We had the opportunity to sit down with John Cooper of Skillet to chat about the bands current tour with Korn and Stone Sour which will have them out on the road all summer long! See below for a full list of tour dates. We also discussed the process of recording their latest album Unleashed and just how it differs from Rise. We also spoke about Skillet’s forthcoming third single from the album which they will soon be releasing a lyric video. Read the full interview to learn more:
Kristyn Clarke: You guys have been hitting the road really hard, We caught you guys at Rock On The Range which was an absolutely amazing performance out there, now it is the tour with Korn and Stone Sour. I mean has it been like a whirlwind for you guys?
John Cooper: Yes, it has been but we have always been a hard touring band. We have been lucky to get that underground following from just road doggin’. Some bands have that you got to see this band in a club thing, and we always love those kind of concerts in that small club environment but it has been cool that as we kind of grown that we still have a little bit of that underground vibe so the audience has thankfully gotten bigger. We have gotten so many bigger opportunities, you know like Rock On The Range was awesome and this is our first time going out with Korn and we are very excited, We been out with Stone Sour before and they’ve became very good friends of ours. First time with Korn though and Korn is one of those bands, that you get to brag about when you go on tour with Korn. People are like Skillet? I never heard of that, you ever tour? and I was like yeah we went out with Korn and they’re like oh you must be awesome then. So I am going to start using Korn to my advantage. [laughs]
Kristyn Clarke: Absolutely, I love the fact that you mention that you guys still keep that kind of underground vibe because it is a discovery band because I always mention to people for example saying ‘have you guys seen Skillet?’ and they’re like ‘YES, they have this amazing live vibe’ but it still feels very very fresh and I think every time I see you guys it still has that freshness to it.
John Cooper: Oh cool, well thank you for that. That is great to hear.
Kristyn Clarke: Absolutely, Unleashed has been out for a little bit now but was there anything that was different in the recording process then the usual as it did have a bit of a different feel than RISE?
John Cooper: Yes it does, I think the biggest thing that was different with Unleashed, but you will have to hear a bit of a story about Rise before I get to it. Which is that RISE was a very hard record to make, probably because we were coming off a very successful record before RISE with Awake. You know all of a sudden you have a successful record and then everybody wants to be involved in the next one and they’re under the feeling of “man if that record did this good and we weren’t involved but once we get involved the next one is gonna be amazing, even bigger.” But then you got like ten cooks in the kitchen and everybody’s arguing about everything and it was just a real nightmare to make RISE, everybody was fighting and I wrote over 70 songs for RISE and the label wasn’t letting me record and saying we need more songs, we need this and it’s gonna take a little room. I really hated making that record. I didn’t hate the record but I hated making it as it wasn’t fun. So when I started writing Unleashed, I told my wife and my label, “you know what, we are gonna have fun with the record and I am going to write a record that is fun to listen to and I am going to write what I feel and what I think the fans are going to love.” It is just going to be that you will be hearing No from me a lot more. We did that and I think that is why this record is very upbeat and it is very fun to listen to and I think the fun vibes of writing and recording it got on the music. Fans are always telling me its a fun record, its a good workout record and it makes them want to run further and stuff like that. You’re new record Unleashed got me through running my marathon, I hear that all the time now.
Kristyn Clarke: That’s amazing too, but it really is one of those albums that you could really put on from start to finish and not feel like you want to skip a track or anything like that. It is just a completely solid record from beginning to end. Are you surprised at what songs fans tend to gravitate towards, when you had a feeling about a different one and fans are like nope we like this one?
John Cooper: Right it happens, It is funny but I mean not to be to douchebaggery here but I am not surprised but a lot of the people who work for and with Skillet are surprised. [laughs] None of the less of what I mean are I have to fight to get songs on the record but people involved with making our records whether it all way from producers and stuff. When they say no no that’ll never go and then that becomes a crowd favorite/fan favorite or just a radio single. Then everybody goes wow we never expected this and I am like yeah I did. The people involved in making albums need to just go on the road and come out for a month and see what the crowds are actually like so you get a better sense of who you are singing to. If someone were to run for political office but you refuse to go meet people because you think you already know what people are like and it’s like not really true. That is how I feel about rock crowds. You play a hundred rock shows a year, you have a pretty good idea of what those people like to hear.
Kristyn Clarke: I am sure you also get a feel for it per show, I mean obviously there are the staples that have to be in the set but I am sure you guys experiment and go like okay this one went over well and this one not so much.
John Cooper: Yeah, a good example is that we are getting ready to release the third single from this album in about 2 weeks, It’s a song that a lot of people involved in making this record didn’t want to record and then we did record it and they didn’t want to put it on the record. We did throw it on the record and its literally the last track on the album and I said guys our fans love this song, I can see it on their Twitter and their socials. So we started playing it live and I was like I am telling you people love this song. They did polls and it ended up that this is the highest rated song on the album, and everybody’s going it just doesn’t make any sense but you can just see it in the crowd when you play a song and every night the crowd sings it with you, then you have an idea that the crowd really digs it. I am not trying to say I know everything cause I obviously don’t if I did I would be a much bigger band like Metallica or something which would be nice. I know that I don’t know everything but you got to mix it up with you fans, you got to meet them, shake their hands, see them singing the songs, answer them on socials, and get an idea of who they are and write music that they relate to. If you are not doing all of those things you probably don’t know what those people like.
