It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since Christian rock giants Stryper released To Hell with the Devil. The monster album, which features the dual-guitar attack of Michael Sweet and Oz Fox, spawned several classic tunes, including “Calling on You,” “Free,” “Honestly” and, of course, the title track.
These days, you’ll still find Stryper doing what they do best—delivering their uniquely infectious music and message to a fan base that’s hungry for both. Stryper’s latest release, Fallen, continues that trend and is considered by many to be their heaviest album to date.
Stryper is Michael Sweet (lead vocals/guitars), Oz Fox (guitars/vocals), Timothy Gaines (bass/vocals) and Robert Sweet (drums).
I recently caught up with Sweet and Fox before Stryper’s sold-out show at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood to discuss the 30th anniversary of To Hell with the Devil, new music, gear and more.
Stryper are about to play another sold-out show at the Whisky A Go Go. You guys have played there quite a bit over the years and even recorded a live album here. What do you like most about the venue?
MICHAEL SWEET: The Whisky is a legendary place. I remember the first time I played there; it was with Kevin Dubrow and Dubrow (they weren’t called Quiet Riot at the time). We’ve all been playing there on and off over the years with Stryper and with our solo projects. There’s a lot of history there and something special about it. It’s really small and there’s no place to put your gear. It’s a bit of a zoo—but it’s still the Whisky!
You’ve called Stryper’s new album, Fallen, as the band’s heaviest album to date. How have the new songs blended in with the classic Stryper hits?
SWEET: Perfectly. Our albums are all a little different, but when we play those new songs live, they all blend well together. It’s the same energy and there’s no trickery with the live production. We open with “Yahweh” and have also added “Fallen” and “King of Kings” to the set.
OZ FOX: “Yahweh” is such an epic song.
SWEET: It’s a larger-than-life song that’s got everything. It’s got a little bit of an [Iron] Maiden, [Judas] Priest and Metallica vibe and is also Stryper-ized. It’s a really cool tune.
Let’s talk a little about the 30th anniversary of To Hell with the Devil. What goes through your mind when you look back on that album with so much perspective?
FOX: I still can’t believe 30 years have passed. It’s a memory that just keeps going. I was actually just looking at the picture of us from Japan in the suits on our way over here today and was blown away.
You can read the rest of my
Interview with Michael Sweet and Oz Fox by Clicking Here.
Although some may wonder why author Annie Lobert decided to name her new book, “Fallen”, the title of her first book has a dual meaning. Not only is Lobert’s journey of falling down and rising up a story of redemption, but the book’s title also comes from the name Lobert used in her job as a former prostitute and sex trafficking victim (although Lobert’s working names was pronounced “fallon”).
Growing up with aspirations of becoming an artist Lobert’s personal testimony of sex, drugs and violence is at times tragic, often reaching the lowest of lows. But in the end Lobert discovers that the love she longed for was with her all the time. And her new found peace has given her the strength to help others overcome their own personal demons.
Today, in addition to being the wife of Stryper guitarist Oz Fox, Lobert runs “Hookers For Jesus”, a Christian faith-based non-profit that addresses the issues of prostitution, sex trafficking and sexual violence.
I had the pleasure of speaking with this inspirational woman about her book, journey and mission.
How does someone who grew up wanting to become an artist, musician and dancer get involved in sex trafficking?
Those were all my aspirations and the things I wanted to do when I was growing up, but I had also come from a very hard childhood. My father was an alcoholic and was very demanding and ruled with an iron fist. We were raised in a strict military family and my father never let go of that mindset while we were growing up. He never gave me the attention I longed for and as a result I became very needy and insecure.
When I reached high school I started noticing that boys were looking at me – and I liked the attention. I thought that if I could get attention from men then I would be happy. So I sowed my oats, went out into the world and did a lot of underage drinking.
How did you first become involved in the sex industry?
After high school I had the idea of going to college and becoming a smart corporate businesswoman while learning about music on the side. Instead, I ended up going to the nightclubs on Tuesdays and Thursdays with my friend and met these guys who eventually became our sex traffickers. Hustling men out of money was something I thought I was made for. I was making $500-$1000 an hour and thought I’d be set for life. I eventually began working for escort services and at strip clubs. It turned into a culture and a lifestyle.
