Michael Sweet on Sweet & Lynch: "We’re different"

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Sweet was approached to make an all-star record by Serafino Perugino, president of Stryper’s record label Frontiers and the architect of several such conveyor belt-type collaborations, a recent example being Revolution Saints, who pooled past and present members of Whitesnake, Night Ranger and Journey.

The singer understands why fans are wary of projects that mix and match musicians who would not usually work together, but he excludes Sweet & Lynch – completed by bassist James Lomenzo (Megadeth, White Lion, David Lee Roth and Ozzy Osbourne) and drummer Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Ozzy, Billy Idol) – from that phenomenon.

“We’re different in that we’re intending to tour,” Michael explains. “So many of those ‘project bands’ make a record and then stay at home – KXM [Lynch with Dug Pinnick from King’s X and Korn’s Ray Luzier] being a case in point. Fans want to see the bands live, and when it doesn’t happen they feel slighted, almost as though the artists have taken the money and run… and maybe sometimes that’s true./o:p

/o:p“Another reason for scepticism is that project bands make the fans fearful that the main bands of these guys will cease to exist. You know; they’re afraid that musicians will find something better than they already have, or that trying something different will cause them to lose focus. That makes sense to me.”

How advanced are the plans for some Sweet & Lynch gigs?

We’re working hard to make it happen, possibly as soon as May. It’ll be key cities… hopefully worldwide, even if we only do 15 dates or so. And it’s really important to me that we have the four guys that played on the record, not just George and I with another rhythm section.

Was George Lynch the first name you thought of when the project was mooted?

Yeah, Serafino had suggested John Leven who plays with Dokken at the moment. Nothing against John but I felt if we were going for a sound that merged Dokken and Stryper, why not get the real deal? Luckily, George agreed when I reached out to him.

So you were trying to make a particular type of record?

Absolutely, I had a very clear vision. I wanted to go back to the music of the 1970s and ’80s, the greatest eras in music in my opinion. And I really think we achieved that.

Lyrically speaking, the album avoids the religious subject matter for which Stryper are famous or infamous, whichever way you look at it.

[Chuckling]: Yeah. I wanted to be respectful to George, who is an atheist. I didn’t want to slap him in the face with my beliefs. But I did stay true to who I am as a person. I will never sing about death, drugs, sex or any of that evil crap.

Did you enjoy the liberation of being free from those usual sentiments?

Absolutely, it was cool to just write a love song.

911 is such an emotive subject, have you received any unwanted feedback to the track September?

Yeah we did, and I don’t really understand why. We were accused of writing about the subject to make a buck, which was incredibly foolish. If only people knew… [Sweet pauses to find the right words]… okay, I’m just gonna say it; we are not paid royalties for these albums, we get paid a fee to record them and then we never see a dime. So the accusation of capitalising on 911 is beyond ridiculous. The song’s message was to never forget such an atrocity.

Classic Rock’s review of Only To Rise said that “whilst so many of Sweet’s peers have deteriorated with age”, even at 51 your voice “still sounds strong, clear and rich” – can we attribute that to divine intervention?

Oh gosh… I don’t know [laughs]. I would like to think so.

But seriously, is there a secret?

Well, in some ways that answer is true because I have taken a lot better care of myself than my contemporaries. I’ve never smoked pot on a daily basis or shot heroin into my veins, and that’s why some of these guys can no longer do what they did in their youth, their bodies break down. Drugs, alcohol and a crazy lifestyle will only speed up that process.

You’ve hinted at a new Stryper album. What’s the latest with that?

The guys are here at my house right now. We’ve been doing pre-production for the past five days, and on Sunday [February 1] we enter the studio where we cut the last five Stryper albums and also the Sweet & Lynch album. So it’s definitely happening.

Only To Rise is available now via Frontiers Records.