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Interview:
Skillet at Saint Andrews Hall, 5 things to know
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

It's been 20 years since Christian rockers Skillet released their first album a self-titled effort that got attention, if not big sales.

Since then the quartet -- founded by singer-bassist John Cooper and also featuring his wife Korey -- has released 10 albums (two certified platinum), won five Dove Awards and has been nominated for a pair of Grammys. Skillet has also notched a bunch of mainstream rock hits, including "Rebirthing," "Whispers in the Dark," "The Last Night," "Hero," "Awake and Alive," "Sick of It" and more.

Forget about nostalgia, though; Skillet is hitting the 20-year mark with a new album, "Unleashed," the follow-up to 2013's gold-certified "Rise." It finds Cooper and company working wtih a number of top-line producers -- including Brian Howes, Kevin Churko and Neal Avron -- and still rocking so hard that the WWE selected the anthemic single "Feel Invincible" as the them for its Battleground pay-per-view event.

Still, the anniversary gives Cooper a chance to reflect on a couple decades of making righteous rock with his band...

Twenty years since Skillet's first album feels like..."Yknow, it's like anything else, being married or having kids grow up," Cooper, 41, says by phone from his home in Wisconsin. "In some ways it feels really long,and in some ways it feels incredibly short because it's so busy and you're so packed and I can't believe I'm old enough to have been in a band for 20 years in some ways. We're really lucky, man; Not many bands get to do that unless they're, like, Aerosmith or Metallica or something."

Skillet has accumulated some "really dedicated, extremely passionate fans" during the past two decades. He's confident the material -- including the group's faith-based lyrics -- have held them, and brought more to the, er, party. "Some of it is we've treated our fans real well. We've done a great job at giving them access to us via social media, things like that," Cooper says. "I think probably the typical person that really, really loves Skillet is probably because our songs have moved them emotional or spiritually or give them hope, those kinds of things. Skillet has always tried to write song about things we believe or that we're passionate about. Just being honest in our lyrics has always taken us a long way."

Skillet has also become something of a rite of passage band. "Skillet's had a very unusual career in that we've been around so long, but we continue to always have a young fan base, and that's why I think there's a lot of different kinds of people at a Skillet show," Cooper explains. "There's a lot of generations there now. We're not nearly as big or as influential as Aerosmith, but if you shrink their audience down by 10 percent or something, that's what our concerts would be like."

Non-believers are more than welcome to like Skillet, too. "People will say to me, 'All these fans are Christian, right?' It's really not like that," Cooper notes. "I think it's comprised of a lot of religious people but a shocking amount of ant-religious people, too. And I'm happy to have fans that aren't religious. People come up to me all the time at shows or on Twitter and say, 'Hey', I'm an atheist. I don't believe in Jesus at all, but your music gives me hope.' It's easier to kind of put it into a box and go, 'Oh, it must just be all Christian people,' but then are you saying there's more Chrstian rock listeners than there are rock listeners? That just doesn't make any sense."

Deep meanings aside, Skillet wanted to make this year's "Unleashed" a somewhat lighter listening experience. "The only thing I really wanted to do with this record was make an album that was really fun to listen to," Cooper says. "I know that sounds really simple and maybe even silly, but most Skillet records are dynamic and have a lot of spiritual undertones, or overtones. This time I thought, 'Y'know what, the world is getting so crazy, everybody knows it's band, maybe I want to make a record that's an escape from those things so you can turn it on and turn off the world -- go for a run, go for a drive, whatever you wan. That's really the only big goal we had, and that's why I think we had so much fun writing it."

Skillet, Sick Puppies and Devour The Day

Friday, Oct. 7. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Saint Andrews Hall, 431 E. Congress St.

Tickets are $32.50.

Call 313-961-9358 or visit saintandrewsdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.saintandrewsdetroit.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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