STRYPER

PAUL SOUTHWELL CATCHES UP WITH STRYPER’S LONG­STAND­ING GUI­TARIST MICHAEL SWEET.

Australian Guitar - - Contents -

The mas­ter­mind of the yel­low and black at­tack riffs on his bru­tally heavy new LP.

For met­al­heads of a cer­tain vin­tage, the roar­ing suc­cess of Amer­i­can metal band Stryper in the late ‘ 80s po­larised au­di­ences. Un­daunted by de­trac­tors, their su­perb mu­si­cian­ship, de­ter­mi­na­tion and stead­fast ded­i­ca­tion to their Chris­tian be­liefs has seen them en­dure set­backs over the years, in­clud­ing a sub­stan­tial pe­riod of dor­mancy. Rein­vig­o­rated from the pos­i­tive mo­men­tum of re­unions, Stryper have been con­sis­tently ac­tive since around 2005, with front­man, gui­tarist and chief song­writer Michael Sweet of­fer­ing some of the band’s most heavy ma­te­rial on sub­se­quent al­bums. That trend con­tin­ues with their tenth stu­dio al­bum, God

Dam­nEvil, so we caught up with the tal­ented mas­ter­mind of the yel­low and black at­tack.

GodDam­nEvil feels like a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion from Fallen, which was quite heavy.

I’m very happy with it; it’s shaken the cages. We en­joyed stretch­ing out on this al­bum. We’re still do­ing what is to be ex­pected, but we’re get­ting a lit­tle heav­ier as we get older, which is in­ter­est­ing be­cause usu­ally when you get older, you get lighter. We’re keep­ing it real, man.

The riff on the ti­tle track has an AC/DC feel to it. Is there an AC/DC in­flu­ence go­ing on there?

Yeah, that’s the clas­sic ‘80s an­them kind of riff, like “To Hell With The Devil” with a mid‑tempo pace and gang cho­rus. My brother [Robert Sweet, drums] came up with the ti­tle, and it was im­por­tant for me to write an an­them that takes you back to 1986 and feels like we’re rock­ing old school.

Are you us­ing your Theta Pro [ISP MS sig­na­ture model preamp and multi‑ef­fects unit] for rhythm gui­tars?

I did use my Theta on the al­bum. I also used Mesa Boo­gies and a Soldano. It’s the same kind of tone, the­ory and style with pre‑EQ be­fore the front‑end of the [preamp] dis­tor­tion to get that half‑cocked, Michael‑Schenker‑on‑steroids sound. There are also EQs for the stage‑outs and the DIs. My ex­tra EQ band al­lows me to dial in a bit more midrange. In the old days, we would do four and six tracks of one rhythm gui­tar. Nowa­days, I do a track and Oz [Fox, gui­tar] does a track, and that’s it. So the gui­tars are not as pro­duced, but they’re still big. Oz is us­ing Line 6 gear. My Tech 21 [Sans Amp Para Driver] gear was great, but ev­ery­thing is built into my warm‑sound­ing Theta. I feed an am­pli­fier for mon­i­tor­ing on­stage, but all the sound out through the front of house [PA] is di­rect only. It’s just such a fat, huge, mon­strous sound.

Us­ing open chords and let­ting strings ring out has a huge im­pact on the power of your sound.

Ab­so­lutely. Go­ing from a muted fifth chord to a big open chord sounds like dou­bling the gui­tars and it be­comes this huge wall of sound for the cho­ruses, like in “God Damn Evil”. Most peo­ple play a fifth A chord, whilst I add my lit­tle fin­ger across the high strings for a jan­gly open A with all the strings. I’ve never taken lessons. I’m an ear player, al­ways try­ing dif­fer­ent chords to make it sound bet­ter.

“Beau­ti­ful” has a great gui­tar solo which is rem­i­nis­cent of Ge­orge Lynch’s style. In fact, the Sweet & Lynch song “Bridge of Bro­ken Lies” has a great Jimi Hen­drix vibe to it.

On “Beau­ti­ful”, Oz does the first half and I do the sec­ond half. We do a lot of that . For the song “Sorry”, I start that solo and he fin­ishes it. For the spo­radic har­mony parts, we were har­mon­is­ing with our­selves. I just did two al­bums with Ge­orge Lynch, and he has a heavy blues in­flu­ence – you might not have heard in the Dokken days, but he’s into lots of dif­fer­ent styles of mu­sic. He’s a soul­ful player.

How much work went into your sig­na­ture Wash­burn gui­tars [the Par­al­laxe PXZ‑MS2FR and the PX‑So­larV6‑MS]?

Oh man, they knocked it out of the park. My US cus­tom shop mod­els have iden­ti­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions to what I use; pick­ups, fret size, woods, neck size, Floyd Rose up­grades – you name it. The im­port model is com­ing soon, too. I couldn’t be more pleased with Wash­burn, they’re fan­tas­tic peo­ple and they make killer gui­tars. Sadly, not as many peo­ple know about them as they do Gib­son or Jack­son or all of th­ese other com­pa­nies, but I’ll tell you what, you couldn’t pay me enough money in the world to go with Jack­son. Wash­burn just take care of me. They get them right, they go the ex­tra mile to do the job and they just blow my mind.

What are the odds we might see you back in Aus­tralia soon?

We’re work­ing on some dates for Ja­pan right now, and if we go to Ja­pan, we’re go­ing to plan on hit­ting Aus­tralia as well.

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