Stryper will embark on their third ever tour of Australia next month. The band is a stalwart of the metal scene and have made an amazing impact since their inception in 1983 in California. I really feel that it is quite limiting to label them a Christian band. Now, I don’t have any ill will against Christians, or the Christian music scene, however, Stryper quite sincerely transcend this label. This doesn’t mean the label is a negative thing, but they really have established themselves as an important metal band in their own right. I unfortunately missed them on their debut Australian tour in 1989, in support of In God We Trust, at Homebush, but I didn’t miss them last time, some eight years ago at The Metro in Sydney. They were tight, hungry, exhilarating and their back catalogue stood up, against the test of time. They actually blew me away!
Now to 2018, the release of their latest album God Damn Evil, and a new bass player in the form of Perry Richardson (previously of Firehouse). The new album is definitely the Stryper we all know and love, and the production gives it a very modern feel. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with original member, vocalist, guitarist and principle songwriter, Michael Sweet, to discuss the upcoming tour.
Michael, I was fortunate enough to see you on your last tour of Australia, and was blown away, what can we expect this time around?
“Well we have got some new material. Since the last time we were there, we have released three albums and so we will be doing a lot of new material. The band is also sounding better than ever. We still love what we do, and we have a new level of excitement, and this will come out of the music that people will see in Australia.”
Will there be any surprises in your setlist? It must be hard to isolate the songs you play after all of this time.
“Surprises will certainly be there. The fact that we haven’t been there for eight years or so, people will hear these songs for the first time. It will be an hour and fifty minutes set, with approximately twenty songs, and getting to see us with a new bass player. He brings a new paradigm to the band and has changed so much for the better.”
This leads me to my next question, can you please elaborate on what Perry Richardson has brought to the band?
“First of all his spirit and personality. He has got a really sweet personality and this has done wonders for the band. This has taken the band to new places with the feelings and vibes. Then you add his ability as a bass player and a singer. He is one of the best in the business and as I have outlined not just because of his musicianship, he is a great guy and we are fortunate to have him.”
Reflecting now on working with your brother Robert and Oz, for such a long time, how do you all keep the relationship positive and constructive?
“It just takes the communication and respect. If you respect someone, even though you don’t always agree, that level of respect keeps that relationship thriving in a positive way. With regard to history, we have been together since high school. You know, our history has really brought a bond between the three of us that most people don’t have. We are fortunate to have this relationship, none of us take it for granted, we respect each other and this is why the band is still so positive.”
Have you changed the way you write or arrange material over the years or do you use the same formula you utilised in the 80’s?
“I use a formula which starts with a riff and a drum loop and then the lyrics/melody line. In the 1980’s I would spend two, three, or four days on a song. But now, once I lock myself in my studio, it is no more than a day to a song. It seems to be the way I do things now, I work well under pressure and this pressure causes me to focus more. So things haven’t changed too much except I write a lot quicker and more efficiently.”
To the new album, God Damn Evil, it is a strong release and it reflects everything that Stryper do well, but how do you see it?
“I think it is a perfect combination of where we are at in 2018 as musicians, but also where we were in the 1980’s. It has the old school sound with a modern twist. If you want to stay with the scene you have to do this, by keeping the songs fresh, the effects and tones need to be modern, but at the same time, you have to keep your sound. We have stayed with the times but have kept our own sound and I think this is very evident in the new album.”
To reflect a little on your history, what part of the Stryper story means the most to you, or has stayed with you over the last thirty-five years?
“Certainly the legacy of the band. Many lives have been changed and effected through the message of the band. We have met people time and time again who see the band as something that has brought them through some terribly hard times hard times. These stories are what really is the most important part of what we are trying to do and it brings everything full circle. When you see it affect people lives like this it is more than a metal band that people thrash their heads to.”
A question now about one of my favourite Stryper albums, Against the Law, why doesn’t the band play material from this album live, or do you?
“We do, we have recently played All For One, Caught in the Middle, and most recently, Lady. It is funny as we meet so many people who say that this is their favourite album. Recently I did a post about my best to worst albums of Stryper and this is at the bottom, but, it is a great album with great songs. You know it isn’t classic Stryper, it doesn’t have the classic sound or tone of the older albums. This album had less of this, we became this band on the album, another band really, in effects, looks and in every way. That’s why I kind of put it down there but I love and respect the album.”
What does the future hold for the band, where to from this tour in support of your latest album?
“A lot! I see us going for at least another fifteen years. You know if we stay healthy and look after ourselves there is no reason why we can’t keep doing it. I don’t want to be eighty, looking old, and still going out and playing the yellow flying v, but you know what, as long as we are fit and healthy, and still enjoying what we do, we will keep going.”
I would like to ask a question about your collaboration with George Lynch, as I love this material. How did this project come about? And is this going to be an ongoing relationship?
“George is one of my favourite players, he is on my buck list in terms, well was, with guys I wanted to play with. So when I was approached by Frontier to be a part of a supergroup it came about this way. I wound up producing the album and pulling the line-up together, and I am proud of both albums, and this will definitely continue. I love to hear when people enjoy the material because we definitely do as well.”
Finally, Michael, is there anything that you would like to say to your Australian fans ahead of the tour next month?
“We are excited to come back to Australia, it has been eight years, we love the country and people have always looked after us there. It is one of the first places we travelled so far to and we can’t wait to get back and showcase our new material to our fans.”
I am proud to say that I am a Stryper fan, and not because I am Christian, but because they are a great band who have released such great material over the last thirty five years. The band are still fit, are writing strong material and definitely have a message for the world. If you saw the band the last time around, or way back in 1989, I am sure that you will be present in August, but if you haven’t witnessed this band live yet, get on the following and check them out next month, they don’t disappoint. Get your tickets via Silverback Touring.
Interview by Mark Snedden
Stryper – God Damn Evil Australian Tour
Fri 17 Aug – Max Watts | Melbourne
Sat 18 Aug – Max Watts | Sydney
Sun 19 Aug – The Gov | Adelaide
Tues 21 Aug – The Triffid | Brisbane