September 14, 2016 Interview – Michael Sweet
Without a doubt, Stryper Co-Founder Michael Sweet has found his “Sweet” spot in the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal word as he continues to bring his strength in vocals, songwriting, producing, and guitar work. With thirty-some decades under his belt, Sweet has ventured as a soloist through his journey, and these solo projects have now culminated themselves to present Michael Sweet’s seventh full-length solo album, One Sided War. Released on August 26th via Rat Pak Records, One Sided War could be Sweet’s hardest Rock and Metal solo work to date. Working with Whitesnake Guitarist Joel Hoekstra, Ex-Night Ranger and well-known shredder Ethan Brosh, Evanescence Drummer Will Hunt, as well as Bassist John O’Boyle, Sweet brings this Metal opus to its climactic rush. That being said, the forever busy Sweet does not look at this as his swan song, in fact, the creator aspires for creative outlets in and out of Stryper for years to come. Recently we caught up with Sweet to talk the work behind the album, his positive outlook on life, battling through struggles, future plans, and more.
CrypticRock.com – Last we spoke, you were working on the Sweet Lynch Project. Since then, you have been extremely busy with Stryper as well as your solo material. Tell us, what has the last couple of years been like for you?
Michael Sweet – Definitely a bit of a blur. I mean, I can’t keep up with myself. I know my wife keeps telling me that I need to slow down a bit, but, you know, it’s just the way I’m built. I’ve got a lot of energy, a lot of ideas, and I love what I do. I love to be in the studio, I love to tour, I like to work. Because of that, these last few years have been very busy and fast-paced. I look at it this way, I am not a doom and gloom kind of guy. I am a very positive person and, really, I just want to get in as much as I can with the time I have left here. I am enjoying life, every second of it. You know, I am hoping, before I leave this world, I can get in another ten albums, or maybe more, who knows!
CrypticRock.com – It is wonderful that you are so active in music through the years. Your latest solo album, One Sided War, is out now. Opening with the song “Bizarre,” there is a sound of classic Hard Rock pulled together with a modern heavier Rock essence. How did you go about joining the past and present together to create the future of Michael Sweet’s signature sound?
Michael Sweet – That is amazing to hear you say that. When I am going into an album, whether I am writing, producing, or working on the Sweet Lynch Project, I really try to merge the two. You can’t make an album that sounds like it is out of 1985, no one would listen to it. So, I pull them together. I love writing songs that go back to that period and putting the modern sound to it.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly works well. You have become an intricate part of the music industry. What has music come to mean for you?
Michael Sweet – To me, it is all about the song. The way music makes you feel, and music has always been such an important part of life, it is important to all of us. That is the one thing I think that we all have in common. There isn’t anyone on this planet, at least I don’t think so, that doesn’t like some form of music. It unites us and brings us all together. We have it in common and we are all passionate about it. Here, I have been blessed with this gift.
I know there is talk, that in the next five years, all music will be only streaming. Now, that can be frightening to some of us, but I don’t let that get in the way of what it is that I want to do. I keep moving ahead, I keep making plans. I have plans all the way into the end of ’17 to record music. I am just going to keep planning on recording music. If there comes a time when I can’t, I will certainly find a new outlet for my music and for what I am here to do. I never accept the word “No” or “I can’t,” they aren’t in my vocabulary.
CrypticRock.com – That positive outlook is quite inspiring. Vocally, your voice has matured. There is a richness to it brought in from your early days as the co-vocalist/guitarist for Boston and your work as singer/songwriter/guitarist and producer of Stryper. What are some of the ways you nurture and care for your voice so that it continues to work as the instrument you have trained it to be?
Michael Sweet – I have never been a big drinker or smoker. I mean, when I was younger I would smoke and drink to be cool. But to this day, maybe I will have an occasional cigar or drink. So I think that has made a difference. Plus, I have continued to use my voice. If you stop, that isn’t good for the muscles. I really work on trying to stay healthy. Plus, every few years, I get my vocal chords screened and the doctors keep an eye out, but I have never had any nodules or anything like that. Of course, if I get sick, I take care of my voice and don’t put the strain on it of singing. I don’t like when that happens because it means having to cancel a show, and I just don’t like doing that to the fans.
