Michael Sweet Discusses New Sweet & Lynch Album, Gives Stryper Update

Michael Sweet & George Lynch

Unified is the sophomore release from Sweet & Lynch, the collaborative partnership centered around the talents of Michael Sweet (Stryper) and George Lynch (Lynch Mob).

The powerful combination of Sweet’s high-octane vocals and Lynch’s instantly recognizable guitar work, along with the propulsive rhythm section of James Lomenzo (bass) and Brian Tichy (drums), gives Sweet and Lynch a unique musical palette. The result is an album of traditional heavy metal grooves, hook-laden melodies, tasty guitar wizardry and positive messages.

I recently spoke to Michael Sweet about Unified and working with George Lynch. He also gave me an update on the new Stryper album and their new bassist, Perry Richardson.

Before we begin, I’d like to get your thoughts on the recent passing of AC/DC guitarist, Malcolm Young. How much of an influence did he have on you?

Like any other teenager and aspiring musician at the time, AC/DC was the pinnacle. Not so much from the sense of me trying to sound like Malcolm or Angus, but I played those songs in cover bands and to this day we still break into AC/DC songs at sound check.

There’s just something amazing about their power and simplicity, and Malcom was the driving force behind it. He was such an incredibly tight and responsive guitar player. He didn’t make a lot of noise in terms of his persona or stage presence, but if you closed your eyes and listened you would hear Malcolm above all.

Let’s discuss the new Sweet & Lynch album, Unified. How does it compare to your first release, Only To Rise?

For this album, George and I branched out a little and tried a few different things. It’s got some songs on it that are stretched a bit more in terms of creativity, particularly with songs like “Walk” and “Afterlife”. There’s nothing like that on the first album. The first album was comprised more of three and a half to four-minute songs geared toward hard rock/metal heads and radio. For this one, we had less of that in mind and made the album we wanted to make.

Was the writing process similar to Only To Rise, where George would send you musical ideas to work from?

Yes. Once we got down to it, George would send me ideas that were music only. The first time around they were less complete, but this time it was a complete song from start to finish. George is a guy who writes with a melody in mind, so it makes it easy for me to find them. George wrote all the music on this one and I wrote all the lyrics and melodies. It was a compete co-write.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from Unified, beginning with the title track.

That song is based on our world today and what we watch on the news. Whatever side you’re on. And that’s the sad part when I say that we have “sides”, especially in America where we’ve become so divided. It makes no sense to me, so I wrote a song about it. Keeping in mind the hope that it might bring people a little closer together. That’s the whole point of “Unified.”

Read the rest of my
Interview with Michael Sweet by clicking here.


Stryper Celebrates 30 Years of ‘To Hell With The Devil’ With Music, Memories in Stone Pony Performance

thwtdFirst, a little bit of perspective.

It was my senior year of high school in March of 1987 when rumors surfaced that Christian rockers, Stryper were coming to town. The band, which had already been generating a healthy buzz in both the Christian and secular/MTV worlds with the songs “Calling On You,” “Free,” “Honestly” and the title-track from their ‘To Hell With The Devil’ album, was out on tour supporting the release and would soon be rolling into The State Theatre in Easton, Pennsylvania.

My hometown.

Easton is a small town that borders the western end of New Jersey and lies somewhere in between the metropolitan cities of New York and Philadelphia. With a population of 26,000, the highlight of a night in Easton in 1987 consisted of listening to the freight trains rumble through the downtown or hanging out at the local McDonald’s on South Third Street.

Needless to say, when word got out that Stryper was coming to town it was a pretty big deal. And for a seventeen-year-old punk who had his own visions of rock stardom, it was also a dream come true. I had already worn out my cassette copy of THWTD learning it at guitar lesson, and now I had the chance of seeing the band perform it at a place within walking distance from my home. I immediately scrounged up every last dollar of lawn mowing money and the loose change from the sofa cushions and camped out in front of the venue. My reward? A single, front-row ticket to the show!

