Collide #1 ("Collision Course")
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Collision Course
Interview by: Michael Herman (from

As their band name implies, Skillet is always cooking up something new. They experimented with a variety of sounds on their first five albums until, most recently, they landed on hard rock, the dominant sound on their latest CD, Collide (Ardent). We sat down with the band--singer/bass player John Cooper and his wife/keyboard player Korey, guitarist Ben Kasica; and drummer Lori Peters--and talked about the ever-evolving Skillet sound, a sound that now comes crashing through our speakers as gritty, head-banging hard rock--with a dose of good old-fashioned metal.

With this being your sixth album ...

John Cooper: Whoa! Hey it is!

You've done techno, acoustic, industrial, modern rock, worship, and now more hard core rock. Is there a favorite style, or is this just the evolution of the band?

John: I enjoy the acoustic stuff the least. [His bandmates strongly agree.] It's cool for a little bit here and there for a change but not too often.

Ben Kasica: I like to see other bands doing it, my favorite bands doing their songs a different way. But just not us.

John: That was just a side thing for us in the past. It's really not us. For Skillet, it's been about evolving into what we feel we want to do now. The thing is that once you do it, you go head first into it with everything you've got. We do it that way at least.

Our debut album in '96 was basically grunge rock. I just loved it. But after a while, we started to think we should do something else. We got into the electronic stuff, and I remember thinking, This is so much more fun than grunge rock. There aren't any boundaries with electronic music. You can do anything with keywordswell, my wife can, at least. Playing it live was a lot of fun because you've got the whole backbeat thing and the rhythms are pounding.

Korey Cooper: There are lots of dynamics in that music.

John: For this record, I've been falling back in love with hard rock. And as I now listen to this new album, I can't help but think, This is so much better than our other albums.

I hadn't really liked rock music again until this past year or so. I've been really bored with the hard rock genre of music, you know? I hate rap-core, and that's dominated the music scene for the past two or three years.

So, you grow in phases of what you like to do, and right now I really enjoy playing this type of music. And I haven't enjoyed playing music in a really long time.

Korey Cooper: He's an old '80s metal guy, and a lot of that has come back in. Kids think that's something new, while everybody else is like, That's so metal!

Ben: Yeah, if John could get away with being in a heavy metal band, he'd be there in a second.

Lori Peters: That's why I like doing what we're doing now. Not that I didn't like the Invincible-type music. It was fun to play, but I feel like this is more my style. I'm having a real good time playing this stuff.

John: The drumming on this record is so much different than our... I interrupted you, Lori--but to brag on you, so that makes it okay! The drums really are so much different than our other albums. It just seemed like Lori could finally go wild on this one.

Korey: There are tastes of Lori on Alien Youth where she really got into it. But this one is where she's definitely more in her element.

John: Before we go on, let me clarify: I'm not saying that this is the music we've been wanting to do, but haven't been. I'm not saying we didn't like the electronic stuff. It was simply an issue of what do we want to try to do now? We continually ask ourselves that as we go into each new album.

We laugh about the '80s stuff, but it was so taboo and cliché to do those kinds of guitar riffs five years ago. But for some reason now is the time to bring some of that back. Maybe it's because there's a whole generation that doesn't know that stuff.

I find it cool because I grew up playing in metal bands. I hated my voice though, because I couldn't sing really high like that. But when Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam came on the scene, that just changed everything with that issue. I was really happy about that.

Ben: I'm 19, so I missed the whole '80s metal thing. So this is really the first time I've heard this kind of music. I grew up listening to bands like Tool, and they're pretty metal from what I understand.

I'm really glad to be a part of this music--it's all new to me. Like the "squealing" effect is so cool, but John's like, Man, we've been doing that for years.

John: There was one particular thing Ben was doing on guitar, and it was almost like he thought he discovered something. It was his toggle switch. You know, that "aa-ehh-ehh-ehh-ahnn" sound, and I'm like, "Yeah, Eddie Van Halen!" Ben wondered what I was talking about. Needless to say, it had been done before he "discovered" it.

Any bands you're listening to these days that you weren't listening to a few years ago? Anything that might be a new influence or a sound you appreciate more?

John: I've been buying a lot more hard rock.

Lori: I just try to listen to albums with drummers I really like. Especially when we're in the studio. I started listening to Nirvana again, because I really love Dave Grohl. Same thing with Live, they also have one of my favorite drummers.

What makes a "good drummer"?

Lori: Well, Korey always describes me as a "feel" type player. It just seems like Dave Grohl and others I like aren't the kind who would sit down and write a drum part for a song. I hear the music and then come up with something that fits with it, and I think guys like Grohl do that as well. It comes across that way at least--in a good way.

Korey: Lori will literally be in the studio, she'll do a fill, and not be able to play it again. Then she'll have to practice it as she tries to remember it again. She just feels it, does it, and nails it.

John: I'm the opposite of that ...

(Long, uncomfortable pause... then the band breaks out in laughter because they know it's true.)

Ben: When I joined the band, I was into the Dave Matthews Band and some rock stuff. But I never really thought much about the song structure, or how the thing that always stays the same--throughout all of the trends--are truly good songs.

John taught me the most about the structure of songs, and he listens to a ton of pop music. I don't really like pop music, but some many of the songs are so good that I've learned to appreciate that. Especially on this album, John's been able to create songs that really work with today's hot sounds.

John: I think part of that was our producer. Paul [Ebersold] really pushed me. He was good on many levels--songwriting mainly. He has a good respect for older rock bands and is able to distinguish between cool old rock and cheesy old rock.

Paul was a great thermometer for that element of the album. He was extremely important in really making this record work, and we're excited that it turned out the way that it did.