Robert Sweet, drummer for the legendary Christian rock band Stryper, has hooked up with David Pearson and friends to form a hot new rock band called Blissed, and I recently had the pleasure of interviewing both Robert and David for NewReleaseTuesday.com. The lineup includes (see picture...L to R) Jeff Miller (bass and vocals), Robert Sweet (drums), David Pearson (lead vocals and guitar) and Trevor Barr (guitar and vocals). With a new hard-rockin' CD out called Waking Up the Dead, Blissed is hitting the road to do a US tour, and we here at NewReleaseTuesday.com have the latest buzz right from Robert and David.
You have a debut CD out called Waking Up the Dead which I really enjoyed listening to. It's a heavier style of rock, somewhat aggressive, yet you still manage to give attention to the melody. Can you tell the readers of NRT all about your new release?
Robert: Hello to everyone at NRT. Thank you for giving Waking Up The Dead a listen. I have always felt rock tunes should be like velvet steel—somewhat enticing sing-along melodies, with kick down the door, DRUMS, BASS and GUITAR. That's just my opinion, but I love it that way.
David: We went for a thick sound, which is easy when you have Trevor laying down giant guitar tracks! This release is a record we are proud of. It was crazy in the making and worth every second.
Robert: These songs and the forming of "Blissed" was kind of put together and formed purposely on accident. We ended up doing something we didn't know we were going to do. I think it turned out pretty well, considering all the circumstances.
Where and when did everybody meet, and how did you guys get started as a band?
David: I have known Jeff for years. Bands I was in before Blissed played around with bands he was in, and I have always wanted to work with him. Trev and I have been playing together for 5 years now. We were in a band together called Static. It was from Static that Trev and I created the foundation for what is now Blissed. Robert and I met backstage at a show and then again and again and again from coast to coast. We took it as a sign that we were going to work together, since Robert was a guest on my project, and I was a guest on his. But when the chemistry is as good as it is, you just know you have to go for it. Next thing you know...Blissed!
A Blissed show is a big, explosive rock 'n' roll show. You might see some broken drums and walk away with your ears ringing.
When I first heard that you named your band Blissed I loved the sound of that right from the start! I looked up the definition in the dictionary and Bliss means Heavenly Joy; Extreme joy; Spiritual joy. Who came up with the name, and why did you decide to name the band Blissed?
David: When we had decided that we were moving forward as a group, Trev and I realized that with Jeff and Robert in the band it was not Static anymore. Right from the start, Robert did not want anyone to misunderstand or assume that this was a solo project so we needed a new name, a new beginning. I sent out a list of over 90 names to the guys, which very quickly became a list of about 20. We had a deadline and the task of naming the band became urgent: we had an interview scheduled in London, England, and they wanted to play a preview of a song and introduce the band's name to the world. Robert kept saying he wanted a name that was positive but still sounded cool, and that can be tough! I sent out the list that was now down to about 3 or 4 from the 90! Blissed was the one that we all felt was...well us. It is positive and has meaning, but it still just sounds kind of cool.
What aspirations do you have for the band?
David: I want to see the band hit every part of North America and beyond on this tour. Ripping it up on stages and hanging out is like breathing life into the songs for me, and in the process I hope we can have an actual positive effect.
Robert: I hope to have some great times with Blissed, create some good memories, and hopefully touch the hearts of those listening and watching.
What can somebody expect when they show up to a Blissed concert?
Robert: A Blissed show is a rock show, a lot of fun, a lot of energy, a good time. You might see some broken drums and walk away with your ears ringing. You'll see a band that is a stripped down version of a glam, heavy melodic punk, top 40, metal band...yet none of these descriptions really apply.
David: Yeah, a Blissed show is a big, explosive rock 'n' roll show. We want everyone to have a great time and we want to try to be new. You will not see the typical drums in the middle behind, me in the center with Jeff and Trev on each side. We want the show to be visual and fresh too.
What is your favorite song to play live and why?
