An Interview with Michael Sweet of Stryper

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Michael Sweet has been keeping upbeat and productive during the pandemic, which is more than many can say. With a new released album called Ten, and additional new music on the way, Michael had a lot to chat about.

Today, I’ve got Michael with us; we dig into his beginnings in music, what led him to Metal, the early days of Stryper, navigating the era of Satanic Panic as a Christian Metal band, his thoughts on the band’s debut record, and more. If you would like to learn more about Stryper, you can head to the band’s website here. If you would like to learn more about Michael and his solo work, you can head to his website here. Dig in.

Andrew:
Michael, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up?


Michael:
So far, so good. I’ve been keeping a good attitude and staying active with writing and producing. Although it’s been a tough past few years, I think so much of it is how we look at it, and it’s important to keep a positive attitude and to keep working hard and applying yourself. As long as you do that, you will be fine. I have found a way to rise above it.

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway?


Michael:
Well, I was born into music. Not that I would’ve made a different choice, but I really didn’t have a choice. My parents are singers and songwriters, and it runs in my family as relatives are musically inclined as well. At a very early age, I started writing and performing, and by the time I was 12 (almost 13), I was in my brother’s band, and we were outperforming together. From that moment, I knew that’s what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing..

Andrew:
As a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, who are some of your earliest and most important influences?


Michael:
I was raised on everything from Elvis Presley to Creedence Clearwater Revival. I love all styles of music, from Al Green to the Bee Gees. As I got a little older, I started getting into more heavy music such as Deep Purple, Van Halen, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden. I think that because my musical taste is so wide, it’s helped me as an artist and a writer over the years.

Michael Sweet - Ten - Amazon.com Music

Andrew:
Let’s talk about your most recent studio effort, Ten. How did the album come together? How do you feel you’ve grown since your previous albums One-Sided War and Unified?


Michael:
I’m very happy with how Ten turned out. I’m always striving to do better and to take things up a level with each album, whether it’s solo or Stryper. I feel that I’m getting better as a producer and as a writer. I hope to outdo every album I’ve been a part of with the next one. Whether I accomplish that or not, I go into the project with that attitude, and I certainly try to.

Andrew:
Let’s go back a bit now and talk about Stryper. For those that don’t know, how did the group come together? What are the origins?


Michael:
Stryper officially formed in 1984. We were called Roxx Regime before Stryper, and once we signed a deal with Enigma Records, we changed the name to Stryper. We released our first album in 1984, and it was called The Yellow and Black Attack. Ever since that time, it’s been a blur. Things really progressed for us, and we went from clubs to arenas in what seemed like a very quick amount of time. Although it wasn’t, it felt that way. And here we are approaching an almost 40th anniversary, which is hard to believe.

Andrew:
Stryper is interesting, as you were initially a Christian Metal band but ended up gaining significant notoriety within the mainstream of 80s Metal. What was it like to be a part of that exciting era of music? Was it challenging to maintain the Christian values during that time?


Michael:
I think it’s hard to maintain Christian values no matter who you are. Living in this world, there are many temptations and stumbling blocks, so it can be difficult for anyone. Obviously, for young guys in a Metal band, touring the world was difficult at times. But I think, all things considered, we did very well, and we always put God first and let Him lead the way. We included Him in everything that we did and in every decision that we made. I think that’s why we persevered and have such longevity.

STRYPER: Even The Devil Believes CD - NORDIC MISSION

Andrew:
More on Stryper, how about the band’s newest record, Even the Devil Believes? How did the record come together? What was the inspiration?


Michael:
I wrote Even The Devil Believes in two weeks, as I have every album over the past 15 years. Everything seems to come together very quickly these days, and I’m very happy about that. There is no real sitting down at a table and trying to sort out a vision, so to speak. It’s more or less I just start writing, and everything starts flowing out of me, and I continue doing so until it’s all done. Then the guys come out to the house, and I teach them everything, and we rehearse, and then we go on to record. That’s been the process for the last 12 albums. And when I say 12 albums, I’m also including Sweet and Lynch and solo albums as well.

Andrew:
Looking back on those classic 80s records such as The Yellow and Black AttackSoldiers Under Command, and To Hell with the Devil, what are your thoughts on those records? Do they still hold up? Anything you would change?


Michael:
I like some of the old classic albums, but some of those albums I can’t listen to like The Yellow and Black AttackIn God We Trust, and Against the Law. I do, however, listen to Soldiers Under Command and To Hell With The Devil from time to time. Those are my two personal favorite albums, and I think the numbers show that those are most likely in everyone’s personal favorite albums. I think they’ve held up reasonably well, all things considered, but I also believe that our new albums and our new material is far superior. I think if the more recent albums had come out in the 80s, they would have far surpassed the classic albums.

Andrew:
Shifting gears a bit now. The Metal and Hard Rock scene here in North American is pretty stagnant. It’s almost become indie in a way, with only the significant bands getting a lot of traction- it’s a struggle, it seems. In Europe, the Metal scene is thriving and seemingly always has been. Why do you feel the ferocity for Metal and Hard Rock is so much more vital throughout Europe than it is in the rest of the world?

Michael:
I’ve never really looked at it that way or broken it down. I just do my thing and let everything fall into place. I feel that there’s still a very strong Metal scene here in North America and certainly in South America. I’ve never really thought about the different levels of popularity in other parts of the world, to be honest. It just feels like there is a lot of love for Metal bands worldwide from my experience.

