It's a Christian band that crosses genres, which means that Skillet doesn't hold back when trying to appeal to fans.
"Our biggest radio format is mainstream rock," says John Cooper, the band's co-founder, bassist and lead singer. "We have a mixture of fans. We bring people together. You can relate to our music on so many levels, and it can mean something to someone and something different to somebody else."
Skillet, touring with Sick Puppies in support of its 10th album, "Unleashed," plays the Crystal Ballroom at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5. For tickets/info: www.crystalballroompdx.com. And they're rolling, with "Unleashed" debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, the band's third album to debut in the top 5, and fans are flocking to see them.
"We haven't done a headline tour in about five years, and now we get to come out west," Cooper says. "It's been great; the crowds have been really good. The numbers have been really good, better than expected, but the passion of the fans has been invigorating. I feel like I'm 21 again."
The record "Unleashed" has the band excited again.
"We felt really good about this record, it has such a great vibe," Cooper says. "The last record ('Rise') we didn't have fun making. We argued, fought about what songs to put on the record and recording it. It felt out of control," even though the record sold well, after debuting at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200 and receiving widespread acclaim.
"This one, we set forth, 'Hey, we're going to have fun making it,' and make the record we want to, not overthink."
Cooper and wife, Korey, who plays keyboard, wrote 28 songs for the album. "It's a great workout album. People say it makes them feel good," he says. His favorite tracks are "Feel Invicible," the first single, and "Stars," a song on the movie soundtrack for "The Shack."
Skillet still identifies as a Christian band.
"I always tell people we are still Christian, absolutely Christian, and we talk about God and Jesus at our shows," Cooper says. "But to say that Christian people only sing Christian songs, that's not accurate."
Cooper listened to heavy metal as a young man and still wears an Iron Maiden T-shirt. He doesn't get caught up in dissecting song lyrics, especially after not being allowed to listen to any music as a child — including anything with drums, and including Christian music which had been deemed "a wolf in sheep's clothing."
"I love metal," Cooper says. "Skillet is not a metal band, it's a hard rock band. But there are elements of metal in our music. I always listen to Metallica and whatever; nothing like hard rock and metal to work out to."
"I just thought it was silly," he adds, of the debate about song lyrics. "Music is so powerful. It's open for interpretation. If you want to really get into it, I believe whether people give God glory in songs or not, he gets the glory because he created us. ... I thought the whole label of a genre (heavy metal) as being evil was silly. A lot of Christians like to live in legalism and that's not what it's about."
Cooper isn't one to share his politics on stage. He says too many entertainers use their notoriety to send political messages.
"I don't see the point," he says. "Funny enough, Skillet used to get beat up in the mainstream world, saying we were too preachy. If anybody is preaching now it's these celebrities about politics. I wish they would take their own advice."