With Comatose still in its early stages of production, we sat down with Skillet frontman John
Cooper at GMA Week to discuss the pending new studio album. And with the record just weeks away from release, here is a little
backstory about Comatose... |
This interview took place on: 4/4/06
Jesus freak Hideout (John DiBiase): So how is the writing process different on this one from previous albums?
John Cooper: I don't really know if it's been different. Now, there have been some very different
things. I don't know if the writing process initially was different- on Collide, I really learned a lot about songwriting-
I think I really learned about myself. That's the best way to say it. Now that I've had a couple years working at it, realizing
how I get inspired to write something- I know this sounds really goofy, but when you do it like it's a career, sometimes you
forget what inspires you or you don't recognize- "oh that's me being inspired." *laughter* Which I know sounds really dumb,
but it can get sterile is what I'm saying. I learned a lot from that and I tried to incorporate all of that into writing for
this record just when I'm inspired musically or lyrically. The big difference in this album, writing-wise I mean, is that
after I wrote the songs we decided on a producer, a guy named Ryan Howes- we're co-producing the project and he is a singer/songwriter
as well. So we're just picking the songs apart like I've never done before and probably never wanted to do before. *laughter*
It's very personal! I mean these are my songs, and my lyrics. So as we're working on it there would be times when he's like,
"Hey that just doesn't make sense" and I'm like "Yes, it does make sense!!" And we've had some big arguments about lyrics,
not bad, but we're just both struggling really hard to make it make sense and impact people the most that it can. That's been
the big difference. A lot of co-writing, but it's not like coming together, "Hey let's come together to write a song." It's
more like, "Here's my song." Someone else is picking it apart and helping me with certain lyrics and as it's ended up, it's
sort of like we're co-writing so every song has a little bit of that. The whole process has really been great for me, and
we're in our tenth year now, Skillet's been doing it for a decade now. (JFH's John:
Us too) Really?! Awesome! That's crazy!! But, I think I'm in a place now, where I'm wanting that. I want someone to
come in and tell me what's good and what's not good. I learned from our last project with Paul our producer that that pays
off in the end. And I think that's what's made Collide a better record than some of our previous, and I think that's
what is going to make this record better than the last.
JfH: What can people expect musically?
John: Well, let me say this first, we've really only still just begun the record. It could take
some changes. I'm expecting it to take some, but there is a pretty good foundation. I'm just gonna say the record is not as
metal as Collide was, for good or bad- I guess some people will be a little bummed out maybe, but it's still an aggressive
record. You know on Collide we kinda went into the classical string orchestration world for a little while? We're
doing a lot more of that. The record is more of that sound. We're adding a lot of programming back in which is going to make
some older fans happy I think. We're also adding Korey's vocals back in. She sang a bit on Alien Youth, and it's
going to be sort of like that but a little bit more. We are doing a few things we have not done before. We're going into a
little bit of prog. rock on a few things- not much, but enough to give it a very theatrical feel to it. It's a little bit
over the top. You have the prog - oh if people don't know prog, I mean progressive rock, it's a little bit like Muso land-
not a lot, but we put that in the strings and a bit of shredding guitar and it just throws it over the top a little bit. Lyrically,
it's a different record so I'm pretty excited about it, man.
JFH: Can you talk about any of the themes that you've been writing about?
John: I think in general, I would say again that with Collide, we moved away from singing to Christian
kids and to just singing about issues that people are going through, Christian or non-Christian. This record is again even
more that way. It is a different sound than the last record, but it is a progression. It's kinda like Collide was
moving into string orchestration and we just keep going a bit further with it. The same with lyrics, Collide was
moving into issues that people are dealing with. There's a song on the record that I wrote for a friend of mine that I grew
up with, all the way back since I was six or seven. It's a song that's just talking about when I went through really difficult
times in High School with my family and not wanting to go home and just feeling like my life was going to ever get any better.
Some of the only really great times I had ever was with my friend up late at night talking-just hanging out, watching TV,or
talking all night long. So I think it's a song that people can identify with be like "Yeah that's right!" but it's not solely
a Christian song. And I expect that some people will be like, "Why didn't you do more worship songs or that sort of thing."
