Your show in Finland was a storming success, and we really enjoyed it! How did you and the other guys like the gig?

OZ: We really were excited to see so many fans in Finland. We don't get many sold out 12,000 seat arena shows. So it definitely was a big surprise and a wonderful treat.

The only thing that disappointed us about your gig was the length of it - maybe an hour or so. Why didn't you play any longer, and why did you choose to play only songs from the first three albums? After all, you have a recent release to promote...

OZ: We were told that we had a time limit so we decided to choose the songs that we felt were most important to play. Definitely Soldiers under Command and To Hell with the Devil were on that list. Hopefully we can return to Finland and do a longer show. We do have a new album coming out but we don't really have the songs rehearsed very well so it was easier for us to do older songs.

You probably didn't have too much time to spend in Finland, but did you manage to get any kind of an idea about our country?

OZ: Right off the bat, it was very cold but everybody seemed really nice and hospitable. The place where we stayed had a nice shopping area near by and we spent some time looking around and having a good time. We found a few coffee places that were nice. Maybe when we return, Turku will have Starbucks!

You played a few shows in Spain earlier this month. What kind of a reception did you get in there?

OZ: We received great reception there. We had been to Spain two other times on some one off dates but we didn't expect to see so much enthusiasm this time from Spain. We performed 5 dates, Madrid and Barcelona were sold out. We are very happy with the response and are looking forward to returning there in the near future.

Do you have further touring plans in Europe, and do you think that Finland would be in your itinerary?

OZ: As of now there's nothing in the books for Europe but that could change at any time. Sometimes we'll get offers from promoters there and we can be ready within a month to three months to perform. We love going to Europe and would go at anytime.

When can we expect a new Stryper album, and what kind of musical direction do you think you are taking with it?

OZ: Here in the US the album will probably release in the late Summer of 08, and I don't know how long after that it will take to reach Finland. In my opinion, the new album sounds a lot more like our old style. We tracked the guitars to sound a lot like "To Hell with the Devil" . The music definitely has old school metal overtones but there are a couple of "up to date" ideas mixed in. One of my favorites is a ballad called "Run In You". I'm sure Stryper fans will be very pleased with this next CD.

Having read reviews of your shows, it seems that you don't seem to play too much material from "In God We Trust". Haven't those songs stood the test of time or are they somehow difficult to reproduce live? Some of your most polished and "produced" material is on that album... but the likes of "In God We Trust" and "Always There For You" are really popular among the fans.

OZ: Yes we know that and they have been difficult to reproduce live, that's probably one of the reasons why we re-recorded the song "in God We Trust" on the "Reborn" album. We are working on a version of "Always There For You" so that we can play it for everyone, but we can only do so many songs in a set. Sometimes the more difficult ones end up getting canned for the sake of having less stress. We do like to have fun when we play and some songs just aren't fun to play, yet we know that we have to do them at some point. I probably shouldn't be saying this stuff but, oh well. Hopefully everyone will give us a break on this.

There's a rumour going around (in Wikipedia for example) that Robert Sweet won't be playing drums on the next album - any truth to that?

OZ: Yes it's true, Robert didn't play on this new album due to personal reasons that we wish to keep within the band. The drummer on the album was Kenny Aronoff who played with many artists including John Cougar Mellencamp, Melissa Ethridge, just to name a few. Kenny did a great job and the drum- tracks sound awesome. Robert is still the drummer for Stryper and I don't for see it being any different, we are looking forward to him being on the next album.

"The Roxx Regime Demos" - I haven't heard the Cd, but it seems that most of the songs ended on "The Yellow And The Black Attack" album. Are these demo versions very different to the ones that were eventually released?

OZ: Not too different, although there was a heavy version of "My Love I'll Always Show" that never got put on any of our albums, those demos go back to the very beginnings when I first joined the band. That was when we found an instant chemistry between us. We payed for those recordings out of our own pockets at a small studio called Casbah. We had a lot of great memories from the place and worked very hard on those demos, dreaming of getting a record deal from them.

You mention on your site that you've joined Bloodgood as the second guitarist. How's that going?

OZ: Being in Bloodgood is kind of like going on vacation whenever I play with them. We get along so well, that we never want the time to end when we're together, and the comedy never stops. It's like watching the three stooges, or rather the "five" stooges. You never know what's going to happen, but they're a great band. I've always admired them, and we've always been good friends since the early 80's. Bloodgood will be performing in Germany the first week of April of 2008, and in Norway/Sweden sometime in July of 2008 so maybe you'll be able to experience it for yourself.