When did your life really begin to change in the industry?
I met a man at a club I was working in one night who I thought was my knight in shining armor. He was a drug dealer who took me to Las Vegas and one night when I came home from “work” proceeded to tell me to give him all of my money and then beat the crap out me. From that moment on he told me he was my pimp and I was his working girl and that I had to do whatever he asked me to do. Then he told me how sorry he was to have to do what he did and that he loved me and how he only did it to teach me a lesson. The craziest part of the whole thing was that even though I was shocked at getting beaten, I was still in love with him. I just fell into it and that’s how I became a sex trafficking victim.
Did anyone at any point ever offer you any help?
I met a lot of men who actually wanted to help me. One of them would always say, “Annie, you are destroying yourself!” He helped get me out of the industry and off drugs. We had a great partnership and even started a business together in Las Vegas. But our business eventually failed and I decided to go back to the only thing I knew would keep me going. Every day became a ritual. It was always get up, get high and go turn a trick. I knew better but felt comfortable about doing it because I was in so much pain mentally, physically and emotionally. I knew that no one just wakes up one morning and says, “Hey! I’m going to be a pimp or a prostitute!” But the truth was, I had been in the industry for 16 years an was now in my thirties and had thrown away all of the respect I had for my body and for myself. The pimps in my life had taken everything from me and broke me down. I thought it was over.
At what point did you hit rock bottom?
It took years for it to happen. I had never taken heavy drugs before but the first time I tried cocaine I became completely addicted. One night I was doing a lot it and wound up overdosing. It felt like a knife had gone through my chest and was stabbing me over and over. That’s when I had a heart attack and near death experience. I could actually see my coffin and watched my body float away into a dark place. And that’s when something in me cried out. I had gone to church when I was a young girl so I already knew who Jesus was and for a moment I was no longer that person in the wilderness crying out for help because there was a wolf. I just said, “Jesus, help me! I’m going to die!”
What happened next?
I wound up being taken to the hospital and remember as I was lying there being treated the doctor came up to me and told me that it was a miracle I wasn’t dead. He said, “God must have been with you.” It really clicked in my head that God had heard my prayer — and that’s where my journey started. From that day I pretty much stopped everything and started getting my life back together. I had woken up to the fact that I had been forgiven and it was a great epiphany to know that I was still loved.
What inspired you to start Hookers For Jesus?
After everything I had done there was one person who still welcomed and accepted me — and his name is Jesus. I was so thankful that I was taken out of such a dark place that I wanted to give that same wonderful life change to another human being that was in the same place I was in. That’s what started Hookers For Jesus and basically it’s this: “We fish for people who are drowning.” Matthew 4:19.
What made you decide to write this book?
I’ve wanted to write a book for years about my story. What started out as one sheet of paper soon turned into a rough draft. By the time I had most of it written I had gone through five editors and also gotten the help from a ghostwriter named AJ Gregory. It’s been quite a journey.
What would you like people to take away from reading “Fallen”?
I want to let people know that no matter how far they’ve fallen their life actually means something and they can always get back on track. The truth is you don’t have to have been a prostitute or a victim of sex trafficking to understand what I’ve been through. When you fall, there are people out there who can pick you up as well as a higher power and greater source. All you have to do is reach out to them. The best way to receive help is to first realize that we can’t do everything on our own.
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.
You can read the rest of my
Interview with Michael Sweet by Clicking Here!
In his new autobiography, Honestly: My Life And Stryper Revealed, guitarist Michael Sweet bares his soul. Within its pages, the Stryper frontman details everything from his humble upbringing and troubles with the law to the rise, fall and rebirth of Stryper.
From the creation of the signature Stryper guitar sound to his stint touring with Boston and the tragic loss of his beloved wife Kyle, Sweet spares no expense when looking back on his life as husband, father, bandmate and Christian.
Honestly is more than just a biography or reflection of old road stories. It’s a spiritual journey and heartfelt look into the mind of one of the most recognizable voices in rock and a true guitar great.
