INTERVIEW WITH STRYPER FRONTMAN MICHAEL SWEET
Date: October 19, 2018
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda
Photos: Rob Ellis (first, fourth and sixth photos)
STRYPER WILL CLOSE 2018 WITH SOME FALL DATES, ONE OF WHICH WILL BE ON NOVEMBER 9TH, 2018 ON THE LAUNCH OF ‘HEADBANGERS CON’ WEEKEND. STRYPER WILL RETURN TO PORTLAND, OREGON, USA AT THE BOSSANOVA BALLROOM. STRYPER HAVEN’T BEEN BACK TO PORTLAND SINCE 2012 SO THERE WILL BE SOME EAGER FANS FOR THEIR RETURN. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH LEAD VOCALIST AND GUITARIST, MICHEL SWEET, WHILE ON TOUR, FOR A QUICK UPDATE ON STRYPER AND A QUICK PLUG FOR THE SHOW LEADING INTO THE HEADBANGERS CON. THIS IS THE FIFTH TIME THAT MICHAEL SWEET IS INTERVIEWED ON SLEAZE ROXX, WHICH APPEARS TO SET THE RECORD IN THAT REGARD.
Sleaze Roxx: You have a show coming up on November 9th, which will launch the weekend of ‘Headbangers’Con’ in Portland, Oregon. I’m sure you’re aware, even though you won’t be appearing.
Michael Sweet: I was aware of that. I don’t know much about it, but anything where people can gather together for the love of this music, I’m in favor of. I’ll be honest with you, I lead a quiet life. I’m not up to speed on all the latest and current bands out there. I should get aware of what’s out there I think [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: The last time you were in Portland was back in 2012. You were fighting a cold and you made it known to the audience that you were sick but you were playing on.
Michael Sweet: That’s right. I’ve had to do that a few times over the course of the past few years. It’s never fun and it’s always awkward. I think it beats canceling, but I do like going out there and giving it my all. When you start passing colds around on the bus, there’s sometimes nothing you can do about that.
Sleaze Roxx: At one point Tim [Gaines] came back into the band. I don’t know if that was driven by pressure from fans who wanted the ‘classic’ line-up back together. It probably didn’t work out how you had hoped. So was this the classic remarrying the ex-wife only to find out that it wasn’t going to work out no matter what?
Michael Sweet: Let me tell you what it was. This is the truth of the matter. I don’t think that a lot of people are aware that this was the third time that he has been out of the band. Without going into some of the reasons, you’re referring to ‘09. At the time, my wife Kyle was battling ovarian cancer. It seemed like the right time to do something like that. Tracy Ferrie at that time was Stryper’s bass player, but we envisioned doing two sets — one with Tim and another with Tracy. It was my idea and the only reason that I wanted to do that was to make peace and put aside all our differences and move on. I didn’t want to refer to that as a ‘healing’ tour but rather a ‘come together’ tour, if that makes sense.
So that was the plan but then Tracy wound up leaving and we wound up going out with Tim only for the ‘09 tour. Then the ‘10 tour became the Tim’s ‘staying’ situation. It originally wasn’t going to be that, okay. That is coming from the horse’s mouth, the guy who had the idea. So it was going to be a one off with Tim and Tracy, then we’d continue from there forward with Tracy. Things didn’t work out with Tim and then things come full-circle with our ‘God send’ of a bass player, Perry Richardson who came on board to be part of our organization. Unless Perry has other plans, but as far as I’m concerned he’s not going anywhere [laughs]! Forever! Or until we go to meet The Lord [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: The readers are familiar with Perry’s work with Firehouse, I’m sure you guys go back having been part of the scene. How did you determine that Perry was ‘the guy?’
Michael Sweet: You’re correct, we were always aware of Firehouse. Like you said, anyone who followed this music knows them. We were aware of Perry and respected his playing of course. When we were looking for a bass player, Perry wasn’t on our radar. We were in the process of looking at other guys and his name was brought up by management. So I thought about it and thought, he’d be perfect. Then I had a conversation with him and it was at that time, I realized how great of a person he was. We flew him out to play with us and we just clicked. Everything from his personality, his musicianship, his spirit… He’s frankly the best thing that has happened to us, since the early days. I will go as far to say, that… and I know people get up in arms about this, but I wish we would have met him sooner. It’s not the way it worked out, but I wish it would have worked out that way.
Sleaze Roxx: There was a guy I know that was pushing 60 who said, “Hey, 60 is the new 40!” I thought to myself, “Not for you!” Now, if it was Perry that said that, I’d believe it. The guy looks like he’s 40.
Michael Sweet: [Laughs] I hear what you’re saying, he’s got the look, he looks great, he’s got the voice and bass playing skills, the stuff that we have to have. The most important thing for us is that Perry is a team player. He’s low key, easy to work with and simply an incredible human being. When we were looking for bass players, a lot of the fans would ask “Is he a Christian? Is he a Christian?” I would say, “With all due respect, that doesn’t even matter.” What I meant by that was that you can work with someone that’s a Christian, and you might find that they are one of the nastiest people that you’ve ever worked with. You could work with someone that isn’t a Christian and you might find that they’re one of the sweetest, nicest persons that you’ve ever worked with. I feel that a lot of times, Christianity doesn’t have anything to do with how nice someone is or isn’t, you know what I mean? That’s sad, because it should have everything to do with it. My point being, it wasn’t a requirement that our new bass player be a Christian to be in this band. It just so happens that he is, but we didn’t ask him and didn’t see feel that was a
requirement to be in this band. That was a touchy subject because that’s what some of the fans felt we should have asked. We just knew we wanted to work with a good person that was right for the job and Perry was just that.
