Thinking on Christian bands…
Clearly, I’m coming at this all wrong…eyeliner, $30 a pop fanclub (“Oh, I know, I know…
Sam’s Club–[oh, what? that’s taken already? oh”), and helping the WWE bring their family-friendly, God-glorifying message to the yoot of America…
“and then the WWE wanted to use “Monster” for their 25 year celebration. I was really, really excited”
“The rock star thing vs. the Christian thing used to be harder than it is. It’s not quite as hard now because I am so committed to my faith in God and who I know I need to be because I have to live with myself. In some ways it is still difficult because, I would say, being a Christian and being a rock star are the absolute opposites of each other. Being a rock star is all about you, all about being cool or at least trying to be cool. Putting up this front that you really don’t care about anybody or anything. Being a Christian is the opposite. It’s not all about me, it’s about God. It’s about helping people, loving God, and loving others, serving others. As a rock star you are used to getting served.
By Gary Darling
September 18. 2009 12:01AM
20 questions with Christian rock band Skillet’s John Cooper
John Cooper answers questions about his faith, his band, and the new album.
With the release of their newest record, “Awake,” Christian rock band Skillet is about to embark on a fall tour in support of the album.
Maryville Daily Forum writer Gary Darling spoke to lead singer John Cooper about faith, the band and the new album.
1. How is the tour rehearsal coming together?
Tour rehearsal is going great, and I am excited because we get to play new songs.
2. What can fans expect from the “Awake and Alive” tour?
New fans, that have never seen us play, can expect a lot of energy. Everyone always tells us that we are the most energetic band they have ever seen. I didn’t know that was the case. I did know that I sweated a lot. We get pretty crazy. I think the intensity of the live show goes with the music that we are singing that we are very passionate about. There are a few production surprises but all in all it is just going to be a lot of fun with great bands on the tour. It’s a pretty dynamic show, lots of ups and downs and becomes an emotional rock show, if there is such a thing. For returning fans, well there is a new record so there will be new songs and they get to experience those songs. Also, we got a great tour package. Hawk Nelson, whom we have never been on tour with before, adds a different flavor and broadens the spectrum of a hard rock tour.
3. How do you juggle being a musician, a father, a husband and a Christian while on tour?
Ahhh, you know that’s pretty difficult actually. That is the hardest thing about my job actually, doing the family thing and the business thing. The business part is just so busy, you know. I am always busy, constantly. Having to have a relationship on the road, we are a bus with 15 people on it, you just don’t get any alone time and time to work stuff out and time to talk. So I am constantly having to rework that.
The rock star thing vs. the Christian thing used to be harder than it is. It’s not quite as hard now because I am so committed to my faith in God and who I know I need to be because I have to live with myself. In some ways it is still difficult because, I would say, being a Christian and being a rock star are the absolute opposites of each other. Being a rock star is all about you, all about being cool or at least trying to be cool. Putting up this front that you really don’t care about anybody or anything. Being a Christian is the opposite. It’s not all about me, it’s about God. It’s about helping people, loving God, and loving others, serving others. As a rock star you are used to getting served. So I just try to weigh those things and do a good job performing, while keeping what’s important in life in the forefront of my mind.
4. What excites you most about the new album?
I would say I like the lyrics the most about the new album. I like that the songs have good points but also that the album isn’t a preachy record. I think that lots of different kinds of people can hear the record and be impacted by and relate to it. That’s what is most important to me. I didn’t want this record to be that only Christian people liked. That is why we sing about issues that we going through, life struggles, and hopefully world struggles.
5. Jen Ledger has taken over for your wife Korey Cooper on backing vocals, how smooth of a transition was that?
It went really great actually. I didn’t know that Jen could sing so well when she joined the band. That was not the intention of her joining. I liked her playing, she’s a great drummer with good skills and that was all great. Then, you know, I don’t really know how it happened. My wife was ready to step out from doing some of the singing. Jen was kind of nervous but comfortable giving it a shot. I just think it work better than any of us really expected. Certainly better than I expected. I do have hopes that my wife will start singing again. We’ll just kind of see how that goes.
6. Any chance of seeing a combination of Korey and Jen on backing vocals in the future?
I hope so. I’m not really sure. We do a little bit of that live but in terms of songs like that, I am not really sure.
7. How well do you think that the new album has been received?
Well, it certainly has been received a lot better that I could have hoped. I thought it would be received good but it has been an incredible couple of weeks. I would have never dreamed it would come out doing so well. The excitement that people had about the record and the tour, people coming to the show singing the new songs already. People were singing the new songs months before the album came out. People were hearing stuff on Youtube.
8. What would you like your fans to take away from this album?
In general, the thing that we sing about and talk about a lot is hope and having hope in a world that is dark and hopeless most of the time. it’s getting a little worse and worse all the time. It’s scarier and more violent. I would like people to listen to the record and become more hopeful. That they would feel there is a chance that not only could their life could get better but there is a chance for you to help make things better for someone else and for the world at large even.
Other things that I am passionate about being that I have been involved with Christian music since I was a kid. I actually started listening to Christian music when I was in fifth grade and it impacted my life is such a big way that I am a believer in it and I hope Christian people that listen to us feel good about playing it for their buddies. Not feeling like that they don’t get to listen to real music. So they have to settle for the Diet Coke of Coke. I don’t want to be the Diet Coke.
9. This album has been charting better than your other albums in the past, what do you feel is the reason for this?
In the first week when it came out, my manager calls me and says that we have the No. 2 selling record in the entire world this week, I was just like there must be some kind of mistake. I needed to see it in writing. I needed to see an actual forecast, that can’t be right. It has just been pretty nuts. I knew that there was a buzz happening and we were pretty excited about that but I had no idea that it was going to explode the way it did.
