Michael Sweet of Stryper : 2006-04-05Randy interviewed Michael Sweet, solo artist and lead singer/songwriter of Stryper in Nashville during GMA week. Due to technical glitches (I forgot to turn on the power for my new mic), we lost audio on the first part of the recording, but Michael graciously allowed me to re-ask some of the questions.
Randy: I understand you're an expert on a topic that's not real common here at GMA. Cranberry bogs.
Michael: I am and it's somewhat of an expert, not a complete total expert.
Randy: Not ready to take over the business.
Michael: What happened was we moved back to Cape Cod in 1995, started working for the family business, which is a campground in a cranberry bog. Grow for Ocean Spray and I worked in the bogs for about five years. Put on hip-waders get out there corraling berries. It was cool! I had a great time doing it. It was a change I desperately needed. I'm not a farmer to save my life. But I just enjoyed getting out there and working.
A great story that didn't get recorded was about the time Michael asked a rowdy campground party to shut down at curfew. They were drinking around a big bonfire and blasting Stryper's "To Hell With The Devil." When Michael walked up, one of the guys recognized him but couldn't quite believe it. He pointed at the boom box with a questioning look and Michael nodded. They all ended up sitting around chatting past curfew for awhile, and then the group cheerfully left with a story that surely none of their friends believed.
Randy: At the end of the day, did that physical part make you feel like you'd done something?
Michael: It was awesome. While I was out in the bogs, I was writing the songs. The way I write songs, melodies come first. I hum melodies. I'm out there humming away and I go home and put chords to the melodies and actually the record "Truth." I have a solo record called "Truth" that got written in the bogs. That's the God-honest truth. It was pretty amazing.
Randy: So it would have been your version of The Cranberries.
Michael: Exactly. (laugh)
Randy: Let's talk a little bit about after that. You did worship for a while. How long were you leading worship at your church?
Michael: I led worship on-and-off for about five years.
Randy: In Massachusetts?
Michael: In Massachusetts. Out on the Cape. We had a home church for a while. We met in our home and other members' homes for like two and a half, three years during that period. And then we found a church building, and I continued leading worship and it was just some of the best years of my life, you know. It was a chance to go one-on-one and worship God. It wasn't about performance. It wasn't about Michael Sweet, it wasn't about Stryper. It was about God. It was just a neat time for me. And what came from that period was the record I have coming out August 1 which is called Him. What it is it's made up of a bunch of old hymns that I re-wrote all the music to.
Randy: All the lyrics are classical?
Michael: All the lyrics are classical. There's a song called "At Calvary." I don't know if you're familiar with the hymn.
Michael: Of course you're familiar with "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." All these songs have been re-written. It's pretty neat, man. Because the words to all these old hymns move me so much. To be honest, a lot of the music didn't really move me so much. The melodies didn't move me so much, but I love the words. So I thought it'd be kind of cool to re-write the music.
Randy: What musical style did you go for?
Michael: It's more of an acoustic--drums, bass, acoustic, that kind of thing, but not a hard-edge rock record at all.
Michael: More of a worship record. You could put this record on if you're getting into bed at night and you're reading a book or whatever and you've got headphones on. You could put this record on.
Randy: When's it due out?
Michael: It's coming out August 1. It's pretty cool, man.
Randy: And then, with Stryper, you've got the Reborn (CD), are you touring with that?
Michael: We did a tour. In 2005, we did thirty-eight cities.
Randy: I missed Denver because I was taking my son, who's 15, and then at the last minute I found out there was an age limit, so I couldn't bring him and it just didn't work out.
Michael: That's weird. Some of the places we played, the age limits killed us.
Randy: And I had passes all lined up, media credential stuff and then at last minute I found out I couldn't bring him. I didn't feel like going by myself. My good friend did see you at Red Rocks in Denver. I'm sure you remember Red Rocks.
Michael: Oh, absolutely.
Randy: U2 made it famous.
Michael: What a great place that was, and what a great show that was. We're enjoying it. We're still out, we're officially re-united...the band.
Randy: So there's more to come?
Michael: More to come. We're still working Reborn, trying to get that out there and spread the word of Reborn and then we're going to start on a new record relatively soon.
Randy: Is Oz living in California?
Michael: Oz is out in Cali and then Robert is in Vegas, I'm outside of Boston, Cape Cod, and Tracy, the bass player--
Randy: He used to be in Whitecross for a while.