Stryper - Easton, PA 1987
Stryper – Easton, PA 1987

I remember the band’s performance that night was amazing. Stryper– Michael Sweet, Robert Sweet, Oz Fox and Tim Gaines—wore their classic yellow and black uniforms, threw bibles into the audience and sang songs about positivity with soaring vocals and an infectious dual guitar attack. That show and tour remain one of the biggest highlights of my teenage years.

Fast-forward thirty years. I am now a middle-aged man, but still a punk-kid at heart. Dreams of rock stardom have been replaced by coffee, deadlines and a word processor. I may be a little thick in the middle now and my hairline may have receded, but my love of guitar and all things metal is still overflowing. So much so that last night I drove two hours outside the safe confines of Easton to catch Stryper performing the 30th anniversary of ‘To Hell With The Devil’ at The Stone Pony in Asbury, NJ.

Photo courtesy: Dale Wilson
Stryper – Asbury, NJ 2016. Photo courtesy: Dale Wilson

Oh sure, I’ve heard the band perform many of the songs from ‘To Hell With The Devil’ over the years –including most recently last April at the famous Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles, but never in a celebration-style format of the entire album being performed in its entirety from front to back by those same original members, and I was not disappointed.

From the opening sounds of The Abyss (which kicks off ‘To Hell With Devil’) to the title-track, “Calling On You,” “Free” and “Honestly”, it was a time capsule of youth and music. Some of my other favorites from the album included “Holding On,” “More Than A Man” and the always emotional, “All of Me”.

As if seeing the band perform their biggest album in its entirely wasn’t enough, Stryper also went into an additional set of songs from their 33-year musical arsenal. Tracks like “Yahweh,” “God,” “Soldiers Under Command” and “Caught In the Middle” were fist pumping and magical, while the band’s infectious versions of Black Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” and KISS’ “Shout it Out Loud” were met with equally enthusiastic response.

The band ended their two-hour performance with the dual encore of “Reach Out” and “Makes Me Wanna Sing”, both from their ‘Soldiers Under Command’ album and capping off a celebration that included a little bit of everything.

In fact, about the only thing missing from Stryper’s Stone Pony set was their monster hit, “Always There For You” from their 1988 album, ‘In God We Trust’. But after experiencing the band many times over these last thirty years –both from small towns to the big cities–I can honestly say that it made no difference.

For me, Stryper will always be there.

Stryper Set List (Asbury Park, NJ)

Abyss (To Hell With The Devil)
To Hell With the Devil
Calling on You
The Way
Sing Along Song
Holding On
Rocking The World
All Of Me
More Than A Man
Battle Hymn of the Republic (pre-recorded)
In God We Trust
Heaven and Hell 
(Black Sabbath cover)
Shout It Out Loud 
(KISS cover)
Caught in the Middle
Soldiers Under Command

Reach Out
Makes Me Wanna Sing

Michael Sweet Discusses Stryper’s 30th Anniversary ‘To Hell With The Devil Tour’, Memorable Moments

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.

Michael Sweet
Michael Sweet

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.

Michael Sweet Talks New Solo Album and Stryper’s ‘To Hell with the Devil’ Tour

michaelsweet-oswMichael 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.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Michael Sweet by Clicking Here!

Stryper’s Michael Sweet and Oz Fox Talk 30th Anniversary of ‘To Hell with the Devil’

StryperBandIt’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
gw_logoInterview with Michael Sweet and Oz Fox by Clicking Here.

‘Fallen’: Author Annie Lobert Talks Powerful New Book, Testimony and Mission

FallenAlthough 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.

Photos By Denise TruscelloJune 28 2014AnnieWhat 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.



Stryper’s Michael Sweet Talks New CD/DVD Package, ‘Live at the Whisky’

StryperThe 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
gw_logoInterview with Michael Sweet by Clicking Here!