Michael Sweet Talks New Stryper Album and the Importance of Letting Love Rule

2020-08-12

Michael Sweet of Stryper – Story by Anne Erickson, courtesy photo

Stryper vocalist Michael Sweet joins Anne Erickson to talk about the band’s new album, “Even the Devil Believes,” and why the message of letting love rule is so important right now

Heavy metal band Stryper has been going strong for more than three decades, and they’re only getting better as time moves ahead. Now, the longstanding group is coming up on their lucky 13th studio album, “Even the Devil Believes,” out Sept. 4 via Frontiers Records.

With his wide vocal range and powerful pipes, Stryper frontman Michael Sweet sounds as majestic as ever on “Even the Devil Believes.” Songs such as “Blood from Above” and “Make Love Great Again” feature Sweet’s towering vocals and a solid instrumental section from Robert Sweet, Oz Fox and Perry Richardson.

Sweet spoke with Anne Erickson of Audio Ink Radio about “Even the Devil Believes,” the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and why the world needs more love right now. Read the interview below, and listen to the full chat via the Audio Ink podcast on Apple Podcasts here and Spotify here. For more on Stryper, go here.

Anne Erickson: Congratulations on the new album on the way, “Even the Devil Believes.” Everything I’ve heard off it is fantastic. Tell me about the meaning behind the title, “Even the Devil Believes.”

Michael Sweet: It has a few different meanings to it, the first one being the obvious, and that is the Devil originally was a creation by the Creator. God created the Devil. He’s an Archangel, if you believe in what the Bible says. His name was Lucifer. He tried to take over heaven. He was booted out of heaven, fell to earth and became Satan. So, the Devil knows the past, the Devil knows the present and the Devil knows the future. He knows what’s going to happen. He knows what’s happened in the past. So, that’s what that means, that he even He believes everything that’s transpired. And then the Bible also talks about how every knee shall bow and confess that He is Lord of Lord and King of Kings and God, and the Devil will be one of those knees that will bow. The Bible is very specific about that. Then the other side of the coin is, it’s one thing to say you believe, but it’s a whole other thing to show that you believe, because even the Devil believes, but that doesn’t mean He’s going to Heaven. So, it’s got a couple of different meanings to it.

That’s a good point. I always think about the fact that atheists can’t really believe in the Devil– if you think about it, if you don’t believe in God, you can’t really believe in the Devil.

Well, that’s true. It’s absolutely true. Because, you know, if you don’t believe in God, the Creator, then there’s no creation. I’ve met atheists, though, that do believe in the Devil, which is very interesting. It’s gets very convoluted and very confusing. But, everybody knows where we stand. They know that we believe in the Bible. We believe in God, of course, and we believe in the Devil. I mean, there is a Devil, and I believe that. It’s real. It’s very real. But, we wanted to come up with a title that wasn’t like (Stryper’s previous album) “God Damn Evil.” We didn’t want something that alienated our fans and kept them from listening to the album, because we did have a few of those fans, because of the title, on the last album who would not purchase it and would not listen to it. They just thought it was a little too much. I don’t want to use the term safer, but I guess that’s a good way of describing it. This is a little safer, this title, but it’s very powerful and what it says and what it has to say.

This record was recorded during the coronavirus pandemic. How did that influence the music on the record?

Well, it didn’t, because the music got written just prior to the pandemic. So, we started hearing a little bit of stuff going on over in China during that time in December and January, but not a lot. When we got back from Mexico after recording all the basic tracks — we got back at the end of February — that’s when it was full blown. That’s when everybody was freaking out. We were about ready to face a lockdown and eventually did. It just so happened that I went into vocal mode. I have a studio here at my house, so I started recording vocals during the lockdown. It was really no different than what I normally do, because I’m in lockdown mode, anyway, when I’m doing vocals. I don’t do anything or go anywhere. So, it hasn’t really felt that different to me being in this worldwide pandemic, at least yet.

Why did you feel it was a good time to release this album now and not wait until touring resumes?

That say is also part of the label’s. They have just as much say in that as we do, the label being Frontiers, and they actually decided that once we turned it in. I think we turned it in in May. Once we turned that album in, they actually decided to release it sooner. It wasn’t going to get released until November, and they wound up deciding to release it in September.

That’s great. The label must have really liked it.

It surprised all of us. I was very surprised by that. It certainly didn’t hold things up or delay things in any way, shape or form. It wound up getting a release date of two months earlier than the original date. We just shot two videos just a few days ago. Those are going to be edited over the next week or two. We’re going to be releasing in a music video on release day, Sept. 4, for a song called “Do Unto Other,” and we’re really excited about that. Then, later on after the fact, we’ll hopefully be releasing another video music video, as well, for another song on the album.

You recently released the song “Make Love Great Again.” Tell me about the meaning behind “Make Love Great Again.”

You always run the risk– when you use a phrase like that, that’s so connected to the Trump administration in a political term that’s used so often daily, you’re going to get eyebrows raised and people saying, “Oh, my gosh. They’re jumping on a political bandwagon here.” It’s really not about that. Perry threw out the title, “Make Rock Great Again,” and then my brother said, what about “Make God Great Again?” I said, “Well, God’s always great. You don’t have to make Him great again.” Then we changed it to love and felt like, that is something that really needs a little work. We always say, we love, but yet our actions don’t line up with that– what we see online, what we see on the news, what we see in the world today. There’s so much hate out there and so much negativity. I think that’s an important message to remind people, “Make Love Great Again.” Let love rule. Let it be the lead. Let it be in the front lines. If we can do that and remind ourselves of that, everyone contributing, eventually it will be great again. It’ll rule the earth, maybe that’s just a fantasy or a dream, but I don’t think it is. I think it can become reality, for sure.

