re celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the iconic record To Hell With The Devil. You’re doing some touring across the United States playing the entire album live, are there any plans to take this show outside of America?


MS: At the moment no, but that could change tomorrow. We welcome opportunity and if those come and those make sense then we will absolutely do so. But right now there is no plan to go outside the U.S. and doing this tour.


RM: So, as you perform this record in full on this current tour have you had moments where you have thought “You know what, 30 years on all of this stuff still stacks up great!” or have you always known how strong this material is?


MS: Well there are songs like All Of Me, Holding On and Rockin’ The World that we haven’t played since ’86. There’s no particular reason, we just haven’t. But playing them now live throughout the set makes us realise what great songs they are and there really is no filler on the To Hell With The Devil album. We try to make that a point on every album, we try our best to write ‘A Side’ songs and have no ‘B Side’ songs what-so-ever, but To Hell With The Devil is a perfect example of that, I think every song speaks for itself and is very strong.


RM: Another throwback to that era for these shows is that you’ve also gone back to the traditional yellow and black outfits. You mentioned in your book that you have always had a love/hate relationship with the yellow and black costumes. Do you still feel that way on this tour?


MS: I Understand that it’s a big part of who we are and that people expect to see that. We’re known as the yellow and black attack and it’s an intricate part of who we are, were and will be. But at the same time it is a little limiting when you are stuck with the yellow and black. It’s very hot, it can be very uncomfortable in these outfits, they are layered, heavy outfits and it’s much warmer on stage and a little more uncomfortable on stage than going out in some of our more recent clothing.


RM: You have announced that the band will be taking a “hiatus” at the conclusion of the tour. Is this a break the band needs to ensure the survival of the band going forward, or is there the real possibility that this could be the end?


MS: At this very moment I don’t know; I don’t think this is the end. But there are some things that we said in the statement that our bass player (Tim Gains) has made some personal choices and some things that have really affected the band and made us step back and question and wonder ‘where do we go from here?’. So it is unclear right now, we’re going to get through this tour and we’re going to take a little time off, that being the “hiatus” obviously and then just work out what we’re supposed to do after that and when. You know, I’m doing a Sweet and Lynch album, we were meant to do a Stryper album but the band agreed to putting things on hold, not just myself, but Oz and Robert, the three of us agreed to putting things on hold for a little while so we can re-evaluate what is going on and how to move forward.


RM: Okay, we’ll watch this space with interest. I’m so glad you mentioned Sweet and Lynch, I was wondering if you planned on recording a follow up record to Only To Rise. I appreciate that the two of you have been very busy since recording that album in 2015, but have you spoken to him at any point about a possible follow up album?


MS: Absolutely! We start recording that in February and it will come out next year, it’s all contracted, confirmed and we’re doing it. We are really excited about it.


RM: Now, you won’t be aware of this but you and I share a common interest and that is the love for Van Halen. Can you tell me about your earliest memories of being influenced but them and your favourite albums or era of the band?


MS: Yeah, I love Van Halen, I always have. They have been a big influence on my life and on my musical career and history, just a huge influence, I just love them. Eddie as a guitar player is one of my biggest influences, I don’t play anything like him, maybe on occasion you may hear something similar with tapping or what not, but I have always loved him he is one of my all-time favourites. I grew up singing those songs way back in the day and still today we sometimes break into a song like Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love or I’m On Fire or what not, we love Van Halen. So they are always going to be one of my favourite bands and there’s a lot of childhood memories with that.


RM: In recent years I’ve noticed a disturbing trend amongst the hard rock and metal community. There seems to be an awful lot of bickering and complaining going on between fans towards bands and band members to other band members. I remember a time when we all seemed to be united, what has happened to our tight knit community?


MS: I think some of it is built on frustrations of lack of work. You know, it’s a different music world and it is very difficult for bands and artist these days. But I think a lot of it is based on publicity stunts; you hear someone say something online about someone and some other person who isn’t even involved gets involved and then they’re on Blabbermouth getting all kinds of press. You’ve got to question ‘Did they do that as a publicity stunt?’, well I would say probably just to get their face and their name out there for a day. It is kind of sad because a lot of the time it’s in a negative light instead of a positive light.


RM: And finally, the U.S. Presidential Election is being held in early November and although I am geographical pretty far removed from the frontline of it all here in Australia, it appears to me as an outsider this could be one of the most important decisions in American history. I can’t ever remember seeing so many celebrities voicing strong opinions and urging people to make “the right call”. How have you seen events unfold?


MS: I think it is unbelievable watching two idiots trash each other on the news daily. I mean it is pretty sad. If you want my opinion, it is sad that we don’t have a real choice. Our choice is basically going to either this used car sales lot and dealing with this used car salesman, or going to the one next door. I think it’s a joke on both sides and a disgrace on both sides, just in a different way.


RM: So regardless of the result what sort of a world do you see us living in past November 8?


MS: Well, I’m a firm believer in putting God first; pray and you make the difference because that is what it is going to take. Hilary Clinton is not going to make a difference in this world and Donald Trump is not going to make a difference in this world. They say they are but I think their lives and what we know about each one of them proves that it’s not going to be anything different [laughs]. I think that the majority of the people thought that Donald Trump would be because he’s not a politician, but I think it’s a scary situation with either one of them. That’s my opinion, but my opinion doesn’t really matter, the difference really starts with us as individuals to be better people and to be better examples and to do things to make this world a better place. You’re not going to get any of the answers from either one of the candidates, that’s for sure.


RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the album One Sided War. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I’d like to wish you and Stryper all the best for the future.


MS: Thank you buddy; I appreciate the time. God bless you, take care.


For More information about Michael Sweet visit the official website at: www.michaelsweet.com


Michael Sweet – One Sided War is available on Rat Pak Records.

Categories: Interviews

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