Just before the release of his latest solo album Ten, I had the chance to sit and chat with Michael Sweet once again. As you all know, this man has been very good to A&GS, especially when we were first starting out. Decades into his career Michael is still so excited and enthusiastic about making music, and it’s always fun to talk to him. I can’t really do interviews during the work day anymore, but you best believe I made an exception here. We discussed the new album and the guest stars on it, STRYPER stuff, touring in the new year, and much more. Check it:
Amps: You know, your new nickname from me is Michael Sweet aka Mikey Big-ass Kickass choruses aka Mikey Hooks For Days! I don’t know how you keep doing it, coming up with this greatness.
Michael: (Laughing) well I hope they are memorable choruses! I try, dude. I really do, and I try hard. I’ve got this thing where songs keep flowing out of me, man. And I just went through a phase back in the late 90’s where it was much more difficult to get those ideas out, you know? I really had to dig deep and work harder and longer. Nowadays, at least for the past seven or eight albums, it seems to be a very quick process. Once I get a guitar riff, and a groove to that riff, BOOM! The song will come within a few hours. Now, that may go away someday and I may have to work harder and longer again, but right now I just got this flow going that seems to be working and I am running with it. I’m doing all I can while I can and taking advantage of all the opportunities I have.
Amps: You’ve got a Who’s Who of guest stars on Ten. The whole thing is excellent, but you and Todd La Torre together on “Son of Man” is an absolute jewel in the crown. Wow!
Michael: Todd is doing his best Bruce Dickinson for sure (laughs)! I don’t know WHAT I’m doing on that one, no idea! but it works. I wanted the two voices to be totally different and it is a duet where I sing a line, he sings a line. There’s a contrast there, and rightfully so. And then there’s a contrast with who we are spiritually speaking. Todd’s an Atheist, I’m a Christian.
It’s ironic that we’re singing that song together but it’s very cool at the same time because it’s a perfect example of how people should get along, respect one another, and love one another. Todd and I are dear friends, I love and respect him, and he loves and respects me. It works when we get together, man.
Amps: “With You Till the End” features Mike Kerr and Ian Reposa from Canadian band FIRSTBOURNE. I really liked Ian’s vocals on the bridge to that one. Plus, it made me want to check these guys out.
Michael: These guys are so talented, they’re local from here in Massachusetts. I don’t get pulled out of my dressing room often from a band that’s opening and makes me go, “What the Hell??” and they did. I watched their set and I was blown away, they’re so good. I was like, “I gotta get these guys on my album.” That was actually the thought process behind having all the different guys on the album, from Jeff Loomis to Tracii Guns to Andy James to Joel Hoekstra, Ethan Brosh, Marzi Montazeri, all the guys. I wanted to have them on my record to showcase their talents and I also wanted to show that these are my favorite people, my favorite players on the planet right now. These are the guys I go and watch on YouTube late at night.
Amps: Every time you get together with Joel Hoekstra it’s something magical. And “Never Alone” and “When Love Is Hated” are no exceptions, either.
Michael: Those songs are a little different in the sense that Joel wrote the music. I wrote all the music on the album except for those two songs. So Joel wrote the music to those tracks, while I wrote the lyrics and vocal melodies. So those two songs have a little different feel from everything else, which is great. My thinking was, “Joel, send me some music because I wanna showcase what you and I can do together.” I wanna give them a taste of what’s to come with another full-length Michael Sweet and Joel Hoekstra album. And I think those songs do that very well. He kills it, he’s brilliant, and he’s one of my favorite players.
Amps: With everyone’s crazy schedules how much of the record was done by sending files back and forth, and how much was done in the same room?
Michael: All the drums, bass, and rhythm guitars, which I’m playing, were all done in the same room. All the guitar solos were done after basic tracks were sent off to each player, and then they tracked their solos at their home studios. Todd La Torre’s vocals were done at his home studio in Florida also. But for the most part the meat and potatoes was done in the same room. Will Hunt is one of my favorite drummers ever, and he hits the crap out of the drums. He’s a great guy and I love his spirit and attitude. John O’Boyle is back on bass once again and he’s a killer player that not enough people know about, but they should.
Amps: You gonna do a solo run in 2020? The world need this.
Michael: Oh, I’m gonna do a run. The plan is put together a really killer band and do select cities. There will be less STRYPER touring next year, and more Michael Sweet dates. I want to work and promote Ten, then in 2021 STRYPER is really gonna fill the calendar with dates.
Amps: My wife Mrs. Amps has been dealing with some pain issues, and she’ll be knocked out in her recliner, and when I got Ten I went, “OH YEAH!” She shoots her head up and goes, “What?” I said, The New Michael Sweet is here!” She looks me in the face…
Michael: Yeah? What did she say?
Amps: She goes, “Stryper, STRYper, STRYPERRR!!” in this insane high-pitch voice, then puts her head back down and is out cold in seconds!!
Michael: (Laughs) well that’s awesome that she does that!! Tell her we’ll be praying for her. That sucks she’s going through that. I hope she likes the album too!
Amps: I’ve told you before that Amps and Green Screens will fly the flag and support Michael Sweet for as long as we’re in business!
Michael: That means the world to us, and I wouldn’t be here doing this without you. So, thank you. And I’m so thrilled to hear that you dig what I’m doin’; it makes me wanna work harder and do it better.
Amps: How’s the family? Everybody doing well?
Michael: Everybody’s great, man. We’ve been traveling a lot. I just got back from South America not too long ago, and the family is happy and healthy. We’re excited about the holidays. Thank you for asking.
Amps: What would you like to say to your fans all over the world?
Michael: Well, it’s such a thrill to look back on the fact that I’ve got ten solo albums under my belt now. And to be able to say that is astonishing to me, it blows my mind. And I feel like I’m young enough at age 56 to maybe get another ten in. And with STRYPER we’re just gonna keep writing, recording, meeting people and trying to inspire them. It’s such a thrill to me, man. My purpose on Earth is to write music that hopefully helps people get through their days and put a smile on their face. If I hear stories like that, I’ve done my job. And it blows my mind, thrills me, and excites me.
As I’ve said before, I defy anyone to be in a bad mood after a conversation with Michael Sweet. He is such a positive and uplifting presence that he can make your day instantly better. Not to mention he’s got a home run in new record Ten, which is available via Rat Pat Records, and it’s one I can’t recommend enough. The wide array of guest stars really add to the music, so get your copy now if you haven’t already. Michael Sweet is truly one of THE nicest guys in all of rock and roll, and I hope we can have chats like these for many years to come.