Patrick Prince of Powerline recently conducted an interview with guitarist/vocalist Michael Sweet of Christian hard rockers STRYPER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Powerline: Do you think Christian rock is in a better place than it was 30 years ago?
Sweet: No. No, I don't. I always view Christian rock and music differently than a lot of other people do. For saying these kinds of things, I get referred to as a pompous jerk and someone who's just not nice. But I speak from the heart and I am very open and very honest. I just think that a lot of times Christian rock is every bit — if not more so — a cookie-cutter business. Sometimes I question whether any of these bands are really Christian. And I don't mean that in a judgmental way. I just mean that in the sense that: "Oh, wow, I couldn't get a major recording deal, so I'm gonna go get a Christian deal. Because that's easy." And you get so many of these bands and you meet them one on one and you start having a conversation with them about religion or spirituality and they have no clue what you are talking about. They're looking like deer in the headlights. And it's like, "Wow. Okay." And I've seen this personally. I've come across it personally — and I won't mention names — and it's kind of sad, the state of where we're at. So many bands, clawing their way to the top, and fighting like it's a competition. I listen to this band and then listen to the next band, and I couldn't tell the two apart. So many bands sound the same. Every now and then there's a special band that comes out and you're like, "Wow, they're amazing." That's few and far between, in my opinion. Groups like SWITCHFOOT are amazing. They come out, you know who it is when you hear them, they have their own unique sound, like P.O.D. when they hit the scene. But not a lot of bands that come out have that kind of power and uniqueness and that originality.
Powerline: One thing you should get credit for: don't you think the music of STRYPER has been like missionary work? Haven't people told you that you've helped convert them?
Sweet: We get that a lot and that's always the most extreme compliment when you hear that. When you meet somebody who's turned their life around — [say] they were addicted to drugs and turned their life around — and now they're pastoring a ten-thousand-member church. I mean, that's really insane. That makes the hair on my arms stand on end. That makes me say this is why we do what we do. Right here. This is it. And you can't get a better compliment than something like that. That's just mindblowing.
Powerline: Heavy metal always had the stereotype of siding with the Satanic since it has anger and aggression. It's just ignorance because anger and aggression is often used against injustice.
Sweet: It is.
Powerline: And Christ himself used these emotions.
Sweet: Absolutely. And it's funny. I never really got the separation — in terms of genres. When you hear of a metal band that's just a mainstream metal band they're called a metal band. But then here comes STRYPER and we're called a Christian metal band. And I always thought, why couldn't we've been referred to as metal band. Why the "Christian?" Why do you have to add the "Christian?" Yeah, okay, so our lyrics are Chrisitian. SLAYER's lyrics are Satanic. Why not call them a Satanic metal band? They're just a metal band. It just makes no sense. It just seems so unjust and unfair, and that I guess is such is life.
Powerline: Do you still [throw bibles out in the audience]?
Sweet: We do. We're limited. We buy all the bibles ourselves. We throw 20-25 bibles out per show to a crowd of a thousand. It's not that many, obviously, but back in the day we used to throw a couple hundred bibles out. We threw out a lot. We were playing to ten thousand people a night so those numbers have changed.
Read the entire interview from Powerline.
Photo credit: Tina Enos