David: That is tough...I like all the songs, but I'll say "Shut Up" cause I can get lost in the heavy vibe. No, I'll say "Obvious" for the same reason. No, I think I'll say "I Hate You" because people are shocked at first and then love what it's all about. No, maybe I'll say "All I Want," after all we start out most shows with it...Then again "Losing You" and "Fire Below" have people singing along and "Hold Me" is a great emotional moment...Well, I don't know...
Robert: I'll say "Waking Up The Dead."
The tour sounds exciting, and I am definitely going to see Blissed in concert when you guys come to Florida! Everybody go check out www.Blissed.biz to find a full schedule of tour dates at Blissed's official website. They also have a page where you can listen to audio clips from Waking Up the Dead and a store where you can order their new CD! Lyrically the songs "I Hate You," "Shut Up," and "Waking Up the Dead" caught my attention immediately. I was intrigued by them, and I wanted to know if there was some particular experience in life that influenced you to write the lyrics to each song the way you did?
David: When I was writing the lyrics for these songs, I wanted the songs to express what I, no, what we were about. It's funny, Robert asked (because of the content of some of the songs) if we wanted to introduce ourselves with THAT much punch - because in Stryper he experienced all of what controversy can be. In the end we felt that we wanted to be real and we went for it.
Actually the song "I Hate You" is not about us hating any person but the cause of all the evil we see. The idea for "I Hate You" first began when I was watching the news. I was hit with all these terrible things, and I focused it down to one single blame in a song, while at the same time making a declaration that because of my faith, I can feel secure that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. The song "Shut Up," it's just a new way of saying practice what you preach. And for "Waking Up The Dead," I hope that when all is said and done, that can sum up Blissed.
Robert, I have seen you play live before with both King James and Stryper. You are just so entertaining to watch and your showmanship outshines that of any other drummer I have seen! During the concerts I attended I noticed that you have a collection of hats that you wear while you are performing. Can we expect to see these hats on the Blissed tour? Any new additions to your collection? By the way I love those hats!
Robert: What a nice person you are. Thank you so much for the compliment. I love the hats and I will be bringing some more hats out on the Blissed tour, including my collection of Nitro Fish Hats, which are my favorite.
Some fans also wanted to know if you will be performing a few Stryper songs?
Robert: No, I think we will just be playing Blissed tunes, which I think is better. Stryper is Stryper, and I would rather play Blissed tunes at a Blissed concert.
Robert, please tell us throughout your career as a drummer, whether it be with Stryper, King James or Blissed, what is one of the wildest things that has ever happened on any of the tours that you can think of?
Robert: Basically getting blown up at Radio City Music Hall on the "In God We Trust Tour." I was OK, but I was completely black from the gun powder and had a hard time breathing for a while. Pyro went off underneath my drum riser and hit me in the face. Goes to show you never know.
Robert, since Blissed is a heavier style (musically) than Stryper, which style of music is preferable to you? Submitted by Paul at STRYPERFORUM.com
Robert: Both are great!
David: To all of you who have enjoyed Robert in the past, you just have to give Blissed a listen. I still listen back to the songs on "Waking Up The Dead" and think, he really cut loose with this CD!
Are there any rituals that you perform prior to going onstage? Submitted by Paul at STRYPERFORUM.com
Robert: I wouldn't call it a ritual, but I pray and try not to let the butterflies get to me.
David: Every night is a new adventure.
David, I read on your website where it says you were in Africa, and you and a team built two buildings for orphans of aids. How did you get involved with this project, and how long were in you Africa? Tell us about your experience there.
David: Africa was amazing! I went with a great team, and we worked with a group in Uganda called Watoto. We built 2 homes; each one will house 8 kids and a "Mom." It was life changing to see people with literally nothing, and yet have happiness and peace. It made me stop and evaluate why I am driven to do what it is I do. I think that it caused me to be more honest with God, to be real with myself and God. It brings something to your life to know that there will be these kids; these lives given a chance that otherwise would not exist. There is something innocent in the eyes of a child, not just in Africa but in all children in need, so you have to do what you can. I know that I will go back again! Also for me, being an artist, I collected reference material for my paintings that I never dreamed I would experience.
Congratulations Robert on the new addition to your family. I heard that you and your wife Starri just had a new baby girl, Jan 13 2004, and you named her Trinity Lee Sweet. How do you balance life as a father, a husband and a musician? Do you find it difficult at times?
