Tony Cummings spoke to STRYPER frontman, Michael Sweet, about the band's heaviest album for years
The National Rock Review succinctly spelt out the news of the latest Stryper album. "After decades of making amazing music with a positive message, Stryper are back with their brand new album 'God Damn Evil', which is arguably one of the band's heaviest albums to date." With a new line-up, bass player Perry Richardson of Firehouse replacing Tim Gaines, the band's album, released on 20th April, is already pulling in hugely enthusiastic reviews. . . from the hard rock fraternity. Unfortunately, conservative elements within the Church and in the middle of the road retailing chain Walmart have got no further than the "swearing" of the album title and have refused to stock 'God Damn Evil'.
Speaking about the ban Stryper frontman Michael Sweet said, "We're disappointed. Stryper has always been about making people think outside the box. Our new album title 'God Damn Evil' is a statement that's needed in our society. We've seen evil rise to new levels and this title is simply a prayer request asking God to damn or condemn all the evil around us. Many chains have joined us in making such a statement. Walmart unfortunately has not. The odd thing is of all the chains out there we assumed Walmart would be one to understand exactly what our point and purpose is. Unfortunately not. Although we respect their decision and what's done is done, it's frustrating to see something that's meant for good get misinterpreted and misunderstood."
Stryper are, of course, no strangers to controversy. Their classic album of 'To Hell With The Devil' was once banned from many Christian bookshops. Leaving aside the pettiness of such matters, I spoke to the band's much admired vocalist, Michael Sweet, about the veteran metallers' creative re-emergence.
Tony: Was 'God Damn Evil' recorded over a long period of time?
Michael: It was a fairly short schedule. These days I write albums really quickly, I had a few weeks of writing before the guys came out to learn the song. They all came out and stayed at mine for two weeks, we went through everything in pre-production and then went to the studio and started recording.
Tony: Nobody would raise an eyebrow to the album title in the non-Christian world but it seems a few have been raised in the Church. Wasn't it a title which you'd thought about using years before?
Michael: It was. It was a title we'd thought of using a few years back but we never really felt there was a right time. We feel that this is the right time though because of all the things we see, it seems to be on a daily basis in terms of new levels of evil. For example the Las Vegas shootings, the school shootings, threats of war, all this craziness going on in the world, we just thought it was the perfect time.
Tony: Are there specific targets in some of the songs? Are you particularly thinking of a politician or a group in some of your songs? Or are your attacks more of a spiritual, abstract nature?
Michael: We're always trying to take that approach to make people think, make people talk, and at the same time, which is tricky, we also want to inspire people. We want to do it in a positive way, to not leave people hopeless or feeling completely deprived after they've listened to us. We want people to walk away with a smile feeling like there is hope in this world. At the same time we want people to think about things. There's a song called 'You Don't Even Know Me' about how people attack each other on the Internet and they've never even met each other. It's really a major problem in society, bigger than anybody thinks, I believe.
Tony: Interpersonal relationships are deteriorating fast and these imitation relationships we find on social media aren't really going to do it for people, are they?
Michael: No. It's a slight, short, little moment of indulgence and satisfaction when you meet someone and you get that thrill and you're talking to someone and they like you and it's all (he screams) you know? But it doesn't really lead to much and lasting relationships formed online are maybe one in 10. For the most part it's based on a shallow, empty. . .nothing. But then you have the other side of that coin where there's a lot of hateful stuff said to people and done to people online. From people of power like celebrities to people of no status, it's across the board, it's sad.
Tony: I really liked the song "Sorry" on the album. Was that a hard song to write?
Michael: It was one of the easier ones. Usually when I write it's about an hour to two hours per song. Once I get that guitar riff and the drum loop going and I'm feeling it, it all starts flowing and just comes right out. 'Sorry' is one of those, it came out pretty quickly. I always start with the riff. Once I've got the riff I start a drum loop and when I'm humming along getting the chord structure I'll start like (he sings "sorry"), just a word that feels good that comes into my head and that usually winds up being the title.
Tony: You're touring 'God Damn Evil' aren't you?
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