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Interview:
Stryper at Saint Andrews, 5 Things To Know
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

These are certainly days for Stryper frontman Michael Sweet to savor.

During the summer the veteran Christian rocker -- also a veteran of Boston and the band Sweet & Lynch with Dokken's George Lynch -- released his seventh solo album, "One Sided War." Stryper, meanwhile, is on the road this fall celebrating the 30th anniversary of the group's landmark album "To Hell With The Devil."

So there's a lot of ground to cover as Sweet, 53, gets on the phone from his home in southern California. And while dallying isn't one of the seven deadly sins, it's best to get on with it...

Sweet says he's not surprised at "To Hell With The Devil's" staying power 30 years later. "Well, it's certainly our biggest album to date, our most popular and biggest-selling album and a fan favorite," he explains. "I see why it's our most popular album; To me it's the classic Stryper sound. There's a lot of things that really annoy me -- the gated cymbals, the sound of my voice. At times the production sounds very dated, but that's a given. That's where we were at. I have my favorites on there, songs like 'Free' and 'Calling On You' and, believe it or not, the 'forgotten' one, so to speak, 'Holding On.' We haven't played that for years, so I'm looking forward to that."

For this tour Stryper is again donning it's striped black-and-yellow garb from the 80s -- but not, Sweet notes, the original outfits. "We actually had a break-in at the warehouse and lost a lot of stuff -- old guitars, and the suits," he says. "We went over to Japan a few years ago to play Loud Park, a big festival there, and the deal-breaker was we had to wear our old suits from

'To Hell With The Devil.' I told them what happened and they said, 'We'll give you a little extra money. Go have them made again,' so we did. We had Ray Brown, the same who made them before and we wore 'em in Japan. Y'know, for some people it's corny and other people view it as a great thing."

Blending Christian-themed lyrics with heavy rock came naturally to Sweet and his Stryper cohorts. "I remember accepting God and finding a local Baptist church, Southern Baptist," he says. "We became part of the music team there when I was 12, but I wanted to do rock, man. I wanted to go and play backyard parties and play David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix songs. I remember people tell me at church, 'You can't do that. You're going to hell if you do that.' I remember thinking the extreme opposite -- 'No way; I'll be a Christian AND I'll play rock and it'll be just fine.' I want down a different path from the age of 12 to 20; I wound up doing drugs - not a lot, thank God, but I did drugs. And I drank. I did the whole Hollywood scene, sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll thing for a long time. Then I wound up at the age of 20 wanting to turn my life around. I got serious about my faith and got serious about my music and got out of that scene. That's probably why I'm here talking to you now."

Sweet feels that Stryper successfully changed attitudes on both sides of the divide about the idea of Christian rock. "Oh, we get apologies all the time," he says. "People come up to us, mainstream people, 'Oh yeah, I hated you guys. I wanted to kill you guys but, man, I love you guys now.' And on the other side there's Christian people who come up to us and say, 'I did not like you guys. I thought you were wolves in sheep's clothing and the devil. But because of you I'm a pastor to this day.' We get a lot of that."

With his solo album out this year, Sweet is hoping his next recorded project will be a follow-up to Stryper's 2015 effort, "Fallen." "It will probably stay in the same direction we've been going in but try to outdo ourselves, try something a little more intricate, that has a little more depth to it in terms of the arrangements and parts themselves and make people go, 'Wow, that's Stryper? I didn't know they could do that,'" Sweet says. "Or we could go down a completely different path and make an album that makes people go, 'What?!' Maybe it's time to make our country album..."

Stryper and Artificial Agent

Wednesday, Nov. 16. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Saint Andrews Hall. 413 E. Congress St., Detroit.

Tickets are $27.50.

Call 313-961-6358 or visit saintandrewsdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.saintandrewsdetroit.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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