Twenty years after lead vocalist, John Cooper, brought Christian Rock band, Skillet, to life, the influential band is stronger than ever and their dent in music history is becoming more prevalent with each release. Discerning their perception of the difference between good and evil, the Tennessee rockers focus their lyrics on Christian Faith yet have reached substantially farther than the Christian community and have influenced unity amongst all walks of life through their artistry. In celebration of their tenth studio album, ‘Unleashed’, and the Unleashed 2017 tour with Sick Puppies and Devour The Day, I caught up with John to discuss the presence of a higher power within Skillet’s music, his marriage with fellow bandmate, Korey, tour, tattoos and more.
You guys are gearing up to head out on the ‘Unleashed 2017’ tour with Sick Puppies and Devour The Day. What is the secret behind keeping the creative chemistry alive on stage as Skillet has been alive and thriving for twenty years now?
First of all, I want to say that this is my first interview that I’ve ever done with any tattoo type stuff, and I’m really excited about it! Probably a little bit too excited about it.
No way! That is incredible. I did see that you have a lot of artwork yourself.
Yeah, I do. I really love tattoos. Anyways, the magic on stage is the easiest part of my job because I love the music. I love the fans. I mean, seeing fans sing your songs is absolutely the best part of the night. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a bad mood or get into a fight with your wife or your band [laughs], or not enough people showed up to pay the bills; it doesn’t matter. That energy and that passion on stage really comes from the fans.
Yeah. The whole aura of being in that atmosphere is magnetic.
Oh yeah. For sure.
Do you perceive that playing in Skillet alongside your wife has strengthened your marriage with her (Korey)?
Yeah, I do. There’s a unique vibe to a Skillet show and I hear it from not just fans, but other bands that are touring with us. Even bands that are bigger than us. They say that the Skillet audience is hard to describe and I think that part of it comes from the fact that Korey and I are married. It feels very much like a family. And Skillet fans feel like community and family. I meet Skillet fans all the time that say that they met their wife on a Skillet fan chat website. In terms of Korey and I, we are very lucky that we get to be on the road together. It does present a lot of difficulties, of course. Everybody knows that no matter who you are married to or dating, being with anyone 24 hours a day, every single day, is really hard work. So, it does have its difficulties, but, we get to be together all the time. We experience the music on stage with one another and it’s definitely created a really wonderful thing. We have two kids that also tour with us and we get to spend a lot of time with our children as well. Yes, even though it can be difficult times in a bus with a ton of other people around, my kids get to meet all kinds of different people and gain experience from people who are going to disagree with you about politics, religion, everything. They are getting used to getting along with folks no matter if they are scary looking tattooed dudes or biker dudes or business people. Our kids have toured Europe six times with us now, so there are a lot of things that happen that provide good life lessons.
Oh yeah. I’m sure that it has socially advanced your children because as you said, you are exposed to so many walks of life.
So, you said that you are a huge fan of tattoos. Tell us about some of your favorite personal pieces and the artists that brought them to life.
I am kind of mixing a lot of styles. I love traditional tattoo art, but I also like realistic art as well. I like my tattoos to mean something to me and to make a statement of who I am. I try to incorporate all of those aspects. I’m not covered with tattoos, but I’ve got one sleeve, and my chest and my hand tattooed.
Do you have any pieces that are representative of your relationship with your higher power?
Yeah, absolutely. My first tattoo, I got my wedding ring tattooed, which had obvious importance. My second tattoo that I’ve ever got done is a tattoo that says “Forgiven”; it’s quite big on my arm. It is a very important statement to myself of who I am and the fact that I have been forgiven by God for anything that I’ve done or anything that I will do. People always ask me what that tattoo means, and I get to share that story. You know, that is what is such a cool thing about tattoos; the instant identity statement of who you are, something that you love or something that made you feel. I think that is really cool.
Yeah, totally. And it’s definitely a conversation starter. It opens up a door to an individual’s creative world. So, have you found that you have deepened your relationship with your higher power through expressing your devotion through your lyricism?