Sweet also is about to release a new solo album, I’m Not Your Suicide, which gives him the opportunity to showcase a different side of his musical persona. The impressive disc combines hard rock and metal messages (“Taking On The World Tonight,” “I’m Not Your Suicide”), elements of classic rock (a cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”) and country (“Coming Home”).
I recently spoke to Sweet about his autobiography and album, both of which will be released May 6, and his other upcoming projects.
GUITAR WORLD: What made you decide to write a book at this stage of your life?
I had a lot to say and also felt the need to do it in terms of it being therapeutic and healing for me. People have also had lots of question marks over the years and wanted to know things. I thought the best thing to do would be to deal with all of it in a book and tell everyone the story.
Check out the rest of my Guitar World Interview
With Michael Sweet by Clicking Here!
Michael Sweet, frontman for the multi-platinum rock band Stryper, will release a new full-length solo album, I’m Not Your Suicide, and his first autobiography, Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed, on May 6, 2014, via BIG3 Records.
Sweet is best known as the singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer for Christian rock pioneers Stryper, selling over 10 million albums worldwide. In addition to Stryper, Sweet has had a successful solo career, and he served as the guitarist and co-vocalist for the legendary classic rock band BOSTON from 2007-2011.
The future remains bright for a man who has endured heartbreaking tribulations throughout his life and career, including the 2009 passing of his wife of more than 22 years, Kyle. In 2010, Sweet remarried to Lisa Champagne-Sweet, a woman he describes as “a Godsend and the one who fits perfectly by my side.”
Sweet continues to record and tour with Stryper, as well as touring and recording as a solo artist, all the while making frequent trips to Nashville where he is writing with some of the biggest music writers in the business.
“After 30 years in this business, I feel honored and blessed to be able to continue doing what it is I love, making music,” said Sweet. “I’m extremely thankful to have the greatest fans in the world. God has blessed me with this talent and I plan to continue on this path as long as I can draw breath.”
Fans can get a sneak peak at the album courtesy of the all-new lyric video for the song, “The Cause” below:
Sweet’s autobiography, Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed, chronicles an amazing 30-year career and includes endorsements from Eddie Trunk, Dave Mustaine, Larry the Cable Guy, Jeordie White and Chris Jericho. Among the topics covered are:
- How Michael Sweet formed the first Christian rock band to hit #1 on MTV, paving the way for an entire genre of music.
- First-hand stories of the Sunset Strip, with never-before-told stories that include friends and musical peers such as Poison, Motley Crue, RATT, Whitesnake, Metallica and more.
- How Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker played a role in Michael’s life.
- The temptations and ultimate low-points of a notable Christian rock star.
- Never-before-revealed stories of life behind the scenes in Stryper.
- Why so many people have declared Michael Sweet a significant influence on their lives; from Larry the Cable Guy to professional wrestler Chris Jericho to Haitian musician and politician Wyclef Jean and more.
- Losing his wife to cancer and re-marrying shortly thereafter.
- An honest look at Sweet’s often tumultuous family relationships.
- The unlikely relationship between Sweet and national radio personality Don Imus.
- What led to the decline and fall of Stryper in 1992, and subsequent reunion and re-birth in 2001.
The new Michael Sweet website has also launched with a free preview of Chapter One of the upcoming book.
With the upcoming and long-overdue solo album, Sweet is finally delivering the project fans have been patiently waiting for. Self-produced, I’m Not Your Suicide includes special appearances by Tony Harnell (TNT), Kevin Max (dcTalk, Audio Adrenaline), Chris Jericho, Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake), Electra Mustaine (daughter of Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine) and Stryper bandmates Robert Sweet and Timothy Gaines. Legendary drummer Kenny Aronoff played on the record as well. Track Listing for I’m Not Your Suicide:
- Taking on the World Tonight (featuring Tony Harnell)
- All That’s Left (For Me To Prove)
- The Cause
- This Time (featuring Kevin Max)
- I’m Not Your Suicide (co-written with Blair Daly)
- Coming Home
- Miles Away
- How to Live (featuring Robert Sweet and Timothy Gaines of Stryper)
- Heart of Gold
- Anybody Else (featuring Chris Jericho and Doug Aldrich)
- Heart of Gold (featuring Electra Mustaine) **Bonus Track
You can read my most recent Guitar World Interview with Sweet by Clicking Here!
