Stryper’s Michael Sweet talks about new solo album “I’m Not Your Suicide”

Michael Sweet is best known as co-founder, writer, lead guitarist, lead vocalist and front man of the Christian rock band Stryper which were synonymous with their over the top black and yellow stage attire in the 1980’s. Michael was also co-lead vocalist and guitarist for the band Boston from 2007-2011. In the past couple of years Michael has been busier than ever releasing a new Stryper album in 2013 and more recently a solo album titled “I’m Not Your Suicide” and an autobiography titled “Honestly: My Life in Stryper Revealed”. Media Mikes spoke with Michael recently about his recent body of work and what he feels has contributed to his and the bands recent re-surge.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on your new solo album?
Michael Sweet: A lot of people often wonder why I put out these solo albums. I am always writing songs and sometimes some of those songs don’t fit in with the Stryper material. I listen to all different kinds of music and I like to be able to go and express myself and show people the other side of myself. The material on this new album is still edgy however they wouldn’t exactly fit on a Stryper album. I tried some different things with this album and it was a lot of fun. I tried some country music as my dad had written a #1 country song in 1979 so I wanted to show my roots a little bit.

AL: Can you tell us about some of the guest appearances on the album?
MS: I took everything with this album song by song. For instance I was working on the song “This Time” and though Kevin Max would be great to have in there. He has a unique quality in his voice and he fit perfectly with that song. Then for “Taking on the World Tonight” Tony Harnell was a no brainer. All of the people on the album are dear friends of mine. I had never done an album that incorporated guests but it was something that I had always wanted to do. This was the album where it finally happened. I have Doug Aldrich and Chris Jericho on a track, Robert Sweet and Timothy Gaines on a track and Dave Mustaine’s daughter Electra sings with me on Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”. Everyone brought something to the table which took each song to the next level.

AL: Did you have an idea as to what you wanted each guest to do on their tracks or were they free to experiment?
MS: I had an idea for some of the parts. For example the song Doug Aldrich appears on I knew he was the guy I wanted to play the solo. I sent him the song and he sent it back and it was just perfect. It was so simple of a process. The same thing happened with Electra’s performance. I had been thinking about having a female voice on that song and I had become good friends with Dave Mustaine over the years and mentioned the idea to him about having his daughter sing on the track. She has such a pure and angelic voice. They both thought the idea was great and Dave produce Electra’s vocals and it sound great! It was like clockwork as everything went as planned.

AL: Can you give us a little bit of background on your recent autobiography?
MS: I needed to write this book for myself. There is a lot of healing still taking place within my heart and my soul. There have been a lot of things that have happened in my life. There were a lot of questions from throughout my career that were still getting asked today so I wanted to answer all of those at once. That’s what I did with this book. There was a fine line I had to walk between being brutally honest and not hurting people. I’m not sure if that is totally possible. Anytime you talk about someone in a different light than what they want to be talked about in your going to offend or hurt them.  That is certainly the case with some of the stories in the book. I think I did a good job of not going down some of those dark paths that purposely hurt people. I didn’t want to hurt anyone and that’s not what the book is about. I cover everything from when my mom managed Stryper to the choice we made that led us to bankruptcy. The book is my take on the situations as it’s told from my perspective.

AL: Was it hard revisiting some of the more painful memories?
MS: It definitely was. As I was sitting there rethinking these stories part of me was revisiting those emotions while another part was saying that I had moved on but obviously I really hadn’t as there was still some pain and emotion there. This book was a big step in the right direction as I come clean with the mistakes I have made be it good or bad.

AL: Within the past couple of years Stryper has started to make a resurge. What do you feel has contributed to that?
MS: I think for the most part it’s been hard work. The band has worked very hard. After I finished the album with Stryper I went immediately back in and started work on this solo album. After that recording wrapped up I went back in the studio again but this time with Michael Sweet and George Lynch. It’s a constant evolution of continuing on and growing. I couldn’t have it any other way.

AL: Can you tell us a little bit about the project you have going on with George Lynch?
MS: This was a project I co-wrote with George and it was one I got to produce as well. The group has Brian Tichy on drums and James LoMenzo on bass. It’s really a great band and album that I am super excited about. That should be coming out in early 2015. We plan to tour around this release as well.

AL: Do you have other projects you would like to mention?
MS: Stryper has a bunch of shows planned for the rest of this year before we take off most of next year to work on the new album. I will also be out doing some solo shows as well. Right now I have my schedule booked through the end of 2016. There’s just so much going on that it’s hard to keep track of it all. Maybe by 2020 I can start to think about retiring. (Laughs)

Greg Lake talks about working with King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Greg Lake is best known for his work with King Crimson and Emerson, Lake &, Palmer. Greg has recently released an autobiography titled “Lucky Man” and is currently on tour speaking about and performing songs from his vast musical catalog. Media Mikes caught up with Greg recently to discuss his book and the current tour.

