I recently sat down once again with legendary vocalist/frontman/guitarist Michael Sweet from STRYPER. I can’t remember what number interview this was, but it was every bit as fun and awesome as the ones that came before it, for me anyway. With the new album Even the Devil Believes released a few days prior, Michael was excited and ready to talk about it, among other things. Have a look:
Amps: You did it again…AGAIN! Even the Devil Believes is excellent!!
Michael: Thank you. We’re really trying hard to outdo ourselves. People say to me all the time, “Why? Why bother?” Well, the way my mind works is to always believe in yourself, always `cling to the belief that the best is yet to come, and I truly believe that. You get out of bed every morning, work hard, and do your best. I really think this is our best album to date, and that the next one will surpass it. You never tell yourself you can’t do it because you can do it.
Amps: The thing I noticed with this record is that every single time I listen, a different chorus will be stuck in my head for that entire day.
Michael: (Laughs) well, that’s good! I read our fans’ comments daily because it’s really important to me to listen to what they want. And when you read comments that are asking us to “get back to the melody of the old days”…well, I kinda thought that’s what we were doing. So we tried to do it extra hard with this album. We wanted to make every song its own anthem. We made sure there were no weak tracks, and that’s something we try to achieve with every album. Maybe we pulled it off this time.
Amps: You did. In my record review I mentioned that as a band you’ve been on a musical tear since 2009’s Murder By Pride and i stand by that statement.
Michael: Thank you, buddy. It’s really important to me. If you work hard and apply yourself you can do anything. And that has always been my mentality and personality. We work our butts off, man. I’m not saying we’re the hardest working band in rock and roll, but we could be in the running.
Amps: I’ve seen you live three times since ’09, and every time I have left those shows exhausted, covered in sweat, and unbelievably hoarse! So, you’re still killing it.
Michael: Well thank you, man. I really appreciate that.
Amps: what are you working on now?
Michael: Right now I’m working on SUNBOMB vocals. I have to turn those in these next few weeks. It’s a project with Tracii Guns and myself. Then I’m gonna go in and redo Reborn from back in the day, remix it. It deserves a fair shot to be heard, and I think the fans will be pleasantly surprised. And then I have a project with Joel Hoekstra and Nathan James that we’re starting next year. Oh, then another SWEET & LYNCH album. And then, after that, it’s time for me to do another solo album. Then in 2022 it will be time for another STRYPER album.
(At this point, Mrs. Amps comes into the living room and yells in a high-pitched shriek, “Stryper! StrYPER, STRYPER!!!)
Amps: Did you hear that?
Michael: (laughing) I did! Is she excited?
Amps: Right now she has this look on her face like when Spongebob finds out that Squidward likes Krabby Patties!
Michael: (laughing once again) I love it!
Amps: Speaking of Reborn, in the summer of 2005 I drove everyone I know nuts by playing “J.E.S.U.S.” on REPEAT. I couldn’t stop.
Michael: I wrote that song and recorded it for a Christian label, and they actually requested that I throw the name of Jesus in there a few more times. Here I thought, “Wow! That’s what the song is called. How much more do you need?” I really thought that was funny!
Amps: With regard to this new album, I really like you in the producer’s chair. So maybe you make that a permanent thing, huh?
Michael: Thank you again. I’ve learned a lot over the years as far as producing. The key thing is as long as the albums sound good the fans will like it. And production is a big part of that.
Amps: Robert’s (Sweet, drummer) drums sound really thick this time around.
Michael: Good. We tried not to go too far to one side and make them slick-sounding. But we didn’t want them too raw, either. This drum tone was very much in the middle, and I like that. And the bass is pretty heavy on this one. That combination gave the album a nice low end to it.
Amps: I absolutely love Perry (Richardson, bassist) and the way he plays. He fits on this record like hand in glove, especially on “How to Fly,” where he and Robert truly shine.
Michael: Yeah, he’s awesome. And I always gravitate to songs like that, so thank you again.
Amps: So, the other night on Facebook I posted something cryptic. I said, “That moment when a band you’ve loved since you were 13 years old puts out ANOTHER killer album.” And I got no less than 12 direct messages going, “It’s STRYPER, isn’t it??”
Michael: That’s awesome, bro. And that puts such a huge smile on my face. 37 years later in 2020, especially after 1992 when we broke up, who would have thought that we’d be doing this now, all these years later. But here we are, we’re doing it, and I tell you, it makes us very happy.
Amps: I gotta be honest, “This I Pray” is easily one of the best songs you guys have ever done.
Michael: Thank you, man. We are so pleased with how it turned out.
Amps: Now that the album is out, what do you hope John or Jane Q. Listener takes away from it?
Michael: I hope it takes all the pandemic vibes of the past several months and it helps people overcome. By that I mean I hope it puts a smile on their face, it gives them a little hope, a little joy, and helps them feel better. Because if it does that, then we’ve accomplished everything. The last few months have been pretty shitty for everybody, and if we can release an album that helps people have a better day today, then we did our job.
Amps: What would you like to say to all your fans out there in the world?
Michael: Oh my gosh, first and foremost thank you guys for always standing by me and being there for every album. Through the ups and downs, good and bad, when there was no STRYPER, thank you for always being there. I live by the motto, “The best is yet to come,” and I really believe that. I don’t just say it. So believe it, be excited, and there is some great music coming in these next ten years, I promise you.
I’d like to say this interview ended WITHOUT Mrs. Amps yelling, “STRYPERRRR!” one more time. I’d like to tell you that, but I’d be lying. The good news is that Michael loved it and laughed loudly. I’ve told you people a million times, and you can probably recite it from memory by now. Michael Sweet is the nicest guy in all of rock and roll. He is forever one of my favorite people to talk to, and I am eternally grateful for the love he has shown us here at A&GS. And we will return that love tenfold…