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Fireworks Magazine

Fireworks Magazine Online 83: Interview with Five Finger Death Punch

FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH

Interview by Dave Bott

Since they formed in 2005, Las Vegas based Five Finger Death Punch have progressed and developed to become one the major forces in the Metal/Rock community. They tour arena sized venues and have achieved gold or platinum status for every release since the 2007 debut, 'Way Of The Fist'. 2017 was something of a make or break year for the band, becoming involved in a lengthy legal battle with their label, Prospect Park, who alleged that Five Finger Death Punch had breached their contract by commencing work on a new album without the label's consent. On top of this, during a summer European festival tour, lead-singer Ivan Moody walked away from the band and the touring commitments were completed with Bad Wolves frontman Tommy Vext. With label disputes now resolved and Moody back in the ranks, FFDP have released what appears to be their strongest set of songs to date, 'And Justice For None'. With just over a week to go before the huge Rockville festival in Florida, guitarist and founder member Zoltan Bathory took some time away from rehearsals to have a candid chat with Fireworks about the new album and the personal demons that caused the temporary loss of their singer nearly twelve months ago.


Five-Finger-Interview-image

The issues with the record label are now history and FFDP can move forward with the promotion of the new record, even though much of the material is two years old.


Almost all of the new album was completed back in 2016. We had to do a little bit of arm wrestling with the record label and during that time in 2017 we had the time to live with the songs. We heard things that needed fixing, maybe vocals or guitar solos, and then we actually added two more songs, 'Fake' and 'Bloody'.

It doesn't feel strange talking about the songs, even though they were written so long ago. We don't write about mythology or science fiction and we don't write love songs. We try to comment on issues that are socially relevant. We want to write about things that we can relate to, such as the human condition. There was never a worry about songs written in 2016 being released two years later because they still occupy a certain place in time. When we wrote the songs the world was getting a little bit crazy and now we're releasing the album and the world is really fucking crazy. It's almost like time was on our side. The songs and even the album cover connect with what is going on in the world right now.

Ivan Moody's temporary departure from the band is a subject that Zoltan is not afraid to talk about. It was a challenging period for everyone concerned, but it has been the catalyst for a new found enthusiasm, especially when touring and playing live.

We are 100% stronger now. 2017 was a tornado for us and we were in the eye of the storm in so many ways. Obviously it is no secret that Ivan was going through some difficult things in his life and he had been struggling with alcoholism for a long time. Both he and the band had to make some choices. He's a grown man and should be responsible for his actions. We were there to help, but it was something he had to do for himself. He is very passionate about what he does and he lives for that ninety minutes when we are up on stage.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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It must have been difficult watching him self-destruct with what has been a problem that has been the ruin of many people in the Rock music business in the past.

We knew we couldn't carry on and something had to be done. We couldn't take the bottle away from Ivan but we could take the band away from him. It was really heart-breaking to see our brother in the state he was in. We had gone through so much shit together and so many good times as well. He had to go to rehab or we were going to watch him die. He did go to rehab and he did get sober and it has made such a difference. Some of the shows we did after his spell in rehab are some of the best we have ever done, simply because Ivan was sober. We can add a few more songs to the set because it isn't such a challenge to complete a show any more. We have been everywhere in the world but Ivan doesn't remember. When we went to Paris he saw the Eiffel Tower at last. It really is like going to places for the first time for him and we are all experiencing life through his eyes.

They have enlisted the production services of Kevin Churko once more and he has now almost become the sixth member of the band, bringing out the best of them musically and harnessing their natural aggression and emotion.

2016 and 2017 were such crazy times and I think that is reflected in the music and lyrics on the new album. There were so many highs and lows it was inevitable they would be channelled into the writing process for the songs. The challenge was making a coherent album with everything that was going on. It is quite a diverse set of songs and we have tried a few new things. It is important to keep things fresh without moving away from our signature sound.

2017 saw the release of a compilation album entitled 'A Decade Of Destruction'. It was a celebration of the band's first ten years as recording artists and included two new songs, 'Trouble' and a cover of The Offspring's 'Gone Away'. 'Gone Away' is included on the standard edition of the new album, whilst both are included on the deluxe edition. The band have come a long way during the first ten years and that is clear when comparing the debut record with the new one.

