Michael Sweet may just be the busiest guy on the planet. For this year alone, the Stryper frontman has plans for no fewer than three albums, two tours and an autobiography.
The revival officially begins March 26, when Stryper release the appropriately titled Second Coming, a 16-song collection of classic Stryper re-recordings plus two new tracks.
In an era when such "remakes" are somewhat frowned upon, Stryper have managed to take their already-vintage sound and move it to a heavier level. Fans of the band's first three albums will be blown away with the freshness from new versions of songs, including "Loud N' Clear," "Soldiers Under Command" and "Calling On You."
In addition to the new Stryper album, Sweet's solo album and autobiography will be released this year. And, as if that weren't enough, Stryper will enter the studio in April to record an album of new material that will coincide with a summer tour.
I spoke with Sweet and got the scoop on all of these projects. He also lets us in on yet another "scary" surprise he has planned for the end of the year. Stryper is Michael Sweet (guitars, vocal), Oz Fox (guitars), Timothy Gaines (bass) and Robert Sweet (drums).
GUITAR WORLD: What was the genesis of Second Coming?
Initially, we intended to make this record for our publishing company. Usually, people tend to roll their eyes at the thought of doing re-records because you’re already used to the original and sometimes think, "What's the point?" Typically, it’s hard to recapture the same "magic" you had on the originals. But what's cool about these songs and this record is that not only were we able to capture all the magic from the original songs, but in some ways surpass and add some new magic to them as well. When people hear this album as a whole, they're going to be blown out of the water.
How did you decide which songs to include?
There were a couple of different factors. First, we didn't want to try to tackle all of the records at once, so we just focused on the first three. Once we decided we were going to release it for the fans, that’s when we started honing in on which songs to use. We decided on two from Yellow and Black Attack, since it was only an EP, and six from the other two [Soldiers Under Command and To Hell With The Devil). Adding the two new songs — "Blackened" and "Bleeding From The Inside Out" — allowed us to keep it right at the one-disc mark. I'm pleased with the new songs. They hold their own with the rest of the songs on the album.
You also handle some of the solo guitar duties on this album.
I do. I've been trying to “reestablish” myself as a guitar player. For some reason, people don't know I play to the level I play at. In Stryper, I'm one of the lead guitar players. It's split right down the middle. Oz [Fox] is an amazing player and deserves a lot of credit, but for the two new tracks on Second Coming and on my solo record, I'm playing the solos. It was my opportunity to shine as a guitar player and remind people that I play. I actually started playing guitar long before I started singing and write everything on guitar. It's one of my favorite parts of the process in the studio.
What's your process for songwriting?
The way it works for me is that I always start off with a riff or a melody. Sometimes I’ll be out at a supermarket and a melodic idea will come into my head, so what I'll do is take out my phone and record the idea into it. Once I get home, I’ll write chords and sometimes a drum groove that I had in mind to go along with that melody. The lyrics usually come later.
What can fans can expect from your book?
I'm not going to be throwing anyone under the bus or anything like that. But I am telling stories where I was involved and where other people were involved as well. Fun stories, crazy and sad stories. I think people are going to read this book and have a whole different perspective — in a positive way — on Michael Sweet and all things Stryper.
There's a lot of stuff in the book that's going to be very revealing and may surprise some people, in a shocking way. People tend to think they're going to get just one thing from Michael Sweet, but then they'll read about how I was arrested twice, and when they discover the reason why they'll be like, "WHAT?" [laughs]. The book is called Honestly; not only because that song was our biggest hit, but also because it's my life story; brutally honest with nothing embellished.
What's the status of your solo album?
The solo record has been completed for some time. I'm just waiting to have the book finished so they can be released simultaneously, but they're both coming out this year. So we've got the Stryper Second Coming album out March 26, the solo album and book and then, in November or December, we're going to go back in and do another record. This one's going be a live/behind-the-scenes record and DVD.
There have been rumors that you'll be joining George Lynch and Jeff Pilson as part of T&N for a tour. What can you tell us about that?
I saw George recently at the House of Blues in Anaheim. He and I are going to be talking, confirming all the dates. The thing is, I've been very busy, he's busy and then Jeff is in Foreigner. It makes it hard to schedule, but it is going to happen. It's just a matter of when. What’s cool about Dokken and George's playing is that the songs are a great combination of riffs and in your face hard rock, but with melody.
As if all that weren't enough, you're also celebrating a big birthday this year as well.
Yes, I'll be turning 50 in a few months. For us to still be able to do what we're doing and at the level we're doing it at, we're so blessed.
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.