Sleaze Roxx: Readers are also aware of Oz [Fox] and his health scare, you recently performed a show or couple of shows as a three piece, what was that like?
Michael Sweet: We haven’t since back in the early days. Before we were Stryper, we were Roxx Regime. We used to do some of the songs that would go on to be recorded by Stryper like “Marching Into Battle.” We recently recorded that for the ‘Fallen’ album and we used perform that as Roxx Regime. This was the first time that Robert [Sweet], Perry and myself have performed as a trio. It was a little nerve racking, because I had to take parts that I normally didn’t play or sing to try to fill in. I think the biggest hurdle that I need to overcome was when I was soloing and there was no rhythm guitar. Things like that were a little off. Having said that, we went out, we did it and somehow, we pulled it off. The crowds were very supportive. I was prepared to read some not so favorable reviews, but they were pretty favorable. So it worked out.
Sleaze Roxx: Did Oz talk about having any anxiety about getting back on stage, when he rejoined the band? I ask because his medical event took place while on stage, so it would be natural that he’d have some anxiety about it.
Michael Sweet: I don’t know. He hasn’t shared that with me, but I’d have to say probably. Like you said, how could it not? We have taken some precautions like not have a strobe lights on stage. He’s taking his anti-seizure medication as directed by doctors and from what we can tell, he’s in a pretty good place at this time. We just have to be careful and cautious and not try to put too much on him while he’s on the mend.
Sleaze Roxx: I’ve asked you about ‘Against The Law’ before, but has there been a time since when you might have considered, doing an album like that? Something that is more in the ‘Van Halen-esque’ straight forward rock album?
Michael Sweet: No. I say that because that’s not us. You nailed the nail on the head. We’re not Van Halen. That’s exactly what that album is. That album is like Van Halen trying to do a Stryper album. It just doesn’t work. That’s just not ‘classic’ Stryper. To me ‘classic’ Stryper is ‘Soldiers Under Command’ and ‘To Hell With The Devil.’ I don’t even listen to ‘Against The Law’ to be honest with you [laughs].
Stryper‘s “Two Time Woman” video (from Against The Law album):
Album: “Against The Law”
Sleaze Roxx: In talking to musicians and bands over the years, there’s times when they wish they could take something back. So are you saying this is the album you’d like to take back?
Michael Sweet: Absolutely [laughs]! If I could go back in time machine, I would [laughs]! I would have changed a lot about the album and I would have kept the ‘yellow and black.’ The song I really like on that album is “All For One,” mainly because it has that ‘classic’ Stryper sound. We should have done more of that.
Sleaze Roxx: I imagine we will see a follow up to ‘The Covering’ and to ‘Second Coming’ in the near future.
Michael Sweet: You will but I think you’ll see a new original album which we will record in 2019. I will also be doing another solo album which will be the follow up to ‘One Sided War.’ We have some ideas for songs for the follow up to ‘The Covering.’ I’d like to do, some more [Judas] Priest, I like to do another Boston song, another Maiden song, something from Thin Lizzy and maybe a Styx song. I’d like to do Yesterday & Today. They’re not called Y&T. We used to do David Bowie. I’d love to cover something by David Bowie. We will absolutely do another album of Stryper re-records. We’re one of those bands that will get to it, but it’s just a matter of time until we make it happen. I’d love to record some more ‘classic’ songs with Perry playing on them. It’s just a matter of finding the time, but we have to do another ‘The Covering’ album and another re-record, with stuff from ‘In God We Trust’ and a couple things from ‘Against The Law’ and maybe even tap into stuff from ‘Reborn’ and ‘Murder By Pride.’
Sleaze Roxx: Last thing, the song “Take It To The Cross” from the latest album ‘God Damn Evil,’ is unlike anything Stryper has done before. It sounds like Stryper being channeled through Mercyful Fate! I’m hoping to see that performed live at some point.
Michael Sweet: Yeah! [laughs] We’ve been rehearsing that one. Our hopes are to add it to the setlist. We just haven’t’ done it yet. That’s a cool tune. We just wanted to do something a little different. We wanted to showcase a little ‘thrashier’ side of Stryper. Who knows? Maybe on the next album, we’ll do something like that or maybe even a little heavier?
Stryper‘s “Take It To The Cross” visualizer video (from God Damn Evil album):
Subscribe To Be Alerted When We Add New Videos – http://radi.al/SubscribeFrontiers | “Take It To The Cross” feat. Matt Bachand (Shadows Fall, Act Of Defiance) from the album GOD DAMN EVIL. Get your copy NOW: Stryper store: https://stores.portmerch.com/stryper/ | Frontiers’ U.S. store: http://pmusic.co/34WWZE | Frontiers’ EU store: http://bit.ly/2nSs5ey Also available to pre-order on Amazon, iTunes, and other online retailers.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, you’ve teamed up with George Lynch on Sweet Lynch. Maybe Sweet Mustaine could be a possibility?
Michael Sweet: We’ve talked about that too. Dave [Mustaine] and I have spoken about doing something together, it’s just hard to make it work because everyone is so busy with other things. I think it would be amazing.
Stryper‘s “The Valley” video (from God Damn Evil album):
Subscribe To Be Alerted When We Add New Videos – http://radi.al/SubscribeFrontiers | From the album GOD DAMN EVIL. Get your copy NOW: Stryper store: https://stores.portmerch.com/stryper/ | Frontiers’ U.S. store: http://pmusic.co/34WWZE | Frontiers’ EU store: http://bit.ly/2nSs5ey Also available to pre-order on Amazon, iTunes, and other online retailers.