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Stryper: The Yellow and Black Attack Returns

By Chris Carpenter Program Director NASHVILLE -- But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

-- Isaiah 53:5

In the summer of 1984, an unknown Christian rock band from southern California burst onto the music scene.  With a penchant for throwing pocket New Testaments into the audience and wearing yellow and black spandex outfits, Stryper was more of a spectacle than a concert experience.  With album titles like Soldiers Under Command and To Hell with the Devil, the band became MTV favorites, even landing between the pages of Time and Newsweek.

Stryper went on to sell eight million albums in ten years before disbanding in 1992.  Reforming in 2004, the band released a new album this week called Murder by Pride, 25 years to the day after the release of their debut, The Yellow and Black Attack.  To celebrate this milestone the band will kick off a 25th Anniversary tour in September. program director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with lead guitarist Oz Fox to discuss what fans can expect from the 25th Anniversary tour, the new album, and what it means to truly put God on the throne of your life.
This is a big year for Stryper.  It is the 25th anniversary of The Yellow and Black Attack, you are releasing a new album called Murder by Pride, then you will be out touring in the fall.  How did all of this come together for you?

We spent a lot of time on hiatus because Michael’s (lead singer Michael Sweet) wife had cancer.  She just passed away in March.  Everything Michael had gone through with his wife kind of changed his heart in a lot of ways.  He felt like this would be a good opportunity for us to bring the old bass player out (Tim Gaines) because in 2004 Timmy left the band.  He was replaced by a bass player named Tracey Ferrie who has played with a ton of people like Rebecca St. James and White Cross.  For whatever reason Timmy left.  We knew he wasn’t happy.  We had a meeting one time about it.  As time went on Timmy began to feel like there were some things he wished he had done differently.  We all kind of knew that and concluded that things are the way they are.  Michael decided that after all the stuff he had been through with his wife he was thinking it would be great to get out on the road and see if Timmy would be willing to come out again.  He wanted to see if he would be a part of something, since it is the 25th anniversary of our first album being released. In lieu of that, Mike would like to see the first half of our shows on the fall tour be all of our newer songs with our new bass player and then the last half of the show we will have Tim come out and play our older material.

I have heard from some pretty reliable sources that you will be wearing the original yellow and black spandex costumes you wore during the 1980s.  What was the inspiration for those costumes in the first place?

We really didn’t know what was going to happen with it.  Yellow and black stripes was kind of an eye catcher and it definitely had something to it.  Nobody else was doing it.  So, when we became a Christian band it kind of stuck with us and we thought it would be great.  It would be like caution colors, warning people about the end times.  We also wanted to warn people about living their life in the world without knowing Jesus.  We were trying to symbolize a warning to people.  So, there was a lot of stuff like that where we would start coming up with ideas.  With the Bible verse Isaiah 53:5 we connected the name of the band.  It just went hand in hand.  One thing led to another.  Even though we were probably very naïve at the time and were still maturing in our faith, we were very young Christians at the time, God still used us.  God saw our hearts and began to do some things.  He began to stir the hearts of the young people that were either in the rock clubs experiencing all of this dark imagery with sex, drugs, and rock and roll pounded into their faces.  A lot of them really didn’t like it.  It’s obvious that they didn’t because they latched onto us like we were special and golden.  We became their band. 

Murder by Pride is your first album release since 2005’s Reborn.  Based on the very strong visual imagery on your album cover what is the concept for this record?

Obviously, pride can take you down real hard.  The album cover is a picture of a guy who looks like he is crippled by his pride.  That is basically what it boils down to – kind of getting yourself to realize that if you have pride and you are self-centered you are not following what Jesus Christ said.  Jesus said to be a servant.  Think of others before yourself.  Come on, Jesus washed Judas Iscariot’s feet even though He knew what was going to happen.  That is the kind of love you need to have for people.  Everybody has a chance to change until the day they die.  Look at the thief on the Cross.  He turned to Christ and said, ‘Remember me Jesus,’ at the last minute.  And Jesus told him he would be in paradise.  He didn’t have to get off the cross and go do something.  His pride was gone at that point.  Everything that he cut loose in his life he finally realized who God was.  Murder by Pride, or specifically pride, is a problem for most people, even Christians.  Hopefully, we will get the message to let go of that.

What do you think are a couple of the standout tracks on the new album, tracks that you really like and identify with.

The title track, “Murder by Pride”, is definitely one of them.  It is the one that will really kick over most people that are Stryper fans because it just has that big, rock, Stryper sound that everyone is looking for.  That is certainly a prominent song.  Another song that is a sort of anthem is called “I Believe”.  It starts off very low key and builds into a very bold sound and then comes back down in the dynamics.  It has the feel of an anthem – “I Believe in Jesus”.  It is just a really powerful sounding song.  There is a really cool song called “Run in You” that is a lot more mellow.  It is almost along the lines of an Eagles tune.  I’m real proud of that song.  It is a good one.  All around, there are quite a few rockers in there that will please Stryper fans but I also think there are a handful of ballads and pop sounding songs that will cross over.

What has God been teaching you lately?

I always preach this to everybody but I have learned to put God on the throne of my life and let Him put everything in my life in order.  The times that I have put myself on the throne I just mess things up.  I’m tired of that.  When I finally let go of everything and just said, ‘Lord, it’s in your hands.  I can’t control this world and I can’t control circumstances but I can obey you.  I can trust you, trust your Word, and trust your promises.’  When I started saying that to the Lord and just giving it up to Him all of a sudden amazing blessings came into my life.  I went through a divorce in 2005 and 2006.  I was married for 20 years and had three kids.  My kids are older now but that was a very rough period in my life.  I was really passionate about being married and wanted to be a Godly husband but I realized that I can’t control what somebody’s heart is thinking or doing.  I pray for my ex-wife and I really hope she will understand what it truly means to trust God and give her heart completely to Him.  When God is not on the throne of your life you can certainly make decisions based upon what you think is right.  Even in the times that you have struggles, if you are obeying God, living in the Spirit, and trusting Him for everything He gets you through it.  He all the sudden comes to life right in front of you.  You just sit there watching how your enemies have no weapon against you.  I love that.  Now, I totally live by faith.  I let everything go and just say, ‘Lord, it’s in your hands.’  Then, all of a sudden, doors start opening.  I am amazed.  And these are doors that are better than I could ever imagine.  I recently got married to Annie Lobert.  She is just a miracle in my life.  Her ministry has blessed my life big time.  I am really, really excited about being part of what she does and it is also going to be great having her as my better half.  Oh man, she is such a special lady.  She is a beautiful girl with a beautiful heart.  I am just so blessed by her testimony.

Final question, when people listen to the new album, Murder by Pride, when they come to see you on tour this fall, what do you want people to take away from that experience?

Ultimately, my hope and prayer is that people will see Jesus and if they don’t know Him, that they will want to know Him and want to have a true relationship with Him.  However that is going to happen, whether it is through the music, the lyrics, by what is being said onstage, or by us meeting one on one with people, I would like people to meet Jesus.  Whatever it takes.

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Oz Fox, Michael Sweet, Robert Sweet, Tim Gaines

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Over and Underneath
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did you know?

The group's unprecedented 1986 album To Hell with the Devil went platinum and was named one of the "100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music" by CCM Magazine.

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