Kristyn Clarke: Absolutely, and it is those kind of interactions that fans have with artists that stick with them and sometimes for the rest of their lives. Just because now that, that veil has been removed and it’s not so much of a mystery between artist and fan anymore. Social Media has given us a wonderful way for fans and bands to interact with one another.
John Cooper: Oh yeah, it is so cool. I always tell people that if I was in 8th grade and I could somehow talk to Tommy Lee on my cell phone. If I could send him a message and find out what Tommy Lee ate for breakfast, I don’t know if I would have ever left my house. Or like what is Lars up to today, It is unbelievable what you can do. Some people complain and by people I don’t mean fans I mean the rockstars. They say it takes away a little bit of the mystery away like maybe in a negative way like it’s hard to be larger then life when everybody has immediate access to you and you want to keep that mystery. I actually think that people are staying longer and caring for them cause you kind of become apart of their family in a certain way and that sounds just a little cheesy but I meet people like that. I meet people all the time that have Skillet tattoos, Skillet Lyrics tattooed on their bodies and I go man this is more than somebody that just likes the song, this is somebody that is so connected to something I wrote that I am not apart of them and I think that is amazing. I love the social media stuff and I love knowing what the fans dig, and hearing from them and seeing their pictures from the shows and seeing how happy somebody gets when you tweet them back, it’s cool.
Kristyn Clarke: Is that still surreal to you sometimes, just knowing that your words had that kind of affect on someones life?
John Cooper: Oh yes, It is amazing. Yes, if I see a Skillet tattoo the first thing that goes through my mind is I am not Metallica, I don’t know if our band is big enough to have a tattoo on somebody. It is always like are they going to regret this but it is so flattering, it is not just flattering but also very humbling and it makes you very thankful for your life and my job. I get to do what I love doing and people are listening and I have a cool platform to maybe help some people out through hard times with my words. I think that is pretty cool.
Kristyn Clarke: So, once the tour with Korn and Stone Sour wraps up, I know you are gearing up for the push with the next single but what is the rest of 2017 holding for you guys?
John Cooper: Well, lets see we have a very busy year ahead of us. We are not going overseas this year which is the first year in awhile, I do love going overseas but I do got to say that I am really glad that we are not this year as it is really tiring with all the jet lag and you get there and it you got to start playing concerts and your not quite able to get on the sleep schedule and it is really hard work to do. I am kind of glad to have that break and just be here which is awesome. We are very busy as we have that single coming out and we haven’t announced it yet but we have a lyric video for the new single, we just recorded it live at a concert we did a few days ago which is a cool experience. Then we have a headline tour in America for the rest of the year.
Kristyn Clarke: Ah, that is amazing well you guys definitely have it all laid out, you guys are going to be busy busy busy. [laughs]
John Cooper: Oh yeah, Bring it baby I love it [laughs]
Kristyn Clarke: It is amazing, and just for fun question for you what is celebrity fan who has come out to one of your shows or anybody that you have been surprised to see is a fan of the band?
John Cooper: It is shocking to know that any celebrity even knows who Skillet is. I honestly don’t have an answer and I really wish I did now I am annoyed that I don’t. I wish Gene Simmons would show up to my show that would be cool. I did recently do an interview with Nikki Sixx with his radio thing (Sixx Sense), I was thrilled that he even knew who I was cause I am a huge Motley Crue fan, so you know I came in and was like Nikki Freakin’ Sixx and I was like taking photos and I am acting a bit more like a 7th grader then I probably should have. He knew a few of Skillet’s songs and treated me so good and that was one of my kind of cool moments.
Kristyn Clarke: That is pretty awesome, I love that story too! Shows fans that bands can still be fans of other artists and it is just such a great community.
John Cooper: I think you are right cause it is a cool thing. One time I was watching on the Grammys or something you could see Gwen Stefani of No Doubt was being interviewed and Julia Roberts was behind her like freaking out that it is Gwen Stefani and I remember thinking like really you are both such huge stars but you know you’re watching it and not thinking that stars like other stars. I always say at Rock On The Range watching each other and they are all hoping that James Hetfield from Metallica walks out or whoever because everybody wants to meet him and get a photo. It is very fun to be a fan of another band, its very cool to go watch the other bands play and such I go on stage and Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach is watching us play and it makes you feel good and its a cool community.
Kristyn Clarke: Absolutely, I love the camaraderie too, thanks for speaking with me and we look forward to seeing you guys in the Philadelphia/Camden, NJ area to see a show which is always fabulous.
SKILLET Tour Dates:
JUL 07 – Lifest 2017 – Oshkosh, WI
JUL 08 – Anthem At Hard Rock – Sioux City, IA