+ Band
Heavy metal certainly has no shortage of rebels. It seems like everybody's rebelling against something, and that's part of the genre's allure. However, the most rebellious thing anybody can do is hold steadfast to personal beliefs and never waver. Stryper indisputably do both.

They're not shy about their Christian beliefs, but they're also consistently as heavy as any of the genre's pillars. Following up 2013's seminal opus No More Hell To Pay, which debuted at #6 on Billboard's Top Rock Albums Chart and #2 on the Christian Albums Chart, their eleventh full-length original album, Fallen [Frontiers Music SRL], is their heaviest offering to date.

"In the past 30 years, we've evolved into what we are now," says vocalist and guitarist Michael Sweet. "This is what we always really wanted to be. I love the progression. The story of Stryper is that of an underdog. We go against the grain with everything we do. This album is another chance to show the world what we can do."

In early 2015, Michael and his band mates Robert Sweet [drums], Oz Fox [guitar], and Tim Gaines [bass] retreated to Spirithouse Recording Studio in Northampton, MA. The four musicians collectively immersed themselves in the recording process for Fallen with Michael handling production yet again.

"There's something to be said for the chemistry of a whole band in the studio together," he continues. "We were there living and breathing this record, and I feel like the results speak for themselves."

Album opener "Yahweh" certainly does. Penned with Clint Lowery of Sevendust and Call Me No One, the six-minute plus anthem fuses tight thrash guitars with soaring vocals and a galloping beat. Airtight solos nearly collide with an orchestral refrain bolstered by a muscular groove.

"It's an epic unlike anything we've ever recorded," smiles Michael. "I was so moved by The Passion of the Christ. Even though it was bloody and disturbing, it represented what actually happened. I wanted the lyrics to be the same way."

At the same time, the first single "Pride" weaves together intricate fretwork with a slamming refrain that seesaws between swooning and searing. "Sometimes, pride gets in the way of what we want to accomplish or what we want to do," he sighs. "Everybody goes through that. It's my reminder saying, 'Let's not allow pride to tear us apart.' Nine times out of ten, that is what separates us. Beat our pride down, and we will survive."

"All Over Again" stands out as the album's centerpiece. With an orchestral elegance and an ever so slightly countrified swing, the track sits proudly in the Stryper canon alongside the likes of "Honestly." "It isn't a hair ballad or a piano ballad," he laughs. "It's different, and that's important to us. I have a funny feeling this might be a standout track for everyone."

Following a tradition of some bombastic and bruising covers, Stryper also tackled Black Sabbath's classic "After Forever." The foursome infused a new kind of fire into this timeless gem. "We grew up on Black Sabbath," he says. "It says something. Stryper covering a Sabbath tune causes much controversy. The lyrics are very interesting because it questions if Sabbath was a Christian band or not. They could have been the first Christian group if you take a closer look at those lyrics."

Stryper continue to remain metal stalwarts, leaving an indelible mark on the genre with every subsequent album. With hits in their arsenal such as "Calling On You", "Free", "I Believe In You" and "Always There For Your," album sales exceed over 10 million worldwide with their discography including one of the most successful Christian rock albums ever, 1986's multi-platinum, Grammy Award-nominate To Hell With The Devil. They also have the distinction of being the first band in history to notch two songs in MTV's Top 10 with "Free" and "Honestly."

Ultimately, for all the heaviness, Fallen possesses the power to uplift. What's more rebellious than that?

Michael leaves off, "I want everybody to walk away with excitement, encouragement, and joy. It's all positive. It's not about being heavy or dark. It's about sharing this energy. I hope they press the 'repeat' button and feel blown away."

That's exactly what all the best heavy metal does.
+ Michael Sweet - Lead Vocals / Lead Guitar
michaelsweet2

BIRTHDAY: July 4, 1963
BORN: Whittier, CA
HAIR: Brown
EYES: Green

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Official Sites:
MICHAELSWEET.COM

 

Michael Sweet may have been born with rock 'n' roll in his blood, but the singer/guitar player extraordinaire definitely had his fair share of variety growing up in an immensely musical household. Not only did his mother, grandmother and aunt tour together in "Gunsmoke" and his father co-write the chart-topping country song "I Don't Want To Have To Marry You," but both of his parents were signed together on RCA Records, prompting a plethora of session playing opportunities for the young hopeful and his older brother/drummer Robert.
In fact, forging such an early artistic partnership while growing up together in the Los Angeles area surely cemented the foundation of the Sweet brothers' co-founding roles in Roxx Regime, who along with guitarist Oz Fox and bassist Timothy Gaines, would soon take the world by storm.

