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Rock On The Range 2013 Preview
Skillet vocalist John Cooper discusses upcoming concept album, the pressure
of recording it, and kids growing up in today's changing social environment
With the Billboard Award winning and certified platinum album Awake notched in Skillet's 17-year career, the band is
set to release its anticipated follow up on June 25. Rise (Atlantic/World), the band's eighth studio record, is notably the
band's unplanned first attempt at telling a cohesive story--that of an American teenager growing up in today's
ever-changing turbulent society and attempting to overcome. Both singles from the album "Sick Of It,"
co-written by Exies' founder Scott Stevens, and "American Noise" hit No. 1 on the iTunes Rock Chart.
Before taking the stage at one of many summer festival shows, including this August's Carnival of Madness tour with
Shinedown, lead vocalist John Cooper spoke to Out Of The Blue.
OOTB: The new album Rise has a different approach to it as it became a concept album. How did that fall into place?
Yeah, you’re right. We didn’t set out to make a concept record. We recorded about 72 demos for the whole album and
people would say, “what are you writing about?” and I would say, “I’m writing about everything I can think of.”
We picked out about 15 songs and we began recording and listening to the lyrics, we noticed their were stories
running throughout the songs, it was bigger than just a record. We thought we could make it as a concept record and
that’s how we decided to include some interludes in the album. We decided to take this thing over the top and make it
more than just an album, like a story.
OOTB: Would you say the story has elements of non-fiction? Maybe you put in some stories from your own childhood.
Absolutely. It is fiction, but of course it’s a very timely record and I think it’s a relevant album with what’s going on in the
world today, so I think picking and choosing not only from my own life and maybe even my own life growing up.
But also from things you see on the news everyday and listening to fans tell me how songs have helped their lives.
I think putting this all in a world perspective is how this story came together.
"...dump all this psychotic negative stuff that's happening all around you, dump all of that and just be at
peace with who you are and those around you."
OOTB: How would you suggest people cut through the so-called “American Noise” as mentioned in the new single?
That’s actually one of my favorite lines in the record, so that’s cool you brought it up. In that song specifically, in
"American Noise," it’s talking about all of the voices that are being thrown at us all the time. I think that you tend to not
only have to find your way through all those outward voices, but you have to find your way through all your own inward
voices. Maybe the things you don’t like about yourself, the things that you’re insecure about, your own failures and just
striving to become who you’re supposed to be. Dump your self hatred and dump all this psychotic negative stuff that’s
happening all around you, dump all of that and just be at peace with who you are and those around you.
"When I was growing up I didn't really feel as though I always had someone to talk to and I think a lot of
young people feel that way."
OOTB: Personally in your life, relating this album to your own children, how do you feel that them growing up in
today’s society compares to when we grew up and how do you lead them away from the surrounding negativity?
You’re right about that. It’s so different than when I was growing up. There are things you see the high school kids
going through that I never would have imagined. And of course with the Internet, there’s a lot of great things and
there’s a lot of negative things that have come with that. I think on a practical level for me, just talking to my kids. When
I was growing up I didn’t really feel as though I always had someone to talk to and I think a lot of young people feel that
way. I feel like they’re misunderstood or they’re just not heard in general. As a parent, I just want to be open with my
kids and make them feel like they can talk to me about anything. They’re not going to be a failure in my eyes and that
I’m for them and I support them. So that’s kind of a really important thing and I guess theres some practical things that
come with that, like not letting your kids have free reign on the Internet or with video games. My son’s really into video
games. I imagine some point soon he’ll want to play something that I’m not super comfortable with and I think just
keeping an eye on what your kids are doing and talking to them about it is really important.
"If you love them and try to find the best way to reach them, I have a feeling, most of the time they're going
to come out on top."
OOTB: With that being said, where do you draw the line to not censor your kids from experiences?
Yeah! That’s a really good question, I’m not sure I have the answer. My kids are quite young, they’re 10 and 7.
