For decades, music fans have been putting together their dream bands, wondering what would happen if Eddie Van Halen played with a rhythm section consisting of John Bonham and Billy Sheehan, or if Neil Peart and Flea held down the bottom for Jim Hendrix. But who gets a chance to put together a version of their dream band and actually get that band in the studio to record?
Michael Sweet, that’s who.
So when Frontiers Records’ Serafino Perugino approached the Stryper frontman (whose voice puts him on many Dream Team lists in his own right) about putting a group together and producing an album, it was like having the first pick in a Fantasy Football draft, only with guitars and drums.
“It was definitely like that,” Sweet said of the project that eventually turned into Sweet & Lynch, a supergroup that includes Sweet, George Lynch, James Lomenzo and Brian Tichy. “Originally, the suggestion was made to use Jon Levin, who plays with Dokken. And Jon’s a phenomenal guitar player, he’s unbelievable. I played with him live, I’ve seen him, and he’s just scary good. My instant thought process was, nothing against Jon at all, but it would be cool to get George because if Serafino’s trying to merge the Dokken / Stryper kind of thing, why don’t we get the original guy? And I think George is a brilliant player. He’s one of my top ten players of all-time, so he was on my bucket list, for sure. I got real excited about playing with George, I suggested that, Serafino loved the idea and then when he hired me to produce the album, that’s when I got super excited because I knew I could pick the band. And I instantly, without question, suggested Brian and James.”
The result of the foursome’s labors is Only to Rise, an album that merges the best of 80s-90s hard rock with a modern sound and approach that – dare I dream – could return the genre to the forefront if given the right push. It’s a big “if,” but Sweet is hopeful that it could happen.
“I see that day coming and I’m always hopeful for that,” Sweet said. “I’ll never lose hope in that regard. We see it with country music. Country music has always been popular, but never as popular as it is now. There are so many reasons for that. They’ve made country stars rock stars and they crossed over and merged the different styles of music. Country 30 years ago was country. Now it’s pop and rock and even hip-hop. And they’ve merged all these things with country and reached mass appeal and many new people. Rock needs to do the same thing. It needs to reinvent itself somehow and figure it out. I think that day will come, and when it does, it’s going to be explosive, because you can’t deny good music. Rock music is the best music in the world; there’s just no question about it.”
Sweet, who may be the busiest man in hard rock, is still active with Stryper, he released his autobiography last year, and most importantly, he’s still a believer in the power of the music he makes.
“Music is Michael Sweet,” he said. “That’s who I am. It’s like somebody that goes to school to become a doctor. They do it, to a degree, because they want a good life and a career, but I would like to think that most people get into that field because they want to help people and they love helping people. And I do it because I love music and I love the effect of music on people. I like to inspire people through my music and I’m very passionate about it. I’m as passionate now about what I do as I was when I was 12 years old when I joined my brother’s band for the first time. That passion is never gonna change. I think when I’m 75 years old, walking around with a cane, I think I’m going to be as passionate about it as I am now.”
That attitude comes through on Only to Rise’s 12 tracks, with Sweet remaining in prime form, Lomenzo and Tichy holding it all together, and Lynch being Lynch. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a little trepidation at first from Sweet, wondering if it would all come together once the record button was pushed.
“I try to beat these thoughts down, but in the back corners of my mind, there was a little concern,” he said. “Is it gonna work? The way it was being put together, George was on the west coast, I was on the east coast, we weren’t going to record together and we knew that stepping into this. I was a little concerned. I had never worked with Brian or James. I knew what to expect, but I had never recorded or produced them, so there are all these what ifs going through your mind. But it worked so well. It was like clockwork.”
And three days after recording began, it was done, and Sweet couldn’t be happier with the end result.
“I let them go,” he said. “I didn’t want them to hold back and I didn’t want them to simplify stuff. James is playing a lot of notes, Brian’s playing a lot of notes. That was purposely done because I wanted that fire to come through in their musicianship. They’re brilliant musicians and I wanted the world to see and hear that.”
With the record done and unleashed to the public, receiving rave reviews in the process, the only question left is, will Sweet & Lynch tour?
“We’re really trying to put together some sort of a tour,” he said. “I’ll be honest, it’s not going to be a three-month, on the ground, straight-shot tour because that’s just not realistic in today’s world. Everybody’s so busy, everybody’s got other things going on, but we are having conference calls, talking to our agents, talking to our camp, so to speak, to put together select dates in key cities and key markets, and we’re definitely going to try to make that happen. And it’s really important to me to have the band that’s on the album. It would be killer. It would give people the band that’s on the album live, and that’s very important to me.”
Keep the faith, Michael. Keep the faith.