Heart of Steel: Interviews

Stryper - Together Again

By Keith McDonald
& Contributed by Bobby Graw

Classic Photo courtesy of Stryper.com

It has been 12 years since the original members of Stryper had gotten together to perform and many thought that they never would. Coming in the area of 'hair bands' that included Motley Crue, Cinderella, LA Guns and Warrant, Stryper stood amongst them with their brand of Christian hard rock songs. With the help of MTV and commercial radio, Stryper produced the hits 'Honestly" and 'To Hell With The Devil', helping them to sell millions of records worldwide.

With the recent release of 'Seven' via Hollywood Records, the band elected to play a few select shows in the U.S. that included a stopover in New York City. There I had an opportunity to sit down with lead singer Michael Sweet who gave the lowdown on the band and his solo career. You can check out their website at www.stryper.com

Why did the band reunite?

We were contacted by Hollywood Records and they wanted to put out a compilation (CD). I suggested that they put us in the studio to record some new music and they agreed and said 'how much do you need'. It just happened in an instant, just before the holidays, around Thanksgiving last year. We were in the studio after that. I was one to always say it's gotta be the right time, gotta feel right and be for the right reasons. I really felt in my heart that the way everything felt (that) it was the right time. Soon after that we started discussing the possibility of shows, went from 10 to 20 to 30 plus shows.



How long will this last and where will it take you?

There are no (worldwide) plans as of yet. We're open to future possibilities but right now at the moment the only plans now are these U.S. dates which will carry us to the 19th of November.



Is this a "reacquaint yourselves with fans" tour or something else?

Yes and no. Definitely a tour to reacquaint ourselves with the fans, but not necessarily as Stryper. We're all getting along, but there are no official plans. This is not a reunion tour where another tour follows and a record. Right now I'm looking forward to doing a solo record and a tour. I'm passionate about (Stryper) but I'm also passionate about (a solo tour) and look forward to taking that step.



Is your solo career your first priority?

Not the priority right now but it will be after this tour.



How is the band getting along?

Getting along absolutely fantastic. We get together constantly to make sure that happens. We get together for prayer, together to communicate, to hang, whatever you want to call it. I think that's the key, staying on the same level, not talking behind each other's backs. Hearing each other's problems and taking care of each other.



Did Stryper ever have the in-fighting problems that so many bands from your era like the Motley Crue's and Poison's had?

There was definitely animosity, bitterness, some hurt and pain. But not like the way it was with other bands. In some ways we don't get along but it's not necessarily a bad thing. We're all so different and we have different lives. We don't hate each other, we love each other.



What do you think of some of the newer bands like Creed and P.O.D.?

They're great. I like the music and the message. It's a breath of fresh air. To me, for years there's been so much anger and bitterness. I just got tired of it. It wasn't about the music; it was about the hatred. It got old to me; music is such a powerful tool. Aren't there any bands out there that are willing to use that tool to encourage people or is it just an angry world?

I think it is.

It's an angry world but there are people out there that are willing to step out of the lines to love people.



Not to get off the music subject, but since you said that and the fact that we're in New York City right now, I can say, being from New York, that we did see that on 9/11.

That proved (it). That's what I'm talking about. It's in all of us. To reach out and help people. Why not try to find that inside ourselves? That's what we're doing with our music and our band.



Where you surprised that a Christian hard rock band like Stryper, in a time of the Ratt's and Scorpion's, did so well commercially?

We were surprised. It didn't hinder what we were trying to do. We stayed focused and continued doing what we were doing. We saw it as a miracle. It made us try harder to do bigger and better things.



Why did Stryper break up in the first place?

I left in '91. They tried to continue on and do shows as a trio and they (finally) decided to go their separate ways. I left because I didn't think the need was there to continue. We had done our thing and it was time to move on. In '91 Nirvana and all these bands were on the scene. Not that it's all about sales, but ticket and record sales went (down). It was a new time in my life. I had children and we decided to move to the East Coast. We wanted a new life. I had a bunch of solo material that was different from Stryper, just a number of reasons.



Would you have ever considered changing the sound of Stryper to fit with what was in at the time, whether it was 'alternative' or something else?

No way. On the Truth record, my latest record, I hate the term 'alternative', I tried to experiment, come up with some modern ideas but still stay true to myself. I love guitar solos and melodic melodies and do what I wanna do. That's not cool right now and I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon. You gotta stay true to yourself. If you don't you're not going to be happy inside.



What lies ahead for you and the band?

The band right now. Finish this tour. We're doing 30+ shows. I have some labels coming down here to see me. I sent out some solo stuff, really cool edgy stuff. My hopes are, after the New Year, is to be recording another solo record and tour. Maybe down the road some more Stryper stuff, who knows.

Stryper: 7 - The Best Of