SKILLET – John Cooper interview

skillet unleashed interview john cooper


MWMS:  So how’s it going?  You must be riding high on the release of the album!

John:  Oh yeah man, it’s just a whirlwind, so much is happening and it’s good.  The record is finally here and everybody is feeling good and there is a really good vibe out on the album, I love it!

MWMS:  The album is so good, I loved all of your past efforts but this album is just so, so good.  I have listened to it every day since I got it and there are absolutely no filler or throwaway tracks, it really seems like you guys put your heart and soul into everything on here.

John:  Well I am really glad it came off that way, I love to hear that.  I will tell the band, they will be thrilled!

MWMS:  My favorite track on the album is “The Resistance”.  You and Jen’s vocals on that track are killer and Seth’s big solo at the end is insane!  So tell me, how did that one come about?

John:  Well I’ve got some really funny stories about that song.  My wife and I wrote it really early on and everybody liked it but nobody loved it.  It wasn’t even going to be on the record.  At the end of recording we were down to the last few songs we were going to record and our manager kept saying “What about this Resistance song” and I said “Well nobody seems to really like it much”.

MWMS:  Really?  That is a FANTASTIC song!

John:  Sometimes when you have songs like “The Resistance” or “I Want To Live”, they are good songs but they are VERY “Skillet” sounding and people involved with the record will go “oh this just sounds too much like Skillet, we need something a little different”.  There are just a ton of ins and outs that go into these records but anyway we went back and rewrote the chorus a little bit and ended up recording it and it STILL almost didn’t make the record but the band really ended up loving it.  So people listening might not have heard the track yet but the song ends with like a progress rock/metal ending, it’s pretty over the top.  The reason we did that, in fact I haven’t told anybody this in any interviews, but we did it because I was REALLY annoyed that they wouldn’t let me record this metal song I really wanted to record and I was in a bad mood.  Well “The Resistance” was the very last song we recorded and I said “you know what?” I want to like snub my nose up to those guys.  When the song ends, I am not telling them but we are going to put like a metal outro on this thing, something Dream Theater-ish and this album is going to end with a little bit of a shut up to everybody.  In the end everyone was like “well that’s kinda weird but really cool, we will keep it on the record”.

MWMS:  Honestly man this record is already very heavy already so I couldn’t picture this album ending any other way.  This album never really lets up.  There are some ballads on the album but even those have emotional heaviness to them.  “Stars” is such a great song I can picture hearing this at service on Sunday.

John:  Exactly.  The ballads on this album don’t sound wimpy, they either sound emotive or moody and meaningful or dark and that’s what we were trying to do.

MWMS:  Well it definitely worked out!  It’s funny you say you wanted a metal song on the album because this album is sort of all lover the map.  You have a song like “Out Of Hell” for example, the riff in that song sounds like something Five Finger Death Punch would write and it’s killer and then there is “Famous” which is completely different from anything you guys have ever done.

John:  Yes it is!  “Famous” is the one song on the record that I think is completely different from anything else, I mean it’s almost really just a pop song.  However, the aggressiveness of the drums and vocal work out pretty well and it’s just a fun song.  It’s a very broad audience song and I don’t think the metal fans are going to like it but it’s nice to have a song that will throw the fans off a little bit and I think “Famous” is that song on this record.  It’s funny you mention “Out Of Hell”, that is my FAVORITE song on this record.  It seems like every time we do an album I am always wanting a track on the record that’s like “who cares if it’s not a radio single?!”  I am always wanting a metal song, actually I wanted a few but I ended up with 2 which is this one and “Undefeated” is pretty hard I would say.  Like when I go to the gym, I want to hear “Out Of Hell” next to Metallica or whatever ya know?

MWMS:  Well it works so great in the context of this album since it is generally a heavy album.  “Out Of Hell” is my second favorite song on the album and as I said in my review, “The Resistance” is my absolute favorite Skillet song now.

John:  Oh WOW!  That’s awesome!  How about that!”

MWMS:  So I will never forget when you guys came to Tulsa a few years ago and you made fun of my name on the radio, my friends still give me crap to this day about the “time that the lead singer of Skillet made fun of my name on the radio”!

