John Cooper of the multi-Platinum hard rocking band SKILLET talked at length to Tony Cummings
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"I wrote the What in God's name is happening in Christianity? as a wake-up call. We need to stop looking at 20 year old worship singers to give us our doctrine. All the time I hear songs at church that say untrue things about God and his Kingdom. I say I don't care if it's popular or not, God's love is not reckless. If we keep singing this over and over and over we are going to raise a generation of people who think that God is not in control and doesn't know the future and does not order the future. That idea is antithetical to the word of God. I don't hate these songwriters, I'm not mad at them. If they want to make art I think that's great. But the churches need to be responsible for what they are singing and whether it is inconsistent with the holy word of God.
"The idea of singing songs to the Lord that are untrue of his character - I'm old enough to remember when we used to call that idolatry. So I don't think we need to do that in church. I'm not beating up on records you listen to; I've got plenty of Skillet songs that we should not sing in church. They were poetic; they were what I felt about God. I don't think they would stand the test of rigorous theological debate and we should not sing them at church."
Tony: Tell me about some of the songs on 'Victorious', the title track for instance.
John: "It is my personal favourite song on the record. I do think in order to make great art you have to be honest. You need to write things that you feel, or things that you believe, that kind of stuff. I think the listeners respond the best when they are feeling something genuine. The thing that is unique about this song is it was inspired by the suicide of a rock singer called Chester Bennington, from the band Linkin Park. He killed himself two years ago. I was a very big fan and I did not know him but I was personally affected by his suicide. I wanted to write a song, kind of me imagining what he might be feeling, and that was what the song was based on. I think that's why the song has so much intimacy to it in terms of the lyrics. But when I write songs like that, even if they're from someone else's point of view, I draw on my own experiences and the hard times that I've suffered in my life. My mom passed away when I was 14 years old. She had cancer for about three years so from the time I was 11 to 14 it was like living with someone that was going to die any day and it happened to last for three years. It was a difficult time. Subsequently my dad remarried and me and my dad fought and the loneliness that I felt, the rejection that I felt from my dad, the betrayal, I focus in on a lot of those things when I write these kind of songs because I can relate to people who feel absolutely lonely and rejected. That is why knowing God as a father has been so sweet to me because my own dad was embarrassed of me, he didn't want to be seen with me. But yet I have a heavenly father who will never be ashamed of me. That was such a sweet thing because God's love is so wonderful. I like to write about those kinds of things."
Tony: I don't know if you know this fact, but in the UK we have something called the Official Christian And Gospel Albums Chart. Skillet's album 'Awake' has been in that chart for 290 weeks.
John: "That's amazing."
Tony: Down the years, Skillet have very cleverly put in different influences into its sound. You started off with a slight grunge sound, then developed many other influences.
John: "Skillet has always had a lot of different things in the pot, if you will. Electronica is one that we brought back around. In the late '90s we were delving into electronica and industrial rock quite a lot so there was a lot we had to pull from. We do it in various ways when we're doing a record. We lean more into something that we used to do perhaps but we also listen to new music and try to throw new things in, to try something we've not tried before. Why not? It'll be cool. Or fun. Because of that I think Skillet has a wide range of things that we can do. We can be on pop radio; we can be on metal radio. The thing that stays the same is probably my voice, of course, people usually know it's me singing and other than that the passion in the lyrics. Those are the things that stay the same."
Tony: I'm half expecting an NF or Lecrae to turn up on your new album.
John: "I would love that."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.
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