In its more than two decades of existence, Skillet has seen more than its fair share of trends in rock music ... and at times, they band has been on the polar opposite side of them.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Skillet first came onto the rock scene, the Christian hard rock band was sending out a positive message in their lyrics when most of rock’s biggest names specialized in torment and angst. They would be incorporating more keyboards when most bands leaned on a six-string assault.
But Skillet founding member John Cooper (vocalist, bass) said the look and sound of the moment has seemed to flip in their favor.
“I hear stuff on the radio and I’m like, that reminds me of us,” he said. “They’ll go, ‘they’ve got a girl drummer,’ and I go, ‘we’ve had a girl drummer for 16 years.’”
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Now, nine albums, No. 1 singles on both Billboard rock and Christian music charts, a pair of Grammy nominations and a few platinum-selling records later, Skillet has done something few Christian artists have done by converting secular audiences to their distinct yet frequently shifting mix of alternative rock, hard rock and metal.
Cooper, along with wife Korey Cooper (rhythm guitar, keyboards, vocals), Seth Morrison (lead guitar) and Jen Ledger (drums), pride themselves on creating music that can be appreciated by Christian and mainstream audiences. Based on appearances at huge rock festivals like Rock on the Range or supporting enormous rock acts, Skillet only seems intent on widening its reach.
“We’ve done tours that maybe you wouldn’t expect a rock band to do, or a Christian band to do,” Cooper said. “Even though we do a lot or rock touring, to do a tour with Korn is a slightly new audience for Skillet. It’s expanding the audience.”
While Skillet has consistently shown its ability to branch out, its current role as headliner for the Air1 Positive Hits Tour is the band’s way of strengthening its connection with its Christian fan base.
Skillet is supporting its 2016 album, “Unleashed,” which Cooper said has some of band’s more driving, fun and positive rock that he describes as “pop music with really heavy guitars” while also featuring synth-soaked praise songs like their hit singles “Stars” and “Lions.”
“When we were writing on ‘Unleashed,’ I wanted to pull back to the Christian audience,” Cooper said. “I didn’t feel like I needed to, I felt like I wanted to.”
Due to a lot of the mainstream hard rock tours Skillet tends to be a part of, Cooper said the band is excited to join the Air1 Positive Hits Tour for the first time so that Skillet’s youngest fans can experience the band’s sound in a family-friendly atmosphere. But while Skillet’s live audience demographics, fan base or sound may occasionally change, the thing that has kept the band successful is that it has always stayed the same at its core.
“Skillet has always felt comfortable being ourselves,” Cooper said. “For the most part, people just like Skillet because we’re authentic. They believe in the music and they feel it, whether they’re Christian or not.”
Blake Hannon: firstname.lastname@example.org