When multi-platinum, Christian rockers Stryper donned their iconic yellow and black costumes and kicked off their 30th Anniversary To Hell with the Devil Tour in September, they were greeted by legions of fans longing for one more taste of the band’s biggest album.
For most, this was the first time they’ve seen the band’s original line-up in full gear performing deep cuts like “Holding On” and “All of Me” in nearly three decades. A once in a lifetime opportunity to be sure.
For metal fans who may not be familiar, Stryper’s “To Hell With The Devil” album is a masterpiece of 80’s metal. The Grammy-nominated, third studio release was also the first to achieve platinum status as well as giving the band — which consists of Michael Sweet (lead vocals/guitars), Robert Sweet (drums), Oz Foxx (guitars) and Tim Gaines (bass), crossover appeal to mainstream metal with songs like the title track, “Honestly,” “Calling On You” and “Free”.
For this tour, Stryper will be performing To Hell With The Devil in its entirely from start to finish, followed by another set of the band’s biggest and most well known hits.
I recently spoke with Michael Sweet about the To Hell With The Devil: 30th Anniversary Tour, his upcoming projects and some memorable moments of his career.
When you look back on the To Hell With The Devil album now with thirty years of perspective, what thoughts come to mind?
It was a special time and definitely the highlight and heyday of the band. I’ve always said that it was the album that took us from performing in theaters to arenas, and the song, “Honestly” literally took us from gold to platinum status. It was our biggest, most celebrated and popular album to this day, and just the fact that we’re doing it now with the original line-up thirty years later is mind boggling and I love it!
How has reaction been to the new tour?
It’s been fantastic. We start with a little video documentary of the band and its history. Then we come out and do To Hell With The Devil in its entirety. Then we take a five-minute break and come back out and do another full set after that. It’s almost a two-hour show.
What’s it been like revisiting some of these songs?
It’s been great. There are actually a few songs, like “Holding On,” “All of Me,” and “Rockin’ The World” that we haven’t played since the 80s. Playing them now every night is a reminder of just how cool those songs are and how much we missed playing them. The crowd loves them and the response has been phenomenal.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from To Hell With The Devil, starting with Honestly. Can you tell me how that song came about?
I had a Roland keyboard sitting in my garage that always inspired me to write piano ballads. I remember sitting down at it one day and playing some chords. It actually came together fairly quickly and wound up becoming the song that charted the highest of any we’ve ever released.
At the time, did you know it was going to be special?
I had a feeling about that song and the whole album actually. When we started tracking and listening back to the mixes I had a gut feeling it was going to be big and a turning point for the band.
How about the track, To Hell With The Devil?
Rob wanted to give the album that title, so I wrote the music and Rob and I wrote the words together. It’s an iconic title that a lot of people remember us for and a catch phrase people love to say. It’s a powerful statement because we believe that’s where he [The Devil] is going. The original album cover was very controversial because there was a pentagram being pulled from Satan’s neck and it upset a lot of the Christian bookstores that were carrying it. We wound up changing the artwork.
Calling on You.
That song is a good merge of pop sense and metal. It’s got this edge along with a great melody and harmonies. It was the first video we made for the album and the first that went to #1 on Dial MTV. It’s been a staple in our set since the 80s.
Your most recent solo album, One Sided War also received a lot of critical acclaim. Do you have plans to tour to support it next year?
Absolutely. I’m going to do some acoustic shows next year as well as ones and a full band. I’ll also be starting a new Sweet & Lynch album in February and I can’t wait to do it.
Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?
Right now, I’m working on some songs for Joel Hoekstra / Michael Sweet super group project. I’m also thinking about another new solo album already.
You’re one of few artists from the era who continues to write, record and create new music. What’s your reasoning behind it?
You know what it is? I’m still just as excited about it now as I was when I was sixteen. And it’s not just about the touring and performance as much as it is the writing and recording. Creating. I’m passionate about it.
Of all of the highlights of your career as an artist, are there any that stand out to you as most memorable?
As an artist, the one that pops in my mind instantly is the first performance I had with Boston [Note: Sweet performed as singer and guitarist for Boston from 2008-2011]. I remember it was a very sad night because we had been celebrating Brad Delp’s life and I was really nervous because I was stepping up to the plate and singing songs for Brad. I wasn’t sure how the fans would accept it, but I just remember singing the first song and hearing the crowd roar. It was a special, emotional moment for me. Of course with Stryper, there are so many. Just the days of performing in some of these venues, traveling and seeing the world together as a band. There are so many special moments.