Adam Lawton: What can you tell us about the re-release of the Emerson, Lake &, Palmer catalog?
Greg Lake: To be honest I didn’t have a lot to do with the re-release. I did approve them and I know they have gone through a lot of trouble to make this a really top class thing. They have re-mastered everything in 5.1 sound as well as including a number of out-takes from the original sessions. They have also done a tremendous job on the packaging. It’s a first class reissue but I think the main reason I don’t take a lot of interest in re-issues is that I get very tired of seeing the same album released over and over again with very minimal changes. These are a genuine upgrade and they dug into the vaults to find new bits and pieces of material.

AL: Can you tell us about your current tour which is being billed as “The Songs of a LifetimeTour”?
GL: During the time I was writing my autobiography “Lucky Man” certain songs popped up as being important or influential to my career. At the end of it all I realized what the songs were and what they represented. It was journey the audience I have shared over many years.

AL: What has been the biggest challenge of putting on a show like this?Music is a backdrop to every one’s life. I thought it would be nice to relive that journey with the audience. From my point of view each of the songs has a story. This tour gives me a chance to tell those stories as well as hear the audiences own stories about the songs. The audience and I get to interact with one another and relive our journeys. I didn’t want this to be me sitting on a stool with a guitar boring everybody. I designed a very dynamic show that combines a number of different elements. There is humor, warmth and emotion. It really is quite an entertaining night which is what I wanted. The audience leaves having had a wonderful time. That’s the most important thing.
GL: Every night that I go out on the stage it doesn’t feel like a concert. It feels like walking into a family living room. We are all connected in some sort of way and everyone knows it. When one person tells a story other people get it. There is a feeling of bonding. It’s a very strange concept as I don’t think there is anything else quite like it. I took elements from the original recordings of these classic songs and produced new sections specifically for this show. I have something from the original records, something new and of course the live portion of things. All the stories provide an ensemble of experiences. I think this is why it’s been received so well.

AL: What are the upcoming plans for the tour?
GL: We are just finishing up our first U.S. and Canadian run. From there I will be going to Europe and Japan. Hopefully next year I will be back in the United States for another run as the shows have been very successful. This has been beyond my wildest imagination. I just can’t believe how well it’s been received. I worked on production for this tour for over a year and things have just really paid off. The greatest gratification you can have as an artist is to know that your music has gone from soul to soul. Knowing that my music has helped or changed someone for the better is really great.

AL: What made you decide to write an autobiography?
GL: I never really wanted to write an autobiography. It was something that I never had any sort of craving to do. I suppose all musicians have a lot of stories to tell and sometimes when I sit and have dinner with someone I will tell some of these stories. I have been told for years that I should write a book. My manager called me one day and told me that if I didn’t write these stories down that someday they will just disappear. I ended up writing this book which is told from behind the scenes. Everyone has already seen or knows what happened at all of the shows so I tried to write from the perspective that people didn’t see. This is not a kiss and tell book by any means nor is it about all the drugs I used to take. The book is I hope an interesting story from behind the scenes during some incredible years in music. I thought that I had a good perspective on how and why things happened the way they did during certain periods of music history. I had and still do have a privileged view on the subject. I consider myself very lucky hence the book’s title “Lucky Man”.  I grew up very poor so from every since of it the title is very fitting.

AL: Will we be seeing a new solo or live album from you anytime soon?
GL: I will certainly issue a CD from this tour as we have a wealth of good stuff. This summer I plan to record a new solo album. This tour has really given me an added inspiration to do a new album. It is just a phenomenal thing to see how deep my music has penetrated people lives. This is really gratifying and worth way more than the notoriety and money. To realize the music you made has touched someone and been a real value is just so gratifying.

Book Review “Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone”

“Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone”
Author: Johnny Ramone
Release Date: April 2nd, 2012
Publisher: Abrams Image
Hardcover: 175 pages

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Calling all Pinheads it’s time to add another book to your ever growing collection of Ramones literature. In the past year we have seen the releases of “I Slept with Joey Ramone” written by Joey’s brother Mickey Lee as well as “Poisoned Heart: I married Dee Dee Ramone” which was penned by Dee Dee’s ex-wife Vera King. “Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone” is the latest book to join the ranks. The 175 page hardcover book is being released posthumously and tells the tale of John Cummings and his evolution into Johnny Ramone the unspoken leader of one of Punks most influential groups.

“Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone” was written entirely by Johnny prior to his death in 2004. The book is brutally honest and pulls no punches as Johnny recounts some of the more memorable Ramones stories. Throughout the book you can get a sense that deep down underneath that often scowling exterior was man that really cared about what he was doing and the people he was with. The book is jammed packed with rare photos taken throughout Johnny’s life and the Ramones career. The book also features a really great forward written by original Ramones drummer Tommy Ramone.

John Cafiero, Steve Miller and Henry Rollins did an amazing job editing this book. Being a huge Ramones fans there are not many pictures I have not seen of the band. As I made my way through the book I was instantly taken in by these newly unearthed pictures. The overall feel of the book really grabs the reader as it reads as one man’s dying testament to his friends and fans. “Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone” is a must have for any music lover!