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For Skillet’s John Cooper, rock music ‘made me feel good when I was down’ |

For Skillet’s John Cooper, rock music ‘made me feel good when I was down’

For John Cooper, Christian isn’t a type of music, it’s a way of life.

Yet as frontman and founder of the Christian rock/metal band Skillet, he’s had to explore what that means and how his faith and his music seamlessly drive each other with such traditionally differently colored threads.

“Every song didn’t need to be obviously Christian,” said Cooper, who founded the band in 1996. “But they reflect my world view and I am a Christian.”

It is, he said, how he is able to happily perform as a part of Winter Jam, as he will Thursday night at the Santander Arena, or opening for Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne, as he has also done.

“All songs have multiple meanings,” he said, using “Feel Invincible” from 2016’s “Unleashed” as an example. “I might be talking about my hope in Christ or you might think it’s about my love for my wife. I don’t want to just sing to Christian audiences.”

Cooper added that Christian music as a whole has been undergoing change.

“In the last couple of decades it’s gone under some shifts,” he said. “It’s always trying to find its identity. Skillet was a little bit of a new breed.”

Skillet was formed in 1996 and since then Christian music has broadened to include subgenres as diverse as heavy metal, rap and country.

Fans will see a cross-section of that music at Winter Jam tonight where other artists include Building 429, Kari Jobe, KB, NewSong, Jordan Feliz, Dan Bremnes, Mallary Hope and Westover. The evening’s comedian is John Crist and the speaker is Nick Hall.

“It’s a new year,” he said. “And it’s time to hit the road and play some rock music at Winter Jam. I just love it.”

It helps that he tours with his wife Korey, who has played guitar with the band since 1999, and his children.

Cooper said that while he has to be more selective about Skillet’s shortened set at festivals such as Winter Jam, he finds the audience is involved and happy and he manages to represent the many hits the band has had over the years including “Alien Youth,” “Comatose,” “Sick of It” and “Good to Be Alive.”

Most of them are award winners, too, as Skillet has been nominated for a couple of Grammys and has won numerous Dove awards as well as a Billboard award.

“It’s like a circus,” he said of the Winter Jam atmosphere. “I love that there are so many people who come. I love playing in front of a massive amount of people.”

During the previous years he’s played Winter Jam (this is his fourth) he said he’s seen magicians and stunt bikers sprinkled in between the musical acts.

“Everyone plays only a little bit,” he said. “It’s like a buffet line. Try something, you might like it.”

He said he looks out into the audience and sees a lot singing along with Skillet songs, but also hopes to reach someone who came to see another band but finds something valuable in his band’s music.

“We have a very eclectic fan base,” he said.

Cooper came to hard rock music during what he calls a strict, but good childhood.

“I was raised in a very strict Bible belt home,” he said. “And when I listened to rock music my mom told me I was increasing the devil’s body count. She hated rock music and really believed that it was the tool of the devil.”

But, he said, he fell in love with rock music anyway.

“It did something to me that no other music did,” he said. “It made me feel good when I was down.”

Cooper’s mother died when he was in high school and created a crisis of conscience for Cooper.

“I knew that she was against this music,” he said. “And I knew it would break her heart. But I had to cross those obstacles.”

Both prayer and practice helped and early in his career he reconciled his love and respect for his mom and his love and respect for his music. He knows that the music he plays as well as the life he leads honors Christ.

“We are vocal for Jesus,” he said. “We worship that way and we live that way. I talk about Jesus a lot.”

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