I suppose that you could say in the sense that whenever an individual loves something or cares about something, in my experience, there’s a deepening or an affirming when you talk about it. So, if you really love your spouse, and you tell your spouse that you love them, you will find that you believe it more. It’s almost like the power of words. So, I think in terms of that, I wouldn’t say that it has necessarily been deepened, but I’d say that it has strengthened. Whenever I talk about my faith or when I write songs about my faith, I value it in a way that I want the world to hear it because it is important to me. Yes, it is very affirming. I do try to do that through my lyrics even though not all of my lyrics are necessarily spiritual, but I do that even when I am writing a song about anti-suicide. I have a song that is called, “The Last Night”, that is written to someone who wants to take their own life. So, even in that situation, if it’s an important message that I believe in and want to get out to the world, if I talk about it, I realize how important it is to me. So, I would say that is accurate.
Wow. It seems as though it is therapeutic as well.
Oh yeah. Absolutely therapeutic. It’s wonderful to share what’s on your mind. You know, that feeling if you’re irritated about something and you tell someone and you’ve just gotta tell them; they don’t need to fix anything, you’ve just got to get it out. I think that it’s the same with my ink; this is something that I believe in. I have a tattoo on my arm of a panther, and it has a “K” underneath of it. And my wife’s name is Korey with a “K”. I call her the black panther on stage because she is really tiny and she plays guitar and looks like she is crawling around like a panther. So, it became a joke to call her the black panther. I got this tattoo on my arm of a traditional panther with a “K”. I love her so much and I respect her so much that I wanted a tattoo on my arm representing what she means to me. It might be a little silly and corny, but it’s also pretty dang cool, you know?!
That is so powerful. That is pure devotion. Truly representative of your core. I’m going to go way off topic, but I find it very fascinating that Skillet has curated a variety of theme songs for WWE events. Who is your favorite wrestler and what was your favorite match of all time?
Oh gosh! I was a sucker for Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage. He was my guy! Everything about him just killed me as a kid! I thought that he was so cool and funny. I love the whole theatrics of wrestling and you know what? I’m way off subject here, but we were once going to create a wrestling match between me and a clown and it was just supposed to be funny live footage. So, I went and worked with a wrestling coach for three hours. I’m not buff, but I’m a guy who is in shape, eats well, I work out, but that was such hard work. People have no idea the athleticism it takes to do that stuff. And they have no idea how much it hurts when you get slammed on the mat. It’s really hard work. But, I just love wrestling in general. I don’t have a favorite match, but I do love watching wrestling.
Totally! You are stopping and going so much as a wrestler and I perceive that it is overall underestimated as a sport in general; it is so taxing on your body.
Oh yeah. On that little clip that I did, I was taught how to do a dropkick which I thought was going to be really easy, yet every single time that you land on the mat, it hurts. And you gotta keep doing it over and over; it’s not fun. It hurts. The big move that I did on the video was that I gave somebody a suplex, and the guy was about 200 pounds. It is not easy holding a 200 pound person in the air! I’ve always loved wrestling, but I loved it even more after trying this. It’s hard work, but it’s a lot of fun. WWE invited us to come to some of the events which was really nice, and I’ve always been really happy to be involved with them.
I bet. Last but certainly not least, what do fans of Skillet have to look forward to in 2017 and do you have any closing messages for your fans?!
We are touring in America throughout 2017 the whole year. Reasoning as to why it is a big deal to us is because every year we do a lot of touring in other countries, and sometimes I don’t get to go everywhere in America that I want to. So, we’re going to the West Coast this year at least once, maybe more, and we haven’t done a headlining tour on the West Coast in about five years. I’m really excited! We’ll be playing a bunch of new music and there’s a bunch of really great things happening for Skillet that I am not allowed to announce but within the next two months, our fans are going to see a lot of really cool things that we are partnering with within film and other avenues. You are going to be seeing Skillet quite a lot this year hitting all of the markets and having a great time!