Editor’s Note: We received the absolute pleasure of conversing with John Cooper of Skillet about his new project Fight The Fury. In this, we learned about how free he felt making music for Fight The Fury, while feeling like he has certain expectations to meet when he’s fronting Skillet. Fight The Fury recently released their EP entitled “Still Breathing”, and we learn about his love for metal and how we need to be discussing difficult topics such as addictions and mental health that a lot of us fight on a daily basis. Fans can find Fight The Fury at the following locations:
Fans can download “Still Breathing” by Fight The Fury via Spotify and Apple Store here.
Fans can find Skillet at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: Hey John, how’s it going today?
John: What’s going on my man? Just enjoying the day off and doing interviews!
Madness To Creation: What do you like to do on a day off or at home?
John: I like spending time with my family and my bandmates, live the so-called normal life! *laughs* Some hobbies include woodworking, at home, I like to build stuff and build furniture, that’s a really good creative release for me, family time, going to my favorite burger place down the street, all of that stuff!
Madness To Creation: What’s the last woodworking project that you have made?
John: I have a bunch that I’m working on, this past week, I just built a chair, I built a coffee table for my sister-in-law, they just moved into a new house and they needed a new coffee table.
Madness To Creation: October 26th, you released “Still Breathing”, and I love the project, and it sounded like you had to get some rage out, what are some ways that you get your rage out?
John: Getting my rage out! *laughs*, What’s fun about the project for me, what spurned this on, is when you first start playing music or starting your first band, you’re just writing stuff that you think is cool, you’re writing about things that you want to say, you want to try this and you want to try that. Then, if you’re lucky enough to have a business doing music like I’ve been, then all of a sudden you’re talking about other things that have radio songs, then you’re writing songs that are four minutes or three minutes long, everything that you do has to be hyperconventional, and I just wanted to make a project where I didn’t have to be conventional and didn’t have to consider it being too heavy or too scream-y or too angry, or too many guitar solos, or if that time signature feels too strange, and it was very fun getting to write that kind of music, and it reminded me of why I loved music and why I fell in love with metal, and listening to Metallica records. You never knew what Metallica was going to do, where they were going to go, and where the time signature was going to change, and it felt like such an adventure, and that’s what I kind of wanted to do with Fight The Fury, and that’s things that I’ve never done with Skillet.
Madness To Creation: That sounds really cool, you brought up Metallica a few seconds ago, tell me your favorite Metallica record.
John: For years and years, “The Black Album” has considered to be my top two or top three favorite Metallica records of all time, but about two or three years ago, I rediscovered “Ride The Lightning”, and it took the mantle, I don’t know why or what happened, but I just fell in love with that record again, I would have to say now that “Ride The Lightning” is my favorite.
Madness To Creation: I have to say that “Load” is my favorite Metallica record just because it was so unexpected and unconventional, kind of like what you’re accomplishing with Fight The Fury. Are there times where you feel like you’re creative freedom is in a box with the success of Skillet in your career?
John: Sure, well first I’m going to say that I love Skillet, and some people are saying that Skillet is not going to be around, we’re actually almost finished with our new record, we’re about 80% done recording that album currently, and it’s going to come out next year, and I love my job with Skillet, I wouldn’t change it and I wouldn’t give it up because I love it, but with a certain measure of success, it just becomes about different things. You have more employees, you have to sell tickets, you have to get on radio, all of these things are really important, and before you know it, you’re not just writing music the way that you want to write it, but you have five or six people going, “I don’t know if I like that chorus, or it doesn’t speak to me, I don’t like that lyric, it doesn’t connect, it sounds too angry or it doesn’t sound angry enough, or it just sounds too repetitive, or you’ve already done that in the past” or “it’s too this or too that, it’s too black or it’s too white”, and before you know it, you feel like that you have too many cooks in the kitchen and thinking that this isn’t fun. It just got kind of annoying. I love Skillet and I’m not actually complaining about it, but there can be a push or a pull there, and it can take the fun out of it a little bit, and that’s what is so great about Fury, I did all of the songs myself, I produced it myself, I recorded almost all of it on the road. I did the art direction for the EP, I co-produced the video for “My Demons”. The whole thing is kind of my baby, showing what I can totally do when I’m off the leash, and that has been a really fun process.
Madness To Creation: Let’s talk about the “My Demons” single and video, what’s the song about?
John: “My Demons” was actually the first song that I wrote for the project, I wanted to release that one first although I’m not sure if it’s the best song on the record, and typically, you want your first song to be the best one, I’ve heard different people say some different ones are their favorites. To me, it was almost nostalgic since it was the first one that I did, I liked the guitar riff because it was so chaotic and it had a touch of prog rock in it, with the different time signatures, which was really fun. I just really liked what the lyrics were about. It was inspired by a fan that I met five or six years ago after a concert, and he was sharing his story with me and how he was a victim of child abuse and how he was never able to forgive this person, and it just made me really angry and I wanted to somehow put it into a song because there were aspects to his story that I could relate to, and it brought up some hard feelings. There are some things in our lives that are so painful that we can forgive, and even if we can’t forgive, we have to forgive continually, it’s not like when you forgive somebody you never have to deal with it again, it may be something that you have to do every single day, sometimes the pain is really deep, and that’s what the song “My Demons” is about, and I think all of those things are reasons why we released it first.
Madness To Creation: Do you get those type of stories on a pretty regular basis?
