In 1986, Christian glam-metal band Stryper had a platinum-selling album called To Hell with the Devil. They had big poodle '80s hair, eye makeup, big-budget MTV videos with striped helicopters, and they toured the world wearing yellow-and-black-striped leather tights. Everything about them was cheesy. The overgesticulated "metal" playing, the "metal" wail-scream vibrato vocals, and the wannabe–Tommy Lee drummer playing a striped drum set with 35 more drums than he was ever going to hit. Stryper were known as "the Yellow and Black Attack," and they looked like redneck high school girls going to prom dressed like bumblebees. Their 1988 follow-up, In God We Trust, was also hugely successful. These were their golden years. The book of Isaiah in the Bible, verse 53:5 says, "By His stripes we are healed"—this is where Stryper got their name. God may frown on me for saying this, but metal music and Christianity don't mix. Christianity is for sermons and clergy. Metal is for Pantera albums. The Christian/metal combination is uncomfortable at its core. Would you put a necrophiliac in a morgue? No, you wouldn't. It would just be wrong, like a Christian metal band. Some things should stay far away from each other.
Stryper have just released a covers album called The Covering. There are Stryper versions of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, KISS, and more. Stryper vocalist Michael Sweet sounds strong, and the versions aren't altogether bad. It's cheesy because it's Stryper—but more so, you have to wonder, how can a band that calls itself Christian cover songs by such heathen bands?
Sweet was contacted for this interview but once he saw the questions he didn't want to answer them, so I gave them to T. J. Cowgill, Seattle's leading heathen. The Book of Black Earth singer/guitar player and Actual Pain founder doesn't know Stryper and has never met them—when he's speaking on their behalf, he's just making shit up.
Are Stryper still a Christian rock band?
I don't know—I hate Christian rock. That shit sucks.
Back in the day, what made Stryper want to become a Christian rock band? Was there a specific incident where you were like, "This needs to be Christian"?
I get it, these questions were for the Stryper dude. But he's too much of a nerd to answer a couple questions.
Being bad and/or evil is kind of an inherent quality in rock music. How do Stryper rock and not be evil?
Well, they don't rock. They don't even roll. They sit around and drink Diet Cokes and practice a dead desert tribe's faith that never made sense to begin with.
Have you ever been rocking so hard during a concert that you spontaneously (accidentally) worshiped Satan? Or said the f-word a whole bunch of times in a song?
I can see why this dude didn't want to do this interview.
Do Stryper still throw Bibles into the crowd?
Did they really do that shit? [Laughs] Bibles are totally disposable! Throw 'em away dude!
Have Stryper struggled through the years to maintain the Christian values of their music?
Okay, here's the deal with Christian bands, especially Christian metal bands. They do the same stupid shit regular bands do. They get high, they drink a lot, and they sleep with their underage shitty groupies. But the difference between them and regular metal bands is that they have to say "sorry" to some bearded fish-eating imaginary hippie who never existed. Regular bands just hang out and be regular.
Does Stryper still drink and do drugs?
Yes, they do. If they say they don't, they're lying.
Touring musicians face many temptations on the road: women, drugs, women on drugs, women on drugs who want to spread whipped cream all over you. How do Stryper face these temptations? Do you ever get a girl alone after a show, and instead of getting naked with her, you read her a Bible verse? Which Bible verse would you read her?
I personally don't tour anymore. I have a business that keeps me very busy and a lovely wife whom I love very much. On the road, I was practically a saint. Sure, I would booze and do my fair share of nasty drugs—but a nasty whore, that's a young man's game. If I had to read a Bible verse to a girl after a show, it would probably be something from Leviticus, some real Old Testament shit. Something about where she should wash my come-stained leather.
What do you think about the Bible story where Jonah gets swallowed by the whale? I've always kind of wanted to be swallowed by a whale. I'd make a fort in there. And watch Howl's Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki. Have you seen Miyazaki's movies? They'd be killer to watch in a whale.
That shit is tight.
Is smoking weed un-Christian? Can you smoke pot and still be Christian? I know people who get so high that they say they talk to God. Are there Stryper stoners?
I have no idea. Another funny thing about Christians is that they try to pretend that they are just like everyone else, they smoke weed, party, get drunk, or whatever. But when it really comes down to it, I want the people in my inner circle to be able to handle themselves in a fistfight and not "turn the other cheek" and "pray that the meek shall inherit the earth" or whatever. I want to hang out with some real motherfuckers who know how to handle business.
Some have said that Stryper aren't really Christian, that the Christian part is a gimmick to make money. What do you say to those people? Are you really Christian rock, or is it just a cash grab?
Yo, really it's all a gimmick. Even the satanic metal dudes. I mean, think about it, people are people—you know what I'm saying? The perception is what makes bands who they are, and when you get down to brass tacks, it's all just smoke and mirrors. The only thing all bands are really about is money, fame, sex, and cocaine. If they aren't about that shit, you and your shitty newspaper wouldn't write about them. It's all a fucking game, man.
This new Stryper album, The Covering, features covers of Zeppelin, Priest, Sabbath, and Iron Maiden. These bands aren't Christian rock at all. Much of their subject matter is very un-Christian. Do Stryper feel that they are being untrue to their beliefs by playing this kind of music?
That shit is so fucked, I don't even know where to begin. Okay. Let me try to break this shit down. Christian metal started sometime in the '80s because a bunch of pussies wanted to listen to Slayer but their mommies wouldn't let them because of their "satanic message." So Christian bands started popping up along with some Jesus- and money-loving Christian labels. Boom. Real heavy metal inadvertently creates the Christian rock genre. Next, it does its little thing for a while, they sell, like, gold amounts of tapes to dorks, but it's not good enough. It's like coffee with Sweet'N Low. It's sweet, sure, but it ain't sugar. After a while, the silent majority gets so quiet these dorks in Stryper don't think that anyone's listening anymore so they think it's okay to cover some music that is clearly owned and created by the devil. But it's still totally fucking safe, man. I mean, Judas Priest might be the only real sketchy band on that list, and they still proved in court that they didn't mean to hurt anyone. So it's like, whatever, man, no one cares. The real dudes making the real music of our generation have nothing to do with Stryper, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Iron fucking Maiden, or any of these dorks; they're doing it off those assholes' radar.
Led Zeppelin put fish parts inside of women in a sexual act (right here in Seattle), and Stryper are covering them. How can a Christian rock band cover them?
They all do it, dude; they all put fish parts inside of women.
And Judas Priest have a gay singer. Isn't being gay un-Christian? Or against Christianity? Are you worried that covering Priest will turn away some of your hardcore Christian fans?
What? Rob Halford is GAY?
And Iron Maiden has a song "The Number of the Beast." The words to that song are "In the night, the fires are burning bright/The ritual has begun/Satan's work is done/six-six-six, the number of the beast/Sacrifice is going on tonight."
Iron Maiden couldn't hold a candle up to Bathory. Until these spandex-wearing pussies decide to cover a real heavy-metal band, I don't give a shit.
This article has been updated since its original publication.