Stryper's Michael Sweet: "We Stick to Our Guns"
See more with Michael Sweet in this week's issue of the Houston Press.
In the 1980s, contemporary Christian music was on the cusp of accepting a nice little jolt of electricity for headbangers everywhere. That jolt of electricity, my friends, was Stryper. They burst onto the scene and have since paved the way for such harder-edged artists as Skillet.
A few weeks ago, Rocks Off was able to chat via phone with Stryper lead vocalist and guitarist Michael Sweet. We talked a little bit with him about his music, his stint in Boston and even Stryper's legacy.
Rocks Off: How did you guys come together?
Michael Sweet: We came together back in the mid-'70s. It was Robert and myself and we started performing together when I was 12 in 1975. Then we became Stryper officially in 1983 and we released our first record [The Yellow and Black Attack] in 1984. We kind of went down the path of going to church.
We became Christians [brother Robert and I along with our family] when I was 12. We got out of church and went down a different path, and that was the whole Hollywood club scene. We did that for a long time until the age of 20, and then that's when we all decided to rededicate our lives [to Christ] and quit the nonsense.
We released our first record in '84, and ever since that time we haven't stopped. We've continued on bringing the gospel to the world through rock and roll and trying to be a light in the dark and do things differently. It's been tough. We've got beaten up for it at times, but we stick to our guns and we've been fine.
RO: When you guys hit the Christian music scene, I read that some Christian groups attacked Christian rockers such as you guys, Petra and even Amy Grant. Why did they attack you guys when you were clearly spreading the message of Christ?
MS: We did get a lot of heat from the Christian side. We got it from the man who helped us to know God, Jimmy Swaggart. We got it from a number of evangelists and churches. We never really felt like we were accepted from the contemporary Christian side or market. We were always kind of the black sheep.
We did things differently, and I don't think they knew what to think of it or how to take it. We got a lot of attacks back in the day and we still do.
RO: When you said what you said about lyrics and your faith, Bono came to mind.
MS: Ah. Well, I know he's a man of faith as well. When you have a deep faith in God, you kinda view things differently. It's less about you and more about Him [Christ]. To add to that, it's more about others. You realize that that's what's important.
It's not you. It's not about you and self-centeredness or whatnot, but it's about helping other people and, by doing so, you're pleasing God. That's what I believe. That's how I try to approach the band, music and all the stuff that goes along with that.
Michael Sweet at House of Blues Houston, December 2009
Photo by Groovehouse
RO: You did a stint as the co-lead vocalist and guitarist for Boston. Tell us a little bit about how that came about. What was it like?
MS: It was pretty wild. It was a last-minute thing. I got a call to be a part of what was supposed to be their last show ever: A benefit show for their lead singer Brad Delp, who committed suicide.
I went to go rehearse for this and things just started taking off in a really good way. Tom [guitarist Scholz] was very pleased with how I played, how I sang, how the band sounded. It went so well that, after the show, he came up and said, "We're ecstatic and thrilled at how well this went.
"We want to continue on and do more, and would you like to be a part of it?"
It was a shock to me. It was unexpected. I wound up within the next year going out on tour with them and Styx [in] '08, and we were co-headlining. I was co-lead vocalist along with Tommy DeCarlo. It was awesome!
RO: Kind of like that old Jennifer Aniston/Mark Wahlberg movie Rock Star, isn't it?
MS: Sure, yeah. Tommy worked at Home Depot and put up some tracks of himself singing some songs, and he got the call to come to the benefit and they liked him so much they asked him to be part of the band. So it's pretty crazy.
He [DeCarlo] is still in Boston. I left the band. It got to a point where I didn't wanna wait around any longer. I had a lot of things coming up in my life that I needed to commit to. So I decided it would be best to part and move forward on my other potential commitments, and that's what I did.
They are touring this year. Tommy's going out with them. He's a dear friend and great singer. He sounds a lot like Brad, and I wish them well. They're a great band. They're another big influence of mine.
With Supernova Remnant, 8 p.m. tonight at House of Blues.
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