Michael Sweet (Stryper)

It’s not every day you get to have a chat with one of Rock’s most Iconic voices. Michael Sweet, the lead singer of the ground breaking Christian band Stryper from the 90’s has certainly had thus far a colourful career. From fronting Stryper in the 90’s to a successful solo career since 1992, he has released eleven solo albums which includes the soon to be released album Ten . Michael took some time out today to talk to me about his up coming Acoustic tour in November.

Thank you for taking time out to speak to me for Hi fi way. I’ve been a fan of Stryper since the beginning and also enjoyed all your music.
Oh thanks man.

I recall back in the early 90’s I contacted your record label with a letter to you just to say hello and how much I enjoyed your first solo album and was a fan of Stryper. To my surprise you responded with a hand written letter to say thank you and send a small care package. It was a real moment for me back then so thank you.
Oh that’s awesome!

Stryper’s fans like me love your work and are so lucky to be seeing the band back out touring of recent years. Oz Gave us a bit of a scare, I’m glad he has recovered.
Everything is going good with Oz at the moment. He’s being check out & they just did an MRI yesterday and we just have to wait for the results, but he’s feeling better. He’s on a special diet and has lost some weight, he’s defiantly in a better place for sure.

That’s really good to hear. Please pass on our best wishes please.
Oh thank you I will.

With your up coming tour of Australia is this the first time you have performed in an acoustic format?
This is the first time in Australia that I’m performing this way and yeah I excited about it, to be honest with you. I’m very excited about it. Usually it’s the band, the band has been there four times and it’s the first time that I’ve been on my own, doing it acoustically. And you know it’s great to present the songs this way, bare bones. It’s really the way they were written. It’s a different translation and I really enjoy doing it.

Are you still as driven as you were from your first solo album to produce music and tour it? Also is that different to making music with Stryper?
I am, I mean if there is similarities, between the two obviously because I write most of the songs and most of the music for Stryper, so you can hear those similarities in my solo music as well, but when I do solo albums , or Sweet and Lynch albums or any other projects for that matter aside from Stryper , it’s an opportunity for me to kind of stretch out a little bit and show a different side of what I do musically speaking and to dig a little deeper, experiment a little bit more and try some different things. With Stryper, it’s very important we stay within a certain style and give fans what they expect to hear. But doing the solo effort, I get to try different things.

Are you going to do songs you normally do not play. I noticed you’ve posted on your social media a request for fans to let you know what they would like to hear. I put my request in, Ticket to Freedom from the Album , Real.
Yeah you know the thing is, in different areas of the world some fans might pick one or two songs as their favourite in a majority, for example with Stryper it might be Calling On You or it might be To Hell With the Devil, but if we go to Japan, it might be Always There For You. Or if we go to South America, it’s I Believe In You. You know because that song was actually the theme song for a Soap Opera. So it’s important for me to reach out to people wherever I’m going. In Australia to see what some of their favourites might be. They might be unexpected, it might not be at all what I was expecting.

I’m guessing that you would have to dig back and rehearse some of the songs you haven’t played for a while?
I do, I reached out and I’m going to do it again & get the Australian fans involved to help me put together a set list but for the most part , there’s a lot of songs that people are requesting that I do know, that I do play, obviously, songs like, oh gosh, All This & Heaven Too. That seems to be one that a lot of people request world wise. That’s a song that I play on and off out in public and I know, thank God. There might be some songs that are curve balls to me, and I might have to dig deep and really rehearse and relearn some of those songs. That’s fine, no problem at all. I’d gladly do that.

One Sided War was your last solo album, and I read that your almost ready to release new music on a new release called TEN? what can you tell us about the new music coming?
That’s right. It’s coming out in October release date and I believe in the next few weeks we will be releasing the first song. I’m really excited about it, I can’t wait for people to hear it.

If it’s anything like Only to Rise which was a great album, I’m looking forward to it.
Well thank you I appreciate it. That was kind of a bucket list item for me to be able to perform with George Lynch and make a few albums with George. I’ll be performing a few songs from those as well.

You had collaborated with some great musicians back in 2014 featuring George Lynch James LoMenzo from White Lion and Megadeth. Did you know those guys back in the day down the strip?
Well you know we actually wound up doing a tour with White Lion, opening for Stryper for a good four or five weeks back in 1989. So we got to hang out and get to know each other. I love James. James is one of those salt to the Earth kind of people and a dear friend. I’ve stayed in touch with him. He was the first guy I thought of when I was putting together the band for the Sweet & Lynch project.

I saw a video not long ago from one of the song you released with George, Walk and the guy you had on drums was mutual friend we have from right here in Adelaide Travis Dragani, who is the current drummer for The Superjesus.
Yeah, Travis wound up sitting in on the Sweet & Lynch song Walk. What a great guy and great drummer. Actually on that album everybody assumes that it was Brian Tichy. Brian was not able to be a part of the video and God Bless him for doing it. He’s an amazing player & super sweet guy.

