Hopefully, as many of you as possible were able to see the 30th Anniversary Tour of To Hell with the Devil, as it was something special. The band was on and delivered all the high quality double leads, harmony vocals and sing-along moments that Stryper fans have come to expect. All the reports we’ve heard from all over the country here at Heaven’s Metal Magazine have been extremely positive.
We wanted the real truth, though, so we contacted frontman Michael Sweet and asked him. “It’s going terrible,” he said. “Absolutely terrible.” He laughs and then pivots. “No, it’s going good, man. We’re wearing the old outfits. That’s probably the toughest part, because they’re just uncomfortable. They’re hot, layered, very stiff and uncomfortable. But it’s fun. People like to see ‘em and we enjoy going out there and hearing the response. It takes us back to ’86 all over again. The set’s gotten really good. We were running a video – a little bit of a documentary, showing footage that’s never been seen, talking about the album, playing songs we haven’t played for 30 years and it’s really cool, man. We’re really enjoying it and the response has been great.
“We do the album from start to finish in sequence, so we do everything, ‘Boom, boom, boom!’ just like if you were listening to it. Obviously, we’re doing songs we haven’t played in a long time, like ‘Holding On,’ ‘All of Me’ and ‘Rockin’ the World.’ Then we take a little bit of a break, a breather, for four or five minutes. We change some clothes, come back out and then do a bunch of other songs – some old songs, some recent songs. We do songs like, ‘Makes Me Wanna Sing,’ ‘Soldiers Under Command,’ newer songs being ‘Yahweh,’ ‘King of Kings,’ ‘God’ and ‘Revelation.’ There’s a whole bunch of songs. It winds up being about an hour and 45-minute set. The reaction has been great. I haven’t seen any complaints yet.”
These full album tours are just a great idea and Stryper found a way to make it a really special moment for everyone.
“I think we all started thinking about it a few years back,” Sweet said. “The 30-year anniversary of ‘To Hell’ was coming and we knew that it was a special one and we were going to have to celebrate it in a special way. It just kind of progressed from there. We started talking to our manager, Dave Rose, about it at dinner not long ago and the rest is history. We just started piecing it together and working on it. It’s been a lot of work trying to put it together and getting the costumes and whatever we didn’t have made and/or fitted. Putting together whatever production we have. The video screen and the video itself. Rehearsing, of course. Just doing all the stuff that goes into a tour, but this one took a little bit more.
“It took a little bit more out of all of us, but it was worth it. Now that we’re in a groove and we’re out there playing night after night, it just feels like any other tour in the sense that we go up on stage and we know what we’re supposed to do and there’s a flow and a continuity to it and it just happens. It’s kind of easy now, like riding a bike.”
Thirty years is a long time, but it sure is fun to look back. The crowds watching the video cheer at various times during the opening video introduction. Seeing MTV VJ’s announce Stryper in the top spot of the Dial MTV segments got a lot of applause and knowing grins from those old enough to remember.
Looking back, everyone in the band knows it was a special time, but they were also re-cognizant of that while it was happening – to an extent.
“As we got deeper and deeper into it,” explains Sweet, “once the songs were written and chosen and we started recording the tracks themselves, we all started realizing slowly but surely how special it was. By the time we were listening to the mixes in cars or home stereos or what have you, that’s when we really came to the realization that it was a special album and it was going to do something really cool on a big level. And it did!
“When it came out, it went through the roof, man. I think we were all expecting it to a degree, but not quite at the level it had gone through the roof at. The label was blown away, the band was blown away, everyone involved was just kind of sitting there in shock to a degree, thinking, ‘Gosh, what just happened?!’ It was really cool to be a part of that. I’ve told the story countless times. It really did take us from theaters into arenas in just a few months. It was incredible to be out on the road and go from theaters to arenas and experience that. We were kids. We were 23, 24, 25 years old. Chins on the floor, blown away.”
Just as this celebration tour was kicking off, there were rumors and a statement was released that said the band was going to be taking a hiatus of sorts at the conclusion of the tour. That was a bit of unexpected drama for the fans, but not entirely out of the norm for a group of artists in the entertainment field.
“We’re gonna take a break,” explains Sweet. “We had to be very careful of what we said and how we said it. We wanted to be. We didn’t wanna give details that people don’t really need to know about, but what was happening is some rumors were starting to circle around and they were coming back to us, so that’s why we were forced to give a statement and let people know that Tim, basically, has made some decisions in his life that really have affected the band. It’s not by our doing. It’s not by our choice, meaning Robert’s, Oz’s or mine. It’s forced us to really re-evaluate where we stand as a band and what we’re going to continuing doing as a band. I think if there’s anything else that people wanna know, the best thing to do is to talk to Tim and ask him what’s going on. I think that’s the best way to handle it. We are going to take a break. How long? I don’t know. Hopefully, not for very long. And how we’re going to continue and with who, I don’t know, either. I really can’t tell ya. It might be with this lineup; it might not be. It remains to be seen. There’s too many variables right now and things that we just don’t know.”
Earlier statements had indicated that a new Stryper album would be recorded in early 2017, but this is now on hold, too. “I’m going to go record a new Sweet/Lynch album, though.”
Some people have speculated that it’s all the solo music that Michael Sweet has been doing that’s the cause of this upcoming break. Just the hint of that seems to set him off. “I just love reading the comments from the ignorant, uneducated people that don’t even have a clue as to what’s going on. Most of the time they put it on me, saying, ‘Oh, it’s because he’s doing solo stuff’ and ‘Tim always gets thrown under the bus. It’s Tim again. Oh, Michael, Michael, Michael!’ I’m just thinking, ‘Wow! You don’t even have a clue.’
“That’s the beautiful thing about the internet,” he says tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek, “people can flap their mouths when they have no facts. Everybody has an opinion and a say. It’s unfortunate, because none of it’s true. This has nothing to do with my solo career. It has nothing to do with Sweet & Lynch. It has nothing to do with Michael Sweet doing what he wants to do – nothing. But it has everything to do with, as I said, the decision and choices that Tim has made that has forced the band to step back and say, ‘Okay, what are we doing?’ Nothing to do with Michael Sweet at all.”
Every party has its awkward moment, I guess. But at least it’s way overshadowed by a great show – with both killer nostalgia and exciting, heavy new tunes. Here’s hoping they figure out a way to get Stryper rolling again after this upcoming break.