Again I just feel called, during this time, to sing songs that are relatable to people who are going through hard times, because
that's what I see on the road- all these young people every show, that's what I see when I talk to people- and the worship
stuff is great! I love all that, but when I talk to these kids, what I see is that it's so far above their heads, singing
about lofty spiritual themes, which I enjoy, Alien Youth and some of those ideas. They're not even close to that
for some of these kids. They are hurting and I can't believe how kids are hurting. I say I've done this for ten years. And
it's so different than it was five years ago. It's amazing to me that it's only been five years and yet the state of this
young generation is so different than five years ago. I just feel God calling me to change my lyrics, so that's what we're
doing. But there obviously are some biblical themes as well. The first single is called "Rebirthing" and is just talking about
being born again. Basically, it's just saying that I just want to give up everything, offer this one thing, and come out new
and I want that to be what my life is about. It's a pretty passionate rock song. There's also a very unique song on the record
that is totally different than anything we've ever done. It's called "Looking for Angels," and it's completely different.
It's a song that's talking about the state of the world from homelessness, to teen suicide, to the whole cutting trend, to
gee whiz, internet pornography - all these things we see. Basically, it's talking about how we can make a difference in this
world and it's the most kind of social song I've ever done like that. This song has so many lyrics, it's like I'm talking
the song- it's just really unique. And it's probably the most powerful message song I've ever written, but it's also the most
unique and I have a feeling it's going to be a love/hate thing. I think some people are gonna be like "Oh my gosh! That's
the best song Skillet's ever done!" And then others will be like "What? That's stupid!"
JFH: What makes it so different?
John: I think it's just because it's a song that's just completely stripped down. It's got a
nice back beat to it, piano, it grooves a little bit and I'm just kinda talking the lyrics- not rapping at all. It's almost
kinda like reading poetry. It's just kinda different. We do have other songs, another love song, and just a lot of things
I think that people are really gonna relate to.
JFH: So then you are going to market it to mainstream?
John: Yeah we are doing the record with Lava, and this time we are going to have a co-release.
So we'll be marketing to mainstream and Christian at the same time. Yeah, you know, it's just funny to see what God calls
you to do and we just feel called to do that. And if nothing happens there, it's ok with me. I've kinda come to a place where
that's totally fine with me. I mean I love what we do already, but I do feel God calling us to do that and as you know, I'm
just a big supporter of that. I'm a big supporter of UnderOath and Switchfoot and bands that are crossing over and still have
a strong message in their lives. I just think that's awesome. Since the last time we got together, we've done a few more secular
shows. We did this show in Albuquerque. It was a radio show and Staind was there and Damageplan, before the guitar player
for Damageplan was killed. We did this show and I just specifically remember getting on the bus after the show, after hearing
all these bands play. We only played for twenty minutes and we didn't talk about the Lord at all. I didn't say anything. I
just remember getting on the bus and telling my wife that I feel like I get it more than ever now why Christian bands need
to be in this market. You don't need to say anything about the Lord, you don't need to do anything. Just the fact that you
are there, and seeing what's going on at rock concerts, seeing these bands, what they say on stage, what they say to women
on stage, and then how they treat people offstage. It was just awesome. I'm not saying it very well, but it was awesome. You
don't have to say anything about the Lord to make an impact in that world. It's just the fact that you're there. People came
up to us after the show saying things like "You guys are really different, I just like the way you make me feel" or stuff
like that because you're not acting like the world. It's a very dark dark world- the rock scene is, and I've never seen that
before, I mean, first hand. So I'm a big big supporter of any Christian band whose gonna- I don't want to say "keep it real,"
because it's such a cheesy cliche, but that's gonna keep it real, you know? If they live their lives properly, that's awesome!
JFH: Korey had the second baby recently, right?
John: He's actually 8 months. (JFH's John: Oh wow!)
It just goes so fast, I know! It's hard to remember when you don't see somebody it's like wow has it really been 8 months
already? Our second baby's name is Xavier, and he's doing good and Korey's back on the road, so we're gonna be traveling with
two kids pretty soon. (JFH's Amy DiBiase: What's your little girls name?) Alex,
she's three, and she's hilarious man. She's really funny. (JFH's John: So has it been
hard having kids on the road?) It is hard yet it's wonderful, and I mean we're lucky. But it's hard. I mean, you don't
sleep- that's what's really hard. We gotta try to keep them in their bunks and if we're driving a really long drive, they
can't move around and play, they have to sit down. It's definitely difficult, but there's no other way to do it and I'm lucky
my wife is with me on the road and all the other bands are like, "Man, you stink! We gotta leave our wives at home."
JFH: Any last comments?
John: Oh gosh! (JFH's John: No pressure!) Well
I guess just want to put a little plug in- we have studio journals on both our website and our MySpace. So if you want to
keep up with Skillet that's the way to go!
Skillet's new album Comatose hits streets October 3rd!
(Left to right: John DiBiase, John Cooper, Amy DiBiase)