After quickly establishing themselves throughout the hard rock/metal scene, the guys signed with Enigma Records, changed their name to Stryper and spent the rest of the 1980s on a rocket ride to success. Classic albums such as Soldiers Under Command, To Hell With The Devil and In God We Trust helped propel the band to selling upwards of 10 million records around the world, while other milestones include a Grammy nomination, scoring multiple Dove Awards and becoming the first band to simultaneously have two songs ("Free" and "Honestly") in MTV's Top 10.

"God was really moving on the band and sending people into our lives to direct us to what we were called to do, which was to be a band that would glorify Him," recalls Michael of the group's earliest days. "We started feeling in our hearts 'something's going on here' and sure enough, we signed the deal with Enigma and that's when everything exploded…I was 20-years-old when we first broke big and I was just in awe, although having done demos and sessions from the time I was 12 and 13-years-old, it also felt as though I'd been involved in music for an eternity."

"The history of the band has been a roller coaster ride full of ups and downs," continues Michael, citing Stryper's rich touring history split between mixed reactions at massive mainstream rock festivals, to hearing testimonies of the band's influence at their own headlining shows in virtually all types of venues, to even playing in Jakarta (a predominantly Muslim territory). "It's so hard for me to pinpoint one moment, but to me, there's something special about every time we play. We always wonder 'why are we here?' There's always something unique where we meet someone, see something or experience something and we walk away talking about it afterwards. A lot of the stuff that Stryper goes through just doesn't make sense and I don't think most bands would do it. We have a different calling but simply say to ourselves 'alright, if that's what you want us to do, we'll do it.'"

In spite of such enormous faith-sharing opportunities and tangible successes, Stryper soon found themselves in the midst of a record label transition once the '90s rolled around, alongside the ever-increasing influence of the grunge sound emerging out of Seattle. Though the group soldiered on through the more experimental (and in hindsight, quite extraordinary) Against The Law album and tour, members went their separate ways shortly thereafter.

Though it took some time to recharge his faith and physical batteries following a season of burnout, Michael dived head first into a solo career, starting with the back-to-back attack of his 1994 self-titled arena rocking debut, followed by 1995's more acoustic-minded Real. "I took some time off and really tried to get right and level headed in terms of my faith, and I thought because of that, God gave me another opportunity and another chance," remembers Michael. "And you know what, that solo album did super well and I thought 'maybe God's not done with me?' It was only released in the Christian market because I was on Benson Records, which was a Christian label, but right now it's sold almost 300,000 units even without being released in the mainstream. It exploded, had five number ones and made the cover of CCM Magazine, but at the same time, the label was hurting, and by the time I did Real, they were getting ready to close their doors. That was a really depressing time having gone through another record label turnover, so in 1995, I basically went back east with my family [to work at the family campground/cranberry business] and got out of the music world for awhile, which I think really did me a lot of good. But those albums mark a very definitive part of my life and history and I don't have any regrets."

Michael came back swinging with the electrified Truth, which was first released in 1998 as a self-released offering, sold a staggering 25,000 mail order copies right out of the gate and prompted a slightly altered re-release in 2000 on Restless Records (prior to its premature closure). "It was pretty cool to see it work, and no disrespect to labels, but it showed what a guy could do even without a label," asserts Michael, in spite of the unfortunate turn of events the second time around. "God can do anything. He can open the doors and the floodgates to whatever you want to do, which I've seen personally time and time again."

Following a few one-offs (including some Stryper expos and the mammoth Cornerstone Festival), the group finally got back together for good to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2003, marked by the Hollywood Records compilation 7: The Best of Stryper, a full-fledged tour, the 7 Weeks: Live in America, 2003 CD and the Greatest Hits: Live in Puerto Rico DVD. The group spent the next decade rebuilding the band on the road and in the recording studio, but by 2013, Stryper's creative and commercial renaissance was back in full swing on Frontiers Records with No More Hell To Pay landing at #6 on Billboard's Top Rock Albums Chart, #2 on the Christian Albums Chart and #35 on the entire Billboard Top 200. Just two years later, Fallen placed on no less than eight charts, including #2 on Top Hard Music Albums, #5 on Top Current Rock Albums, #2 on Billboard's Top Christian/Gospel Albums and #44 on the Billboard Top 200.

"Truth came out and then I started focusing on Stryper in 2003," Michael confirms. "Not a lot of people know this, but I recorded another solo album and was going to sign a deal with Big3 Records. That album was Reborn and it was a totally different sound in more a modern rock/modern metal world. Stryper wound up doing a one-off show down at Disney and I played the music for the guys. Oz in particular flipped and I eventually suggested 'what if this became a Stryper album?' and everyone thought that would be incredible. Long story short, we wound up turning that album into a Stryper album and that's what really started to ignite the fire again in the Stryper camp. Once that album came out, we were officially back together."