The message of love is so important right now, considering how divided and polarized we are.

There’s no question. There’s no question about it. The people that can’t see that truly either are never going to see it, or they’re just blinded in the moment. Maybe they’ll come around to seeing it. That is the truth. There’s a lot of negative stuff out there, and we’ve heard it all before gazillion times, but it’s so true. The press doesn’t doesn’t help matters. When you turn on the news and all you hear about is negative, negative, negative, every story it’s like, come on, man. There is positive stuff happening. Why don’t you put that up?

You also have a successful solo career. Do you have any plans to record or release new solo music later this year?

Not later this year, but I do plan to get in the studio. I’ve got a couple of projects that I’ve got to wrap up this year. One with Tracii Guns and a couple other projects with Frontiers. At the start of next year, I’m going to start recording a new solo album. I just heard from the label about a new Sweet & Lynch album– At some point next year, we’ll start on that again, hopefully, George and I will be able to do a third Sweet & Lynch album. Then, by the end of the year, we’ll probably be talking about a new Stryper album and recording that by the end of next year or the beginning of the following year, so it gets released– I like to do Stryper albums every few years.

You just mentioned George Lynch. I just interviewed him, and he told me that he’s going to stop using the band name Lynch Mob going forward. He won’t tour or release new music under that name. What are your thoughts on that?

I heard that, too, which is interesting. I’m not sure. I haven’t talked to George personally about that. If it’s based on trying to be politically correct and not offend people, the sad part about that is that’s George’s name. It’s like, dude, that’s your name. You’re going to change your name? It’s just so interesting to see. There’s gotta be some sort of middle ground, you know? It seems to me in the world that we live in, it’s one way or the other. There’s no middle ground. We all have to kind of keep our common sense and let there be some sort of middle ground. So, you know, maybe George has other convictions that are causing him to want to not record under that name, Lynch Mob. I kind of get that. The Mob adds a little extra a concern to the name. But, you know, you can’t stop using your name.

Maybe he’ll come up with something else with Lynch in the name.

So, if someone has the name White, are they going to change their name? It’s their name.

I’m glad my name is plain– Anne Erickson.

My name is Sweet, so I got teased for it in high school in gym class, but other than that, it works okay!

Let’s talk about coronavirus. Based on what you’re hearing in the industry, do you have any idea when traditional concerts might return?

You know, I don’t. I think shows are already coming back. We’re seeing video footage of some shows taking place here and there. Traditional shows at a certain level with a certain number of people, I don’t know. The larger shows, arena shows or stadium shows– I mean, we may not ever see that again. We may not ever see 50,000 people packed into an arena or packed into a stadium. That may never happen again, because you hear about talk about this is not going anywhere, this virus. Some people say, “Oh, it’s going to be eradicated, blah, blah, blah.” I don’t think so. I think it’s always going to be around and come in waves and like the flu. We’ll have a vaccine at some point and get a grip on it to some degree, but then I think next the following year, it’s going to come back and there’s going to be cases.

The numbers will go down and then go up and go down and then go up. It’s going to be here with us for years to come, so that being the case, if that’s correct, that means it’s going to affect any business that requires massive amounts of people piling into an arena or stadium. It’s just inevitable. So, I don’t know. It’s going to be interesting to see. The good thing is, I guess for bands like Stryper, is that we’re not an arena band anymore. We used to be, but we’re not anymore. We play clubs, and usually 500 to a 1,000 people. So, maybe it’ll be a little easier for us to figure out how to make that happen in terms of shows. But, who knows? Then, I also go out and do a lot of acoustic solo shows to a 100 or 200 people. I think it’ll be easier to make things like that work– smaller capacities work.

It’s crazy to think that what if a huge arena show or festival, you guys play a lot of the big festivals, what if those are done? It’s hard to wrap your head around.

I know– it is. I think there’s people out there that are in denial, who say, “There’s no way that could happen.” And, it’s like, well, why couldn’t that happen?

Yeah, it’s happening right now.

Yeah, if you have said a year ago that we’re going to have a pandemic and everything’s going to be shut down, people would say, “No way. That can never happen.” Well, it happened. We’re very vulnerable, and things like this can happen. We might not see for a very long time these kinds of big festival shows and arena and stadium shows. Those might be a thing of the past. It’s very possible.

On a brighter subject, you’re well-known as a Christian, and I am, too. What does being a Christian mean to you?

It means being a good example of all things Christ and Christian-based. Let your light shine, as they say. Be an example, not just with your words, but let your actions line up with your words. Be a good example to other people. Be an inspiration. Be an encouragement to those around you– your neighbors, your family, your friends and everyone you come in contact with. Are you really exemplifying Christ in everything that you do and say? I think that’s the thing to remember. If you’re going to call yourself a Christian, make sure that you’re doing that, or you’re at least trying to.

Do you think being a Christian and making heavy metal music is more accepted now than it was when Stryper was first starting out?

Sometimes I do, and then other times I don’t. Sometimes it feels like it’s more accepted and that we’ve come a long way, and then other days, it feels like we haven’t advanced or progressed at all. It’s very interesting. Heavy metal almost feels like it’s compared more to a traveling circus in terms of the music. It almost feels like we’re the ones that are looked at as circus folk– there’s people that are a little more on the odd side or the weird side or not the norm. In reality, we’re regular people and some of the kindest, sweetest, most respectful people I know are in metal bands. Yet, I think in the world’s view, we’re not looked at that way, sometimes. And then you add the Stryper, we’re a metal band that seems about Jesus. It’s like, we’re really weird. We’re complete weirdos. But, it’s just interesting how that works. But, I do think that we’ve advanced in some ways and we’ve unfortunately regressed and gone backwards in other ways.

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