Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 82: Interview with Stryper

STRYPER

Interview by Fabiana Spinelli

Stryper will celebrate their 35th anniversary with the upcoming release of their tenth studio album, that of the much debated title, 'God Damn Evil'. Michael Sweet promises this will be their most powerful album to date, Death Metal growls included (courtesy of guest Matt Blanchard). Fireworks caught up with Michael to find out the latest...


Stryper

Your new album is a constant surprise: modernity, freshness and overwhelming power. Where do you find a similar energy after a career of 35 years?

We are recharged and so excited about our new chapter. Perry [Richardson, Firehouse bassist who has replaced Tim Gaines] has brought so much to the band and he's such a joy to have as a teammate. We have a new energy and that has translated over to the album. We feel like it's 1984 all over again. We have no plans of slowing down, we have so much left in us and will continue to strive to make our best music and recordings over the next fifteen years!

I think that an opener as heavy as 'Take It To The Cross' is a strong message about the band's state of health. Do you think 'God Damn Evil' will find a perfect balance between fans in the old guard and the newcomers in the audience?

I believe once they hear the entire album, absolutely! There is something for everyone on this album and it's our best to date, in my opinion. We always do our best to mix it up with each song and album, yet retain our flow and continuity, that's important to us. It's hard to do and something that many bands don't even try to do. I'm personally not a fan of albums that have every song sounding the same. We enjoy trying new things and I'm looking forward to 20th April, when the album is released.

Can you please tell us something more about Perry Richardson? How he joined the band and how did you know he was the right one?

He was mentioned by Dave Rose and we thought, 'Of course!' We ended up talking to Perry and then flying him out to audition, and the minute he walked in the room we knew he was the right choice. Then we heard him sing and play and that sealed the deal. Once everyone hears him play and sing with the band everyone will be sold, if they're not already. Perry is a very talented guy and we're blessed to have him.

On this new album we can find all the band's lyrical trademarks and strengths, but there seems to be something darker and deeper in tracks like 'Sorry', 'Lost', 'You Don't Even Know Me'. Can we read this as a mirror of our times, with the eternal struggle between good and evil even stronger than ever?

Without question. We live in a very volatile time and it seems to be getting worse. This is why we named the album 'God Damn Evil'; it's a prayer, a request for God to damn evil. I always want to write from experience and from the heart and this album really comes from the heart. We should all be asking God to damn evil. Maybe this world would be a better place. There is power in prayer.

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Stryper fans are always at the heart of your message and lyrics, and you have always had a special relationship with your public. How do you think they are going to receive 'God Damn Evil'?

So far the reception is great! Once we explain what we're saying and how we're saying it, they get it. It's a bold message for bold times. We've always been about making people think and this album will make everyone think even more. No holding back. The music is just as powerful as the message and sonically it sounds great too. We couldn't be more pleased with the outcome.

You are really active with social networks − you often offer some interesting food for thought, as you did about the recent diatribe on phones or no phones at concerts and shows.

I'm torn. I understand that people are very attached to their phones, myself included, but it's sad to see phones rob us of our social skills. We should go to a concert and enjoy it. When you're holding a phone up the entire show it's not fair to yourself or others around you. It's a very touchy subject because some people just don't want to be told what to do. I understand that yet if it becomes a distraction or hindrance for others then it's not right or fair, is it?

There are lots of differences between live activity in the 80s and touring the world today. Do you think that there are also some similarities and that some aspects are maybe better now than in the past?

As long as you keep evolving and moving forward that's all that matters. It's hard to do that and stay true to who you are and who you were. We gained our fans based on our original sound so we should never abandon that but we need to continue to grow and experiment and try new things. We also do our best not to over saturate the market. You can do "too much" and burn fans out. We basically tour every other year, not every year. When we do tour and release new music, we work hard to make it special.

You are going to be on tour supporting 'God Damn Evil'. Are there still places in the world that you've never played but would really love to?

I would love to perform in China, Russia, Mexico and Cuba. Hopefully this will become reality. Music brings us all together, it transcends anything that separates us and it heals us. It is our common denominator and such a powerful tool. When we step on stage and see the crowd it's a reminder of that. It's an amazing sight to see when people come together like that and we try to do our part to encourage and inspire people.

What aspect would you like to see reaching out from 'God Damn Evil' to the fans?

I hope that it's our biggest album to date and that it reaches a new fan base as well as our old fan base, which I think is a very strong possibility. We are excited about 2018 and what's to come in the future. Our best is yet to come and we can't wait!! Our goal is to keep getting better and we'll keep trying to outdo the last. I think this new release is better than the last two albums.

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