Love Letter to Stryper

When we refurbished our website earlier this year, I was decided I was going to make it different from ordinary band websites. I wanted to make it more like general blog, writing not only about our own band but also other stuff, including our favorite music.

On our Japanese website, I’ve already written so many things it now looks more like personal journal rather than band website. But unfortunately my English skill is not that good and I can only write much less often here on our English website.

 

 

As the first thing about my “Favorite Music”, today I will write about STRYPER.

It’s a perfect topic naturally, because we are a Christian Metal band and STRYPER is the very band that started this whole Christian Metal thing.

Also the timing is perfect.

It was supposed to be perfect.

Because they were just going to play concerts in Japan….

I was wanting to write about them just after the concert.

But it never happened.

 

Because, as you may already know, their concerts in Japan were cancelled, because of Oz Fox’s health condition, the lead guitarist for Stryper. The concerts in Japan were postponed to February 2019.

As you may already know, Oz Fox is seeking help for his medical fee on GoFundMe website.

https://www.gofundme.com/help-oz-fox-pay-his-medical-bills

Frankly, as a Japanese, I feel it’s strange people need to raise fund for their medical fees like this in USA. This is medical system issue and probably a political issue but I feel it’s strange an established musician like him needs to raise money for his own medical treatment. Maybe musicians can’t have a proper medical care? But in Japan things are a little bit better.

In anyway please help him. Me and my wife have made a little contribution, too.

 

Stryper is No.1 band we are often referred to, or related to.

“Oh, you playing Christian Metal? You like Stryper?”

When we toured in USA, people talked to us like that, very often.

Probably that is because we are a Christian metal band that plays 1980’s style metal music. Also I admit I have put some Stryper references in my lyrics here and there. It’s a nod to their legacy. It’s an homage to Christian metal legends and their work. After all, they are the ones who started this whole genre.

 

I’m not going to argue who was the originator of “Christian Rock”. We had some bands like Petra and even Bob Dylan played Christian Rock.

If you ask me, because now we all know this long hidden history of rock that is Sister Rosetta Tharpe, finally inducted to Rockn’roll Hall of Fame in 2018, I would dare to say SHE is the one who started Christian Rock.

This will prove my point, that Rockn’Roll is FROM GOD, not from the devil, because the very person who invented Rockn’Roll WAS a Christian Rocker. (She was every bit a Christian Rocker in my opinion, despite all those scandals and controversial things.)

 

But it was STRYPER that started this “Christian Metal” thing and if it weren’t for them, there would not have been Tourniquet, Mortification, P.O.D., As I Lay Dying, Skillet, August Burns Red… oh God this list goes on forever.

So I have a huge respect for them.

They are the originator of Christian Metal.

They fought some tough fight in 1980’s crazy heavy metal world and they have won the big success.

Surely, if it weren’t for them, our band Imari Tones would not have existed in this  current form.

 

Another band we are often referred to, is LOUDNESS, the great Japanese heavy metal band from 1980’s. It’s understandable because they were almost the only Japanese metal band who had a considerable success overseas.

After the show, people come to me and say “Hey you are a metal band from Japan. Do you like LOUDNESS?” and things like that.

My answer is Yes. Of course. Who does not like LOUDNESS if you are a metalhead from Japan? They are great.

 

However, I will never tell them that I am more of an “Earthshaker” guy.

I love LOUDNESS, but if you talk about Japanese heavy metal, my favorite is EARTHSHAKER.

If you are a Japanese heavy metal fan, you certainly will understand this. Because LOUDNESS and EARTHSHAKER were the “BIG 2” bands in 1980’s Japanese heavy metal world. (They have some common background, as Minoru Niihara, the singer from LOUDNESS, actually started his singing career with EARTHSHAKER. The story about their rivalry and friendship is very beautiful one in Japanese metal history.)

But EARTHSHAKER never had a success overseas. Compared to LOUDNESS that sounded more like an American band, EARTHSHAKER sounded more like a Japanese band and they focused on playing for Japanese audience.

