They’ve been around for more than two decades, but Skillet are still rocking as hard as they did when they burst onto the scene. Frontman John Cooper caught up with Alex recently to confirm some trivia about the band, as well as tell the story of a traumatic experience which shaped his life and his faith.
John remembers Skillet’s previous Australian tours so clearly that he was surprised to learn they’ve been away since 2011. In interviews, his wife and bandmate Korey always says Australia was her favourite tour. ‘It’s funny,’ he said, ‘because we have these memories of it being the best thing we ever did, except we hardly ever come back.’
Trawling Google before their interview, Alex found some trivia about the band which she asked John to verify. He really is a big fan of Dr Pepper, and he says it’s probably accurate that the group goes through a kilo and a half of coffee beans a week. But the most surprising rumour he confirmed was that he doesn’t really dig the name of his own group!
When he was growing up, deciding on a name was a big part of the magic of starting a new outfit. But Skillet was a side-project, which started when he was a bit older and more jaded. ‘I’d already been in three bands,’ he said, ‘and I didn’t think it would go anywhere.’
Since all the members were from different bands, someone suggested the name as a reference to cooking: ‘Putting them all in a skillet and making something new.’
‘I thought that’s kind of dumb, but who cares! We won’t be around in a year anyway. So I said yeah, ok. And here we are, 22 years later, and I’m stuck with this name, doing an interview with you, having to admit that I never really liked the name.’
Getting a bit more personal, Alex asked John whether their new single, Brave, had a story behind it. Though he says the song isn’t directly about this story, it takes him back to his own childhood. He was raised in a Christian family, but his faith was challenged by his mother’s three-year-battle with cancer. All through that time, she never doubted that God would heal her.
you have to find out who God is from reading the Bible, because good theology, good Bible understanding, will help you in your life in such an immense way
‘I was 15 years old, but the last three weeks of my mom’s life, I was not allowed to visit her at the hospital. She didn’t want us to lose faith, because God was going to heal her, and if we saw how bad she was doing, we may not have faith. But if you believe it, it will happen.’
‘I know there’s lots of people who are very much into that belief,’ he said, ‘so I’m not trying to beat anybody up about what they believe the Bible says. And I think we should have faith, but I would have rather seen my mom during those last few weeks.’
‘My mom used to always tell me, if things don’t work out, you can’t be mad at God. And so I learned at a very young age not to blame God for my problems, not to blame God for the things He chooses that don’t jibe with what I want, but that my life was to be about Him, and whatever He chooses is right, and whatever He chooses is good.’
That’s a lesson John has always held on to, and one he often finds himself offering to others. He says a lot of young people are into Jesus, but not into the Bible. ‘I always encourage them, you have to find out who God is from reading the Bible, because good theology, good Bible understanding, will help you in your life in such an immense way.’
He often finds himself doing damage control for people who’ve lost faith because they feel God didn’t answer their prayers. ‘We have to come back to just realising that God is good, and anything He does is right, and however He wants it is perfect. Our lives just need to be about glorifying Him—whatever that’s going to look like, however hard it might be.’
‘So especially young people listening, but anybody listening, when they say like: ‘Hey! I’m into Jesus, but I don’t really know how to read the Bible,’ then I want to encourage them to find out who God is, from His word, because your life will never be the same once you really discover that.’
Ultimately, that message is the connection between the song and the story. ‘Because of who You are,’ John sings, ‘I know who I am.’ It was knowing who God is that kept his faith strong through the trauma of losing his mother. Through the darkest times, knowing that truth can help us all to be brave.
Check it out below!