John:  HAHA!  Oh man that is hilarious!  Well, either you’re welcome or I am sorry!  Haha

MWMS:  Oh it’s a “you’re welcome”!  So if you could take me back to any Skillet song, what is the most emotional experience you have ever had recording or writing one of these songs and why?

John:  Oh man, I don’t know if I could answer as the most emotional but on the “Comatose” record, which is my favorite record up until “Unleashed”, “Rebirthing” has been my favorite song since we recorded it 10 years ago.  I mean the whole album was just emotional in general.  Number one: It was our first record that Atlantic records produced on their own and we had this big budget and we were able to make it sound really, really big.  It was also the first real success we had.  My wife sang on that album and it was just so emotional.  I remember thinking we were recording a real special record and you don’t always feel that way, you HOPE you are but the feeling isn’t ALWAYS there.  I remember thinking like alright, this might be really good, we might have just cracked the code on having our signature sound”.

MWMS:  I don’t even really view that as an album but more of a statement from you guys because it really defined Skillet.  That album was the first time I was introduced to you guys.  “Comatose” was the first song I heard and it had such an emotional impact on me and my life at the time.  To this day that song still gives me chills.  I remember back then I was struggling with my faith at the time and that song really helped me see the light.  I mean that song totally tore me up inside, it got me to a better place.

John:  Oh wow, I love to hear that.  I mean honestly, thousands of people have told me that about that record and that’s part of what makes it so special and emotional for us.  This year is actually the 10 year anniversary for that album and it JUST got certified platinum and it is so cool that it came out 10 years ago!

MWMS:  So what do you have planned for touring behind this record?

John:  We are touring like crazy and I am REALLY pumped about it!  We are FINALLY doing a headline run in America and we haven’t done that in about 4 years.  We are going to Europe and Russia in November and December.

MWMS:  So how do you go about picking your singles?

John:  Well everyone kinda gets involved with it, us, the AR guy and the label.  But it is usually pretty clear what we want to put out but if it’s not then someone will bring in ideas and say “this one needs to be chosen for this reason”.  For instance, when “Awake” came out the label wanted to put out “Hero” first and I wanted to put out “Monster” first and I had to fight REALLY hard for that.  Now I look back at it and I am like “duh, Monster was the obvious choice then”.  For this record it was between “Invincible” and “Back from the Dead” and the label REALLY, REALLY wanted “Invincible” to be first and I went with them on that one.

MWMS:  Well speaking from a fan’s perspective, I think “I Want to Live” HAS to be a single.

John:  Funny enough, that is one of my favorites on the record and ya know honestly a lot of people didn’t want it on the album.  They just thought it was too Skillet sounding and I was like “yeah but it’s that signature Skillet sound”.  I mean Metallica doesn’t HAVE to sound like Metallica but maybe they wanted it to be like that, ya know?  Not that I am comparing us to Metallica, by the way HAHA!  However, I think you are right and I think “I Want to Live” is the biggest rock single on the record, and I still think that it might be!  However, I am the only one that thinks that right now!  Haha

MWMS:  Well I hope it is released and they can thank us for its success later!  So tell me, how did you guys go about writing this record?  Because as I said before, it’s just so different for Skillet.

John:  Well I think every time you write a new record you gotta try new things and you gotta be willing to go, “Hey I have done that in the past and let’s try a different way”, but at the same time don’t be afraid of something like “I Want to Live” that sounds a lot like us.  Ya know, I think if people heard the intro to that song they would say “Oh that sounds like Skillet”.  For me, probably the biggest thing I tried on this record is I wanted to put out an album that was just fun to listen to.  Not everything has to be so emotionally heavy and not every song has to impact the world and change lives, sometimes you just want to ROCK!  I mean when I go to the gym I don’t want to listen to U2, I mean I am a huge U2 fan but I want to hear AC/DC in the gym.  I don’t want to have to think about it.  Hopefully it DOES have an impact and emotional meaning just without being completely taxing on you.

MWMS:  This record is definitely a rocker, more so than your past albums, and I think that will bring a whole new energy to your live shows!

John:  Oh yeah, the songs will be so fun to play live.  We are a very energetic band and those songs go over very well for a live show!

MWMS:  Well that’s all I had for you today, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today.  I wish you all of the success in the world with this new album and I can’t wait to catch you guys on tour supporting it!

John:  Thank you so much!  I love it and I hope we see you down the road bud!