Mon, 04 Mar 2013 10:55:36
"It feels a little rowdier than the past couple of records," says Skillet singer John Cooper of his band's forthcoming new album. "You've got to follow your heart and do what you feel called to do. You can't measure of success by how many records your sell. You've got to measure it by if you're doing what you're called to do and giving it everything you've got."
Skillet has certainly given everything they've got consistently. That's what has made them something of a beacon in modern hard rock. Very few bands can write songs that are as infectious as theirs. At the same time, they encapsulate a positive message within this undeniable framework. They remain one of the most potent, poignant, and powerful hard rock bands of the 21st century, and their next offering is bound to be their best yet.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Skillet frontman John Cooper talks the next album, evolution, and more.
What can you reveal about the new album?
We're getting close to being halfway done with mixing. I'm very excited about the record. We went into going, "We've had a lot of albums." I think I know what's worked for us in the past. You don't want to reinvent the wheel when you're doing something people like. At the same time, you want to keep it fresh. We went in there going, "It'd be cool to try some new instruments and guitar sounds than what we've done on the past couple records". That's what we've done. We've used some more natural instruments like a dulcimer. We've always used string, but there are more live strings on this record. Guitar sounds are less overdriven and a little dirtier and more rowdy. They're like Stone Temple Pilots or that riotous sound Nirvana had. We're bringing a little bit of that back into our music with the synths and big orchestration. It's pretty cool.
How have you evolved as a lyricist this time around?
You don't want to keep saying the same thing over and over. Sometimes, it's hard to find something new to say. We wrote and demo'ed 72 songs. There was so much to choose from. I wrote about everything in the whole world. After we chose the songs we wanted, we began to see threads coming in and out of the record. The biggest difference about the lyrics here is they're all-inclusive. A lot of times rock music is all about me and the way I feel. I'm having a hard time. I'm having a good time. I feel this. This record is more us. It's me and you against the world. It's our time. It's our life. We've got to stand for what we believe to make this world a better place. It feels very rowdy. That's the best word for it. It feels like we're rallying everyone to join up with us. I don't know if Skillet's really had many songs like that. It's pretty cool.
What were you listening to around making the album?
The biggest thing I got into was more on the indie pop side. I'm typically not the biggest "alternative" or "indie" music kind of person. I enjoyed hearing that pop radio was moving away from dance music into some of this indie stuff like Fun., Gotye, Mumford and Sons, and Of Monsters and Men. They're alternative acts doing interesting things and using different sounds. I don't want to say by any means that you'll hear the new Skillet record and say, "Oh, they look Mumford & Sons!" [Laughs] I don't think people will draw those kinds of comparisons, but small things like that can really affect the way you approach a song. Between me and my wife Korey who does all of the programming, we liked the idea of using some of these earthy instruments. We've always used piano, guitar, and orchestration. Now, we're moving into new things like dulcimer, bells, and harp. It created a cool atmosphere. In general, the record is pretty rock.
What encouraged that?
I didn't want it to be as slick as the past couple of records. I like slick rock records a lot. P.O.D.'s Satellite was very slick compared to The Fund Elements of Southtown. Now, I dig slick rock albums. However, sometimes, they don't come across as passionate and moving as when it feels like a live performance. For instance, when Nevermind came out, you got this feeling like you were in a club watching the band play. It's the same with Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory. It felt live and aggressive. The passion of these songs feels like it needs to be live. I think people feel the passion in our music live. I thought, "Why don't we make the record sound like that? Let's go a little less slick and make this a very moving, passionate record".
Do you feel like you're in a different place than you were going into Awake?
We definitely are in a different place. Going into Awake, I felt like I was still trying to prove to people that the songs were good. I don't mean our fans. I mean gatekeepers. Even though Comatose did so well, people hadn't heard of us. I kept telling everyone "Monster" was good and they didn't get off the bat. It made me think, "Wow, you guys have forgotten what it's like to be a 15-year-old dude hitting the workout room. You don't want pop music. You want to rock out. You guys are missing it". "Monster" was such a big hit. "Awake and Alive" was a big hit, and nobody wanted to record it. I thought our fans would like it. It was unique, but it felt like Skillet to me. It's a good statement. Once the album came out, our fans loved it, and everyone thought it should be a single. Going into this record, people have realized Skillet has something slightly unique. Our voice, what we sing about, and the way we execute it is slightly different from the norm. It's working for Skillet fans.
You speak honestly and give fans a catharsis through heavier music, which is why Awake went platinum.
Thank you! People always ask me, "Is it hard to write positive lyrics with hard rock music?" It is because you don't hear it much. You don't have a whole lot to compare it to. I do think it's one reason Skillet has done well. At one show, this person came back stage and said, "I want you to know your my favorite band. I'm an atheist, but your lyrics make me feel better about life". I meet people like that all the time! I don't think it's because it's Christian. I think it's because it's done in a way that is positive and spiritual. We're clear about what we believe, but the songs are open to interpretation. We're all going through the same stuff.
What's your favorite Skillet song?