Stryper’s Michael Sweet talks “Second Coming” album and upcoming book
by Reggie Edwards
Photos by Reggie Edwards
I remember being a kid and my dad would crank the classic songs of Christian metal band Stryper so loud they rang like anthems throughout the house. They may have been the first Christian rock band I ever heard. Throughout the years Stryper have always found their way into my speakers.
Enter 2013 and the legends are back with an album of re-recorded classics on Second Coming, an album which will take any Stryper fan back in time and start the headbanging once again.
Frontman Michael Sweet recently sat down with The Front Row Report to talk about the upcoming album, due out March 26 on Frontiers Records.
“It’s always a little on the apprehensive side when you do a re-record or even a cover album, which we did prior to this, The Covering,” says Sweet. “The reason why I say that is you’re gonna open the door for the potential haters and the naysayers- the people who aren’t into re-records or cover albums, they want to hear new material and I get that but the reason we wanted to do this record, it started out that we just wanted to re-record these songs and obtain the rights to them.
“A lot of bands have done that over the years and are doing that now because it’s very hard to obtain the rights to those original masters, the label owns them,” explains Sweet, “especially a large label and a large label does own the Stryper catalogue, that’s Disney.
Sweet said nine times out of ten when a band or their publishing company goes to the label, needing the rights to a song and needing the label to sign off quickly, it won’t happen.
They realized there was another way around the problem, the solution being to re-record the songs and that’s exactly what Stryper did.
So did they go in planning on topping their already impressive reputation?
“When we got in the studio and started tracking them, we became more and more excited about how they were turning out because we didn’t go into it saying ‘hey, we’re gonna outdo the originals’ but you kinda hope subconsciously that you do,” says Sweet.
“After hearing the basic tracks and listening to those for awhile, I started realizing ‘wow, I think we have outdone the originals on some of these tracks. I don’t know about all of them but certainly most of them in my opinion.’”
It was at this point the band started to contemplate releasing the tracks to the public and their fans.
“[We] started talking to other labels to get involved to distribute them because we’re not a distribution company, we wanted it to be far beyond our expectations,” Sweet says, “so we signed a deal, eventually, with Frontiers Records; they packaged it and are releasing it worldwide. You know, the cool thing about it is it’s not a “Greatest” or “Best of” at all. I mean, we’re missing our biggest hit of all time, “Honestly,” it’s not on there. There are some other songs like “Together As One” that maybe shoulda been on there and we decided not to do that, we wanted to just keep it rocking and keep it flowing.”
Sweet says there’s been a lot of talk on the forums and questions as to why the band chose not to include songs from In God We Trust and Against the Law on the upcoming album and Sweet was clear the band didn’t dismiss the songs completely and discussed the possibility of another re-record in the future .
“We wanted to save those for another day,” says Sweet. “We figured we’d do another project, another re-record down the road and would hit those songs, so we didn’t purposefully shun those records.”
The original thinking when entering the studio was to stick to the original versions of the songs since the project was initially to be used for TV and film with the band’s publishing company, who wanted the original arrangements.
This led Stryper to stick as close to the originals as possible but Sweet says there are a few differences fans will be quick to pick up on.
“You’re gonna notice little nuances, little differences here and there but for the most part it’s pretty identical,” explains Sweet. “The thing you are gonna notice is things like the clarity and the distinction, more bass, my voice is a little deeper, the guitars are a little chunkier, things like that. And that’s what makes me happier, things like that.”
Sweet went on to explain that he has trouble listening to Stryper’s older material, a problem brought about by poor quality and changes in technology, something the new versions resolved decisively and powerfully.
“I can listen to these songs now, not to be disrespectful to our fans and those old classics, but I can’t listen to them, I just can’t,” he says. “I pop in The Yellow and Black Attack and its like instantly I press eject and I don’t even try listening to it because in my opinion, it’s not listenable- it’s just such poor quality. With the technology we have nowadays, there’s no punch, the volume is super low; it’s just a whole different beast. We made a record now that sounds really clear and punchy, loud and is up to par with today’s times and 2013 and I’m very proud of that so I think we have, in many ways, outdone the originals, I hope.”
Another impressive aspect of Second Coming is the “live factor.” There are certain parts of the album that give you the feel and sound you get when Stryper play
the songs live, such as “Loud n Clear” and “Sing Along Song.”
This a feat that’s very hard to accomplish and an element that’s more than impressive when captured- something only the best have been able to do.
“The thing that’s always been said by many people is ‘oh man I like the records but I love you live, you guys have so much more energy live,’” Sweet explains. “And I think this record is the closest you’re gonna get to Stryper live than any other record we’ve ever made.
“We didn’t have a plan in place or have or sit down and have meetings and say ‘okay, this is what we’re gonna do to capture this live vibe.’ We didn’t do that but thank God, by the grace of God, we were able to capture that…”
The interview in its entirety can be heard below. Listen to hear Sweet talk about Second Coming, his upcoming autobiography, “Honestly,” and upcoming solo album, which will go hand-in-hand with the book.
Michael Sweet interview: