If you are a teenager or
a child that is hurting I hope you listen carefully to why John Cooper
from the rock band Skillet wrote the song "Those Nights" from the group's
new album Comatose.
"While I was growing up
my mom died when I was fourteen. I got into this terrible home life situation
with my dad and (for a period) of four years it was either me yelling at
him or him yelling at me," said Cooper. He allowed that a lot of the tension
was due to working through the natural cycle of grief. He continued, "My
dad got remarried two months after my mother died and my step mother's
husband had died about two months before my mom so both of them were dealing
with very recent deaths of their spouses. They had three kids and we had
three kids. It was a bad situation. I hated living there and I hated life."
There were a few things
that provided hope for the young John Cooper. One was his faith in Christ.
"I was a Christian and I knew that God loved me." The second element of
hope in his life was looking forward to spending weekend sleepovers with
a close friend. "We did everything together and we would laugh all night
long. It was the one thing I lived for. "Stay up late and we'd talk all
night/In a dark room lit by the TV light/Through all the hard times in
my life/Those nights kept me alive," he sings.
"It made all the junk worth
fighting for. That is why I decided to write this song ("Those Nights")
because there are so many people who are going to identify with that. You
certainly don't have to be a Christian to identify with "Those Nights,""
Some people when they talk
about songwriting will tell you about a formula for success. Others are
philosophical about a missive they want to deliver to the world. Then there
are those who are more commercial and speculate about whether a certain
hook will catch the ear of the public. Most of those people I just alluded
to are sincere and are just taking different roads to get to the same goal.
The longer I spoke to Cooper, however, what emerged consistently is this
is a man who talks about matters of the heart. Sure, Skillet plays fabulous
rock tunes and Cooper is a phenomenal writer but what the songs "Those
Nights," "Rebirthing," (the first single released) and "Looking For
Angels," do is allow you for a brief moment to step into his life. They
are life experiences and they are his life experiences.
"The whole Comatose idea
came out of the notion that we have been sleeping. We have not been reaching
people for Jesus but we have been trying to create a bunch of people that
look and act just like us. So much of the time we are not really concerned
about caring for people who are hurting," he said.
"Looking For Angels" uses
Cooper's life as a canvass and several events that collided as the brush
strokes. The colors to this painting began to emerge three months after
the 2004 release of Collide. Since that time the lead vocalist and
primary songwriter for Skillet has been on a life transforming journey.
"The original intent of
Comatose (the album) was us waking up. It is kind of like The Matrix,
maybe we are just sleeping through this life and it is time that we wake
up and do some good on earth. We wake up and ask God, What is it that you
want us to do here?" he said.
The second thing that altered
how Cooper looked at his Christian experience was when the band decided
to perform and record crossover general market music. "We went on a tour
with Saliva which was the first mainstream club scene we ever did. I would
say that tour was a real landmark. I had never been to a bar in my whole
life, never lived in that kind of environment or world. All of a sudden
I was placed in a situation where I was singing to people night after night
who came to the concerts. Some of their lives looked empty and it was a
very sad experience for me," Cooper said.
"All of a sudden I realized
that as Christians we are not doing what we should be doing to reach hurting
people and give the hopeless hope. We do what we do day after day in our
churches and wait to see who comes to us so we can put them into some kind
of program," he said.
Another real eye opener
for Cooper was his discovery of the perception of Christianity held by
a lot of non-Christians. "They would say, 'I don't understand how you can
say you are a Christian and yet you are playing rock music. (Others) would
say, 'Now you are going to tell me that I am going to go to hell because
I am drinking a beer," he said.
"I realized that Christianity
in America looks so different than Jesus. It began a whole life changing
time for me," he said, concluding the thought.
He related a movie experience
that caused him to laugh and then to ponder more seriously if a spoof about
Christianity was really that far fetched. The movie was Saved and
starred Mandy Moore. To add an exclamation mark to his comments he draws
from the movie Forest Gump. "Do you remember the part in the
movie Forest Gump when Lieutenant Dan asks Forest if he found Jesus
and Forest says, 'I didn't know I was supposed to be looking for Him?'
People don't know what we are talking about in Christianity much of the
time," he said.
Through Skillet's involvement
with Acquire The Fire events Cooper was introduced to the Ron Luce book
Battle Cry For a Generation. "I went into reading the book thinking
I see young people 150 times each year and I know where they are at. I
just felt that I was supposed to read it," said Cooper. What surprised
him was the high incidence of teen suicides and cutting.
Cooper said, "Comatose was
a spiritual awakening for me. It was a time for me to wakeup and say we
need to talk about things that people are going through. We need to be
there for people who may look like they are not worth loving because that
is what Jesus did."
"I feel the song "Looking
For Angels" is the most important and relevant song that I have ever written.
It encompasses what my message is right now," said Cooper. With all
the terrible things that are going on in the world you can make a difference
if you want to. You can be there for someone and you can be Jesus for someone
who needs to experience that. You can be hope to someone who doesn't have
any hope," he says.
Cooper said it was out of
this personal perspective that the words of "Looking For Angels" took flight.
He repeated the lyric;
I became a savior
to some kids I'll never meet
"It's a little bit preachy
but all I'm trying to say is you can make a difference in this world for
chump change, giving a little bit of your time or a little bit of your
money. (In doing so) you become a savior to someone."
Sent a check in the mail
to buy them something to eat
What will you do to make
a difference, to make a change?
What will you do to help
someone along the way?
Just a touch, a smile
as you turn the other cheek
Pray for your enemies,
humble yourself, love's staring back at me
In the midst of the most
Angels show up in the
strangest of places
Cooper, wife Korey Cooper
(string arrangements and keyboards), Ben Kasica (guitar) and Lori Peters
on drums have created more of a melodic pop sound with Comatose than was
present on Collide. Cooper credits producer and co-writer Brian Howes with
providing much of the direction for the CD.
John Cooper has come a long
way from what he describes as the "very tight, stiff church" that he grew
up in. It wasn't until a friend invited him to a church where for the first
time he witnessed a pipe organ being replaced by acoustic guitars, a band
and Congo drums that Skillet's lead vocalist realized there could be more
freedom in worshipping God. "The people were jumping up and down. It was
like being at a concert. It was at that moment that I decided there was
so much about this that made sense to me in my heart. I was thinking, 'I
don't know why everybody is doing this but I want it too.' It was at that
moment that my life changed," he said.
He added, "There is intimacy
when you give everything you have to worshipping God. I do want to say
that I don't think it has anything to do with the style of music."
"Comatose as a concept
is meant to challenge people to invest in the relationships around them,"
Cooper said. That challenge is being issued to you October 3rd when Comatose
hits the shelves of your local music stores.
By Joe Montague, exclusive
Joe Montague is an internationally
published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory
of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18.
All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague.