John Cooper On Skillet's Drive-In Theater Tour, Religion, And Politics

Skillet is launching their Drive-In Theater Tour on April 22nd which will see them perform three shows in the Carolinas (see dates and loca...

Skillet is launching their Drive-In Theater Tour on April 22nd which will see them perform three shows in the Carolinas (see dates and locations below). We sat down with frontman John Cooper to discuss the tour, religion, politics, his dream music festival, and whether or not he'd ever run for office.

First of all, Happy Belated Birthday!
Thank you very much! I had an awesome day. We grilled out cheeseburgers. So good.

What kind of birthday cake did you have?
I didn't do a birthday cake but my wife made me my favorite cookies. They're basically Ritz crackers with peanut butter and then they're dipped in chocolate. I think chocolate and peanut butter are two things God intended to go hand-in-hand. There's no question about it.

Let's talk about your Drive-In Theater Tour. What can fans expect?
Rock 'N' Roll! Oh my gosh, are you guys ready to get back to actual life and doing concerts again? I am so excited. I think people are just tired of being home, obviously. Tired of being isolated. It seems to be that there is this optimism that we are on the back end of this thing and people are like, "Ok. Maybe there's hope that we can get back to normal life." In my opinion, one of the best things that normal life has to offer is concerts. I love concerts. I love going to concerts. Even when I know people, let's say it's a band that I know and they'll go, "John, I'll get you tickets and you can hang out backstage." I'd rather be out front. I like the way it looks, the way it sounds. I just love concerts. I'm excited to get back on the road. I think people are going to be raring to go.

Is it going to differ much from a regular Skillet show?
I don't think the performance is going to be different. We did a couple drive-in gigs in September and I remember thinking, "I wonder to what degree this will be just like a show or not." It went really good. Skillet might do an outdoor festival and there might be 40,000 people there or Skillet might do an arena tour and there's 5,000 people or a club tour and there's 1,000. You have to get used to the idea that you have to connect with the crowd on an intimate level whether there's 40,000 people or 1,000. You have to find ways to do that. Some of it's psychological, I find. And the drive-in theater was just another one of those. You're getting in your mind that people aren't all close to one another, but they're all actually still here and this is like maybe the only normal thing they've done in a full year. All that to say it's a normal show, except it looks a little different but I think the goal's the same: to come together. We're all in the same experience. We've all been locked up for a year.

Think about it. How many times did you ever do anything where every single person at the event has some kind of commonality? That's not very often, actually. I think it's quite a unique time for a band like Skillet because our music is inherently uplifting and inspiring and gives people hope to fight another day. I think it's going to come across well.

Will you be performing any old songs the bands haven't heard in awhile?
Like super old songs? Probably not because the fans don't know the super old songs. You know those tours by Sting or somebody like that who's been around for a long time and they play two tracks from each one of their albums? I decided to do that and no one -- NO ONE -- knew the old songs. There may be one lone old dude up there like, "Yeah!" but everybody else is like, "What is this?" But we did start playing "Savior" from our Collide album.

Last year, you released Victorious: The Aftermath, which was a a deluxe edition of your 2019 album. Were the two new songs recorded during quarantine?
Actually, no, they weren't. They were finished during quarantine. They were probably 70% recorded beforehand because sometimes you record extra tracks so you can decide which ones go on the album. At whatever point when somebody says, "Hey, I don't think we're going to choose that for the record," it goes on the backburner. It was cool to release something that was done enough. We had already done all the drums and guitars. We had to finish the vocals and I can do that in my studio on my own, so we were able to give the fans something new, something to hold them over.

Have you guys worked on any new music during quarantine?
We have been. We began writing in November for a new project. We are writing as we speak. In fact, tomorrow I am singing vocals on one of the songs. I don't know when that new project will come out. I hope to have some new music this summer, whether that's a song, three songs, or more. I don't really what's going to happen, but we are working on new stuff as we speak and I think that's important to come back out with something new and something fresh.

I saw you have some normal shows lined up this summer. I'm assuming you're optimistic those are going to happen?
Some of the festivals, they are optimistic about it and I sure hope so. It seems that way because the vaccine is so ubiquitous now and in the next month, it's going to be open for everyone. So yes, I think we are really hoping that by the summertime, a lot of these outdoor festivals will really be able to bring some people in.

Many folks have been going through hard times due to isolation in the past year. What would you tell a fan going through a similar situation?
To not acknowledge what it does to human beings, to not have human contact, and act like the only thing that matters is the pandemic--I've got two kids and I think that's absurd. I think kids need other kids. They need people to talk to. Being a teenager is hard enough. Your whole life is changing, you're coming into your own identity to find out who you are. It's just been brutal year. I guess what I would say to those people is I feel you. Hang on. I think we're coming to the end of this thing.