I wrote nearly all the music for the first album and our style at the time was primarily Metal. When Jason Hook (second guitarist) joined the band the musical direction changed slightly. It was still easily recognisable as FFDP, but it was more Rock orientated and I think that comes across when you listen to the second album, 'War Is The Answer'.

Alongside the Offspring cover there is also, surprisingly, a cover of Kenny Wayne Shepherd's 'Blue On Black' on the new album. Cover versions have successfully featured on many of the previous releases and received the FFDP treatment along the way. These have included The Animals 'House Of The Rising Sun' and Bad Company's 'Bad Company'.

We recorded 'Bad Company' for the 'War Is The Answer' album. We always include it in the live shows now and it is quite emotional when the crowd joins in with it. It was surprising to us that some people who heard it for the first time didn't even know that it wasn't one of our own songs.

Fireworks Magazine Online 83: Interview with Sevendust

SEVENDUST

Interview Mike Newdeck

Originally formed way back in 1994, Sevendust has remained something of a constant in the world of alternative Rock/Metal. Latest release 'All I See Is War' is, remarkably, the band's twelfth album and continues a career spanning twenty one years that first started with the Nu Metal tendencies of the self-titled debut – part produced by ex Twisted Sister guitarist Jay Jay French – through to the more modern sounding latter day 'Kill The Flaw'.
'All I See Is War' finds Michael 'Elvis' Baskette (Alter Bridge) at the production helm. As a result the album has all the old Sevendust dynamism and vitriol but this time around there's an added commerciality to proceedings (check out the piano lead 'Moments') that may just give the band a wider appeal. Fireworks caught up with guitarist Clint Lowery to chat about the new album and its conception.


Sevendust-Interview-image

Is 'All I See Is War' a concept album?


No, it has a common theme lyrically but nothing that ties each song together specifically or in a storyline format. We always try and have a consistency in our records, an overall flow that creates a journey when you listen. We were big fans of those type of records when we were growing up, so those influences come out in our presentations, and in our artwork as well.

What's the album's message?

The album's message is to keep your guard up. To be aware of your surroundings, the temperament of the people and its institutions. The record's lyrics are all based on our observations of the world. The conflict within it and the internal conflicts in our personal lives and our thoughts. Being able to express concerns and even anger about it. We are not angry men but the world can pull those emotions out of us.

What inspired its theme and content?


Generally the title and overall view of the record happens when it's done. We never start out with a clear theme, it reveals itself in the final product. There is a bit of a goal in the beginning. I ask myself questions like, "What do you want to say? How do you want to say it?" I think it's important to at least have an idea of certain things you want to express. The inspiration for the theme and content is the current state of the world and humanity.

Would you consider yourself as a band to be political?

Not at all. The only reason we don't engage that topic is based on the fact that we don't spend enough time analysing the facts and situations to be some sort of voice. We have people who follow us and see us as a mouthpiece in some ways, so we are careful not to speak foolishly or without being armed with facts. Too many people use their mouths before they use their heads; it's ignorant and blind. Sometimes admitting what you don't know is the smartest thing you can do.

What similarities and differences are there between this album and the albums of the past, musically or otherwise?

The overall tones and lyrics have a similar vibe. The sonics on this are a little bigger and badder due to Michael "Elvis" Baskette, our producer, who brought that in. The basics that are Sevendust are still there. Morgan's drumming and screaming, Lajon's soul, Vinnie bringing the low end, John and I doing what we do. There are certain things we cannot escape and honestly we don't fight what we are.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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How many songs did you write for the album and how difficult was it to whittle it down to a final twelve?

Between John and I, we wrote around sixty ideas. It was pretty difficult choosing the ones that made it. Elvis was a big part of that process as well, which was a Godsend really because if it were up to the band we would still be debating which songs made the record.

You have been a band for a very long time, so how difficult is it to try and keep the material fresh after eleven albums? Do you ever get writer's block?

We have a song called 'Not Original' that I wrote about writers block or about being stale in your life in general. It's a challenge, but it's also natural to want to grow and evolve. We embrace change. We have a mutual respect for each other that helps us last in this game. When you can preserve that, you can endure a lot. Creatively, we have always been on the same page overall. There's never a day where we totally disagree on the objective. But it is very challenging to keep things fresh. Having a few different writers within the band helps also.