Robert: Thank you! Her name is Trinity and she is a beauty. She is my angel! I spend as much time as I can with my family while I am at home. I love being a husband and father. I have the greatest family in the world. When I go out on tour, they miss me, but they know this is what I am supposed to do. They actually wish there were more shows, they love to go with me when they can. Actually, I think I miss them more. It can be hard to be apart, but what can you do?...A lot of phone calls and pictures.
What is one of the most challenging things you had to overcome in your life?
Robert: The Break up of Stryper.
David: My parents separating.
Since I have been a moderator at dcTalksolo.com I have had the opportunity to talk with many teenagers about so many problems that they are going through. Some kids have wanted to commit suicide and some other teenagers struggled with drugs, alcohol, premarital sex and homosexuality. What encouraging words can you share with these kids to help them find hope in life?
Robert: A lot of bad things happen to good people, I wish it wasn't so. The only hope I can give is to pray and put your trust in Jesus. I don't mean for that to sound cliché, but nothing else works.
David: Life is hard, it can be brutal and unfair but this much I know: No matter who you are, what you have been through, what you have been told or what has been done to you...You are loved and you have worth!
What does being a Christian mean to you?
Robert: Trusting in CHRIST.
David: I think that said it, simple and straight.
What are your opinions about the movie The Passion of the Christ? Submitted by Layla at STRYPERFORUM.com
David: I think that it was powerful, I knew and understood what Christ did, but seeing it so graphic made me grounded again in that truth and more thankful.
Robert: The Greatest movie ever made. It's about time someone showed how it really happened.
Have you ever by accident walked into the ladies restroom? And if you did, what happened?
David: Oh yeah, no big deal, just turned right back out. It is funnier to me the reactions of guys that mistake me for a woman and jump out of the men's room.
Robert: Actually I never have, do you want me to?
[Laughter.] Have you ever, or would you consider wearing boxers or briefs with Spongebob Squarepants or the WB Frog on them?
David: Can't say I do.
Robert: I have Spongebob boxers my kids got for me.
Has David ever burped during a performance while singing onstage? Submitted by Layla at STRYPERFORUM.com
David: Not really, but once in a band I was in before I was ill, and didn't want to cancel the show. I ended up vomiting behind the amps and drums in the middle of a song. I am proud to say that the audience didn't notice my trips to the back of the stage.
Has David ever forgotten the words to a song during a performance and froze? Submitted by Layla at STRYPERFORUM.com
David: Oh yeah, it is funny that would happen since I wrote them, but it has happened when I got so lost in the moment, but I have never froze. I have sang other parts of the song and even wrote a new verse as I sang. But freezing is not an option.
Funniest or most embarrassing moment on Stage for Robert or David?
David: For me, it was a time when I discovered that my fly was down, and I mean 4 songs into the set! I had to just be cool, so I just smiled and zipped up without even turning my back to the stage. The sound man motioned that it was down again later, it wasn't, but he got me.
Robert: I was embarrassed about something my brother, Michael, said about me on stage during a Stryper tour. What he said wasn't true, so I better not get into it.
Does anybody in the band have any hidden or unusual talents?
Robert: Dave is an artist, painter, I play guitar too. Jeff, Blissed's bass player, is really a slamming guitar player too. And Trev is worth millions of dollars, I might as well speak it into existence.
What have you been reading lately?
David: The Purpose Driven Life.
Robert: The Glorious Appearing, The Ten Offenses, and The Purpose Driven Life.
David: The Star Wars movies (I collect SW stuff), Jaws, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Grease (shut up with the lol)!
Robert: The Passion, Jesus of Nazareth, Terminator 3
Favorite TV Shows?
David: 24 and Alias, I watch a lot of documentaries.
Robert: The 700 Club, Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, The Science Channel and Speed Vision.
Last 3 concerts you have been to?
David: Evanescence, Skillet, and Rock 'N' Roll Worship Circus.
Robert: Nothing recently.
What's in your CD player?
David: Prince, oh wait, nope it is Thousand Foot Krutch.
