words to John Cooper’s song Those Nights aren’t
mere rhetoric. Cooper, from American rock band Skillet, drew
on his personal experience when penning the song for the group’s
latest album, Comatose.
“While I was growing up my mom died when I was 14,”
he says. “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...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.”
NEW AWAKENING: Skillet are Korey Cooper, Ben Kasica,
John Cooper and Lori Peters.
“The whole Comatose idea came out of
the notion that we have been sleeping,” says
John Cooper of Skillet. “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.”
were a few things that provided hope for the young Cooper.
One was his faith in Christ - “I was a Christian and
I knew that God loved me.” The second 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,” he says before
singing lines from the song: ‘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.”
Cooper says that friendship “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
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 are
sincere and are just taking different roads to get to the
The longer one speaks to Cooper, however, the more one realises
this is a man who talks about matters of the heart. Sure,
Skillet play fabulous rock tunes and Cooper is an accomplished
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 his life experiences.
“The whole Comatose idea came out of the notion
that we have been sleeping,” he says. “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.”
The song Looking For Angels uses Cooper’s life
as a canvas 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?’.”
The second thing that altered how Cooper looked at his Christian
experience was when the band decided to perform and record
crossover music for the general market.
“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.”
of a sudden I realised 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.”
of a sudden I realised 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.”
Yet another eye-opener for Cooper was his discovery of the
perception a lot of non Christians held of Christianity.
“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 says. “I realised that Christianity in America looks
so different than Jesus. It began a whole life changing time
Cooper relates how Mandy Moore’s movie Saved
first caused him to laugh and then ponder more seriously whether
the spoof about Christianity he had just seen was really that
far-fetched. To underline his point, he draws from the movie
“Do you remember the part in the movie Forrest Gump
when Lieutenant Dan asks Forrest if he found Jesus and Forrest
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.”
Cooper says Ron Luce’s book Battle Cry For A Generation
also caused him to think differently.
“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,” he says. What surprised
him was the high incidence of teen suicides and cutting.
In that regard, Cooper describes Comatose as a “spiritual
“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. 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.”
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
says it was out of this personal perspective that the words
of Looking For Angels took flight. He repeats the
“I became a savior to some kids I’ll never meet
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 painful faces
Angels show up in the strangest of places”
“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.”
Cooper, his wife Korey Cooper (string arrangements and keyboards),
Ben Kasica (guitar) and Lori Peters (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” he grew up in.
He says 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 realised there could be more freedom in worshipping
“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.”
Cooper adds that “there is intimacy when you give everything
you have to worshipping God” and that he doesn’t
think that 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,”
new album, Comatose, was released 3rd October.