Music’s busy man Michael Sweet talked with Erich Morse of National Rock Review about his new projects, what makes him happy, and a glass eye.
The new Sweet & Lynch album, Only to Rise, will be released Jan 27, 2015. A new video in support of the LP will be released Jan 19, 2015. Half of Sweet & Lynch, Michael Sweet, was kind enough to give National Rock Review some of his time and take us behind the scenes.
NRR: Tell me about the Sweet & Lynch, Only to Rise, album that’s coming out very soon. I got the chance to write a review for National Rock Review on it, and I loved all the tracks. How did that come about?
Michael Sweet: Well, I got a phone call from Serafino, who owns Frontiers Records, and he asked me to sing, and if I would like to sing on a ‘super group’ album he was putting together. He had suggested John Levin. I graciously, eventually suggested George [Lynch] cause I felt like, Serafino, was going for that Dokken and Stryper merge. He loved the suggestion. I called George and he agreed and I hired him, and then I suggested producing the album. Serafino agreed and allowed me to do that …I hired James and Brian. I had a very clear vision on those guys. We just started putting it together. George would write riffs and send them to me. I would complete them as songs, write the lyrics and the melodies, and add sections that weren’t there what-have-you, and we went and recorded. We made an album. It really was like clockwork. I mean, it was one of the easiest albums, although, I felt like it might be a very difficult album. The way we had to do it and with the busy schedules and whatnot, [but] it was one of the easiest albums I’ve ever been a part of.
NRR: I was going to ask you about that, because George Lynch is trying to be the busiest man in music besides Dave Grohl and maybe Cory Taylor. He just released…
Michael Sweet: Well that’s not going to happen because I’m going to beat him, ok? (Laughing) He is very busy. I’m very busy too but I think George may have me beat.
NRR: He just might. Well, if that’s the case, then may the best man win, because there is an awful lot of things he’s coming out with. With those schedules, however, are there plans to tour in support of the album or have you guys not been able to really make a decision on that one way or the other?
Michael Sweet: No, we’re definitely planning to do some touring. The tricky part is aligning everybody’s schedules. Everyone’s doing different things. You’ve got James with Fogerty. Brian with a number of groups, I think he was doing QueensrÃ¿che… Jeff Tate anyway. He’s doing something else now. He’s got a new band going on. I’m doing the Stryper thing. I’m producing some albums this year, and George is doing Lynch Mob. You know it’s just hard to make everyone’s schedules line up where we can actually and go see a tour become a reality. But we’re working on that, we’re going to make that happen.
“Our voices change as we get older, but I’m blessed to able to still be singing.” ~ Michael Sweet
NRR: Well, just out of curiousity, are there plans in the near future to release another album with the old band [Stryper]?
Michael Sweet: Oh, yeah, yeah! We go in the studio in two weeks and start recording. Well, we’ll start pre-production in two weeks. Actually, less then two weeks, the guys come out a week from this coming Thursday, and we’re going to spend about eight days at my house doing pre-production. I’m going to teach the guys all the songs, and, then we’re going to start recording on Feb 01, 2015.
NRR: What’s the [best guess] to drop the new album?
Michael Sweet: That album is going to be turned in by the end of May. It’ll come out by Oct or Nov of this year .
NRR: I’m sure there will be a lot of fans happy to read about that.
Michael Sweet: Yeah, it’s going to be good. It’s definitely going to be a follow-up to No More Hell to Pay. It’s going to have a little different flavor here and there from time to time. But for the most part, it’s a good follow-up to that. We’re going to stick to our roots, give people what they want. We’re not going to try to reinvent the wheel here at all.
NRR: Going back to the Only to Rise album, when you sat down to write the songs did you have anything in mind as far as content of the songs or were they previously written and you just hadn’t found an outlet for them before now? How exactly did that come about?
Michael Sweet: No, they’re all new songs, basically the way it worked is once George was ready to go in and start doing demos, putting together some guitar riffs idea, I’d talk to him on the phone, and I’d just basically just suggested, ‘Hey man, you know, let’s try, give me a little bit of, give me a song that has a little bit of a Van Halen vibe. Or give me a song of a Journey vibe. You know how about something kinda like Dokken, “The Hunter.” And he would send me songs that had those vibes. They weren’t blatant copies of those songs but they just had the feel. Like for example, “Like A Dying Rose,” that was the song he sent me when I said I want something that kind of has a “The Hunter” vibe to it. …It was just so easy, so easy to do.