You also have the band Sin Dizzy, is that still an active group?

OZ: Not really. Right now there are no plans for Sin Dizzy to get back together but you never know, that could change. We are all still very good friends. Maybe if we had an offer to get back together and perform, we might do it.

If you think about the music business back in the eighties, how do you think that it has changed over the years?

OZ: Oh man.. not even the same business. Record companies don't spend a lot of money like they used to. It seems like downloading music is the new thing. CD's will be like T-shirts and hats, probably only sold at big chain department stores or the merch booth at concerts. Record companies seem like they're losing enthusiasm, and are they definitely getting smaller. Their biggest mistake was making music digital, and I think they should go back to vinyl. I miss the days of the big vinyl record covers where you got to spend time looking at the artwork and reading the fine print. I still have all of my vinyl records and play them on occasion! Artists can now sell their music online themselves, which seems to be the right thing, in my opinion anyway. There will never be anything like seeing a band perform live, the experience is always surreal, especially if it's your favorite artists and that's one thing they'll never take away from us musicians. I just wish they'd keep ticket prices down, 150 American dollars to see your favorite band play seems like a rip off. I'd rather play in small places and charge less, but that's just my opinion because I know how it feels. At that price, they should give CD's and DVD's to you when you redeem your ticket.

Interview and photos by Mira Suutari-Toivonen
(c) 2008 RockUnited.Com, 4 March 08



During the band's visit in Turku, Finland, they held a press conference. RockUnited.Com was there, and here's our report...

When Stryper started, there were a lot of people against them. Some of the Christian music fans thought that their image and sound were unacceptable, and some of the metal fans couldn't handle the message in the lyrics. The band was asked whether the situation has changed. Robert Sweet: "Christian music is more widely accepted these days, so it's easier these days. Still, there are those who can't tolerate our message."

Talking of message, Stryper were asked about the not too upfront message of the current band, how they are afraid of the "J-word" (that's "Jesus" of course). Michael Sweet said that they don't know these contemporary bands personally so it would be difficult to pass judgement. "I'd like if there were more bands with a bold message", he said.

Stryper has never been a band to shy away from using the "J-word", the bold stance has been their trademark throughout the years. They aren't afraid to try to reach new audiences either: "there was an opportunity for us to play in the same line-up as Slayer on a festival in Mexico, and we were ready to do it. It would have been interesting to play to that audience. Unfortunately that didn't work out."

In Finland, there are several Christian Metal bands, and the band was asked if they knew any of them. Michael Sweet answered: "no, I'm afraid we don't know any Finnish bands, but we know the Swedish band Blindside very well. Besides, we really don't know much about Heavy Metal anymore, as we're transforming into a Country and Polka band... and you'll find out that I'm a bit of a clown!"

When asked about the source of inspiration, Michael Sweet answered that "lyrically it comes from God, while musically we've all grown in very musical families. Music is my life."

The band broke up in the early nineties, and the members went their separate ways. The initiative to reform the group didn't come from a promotor waving a big paycheck. "Between 1993 and 2003 I didn't feel like the timing was right to put the band together again, but then in 2003 the time was right, and I felt that the hand of God lead us back together", Michael Sweet answered.

The "reborn" Stryper isn't exactly the same band as it was in the eighties. Original bassist Tim Gaines left the group and Tracy Ferrie joined the Yellow And Black Attack. He was asked whether it was hard to replace Gaines. "It was quite easy as the music style is similar to what I've been doing before. The fans have been very welcoming", said Tracy.

The eighties were a golden era for Stryper, and the band has fond memories of those years. Still, they don't miss certain elements of the Glam Metal eighties. "We don't miss the big hair or the yellow and black clothes, it took us hours to get ready. now we just put on our clothes and play the gig. After 4 or 5 years of yellow and black we got tired of it", Michael Sweet said. Robert Sweet added that "those were great times, but these days are great times too".

A new album is in the works, and almost completed. Michael Sweet said that he'll be finishing the lead vocals as soon as he gets back home. The new album will be a return to the roots of Stryper, with their trademark harmonies and guitar solos. "I know our fans are going to be really pleased with it", he added.