STRYPER - Covering Themselves This Time
Stryper - one of the most influential Christian bands in music history, still going strong after 30 years, and musically just as relevant as ever. After their 2011 release The Covering, which featured blistering cover tracks to pay homage to the many bands that have influenced them growing up, they are back in 2013 with an album covering themselves this time. Going back into the studio to re-record some of there own biggest hits and greatest songs using all modern technology, they have indeed breathed new life into their already amazing past. We caught up with vocalist and blistering co-lead axe-man Michael Sweet to discuss the new album, his new forthcoming biography “Honestly” and it’s accompanying solo album, and the next Stryper album.
JM: Hey Michael, great to catch back up with you. We last spoke when I interviewed you after The Covering album came out.
MS: Yes, I remember. Thanks Jeff for your continued support of the band. I really appreciate it.
JM: When we last spoke, The Covering was fairly new – since then, overall, what kind of feedback did that release generate for the band?
MS: The feedback was great. It’s always a bit nerve-racking when covering other artists. We covered artists that greatly influenced us musically in our early years so it was really important to us that we did justice to those songs that were so important to us as young budding musicians. Thankfully the feedback has been incredible. I’m really proud of that album.
JM: With The Covering album, you all paid homage to some of the amazing bands that were influential on your early years. Who do you find to be musically influential to you today? In other words, what are you listening to these days?
MS: Jeff, I’m afraid I don’t listen to a lot of new music. What I listen to today is still a lot of the acts that influenced me in the early days. Truthfully, I don’t have a lot of time to listen to new music. I spent some time in Nashville writing songs with some of the best in the business, so it’s not as if I’m shut out to the “new music” world, it’s really just that I don’t have a lot of time to listen to new music. I’m either hanging out with my wife Lisa and my kids… or I’m working on my own music.
JM: The new recordings sound fantastic – great job. Curious though, why choose to re-record instead of just taking the original songs back to the studio for a complete remix/remaster to fix the issues – which would end with preserving the original feel more for the music purists?
MS: Thank you. We chose to re-record those songs in order to “right the wrongs” so to speak, from many years ago. It’s not as if we don’t like those original recordings, but in some cases we were just teenagers when we originally wrote and recorded those. I’ve just always felt they could be better sonically and musically.
We’ve been playing some of those songs for almost 30 years. We have grown as people and as musicians of course. And there are some moments on those original recordings that honestly, for me, make them very difficult to listen to. A lot of it is small production stuff. Some of the difficulty in listening to those lies in the fact that we’re simply better players now. I hear parts from back then and know that we perform them much better now.
I’m not sure how else to describe it but it’s a little like Stryper, only a grown-up version of Stryper. I’m very proud of and blessed by what those early recordings did for us. But after 30 years of playing them live and improving upon those songs we felt it was time to give those songs the performance they deserved.
JM: How did you all approach the song selection for which to re-record?
MS: It was a combination of choosing fan favorites and ones that we just felt could be done better.
JM: With the production value of “Against the Law” I can understand why no songs from it were included on the new release, but why were no tracks from “In God We Trust” included?
MS: It was really just a matter of time. Only so many songs can fit on a CD before it has to become a double disc. So we focused on the early years, and are hoping to do a “volume 2” one day that would include songs from the later years along with some songs we weren’t able to get to off the earlier records.
JM: That is fantastic to hear. Shoot, I’d love it if you just re-recorded each album over entirely, but love the idea that a future release is being considered. Your biography is due out soon, and I understand it will have a new solo CD with it. Did you approach the writing of those songs to in any way coincide with the biography content?
MS: No. Although the two will be released simultaneously the content of one did not determine or influence the content of the other.
JM: I read one article about your book, and you said it contains all of the good and bad, even from the break-up period. Have the other guys in the band read the book, and how do they (or will they) feel about it? They’re not going to turn around and write their own biography and their side of the story, like KISS seems to be doing, are they?
MS: The other guys have not read the book. It’s in the editing stages now. I’m not sure if they will read it, and if they do how they will feel about it. I hope they like it. I’ve said from the early days of this band that we are just four regular guys that God used in amazing ways. Regular guys make mistakes. We’re not perfect. And I’ve pointed out our shortcomings, mostly mine, in this book. Some of these not-so-favorable memories might be tough for the guys to read, but it’s all true. It’s all an honest account of my life. Will they write their own? I have no idea. Maybe. You’d have to ask them.
JM: When you sit down to write songs, do you approach writing solo songs any differently from writing songs for a Stryper release? If so, how so, and if not, what key factors do you think differentiates a Michael Sweet solo song from a Stryper song? Big harmonies, dual leads, etc.?
MS: There is a difference, but it’s subtle. When I write for Stryper I’m conscious of the Stryper sound so to speak. I’m conscious of what the fans want. Writing for my own albums gives me an opportunity to expand and experiment a bit as an artist. For example, I have a country song on my new album. I cover a Neil Young song on my new album. I do some things with my solo albums that I would probably not do on a Stryper album.
JM: You mentioned in our last interview that you all had hoped to go in the studio and do a re-record as well as a new Stryper album all at the same time, to be released months apart. Were you able to do it, and/or what kind of time frame are we looking at before we see a brand new full Stryper release?
MS: Yes. We are working on the next Stryper album right now. It’s all new songs and we will finish recording it this summer. I’m really excited about that and expect it will be out this year. I give a lot of regular updates on my twitter page (@michaelsweet). Follow me on that and I usually even release some samples during the process.
If you haven’t already got it by now, be sure to check out Stryper’s “The Second Coming,” and be on the look out for Michael’s Biography “Honestly” to be released in the near future.