Michael: Exactly. He used to live here. He's now my neighbor, out on the Cape as well.
Randy: Good. We'll be looking forward to hearing more from Stryper and hopefully get you through Denver.
Michael: Oh yeah. More to come. Stay tuned. Absolutely!
Randy: Tell me a little bit more about the future. Can we look for more like Truth, like some solo projects, or are you focusing on Stryper now, or both?
Michael: Well, the only way this record Him came to be is because I did it before the Stryper thing. I did it on my own. We're re-releasing it. That's the only way it happened, really. Anyway, there's going to be more Stryper, there will be more solo stuff, and the reason for that is because I write a bunch of different styles of music. We've got the Stryper stuff that's edgy, and then I've got stuff that's more poppy. A lot of pop stuff that Stryper...
Randy: Not quite heavy enough for Stryper.
Michael: It's really not a Stryper bag, you know. I want to be able to release that stuff and express myself. That's why there'll always be solo stuff.
Randy: So that's why it's nice to have slightly different genres. I remember on the solo stuff the first song that really caught my ear was All This and Heaven, Too. Just catchy and I really enjoyed that and saw the video for it.
Michael: That was a record that really got out there and did really well, reached a lot of people.
Randy: Well, our time's about up, I know you've got another one coming up soon, but I really appreciate your time, Michael. One of the hardcore--go back twenty years--fans. A lot of the bands here were in diapers when we were...
Michael: I know. It makes me feel like an old guy!
Randy: As far as your family real briefly, I know, of course your son Michael, Jr., Mikey. I don't know what he goes by now--
Michael: He goes by, actually, believe it or not, Mikey.
Randy: Still does?
Michael: Everyone calls him Mikey still.
Randy: Is he into music?
Michael: He's very into music. He's got a new band called Marion Lee, and it's kind of like an indie rock thing.
Randy: Is he a guitar player?
Michael: He's a guitar player and a drummer, really good.
Randy: My son's a drummer and working on guitars. He's eleven years old.
Michael: Mike's one of these guys, he's very gifted musically. He's one of these guys that listens to a band no one else gets or no one else knows of, and he says "They're going to be huge." And he's right ten times out of ten. It's scary.
Randy: How old's your daughter?
Michael: My daughter's fifteen. She's a dancer, really into dancing.
Randy: My son's fifteen, so we have kids the same age.
Michael: Yeah, yeah. You have two?
Randy: Well, now I have five. I've got a twenty-year-old that will be twenty-one, she's getting married, and then the nineteen-year-old you met, Erika, and then my son Michael, he's a reviewer, he's written nine or ten reviews that have been published. He's fifteen--he will be next week, and then my twins are twelve. They're the musicians. They play bass and drums and I just got them Squier Affinity (guitars) for their birthdays.
Michael: So that's it for you?
Randy: Well we had three, my wife said "Let's have one more" and we had twins. All of a sudden we needed a full caravan. Next is grandkids. My daughter's getting married this summer, so who knows? A couple years and I'll probably be a grandfather. But I'm still playing hockey, so I'm still young.
Michael: Good, man!
Randy: We can relate as far as kids growing up, and that age. Is amazing how quick they grow up.
Michael: I know. It's...you're excited and you're happy that they're growing up and they're going to go out and experience life and everything, but at the same time it's kind of sad.
Randy: Yeah. Because you realize that part of your life, that chapter's closed. And Erika was out of state for college last semester..
Michael: Yeah, you got to let go. But it's hard.
Randy: Yeah, you're proud of them, but it will never be the same. When you play some of the old stuff, just listening to some of it, I was thinking of the review, I was listening to some more Stryper, and it kind of takes you back. It used to be the kids crawling around on my lap when I was listening to Stryper and working. I was a software developer at home in California. We used to live near San Diego, and I'd be playing Stryper and my little daughter would be crawling on my lap, I'd change her diaper, and now she's here at GMA interviewing people.
Michael: Awesome. And these were their lullabies, right?
Randy: Exactly. Well, actually, remember Undercover?
Randy: My older daughter would not go to sleep until I put on Undercover.
Michael: We did some gigs with Undercover, they were great.
Randy: Just put on some punk and she'd go to sleep! Thanks, Michael.
Michael: No problem, man!