Robert: Nothing right now, because I am sitting down getting ready to write a whole bunch of new songs. I write songs the opposite way of how most people do—I just remove myself from the music scene. I don't listen to the radio, I don't listen to some of my favorite bands, I don't listen to what's happening right now or the newest bands that are out. A lot of people say to themselves: "What's happening right now?" "Who's on the charts?" "Who's big?" or "I'm gonna listen to that," and they draw an influence from the answers. They're not really being themselves.
I know, they end up sounding like everybody else—like a cookie cutter type of sound.
Robert: Right, I wanna pull it out of me without any outside influences. It's just the nature of musicians to be influenced by what they hear. I have always tried to do the opposite, especially as a drummer.
David: The last thing we want is for Blissed to be watered down. Whenever any of us in Blissed are working on new songs we tend to shut in and let it come out, and if it's a little odd, well that's great! If it is just plain strange, well all the better!
David, what singers have inspired you?
David: That would be a long one. I guess Dale Thompson is high on the list but it would start with The Beatles and Janice Joplin, then Robert Plant, Roger Daltry and Freddie Mercury. Kiss, Alice Cooper and Van Halen and a whole bunch of '80s type bands. Bach from Skid Row is high in that group. Prince and a whole load of Motown...the list would go on and on and on.
Robert, what drummers have inspired you?
Robert: I know it may sound strange, but I have been more influenced by guitar players than drummers. There are a lot of drummers that I like, but I think most drummers are boring. They are musicians and there is a difference between a musician and an entertainer. I think you can be a musician, but that doesn't mean you're an entertainer"but you can be an entertainer if you are a musician. I looked around when I was growing up and I saw very few drummers that did anything for me. I wasn't into the guy who hid behind his drum set and had a pair of shorts on and was the last guy in the band you would even take a look at. I was more into guitar players and singers, and the ironic thing is for the 20 years I have done Stryper, most of the people who I've run into have walked up to me and asked me, "Are you a lead singer?"
Robert: Unless it's somebody who is a die-hard Stryper fan who knows I am a drummer. Probably once or twice a week I get asked if I am a singer, especially here in Las Vegas where I live, which is kinda cool because that's what I want. I didn't wanna fall into the mold that I saw most drummers have when I was growing up. So there is a lot of great guys out there that I like. I really liked John Bonham when I was growing up.
Oh yeah, me too!
Robert: I really liked Tommy Lee, even though he and I come from the same era. There is a whole bunch of guys that I really like that are great drummers, but I really can't call them influences. You know Tommy Lee is probably one of the greatest showmen I have seen but I just drew my influences from other places and applied that to drumming.
By the way, do you sing?
Robert: I do.
I would love to hear you sing.
Robert: I can sing. If I do another solo record I think this time around I am gonna sing. I think the reason why I didn't get into singing is because I was playing drums and did it with so much...I don't wanna say energy because it makes me sounds like I am bragging about myself...but the way I played I would find myself breathing so hard that my throat would be sore, and I just didn't bother singing. Now when I was 16, 17- years-old and I was in bands before I was in Stryper or before I was working with my brother I would sing backups in other bands that I was in. It just became really hard for me to do that while going totally crazy doing the thing that I do.
I have seen you play live many times, and I have to tell you that you're a great drummer! You're visually entertaining, and you display a charisma that many drummers have not developed in their performances.
Robert: Thank You! You know, I was just able to play drums, I have never had a lesson, I just picked up the sticks and I just went with it. By the time I was 15, I played on my first record. I just know how to do it. I am not bragging, because I could be a lot better. I just felt my mission is to do the very best I can do.
Any final comments?
David: I thank every one of you who have supported us so far and I can't wait to get out on the road and hang out with everyone.
Robert: Thank you all for reading this, I hope my answers helped some. By the way, If anyone out there has an Iroc Camaro for sale, let me know. I am a car nut, and I have to have one of these cars again.
Thank you so much Robert and David for taking the time to answer our questions. We look forward to seeing you on tour soon. And Rob I think I know of somebody with an Iroc Camaro for sale...I'll let you know!
Angel, a concert photographer and writer, frequently conducts artist interviews for NRT. She loves Christian music and currently lives in FL with her husband.