Mike Rimmer looks at SKILLET: John Cooper (vocals, bass). Ken Steorts (guitar). Trey McClurkin (drums).
Skillet hail from Memphis but their music has more than a touch of Seattle about it. Their debut album, produced by Paul Ebersold and Skidd (Big Tent Revival) pairs searing lyrics with pummeling arrangements to make a case for what Trey calls "hard core worship". Songs like "Gasoline" and "I Can" depict thunderous conversations with God in which all masks are ripped away and the heat of his love burns like a blowtorch. Other songs like "My Beautiful Robe" and "Paint" are equally extreme while the radio-friendly acoustic-flavoured "Saturn", "Safe With You" and the ska-influenced "Promise Blender" offer a somewhat more atmospheric side to the band. Ken's laid back composition "Boundaries" ponders how God crashes through all personal borders.
Skillet formed two years ago when Cooper and Steorts each had bands in Memphis and belonged to Covenant Community Church. The bands played a lot together and their pastor Rick Miller had the idea to get them to write ' some songs together in a band. According to Steorts, "He came up with the name too - 'Skillet'. It turned out really good - we both wanted to work together, but never really talked about it, so it took off right away." Drummer McClurkin was also in the church. Steorts continues, "And we didn't even know he played, so I guess our pastor got us together originally."
And the unusual name? Steorts explains, "I think it was taking all the different styles of music, the ingredients from all different bands, and putting it all together - down in the southern states it's like 'cook it up in the skillet and see what happens' - so that's what happened - a kind of conglomeration of style and everything."
Rick Miller's influences didn't just stop at helping the band to form. McClurkin explains how the band were signed to Forefront. "Our pastor used to manage DeGarmo & Key back in the '70s and he had been pastoring the church and overseeing a teen club, on Friday nights at our church, and we'd made a little demo tape - four songs - and the purpose of it was to give away at our concerts and that kind of stuff. He, without us knowing, sent a copy to Eddie DeGarmo at Forefront and said, 'Here are some guys in my church, and they've just gotten together. Tell me what you think.' Needless to say DeGarmo liked it and the band were rapidly signed to Forefront.
One of the things which characterises Skillet's debut album is the non-spiritual language the band use to communicate. Steorts elaborates, "I try to stay away from things that would only be understood in a church. I just want to write something that would make sense to a lot of people. I'm into the language of the songs, and the poetry of it. That, almost more than the music, excites me - the way words work together and makes sense to someone."
Skillet hope to cast their net as widely as possible. "That's not even a hidden ambition with us," continues John. "We always wanted to reach a secular audience. We want to reach kids who have never heard the gospel or heard of it but have run away from God." Adds guitarist Ken Steorts, "We hope to play a role in helping spark a worldwide revival."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.