I guess if I had to give some deeper, more meaningful advice, it's a really good time to take account of what your life is about. I would encourage people to do that. It is a lonely time. Very lonely, quite depressing, very isolating. It can give you a tinge of nihilism if you let it, to get to a place where nothing matters, burn it all down. I don't think that's healthy. For me, I would personally take it into account and look for something that can help me transcend all the problems I am in. Certainly for me, most people already know, would be my faith in Jesus Christ. He helps me transcend isolation and this present darkness and this stuff we're going through that is so very hard. There's something more meaningful and there is hope.

But to people who are like, "Hey, I'm not really religious. I don't want to hear that," I guess I would just encourage them to hold on. I think we are coming to the end of this. I think most people are feeling depressed and isolated.

The past few episodes of your podcast have focused on culture wars and cancel culture. What do you feel has brought society to this place?
We're seeing the fruition of what's been happening in America culture for eight or nine years. I began talking about cancel culture last February. I think there are lots of things that are causing it. It's hard to answer without getting too philosophical, some people are like, "Oh my gosh, John's jumping down a rabbit trail." But I will say this: the foundations of who we are, what historical Americanism has been about, all those things are shifting. It's really a war on philosophy and a war on religion as well. If you go back to the early 2000s, even people who weren't religious in America, let's take your typical American atheist in 2000 or in the 90s, they still had a Judeo-Christian worldview even if they didn't adhere to the religion. They were born into a culture of traditional values. All of that now is being challenged to the point that there's a tipping point. What you very much have are two different philosophies coming against each other. Really what you have is people that want two different kinds of America. I'm not saying this to say anybody's wrong or right, I'm just giving you the answer of why I think that's happening.

Everything now has become political and even politics has become religious by nature. Even if you're not a religious person, politics has sort of become a pseudo religion for people. Everybody is yelling about morality constantly, but none of us agree on what morality is. I do talk about a lot of that on my podcast--culture, religion, and stuff like that.

Speaking of politics, could you ever see yourself running for office?
I doubt it. I do talk about politics a lot, but what I mainly try to talk about is how you can be a person of faith in the culture. It ends up getting into politics, not because I want to be part of it, but because politics has become so very religious now. It's almost like a religious position, which I feel is very unfortunate. I don't think it should be that way.

So probably not, but I actually enjoy politics. Political science is a pastime of mine.

Final question: you're in charge of a music festival and can choose any five acts, living or dead, to appear on the bill with you. Who do you choose and what song do you all perform together as the final jam?
Obviously Metallica. It'd be almost heresy to not mention Metallica. Linkin Park with Chester Bennington. U2. How about the band Yes? I know that's a bit of an outlier but I love Yes. My favorite band of all time. Then I would say King's X. Most people don't know who King's X is and that's the reason they'd be here because every band is influenced by King's X but they never really broke as a big artist. They're sort of like a band's band. They are absolutely awesome.

We all would play "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas. We would play a cover that none of those bands actually wrote. Imagine Metallica playing "Carry On Wayward Son?" Linkin Park puts the rap in there. That would be awesome. You've got me all excited now. I want to see this show!

This is exactly what the Skillet Drive-In Tour is going to be like. Everybody needs to come out to the tour and get your rock on. We're going to do a Metallica cover of "Carry On Wayward Son." But don't hold me to that.

04.22 Mitchell, IN — Holiday Drive-In
04.23 Knox, IN — Melody Drive-In Theatre
04.24 Middle Point, OH — Van-Del Drive-In
04.25 Versailles, IN — Bel-Air Drive-In
04.29 Albertville, AL — Sand Mountain Amphitheater
04.30 Sparta, TN — Sparta Drive-in
05.01 Marion, VA — Park Place Drive In Theater
05.02 Athens, TN — Swingin' Midway Drive-in
05.04 Beaufort, SC — Highway 21 Drive-in
05.05 Albemarle, NC — Badin Road Drive-In
05.06 Roanoke Rapids, NC — I-95 Drive-In at Roanoke Rapids Theatre
05.08 Destin, FL — Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village
05.13 Guin, AL — Blue Moon Drive-In
05.14 Bald Knob, AR — Grayson Farms Amphitheater
05.15 Marshall, AR — Kenda Drive-In Theater
05.16 Fayetteville, AR — 112 Drive-In
05.18 Carthage, MO — 66 Drive-In
05.19 Wichita, KS — Starlite Drive-In
05.20 Tulsa, OK — Admiral Twin
05.22 Cadet, MO — Starlite Drive-In
05.23 Chaffee, MO — Rock 'N' Roll Drive-In

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Strange Carolinas is the Travelogue Of The Offbeat, a wry look at the interesting, unique, and offbeat roadside attractions, people, music, art, food, and festivals in North and South Carolina.


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