Stryper’s Michael Sweet Prefers David Lee Roth Era of Van Halen
In their 28 years as a band, Stryper have helped influence multiple generations of metal musicians. On their new album ‘The Covering,’ the rockers decided to turn the tables and shine the spotlight on the artists that inspired them. Aside from one new original cut [‘God’], the album features Stryper covering everyone from Iron Maiden and Judas Priest to Kansas and Deep Purple.
Noisecreep recently spoke with vocalist-guitarist Michael Sweet about his years of listening to Southern California rock radio.
“Back when I was teenager, I heard a lot of Judas Priest on the big rock station, believe it or not,” he recalls. “The Scorpions got a little bit of airplay. Songs like ‘Too Hot to Handle’ and their more commercial sounding tracks. We cover Sweet‘s ‘Set Me Free’ on our record, but I don’t remember the rock station playing that one. But the DJs definitely played ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and ‘Love is Like Oxygen’ a lot.”
“When Van Halen came on the scene, the station would play them every hour on the hour. Out in Los Angeles, they were huge on the radio from the start.”
Also hailing from Southern California, Van Halen released their now classic self-titled debut album in 1978. On ‘The Covering,’ Stryper lay down a killer version of ‘On Fire,’ the closing track on the aforementioned record.
“David Lee Roth has such attitude and character to his voice and that was tough for me to get down at first. He’s got a signature style. At first I was trying to sound like him when we were in the studio, but when I let go of that and just sang in my natural voice, it clicked.”
“If I could speak open and honestly right now, I don’t want to take anything away from David Lee Roth, but he was never really an influence of mine vocally. My attraction to Van Halen was Eddie. I play guitar too, so Eddie is what got my attention from the start. David never really did it for me vocally. That said, I’m a bigger fan of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen than I am of the Sammy Hagar version of the group. Ironically, Sammy does it more for me as a singer than David does, but I preferred his solo stuff much more.
“It’s not so much that I didn’t appreciate the Hagar era of Van Halen, because I did. From a songs perspective, their writing matured so well during that time. They wrote some incredible songs in that time. Since I grew up with the David stuff, I just couldn’t get used to Sammy singing with them — it just didn’t sound like Van Halen to me. I think they should have just changed their name when Sammy joined the group.”
Listen to Stryper’s version of ‘On Fire’