You visit Australia regularly. The last to tour, was a difficult one with Oz on the sideline. The fans were so appreciative for you going ahead with the tour, it was amazing to be so close to you guys and in that format. What do you love about our country and the fans here?
Oh man, I mean there’s a special place in our hearts with Australia and I can say that for a few countries . Japan is another one, and places like South America. That part of the world, have special places in our hearts.

But Australia is right up there. The reason why is that we went to Australia at an early age back in the 80’s and I remember that it was mayhem, in a good way. It was insane. The turn outs, the excitement and the level of love for Stryper music from the fans of Australia, blew our minds. It really left an impression on our minds and in our hearts. We were never the same. So to go back to Australia always musters some higher level of excitement for us. For me to be going on my own, I mean we went as a trio last time, that that was unusual. Oz was sick obviously so we didn’t have a full line up but it was still very exciting, that’s what I love about the Australian fans is that they are going to come and support you no matter what. Now I’m coming as a solo artist to present my acoustic set, and man I’m just as thrilled if not more so with that, so I can’t wait for November to come.

I did a little research and in one of your recent interviews you mentioned the first show you ever saw was at the LA Forum and Led Zeppelin were there. Were they on the same Bill?
They were not on the same bill, they were actually there in town performing at the Forum the following night. We saw Elvis there at The Forum and Led Zeppelin happen to be there in the audience. They talked about that in interview and I was there at that show.

Sharing this experience with you a little more closely, do you find it rewarding that your able to connect to fan from the early days?
It is. Its very rewarding. To look back on the thirty five years that have past. The history of the band and to see what has come from that and we’re still going. There’s still that level of excitement, it’s mind boggling. I wake up every morning thankful for it and I don’t ever want to take it for granted. Because you know tomorrow, we don’t know what tomorrow brings, none of us do. Not to be morbid, but it’s true. I always want to be thankful for whatever I have and man I tell you, to have a fan base like we have and all the people that support us no matter what, is just such a gift.

Seeing you on the last tour with Perry Richardson in the band who I loved his vocals in Firehouse, the band was just super tight. His vocals are amazing. Do they blend really well with yours?
They blend perfectly with ours and he’s an amazing singer. The kind of the singer and bass player we have always been looking for and the person we’ve always been looking for, that’s the thing, he’s the complete package. A triple threat I guess as they say. He’s a very talented and humble guy, just a sweetheart man and were so honoured & blessed to have him in our band.

Your Biography Honestly was clearly an open book to your life and career. Getting it on paper, sharing it with your fans, has it given you clarity on your experiences that sparked new musical content?
Yeah absolutely. I mean I always said if I wrote a book, I wanted it to be at the right time, I didn’t want to jump on any band wagons and follow the leader. I always said that I’d be really honest, good or bad. Even if it was shocking, even if it was surprising, I always wanted to just speak from the heart and say look I’ve made mistakes too. I’ve blown it. I’m not perfect. Here’s what I’ve done, here’s what I haven’t done and lay it out it out there. For everyone to see and to read and I did that in this book.

I’m very happy with how it turned out , I can’t wait for book two. I’m already talking about that and working on it but it’s going to be a little while I’ve got a lot on my plate right now so it’s difficult to follow through with things I really want to do. I’ve got a new album coming out, Stryper are going to start on a new album, We’re working on a documentary, we’re touring, I’m touring. There is just so many things going on that fill up the next year easily.

The last Stryper album God Damn Evil was great. Nice and heavy with those classic half time rock classics like The Valley and gut punching opener Take It To The Cross. Does this rate as one of your favourite Albums?
It really does. I put it right up here with the classic albums, Soldiers Under Command and To Hell With The Devil are right up there with those. I’ve said this quite a few times, I go on record as saying again, that I believe if it came out in the 80’s it would have surpassed those albums. I really believe that.

From the moment I started playing it, my jaw dropped.
I’m glad to hear that. That’s been pretty much the majority of the fans , the comments that we’ve read have been for the most part, very positive. We’ve had a few negative comments from people who didn’t understand the title or why we would use such a title, things like that. All the fans seem to love the album and love the style, love direction were going in and really it’s just getting back to our roots is all that is.

I think all the fans that know the band understand.
Yeah well now that the dust has settled, people understand what we’re doing, they understand what were saying, they get it. There is that rare occasion one out of hundred people that will never understand it and have a problem using those words together or however we present the title or the lyric or what not, but it’s rare

Interview By Peter Pap

Catch Michael Sweet on the following dates, tickets through Silverback Touring

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