Stryper Frontman Michael Sweet on ‘Ten,’ the State of Metal Music + Faith


Story by Anne Erickson

Interview: Michael Sweet of Stryper speaks with Anne Erickson about his new solo album, “Ten,” the state of metal music today, his Christianity and more

Michael Sweet is known as the powerhouse frontman of heavy metal band Stryper, but he also has a rich solo career. Now on his 10th solo album, appropriately titled “Ten,” the singer continues to craft imaginative metal music, album after album.

On “Ten,” Sweet takes an extra heavy turn, with pummeling tracks featuring some of metal’s greatest players, including Gus G of Firewind (and formerly Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist), Joel Hoekstra of Whitesnake, Rich Ward of Fozzy, Todd La Torre of Queensryche and more.

Sweet spoke with Anne Erickson of Audio Ink about “Ten,” how he picked his star-studded musical guests on the album, his faith in and love for Jesus Christ and the current state of metal music. Read the full interview below and listen via the audio players. Subscribe to the Audio Ink podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.

Anne Erickson: Congratulations on your new album, “Ten.” I really enjoy how this album has an old school, just in-your-face heavy metal vibe.

Michael Sweet: I’ve been in a heavy mood the past few years. I don’t really have an explain for why– I just am. I’m enjoying the heavier side of things. I figured that I’ll continue to run with that and keep putting out stuff in that mode. For Styper, the next album will be heavy, as well. The next solo album, I don’t know. It might take a completely different turn. But, it feels right to chug and write songs in the heavy realm.

You have such a wide range of guests on your new album, which is really cool. How did you go about picking these players to appear?

Well, I knew I wanted Todd La Torre of Queensryche on the song “Son of Man.” I’ve always wanted to do a song with him. Once I wrote “Son of Man,” I knew that was the song. In terms of guitar players, as I wrote each song, it became clear which song would be perfect for each player. It really wasn’t difficult to figure out who was going to play what.

I love that Gus G is on there, because I’ve been a big fan of his in Firewind and Ozzy Osbourne’s band, and now with Zakk Wylde back in Ozzy’s band, it’s cool to see him back doing some other things outside of the Ozzy world.

I am big Gus G fan. I love how Gus has a beautiful sense of melody and incredible feel and vibrato and the way he chooses his notes. He’s a shredder. He will play blazingly fast and then slow down and play beautiful stuff, and he combines it, too. I saw him perform in Anaheim, California, and I was even more blown away by his musicianship and talent. I went backstage and met him and exchanged info and reached out to him and tried to work everything out. I’d love to do an album with him down the road. I think it would be killer. But, I knew I wanted him on this album, and I knew “Now or Never” would be perfect for him, because it has kind of an Ozzy, metal ballad feel to it, and I knew he was the perfect choice for that song, and sure enough, he was.

You, of course, are known for fronting Stryper. At the time, you guys were one of the only heavy metal Christian bands out there. Do you sense that today, it’s more “acceptable” for a Christian metal band to break through then it was in the ’80s?

Well, I’ve never viewed us as a Christian metal band. I’m a Christian. We are Christians. We sing about Christ. But, we’re a rock band and a metal band, and I don’t like labels that people have given us and placed upon us, every bit as much as I’m sure Slayer wouldn’t like to be labeled a satanic band. I don’t know of anyone who refers to Slayer as that. But they kind of are, right? (Laughs)

Someone told me once that Slayer’s singer is Catholic, because I’m a Christian and I like Slayer, so once I was told, “Don’t worry! Tom Araya is Catholic!” (Laughs)

Exactly! I get it. That’s my point. They’re a metal band. They’re not a satanic metal band. We’re a metal band. I always thought the labels were very odd. I think that many times, it limits what we’re trying to do. Some of our fans get up in arms when they hear me say things like that. I’m not ashamed of Christianity or who I am or what I am at all, and if I haven’t proven that yet, then I never will. I think we’ve proven that with songs like “More Than a Man” and “Son of Man” and these songs proclaiming Christ. But the reason why I don’t like it is I feel it’s limiting.

Being in the music industry, how do you keep your faith? I think it’s cool that you’re good friends with a lot of atheists and are known as just a great metal band with musicians that get along with everybody.

If you’re going to claim to be a Christian, then you better learn about love and God’s love and unconditional love and uncompromising love. With that comes acceptance of everybody. You don’t have to agree with everybody, but you have to love everybody. We do. We go out and tour with many bands and hang out with them. We go to dinner together and break bread together, and some of these guys might be atheists, and we’re hanging out. To me, that’s our calling. To go out and love everybody and be a light in the dark and always be a light and show God’s love. And that speaks volumes. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. Let your life be the light, and we try hard to do that.

We try hard. Do we fail? Yeah, sometimes we do. Sometimes I may say something or do something or post something that might not settle right with people, but I do try to live a life that exemplifies Christ and who I am and who I say I am, and I try hard not to be a hypocrite.

Do you believe that metal music is in a good place today?

I do. I think it’s fighting for its life, as well. Sadly, I think metal is looked down upon by the majority of the world. When people hear metal, it’s almost more of a circus mentality, like, “Oh, yeah, stay away from them.” But, I think there’s a strong metal community that will never let it die. They come to every show and support every band, and they love metal. It is sad to see often metal music not get the recognition that it deserves or respect, because usually I think the best musicians are in metal. There are some incredibly talented musicians there in the metal community, and the fans are amazing.



Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Metal, Music