How do you feel when you look back at what you've achieved over such a long time period?

With extreme pride, gratitude, and fulfilment, mixed in with some regrets and sadness. Any band who can last this long with their original line up has my respect. That in itself is an accomplishment.

To what do you attribute your success?

Consistency. Treating our fans with respect and mutual respect for each of the band members. The music has to have some quality. Fans can sniff out a dud, they can tell when you're phoning it in. Writing music is my number one priority. The Rock star lifestyle is bullshit, music is what matters in the end. Certain looks and trends come and go. Most of those bands have regret. I want to be able to play my catalogue for my kids with my head held high.

Did the songwriting follow the formula for this album or was it a slightly different approach?

It was our formula but with the addition of Elvis Baskette as producer. He had a big voice on this record. We have a basic formula; John and I write a library of riffs, the band maybe writes a few as a whole. As a band we pick the strongest of the ideas musically. Myself, John, and Morgan start writing vocals with Lajon coming in and out of those writing stations. It's not a traditional writing system but it works for us. Most people assume Lajon writes all the lyrics. I like to let people think that because at the end of the day, he is selling our ideas, emotionally and vocally. His strength is delivering, we create the creative package.

You're now on Rise Records. How did the move happen?

It was time to find a label and they, hands down, were the right fit. They bring a lot of energy to us, and a lot of fresh ideas. We're very excited to work with them and so far it's been a pleasure. Hopefully in five years it will still be that way.

You've mentioned a few times about bringing Michael 'Elvis' Baskette in to produce the album. What was the reason behind that after self-producing the previous album, 'Kill The Flaw'?

We brought Elvis in to have a referee of sorts, someone to push us and make us try new things. Elvis and Jeff (the engineer) have a very good flow and way of doing things. Thankfully that system worked really well with ours. We needed the outside creative force.

'All I See Is War' is out now on Rise records.

Fireworks Magazine Online 82: Interview with Royal Hunt

ROYAL HUNT

Interview by Duncan Jamieson

The Danish titans of bombastic Progressive Metal return with their fourteenth album 'Cast In Stone'. It's the classy mix of Symphonic Metal, Classic Rock, Power Metal and Melodic Rock that we've come to expect from this band and their lynchpin, keyboardist Andre Anderson is understandably excited about the new record as he chats to Fireworks.


Royal-Hunt

You had a three year gap this time since your last studio album 'Devil's Dozen'. Did that extra time help with how the new record turned out?

We toured and did live albums in between, and did a number of festivals. The record company suggested putting out a live album in 2016, as we had done a live disc in 1996 and we could celebrate its twenty year anniversary. So, we recorded a DVD of our Moscow show. Basically, I was writing material for this album in between. This worked well because I could work on something then go away and tour and come back and listen to the new music afresh. Normally, when making a record we have a block of time to work but this way round I was able to live with the material for longer. Now though, I've heard this album so much, I can tell you where any bit of hi-hat is on the record... I don't need to hear it again!

Do you think the fact that you're the main songwriter and keyboard player makes what you do sound different to the Metal bands that are driven by their guitarists?

Part of me is a guitar player. So when I'm writing I know how the guitarist would play a certain part. I also play the drums, horribly! As a fan, as a kid, I was listening to Neil Peart and Ian Paice and I'd try to emulate them. I must have been really annoying when I started making music as a teenager because I was always watching and commenting on what the other guys in the band were doing. Why don't you play it like this or that? I have been so blessed to have worked with phenomenal players over the last twenty-five years. I have the main ideas; this riff here and this solo here, then the others in the band arrange it in their own way. I'm open to anything they bring to the records. I'll make rough demos and bring it to the rest of the band. They'll criticise the crap out it. They'll say that's eight minutes long, you can cut it to four minutes. We don't have heated discussions, it's very amicable. The band are my first line of defence to stop me getting carried away and recording music that the audience wouldn't like. The band surprise me every time and their suggestions make it sound better ninety-nine times out of a hundred.

What's the idea behind the 'Cast In Stone' title?


The title 'Cast In Stone' came from our bass player. He was a fan of the band before he joined us and knew a lot of our material. He'd hear me being critical of a lot of our old songs and I'd say why I didn't like this one or that one. He said why don't you take the best elements of all those songs you do like; the main ideas, the signature beats and try to put all these ideas on one album. We had the monumental dragon logo from day one and we thought 'Cast In Stone' was distinctive and suggested something solid and forever.