Probably metal fans outside of Japan, including those in USA, will never understand Earthshaker’s music. They are VERY Japanese. They are a hidden gem.

I always want to explain my feeling about this Japanese metal thing. But I don’t have enough time and they (in this case, metal fans from USA) will never understand this. So instead, I just say “Yes, I love LOUDNESS. They are great!”. You know what I mean?

 

Just like that, the question about STRYPER is difficult to me and my answer would be a complicated one. It takes time to tell. And probably it takes even longer to understand.

So let me use this opportunity to talk all my feelings about STRYPER.

 

Let me tell you the truth.

I never really liked STRYPER.

I have a huge respect for them, but I never really liked their music.

 

Don’t get me wrong.
I like their early stuff such as “The Yellow and Black Attack” and “Soldiers Under Command” (latter probably my most favorite).

Also I like the sophisticated pop sound of “In God We Trust” album and I highly appreciate Rocking Hard style of “Against The Law”.

But to me, STRYPER was always “another metal band from 80’s” or “one of those hair metal bands in flashy costumes”. They were never a band I really fell in love with. They still are not, even after I became a Christian.

Because, to be honest, it was all about music. Not about if they are Christians or not.

 

But here is one thing.

I came to like STRYPER because my wife was a HUGE fan of them.

 

I and my wife became Christian in 2008. We both got baptized in 2009.

After that, spreading Stryper in Japan was THE mission in HER life.

Burning hot with faith fire, she could not help but go for the mission, advertising Stryper among Japanese metal fans and advertising “Christianity” through them.

 

My wife is a metalhead. She is a heavy metal girl.

A close friend of mine knows that, in spite of being in a heavy metal band, I’m not really a heavy metal guy as a music listener. I listen to all kinds of music, including HipHop. Most of my favorite bands are OUTSIDE of heavy metal genre.

But my wife ONLY listens to heavy metal. Mostly those metal bands from 1980’s and some Thrash and Hardcore stuff. She was the one who introduced me to Thrash Metal and Metalcore bands.

 

So after she became a Christian, it became her mission to go for Stryper. Supporting them and spreading the word about them among Japanese metal community. I could totally understand that. It was her dedication to God in her own style. I thought it was beautiful.

Her passion was so huge, some Christian newspaper has put an article about her. In that interview she said “I want to bring Stryper to Japan!” quoting the fact  the last time Stryper played a concert in Japan was about 20years ago (1989).

 

Her dream partly came true when Stryper played Loudpark festival in 2011. That was great.

STRYPER’s performance was perfect and it was surely the moment Japanese metal fans had “rediscovered” them.

During their performance we were filled with JOY and Holy Spirit. It was a blessing.
We felt as if God had answered to our prayer.

 

So much so, after the Loudpark 2011, my wife started “Stryper Street Team Japan” on internet such as Facebook and Twitter. She was so determined and her goal was to have Stryper headlining tour in Japan again. (Because at Loudpark 2011 it was a part of the festival and only a short performance.) Stryper headlining concert in Japan, for the first time after 1989. That was her goal.

She put so much effort into it and SSTJ (Stryper Street Team Japan) became popular among Japanese metal fans. She made so many friends through it, including other “Street Teams” in other countries. (and her English skill improved so much.)

She made so many requests to radio programs to play their songs. Voted for popularity polls and also encouraged people to do so. I helped her translate some interviews for Japanese fans. It was great to see this original Christian metal band to re-gain popularity among Japanese metal audience.

 

Her efforts and prayers were finally answered in 2016.

Yes, it has happened.
In April 2016, Stryper did a headlining tour in Japan, for the first time since 1989.

 

I’m not gonna say it was solely my wife’s effort that made it happen.

STRYPER, since their reunion in 2003, had continued a solid career making good albums and playing great concerts. It is a rare case for those “reunion” bands. I think they are one of the few “hair metal” bands still doing great.