For more information on Michael Sweet visit www.MichaelSweet.com.
Stryper guitarist and vocalist Michael Sweet can hardly contain his enthusiasm when discussing the band’s upcoming album, No More Hell to Pay — and rightly so.
Not only has Sweet’s songwriting and guitar prowess matured over the years, but Stryper has truly never sounded better.
Whether it’s the opening lines of “Revelation,” the tasty guitar work in “Saved By Love” or the apropos cover of Arthur Reid Reynolds’ “Jesus Is Just Alright,” No More Hell to Pay rivals the band’s 1986 monster, To Hell With The Devil, and might actually be the band’s best album to date.
I recently spoke with Sweet about No More Hell To Pay and got updates on T&N, his autobiography and another new project he’s working on. Incidentally, No More Hell To Pay will be released November 5 in North America.
Read my complete Guitar World interview with Michael Sweet by Clicking Here!
Michael Sweet may just be the busiest guy on the planet. For 2013, the Stryper front man has plans for no less than three albums, two tours and an auto-biography. The revival officially begins on March 26th when the band releases the appropriately titled “Second Coming”; a sixteen-song collection of classic Stryper re-records as well as two brand new tracks.
In an era when such “re-makes” are generally frowned upon, Stryper has managed to take their already vintage sound and moved it to a much heavier level. Fans of the band’s first three albums will be blown away with the freshness from “new” versions of songs like “Loud N’ Clear”, “Soldiers Under Command” and “Calling On You”. ‘Second Coming’ also features two brand new Stryper tracks that balance out an already amazing effort and puts the spotlight squarely on Sweet’s own phenomenal guitar prowess.
In addition to the new album, Sweet’s own solo album and auto-biography are planned for release this year. And, if that isn’t enough, Stryper will enter the studio in April to record an album of all new material that will coincide with a summer tour.
Stryper is: Michael Sweet (Guitars/Vocals), Oz Fox (Guitars), Timothy Gaines (Bass) and Robert Sweet (Drums).
I spoke with Sweet and got the scoop on all of these projects. In addition, he also lets us in on yet another “scary” surprise that he has planned for the end of the year.
What was the genesis for 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” that you had on the originals. But what’s cool about these songs and this record is that not only we were able to capture all of 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 whole, they’re going to be blown out of the water.
Check out the rest of my Guitar World interview with Michael Sweet by clicking here.
Dave Rose runs Deep South Entertainment, a successful business and artist management company that’s been around since 1995.
Over the years, he’s worked with some big names, including Michael Sweet, Bruce Hornsby, Marcy Playground and Allison Moorer, to name just a few.
Rose’s own musical journey began as others often do: with a guitar and a dream. But shortly after he began regularly performing in bands, he discovered his true calling relied less on the art of making music and more on the act of helping others learn from the experiences he’s had. Thankfully, he’s shared that knowledge in an amazing new book.
Everything I Know About The Music Business I Learned From My Cousin Rick: The Musician’s Practical Guide To Success is a mouthful of a title, but it’s also one of the best books a musician can read on how to really become successful in their craft and enjoy the moments along the way.
Based upon the epiphany he had when his cousin (Rick) played him the first Boston album, Rose’s book is part “biography” and part “how-to.” It’s also a valuable resource for musicians of all levels.
If it’s something a band is going through now — or has done in the past, Rose has been through it. From writing songs and booking gigs to recording albums and creating a fan base, Rose shows you how to achieve real success in music. Success that’s not measured by the number of albums sold or the money earned from gigs, but rather from the goal that anyone who’s ever picked up an instrument should have in the first place: the desire to make great music.
Novice musicians will find plenty of informative information on things to avoid when building up their band; while those with more experience may find themselves looking into a mirror at times as they turn the pages. In either case, Dave’s book is a fast, fun read.
I had the chance to speak with Dave about his new book and some of the lessons he’s learned along the way. – Read the complete article here.