Tell me about the opening track 'Fistful Of Misery'.

Everyone has experience of that; break ups and so on, that sense of being mistreated. I had a couple of lyrics and the song just happened. It's an anthem but at the same time it has this subdued feeling in the playing. It was democratic choosing this as the opening track and as a song that represents the album because the guys in the band liked it so much they felt it should come near the beginning. Originally, it was going to be the 'Cast In Stone' instrumental track that opened the record.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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'The Last Soul Alive' reminds me a lot of Rainbow's 'Spotlight Kid'. Was that deliberate?

That was intentional! Well spotted, I'll take the blame, I wanted to create a late 70s feel. I could easily have moved a couple of chords to mask it but I didn't want to. I wanted it to be in 1978 or thereabouts. I wanted that Jon Lord Hammond organ, or it would have been Don Airy at that time. I wanted it to sound like a homage on purpose.

The closing song 'Save Me II' can only be described as a Symphonic Blues song, which is original. How did that come about?

I've done this kind of thing from time to time. In 2003 we did a Jazz song. It's good to surprise people. I told the guys we were doing extra tracks. I thought 'Save Me' was going to be a bonus, we jammed back and forth, it seemed a shame not everyone would hear the song so I took it away and did it in a way that did justice to the song, It starts off as this swampy Blues Rock song before it becomes Royal Hunt.

You've made a cool lyric video for 'A Million Ways To Die' with Berny Kellerer the webmaster of our very own Rocktopia website. How did that contribution transpire?

We were going to make a real video for'Fistful Of Misery' first, which I actually hate making, but Berny did it so quickly it meant 'A Million Ways To Die' was released first. It started in 2016 when we worked with Berny on the DVD package where he helped with the production for the Blu-ray version. When we needed to get into video production I didn't know how much was involved so I asked our own cover artist Kai Brockshmidt if he could help and he suggested Berny. He offered to help us and he's done a great job. It looks very elaborate and he did it so quickly.

Have you decided what songs you'll cover on your forthcoming tour?

Live, we'll play the first two songs off the album for sure. We've got a couple of dates in Russia and Budapest. We'll do a third off the new album too. It's very hard for a band who have been going for twenty-five years to pick a setlist. It's easier when you've only got one or two albums. We like to mix it up, we don't want to get stale, I see lots of bands I grew up with who rarely change their set list these days. We always change ours. We try to pick out six or seven all time favourites. If we don't play them all this time we'll play the others next time round. An up-tempo one here, a ballad there for flow. We never play the same setlist. You have to please the fans but you have to stay fresh for yourself too. That's the main part of it; enjoying playing live. I don't want to get bored so coming up with setlists is a complex thing. You want that positive energy to translate with the crowd. One of my favourite live gigs was in 2005, seeing Whitesnake doing their Live in the Still of The Night set. I had no preconceived ideas of what it was going to be like but the band were on fire and I think about that night and how to create that kind of electricity.

How would you say your relationship with DC Cooper is these days since his return to the band?

It's safe to say it's better! We're very different animals. With all the rumours in the press of us not getting on; we never actually had any issues with the music. We are different characters and when we were younger we were more aggressive and louder! He came in and had to replace the original singer so it was sometimes DC on one side and the band on the other. When we broke up in 1998 it was for the best for both sides. Some divorces are needed. In 2010 or '11 when we got back together the stars were aligned. We didn't meet until we were in the rehearsal room. I had some reservations but even the way he walked up to the mic was the same as before and I knew we could work together. It was a relief. When the rehearsal was done, we were talking about stuff and we had changed, we had grown up and understood each other better. We didn't compare ourselves and we accepted each other for who we are. In the past every single little detail seemed important but now we have more fun working together.

Royal Hunt's sound has more Classical music references than most Metal music has. Do you listen to a lot of classical music?

I do listen to Classical music at home. I have a vast collection. I'm not a snob about it though. I just like the sound of it. I'd say a third of what I listen to at home is Classical. I don't listen to that much music these days though which sounds strange because music is around us all the time. I still want music to be an experience. Too much of how people listen to music these days is as background noise.

