Michael Sweet on To Hell with the Devil

SH: 30 years ago, when To Hell With the Devil first started, how did the album and concept come about?

MS: Well, my brother had the idea for the album title itself and then I wrote the music, he and I wrote the lyrics to the song, and then everything else just fell into place. We went in to find the best possible studio to record it. We really wanted to step it up the way it sounded, and we did. We ended up recording it digitally, and musically everything just rounded out. There’s a great flow and continuity to the album. It’s about as powerful—especially at the time—a statement in a title as we could have gone with. It was very controversial for the time. We didn’t do it for that purpose, but it wound up ruffling a lot of feathers, and now it’s an iconic album. People remember that album more than any other one.

SH: 30 years later, what made you decide to use that particular album to do a tour with?

MS: Well, it was our biggest album; the most celebrated, the biggest selling, and the most awarded album that we’ve ever done. And I think most people remember that album and have some sort of a memory that goes with that album more than any other one as well, so it just made sense. The fact that it’s our biggest album, it took us to a whole new level, so it just made sense to do it.

SH: You just finished the Fallen Tour a few months ago and started up again with this one back to back without any break in between. How is that working out?

MS: We had a little break, short break, and then we went right into rehearsals, and then we hit the road. It seemed natural and it seem like a continuation of the Fallen tour itself, although it’s not. I like to do it that way because as a band when we get into the tour a week or two in, we just keep sounding better and better, everything just becomes locked and well oiled, so it just made good sense to do it that way.

SH: How do you think the tour is going right now? It seems successful and you’re only halfway through and planning on International dates too.

MS: It’s very successful. Having great turnouts every night. We couldn’t be more happy with the energy and the excitement, and how many people are showing up to the shows right after the Fallen tour. Going to the same markets and venues and having even more people show up than a few months ago is really mind-boggling, and it’s pretty cool. It’s really working out.

SH: You have been on different record labels the past few albums after being on Enigma for the longest time, would you go back to a mainstream record label if given the opportunity in the future?

MS: I don’t know if that opportunity will ever come because it’s a different music world now, it doesn’t appear as if it’s ever going to be the same. So those major labels are working with a different breed right now, but you never know, it could happen, and if the opportunity ever arose and presented itself then absolutely.

SH: Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. recently became a Christian and their last couple of albums have been spiritual in its concept. What do you think about touring with them as a yellow and black tour if the idea presented itself?

MS: Well we would do it, we’ve never toured with W.A.S.P., but we’ve played shows with them randomly over the years. We recently played a show with them in Spain. But if it came knocking on our door and it felt right, then we would absolutely do it.

SH: Stryper’s scripture reference Has always been Isaiah 53:5. Is this still relevant today or is there another scripture verse that stands out more in today’s time for Stryper?

MS: That is the scripture for us, the picture-perfect scripture. In some translations it says “by his stripes we are healed,” that says everything, that’s what our stripes signify, and that’s what they represent. That is perfect for what we do, what we say, and what we are.

SH: Once the To Hell With the Devil tour is over, do you plan to take a hiatus or work on a new album in the near future?

MS: I’m going to work on a new Sweet & Lynch album in February and Stryper is going to take a little bit of a break. We just don’t know for how long and there’s no exact specific time frame when we are going to start recording a new album or when we’ll start a new tour, but we’re not over.  Oz, Rob, and myself will definitely continue on and keep doing it for sure.

SH: How does the band stay together when you’re now all spread out in different parts of the country?

MS: That’s the beauty of technology with computers, airplanes, trains, and automobiles, so it’s not really a big deal for us to live in different states at all.

Now back in the eighties, it might have been, but now it’s not at all.

SH: Now if you were to do a new album in the near future, what would it be like musically lyrically, and spiritually?

MS: Well I would assume that it would be the same in all aspects. You know, spiritually for sure and musically similar. We always try to do something a little different on each album, but we have always tried to stay within our wheelhouse and do what fans expect. We don’t want to venture too far away from that, so I would say the next time it would be very similar to the album’s we have done recently such as No More Hell to Pay and Fallen. It would probably be an answer to those albums.

SH: Is there anything you would like to say to the fans of Stryper or anyone else out there?

MS: Yes! It’s such a pleasure for us to do what we do for the fans. You know, that’s why we’re still going; we love reaching people, inspiring, reaching and changing lives with the message that we deliver, so we want to thank everyone for hanging in with us for 30 years and supporting us, and coming out for the shows, buying the albums and keeping us alive as well. In return we’re going to continue to inspire people and give them God’s love and give them the message of mercy and praise and all that good stuff.

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