Joi : Ardent seems to have tried to activate a grassroots campaign to advertise your new album, Alien Youth. What do you
think of this campaign and the capabilities of your fans to spread the word?
John : We think the grassroots campaign is perfect for the style of band that we are within the Christian market -- i.e.
we don't fit a lot of the "molds for success" that are out there, but our fans are amazingly dedicated and incessant about
spreading the Skillet-word. After touring hard for five years now, our fan base has been steadily growing. We now have dedicated
panheads who definitely have the ability and desire to spread the word. They've been handing out stickers, flying banners,
downloading and distributing Alien Youth flyers and tour posters from alienyouth.com, creating their own skillet/panhead websites,
and much more.
Joi : How do you feel the sound of the new album is a departure from or continuation of other albums you have released?
John : Alien Youth is a step forward from Invincible in terms of sonic intensity. The goal was to capture our live sound,
so the production is bigger in every aspect. There still are the electronic elements and programming, but they have more of
an industrial leaning. The guitars are fatter and more prominent in the mix. The writing style is a bit edgier and darker,
even though there are still some worship songs. Some people are saying that Alien Youth is a mixture of Skillet's debut album
Joi : What are some of the advantages or disadvantages of producing your own albums?
John : Some people like having a team to influence the sound and direction of an album. I have always liked having less
opinions, because it makes the project hard to steer. This record was loads of fun because I knew exactly what I wanted and
had the freedom to do it. I knew that I wanted the music to be heavier and more aggressive, so we recorded the album in a
way that sounded live. The major disadvantage is that when you produce it yourself, you lose some of the objectivity that
comes from outside the band to say, "Hey, that's no good!" Luckily for me, my wife Korey is always honest and challenging
me to do better.
Joi : How has your Festival Con Dios experience been so far?
John : Festival Con Dios was our first experience at being an opening band. We only played twenty minutes, which seemed
really short, because we are used to playing full sets. We were glad to see so many Skillet fans come, and we hope that we
made some new ones. Being one of the more aggressive bands on the tour, we got to share a small bit of our hearts with parents
and people that wouldn't normally come to see us. The most exciting part of our show was doing "Shout to the Lord." We would
see nearly everyone raise their hands to worship, even if they wouldn't normally listen to our musical style.
Joi : Share some of your opinions on playing to huge crowds (such as you encountered on Festival Con Dios or at Crusades)
versus smaller crowds. How does the method of ministry/performance differ?
John : Festival Con Dios crowds were much smaller than we expected, but we have played before really big crowds at festivals/crusades.
We handle most crowds the same in terms of worship and the preaching of the gospel. The main difference with a massive crowd
is that you lose the intimacy of a concert. For instance, when everyone can physically see you on stage and see the expressions
on your face, and when you preach to people and see their reaction, it tends to be more powerful. In saying all of that, there
is no feeling like 20,000 people screaming to hear you play more.
Joi : Who do you think your music is primarily marketed to -- Christian or secular audiences? How do you (or would you)
reconcile the demands of these two, often very different, groups?
John : There is no question that our music is marketed to the Christian audience. Most of our fans are Christians, or heard
of us through a Christian medium. Like a lot of Christian groups, we have a desire to reach more non-Christians, but there
are seemingly no good ways to do it. There is no way that we will stop talking about Jesus, and no way that we will stop singing
about Jesus. We have done showcases for at least 15 different mainstream labels, all of which say that they like us but won't
sign us. For it to work, we need to find someone at a label who loves the music enough that they don't mind us being Christians.
Most people are ignorant of the complications of signing with a mainstream label when you are already signed to a Christian
one. If we were not known as a Christian band, then getting signed mainstream would not be so difficult. People sometimes
ask "Why aren't you on MTV?" When I answer that MTV won't play Christian videos they always say, "Well, they play P.O.D.,"
but P.O.D. has a mainstream label backing them. For us, wanting to go mainstream is not the issue.
Joi : In 2000, Skillet released a worship album. Do you have any opinions on the purpose or impact of albums that are marketed
primarily as "worship" albums?
