Skillet performs at Sandjam Fest in Panama City Beach Saturday, April 25. Founding member John Cooper (bass/vocals) spoke to The Beachcomber by phone during a break from the band’s heavy touring schedule. The band was somewhere between Oregon and Canada.
The band is often classified as a Christian rock act, but you’ve busted through the mainstream in a huge way. How do you explain Skillet’s broad appeal?
There’s a lot of Christian artists that want to cross over. It’s more difficult to do than I could imagine. The baggage that comes along with the title “Christian”—it’s kind of difficult to do. But in the way we present our music and our faith, we’re not judgmental or preachy. We’re authentic.
I don’t think it’s listeners who are against a Christian artist. The industry is afraid of it. Listeners want to listen to something they can believe. Marilyn Manson, KORN, some of my favorite bands, I don’t agree with what they believe. But I believe that they believe, and that makes good art.
The band is playing the Sandjam Fest in Panama City Beach in April. Are there any acts on the bill you’re looking forward to meeting or reconnecting with?
I don’t know a single band we’re playing with! I haven’t looked at the list… I’m very good friends with Shinedown—we’ve toured together twice or three times. They’ve always treated us well, and we’re very supportive of each other. I’ve never performed with 311 or Weezer. This festival is pulling into alternative music. It’s cool to play with bands outside of the hard rock world.
You’ve managed to sell millions of albums in the streaming age. How do you even do something like that these days?
It’s interesting. Our fans have been extremely faithful, and we try to keep making fresh music but keep it authentically Skillet. We work really hard to do so—making the fans happy, the ones that bought our first record in 1996 are still buying our records.
Because we never built our career off trends or radio singles, our fans tend to be more grass roots oriented. And that’s good. When you’re not based on a trend, there’s more longevity. I would have loved to have had a radio hit right off the bat, but it took 13 years!
Your wife Korey has been a big part of the band for years. Would you call it an equal partnership? What do each of you bring to the table?
We’ve been in the band together 22 years. It was simultaneous—she didn’t start the band with me, she joined about eight months after our first record came out. We were married at that point. The sound of Skillet is very much Korey and I together. I bring the metal-dark-prog rock, and she brings a melodic influence and the sound of the alternative world. There’s an emotion snd softness that appeals to female listeners.
How much time is Skillet spending out on the road this year?
We never stop! Typically, it’s 120 shows a year, more or less. We’re on the road for 10 or 11 months, off and on. We look forward to December because that’s our only time off. Last year, we were in Europe until December 16th. We got home, had jetlag, then Christmas.
I read somewhere that you guys had something like a billion streams? How do you top that?
It’s crazy. We had a billion streams last year alone. Streaming has been really big for us. We’re in the Pandora Billionaires Club… I had no earthly idea we had that kind of streaming. I can’t really give you an answer. “Monster” was a big radio song, and it’s streaming like it just came out.
Congratulations on your latest album, Victorious. It’s full of positivity and meaningful lyrics, but you don’t hold back on the heavy metal crunch. It rocks!
We wanted to make it crunchy, a little darker and have the freedom to experience a little more. “Save Me” has an extended bridge guitar solo that’s longer than what radio is used to. But let’s give the fans more of what a Skillet live show is like.
Can the fans expect to hear some new songs at Sandjam?
We’re not even working on new music right now. We released so much over the last two and a half years, now we’re just touring a lot. I’m working on a book—last year, we released a Skillet graphic novel, the first I’d ever written, Eden. I’m currently writing a second graphic novel as well as my first book, which is more like religion-slash-philosophy. I’m writing that as we’re profusely touring.
I have a personal podcast I do every week. It’s called Cooper Stuff. I talk about culture, religion, philosophy… the book is involved in that world.
Discover more at www.skillet.com.