Interview with John Cooper of Skillet

Interview

Skillet has cemented its place as one of the 21st century’s most successful rock bands. The double Grammy-nominated rockers have sold more than 11 million albums worldwide and have won a Billboard Music Award for their platinum-certified Awake (2009). Continuing with their success, their new album Unleashed (2016) hit No. 1 on the iTunes rock charts. YS interviews lead singer John Cooper on the band’s music and their mission to overcome darkness.

Read the full interview in the October 2016 issue of YS.

PM: For some people rock can be a pretty dark genre, especially when we hear the phrase, “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.” What does rock mean to you?

JC: I always loved rock music from the first time I heard it. I like the passion and the adrenaline that comes with that music. Rock ‘n’ roll felt like sports a little bit. It had the same kind of adrenaline rush and excitement. It is a shame that rock is—well, not as much anymore but, used to be—so synonymous with sex and drugs. There is a hint of rebellion in rock music, I will agree with that, but the reason is because it says: “This is my expression to the world. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says about it. It doesn’t matter if they don’t like it, if they agree, if they hate it, if they love it.”

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s art, and it’s a way to have your voice in the world. That’s why I feel so passionate about Christian rock music. There is a tinge of rebellion, if you will, in being a Christian in the world. We are set apart from the world and it doesn’t matter what the world has to say about the way we live. There’s a little tinge of, “We’re going to go our own way.” Though, it’s not our own way. It’s the way of the Lord. It’s the way of the cross.

Rock music is passionate. It’s driven. It does sometimes have anger in it, and I like that about it. Sometimes that can be a good way to get your point across. I don’t mean that we should sin, but it’s okay to have that emotion of something that upsets you and wanting to vocalize it.

PM: We read that Skillet encourages young adults to overcome all types of darkness and usher in hope, and of your long-standing relationship with HopeLine. Tell us about that.

JC: One of the great things that music, and art in general, can do for people is that it helps to talk about those things, and to be honest that the problems exist. For some people, that’s recognizing there’s a problem, and saying, “It’s okay that we talk about it. We can be honest.” A lot of times, that’s really all someone needs in order to start that journey of healing.

I know that first hand because my mom passed away when I was 14. We were in a big church with several thousand people. Everybody knew me. Everybody knew my mom. Everyone knew, but nobody really wanted to talk about it. We had a very hard home life after that. My dad got remarried about two months after my mom passed away. His new wife also was from church. Everyone knew there were really big problems, but no one wanted to talk about it. I always felt that it was really disingenuine, and a little bit fake. We all talk about how happy we are to serve Jesus, but no one will bring up that sometimes life is not fun, and it’s not happy. Just because you’re not happy, doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian.

HopeLine does a very good job of being a place where people call for help. Frankly, a lot of these kids call over and over and they never give their life to Christ. Maybe they never find out what the Bible says about them, or maybe they don’t believe it. Maybe all they want to do is have someone to talk to for a little while. I still think that’s a really positive thing, and it’s saved some of those kids. Even if it hasn’t saved their souls yet, it’s helped save their lives, or it’s helped make their lives a little better. You never know how God might use that in the future to bring them around to His Kingdom. We don’t know what the Holy Spirit may be doing, so you just do your best to bring hope to those kids, and to be an ear to talk to.

PM: How do you get through difficult times when you’re surrounded by people who pretend everything’s all right, even when it’s not?

JC: The greatest advice I could give, on really anything young people are going through, is to find their relationship with an older Christian leader—a more mature Christian than them that they can be flat honest with about everything. That is really what changed my life. I met a pastor that I could talk to about the darkest stuff going on in my life, the sin in my life. We would have those open talks. I really encourage people to have that kind of discipleship relationship, that mentorship with somebody you can open up to. That’s very important.

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Captain Pamela Maynor
Editor, Young Salvationist