Though Michael's maintained full-time membership in Stryper ever since, he's managed to balance just as fruitful of a solo career as ever, starting with 2006's Him (featuring his unique interpretations of timeless hymns and spirituals), followed by 2007's Touched (a love songs tribute to his wife Kyle in the final stages of her brave battle with cancer). In spite of the tumultuous personal time, Michael experienced an astonishingly unexpected musical high when he was asked to join classic rock legends Boston in 2008 following the passing of original front man Brad Delp.

"That was so surreal," he admits. "You had what we were going through at the time, which was the darkest point in our lives, and then you had me going and performing with Boston at a Brad Delp benefit in 2007, which was supposed to be their last show. I don't think I ever felt my feet touch the ground! It was just an odd time, but then not long after that, I wound up being asked to join Boston and that made it even more odd. 'What? Join Boston? I'm in Stryper and my wife is sick. I can't do this.' But it's something that just worked out and I guess I was supposed to do. Obviously I wound up leaving in 2011 and focusing on Stryper ever since, but I think it was just a time of healing for [co-founding Boston guitarist] Tom [Scholz] and I. Tom helped me to heal and I helped him heal because he lost Brad. And maybe we didn't even realize it at the time, but it was also a time of healing for the fans. It was a time for everyone to come together, remember Brad and heal through the music. I'm thankful to have been a part of that and it was really special."

After amicably departing in 2011 to focus exclusively on a Stryper/solo split, Michael hit another grand slam on his critically-lauded Big3 Records return I'm Not Your Suicide, released on the same day as his immensely anticipated autobiography Honestly, which candidly went into depth about all of the above (and beyond). "I'm very happy with how I'm Not Your Suicide turned out and I consider it a follow-up to Truth," he reflects. "It got a little more electric at times, such as on the metal track 'Taking On The World Tonight,' though there's also 'Coming Home,' which is basically a country rock track. So it's all over the map, but that's the great thing about solo albums. I'm able to experiment a lot more and hopefully Suicide has something for everybody."

Shortly thereafter, Michael added yet another band, Sweet & Lynch, to his diverse resume when connecting with fellow veteran George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob) for the Frontiers Records partnership Only To Rise. Along with James LoMenzo (White Lion, Megadeth) and Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Foreigner), the co-headlining pair sought to hearken back to the classic sounds of the late '70s and early '80s and succeeded with unanimously favorable reviews upon its release in 2015. "You're not going to find better musicianship as you're going to find on that album," he proclaims. "I listen to that and am just floored by their performances. It was really cool to be able to work with George, who's always been on my bucket list, and we're planning another album we're going to start work on probably at end of 2016."

Speaking of 2016, the year also marks Michael's seventh individual studio album, which is currently going by the working title One Sided War and is shaping up to be his most rocking to date. "I think it's going to be the fans' favorite solo album and it easily rivals the Stryper stuff," he predicts. "I wanted to focus on guitar on this album, and while I started out doing some solos, I realized they sounded similar to Stryper's guitar tones, so I sat back and did all the rhythms while making a few phone calls. I'm still doing solos, but there's a local guy from Boston named Ethan Brosh, who's phenomenal and reminds me of George Lynch meets Eddie Van Halen meets Steve Vai and a little Yngwie. I've got another guy, Joel Hoekstra, who's exceptional and plays for Whitesnake and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, plus was previously in Night Ranger and the 'Rock of Ages' Broadway show. Will Hunt [Evanescence, Black Label Society] is playing drums on it, John O'Boyle [Tom Ingram Band, Screaming Souls] is on bass and there's even a girl named Mariah Fornica that came at my wife Lisa's suggestion. Mariah is 15-years-old from Clifton Park, New York. She opened a show for me and she's the only person in 25 years who brought me out of the dressing room ten times to watch her perform cause she kept blowing my mind with her powerful voice. It's a very high energy and heavy but different album, and I think when people hear it, they're gonna be pleasantly surprised."

Even with so many projects in the pipeline, Michael is just as excited about Stryper as he's ever been, using all of his outside artistry to douse additional fuel on the entirely original foursome's unrelenting fire. "When I go out and do another project and then I come back to do a Stryper album or tour, I feel recharged and I'm able to come up with bigger, better and stronger ideas. Speaking of Stryper, I think there's a lot more to come for the band and our fans. If we continue to communicate and honor God, I think God's gonna honor us. I also want to let the fans know we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my wife Lisa because she puts it all together and makes it happen. Musically we might be, but in terms of all the other stuff, it's 100% her. I really don't know where we'd be without her!"