John : Worship has always been a passion for Skillet. When we started, worship was not so popular. In fact, people used
to think in '96 or '97 that we wrote "Shout to the Lord!" I am so excited about the worship revival that is happening, but
I do see a danger. If the church (the worldwide church) doesn't learn how to pursue Jesus and truly worship, then this contemporary
"worship" revival has been a tragedy. The truth is, just because we now have acoustic guitars instead of an organ doesn't
mean that it is actually worship. There is nothing greater about a projector and screen than there is a hymnal. It is the
heart of radical worship that is the key. There are churches all over the nation that are starting up contemporary services
that are basically modern, religious programs that are no different than the traditional meetings. The Christian music industry
has picked up on this worship revival, which I do think is good. I also see a place for albums marketed as solely worship
albums. One of the dangers is that there will be confusion between performance and worship. This is something that Skillet
has always tried to prevent, and somehow it usually works. People have said, "When I leave most concerts, I leave saying,
'That was awesome.' But when I leave your concerts, I leave saying God is awesome!" That is a huge testimony and I love to
Joi : In a press release, your negative reaction to a Marilyn Mansion concert was noted. How would you, as an individual
or as a band, respond to those who are attracted to his message?
John : I grew up in a religious environment that believed all rock music was from the devil. I rebelled in fifth grade
when I started listening to Petra! (That is supposed to be funny...) I was freed from religiosity when I was eighteen, and
bought my first secular record. Music in itself isn't evil, but there are messages in music that can't be tolerated. Before
I saw Marilyn Manson, I honestly thought that his hate for Jesus was more of a gimmick. I went to the concert because I wanted
to see how this generation responded to him. I was shocked at some of the things that he said against Jesus, and in my seat,
I got mad and said , "Man, you're ripping me off!" I wrote a song on the new album at that concert that talks about how the
things people say about God can steal bits of truth from us. There are lots of bands saying things that steal away the greatness
of God. I would never be one to say that listening to secular music is a sin, but there is no question that the messages are
Joi : What are your fans like ? At what point did they coin the term "panheads"? What similarities do they have to P.O.D.'s
John : Our fans are amazing. We feel that we have the most loyal fans in music today. Just this week, in three different
states, our fans came to concerts armed with our favorite cookies, birthday cake, homemade Alien Youth pins, and skillets.
Last month in New York, 20 people drove a record-breaking 16 hours from Canada just to see the Skillet show. They were nicknamed
panheads in 1997 because of how shocked we were at their loyalty and craziness. Our fans have stuck with us through major
line-up changes and major musical changes. They join with us in our message and vision, and our success is primarily because
of them. (We are not familiar with P.O.D.'s warriors.)
Joi : Comment on "Invincible Wear." When will the website be functional?
John : Invinciblewear will be functional in conjunction with the Alien Youth release on August 28th. Invinciblewear has
nothing to do with Skillet except for the fact that I started it and Skillet wears it. Invinciblewear eventually hopes to
sell to retail stores and endorse other bands. The main reason I started Invinciblewear is because it is hard to find cool
clothes that aren't in offensive surroundings. Now people can buy cool clothes without feeling that they are supporting something
Joi : Where can you see Skillet heading in the future? How do you think this album is progressing you in that direction?
John : Skillet hopes to be more influential in Christian youth. We also hope to play in front of more non-Christians. We
have always dreamed of being on the edge of a youth revival. Therefore, we are writing a devotional youth curriculum entitled
the Alien Encounter to help promote our ideas of radical Christianity. Secondly, on our internet site (skillet.org), we are
going to start a Skillet book club where we will promote certain books that have influenced our thinking. (Authors such as
C.S. Lewis & A.W. Tozer). Also, for the first time we are announcing that in 2002, Skillet is starting a youth center
where we will hold worship meetings, discipleship groups, and evangelism teams in Kenosha, WI. These are all ways that we
plan on influencing this generation. We are also praying about doing more clubs and mainstream radio strategies to try to
target more non-Christians with our message.
(This HM Magazine interview can be found here)