John: Absolutely always hearing those stories. I think it has to do with the fact that music speaks to us so deeply, I remember sitting on my bed with my headphones on in high school fighting with my dad wishing I could be someone else and putting my headphones on and having that feeling that Trent Reznor is the only person in the world that knows what I’m going through, that sounds dramatic and silly, but music has a way of making you feel connected, and because of that, I meet people at concerts that has had big things happening in their lives, and I’ve been lucky enough to have been a part of that, I mean you remember your first date, first kiss, fighting with your parents, a lot of times the things that you remember about those events is the music that was playing in that era of your life, so people tell me their stories, and I love to get to hear those stories, I get inspired by them, I get humbled by them, it makes me feel very small in a good way, and humbled to be a part of someone else’s life, and I’ve written a lot of songs based on fan stories.
Madness To Creation: I manage and work with Brianna Musco, and she was telling me about how Skillet’s music got her through her high school and college years, especially using your music to get her ready for her soccer games.
John: That is so cool, thank you for sharing that with me!
Madness To Creation: What are your favorite demon like things or Halloween movies, based off of “My Demons”?
John: Well I love horror films in general, I like the creepy ones like “The Ring”, I like Michael Myers as Jason, I like the “Frankenstein” book, I love the “Dracula” book as well, those are a list of my favorites, but in terms of modern horror films, “The Ring” would be my top selling list.
Madness To Creation: My favorite song on the EP is “Still Burning”, it’s so inspiring, take us into that song, and what were you going through when you penned that song?
John: You’re the second person today that has asked me about that song, and I’m glad it’s having an impact, I wasn’t sure how people were going to take this song, but musically, I think it’s an interesting song, as it has a lot of different aspects to it, the bridge of the song is very old school metal, what’s funny is that it takes a different direction, then it has elements of screamo and mood metal, the idea of the song has a dark romance to it, with a little bit of a gothic romance, which I think is kind of cool, a lot of the Dracula stories have that dark romance to it, which is kind of cool, that’s just what I kind of want to say about it. When you people say about how when you fall in love with somebody, and when they fall in love because the fire is not there anymore, that’s kind of the inspiration of the song, that one person that you can’t live without and it sets you on fire, and that fire is still burning, it has very much a emo romance to it.
Madness To Creation: What causes you to keep the creative fires burning?
John: Music is magic! Ever since I was a kid, nothing has spoke to me like music did, it just moves me. I just think that music is just a supernatural force really, I will go even further and say that music is inherently spiritual, even with people that are not religious and maybe even atheistic in their philosophies, they would still say that there’s something supernatural or otherworldly spiritual about how music can make you feel. Even with a film, you might have seen a film that is really great, but you also realize that film might not be what it was without the soundtrack, without the mood that the music is creating and it does something to you, it makes you feel better when you’re sad. For people like me, I grew up in the workout room and playing sports in junior high and high school while listening to Metallica, it just made you want to lift more. You go into any weight room in the world or gymnasium when I was in junior high school, and you would not get out of there without hearing Metallica or AC/DC with a bunch of dudes lifting weights, so that was part of my soundtrack, so that kind of gets me going, enjoying the magic of music, it’s a powerful thing.
Madness To Creation: It’s like the ghost of Lars Ulrich comes and helps you with that extra rep. What message do you have for the metalhead or Skillet community about Fight The Fury?
John: What’s cool about Fight The Fury from a Skillet fan perspective is that everytime we release a Skillet record, there’s a certain core Skillet fan that always tweets me and is like, “this record better be heavy”, we want this record to sound like “Collide”, we had a record called “Collide” years ago, which was our hardest rock album in that territory, and that group of fans is going to be very happy about Fight The Fury because it sounds like a really heavy Skillet, and we’ve had some people that say, “I like Skillet, but it’s a little too pop for me or a little too radio friendly or a little too commercial” for some folks, and that’s what’s different about Fight The Fury is that it’s very exploratory in some of the structures of the songs, it’s that you don’t know what’s going to happen next and when you talk about “Ride The Lightning”, that’s why I like that record so much, and we never knew what was going to happen and even when I listen to it five million times, sometimes I forget when that guitar solo comes in or is it later in the song, because of the musical inspiration that is five or six minutes long and it feels like a roller coaster, and that’s what I like about Fight The Fury.
Madness To Creation: Do you ever go through that feeling where you’ve heard a song a million times and the next time you hear that song, it just blows you away?
John: Sure! For example, I’ve seen Spinal Tap 500 times, and I never really heard what Derrick Smalls was saying during that one little part, in fact that happened to me a few years ago, if you don’t know what Spinal Tap is, it’s a movie that you’ve got to see, there’s a part in there where they talk about the album cover for “Smell The Glove”, one of them said, “it’s not supposed to be literal, you shouldn’t be made to smell the glove”, and Derrick Smalls in the background says, “you should be made to smell, just not over and over again”, I’ve seen it hundreds of times, and that’s the genius of that, I went through that playing “Thriller” by Michael Jackson the other day in my car with my kid, and my son goes, “I know this song but I forgot the name of it”, and my daughter goes, “it’s Bruno Mars”, and as an old person, you just go, “that’s exactly the point”, Bruno Mars is amazing, but Michael Jackson is more amazing, you turn on something old and you hear something that you haven’t heard before, you maybe hear a little bit of genius that escaped you.
Madness To Creation: Is there anything else you would like to add in regards to the project?
John: Check out the “My Demons” music video and Fight The Fury’s social media pages for that, we’re hoping to be touring America in January!
And there you have it! Check out Fight The Fury touring Russia and Eastern Europe this winter.
FIGHT THE FURY ON TOUR:
12/2 — Glavclub Green Concert — Moscow, Russia
12/3 — Cosmonavt — St. Petersburg, Russia
12/5 — Podzemka — Novosibirsk, Russia
12/6 — Teatro — Tomsk, Russia
12/8 — Vagonka — Kaliningrad, Russia
12/9 — Re:public — Minsk, Belarus
12/11 — Atlas — Kiev, Ukraine