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Collide #4 ("Savior Music Video Explanation")
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Skillet shooting "Savior"

John Cooper explains the "Savior" music video
Interview by: Josh McConnell (from renownmagazine.com)
 
I'm sure all of you are familiar with Skillet; an established band in the Christian Music industry who has many music styles and a good number of albums.

Well, on January 12th, 2004, I was able to have a quick conversation with lead singer John Cooper over the phone from his home in Wisconsin. We discussed the new album, the constant change of Skillet's sound, the band going mainstream, their song and video Savior, touring, his one year old kid, and more.
- Josh McConnell


Josh McConnell: You guys have changed your sound yet again with the release of Collide, now with more of a hard rock feel. Why the decision to change the sound with, what seems to be, each album? Is it something done purposely every time?

John Cooper: Yeah, usually. It's not that we feel like we have to change our sound, but we do enjoy that -- kind of keeping people guessing about what we are going to do. Obviously we are growing, and we want our fans to grow with us. So there are so many different reasons.

Sometimes it's just from pure boredom, you know? *laughs* Like I'm just ready to do something else.

Josh: It keeps it interesting.

John: Yeah, thats right.

I would say only about four months after Alien Youth came out, we really knew that we wanted our next record to be more of just a straight hard rock album, to be even heavier [than before]. So we ended up playing for about a year and a half before we started recording the record, and then we started recording it and it just went good so we kept with that sound.

Josh: So what were some of your musical influences on this record then?

John: Oh man...I don't know actually, let me think.

*Both laugh*

John: I have so many influences.

Most of my major influences are like song writing influences from when I was younger. And I think what happens is that you hear music, and even if you don't necessarily love it and dont know that you are influenced by it, you are. You take away a little of something from lots of different bands, and that's what happened on this record. I mean, I would say that I'm definitely influenced by Linkin Park, P.O.D., stuff like that. I don't think you can really hear P.O.D. in my music, but it's just the small things.

So pretty much anything that I hear, I can usually find something from it that I really like. And without knowing it, I kind of integrate it into an idea or something like that.

Josh: Yeah, that's cool.

So, you guys made a great music video for your single Savior, what was the story behind it?

John: Well, first of all, the guy who had the idea wanted to do a video that wasn't a solely Christian-message video. He wanted to do something that was...well, I don't want to say social message, but you know what I mean. That kind of thing.

And I think that he had the take of Savior as not being Christ, but who could be Savior in a certain situation kind of thing. So the idea is that there's this family that the dad is being abusive and stuff, and there's these two kids and to them their mom is their kind of savior, their refuge, the one that they go to, and really just their security.

So what happens in the video is these kids have this vision-type scene in which they tunnel out from under their house. *laughs* And they end up in a playground, which is kind of like their bliss, so they are just having fun in this playground. And then in the video it cuts back to reality in which they are kind of waking up from this dream, and their mom is there with their bags packed and stuff. So its kind of showing that she's their savior.
Josh: That's great. I love videos like that as you dont seem them often, because now-a-days videos are really simplistic and are mostly just the bands standing there playing, you know what I mean?

John: Yeah, for sure.

Josh: So I love seeing these videos come out once and a while that have a story behind it, and have something to say. [Savior] was done quite well.

Anyway, so I heard something about you possibly getting a deal with [a mainstream label]. What's the scoop there?

John: Well, I'm not sure what is okay to say and what's not because some things aren't finished. But we are looking at a mainstream release this year, maybe April or May, and we are looking for the song Savior to be released also.

Josh: So it will be a full mainstream deal as well as your current on with Ardent, right?

John: Yeah, that's right. We've been looking for a co-deal basically, one where Ardent would supply us to the Christian retail stores, and then obviously the mainstream [label] to the mainstream stores.

Josh: Yeah, for sure.
So you write most of the lyrics for your songs, correct?

John: Yeah, that's right.

Josh: So what inspires you as you write them?

John: Well, I don't know to tell you the truth, it's really weird. Because people ask me all of the time about how I write my lyrics and stuff like that. I've always found that lyrics are the hardest thing about writing music, because music comes real natural to me and lyrics really don't.

And I honestly can't say what the process is. There are some times where I feel inspired, where I've been watching a movie, or reading, in a conversation, or something like that, and something really inspired me and I go "Wow, that's really cool, I think I'll write a song about that". But that doesnt help me very much. A lot of things do inspire me, but I don't think about writing a song about it, thats actually really hard to do.

A lot of the time it'll just be that I have an idea for a lyric, and I'll try to work off that one lyric. Usually, that's what it is, I'll have one line that I really like and then I'll try to write a whole song around this one line.

But I would say that movies really inspires me, I'm kind of a movie guy as I don't really like reading. If I do read, sometimes I feel really inspired by those books though, and they'll kind of give me ideas.

So I guess, within those songs, I definitely have things that have been going on in my life. Things that God has been showing me, or that God has been doing in my life. And I don't mind writing about some personal experiences, like my deep feelings and stuff. So I'll put those things in my songs for sure.

Josh: And you did things a bit differently with this album too, with a number of songs actually being written last minute in the studio right?

John: Well, it kind of turned into us writing the songs in the studio and then I would have to go home and write lyrics for it, yeah. You never know how they'll get finish, it's different for every one of them. Song writing, especially lyric writing, is such a strange process.
Josh: You also tend to contribute to other projects, for example Ardent Record's Jonah33. Are there any new projects or bands that you are currently writing some stuff for? Or are you just taking it easy for now?

