Niclas Müller-Hansen of Sweden’s Metalshrine recently conducted an interview with guitarist/vocalist Michael Sweet of Christian hard rockers STRYPER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metalshrine: Do you have any idea how many bibles you’ve thrown out to the crowds over the years?
Michael: Definitely thousands! Back in the day when we were playing arenas, 10-12.000 people, we would throw out 200 bibles at a time. Now we don’t. We throw out maybe 30-40 at each show, but you add up all the shows and average that out, it’s definitely thousands of bibles. We used to throw those out in the early days and they’d be left all over the floor and then we had stickers made up, STRYPER stickers and we started putting those on the bibles and once we did that, we’ve never seen a bible left from that point forward!
Metalshrine: Wow! You must’ve had an entire truck full of bibles on the road then?
Michael: The way it worked is that we had a portion of the truck. We had three semis, one for light, one for sound and one for backline and the bibles were on the backline semi and we had a lot of bibles and when we would run low, we reordered them. We didn’t take enough out to do the whole tour. We kind of ordered them as we went.
Metalshrine: I just saw a short interview with you on YouTube from something called the “700 Club” and it was in 1986 and in it you said that initially… and it was bout you getting criticism from the Christian community and you said that starting the band “was a calling from God.” Was it like that? It’s hard for me because I’m not religious in any way.
Michael: I really think so. We believe it was a calling from God. The reason why we believe that is because the people that were put in our lives, that miraculously so gave their lives to God. One of the guys was probably the person you would least expect to give his heart to God and we saw this renewal in him and this glow in his eyes, this sparkle in his eyes, and we saw the change God made in his life and we wanted that. We wanted that change for us, so we really feel it was a calling. You know, we wouldn’t go back and change a thing. Everything was perfectly put into place and connected the dots and once we committed to that… I’ll tell you this right now and this is the truth — you can take this for what it’s worth — we looked for a record deal for years and we did demos for years to no avail. Beating our heads against the wall and nothing happened. When we committed our band to God and decided to make a bold stand for God, we got a recording contract instantly and everything exploded, OK? We started to sell out clubs, the press wanted to talk to us and that’s not why we did it, but it is interesting that when we did it that that happened. It just solidified to us, that that’s what we were supposed to do. That’s what we were called to do.
Metalshrine: Comparing the U.S. to Sweden, we’re not a very religious country and the U.S. is, but is there a difference touring in different states in the U.S.? Do you still get criticism in places these days?
Michael: We get some criticism. Back in the day we got a lot more, but I guess people are much more open-minded now. I remember back in the day, many times we would go to perform a show and we would be ridiculed, totally! We performed in Holland and we got booed off the stage for the first three songs and they were chanting and this crowd wanted to kill us, you know. But once we played, after three or four songs, we won the crowd over and I think what it is, is once people see STRYPER, they realize that “these guys are just a rock band and they’re not too bad at it.” We’re not about religion. We don’t endorse religion. We just endorse God and we endorse the word of God. We don’t endorse religion. Religion, unfortunately, separates people and confuses people, you know. We’re not a religious band.
Metalshrine: During all this time… I saw a clip recently from a show in the U.S. and you were talking to the crowd. Have you ever thought of getting into preaching and did you ever think of becoming a priest or be more involved in church and so on? Was that ever a thought for you?
Michael: In my own way, yes. The calling in my life hasn’t been to become a priest, but I do consider us as ministers in some way, because we go out and we minister people. We do it in a different way. I am involved in church and I actually lead music for three years at my church and I’ve always been involved in church and I love going to church. There are many times when I can’t go and sometimes I go for a couple of months without going to church. When we’re traveling, we try to have church on the bus or get together and read from the bible and pray together and try to encourage each other. We’re a little different animal because we were brought up in the world, not the church and we’re not your typical Christian band. It’s a little different for us and I think it makes it a little easier sometimes for people who are Christian to relate to us. I was giving an interview earlier and we have a lot of fans out there that you would not expect to be STRYPER fans. We performed at Nokia live recently in L.A. and backstage was Twiggy, who’s with MARILYN MANSON and he’s a STRYPER fan. He showed us a photo of him dressed up a STRYPER member when he was in high school. And then John 5, who plays with ROB ZOMBIE, he’s still got his STRYPER bible and followed the band back in the day. There’s a lot of people out there that are fans of STRYPER, but they might not admit it.
You can read the entire interview at Metalshrine.
Quality multi-camera video footage of STRYPER‘s June 23, 2011 performance in Zoetermeer, the Netherlands can be viewed below.
Photo credit: Glen LaFerman