Christian rock legends Stryper are back in the big time with the release of their fantastic new record Murder By Pride.
Ahead of its UK release on Monday, rushonrock caught up with frontman Michael Sweet and the one-time hair metal hero was in typically candid mood. Stand by for his thoughts on rock, religion, losing his faith and losing his wife.
rushonrock: Your new album Murder By Pride made an instant impression on the Billboard charts back home but how do you rate it?
Michael Sweet: It’s just exciting that so many people are into our music in 2009. You always hope for bigger and better things but we live in different times. This isn’t the 80s anymore and it’s hard to sell millions of records and hard to find your place in the music world. And Stryper are dogged by what many people perceive as two negatives. We’re a band from the 80s AND we’re a Christian band! We feel like we’re constantly trying to prove ourselves but we’ve always made music from our hearts and will continue to do that. We look for the positives, hope that people get what we’re doing and so far so good – the fans seem to like the new music.
rushonrock: But there’s not the big budgets and excessive expense accounts you enjoyed in your commercial heyday is there?
MS: Absolutely not. The music industry has been forced to rein itself in. Economically the situation has been turned on its head. People just don’t go out and buy CDs and records like they used to. It’s a completely different era. As an example we had a $650,000 budget for (1988’s) In God We Trust and, 20 years on, we had a $100,000 budget to get Murder By Pride written, produced, released and promoted.
rushonrock: Was Murder By Pride an easy record to write?
MS: It was easy to write. It’s very strange but I have a different approach as a writer to a lot of guys. I go through periods of writing nothing and since I finished Murder By Pride I’ve only written three more songs. And those songs are being written with a view to appearing on a possible new Boston album. After I’ve done an album I’ll put my guitar in a closet and then one day the call will come, I’ll get it out and write and record a whole record in two or three weeks. That’s the only way I can work. Once I get into that mode and I have a deadline insight I shut myself away and don’t appear again until I’ve got the job done.
rushonrock: But Murder By Pride’s been written for a while. Explain the delay.
MS: we were due to record it in February 2007 but on February 10 my wife was diagnosed with cancer. At that point I felt like this record might never get done. But I had to put everything on hold. I put my wife above everything else and began to accept that the album would never be finished. Throughout her two-year battle with the disease, which she eventually lost, I was able to do some work on Murder By Pride and, with her encouragement, I worked on a Boston record. I did emerge from it all as a stronger writer. You pull from within your deepest emotions and it’s something which can help you write like never before.
rushonrock: Over the years, then, has your Christian faith been tested?
MS: Of course. Many, many times. There was a time around 1990/91 where we all quit the path we’d been down. We all rebelled against Christianity for a variety of reasons. Many people within the church spoke out against us and we became numb to it all. We got beat up on both sides – by those mocking us for our religious beliefs and fellow Christians who disapproved of our lifestyles. But in a way it became quite cool – us against the world. And ultimately our faith became stronger. Of course my faith was questioned big time when my wife was sick. I was asking God ‘why?’. She was such a good person and I couldn’t understand why it was happening to her.
rushonrock: In so many ways Christianity and the rock and roll lifestyle don’t mix. How have you managed to marry the two?
MS: It’s not always worked very well. Rock and roll was founded on a theme of sex, drugs and excess and we lived the lifestyle for a while. Between the ages of 13 and 20 I was playing in all the Hollywood clubs and doing all of the things you hear about. But seeing friends change their lives after committing themselves to God and seeing the loving their eyes made me change the way I viewed things. It made me want to do the same. I saw light in the dark and it helped me to see through a lot of negative garbage. I wanted to offer some hope to the people around me and my Christianity allowed me to do that.