Adds Michael: "The goal right now is to go and tour this year heavily in support of Fallen. We're gonna do a 30th anniversary celebration, possibly with To Hell With The Devil, and then we've got an acoustic album, which will showcase a different side of Stryper. There's so much going on my head's spinning, but I can't wait!"
+ Robert Sweet - Drums & Visual Timekeeping
robertsweet3

BIRTHDAY: March 21, 1960
BORN: Lynwood, CA
HAIR: Blond
EYES: Blue

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If there's a single word to describe drummer/"Visual Time Keeper" Robert Sweet when he was just wetting an appetite for a career in music, it would simply be "driven." Sure, having a famous family who included a mother, grandmother and aunt who toured together in "Gunsmoke," a father who co-wrote the chart-topping country song "I Don't Want To Have To Marry You," plus an ongoing collaboration on RCA Records between both musical parents certainly didn't hurt, but even on his own accord, Robert took up an intense appreciation for his primary instrument at a mere nine years old and often played alongside his brother Michael on their folks' sessions.
As a teenager, his dedication to playing and recording around L.A. proved even more tenacious, rapidly laying the groundwork that would produce his future founding role in Roxx Regime prior to its rebirth as Stryper.

"I was the teenager hoping to become a rock star listening to the likes of Led Zeppelin, KISS, Aersomith and Van Halen, but at the same time, was tired of the negative lyrical vibe in rock music," recalls Robert. "Michael and I came from a very musical family where there was always singing and playing going on in our house, but I specifically remember a day in 1969 as a nine-year-old when I was on my way to Las Vegas with my grandparents and we stopped somewhere in Apple Valley. We walked into a bar and I saw a sparkling blue drum set and I fell in love with it! I knew my brother could sing really well- he was very driven to be a songwriter even as a young kid- but when I was 15 and he was 12, that felt like a big age difference at the time. By the time I was 18 or 19 and he was 16, we were closer in mindsets and realized we had to work together. The minute we did and started playing shows, people realized we had something special together, and from there, we just had to find the right people."

But just as the foursome comprised of Robert, Michael, guitarist Oz Fox and bassist Tim Gaines was falling into place, Robert got a call from long time Sunset Strip friend/Ratt singer Stephen Pearcy asking him to join the burgeoning metal men, though he politely declined. "What a compliment that was! I remember telling him I'd love to, but I've gotta hang with my brother," recollects Robert. "Part of me wishes I would've played on that first record Out of the Cellar, which was incredible, though Bobby Blotzer was awesome and fit just great. There were lots of opportunities for all of us and we could've done things differently, but we really knew what we were going to do musically, plus on the spiritual side of things, I believe God really had his hand on us. We were just a bunch of naïve kids with our hearts in the right place who weren't perfect by any means, but at one point felt like we were on cruise control with God at the wheel pushing the buttons while we were along for the ride truly stunned as we watched it happen!"

After quickly establishing themselves throughout the hard rock/metal scene, the guys signed with Enigma Records, changed their name to Stryper and spent the rest of the 1980s on a rocket ride to success. Classic albums such as Soldiers Under Command, To Hell With The Devil and In God We Trust helped propel the band to selling upwards of 10 million records around the world, while other milestones include a Grammy nomination, scoring multiple Dove Awards and becoming the first band to simultaneously have two songs ("Free" and "Honestly") in MTV's Top 10.

"The '80s was a great time. Yeah, you look back and some of it was silly and kind of funny, but that's every decade. I remember in the '80s looking at the '70s and saying disco was stupid," he lets out with a laugh. "What I loved about the '80s was that if you put together something and worked really hard, within a year or two, you could land a record deal, whereas now the music industry has collapsed, and because of the internet, it's tougher to make a living. It was not like that in the '80s when I remember being at Enigma and watching them load up palates of vinyl three feet high and they'd fill up an entire truck!"

Continues Robert: "And spiritually, it was remarkable. We were really gutsy to do what we did, but I have to give the credit to God through the Holy Spirit for giving us His strength. Even though we were loved by so many fans, there were a lot of high profile Christians and rockers who gave us a lot of flak…But on the positive and simply fun side, I also remember doing the "Calling On You" video and being blown away when we walked into A&M Studios. I remember when we were recording Soldiers Under Command, Metallica was in the same studio doing Ride The Lightning and I remember being stunned how great their guitars sounded! The To Hell With The Devil Tour was truly amazing, as was seeing "Free" at number one on MTV for three months during the days of the call-in videos. The In God We Trust Tour was really special as far as the grandness, though there are pros and cons to every tour and that one was more expensive. But I try to remember the good times because for every time down, we had at least 20 good times. I have a million great memories and it was just a magical time of watching your dreams come true!"

