Michael Sweet’s new solo album, One Sided War, is packed with hook-laden songs that transcend the tasty fretwork and soaring vocals we’ve come to expect from the Stryper frontman.
On the new disc, Sweet is joined by a plethora of seasoned musicians, including guitarists Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake) and Ethan Brosh, bassist John O’Boyle and drummer Will Hunt (Evanescence). Newcomer guitarist/vocalist Moriah Formica accompanies Sweet on a tasty duet, “Can’t Take This Life."
In addition to the new solo album, Sweet—along with the rest of Stryper—is gearing up for a tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of that band’s monster album, To Hell with the Devil.
I recently spoke with Sweet about One Sided War, Stryper's upcoming tour, gear and more. You can check out our chat below.
You consistently release great new music. How important is it for you to keep creating?
It’s everything to me. Many artists seem to lose their drive and passion for doing it as they get older. They’ll say things like it’s not really worth it to make new albums. But the thing about me is that it feels as though I’ve gained more drive and more passion. I just love what I do.
How does One Sided War compare to some of your previous albums?
It’s obviously got some similarities to the sound of some of the other things I’ve done in the past because I can’t escape the sound of my voice or the style of my guitar playing. But I always try to bring in new ingredients and substance to give it a different flair. I always say it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and I mean it. But that’s not meant to be a slam on the other projects. I just go into each project trying new things—using new equipment and trying different mic and amp techniques to improve upon the last project. I never sit down and think about what I want to sing or play. I just do what comes from the heart.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from One Sided War. The message in “Bizarre” is relevant to what’s going on today. Was that what you had in mind when you wrote it?
Lyrically, that’s exactly what I had in mind. It’s interesting because as I look at the world today and our society; all you hear is everyone bitching about the position we’re in. But nine times out of 10, no one does anything about it. In the old days people would try to change the system. Now, everyone just seems to want to talk and complain about it on social media. I remember as I was writing it I was thinking about how we could have so many blessings and have such a great country and world—and then how bizarre it is that we choose not to have it.
How about “Radio”?
I grew up around country music and even played on my dad’s country sessions as a kid. He was a country writer whose partner was Fred Imus. They wrote a Number 1 country song in 1976 called “I Don’t Want to Have to Marry You." So there’s a special place for country in my heart. It’s a bit offensive when you see all of these guys who have been rock guys their entire lives suddenly wake up one morning and decide that since rock isn’t as popular and country is, they’ll just throw on cowboy boots and a hat and become country stars. “Radio” is a light-hearted way of poking fun at people who think they can just go to Nashville, write a country song and become a huge star. It’s not that easy.
I really wanted that track to rock your face off. It’s talking about the creator – God and his power and glory. It’s a powerful song with different sections where it comes down and then takes back off. It’s kind of like that roller coaster that takes you up the hill real slow and then drops you at 80 mph. That’s the feeling you get with that song.
You’ve got guitarists Joel Hoekstra and Ethan Brosh contributing to One Sided War. What was it like working with them?
There’s no feeling in the world like working with musicians of that caliber when they do their tracks. When I hear Ethan soloing on “Golden Age” and Joel soloing on “Radio," my face is hurting because I’m smiling so much. They’re an inspiration and helped take the album to a whole new level.
There are two versions of “Can’t Take This Life” on One Sided War. One of them includes Moriah Formica. What can you tell me about her?
Moriah is an incredibly talented 15-year-old who opened for me in New York and just blew my mind. She’s a killer guitar player and a talented girl who’s very humble and loves God. She deserves everything she gets and I’m so thrilled to have her on the album.
Let’s switch gears and talk about Stryper’s upcoming 30th-anniversary To Hell with the Devil tour. What can fans expect?
I think the big wow factor is that we’re going to be putting on the old outfits again and doing the entire album from start to finish in sequence. There are a few songs that we haven’t played since 1987. Song like, “Rockin’ the World,” “Holding On” and “All of Me." We’ll also be adding a bunch of songs at the end to make it a nice full set. It’s going to be a fun, exciting celebration of the 30th anniversary of the album, which was our biggest album of all time. We’re so excited about it.
What’s your setup going to be like for that tour?
Whenever we do a ground run like this tour will be, I take my own rig. I’ve got two Mesa Boogie Mark V’s and two Stereo 2: Ninety Power Amps. In the rack, I’ve got two graphic EQs that I run between and out of the Mark V’s and power amps along with four cabinets: two 4x12s and two 2x12s. I’ll also be feeding and running the front end of the Mark V with my ISP Theta Pro, which I absolutely love. It’s so in your face and sounds amazing. I use it every night and can’t say enough about it. For guitars, I’ll be brining my MS Priestess and V that I’ll be playing exclusively.
What other projects are you working on?
Now that One Sided War has been released, the plan is to do the 30th anniversary tour for the remainder of this year. Then we’ll go in and start work on a new Stryper album in February and right after that a new Sweet & Lynch album. After recording, I’m going to do a solo tour and hopefully some Sweet & Lynch shows as well. I’m so thrilled and humbled to still be alive and able to do this.
For more about Sweet and his projects, visit michaelsweet.com.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.