By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
For Stryper frontman Michael Sweet, touring this summer with Boston as one of its singers is bittersweet.
"As excited as I am, I'm also incredibly concerned and a bit bummed because I'm leaving my wife, who is very ill," Sweet said.
Add to that the 2007 suicide of Boston's lead singer, Brad Delp, and it doesn't make for a pleasant situation. However, Sweet and the rest of Boston are determined to accentuate the positive.
"This is a tour that's certainly honoring him," Sweet said. "Nobody's trying to be Brad, or replacing Brad or anything. We're going out there and carrying on the incredible music and trying to have as good a time as we can doing so. Having fun and encouraging one another. So far it's been a great journey."
We're really wanting to focus on the positive," Sweet said. "We don't want it to be a down time. We want people to be encouraged. We're honoring the man with the music. A lot of fans on the (bulletin) boards have been so discouraged by what has happened. They've been kind of down. It's sad what happened, rightfully so. But we're just wanting to encourage everyone to pick everyone up, and hopefully everyone will leave the show with that feeling."
Sweet is sharing vocal duties with Tommy DeCarlo. An amateur singer and Home Depot employee, DeCarlo recorded covers of the band's songs and uploaded them to a MySpace page. A Boston associate heard the music and forwarded it to band members.
"Tommy's an awesome singer," Sweet said. "He sounds so much like Brad, so we split everything up. He's handling songs like 'Smokin',' 'Party,' Don't Look Back,' those songs with the higher signature Brad range. I'm doing 'Amanda,' 'More Than a Feeling,' 'Peace of Mind,' songs that suit me more."
Like DeCarlo, Sweet is a longtime Boston fan, a journey that began when he was 13 years old. He explained that the first Boston record inspired him to strive for better guitar tones.
"That's when I went from just being a kid with a Sears electric guitar and a (clean) amp, to cranking it up to get distortion," Sweet said. "That's when I started seeking the ultimate guitar tone. I heard that tone and thought, 'Oh my gosh.' I started buying foot pedals and all these gadgets. It changed me a lot as a player, and as a writer -- the arrangements, the vocal harmonies, the guitar harmonies. If you listen to Stryper, even though we're much heavier sounding and classified as a hard rock or metal band, you can definitely hear the similarities, the influence in many ways."
Although he's only been in Boston for a couple of months, Sweet is excited about the prospect of writing and recording new music with the band.
"Tom has mentioned on occasion the possibility of me contributing to music. I would be completely honored," Sweet said. "I know they're going to be working on a new album when we get back from tour. I think they might use some old songs that Brad sang on and remaster, remix some other songs and record some new songs. I've been asked to be a part of that process. In any way, whatever I'm doing, if I can be a part of it, beautiful."
Boston's Scholz is reciprocating the favor. Next year, Stryper fans will see a new album with the first single of "Peace of Mind," a cover of the Boston song.
"Tom Scholz is playing on it. It's absolutely fantastic," Sweet said. "That's going to be released by Big Three Records in early '09. At some point, we'll go out and tour on that. It's the best record we've done. Sonically, musically, it's got a lot of energy, and I'm really excited about that coming out."
But for now he's focusing on Boston and, according to its official Web site, shows are selling out.
"I think that's surprising," Sweet said. "It came as quite a surprise to everyone, especially Tom. You never know what's going to happen in a situation like this."