Q&A with Oz Fox of Stryper

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Stryper arrived on the metal scene in 1984, clad in yellow and black spandex, and quickly became major players in the exploding melodic hard rock scene. The foursome played catchy tunes and won the ears of millions of listeners, but what stood out most and invited controversy, was the band's clear, evangelical Christian message. Earlier this year, the band released a new studio record, Murder by Pride, with their lyrical convictions and melodic sensibilities firmly in place and embarked on a supporting tour. We  had the opportunity to sit down with guitarist Oz Fox in advance of Stryper's upcoming November 10 date at Cervantes' to discuss the new record, his approach to the guitar, and what it's like to be cranking up the volume and hitting the road 25 years later.

Westword (Chris Callaway): How has life changed for you in the years since the founding of the band?

Oz Fox: It's been quite a learning experience, to say the least. And as far as the band goes, there's been so many, I guess you could say, experiences that have led us to where we're at today, to make us the men that we are, to make us the band that we are. I think, in the very early days, when you start off, you're young and your kind of flying by the seat of your pants half the time, and now that you're older, you're still kind of flying by the seat of your pants. [You] just do it a little better (laughs).

WW: In the last five years, it seems like you guys had this sense of rejuvenated energy. You did the reunion tour, and now you've done the studio records: What led to that happening?

OF: Well, the band was not together for a period of time through the '90s and into the early 2000's, like 2000, 2001, and we spent a lot of time just kind of doing our own thing, doing separate things. There were so many people that were really requesting that the band get back together. When we finally did do some reuniting type of shows, it showed us that there's still a hardcore fan base that wanted to see us, and it kind of led to exploring the idea of doing more things again as a band, and sure enough, it kind of led to us getting all back together again and doing it again.

The tour that we did in 2003 was more of a reunion tour. We actually reformed Stryper in 2004, officially reformed, with a new bass player because our former bass player, Tim Gaines -- he didn't want to do it any more. We all kind of had a mutual agreement on it, and so we got a new player. His name's Tracy Ferrie, and he recorded the Reborn album with us and toured with us in '05 and then ended up recording with us again on this new album that we did.

He's not actually out on this tour with us. He decided that he didn't want to tour, and we had planned on taking him, and our former bass player Tim Gaines out on the road. Well, since Tim was already out on the bill, then he ended up taking the spot for the whole show. So now we have an original lineup for the whole night.

WW: What's the most humorous memory you have of being in Stryper?

OF: Strangely enough, there was one pretty funny story about how we were all in Australia at the time and our tour manager kind of hollered at us all that we needed to come out to the green room. We went out there and there was this woman in the room, and she was probably in her mid '60s. She had tattoos of the band, like full portraits of the band on her back and on her arms. It was really kind of crazy [laughs]. We didn't know whether to be impressed or embarrassed.

WW: How has your approach to the guitar changed over the years?

OF: Actually, we've kind of gone back to the same old way. We tried to do something different in 2003, and in '05 and it went another way. We were thinking more on the modern side of recording and stuff. There were less guitar solos and more of a concentration on the songs so-to-speak.

In the past, it was always big fat guitar tracks and twin guitar solos and harmonies and big vocal harmonies and what not, and Michael's [doing] the screams and doing what he's known for doing and we kind of took a back seat on that for the 7 album and for our Reborn album.

The new album has gone back to the original way of recording. We've got fat tracks of guitars and back to the format we were doing for the To Hell with the Devil album. That's kind of had the best reaction from our fans so far. Everyone believes that this new album is probably our best, so it's really awesome.

WW: How did the relationship with Tom Scholz  from Boston and the band come about?

OF: That basically started off because Mike had written some nice words about Brad Delp after he passed away. We knew the Web site designer for Boston, and so this guy asked Mike to do that and I guess Tom and his wife, Kim, read what Michael had said and they loved what he said. They thought it was very, very nice and they asked him to be part of the tribute to Brad, and they did a tribute concert in Boston, and they added him, Mike, as one of the singers of the night.

They liked him so much that they decided to take him on the road. He did the whole Boston tour, and that did quite well. So, as far as that goes, in the future, he will probably continue to perform with Boston if they tour again, which I'm sure they will. There's plans that Boston will be doing another album soon and he probably be a part of that as well. So, he's doing good with that. He's doing very well.

WW: What led to recording "Peace of Mind"?

OF: Well, actually, that was something that was brought up and in the works before the whole Boston thing came on, before Brad Delp passed away. I think, Mike, in his heart, thought that that song would be a good one to do, and it had good lyrics to it, really had the flavors of what we were looking for, for a cover song on this album. It worked out really nice, but then it just so happened that the other stuff happened later. Coincidence, you know.

WW: The song sounds great by the way. You guys did a really good job. It's always tough to do a cover, because you can go one route where it doesn't sound anything like the original ,or you can kind of keep it pretty much the same.

OF: Well, I don't know if you ever heard our cover of "Shining Star," by Earth, Wind & Fire, but we got a lot of great reviews on that one. What we do is we take covers and Stryperize them, make them what we would do with them.

WW: You guys have been doing this for a long time. For you, personally, how does it feel to still be doing this 25 years later?

OF: Me personally? I'm getting kind of old for this, believe me [laughs]. No, I mean, I love performing, and I think it's really awesome to be able to share my faith with people. That's the most important part of it all, to know that I'm able to be an example, to some degree, to people ... maybe a role model, just like the sports figure, the home run hitter that everybody looks up to and stuff. For guys like us, that's kind of what we are. We're role models to a lot of people. We have a big responsibility on that end, but we enjoy it. There's a certain gratification you get from people seeing the way you are and admiring that and wanting to be like that. So when you're following Christ and you're a Christian and people are seeing that, that's a great thing, especially if you can influence them in a good way.

Of course, for us, we ultimately would want people to know that Christ died on a cross, and if you repent and you turn away from what the world gets you down in a passive ungodliness ... if you turn from that and be obedient to God, you will enter into eternity with God. We believe in that. We totally believe in that. We want to share that with people. We want people to know that that's where we stand and we will always stand waving that banner.

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