The Whisky a Go Go is a legendary Sunset Boulevard club with a deep-rooted musical history.
Everyone from Led Zeppelin to Van Halen has performed on its tiny stage. It also has served as the launching pad for bands like the Doors and Guns N’ Roses, to name just a few. In fact, one can argue that the Los Angeles rock scene began when the Whisky opened its doors in 1964.
The guys in Christian hard rock band Stryper also cut their teeth at the Whisky. The small, intimate setting was the starting point for the band’s musical journey, back when they were called Roxx Regime. So it’s no surprise Stryper’s new live CD/DVD package, Live at the Whisky pays homage to those early days.
Recorded at a sold-out November 2013 show, the 16-track collection documents the band’s first show in support of their latest album, 2013's No More Hell To Pay.Live at the Whisky features live performances of the some of the band’s classic hits, including “Calling On You,” “Free,” “Always There for You,” “Soldiers Under Command” and “To Hell with the Devil."
Included with the live album and DVD are music videos for “No More Hell to Pay” and “Sympathy,” plus an interview segment the band — Michael Sweet (vocals/guitar), Oz Fox (guitar), Tim Gaines (bass) and Robert Sweet (drums) — recorded for Nashville All Access.
I recently spoke to Sweet about Live at the Whisky as well as Sweet & Lynch, Sweet's new side project with George Lynch, James Lomenzo and Brian Tichy.
GUITAR WORLD: Tell me a little about the band’s history at the Whisky.
We go way back with the Whisky. I’ll never forget the first time I played there when I was 16. I was with my brother, Robert, in the band Roxx Regime and we played there with Kevin Dubrow’s Quiet Riot, which was what it was called at the time. We had this small dressing room and I remember Kevin kicking the door open and screaming at us because we were using too much hairspray [laughs].
What do you like most about that venue?
Playing at the Whisky is such a unique experience. There’s a certain vibe there that’s hard to explain. You can actually feel the history when you walk through the doors. It’s a tiny kitty-corner stage with not much room to move around. You’re right in the corner bumping elbows all night long, but that’s part of the cool factor of performing there.
Were there any special concerns about recording the live album?
For as much as you try to beat down those nerves and stress, it’s still there. You always feel that little extra sense of urgency to deliver. But at the same time, it’s a little more fun because the crowd is also participating on a whole new level. It kicks things up a bit.
Some people might have questioned your guitar playing ability as it pertains to Stryper, but this package leaves no doubt that you know what you're doing.
I’m definitely a guitar player first. I actually started playing guitar before I even started singing. From the very beginning, we’ve always been a tag-team, dual-guitar band.
What would say is the secret to the band’s longevity?
I like to think it’s letting our faith do the talking and being the example. Sort of practicing what we preach and being able to work things out. It’s been a big help in getting us through these last 30 years.
What’s next for Stryper?
I’m getting into writing mode because we’re going to start work on a new all-original Stryper album in January. It will be the followup to our last album, No More Hell to Pay.
How did your side project, Sweet & Lynch, come together?
Frontiers Records sent me an email saying they were interested in doing “supergroup” albums and wanted me to be on one of the first. I had already done some previous dates with George. He’s a great guy and I think the world of him as a player. So I reached out to him and he immediately said yes. Then I reached out to James Lomenzo and Brian Tichy, because I knew they would make a great rhythm section. Everything just fell into place so easily.
How would you describe the sound of the Sweet & Lynch album?
I hear flavors of the Seventies. There are elements of Bad Company, Journey and Van Halen, and I certainly hear some Dokken there in spots. It’s kind of like George, Brian, James and I all got in a time capsule, went back to the late Seventies and made an album. It’s got a “take you back to that period” kind of sound to it, but with today’s modern production. The song styles, melody and vibe is more old school but in a really cool way. We all dug deep within ourselves to pull out the best of all of us. I can’t wait for people to hear it.
Can you tell me a few memorable moments from your career with Stryper?
The moment I always go back to is the whole To Hell with the Devil era. When we made that album, the videos and toured, it was so magical, fresh and unique. It was such a special time in our lives and I’ll never forget it. I’m really a thankful guy. I always try to give thanks to God and appreciate the fact that we’re still alive and breathing and are able to still perform and make music and do what we love to do after thirty years.
For more about Stryper, visit stryper.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.