Blowin' Wind with Stryper's Michael Sweet: “We will never stop being who we  are and proclaiming what we believe in. At the same time you don't want to  beat people over the

Andrew:
More on the subject of Metal. Often, “Metalheads” are judged for their appearance. It’s odd though, people will judge someone for looking “too metal,” but in the same breath, someone can be judged for not looking “metal enough.” What are your thoughts on that?


Michael:
Yeah, I’ve never really fit in, so I never really thought about it. I do my own thing, and I have my own look, and I don’t really care what people think or say. I’ve never tried to fit in or be swayed by what’s popular. Obviously, Stryper had their own image and still does, and we’ve taken a lot of flack for it, but it doesn’t deter us at all. We are built to be different.

Andrew:
Since the days of Satanic Panic in the 80s, Metal and Hard Rock music in all its forms has seemingly been on trial. What are your thoughts on Metal/Hard Rock’s persecution as a genre? Do you feel it will ever be widely accepted the way that Pop or more mainstream Rock music is? As a Christian Metal band, what were your views on that entire era? You must have had an entirely different perspective, right?


Michael:
Yeah, we’ve gotten heat from all sides, so I guess I’m a bit resilient when it comes to the whole Satanic/evil side of music. I don’t really give it much thought. We just do what we feel led to do and what we are passionate about and go from there. We have gotten a lot of flack for what we stand for and sang about over the years, and although we take on issues head-on, sometimes there are many times when we just let it slide, and we don’t even give it any thought whatsoever.

Andrew:
Touring is usually a considerable part of a working musician’s proverbial machine, but as we know, COVID has disallowed it. What do you miss most about touring?


Michael:
I definitely miss the one-on-one time with people. There’s a certain feeling that you get when you’re on stage, and you connect with the crowd, and then after the show when you’re able to shake hands and hug people and talk to them one-on-one. Obviously, we haven’t been able to do that, and I miss that the most. Those personal relationships with people and communicating with people in person. It’s such a big part of what I do and why I do it, and it definitely hurts not to be able to do that.

I always considered myself a guitarist first and as a singer second" -  Interview with Michael Sweet from Stryper

Andrew:
One disturbing fact I’ve learned over time is that streaming services don’t pay artists well, if at all. Meanwhile, Bandcamp seemingly goes out of its way to take care of its artist. What are your thoughts on that issue? How do we as fans do our part to help?


Michael:

I think everybody knows how I feel about streaming services. I’m not a fan at all for many reasons. Not just because of the fact that the artist doesn’t get paid properly, but also because the days of making albums and fans being able to experience an album as a whole are gone. The band goes into the studio and spends a lot of time putting together an entire album only to have a few songs downloaded and or streamed, and it’s really heart-wrenching. So many great songs fall by the wayside, and all that time and effort being put into the production and the process is wasted. Or at least it feels that way. I wish we could go back to the old days where albums mattered, and it was about holding and smelling and
reading the album versus just hearing one song that you’ve downloaded or streamed.



Andrew:
In a world dominated by big business and social media, can artists truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

Michael:
If you are a talented artist, then yes. If you are driven, then yes. Life is what you make it. You have to work hard and be creative and go out of your way to rise to the top. I always try to keep that mentality with everything I do, and I always feel that I’ve never done enough. As long as there are opportunities, I will take those opportunities and make sure they happen. I’m very blessed to be able to do what I do, and I don’t want to waste one day here on earth, and that’s the mentality that I have. I think that it’s crucial for artists to think that way and never let anyone keep them down. Get up and keep trying, and eventually, it will pay off.

Andrew:
Are you into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music? What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?


Michael:
I’m still a big fan of vinyl and CDs. Although, they are making cassettes again for fun. Cassettes never were a favorite of mine because they wouldn’t last. But vinyl and CDs have always been the two formats that have put a smile on my face. I do buy music but not a lot lately, only because there’s not a lot of music that makes me want to buy it. But I do love the fact that vinyl has made a comeback to some degree, and CDs are still available and still popular in some way, shape, or form.

Michael Sweet on his star-studded solo album Ten, what's next for Stryper,  and why he should have been a leftie | Guitar World

Andrew:
Who are some of your favorite artists? Ones that mean the most to you.


Michael:
I love so many artists and so many styles of music. I remember when Keane came on the scene, I loved them. Maroon 5 when they first came on the scene, I loved them. I love Bruno Mars and John Legend. I love Adele. I love Judas Priest. I love Van Halen. There are so many different bands that I love and appreciate, and at the end of the day, the most important was always the song. If I hear a great song, I’m going to love it no matter what genre.

Andrew:
As a songwriter, what is your inspiration these days? How has it changed since your early days? Are your lyrics intensely personal, or are you merely telling stories?


Michael:
As a songwriter, it’s important for me just to share all my heart and what I feel passionate about musically and lyrically. I love all different styles, which comes through in my writing style. I’m working on an album right now that’s not Metal at all, and I think many times people assume that I’m a metalhead only. I’m really not. I love to just write from the heart and try to share music that’s going to inspire and encourage people in the end.

Andrew:
Last question. What advice would you have for artists just starting? How do they stay afloat in a world that seems to be so abhorrent to creatives?


Michael:
Follow your dreams and work hard and never give up. You will be told no many, many times. It can be very discouraging, but it’s important that you get back up when you’re knocked down and keep moving forward, and eventually, it will pay off. You have to have patience, and you have to stay active, and I guarantee you that your dreams will be fulfilled. Stay focused and never stop.

Interested in learning more about the work of Stryper? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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