Skillet Singer John Cooper Talks ‘Rise’ Album, Carnival of Madness, Faith + More
After their last album ‘Awake’ went platinum, Skillet had the daunting task of following it up. They are well on their way with ‘Rise,’ a concept album that was released in June and debuted at No. 1 on the rock album chart and No. 4 on the Billboard 200. The lead single ‘Sick of It’ immediately hit the Top 10 on the mainstream rock chart, while ‘American Noise’ topped the Christian chart.
Loudwire sat down with Skillet singer John Cooper before the band's performance on the Carnival of Madness tour in Charlotte, N.C. He discussed the new album, the current and upcoming tours, what the next single will be, how he stays connected with his faith on the road and other topics.
What have been some of the highlights so far of Carnival of Madness?
Because we’ve been so busy, it’s just flying by. I feel like we just started the tour. My favorite thing is that the bands are so cool. Everybody gets along. Some people may know that bands can have egos, especially singers (laughs). I’m a big believer that the headlining band sets the tone on the tour. That’s what I’ve found in the past. Shinedown are great guys, and they are a great band to work with. They really want the tour to succeed and they want you to succeed. They don’t want it to be just about them. I think that has created this amazing atmosphere. All the bands get along.
The talent is just great on this tour. I think it’s a great lineup. There’s no good time to go get drinks. (laughs) The highlights for me have been getting to know the other bands and finding out everybody is for each other. It’s a really great thing.
The opening band is We As Human, who you discovered...
That’s kind of my first band I’ve signed and worked with, executive produced. I’m a big fan. I love the band. We made a really good record with them, great songs. They’re a great live band, too. I was really happy they were able to come out on this tour.
Does that make you want to get more involved in that end of the business?
I don’t know, it’s a lot of work. I love the band, and it was actually not my intention to work with them. I called my manager and said, ‘Hey, I love this band. You should sign them.’ He said, ‘Why don’t we do it together and make a record.’ If I can use my platform to help something I really believe in, then I absolutely would do it again. I love their record. I’m really proud of it.
After Carnival of Madness, you’re headed to South America. Have you toured there before?
Never. It’s our very first time. Out of all the tweets I get, I bet 30 or 40 percent are from Brazil. The people are just crazy, so I’m really expecting it to be great. Skillet has not done a lot overseas until the last three years. We went to Australia about three years ago and had an amazing tour, and also Japan.
My manager had been trying to get me to go to Russia for years, and I kept saying no, there’s no way they are going to know who we are. And things are now going really well for Skillet in Russia, so we’re going back for the third time in December.
Then we’re doing Europe with Nickelback. We’ve played Europe a little bit, but we haven’t done what I’d call a ‘for real’ tour. I’m excited about expanding.
And since you’re touring with Nickelback, I imagine you’ll be able to play similar or even larger sized venues to those you usually play in the U.S.
All over the world, Nickelback are big. There’s no better way to go tour Europe and new countries than with Nickelback. You have to be really happy about that. We are thrilled. So I hope to get a lot of new fans over there and keep getting the word out about Skillet.
We’ll be doing our own headlining tour next year. There will be plenty of chances for people to see us on the road, opening or headlining all over the world.
Your new album ‘Rise’ has done very well, so far. I imagine you’re happy with the response.
Making a record is a huge ordeal, especially when you’re coming from a place of success and there’s all this pressure and everybody wants to get involved. I would just like to remember what it was like to just enjoy making a record (laughs). I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned some really good things and some really bad things. I’ve learned some things to do again and to not do again. The record is out, and I’m thrilled that people like it and they are coming to see us play. They are buying the record. It’s hard not to be happy about that.
Your daughter also appears on the album. How did that come about?
We were putting together these interludes, because we wanted to tell a story, and I thought the songs went really well together. I was trying to figure out what to do between these songs. In my house we have a workout/studio room. I was on the treadmill and my wife (Korey Cooper, the band’s rhythm guitarist/keyboardist) and daughter walked in. My daughter was holding a microphone. I asked what they were doing, and my wife said she had an idea. It turned out really, really well. It was something we weren’t planning on.
What does your daughter think about it, hearing herself on the album?
She thinks it’s really cool. Of course that meant we had to get my son in there somewhere, too, because he was really excited. We found a place to stick him in, too.
‘Rise’ is a concept album. Do you have any plans or goals to perform it in its entirety, front to back at some point?
I do. In this business, it’s hard not to dream big, but sometimes you have to wait and see. If it’s a real failure of an album, then there will be no theater production. (laughs) But if the album did really well, would it be really cool to go see ‘Rise’ top to bottom with the interludes and some video? That would be dreaming big. So yes, that would be very cool.
You could do an ‘Evening with Skillet’ where you played all of ‘Rise,’ took a break, and then came back and played a greatest hits set.
Yeah, dreaming big. I feel you! That would be awesome.
There have already been quite a few songs released from ‘Rise.’
Before the record came out we released four iTunes singles. We did that as a lead-in to get people tasting a lot of the different sounds of the record. ‘Sick of It’ was out, and on Christian radio we had ‘American Noise.’ Next week we are releasing our next rock single, which is ‘Not Gonna Die,’ which I’m really thrilled about.
‘Not Gonna Die’ had always been my No. 1 favorite rock song on the record. And funny enough, out of all 72 songs I wrote for the record, it was the first one. I always believed in that song. The fans spoke, and it seems like that is the one they are most identifying with. So we are going for it. And we are going to shoot a video for it.
Since you on the road so much, how do you stay connected with your faith?
On Carnival of Madness, a lot of people don’t expect this, but most all of these groups that travel have someone of faith in the band. On this tour, I had several people from other bands coming up to me and saying, ‘You guys are a Christian band, right? What’s that all about? I’d like to have church.” So we started doing that on Sundays in our dressing room. We’ll have a meeting and invite anybody on the tour who wants to come. Some people come who aren’t religious at all, but they like being there and hearing the music. We worship together and have a little bible study.
Skillet have always been really good about keeping strong in our faith, because all of the band members are on the same page. And of course, my wife is in the band, and I have my kids on the road. I think the fact that we’re on the same page and we all believe that God has not just brought music to be our calling, but that it is being used for something to help people. Because of that, everybody’s pretty gung-ho about it.
I met somebody at a show earlier in the tour that said their brother had been struggling with drug addiction for years, and it was the song ‘Sick of It’ that finally made him decide to check into rehab. We recorded a rock album that changed somebody’s life. It’s very humbling. Those kind of things keep us really strong. We pray together, we believe together, we now we have church meetings together and some of the other bands come. It has created a cool thing.