Funny thing is, while other metal bands from 1980’s failed to keep the quality of their prime time, Stryper has become better. Is it because, they kept away from drugs, alcohols and typical Rockn’Roll lifestyle? Maybe it’s a blessing for being a Christian band?

So it’s natural they gained popularity in the heavy metal world of 21st century.

But when the headlining tour in Japan happened, many friends of ours gave my wife congratulations, saying “Your dream has come true” “This is because of all your efforts”.

 

By then my wife had become friends with the band and their manager (Michael’s wife). So we were invited to the backstage. It was a great experience. I even did an interview with Michael Sweet for our friend at Christian Today Japan.

During the concerts and pre-show meet&greet, it was a great feeling to see Japanese fans so happy to see Stryper again. We received so many “Thank you for making this happen” comments and we felt like our prayers and efforts answered. My wife’s dream has come true. The goal was achieved.

 

However, soon after the Japan tour in 2016, we (me and my wife) decided to quit this Stryper Street Team Japan.

There were so many reasons for this and it’s difficult to explain but here is some of the reasons.

1: Now the Stryper Japan Tour has happened and our goal was achieved

2: Their music, to us, now sounded more about Michael’s ego rather than praising God

3: We felt American Conservatism and Christianity were different things

4: My wife was a huge Tim Gaines fan

 

The biggest reason actually was No.4.

My wife was/is a huge Tim Gaines fan. The bassist for Stryper.

He left the band in 2017 but we already felt something was wrong in 2016.

During all the turmoil and scandals about Tim’s departure, we (me and my wife) felt sympathy more for Tim.

Apparently Tim Gaines is not a perfect human being but Christianity is NOT about being perfect.

 

In anyway, there was no reason left for my wife to support Stryper WITHOUT Tim.

Her “Street Team” thing was succeeded by a friend of hers, under a different name.

 

To us, as music fans, it makes more sense to support local and indie bands from current age and we have lost most of our passion for old school famous bands from 1980’s.

So, we decided not to attend Stryper’s concert planned in August 2018.

Ironically, they were to play the “Live in Japan 1985” setlist that includes “The Yellow & Black Attack” and “Soldiers Under Command” era songs. Hey, that is our favorite era of Stryper!!

 

However, as mentioned above, Oz Fox had a health issue and the concert was postponed.

We are very much worried and filled with mixed feelings.

But we are praying for a quick recovery for Oz.

 

I will never lose my respect for STRYPER. Because they are THE first Christian metal band on this planet and they started this whole thing.

Without them, all those Christian metal bands would not have existed (including us).

 

Like I just said, my favorite era of Stryper is “Soldiers” and “Y&B”.

As an introvert person, I’m always scared to walk in the big Tokyo cities such as Shibuya and Shinjuku.

But with “Soldiers Under Command” album blasting from my iPhone, I can go there. It makes me “Spiritually High”. It makes me spiritually brave. Their music was THAT good! To me, Stryper is all about bright colored Jesus rockers with young fresh energy, rather than angry tough-guy metal for old schoolers.

 

Since a certain point, to me, their music has started sounding more about someone’s ego. I can’t say exactly when and I can’t say exactly why.

But I can say, at least in my opinion, current Stryper is not the ideal form of Christian band.

 

So what is Christian Metal?

What is Christian Rock anyway?

I can’t explain it with words but hopefully, as an indie band guy in Japan, as a Japanese Christian metal rocker, I will show you with my own music, with my Imari Tones’ music. (Even though we are a totally obscure small band.)

 

Again, so much respect for Stryper.

While my wife is a Tim Gaines fan, I’m a big fan of Robert Sweet. He may not be the best drummer technique wise, but I LOVE his style! That’s why I love their early albums on which he actually played drums, without modern digital editing.

Praying for the recovery for Oz Fox. Not only a great guitarist but he is also a great singer. (Should we have him produce our next album, maybe?)

and praying for God’s favor on Mr. Michael Sweet. The great voice of Christian Metal!!

 

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