Skillet have been bringing the hard-rocking hits for more than 20 years, but frontman John Cooper is taking the riffs to another level of heavy with his new metal band Fight the Fury.
“Growing up, Metallica was a major influence for me,” Cooper told Heavy Consequence. “They’re the best metal band of all time and always will be, in my opinion.”
Now, Cooper has a new project fueled by that love for classic metal. Fight the Fury sees Cooper embracing his inner Metallica, with mighty guitar solos, complex musical arrangements and growly vocals. The band’s debut EP, Still Breathing, is out on October 26th via Atlantic Records, and is available for pre-order here.
Cooper spoke with Heavy Consequence about the concept behind Fight the Fury, how the band differs from Skillet, his personal faith, and when to expect new Skillet music. Read the full interview with Cooper below.
On the significance of the band name Fight the Fury
To me, Fight the Fury felt like the right combination of words for this band. I’m not saying it’s overly angsty, but we do have some angst and chaos in the music. When I was writing the lyrics, it felt like they were lending themselves to this battle of life that we’re fighting to survive through, and it felt like the right name.
On what makes now the right time to start Fight the Fury
I actually had the idea for this band five years ago. I was on the road on a Skillet tour, and I was thinking that I really wanted to start a metal side project, just to be able to cut loose. I write these songs for Skillet, and then, sometimes I write songs that are too heavy and the lyrics are too dark, or the guitar solos are too long. I love what I do for Skillet, but it’s very much about commercial and broad appeal and cutting all the fat off of everything. It’s wonderful, and we all have work because of Skillet, and we’re thankful for that, but sometimes you want to start a song with a guitar solo. So, when I was out with Skillet, I said to Seth, our guitarist, “Hey, if I was going to do this metal band, would you want to be the guitar player?” And he said, “Absolutely.” He’s a shredder, so it was just right. We stared recoding songs two years ago, just having fun and writing.
On what brought together Fight the Fury’s band members of Cooper, Skillet guitarist Seth Morrison, drummer Jared Ward and guitarist John Panzer III
I knew Seth was a shredder from working with him in Skillet. Then, I needed a second lead guitar player to explore harmony leads and things that I like from my metal influence. I remembered there was a guy who auditioned for Skillet years ago, the same time we brought on Seth, and he was really good but 16 years old at the time! I didn’t want to take on such a young player. That guy, John, and Seth stayed in touch, and he turned into a fantastic guitar player. They can do duel solos and stuff, which I love. Then, Seth said, “Hey, my cousin is a really good drummer,” and it turned out he was a slamming drummer. Finding people who can shred and play well is difficult, especially in such a technical genre.
On how Fight the Fury’s songs ire different from Skillet’s songs from a lyrical standpoint
I think that’s one of the bigger differences between the projects. Fight the Fury is heavier, and there’s no question about that. That’s more screaming. But I think the lyrical content is part of what makes it heavier. It’s darker. It can be bleak. Our song “My Demons” is about child abuse. I talked to a fan who had endured child and sexual abuse, and I was moved by that. I wanted to write a song about that, and I knew it wasn’t going to be on a commercial Skillet song. It’s a dark subject that a lot of people can relate to.
On how Fight the Fury’s songs are different from that of Skillet from a musical standpoint
Not that Skillet never done anything that has approached the metal territory, but the stuff that makes Fight the Fury more metal is that it’s very riff-y and technical and showing off the guitar and bass. There are also a few touches of prog-rock, as in Dream Theater and those kinds of bands. The way we switch time signatures and key changes and how its unconventional in the song structure formats also lends it to metal. Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth — those bands are unconventional in their song structures.
On how Fight the Fury’s lyrics fit in with Cooper’s Christian faith
I’ve had tons of people on social media ask me, is this still Christian? I didn’t expect anybody to ask that, but since Skillet is Christian, that makes sense. I think that for me, Fight the Fury is not a Christian band, but I want to be really clear to say that I’m still a Christian and my faith is very important to me. I’m a follower of Christ, but that’s not the intent with this music. This is a metal band. “My Demons” is an experience — it’s a song about an experience in life, and that was how I felt about it. Everything I write about has something to do with my experience, so some of Fight the Fury’s music is inherently spiritual, because we are spiritual beings, so you may pick up on some spiritual themes, but for the most part, it’s about experiences.
On the difference in spirituality in the music of Skillet and Fight the Fury
I don’t judge people who aren’t like me, and nobody comes to a Skillet show and goes away thinking that I hate people who are not Christian. But I’ve always been very clear that Skillet is a Christian band. Fight the Fury is for something else. I don’t see myself sharing stories about my faith. It’s about the music and experience.
On the meaning behind the song “Still Burning”
It’s a little bit of dark romance. A Romeo and Juliet. For me, I think “Still Burning” is the most spiritual song on the record. It has the most emotion to it. It’s a love song, and the dynamic has even a little bit of an emo-metal feel, like Flyleaf or The Used. The bridge goes into a time signature change, and that reminds me of old Metallica. Lyrically, it’s a love song about not losing that fire. It’s saying, “You’re someone I can’t live without, and I still feel that heat.” It can be a great thing, but sometimes, true love can hurt.
On “My Demons” being the right choice as the first single from the EP
It might be nostalgic, because it’s the first song I wrote for Fight the Fury five years ago. I never thought it would actually come out. There was no way they would let me put that on a Skillet record, because it’s just too heavy. I knew it was too dark. I made it as heavy as it possible, with all the screaming, and it was new for me to create something that would never work for Skillet. There’s a chaos and frenzy to it.
On being a big horror memorabilia collector
That’s a funny thing about me. I’m always been blatant about being Christian, but I do like horror films and books. I’m not into gore, but I like things that are scary. I love creepy films more than I like thrasher films. I collect great memorabilia, from a life-sized Frankenstein head to toys and statues to a life-sized alien head. Any toys from horror films are always something I love to collect. Some of my absolutely favorite horror films are The Ring, Aliens — any sci-fi horror film I love.
On when to expect a new Skillet album
It’s been so crazy. As of seven weeks ago, we were supposed to be releasing a brand-new Skillet record in October. And six months before that, we had planned to release the new album this past January. Now, we’re not going to release it until next year. Jen (Ledger, the drummer for Skillet) has a new solo project, Ledger, and we want to give her time to build her brand while keeping Skillet alive. It’s a juggling act. My wife Korey and I worked on Jen’s record, and it’s an awesome record. So, we decided that with Jen’s project and everything else going on, we’re going to wait on the Skillet record, even though we’re about 70% done with it. When we decided to wait, I made the move to release my Fight the Fury EP now. Then, we’ll come hitting hard with Skillet in the summer. Next summer is the plan for the new Skillet album to come out, because the record is almost done.
On the musical direction of the new Skillet album
It’s probably too early to say, but I will say this: A year ago, we released an extended version of our Unleashed album, and on there, there’s a song called “Breaking Free”, which people said they liked and sounded heavy for Skillet. It’s a song that I produced on my own, because I wanted Skillet to have a little more teeth. I do think the new album is going to be a bit heavier, but we’re going to have those arena anthems and also some duets with Jen and me, which our fans love. I’m excited for it.