So, at the moment I tend to censor everything! And my wife censors me! At the heart of all of this, it’s just loving your
kids. If you love them and try to find the best way to reach them, I have a feeling, most of the time they’re going to
come out on top.
"...loads of pressure from expectations of other people and what they want the record to be like."
OOTB: What was the biggest challenge you faced when recording this album?
Honestly, it was the pressure because our last record was a very big success for us. Now there’s loads of pressure
from expectations of other people and what they want the record to be like. Now it’s just not the producer, it’s the label
and A&R and radio people... it’s everybody. I listen to all of the opinions and I want to know what they think, but at the
end of the day it’s my album, it’s my voice and I need to know what I want to say. Sometimes me and the people are
going to agree and sometimes we're not. I think I found a middle ground of: this is my voice, this is who I am and I’m
going to go for it.
OOTB: Within the album and outside of it, there was an underlying fear you had of acceptance from fans in general.
Yes, I think that is true and that has probably been true through most of Skillet’s records and I tend to write about those
kinds of issues. Things that people feel deeply about. Issues of insecurity and wanting to belong and wanting your life
to matter and wanting your life to be about something bigger than just fighting with your parents or your loved ones or
getting bullied at school. All these things are very relevant to me and I see them everywhere I go. I see our fan’s faces
when they’re singing a song like “Awake and Alive.” I see their faces and they talk to me and I believe in the power of
OOTB: When you take the album to stage for a live presence, there’s a theatrical element with Skillet and a really big
sound. How do you bring that and also deviate from the album itself?
Right, right. That’s interesting that you say that because Skillet does have a very theatrical sound in general and our
concerts have always been that way. Our concerts tend to be even more larger than life, they’re very into production.
I grew up in the 80s, I mean with KISS and Motley Crue and Metallica. Those were very big shows at that time. I really
liked that, so our shows lean that way and I think we capture that a little more on this newest record than we ever
have. I alluded to the interludes earlier, they’re a little dramatic, maybe a little Queen-esque. I think this record is
capturing that a little more of that than what we’ve ever done.
OOTB: Jen Ledger [drummer] was brought in to do some of the album artwork. Was that planned or did it just happen?
It just happened. I never thought it would turn into what it turned into. She’s a great artist. It feels to me very iconic and
kind of mysterious and sad, and at the same time it feels very epic. When she drew it and sent it to me, it was just a
rough draft and it just hit me. I was like: “that’s it.” For whatever reason, that looks like this record to me. It was
unplanned, but it turned out be something spectacular. That’s when we decided to make different pieces of artwork
and tie it together to tell the story.
OOTB: Can you tell us more about a new music video in the works?
We’re actually filming it next week. We’re very excited about it, I think it’s going to be a great video and it kind of goes
along with the message of the record. We’re doing it for the song “Sick Of It.” It’s an angry, uplifting song, if there is
such a thing and the video is like that too, it’s very aggressive. It’s going to feature different people being set free from
different problems in their lives. Whether that is addiction, depression... things like that.
OOTB: When you look back at your career, what has been the biggest mistake or regret that you now realize?
Oh man! Biggest regret… maybe if I could kind of go back to the younger me, when I was probably 19 and explain that
being an artist is more than writing songs. You know. You’re owning a business, you have to run it like a business and
you have to have attorneys and understand what the music business actually is. I think I would have liked a little dose
of reality a little early on. That would have been nice!
Skillet will be at Rock On The Range in Columbus, Ohio's Crew Stadium on Sunday, May 19 at the Monster Energy
Main Stage, scheduled to perform at 3:20 p.m.
Skillet lead guitarist Seth Morrison, bassist/vocalist John Cooper, drummer Jen Ledger,
guitarist/keyboardist Korey Cooper. (Publicity Photo by Reid Rolls)
Live photos by Jared Perkins, OOTB.