In spite of such enormous successes, Stryper soon found themselves in the midst of a record label transition once the '90s rolled around, alongside the ever-increasing influence of the grunge sound emerging out of Seattle. Though the group soldiered on through the more experimental (and in hindsight, quite extraordinary) Against The Law album and tour, members went their separate ways shortly thereafter.

"Stryper was very unique in so many ways, especially when you mix Christianity into it, but it was also bizarre, beautiful, strange, different, frustrating, exhilarating and totally the right thing," ponders Robert regarding the first go around. "I wanted Stryper to stand for something and be remembered. You may either love or hate the yellow and black, but that was my thing. Music is about music and should always be first, but I was also a very visual guy. Sometimes people would say they didn't know our names, but they knew we were the guys with the yellow and black stripes. I never took it as an insult and always smiled because it worked."

With Stryper on hold, Robert went to work as a session player, joined King James alongside guitarist Rex Carroll (Whitecross), singer Jimi Bennett (Sacred Fire) and studio bassist/fellow Stryper mate Gaines, collaborated on several projects with master guitarist Bill Menchen, recorded with the rock band Titanic, released the solo record Love Trash (named and designed by the record label contrary to his wishes, though he can still stand behind the lead off track "Help Me To Help Myself"), followed by time in the Canada-based rockers Blissed.

"I would say I did about a hundred and fifty sessions where I would literally get a call and fly in, play on something and be gone in a day," he explains. "King James was made up of some wonderful people and those guys are all amazing players. It was an opportunity to play on a record, get on a tour bus and do some dates shortly after Stryper wound down. It was short lived, but they're very nice people and we get to see them over and over again…Blissed was a wonderful time re-vamping myself and coming alive again in the early 2000s. Playing with them was a beautiful thing and they let me be the guy that I am on drums. It was also a time of getting married and starting a family, though I didn't become a father until I was 35, which the other Stryper guys had done a decade earlier. I remember flying to Canada to record with Blissed right after 9/11, which was a really refreshing thing, and we even went to Europe, but it became too much traveling from where I lived in Las Vegas to Canada, especially surrounding the Stryper reunion."

Following a few one-offs (including some Stryper expos and the mammoth Cornerstone Festival), the group finally got back together for good to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2003, marked by the Hollywood Records compilation 7: The Best of Stryper, a full-fledged tour, the 7 Weeks: Live in America, 2003 CD and the Greatest Hits: Live in Puerto Rico DVD. The group spent the next decade rebuilding the band on the road and in the recording studio, but by 2013, Stryper's creative and commercial renaissance was back in full swing on Frontiers Records with No More Hell To Pay landing at #6 on Billboard's Top Rock Albums Chart, #2 on the Christian Albums Chart and #35 on the entire Billboard Top 200. Just two years later, Fallen placed on no less than eight charts, including #2 on Top Hard Music Albums, #5 on Top Current Rock Albums, #2 on Billboard's Top Christian/Gospel Albums and #44 on the Billboard Top 200.

"The second time around has allowed my kids to see what I do and it's meant a lot having them at a concert, on the bus, standing behind their dad while I'm playing or being in the crowd," he observes in the wake of both return to form records. "When I do other things, I don't follow a format, but Stryper is its own kind of entity and has its specific sound. Now that I'm older, drumming feels like swinging two hammers at the same time, so I find myself being both a musician and an athlete, but I love trying to push it as far as I can in the style that we do, while trying to be a showman…One part doesn't make an engine run- it's many parts- and it takes four parts to make the engine of Stryper run. It's the specialties of everyone that brought it together. Oz, Tim, Michael and I each have our own thing, and yet we are included together to make this beautiful mosaic of God's stamp of approval on rock n' roll."
+ Timothy Gaines - Bass / Vocals
timgaines3

BIRTHDAY: December 15, 1962
BORN: Portland, OR
HAIR: Brown
EYES: Blue

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Official Sites:
TIMOTHYGAINES.COM

 

Long before settling into his bass playing (and part time keyboard playing) role in the original Stryper line-up, Timothy Gaines was nothing short of a musical prodigy, starting out on piano at a mere four-years-old, playing clarinet and singing in a church choir during his elementary school years, taking up classical guitar at 12 and electric bass a mere year later. The Portland-born player was raised in the Los Angeles area where his father was a minister, which helped give Timothy a foundation of faith, though as he settled into his teen years, rock n' roll became the primary focus.
"In high school, I joined a band called Stormer, who were fairly popular throughout the Hollywood club scene," explains Timothy. "In fact, the first show Motley Crue ever played was when they opened up for Stormer in 1981 and we also played with bands like Ratt and Quiet Riot."