10. Any chance of just letting Ben rip a long extended solo on an album in the future?
I don’t know, I kind of have to make Ben do the solos that he does. He’s not necessarily from the same era that I did. I grew up in the ’80s were every song had an extended solo or an intro and a bridge and an outro. I feel the more the better. We’re going to have to keep training him up. He’s young and he’s not as wise as me. (Laughs) I’m working on it.
11. Considering the reaction of fans that I have talked to, is there a chance that we will see Jen take over as lead singer on a song in the future?
Ahhhh, I don’t know actually. I’ve not thought a lot about that. Anything could happen, absolutely. I don’t know if she would take over completely, I think it would still be more of a duet than it would be her taking over for the song.
12. Who is Lucy?
Oh, that’s a secret, man. I’ve been telling people out the seven records we done, and the 90 recorded songs I think we have now, Lucy is the only song that I am keeping a little under wraps for the moment. Not necessarily because it’s the hugest secret. I think I just want to let that song mean something different for people. I don’t want to poison what it may mean to someone. I’m going to, kind of, let it do it’s thing and I might talk about it later. This song is about regret, it is about losing someone and wishing you could do things differently and wanting a second chance.
13. How many songs do you generally write before putting together an album?
I would say, for this record, I wrote 42 songs. The last record I wrote about 28. So it’s increasing. So the more successful you get, the more songs you write because you are nervous you won’t have any good ones.
14. Was there much pressure to achieve the success you did with “Comatose”
Oh man, YES. It was absolutely bonkers. I was so stressed out for a year and a half about writing this record. I drove my wife absolutely a little batty. I drove my manager batty. I drove my record producer batty. Everybody was just sick of me. The pressure was from myself mainly. It’s just because you work and work and work and you think you are putting out good records. Then it doesn’t go the way you want it to but it’s okay. Then the next record you work and you’re convinced that it’s a better record than last one and then it still doesn’t go the way you want.
All of a sudden on your sixth record you release, you know “Comatose” was our sixth album, all of a sudden people are going Skillet crazy. You are like what’s going on? How did this happen? We had no earthly idea that record was going to be so big. At that point you don’t want to lose it. You or I could list off 30 bands that released an absolutely amazing record and then could never do it again. Then it’s just release bad album after really bad album. Who knows why they couldn’t get that magic back.
So I’m always scared that is going to happen to me. I’m like after “Comatose” we are going to be that band that can’t write any more good songs. So there is a lot of pressure to do it. It’s what we’ve been working for for 12 years and it’s here and I don’t want to lose it. That’s why I wrote so many songs.
15. How did it make you feel to have NBC use the song “Hero” to promote the NFL Kickoff Football game between the Titans and Steelers?
Ahhh, sweet. I couldn’t believe it when I got that call because we’ve been waiting on opportunities like that and we know a lot of bands have and I don’t know why we haven’t. It just never came together. Then we got a call from that and then the WWE wanted to use “Monster” for their 25 year celebration. I was really, really excited because I think the album’s music goes very well with sporting events and what I would call “dude” stuff. Car races, weight lifting, or football. Our music is very epic sounding, it has a real larger than life feel to it. Kind of like Linkin Park. I saw the commercial and I thought that if I would do anything I could do to watch that game because I was really excited and it was exciting commercial.
16. Have you been approached about using your music for any feature films in the future?
No but I would kill to have a song in “Iron Man 2” or a Spider-Man movie. I am a giant comic book fan. In my house I have a life-size Batman and Spider-Man. I’m just nuts about that stuff. When the song “Rebirthing” came out, they were just running the trailers for “Spider-Man 3” which is the one with Venom. I thought that “Rebirthing” has got to be on this movie. It’s the perfect song for this. I was like, I don’t want to be too much of a geek because it was kind of like the “rebirthing” of Spider-man with the black suit. I fought and fought and fought but nothing ever came of it.
17. If you weren’t doing this, what would you see yourself doing?
Golly, I have no idea. I love working with young people. I imagine I would be doing some sort of social work, youth ministry in a church, or something like that. I just love working with teenagers. Artistically, I would be doing a lot of things. I like just about anything artistic. I started a clothing company years ago and I really enjoyed doing that but never had time to do it, so I quit. I would love to design clothes and for houses, that sort of thing. I would love that. I have been infatuated with biology since I was a kid. I am not smart and I would probably not be able to make it through college but I always wanted to be a surgeon. I was just obsessed with that as a kid. I don’t think anybody would want me working on them.
18. What is a normal day in the life of the Cooper’s?
Right now, My wife and I spent a lot of time talking about, “OK, what do we need to do different to make this work?” Where her and I can spend more time together, which is difficult on the road.
19. Do you wish people would just accept the band name Skillet already or do you continue to have fun with it at concerts?
Yea, you know I think the people accepted it better than I do. I don’t really like it but it kind of — sometimes a band name, when you hear it enough times you begin to relate it to that band instead of what it might mean. For example, Korn is like that. First time I heard a band named Korn for the first year I thought that’s going to be the ultimate worst thing I have ever heard. Now if I ever hear the word “corn” I think of the band I don’t think of the vegetable. Korn kind of fits now. It’s okay with the “K” and it’s kind of cool. Skillet has become that way with our fans. You see it written down and it kind of looks like a rock band. Luckily we have been around long enough to make that transition.
20. Is that really your face in the bandages on the “Awake” cover?
That is my face but that is not my eye color. We had to manipulate the color. It is my eye shape.
Maryville Daily Forum