John: Honestly, I'm really not. I usually dont have the time to do it. I've only had a few calls come in saying "Hey, come write for this". I would like to be writing more music for other bands and stuff, I really should be recording them and have them on file for when people ask. But right now I'm not really working with anybody. We've really only worked with two bands: Jonah33, and there was a band called Stir, which is a mainstream band on Capital Records I think.

Actually we did work with one other band, not for songwriting but we did some keyboard, programming, sampling and stuff. And they are called Dropline, or something like that.

Josh: Ah, okay, that's cool.
So tell me about !Hero man, how did that come together? You had a pretty decent role in it didn't you?

John: Yeah, it's pretty cool. I don't know how I got chosen for that...Eddie Degarmo is the one thats really putting it together, and I've known Eddie for quite sometime as he was the one that was really interested in Skillet at first. And I have known that he has been working on this project for years, but he never asked me to do anything. So I saw him at this show that we played at, and he said "Man, I wonder if youd be good for this part". So he just called me and said "Hey, its like the fourth or fifth biggest part, but its not really that big. So you don't have to tour, we just want you to sing on the project." I said Fine, that sounds cool to me, so that was a really cool experience. Of course, I got to work with Pete Stewart who produced the whole thing, that was really fun as I really enjoyed working with Pete a lot.

After it got finished, I think it went better than what everybody thought it was going to, including myself. So I think, for me, I didn't know how well I was going to fit the part, and afterwards I felt like that went really good. And that's when we began talking about if I should tour it, and those kind of things. Anyway, I never was able to tour it, since it was never really what we were planning to do. But afterwards I kind of wanted to. *laughs*

Josh: Really? So you never did any of the shows?

John: No, I never did any of the live shows.

Josh: That kind of stinks. But it was still a pretty good experience though.

John: Yeah, it was really great, I loved it. I got to see the performance of !Hero for the first time back in the end of November, and it was really strong man, I liked it a lot.

Josh: So what's next for Skillet? What are your current plans?

John: Well, in March, we are doing the See Spot Rock tour. It's going to be really good, I can't wait, just a lot of great bands. 12 Stones is on it, and Pillar, and Big Dismal, and Grits; those are the bands that I know of.

Josh: Yeah, that's going to be cool

John: It's going to be really strong man, I'm excited about it. That's going to be the coolest tour weve ever done for sure.

That goes March, April, and a little bit of May, and then it's festival season. So we are really just looking to promote this record as much as we can, just do as many shows as we can throughout the summer and see what happens.

Josh: Speaking of shows, what is touring like for you guys? Does it get stressful after a while?

John: Oh yeah....

Josh: I mean, you have a one year old child now. I guess she comes on the road too?

John: Yeah, she does, and that has made things really difficult. It's wonderful because I do have my family with me, which is really great. And I always thought touring was hard, and tiring, and exhausting, and now that we have a babywoah man, it's so much harder, just trying to get her in bed and stuff.

One of the things I'm dealing with now is on the bus, its too big to put her bunk in, because she likes to stand up in her bunk. And I'm just like "Well, how are we going to do that?" So now I'm trying to figure out how we are going to build a crib into our bus.

But man, I'll tell you what, it's so hard. We get done with a show and we come in at 1:00 or 1:30 in the morning, and she's been in bed for several hours so she gets up at 6:00. So if you do that for four or five days in a row, you are just tired as anything.

I mean, I am blessed because my family comes with me and thats really great, so it's not that I'm complaining. But it is the type of thing where its like, man, this isn't easy. It's great, but we have to figure out some things. And we have to hire a nanny too, and we have to pay her, so that's kind of hard because it's expensive for someone to come on for a whole month.

So it has it's challenges, but it was right, and we love it. Having a baby was fantastic.

Josh: Yeah, it just kind of turns your world upside down.

John: Thats for sure, bro.

Josh: So what are some of your overall goals? What is Skillet trying to achieve as a band?

John: Oh mansuch a big question. You know its really funny, I found that when we first started I always had the answer to that question for a couple of years. And the more that it has gone on, the more I've realized that its so much more complex than I thought it was. *laughs*

So, to tell you the truth, I really don't know. The only real thing I want to accomplish through my music is to promote radical Christianity. And I guess I dont really honestly know....well, I guess I know what that means, but I don't know how thats worked out. I know that's what we want to do, we want to promote everything that radical Christianity stands for. Uncompromised Christian life, evangelism, and worshipwell, worship is a big part of what we do live as well, but we want to really promote that. We just want to see the church really living like the church is supposed to live. It's so much easier said than done, but I think thats the biggest enemy against Christianity today, that as Christians we arent really living like we are supposed to. And I think that we want to do whatever little part we can do in promoting the Christian lifestyle.

Josh: That's really cool.
So, in closing, is there anything youd like to say to those who will be reading this?

John: Oh no, I don't think so, I think we covered everything. I mean in terms of, oh whats that word, shameless promotion *laughs* I could probably plug our website: Skillet.org. Our website is really good. *laughs*

Josh: Yeah, I went to it earlier actually, it looks great.

John: It's funny to hear a band brag about their website, because it sounds like they shouldn't do that. But we don't have anything to do with it, we just hire somebody to do it. *laughs* It's not like I made it.

I just couldn't believe how good it was when I got it, because its a fan who did it.

Josh: Really?

John: Yeah, he's a young guy. He was just like I can do it, so we paid him a little bit of money and he was like I'll do it, I'll do a good one. I knew it was going to be good, because he's really talented, but he just outdid himself. I saw it and I was like....Woah!