You've released this album through your own label. How's that working for you?

We're still on a record label in Japan. We kept it because we need their support culturally and in the market place. In the rest of the world, we could have continued with Frontiers, another label or do it ourselves. We have more manpower, more hours to do this ourselves. In my opinion some labels have too many bands these days and there's only so much time they can devote to promoting an album. When you're doing it yourself, you can take as much time as you want. We can continue pushing it for months.

Fireworks Magazine Online 82: Interview with No Hot Ashes

NO HOT ASHES

Interview by Brian Boyle

Belfast's No Hot Ashes were formed in 1983 and were primed and ready for a stellar career in Rock n' Roll. However, difficulties in getting their debut album released forced them to disband in 1990. After a one off gig in 2013 interest in band was reignited, resulting in support slots with the likes of Scorpions, Aerosmith and Foreigner. Now 34 years since their original formation, No Hot Ashes finally get to release their inaugural album.


No Hot Ashes Interview

First of all my condolences on the passing of bassist Paul Boyd. The release of this album must be very bittersweet for you all.

Very bittersweet. We are still devastated by Paul's passing. He was one of the original members and a massive part of the NHA family. Our only consolation is that he got to finish the album before he lost his brave battle with cancer. I know he was very proud of it and we are very proud of his input. I still get a lump in my throat when I hear some of his harmonies, it just catches me sometimes. The album is dedicated to Paul and to those that loved him.

Last time I saw No Hot Ashes was in 2014 in Dublin supporting Foreigner at the famous Olympia Theatre. How was that experience?

It was kind of weird. I have been a massive Foreigner fan all my life so it was a little daunting and exciting all at the same time. We had only just reformed to play a charity gig and the next thing we are sharing the stage with one of the biggest bands of all time. The Olympia is wonderful venue, it reminds me of the theatre in the programme The Good Old Days that I used to watch as a kid. Both the Dublin and Belfast Foreigner shows were very special gigs.

The music industry has changed massively since you released your debut single 'She Drives Me Crazy' over three decades ago. Would you say they're predominantly positive changes?

I'm not sure. Everything is very instant now. There seems to be a massive amount of product available and in many formats, which is great for choice. Bands have access to amazing home studios and Pro Tools type packages which means they can knock out material very quickly. Years ago there were a limited number of bands who would release one album per year. You would wait with baited breath for months on the new Whitesnake or Dio album; it just seemed a bit more special in a way. Today you don't need to leave the house to purchase an album, which is very convenient. However in the 1980s you had the joy and comradeship of visiting a record shop with like-minded people and spending hours choosing your next precious purchase. When we brought out 'She Drives Me Crazy' the only way to get it to the public was to sell it through specialist Rock shops or at gigs. My mum and dad had a corner shop and we sold it there! You could get a bag of spuds, a pair of tights, a cylinder of gas and our single all at the same time. If you spent over a tenner you got the record free. There was many a 90 year old woman slightly baffled when she emptied her shopping bag and a Heavy Metal single fell out. A sale's a sale after all.

So to answer your question there are some changes for the good and some changes aren't so good. We will be using the good ones, like social media exposure, to our benefit when promoting the album.

Your first attempt at releasing an album didn't come to fruition. Are there any songs on the record that were meant to be on the original release?

When we decided to finally make an album it was quickly agreed that it would be a great idea to write completely new songs with a contemporary edge. Over the years we have all listened to a lot of different influences and I think those can be heard throughout the album. The new songs, to our ears, are fresh and alive and we have all contributed and collaborated in the song writing process. There are no egos here; the song quality is the most important thing. There is one song, however, that did make it from the old repertoire. Our drummer Steve Strange has always had a soft spot for the song 'I'm Back'. He was convinced that if it was recorded properly and given the production it deserves the song would be a cracker. Steve was right, he has a great ear and that is probably why he is such a success in the music industry. The song sounds immense and stands shoulder to shoulder with the new songs on the album.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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Tell me about the song writing process. Was it a collaborative effort?