Even with all the mounting success of the mainstream-seeking Stormer, Gaines recommitted his life to Christ in 1983 and quickly linked up with like-minded drummer Robert Sweet, singer/guitarist Michael Sweet and guitarist Oz Fox in the just as musically potent Roxx Regime. After quickly establishing themselves throughout the same hard rock/metal scene, the guys signed with Enigma Records, changed their name to Stryper and spent the rest of the 1980s on a rocket ride to success. Classic albums such as Soldiers Under Command, To Hell With The Devil and In God We Trust helped propel the band to selling upwards of 10 million records around the world, while other milestones include a Grammy nomination, scoring multiple Dove Awards and becoming the first band to simultaneously have two songs ("Free" and "Honestly") in MTV's Top 10.

"I can't really explain why or how, it just kind of happened," suggests Timothy. "Obviously we had a look- the yellow and black stripes- and we were known for something different as far as our Christian beliefs went. A lot of people were looking for something musically similar to the other bands of the time, but with a different message. We went from playing 300-500 seat clubs to selling out 15,000 seat arenas. We took the good news with us wherever we went, and while we took a lot of heat, it also opened a lot of doors. By the late '80s, we were on top of the world."

However, Stryper soon found themselves in the midst of a record label transition once the '90s rolled around, alongside the ever-increasing influence of the grunge sound emerging out of Seattle. Though the group soldiered on through the more experimental (and in hindsight, quite extraordinary) Against The Law album and tour, members went their separate ways shortly thereafter.

"The first thing I had to do was figure out how to make a living, so I got a job at a musical retail store selling instruments, which is what I always did in high school. I eventually got into management and worked there for ten years while doing music on the side. I auditioned for Great White, Quiet Riot and Hardline, but a lot of these bands were in the same position as Stryper in terms of reforming at a time of changing trends. I joined No Stranger with Tom Hardy, the lead singer of Stormer, which was a really good band, but it just wasn't the right time."

Timing proved more fortuitous when Timothy reconnected with Robert in the studio to record the debut King James album alongside Rex Carroll (Whitecross) and Jimi Bennett (Sacred Fire) in 1994. Though he never toured with the band, the following year was far from idle as he reunited with Oz to co-write and produce their SinDizzy partnership He's Not Dead.

"We did a little bit of touring, nothing big time, but I started to get a foot back in the door here and there," he remembers. "We were doing a show in Puerto Rico, which also had Michael and his solo band on the bill, but the promoter billed it as a Stryper reunion. So Michael did his thing, SinDizzy did our thing, and at the end of the night, we all did some Stryper songs. Everybody was there except for Robert, but it was the very start of getting Stryper back together."

Before the band was officially reunited, Gaines also recorded on Tourniquet's Crawl To China album, along with recording, co-writing and producing on his future wife Irene Kelly Gaines' If You Were Here (followed by a collective move from L.A. to Nashville). Though a few more one-offs popped up on the calendar featuring all four members (including some Stryper expos and the mammoth Cornerstone Festival), the group finally got back together for good to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2003, marked by the Hollywood Records compilation 7: The Best of Stryper, a full-fledged tour, the 7 Weeks: Live in America, 2003 CD and the Greatest Hits: Live in Puerto Rico DVD.

While "The Yellow and Black Attack" was revving right back up where it left off, it would be a few more years before Gaines resumed his role in the band full time. From 2004 to 2009, he wore the hats of a record company executive, songwriter, session player and touring sideman, including countless road miles logged alongside Richard Marx, Ashley Cleveland, Kim Hill, Bryan Duncan, and Tourniquet. He even released the solo bass instrumental album Breakfast At Timothy's, produced by Chris Eddy (son of guitar great Duane Eddy).

"Come 2009, Stryper put out Murder By Pride and I was working at Provident, which did the project's distribution," he recalls. "During the day, I'd see the new Stryper album going out to all the stores and thought to myself, 'hey, I used to be in that band,' which was kind of interesting. There were no hard feelings or intentions of anything, but when Michael's wife Kyle passed away, I went to the funeral in Cape Cod after having been apart for so many years."

Continues Timothy: "A little later, he called me and asked if I would be interested in doing a 25th anniversary tour. I wasn't expecting to be back in the band, but I did the tour and it was a lot of fun. After that I was asked to be a part of The Covering album and then that went onto to the next album and so on!"

