Michael Sweet on Stryper's "Second Coming"

by Nathan Garcia on Mar 25, 2013 at 8:08 AM
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Michael Sweet Stryper singer, guitarist

   Let's be honest, when the hairspray is washed out and the eyeliner wiped away, 80's Metal has very few bands that could truly stand on the merit of their music alone.  Exploding at the advent of MTV era, "hair metal" focused all things visual, and as a common side-effect, the music became secondary.  One of the few exceptions is Stryper.  While visually striking in their signature yellow and black gear, it was apparent from the very first song on the first EP, The Yellow And Black Attack, Stryper proved they were a band with something to say, lyrically and musically.  Stryper's bold Christian message could not have made it any easier to emerge from crowded 80's L.A. metal scene, but on the strength of a tight two-guitar attack and even tighter vocal harmonies, emerge they did. Stryper's first three releases, The Yellow and Black Attack, Soldiers Under Command, and To Hell With the Devil were all very successful, the latter achieving platinum sales status. Fast Forward to 2013. The band is back, with all four of its original members and a new deal with Frontiers Records.  Before looking to the future (a new all-original album is on the horizon), Stryper have taken some time to relive the past a bit, re-recording some favorite tunes from their first 3 albums. I briefly spoke to Michael Sweet, lead vocalist and guitarist, about Stryper's "Second Coming."

Nathan Garcia - I am a huge fan and have been since The Yellow and Black Attack, so, a lot of these songs are historical and sacred to me and other long-time Stryper fans. My first reaction to the idea of re-recording these songs for Second Coming was that it could a bit “sacrilegious” to a die hard STRYPER fan - How did you come to the conclusion that these songs should be re-recorded?

Michael Sweet - These songs are indeed historical and almost classic in a sense to Stryper fans.  Which is all the more reason we felt the need to re-record them.  Some of those songs were recorded when I was 20 years old, almost just a kid.  I've grown a lot as a musician - we all have.  And we've never felt we were able to give a lot of those songs the attention they deserve.  We've grown as people and musicians and we wanted the opportunity to showcase that through some of our classic favorites.  I'm really please with the way it turned out.

NG - STRYPER recorded 5 albums in that 1983-1990 era, yet Second Coming includes no tunes from In God We Trust or Against The Law.  What fueled this decision?

MS - Maybe it could mean a Second Coming Volume 2?  Who knows?  Haha.  It really goes back to what I was saying earlier - We were still really young when we were making those first 3 albums.  We just felt those songs really deserved a second chance, so to speak. Each album throughout my career holds a special place, and certain fondness, but our first couple of records I really just love the songwriting and vibe on those, but just felt they never got the production, or musicianship, they deserved.  In God We Trust and Against The Law - we were older, we had come into our own a bit more by that time, and I just didn't feel as strongly about re-making the songs on those albums.

NG - Tim Gaines returned a couple years ago as a full-time member, what does it mean to you to have him back in the band?

MS - Tim is a part of what made Stryper.  He's an incredible musician so to have him involved in the re-making of the songs he was such a part of in the beginning feels really good.

NG - Lets talk a little bit about the production aspect of Second Coming. Yellow and Black Attack and Soldiers Under Command were recorded to Analog Tape, To Hell With The Devil was recorded to Digital 1” Tape on a Mitsubishi X-850 (I believe), Where was Second Coming recorded and how was the recording approach and process different this time around?

MS - We made most of Second Coming at Spirit House in Massachusetts, where we also recorded Murder by Pride and Reborn.  We've been getting great sounds out of that studio.  I record a lot of the vocals at the studio in my house, something I of course wasn't able to do 25 years ago.  That can be a good and a bad thing.  It's great because I get to spend more time with them, but it's bad because just down the hall I have all my household chores staring me in the face.  Haha. There are more interruptions and distractions when I record at home - but I do enjoy the ability to be able to sing and work at a comfortable pace and not feel rushed.

NG - The guitar tones on Second Coming are pretty massive.  Did you pull out any of the old gear (guitars/amps) to record guitar tracks or did you go with your most recent setup?

MS - We used most of our current gear on this album.  Thank you for saying that about the guitar tones.  I'm a stickler for guitar tones and often obsess over getting what I feel is just the right tone.  The best way I can describe the tone of this album is that it sounds like a grown-up version of Stryper.  We've matured.  Our tones have improved.  Our playing has improved.  And I think all of those elements from our growth over the past 25 years comes together nicely on this album.

NG - You have maintained your voice so well all these years.  As a fan, I was concerned that it might be tough to tackle a lot of the more extreme vocal elements,  but on ‘Second Coming’, you’ve nailed it. How do you do it????

MS - Thanks. To refer back to the question about how this album was recorded - I had more time to work on the vocals.  Thank you again for the kind words, but you're right - in some cases it was tough re-creating some of these vocal parts.  I'm pleased with how my range has sustained over the years, but it's not what it used to be.  I put a lot of effort, and time, in to making sure I gave it my all vocally on this album. I also got a lot of laundry done in between takes so I could rest my voice... Haha.

NG - There are two new songs on Second Coming, “Bleeding From the Inside Out” and “Blackened” are they a glimpse of what’s to come with the Second Coming of Stryper?

MS - To some extent, yes.  I'm working on the next studio album now, writing and laying down scratch tracks.  This next album will be all new original songs and will also come out on Frontiers.  It's gonna be a real rocker.  

SECOND COMING will be available tomorrow March 26, 2013 is out now!


Stryper - Michael Sweet, Robert Sweet, Oz Fox, Tim Gaines


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