Our songs are very much a collaborative effort. Dave (Irvine, guitar) will come up with wonderful pieces of music and send them to me to write lyrics and melodies. I then take them to the rest of the boys and they add the colour and dynamics. Tommy (Dickson, keyboards) had written the music for one of the songs, 'Boulders', a few years ago. When he brought it to me I had been toying with the idea of writing a song about my mum and dad's struggle following her stroke. The music just fitted the narrative perfectly and is one of the highlights on the album. The songs I have started on my own would only sound as good as they do because of what is added by the other guys. Steve can dramatically change a song with a simple rhythm pattern. Niall (Diver, guitar) has a wonderful knack of adding licks that give light and shade. Paul wrote the music for one of the songs, 'Running Red Lights', and it is brilliant to have on there as a testament to his wonderful talents.

Your hometown of Belfast has always embraced Rock music. What has the reaction been like in the city since the announcement of your reunion?

Belfast during the 80s and 90s was starved of Rock bands coming here. I suppose you can't blame them really. It can't have helped when they were told by promoters, 'You will be staying in the Europa Hotel, the most bombed hotel in Europe.' Not exactly enticing. There were the die-hards that would always add Belfast to their tours like Motorhead, Rory Gallagher and Mamas Boys. For that loyalty these bands were shown loyalty and the Belfast Rock fans loved them. Due to the dearth of bands visiting, the local acts were embraced probably more than they would have been elsewhere in the UK. No Hot Ashes had a great and loyal following. Now that we are back in business they are all coming out of the woodwork and reliving their youth again. The response has been overwhelming. Quite humbling really.

You've collaborated with former Mamas Boys legend Pat "The Professor" McManus on a song called 'I Will'...

Just as we were completing the recording of the album Frontiers announced that we needed an acoustic track for the Japanese version. Paul and Dave said they had a cracking Country Rock song called 'I Will'. They let me listen to it and I thought that with a few lyric changes, I've never rode a horse ha ha, it would make a brilliant Rock ballad. We quickly recorded it with the help of the expert ear of Frankie McClay at Einstein Studios. The end result was great but we all agreed something was missing. NHA and Mama's Boys go way back, we have supported them over the years. Steve and Mama's Boys drummer, the late great Tommy McManus (RIP), even shared a house boat in Camden for a time. Tommy saved Steve from drowning on one drunken occasion, but that's another story in itself, ha ha.

I have known Pat a long time. He is, in my opinion, probably the best guitar player in the world. What a lot of people don't know is that Pat is an all-Ireland champion on the fiddle. The Pat McManus Band are the hardest working band out there and they appear to be on tour year in year out. I put it to the boys that should we be lucky enough and catch Pat on a break I would ask him to play a lament on the fiddle over 'I Will'. I phoned Pat and he said he would love to do it but said he had a short window of opportunity to do so. A day or so later Pat travelled all the way from Fermanagh, where he lives, to Einstein Studios in Antrim with his trusty fiddle. He set up in the sound booth, and I swear this is true; he cut the track in one bloody take. It was perfect. I'm hoping that the song will be made available in some format and that it won't be solely for the Japanese release.

Do you still have regrets over the way the band split in 1990?

I was discussing this with Dave (Irvine, guitar) the other day and we agreed that there never really was an official spit as such. We all just moved onto different projects. Deep down I think we all knew that NHA was unfinished business. We just needed the right opportunity for it to happen. I don't think any of us have any regrets; in fact, our life experiences away from the band have given us grist to the mill of our song writing. We are just delighted that we all got back together again and were able to spend precious time with Paul. I think if that hadn't of happened then that would have been a major regret.

What would represent a success with this album? Is finally getting it released the main thing and sales a bonus?

Releasing your debut album 35 years after forming must be some sort of record and in many respects it is an achievement in itself. It is a definite reflection of our tenacity. So yes, just getting it out there is great but what's the point if no one hears it? I really believe in this album and I think the more people who buy a copy the better. Obviously in these days of downloads album sales aren't what they were but I still think a lot of Rock fans love the tactile experience of holding and enjoying the art work of a CD or slab of vinyl. And if we were to sell a million copies, well who would turn their nose up at that?

Fireworks Magazine Online 82: Interview with Stryper

STRYPER

Interview by Fabiana Spinelli

Stryper will celebrate their 35th anniversary with the upcoming release of their tenth studio album, that of the much debated title, 'God Damn Evil'. Michael Sweet promises this will be their most powerful album to date, Death Metal growls included (courtesy of guest Matt Blanchard). Fireworks caught up with Michael to find out the latest...