By 2013, Stryper's creative and commercial renaissance was back in full swing on Frontiers Records with No More Hell To Pay landing at #6 on Billboard's Top Rock Albums Chart, #2 on the Christian Albums Chart and #35 on the entire Billboard Top 200. Just two years later, Fallen placed on no less than eight charts, including #2 on Top Hard Music Albums, #5 on Top Current Rock Albums, #2 on Billboard's Top Christian/Gospel Albums and #44 on the Billboard Top 200.

"The industry's not the same, but we're still here 30 years later with all the original members. Who can say that? To be able to make an album and have it chart like that is amazing. It's a God thing and we're forever grateful to our fans. Michael's a visionary in bringing our sound back. No More Hell To Pay was really the big one for us tapping into original sounds of '80s, and even now with Fallen, we're continuing on where we left off in the '80s."

Though Gaines' musical road has wound through countless directions outside of Stryper, he's thankful for the diversity, which has always added another layer of experience and excitement each time he's returned to the band. "Doing all that stuff, especially in the studio sense with SinDizzy, my wife's project and my solo project has definitely helped me experiment and try different sounds," sums up Timothy. "I think you can really hear a difference in my bass playing and you can actually hear my bass parts more clearly as opposed to the stuff in the past. In the past, we always had very little time to put the bass parts down properly in the studio, but now everything is so smooth and the same goes for when we're playing live. I guess it's because we're seasoned, it all flows and we still enjoy it. So far, everybody likes what we're doing, and until that stops, I don't think we're going to stop!"
+ Oz Fox - Lead Guitar / Vocals
ozfox1

BIRTHDAY: June 18, 1961
BORN: Whittier, CA
HAIR: Black
EYES: Brown

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Official Sites:
OZFOX.COM
SIROZACADEMY.COM

 

Southern California native Oz Fox had music in his mind from the second he was born thanks to parents who were fierce appreciators of several diverse genres. Raised on a steady diet of Latin music, jazz, rock n' roll and pop standards of the day helped shaped his appreciation for virtually all styles and eventually contribute to his world class abilities as an original and continuous member of Stryper.
"Both of my parents had music playing all of the time and I'm conditioned to do that as well," enthuses Oz. "On both sides of my family, I had grandfathers that played guitar and sang a little bit, many uncles who played instruments, plus my younger uncles were in rock bands. My grandfather on my dad's side of family liked to play and sing at all of the family get togethers, and as I started to pick up the guitar at five or six years old, I started performing with him. That started my whole ride right there, and when my uncles gave me money as tips for performing, it kind of stuck with me. 'Wow, this is cool,' and I knew it was a way I could earn some money so to speak."

By the time Oz hit his teens, his father gave him the proper funds to buy a proper electric guitar and amplifier and the hopeful took advantage of the opportunity by taking lessons with local musicians and regularly jamming around town in the same circles as future Stryper drummer Robert Sweet and eventual singer/guitarist Michael Sweet. Though there would be a few seasons of trial and error before the slightly rebellious Oz eventually straightened his ways, he ultimately joined the brothers, plus fellow local pal Timothy Gaines on bass, in Roxx Regime.

After quickly establishing themselves throughout the hard rock/metal scene, the guys signed with Enigma Records, changed their name to Stryper and spent the rest of the 1980s on a rocket ride to success. Classic albums such as Soldiers Under Command, To Hell With The Devil and In God We Trust helped propel the band to selling upwards of 10 million records around the world, while other milestones include a Grammy nomination, scoring multiple Dove Awards and becoming the first band to simultaneously have two songs ("Free" and "Honestly") in MTV's Top 10.

"Early on, I remember one time when Poison opened up for us and when we opened for Bon Jovi," recalls Oz. "And I'll never forget the time that we opened for Anthrax when the crowd was actually spitting on us, but that's when I started saying to myself 'this is heavy duty. Who knows, maybe one person in that audience thought differently and we may have influenced them to become a Christian?'"

Continues Oz: "Obviously the numbers said it all once the band finally got accepted, from the amount of people that came to shows, to the amount of merch people bought to the amount of people who dressed in yellow and black striped clothing. In Japan, there were a ton of people following the band and even some homemade dolls of us! When To Hell With The Devil came out, it really impacted a lot of people, and when Enigma put up a video budget, we turned on the MTV request hour and found ourselves being the number one most requested with "Calling On You." That had to be one of the most exciting times when we were in the competition with Bon Jovi and Motley Crue. Of course a gold or platinum record takes you up another notch, but throughout touring the world even when we played in arenas, we were still able to give a message. After shows I remember meeting fans in the parking lot, which is something I felt led to do, and that was a chance to build a relationship with our fans at a very important time."

