John Cooper and Seth Morrison of Skillet join us to discuss their new record, Dominion!
Back in 2018, we were delighted to interview Jen Ledger of Skillet in the wake of her brand-new solo project, LEDGER – we are now equally delighted to welcome John Cooper (lead vocals/bass) and Seth Morrison (lead guitar) of Skillet to discuss the band’s latest record, Dominion!
‘Released on January 14th, Dominion follows Skillet’s previous 2019 effort Victorious with the likes of the rousing single ‘Standing in the Storm’ and hard-hitting title track, ‘Dominion’.
Naturally, we here at AltWire were keen to catch up with the band’s activities from the last few years, check out the interview below!
Mark Stoneman/AltWire: Hi John/Seth! Huge thanks for taking the time to answer some questions in the wake of the upcoming Dominion – Skillet’s eleventh album in 26 years, no less!
That’s an impressive tenure for a band, especially considering how outright unstoppable the momentum seems to be with every new release. How does it feel to look back on the amazing journey the last quarter of a century has been?
John Cooper / Skillet: Thank you so much! It’s amazing to know that we’ve been doing this for so long. We feel very blessed and it’s a testimony to the passion of the fans who keep supporting us year after year and record after record – we owe them a lot. We’re so thrilled to be playing music again.
AltWire: Victorious was often described as an album full of ‘fight songs’ with huge bursts of energy and massive choruses. How does Dominion compare in terms of composition – are we to expect a similarly explosive experience?
John Cooper / Skillet: Yes, I think you could say similar experience from Victorious in terms of the explosive nature of the songs. I do think that Victorious definitely had some fight songs on it that you can imagine crowds chanting those parts of the songs with their fists in the air to.
I do think that Dominion has that same feel but it’s a heavier record, I think it has more attitude. It’s more in your face, and I think that because of that it’s a little more inspirational. Very, very uber-positive record, and I hope that it inspires people to face those challenges that they have in their lives.
AltWire: We couldn’t help but notice the messages of “positive rebellion” and “standing up for what you believe in” being key aspects to Dominion’s sound – would you say this perhaps bears some resemblance to the similarly bold message of Skillet’s 2013 release, Rise?
John Cooper / Skillet: Actually, I would agree. The messages of this record in some ways do remind me of the messages we heard in Rise. In fact, I told somebody recently that if Rise just came out now for the first time, I think it would be a poignant message. I think that we are in a time that is very strange in the world and so it kind of makes you pay attention to the lyrics a bit more.
Skillet is always on very positive songs and songs relevant to society, but I do think the situation we’re in makes the songs feel more urgent. There are very positive lyrics, but it also is a little bit rebellious in some sense.
There are aspects of defying fear, defying all of this stuff that’s coming toward you that makes you want to give up. Some people have found themselves in depression or maybe resorting to alcohol abuse or drug abuse or whatever that may be. This album is encouraging people to stand up and take an active defiance against those things in your life that really cause negativity, that cause poor outcomes – things that aren’t good for your mental health. All that kind of stuff. It’s defy that, and then rise up in a positive way to face that fear head-on.
AltWire: Also, on the subject of heavier material Skillet can sometimes dabble in… after hearing the searing ‘Dominion’ guitar solo, I have to ask: might there be a chance of one day seeing some new Fight the Fury material in the future?
Seth Morrison / Skillet: Dominion does have some FTF elements in it! We haven’t really discussed possibilities for FTF in the future because 2020 kind of threw timelines for various projects off course. That being Ledger and FTF. It was a ton of fun! Hopefully, it’s something we can revisit in the future but for now, Skillet is a priority with the new album coming out.
AltWire: Writing and recording Dominion primarily through ZOOM and other similar such channels must have proven a challenging new factor, especially in the wake of the Global Pandemic. With such a restrictive process to overcome, did this become a source of new inspiration that fed into the album’s direction?
John Cooper / Skillet: Yes, recording over zoom—the way we did the record initially was strange. We were set to fly out to meet with our producers Kevin Churko and Kane Churko. We were going to go fly out and meet with them and begin writing. And then due to COVID and restrictions and all sorts of stuff it just became not feasible. So we kind of decided ‘well, we’ll get on zoom.’ It was kind of a worst case scenario – we just thought ‘we’ll just kind of see how it goes’ because we had some material brewing that was really going well but we hadn’t had a chance to meet yet.
