Skillet’s John Cooper Discusses Uproar Festival, the Power of Music + More
Skillet are rocking the Rockstar Energy Uproar Tour this summer in support of 'Rise,' one of their biggest albums to date. The disc features such standout tracks as 'Sick of It,' 'American Noise,' 'Not Gonna Die,' 'Fire and Fury,' 'What I Believe' and the title track. During a break in the band's schedule, Skillet frontman John Cooper took some time to talk with 'Loudwire Nights' host Full Metal Jackie.
John, what makes the competition of a festival like Uproar healthy for bands? How do fans benefit from it?
That’s an interesting question that no one has ever asked me. I always think it’s funny, the great thing about that is, as long as its healthy competition, it’s good. All the fans get to come and see the band at 100 percent, no one wants to give 80 percent and then have someone come on after them and show them how it’s done. The great thing about these types of events is you get to see a lot of different kinds of bands and hopefully the idea is, you get to see them at their best. We’re having a pretty awesome time out here. And the competition is pretty fierce [laughs].
You’ve been the constant member of this band from the beginning. What makes Skillet such a life blood for you?
I’ve always loved music. Music is what makes me feel good. It's the first thing that I want when I’m having a bad day or a good day, or working out [laughs] or driving in the car. I’ve always loved music. It’s one of my truest passions. I’ve been lucky enough to do this for quite a long time and just keep rallying that support, grassroots with those fans and playing shows, getting word of mouth going and being lucky enough to be able to come back to those cities over and over and play for more people each time. It’s been 18 years for Skillet and we’re just lucky enough to be doing it still.
Skillet has an extensive catalog that goes back a few years. Have you been conscious of the ways you’ve evolved and grown as a musician? What’s your greatest strength as a songwriter?
I think all bands are probably to a certain extent aware of that evolution that happens. You have to, unless you’re lucky enough to be AC/DC or a Metallica, someone who doesn’t need to change. I’m a huge AC/DC fan, and most of AC/DC fans don’t want them to do anything different. It’s supposed to sound just the way they sound. Most acts aren't that lucky to have created a genre, basically.
If you’re doing music for 10-plus years, you need to change for the times but it’s not so much a discipline to change with the times, it’s fun. If you asked me what I’m listening to today, I’m going to have different influences than I did 10 years ago. I will enjoy these things. The first time I heard Skrillex, I had never heard of any kind of that kind of music until I heard Korn with Skrillex, and I thought, 'Wow! I've never heard anything like that before, that’s really cool.' It was angry, I loved it.
You are aware of that as you go along. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it’s a good thing that you just want to grow as a musician, try new things and have new influences. I think my biggest strength as a songwriter is that I love a lot of different kinds of music. That is why Skillet is never really been pigeonholed to one format. We have several types of music within our sound, all the way back to the '70s, some of my favorite bands of all time are from the '70s. Yes and Fleetwood Mac, Queen, Meat Loaf and spanning all the way up to current music. There’s a lot of different genres within our band.
A lot of musicians talk about music being channeled through them, kind of like divine inspiration. What’s that like -- the rush of a great idea coming to you out of thin air?
Oh man. I haven’t been lucky enough to have a bunch of hits, [laughs] that’s probably a question for Bono. But, it is exhilarating when you do have an idea and -- that’s probably the most exhilarating. I’m not really sure if I’ve ever known that I wrote a hit song. Usually I write what I believe and feel, but what is exhilarating is when you’ve written something that you just believe. It sums you up as a person.
We had a song called 'Awake and Alive.' That was a song for me, frankly no one liked the song at first. The label didn’t want to record it, we toyed with not even putting it on the record. I loved the song. I thought, 'This is who I am. That song sums what I believe. Even if it’s not a radio hit, even if it’s not people’s favorite on the record, I feel exhilarated because that’s who I am.' Rock 'n' roll is all about your three minutes to write something you believe in and share it with the world, a scream it from the mountaintop sort of thing and when that happens, those are great moments.
John, how have faith and your spiritual beliefs changed as a result of everything you’ve experienced recording and touring with Skillet?
My faith is a very important part of my life and my music. I’m a real believer in that rock 'n' roll should be, you should be singing about what you believe. It doesn't matter if that’s religious or anti-religious or political or about love or just about having a bad or a good day. It should be something that you stand behind, a lot of people ask me: 'John, I know you guys are a religious band, how does Jesus and rock 'n' roll go together?' To me, that’s why it goes together. Like Johnny Cash. I don’t know how he managed to do it, but it’s who he was. I think to another extent, Skillet is that way.
I think maybe a way that my faith has changed, I don’t know if I'd say it’s changed but it’s been strengthened by the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many fans who say that our music gives them hope. I meet people all the time that say: 'Hey John, I know you guys are a religious band, I’m an atheist but your songs make me feel better. They give me something to live for.' To me, that’s a job well done. That’s the absolute best part about my job is getting to meet a fan who decided to set themselves into a drug clinic because of the song 'Sick of It.' I’ve heard that from 10-15 different people. Hearing that your music has changed someone definitely makes you more aware of the power of music.
What makes expressing your faith so fulfilling and if you didn’t have this musical outlet, how do you think you would express faith and spirituality?
I’m kind of an expressive person in general. If we were to hang out together, you’d find out quickly all the things I love [laughs]. Whether that’s good or bad. I’ll talk about Star Wars, Batman, video games, Dr. Pepper, Hamburgers. Actually, just food. I kind of like to talk about the things I love. It’s how I experience joy, I guess. Talking about the faith in our music, it’s important to me.
As I mentioned, I grew up listening to music. I remember I used to fight with my dad growing up probably like most people listening. My mom passed away when I was 14. My dad and I started fighting and just started hating each other. I remember going to my best friend's house and we were at that age where guys started to lift weights. Sixth, seventh grade you start to run and get into physical fitness. Back in the '80s we wanted to look like Rambo. I remember him putting on Metallica for the first time. I had never heard Metallica before; he said you gotta hear this music. I remember how I felt when I first heard 'One.' Just that anger, but it was like a release of anger, as we were lifting weights. We were probably lifting 25 pounds but I remember that music helped me and it made me feel good.
That’s why it's so important to me, I want to help other people feel good and experience that same sensation when they listen to Skillet music. When they’re having a bad day, they can turn Skillet on and feel better. That’s important to me. I think just sharing hope, and faith in general whether it’s with music or not is important. I think I’d be working with youth. I’d be doing some sort of teenage work. Either at a church or an after school program, where kids come and can play sports. A lot of these kids don’t have parents at home and they don’t have people to talk to. I’d love to be a counselor of some sort to help people teenagers get through all the crap they go through every day.
Thanks to Skillet's John Cooper for the interview. 'Rise' is available at both Amazon and iTunes. Look for the band on the Uproar Tour at these stops. Tune in to Loudwire Nights With Full Metal Jackie’ Monday through Friday 7PM through midnight online or on the radio. To see which stations and websites air ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.