NRR: What’s your opinion of social media and leaking of tracks before an album is released? Is it more of a problem since you first stared in music or is there not much you can do about it and you just have to go with the flow of things?
Michael Sweet: Well, it depends on what kind of leak they are. What I mean by that is, if it’s the entire album and the label and the artist doesn’t know about it, that’s not good. That’s a really bad situation. If it’s done by the label or the artist, the streaming [of a] song or a sample of a song, I actually did. Those leaks you’re referring to, might have been songs that I put out. That’s a whole different situation. That’s obviously a planned out way to promote the album and make people aware of the song and/or album. So, it just depends on what it is.
NRR: If there’s a new prospective fan coming across the CD for the first time, what would you want them to take away from listening to that album in particular?
Michael Sweet: Just the fact that, to me, I wanted it to be a reminder how great the music was from the 70s and the 80s. To me, in my opinion, it was the best music of our generation. The hard rock that came out in the 70s and 80s: Bad Company, Journey, Foreigner, Van Halen, you know all these bands and that’s what this album is. It kind of takes you back to that time, purposely, we set out to do that. Without obviously, blatantly, copying bands or whatnot. We just wanted to kind of say, hey guys, this is music we were raised on. This is who we are and it’s amazing music. Check it out. Hopefully, this album does that, and if it does, we’ve accomplished everything.
NRR: I have to ask, when did you first get into music?
Michael Sweet: I got into music when I was born. I mean I really didn’t have a choice. In other words, my parents are singers and song writers. So… I grew up in a musical family. My grandmother would always bribe me with a quarter to try to get me to sing. I just grew up around music, so it’s all I’ve ever known.
NRR: The reason I asked is, is there any memory in that storied history that sticks out to be too unreal, too funny, or just too unforgettable that you’d be willing share?
Michael Sweet: Oh, my god. There’s so many stories. I remember back in the 80’s like having to go on stage, you know, one time in particular, my pants. I was wearing Spandex pants and the entire crotch ripped out, and I had my guitar tech duct tape me up. I had to perform the entire set with duct tape and with my legs together, standing in one spot.
I talk about a glass eye story in my book [Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed]. We were in Australia and a guy in the front row kept pointing at my feet and screaming at me for the first four or five songs. This went on and on and on, and finally, when I had the opportunity I looked down. I found something at my foot. It looked to me in my mind at that time, for whatever reason, to be a wad of gum. Someone spit out gum, don’t ask me why I thought that I just did at that time. So, when I had the opportunity I reached down and I flicked it. And it was hard, it was like a marble. It wound up being this guy’s glass eye. It had popped out of his head, he was head banging, I guess. Popped out of his head and he wanted his eye back. And obviously I, you know, flicked the eye into the crowd. Then he proceeded to, for the rest of the show, swear at me and yell at me. It was just the weirdest moment, very Spinal Tap.
NRR: Since you already have someone like George Lynch in the band, when you go out on tour for this album, is there anybody that you have in mind you’d like to bring out with you, that you would call up the management company and say we want this band; who would that be off the top of your head?
Michael Sweet: Oh, gosh, good question. I have no idea. I know that we’re trying to put together, as odd as this might sound, trying to put together a tour pack where it would be SWEET & LYNCH headlining, closing and then Lynch Mob, opening. So, you know, we may try to piece that together. In terms of bands, I have no idea man. I’d have to give a day’s worth of thought, that’s for sure.
NRR: With the great reviews of the LP so far, will there be a second edition or are you more of a wait and see kind of attitude?
Michael Sweet: I think there we be a second edition. I mean, obviously, that is driven by and decided upon how successful the first edition is, the first album. So, I mean, if it is a successful album [then] people really like it and it does well and the label does well and whatnot. I think for sure there will be a second edition. Absolutely, and I would love to see that happen. I had a blast making this album. I’m very proud of it. I know George is as well, everyone is. It would be really great to not just see a second but a third or fourth too. It’d be pretty cool.
NRR: Is there one song on the new release that is your favorite or you won’t mind playing a hundred times on tour, if so what song comes to mind?
Michael Sweet: You know one of my favorites, I don’t know if it’s a favorite of everybody’s, but it is of mine and that’s the song called, “Love Stays.” I’m not sure what it is about that song, but I just really like the vibe of it. I love the feel, the drum groove, the way, just the way it sounds. Everything about it turned out perfect to my ears.
You can find the review of the soon to be released album, Only to Rise, by National Rock Review, here.
Sweet & Lynch
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Photo credit ~ Tina Marie Enos