So we did a zoom call and honestly, it just went so good that we ended up enjoying it, which I never expected. And we ended up recording the whole album this way.
I think the reason it worked is because my wife Corey, who is one of Skillet’s guitar players and keyboard player, is a great producer and so we were able to do some of the recording in our studio and send files to Kevin and Kane Churko. Then they would record things in their studio and we would go back and forth that way and I think that’s the reason it worked. It did help us try some things that maybe we wouldn’t have tried the other way around. You know, like sometimes you’re too embarrassed to try something new.
A good example would be the introduction to the whole record which is on “Surviving the Game.” There is an introduction where I come on talking – and I have never done anything quite like that on a recording – where I say, ‘To be more than a conqueror you have to learn to enjoy the pain.’ That’s not something Skillet has done in the past and I think had I been in the studio I may have been a little too timid to try it.
And then likewise sometimes Kevin or Kane would do something in their studio – maybe a chord progression that is very un-Skillet – and after hearing it I was like ‘well I’m gonna live with it for a day’ and I would always end up really liking it. So I think it made this record extremely fresh and I think the reason the record is so aggressive – some of that has also to do with the lyrics, the time we’re in. People feel a sense of aggression after this pandemic and people are ready to kind of bust out of the gate and take a little control of their lives back and I think we needed some aggressive music for that.
AltWire: Let’s take a look back into the past for a moment; even throughout the band’s earliest releases (and speaking as a very early fan) Skillet’s ability to compose infectious, rousing choruses has always been a notable element of the band’s sound. If you were to choose one favorite chorus hook from the entire Skillet catalog, which would it be and why?
Seth Morrison / Skillet: Since it’s fresh, I’m going to go with Dominion. I find the “Dominion! Dominion!” to be very infectious and one of the most memorable lines in the Skillet discography. I’ve often said I think Dominion on this record has that element that “The Resistance” had on Unleashed. Anthemic and rising to the call kind of thing.
AltWire: Also touching on Skillet’s extensive catalog, it must prove extremely difficult when trying to fit all of the ‘favorite to perform’ tracks into a live setlist. Are there any songs from the Skillet to Collide eras that you’d love to bring back into the live setting, even if only for a one-off surprise?
Seth Morrison / Skillet: We’ve done that over the years! Mostly in Europe and Russia. We played Savior for quite a while and still bring it back sometimes. I personally love playing Collide live. It’s a fan favorite and always special when we bring that one back out.
AltWire: It’s hard not to talk about Skillet’s other ventures in recent years – most notably of course being the EDEN graphic novels! How did the initial idea for the series come about, and will we perhaps be seeing more Skillet publications in the future?
John Cooper / Skillet: Eden the graphic novel was just another way to do something creative, something that could be kind of like what Skillet does but in a totally different format. The graphic novel made sense because I’m a big comic book fan and I’d always kind of dreamt of doing a comic book; I was passionate about trying that, trying that science fiction story and I am very, very proud of the books. I love the story, I love the artwork, and I just really loved doing it so I do think that hopefully there will be a third book coming in the future and maybe other ventures like this.
AltWire: Before rounding things off, we’d love to take a moment to acknowledge how massive an inspiration Skillet has become for new and upcoming bands over the years – is there perhaps one key piece of advice you wish to offer the newest faces in the world of music?
Seth Morrison / Skillet: I would say never being afraid to stand up and stand behind your convictions in what you believe. I think that’s one thing people would say has been a constant for Skillet, and I think people respect authenticity on and off stage. We’re in a time where it can be intimidating to stand up for what you believe. Maybe more than ever. But I think that’s what has always made rock music so great.
AltWire: Huge thank you once again for taking the time to answer our questions, let’s leave things on a tease for the upcoming album; if you had to choose one lyric/line from Dominion’s track list that best describes the album as a whole, which would it be and why?
John Cooper / Skillet: For the last question if I could choose one lyric to sum up the entire record, I probably would say it’s actually the very first vocal that you hear on track 2. The song is called “Standing in the Storm” and the lyric says, “I’ve still got some life in me.” I think that’s the best way to describe this album because it’s very positive and very upbeat, but it is recognizing the difficulty of the time we’ve been in. It’s encouraging people to never give up: do not give up, do not fall into depression, do not fall into negativity. So I’m gonna go with “I’ve still got some life in me.”
DOMINION is now available via all major streaming services worldwide.