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.