In spite of such enormous successes, Stryper soon found themselves in the midst of a record label transition once the '90s rolled around, alongside the ever-increasing influence of the grunge sound emerging out of Seattle. Though the group soldiered on through the more experimental (and in hindsight, quite extraordinary) Against The Law album and tour, members went their separate ways shortly thereafter.

"I wound up working for Harman International warehouse, a job I was familiar with before Stryper took off," explains Oz. "They own a lot of electronic and pro audio companies with a huge list of products stored at a 300,000 square foot warehouse, where I eventually became a manager. Musically, I met a young drummer named John Bocanegra and we started playing together. I had written some music for either a solo project or a band, and shortly thereafter, I called Tim to ask him to jam, along with my guitar player friend Bobby MacNeil, which became SinDizzy. The music we wrote was different and not trying to sound anything like Stryper. I was the lead singer of the band and relied on Bobby to do all the solo guitar work while I played rhythm. We wrote some unique music that was in tune with the '90s, but still had an influence of a '70s vibe going on. We played a handful of shows, got some exposure and sold some CDs, which are still available at GirderMusic.com. But as far as anything happening in the future, there's not a chance. Bobby tragically passed away, so as far as I'm concerned, I don't want to return to that."

Ironically, one of SinDizzy's concert dates was shared with a solo slot from Michael Sweet, who all performed together at the end of the night in a quasi-Stryper reunion. Though a few more one-offs popped up on the calendar featuring all four members (including some Stryper expos and the mammoth Cornerstone Festival), the group finally got back together for good to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2003, marked by the Hollywood Records compilation 7: The Best of Stryper, a full-fledged tour, the 7 Weeks: Live in America, 2003 CD and the Greatest Hits: Live in Puerto Rico DVD.

"I remember at Cornerstone, Third Day was on the bill and they played right before us," reminisces Oz. "We all got to meet and I remember some of the guys saying it was an honor to play with us, which was amazing to hear, and quite frankly, something we've heard from a lot of successful Christian bands, as well as our peers from the '80s that we've run into in recent years. You just never know who you're going to influence."

The group spent the next decade rebuilding the band on the road and in the recording studio, but by 2013, Stryper's creative and commercial renaissance was back in full swing on Frontiers Records with No More Hell To Pay landing at #6 on Billboard's Top Rock Albums Chart, #2 on the Christian Albums Chart and #35 on the entire Billboard Top 200. Just two years later, Fallen placed on no less than eight charts, including #2 on Top Hard Music Albums, #5 on Top Current Rock Albums, #2 on Billboard's Top Christian/Gospel Albums and #44 on the Billboard Top 200.

"The goal is to keep pressing on and hopefully create more music that people will enjoy for years to come, and with that, the responsibility to share our message and be an example," Oz asserts. "I know we can't do this forever and there may come a day when we will decide that we're done, but until that day, we hope to give people what we've always given them: some great music, a great rock n' roll show and a message of hope, love, peace and eternal life through Christ. That's what's it's about for me. As long as we're on that path, I'm happy."

In between it all, Fox also spent some touring and recording with fellow Christian rock stalwarts Bloodgood and eventually transplanted to Las Vegas after meeting his wife Annie Lobert (the speaker/author/"Hookers For Jesus" ministry founder). He also became quite a staple in the region's rock scene, co-founding the all-star classic rock tribute band Vinyl Tattoo featuring front man Frank Di Mino (Angel), bassist JP Michaels (Dolly Parton, Buck Owens) and drummer Scot Coogan (Ace Frehley Band, Brides of Destruction, Blue Man Group), along with '80s covers supergroup Let It Rawk alongside creator/producer Stacey Blades (L.A. Guns), singer Jaime St. James (Black 'N Blue, Warrant), bassist Sean McNabb (House of Lords, Dokken, Lynch Mob), guitarist Jeff Duncan (Armored Saint, Odin), plus drummers Jimmy D'Anda (Bulletboys) and Blas Elias (Slaughter, Blue Man Group).

When he's not busy with any of the above, Oz continues to work as a producer and session musician and even started a guitar lesson subscription library found at SirOzAcademy.com. And in keeping with his commitment to nurturing younger artists, the six string slinger is also available for consulting or even customized solos/cameos through OzFox.us.

"I don't play the same way I played 10 years ago let alone 30 years ago because there are always new influences making me a different player, but Stryper is still going to sound like Stryper," he adds. "That's what the fans want and we're never going to stray from that!"
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