CrypticRock.com – That certainly shows in each new album you put out, as well as your live shows. When the idea to create this seventh solo album came about, you chose some heavy hitters to join you. Whitesnake’s Guitarist Joel Hoekstra, Evanescence Drummer Will Hunt, Bassist John O’Boyle, and noted East Coast shredder Ethan Brosh. What was it about this team that clicked in your mind as you set out to make One Sided War?
Michael Sweet – I knew right away I wanted Will before anything began, that was a given. Then I thought about different bass players and John came to mind. He is an incredibly talented guy, one of the best, and he is a great person, so easy to work with. Then I started working on solos and I realized the album was taking on a little too much of the Stryper sound and I didn’t want it to go there. I wanted it to have its own unique stamp. So, I thought of some players to come in and do some solos. I reached out to Joel and Ethan, two of my favorite guitar players. Joel played on three of the tracks and Ethan on six. I played all the rhythms and overdubs.
The great thing about working with Joel, Ethan, Will, and John is that they are such incredible musicians and such sweethearts. No ego. Just regular guys, a fun time to work with them all. Together we all just flowed.
CrypticRock.com – Well, as stated, it is certainly a great class of Rock musicians. Was it your intention to channel the likes of Dio, Van Halen, and even that strength entwined of Iron Maiden? As you can certainly pick up all of those in various sections and layering throughout this guitar-orientated riff/hooks and hard melodies. The album sends chills down one’s spine.
Michael Sweet – It wasn’t my intention to, but I just remember when I started writing, it came out of me. When I sit down to write, I want each song to sound unique. That’s why you have a song like “Golden Age” that is more old school Metal, kind of like Priest meets (paused) whoever, and then you have the song “I Am,” that does have a little Dio vibe to it.
You know, when I sing a song, I sing it according to the vibe of the music. So, when I started singing the song “I Am,” I started getting a little more gritty, but I never sat down and said, “Oh, this one is going to sound like this and this one is going to sound like…” Those bands though are always going to influence me – Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, and so on – those are always going to be there. Those are the greats. Look at it this way, even on their worst days, they are still a cut above.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed, they are the top of the Rock and Metal mountain for sure. Personally, you have sustained some heavy blows to deal with in the past few years. Yet, somehow, you found the strength to continue, even writing a book, Honestly My Life and Stryper Revealed. Did you find writing a book for you as cathartic and intimate as song lyrics?
Michael Sweet – Most definitely. Writing for me in the studio, or in book form, is very cathartic. It is therapeutic, no doubt. I can’t imagine my life without music. Do you know what the original working title was actually for that book? (paused) Honestly, From Diapers To Stryper and all the Crap In Between (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) That is quite the title. Are we allowed to quote you on that Michael?
Michael Sweet – Sure (laughed). Yeah, we were laughing about that title for a while. It was clever and it was funny, but, you know, I figured if I had named my book that, it wouldn’t have gone over so well with some people. I love to laugh, and I know sometimes certain people don’t get my sense of humor.
CrypticRock.com – It is important to be able to laugh and be able to make light of tough situations when possible. It gives you strength. Back to the music, the last song on One Sided War, entitled “Can’t Take This With Life,” features a duet with a female vocalist. Who is she?
Michael Sweet – That song is actually on the album twice. There is a version of just me singing it and a version with her singing. Her name is Moriah Formica, and she is only fifteen, and that is the mind blow of it all. I did a show with her about ten months ago and heard her sing Heart, Pat Benatar, Evanescence, and everything she did, it was a difficult vocal. She killed it. I was blown away. She plays guitar on top of that, lead guitar. When you see her rocking out, your chin literally hits the floor. My wife suggested I reach out to her and I am so glad I did. She is the sweetest kid who has her act together, you are going to be hearing more out of her.
CrypticRock.com – She did a wonderful job and it will be great to hear more of her in the future. Amidst everything, you have a tour with Stryper and the 30th anniversary celebration of the band’s 1986 album, To Hell with the Devil.
Michael Sweet – Yes. We have dates booked out through November and will be adding more. We are really looking forward to it all and sharing with our fans our music and gratitude.