Stryper

Your new album is a constant surprise: modernity, freshness and overwhelming power. Where do you find a similar energy after a career of 35 years?

We are recharged and so excited about our new chapter. Perry [Richardson, Firehouse bassist who has replaced Tim Gaines] has brought so much to the band and he's such a joy to have as a teammate. We have a new energy and that has translated over to the album. We feel like it's 1984 all over again. We have no plans of slowing down, we have so much left in us and will continue to strive to make our best music and recordings over the next fifteen years!

I think that an opener as heavy as 'Take It To The Cross' is a strong message about the band's state of health. Do you think 'God Damn Evil' will find a perfect balance between fans in the old guard and the newcomers in the audience?

I believe once they hear the entire album, absolutely! There is something for everyone on this album and it's our best to date, in my opinion. We always do our best to mix it up with each song and album, yet retain our flow and continuity, that's important to us. It's hard to do and something that many bands don't even try to do. I'm personally not a fan of albums that have every song sounding the same. We enjoy trying new things and I'm looking forward to 20th April, when the album is released.

Can you please tell us something more about Perry Richardson? How he joined the band and how did you know he was the right one?

He was mentioned by Dave Rose and we thought, 'Of course!' We ended up talking to Perry and then flying him out to audition, and the minute he walked in the room we knew he was the right choice. Then we heard him sing and play and that sealed the deal. Once everyone hears him play and sing with the band everyone will be sold, if they're not already. Perry is a very talented guy and we're blessed to have him.

On this new album we can find all the band's lyrical trademarks and strengths, but there seems to be something darker and deeper in tracks like 'Sorry', 'Lost', 'You Don't Even Know Me'. Can we read this as a mirror of our times, with the eternal struggle between good and evil even stronger than ever?

Without question. We live in a very volatile time and it seems to be getting worse. This is why we named the album 'God Damn Evil'; it's a prayer, a request for God to damn evil. I always want to write from experience and from the heart and this album really comes from the heart. We should all be asking God to damn evil. Maybe this world would be a better place. There is power in prayer.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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Stryper fans are always at the heart of your message and lyrics, and you have always had a special relationship with your public. How do you think they are going to receive 'God Damn Evil'?

So far the reception is great! Once we explain what we're saying and how we're saying it, they get it. It's a bold message for bold times. We've always been about making people think and this album will make everyone think even more. No holding back. The music is just as powerful as the message and sonically it sounds great too. We couldn't be more pleased with the outcome.

You are really active with social networks − you often offer some interesting food for thought, as you did about the recent diatribe on phones or no phones at concerts and shows.

I'm torn. I understand that people are very attached to their phones, myself included, but it's sad to see phones rob us of our social skills. We should go to a concert and enjoy it. When you're holding a phone up the entire show it's not fair to yourself or others around you. It's a very touchy subject because some people just don't want to be told what to do. I understand that yet if it becomes a distraction or hindrance for others then it's not right or fair, is it?

There are lots of differences between live activity in the 80s and touring the world today. Do you think that there are also some similarities and that some aspects are maybe better now than in the past?

As long as you keep evolving and moving forward that's all that matters. It's hard to do that and stay true to who you are and who you were. We gained our fans based on our original sound so we should never abandon that but we need to continue to grow and experiment and try new things. We also do our best not to over saturate the market. You can do "too much" and burn fans out. We basically tour every other year, not every year. When we do tour and release new music, we work hard to make it special.

You are going to be on tour supporting 'God Damn Evil'. Are there still places in the world that you've never played but would really love to?

I would love to perform in China, Russia, Mexico and Cuba. Hopefully this will become reality. Music brings us all together, it transcends anything that separates us and it heals us. It is our common denominator and such a powerful tool. When we step on stage and see the crowd it's a reminder of that. It's an amazing sight to see when people come together like that and we try to do our part to encourage and inspire people.

What aspect would you like to see reaching out from 'God Damn Evil' to the fans?

I hope that it's our biggest album to date and that it reaches a new fan base as well as our old fan base, which I think is a very strong possibility. We are excited about 2018 and what's to come in the future. Our best is yet to come and we can't wait!! Our goal is to keep getting better and we'll keep trying to outdo the last. I think this new release is better than the last two albums.

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