Band of the Month – Skillet

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Skillet is a Christian rock band formed in Memphis, Tennessee in 1996 and the band is based in the USA. The band now consists of husband and wife couple John (Lead Vocals & Bass) and Korey Cooper (Rhythm guitar, keyboard, backing vocals), along with Jen Ledger (drums, vocals) and Seth Morrison (Lead Guitar). Founder John Cooper is the only remaining original member in the band.

Skillet was formed in 1996 by two members John Cooper (former vocalist for Tennessee progressive rock band Seraph) and Ken Steorts, former guitarist for Urgent Cry. The two bands met while touring together, but the bands disbanded soon after, so the pair’s pastor encouraged them to form their own band as a side-project. Both of them came from different styles of rock music, so they named the band Skillet. According to John Cooper the initial reason Skillet was formed, was to do outreach for his church. He thought they would do a couple of outreachactivities and that he would still play in his other band. Trey McClurkin joined the band as a temporary drummer. Skillet was only together for a month before they piqued the interest of major Christian record label ForeFront Records. In 1996 they released a self-titled debut Skillet. It was well-received and the trio continued to write new material while touring through the USA. Apparently the band members still joke among themselves about the band’s name, John still claims that he does not like the name. Skillet recorded the follow-up to their debut album throughout 1997 titled “Hey You, I Love Your Soul” which was released in April of 1998. With the second album the style of the band changed from their first release, abandoning their post-grunge style and changing to a lighter alternative rock. John’s wife Korey was recruited to play the keyboard to lighten John’s live performance duties.

Shortly before the band started recording for their third album, Invincible, Ken left the band to be with his family and he launched the Visible Music College, a modern music ministry college located in Memphis. Kevin Haaland joined the band as the new lead guitarist. Korey Cooper joined the band permanently and played keyboard for the recording of the third album. This caused the third studio album to have a more electronic sound. Soon after the release of Invincible in 2000, Trey McClurkin parted ways with the band and Lori Peters assumed the position of the drummer.

The band released their fourth album and first live album titled “Ardent Worship” in late 2000. The band had little time left between recording and touring, Skillet released “Alien Youth” on the 28th of August 2001, retaining the same style and sound from “Invincible”. It was John Cooper’s first time taking over production duties. Before Alien Youth was released Kevin Haaland left the band and Ben Kasica took over on guitar. The first single the title track was a major hit in the Christian market and allowed Skillet to headline their own shows for the first time.

On the 18th of November 2003, the band’s sixth studio album “Collide” was released by Ardent Records. The album became extremely popular and grabbed the attention of Andy Karp,  the Head of A&R of Lava Records. In 2004 Lava Records, an imprint of “Atlantic Records” bought the rights to Collide. On the 25th of May 2004, Collide was re-released by Lava Records with an added track called “Open Wounds”. The album was nominated for “Best Rock Gospel Album” in 2005. John Cooper cited P.O.D as the inspiration on the band’s musical shift on “Collide”.

Skillet’s seventh studio album “Comatose” was released on the 3rd of October 2006. This was the band’s first album to become gold certified. On the 7th December 2007 the album received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock or Rap Gospel album. In January 2008, it was announced that Lori Peters will be retiring from the band, as she felt it was time to start a new chapter in her life. She performed with Skillet for the last time on the 31st of December 2007. During the 2007 Christmas season she took time to train Skillet’s new drummer Jen Ledger. On the 21st of October 2008, “Comatose Comes Alive” was released, a CD/DVD combo featuring live recordings of the band’s May 9, 2008 concert in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Skillet announced that they will be entering the studio on the 12th of January 2009. They entered the studio with Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson. They added two songs from their new album to their setlist (“Monster” and “Hero”) on the 2nd April 2009 in Evansville, Indiana as part of their “Comatose” tour 2009. Skillet’s eighth album “Awake”, has 12 songs and was released on the 25th of August 2009. It charted at a staggering No 2 on the Billboard 200 selling around 68, 000 units in its first week. “Monster” was released as a single on the 14 July 2009. “Awake” was one of only three rock albums to be certified platinum in 2012, along with the  Black Keys’ El Camino and Mumford & Sons’ Babel. They later released a deluxe version of the album with bonus tracks “Dead Inside”, “Would It Matter” and a radio edit of “Monster”. “Monster” and “Hero” were used many times in the media by the WWE, Football stadiums, TV shows, video games etc. Skillet was nominated for six Dove Awards for the 41st Annual GMA Dove Awards. “Awake” was certified Gold on the 2nd of July 2010.

On the 14th of February 2011, Skillet announced that lead guitarist Ben Kasica would be leaving the band. Up until that point Ben had been part of the band for 10 years. Ben planned to play his last concert with Skillet on the 20th of March. The band announced that they had chosen solo artist Jonathan Salas to be their new lead guitarist, but Salas confirmed via Twitter that he had left the band on the 9th of April. Ben returned and continued touring until a new guitarist had been trained. On the 16th of April Seth Morrison replaced Kasica as the lead guitarist.

Skillet announced the release of Awake and Remixed EP in early March 2011. The remixes were mainly done Korey Cooper and Ben Kasica. The four-song EP was released on the 22nd of March 2011.

“Awake” was nominated and won the “Top Christian Album” Award at the Billboards Music Awards 2011.

On the 21st of June 2011 John Cooper posted a tweet saying that the band had been busy rehearsing new music for the first time and preparing for a new album. The band planned to start recording in January/February 2012, but the band was scheduled to headline the Winter Jam tour. In January 2012, the band announced that they will not be touring for the most of the summer so that they can record the new album.

During an interview with on the 18th of July 2012 with RadioU, John Cooper stated that the band now had written 61 songs and would be heading to the studio in October to record the album with Howard Benson for an early 2013 release.

In an interview on the 26th of January 2013 in Beaumont TX, John Cooper announced that the new album “Rise”, would be coming out in May 2013, but was later scheduled for a 25 June 2013 release. In an interview with Noisecreep, John Cooper stated that the first single and music video “Sick of It” is scheduled to be released late April.  The album debuted at No.4 on the Billboard 200 and No.1 on the Top Rock Chart and Christian album charts selling 60, 000 copies in the US alone during the first week of release. “Rise” received critical acclaim, despite some negative reviews, the general consensus seems to be that the band had improved on their earlier release “Awake”.

Skillet was nominated and won a Dove Award for Rock Song of the Year for their sing “Sick Of It”.

The bands’ fans are humorously and affectionately called “Panheads”.

The band’s main goal is to write songs that speak to people about what they were going through and encourage them. John has always been deeply affected by Christian music and he knew that this would be his calling since he was 15. In an interview with CMCentral John says that the best thing about his job is to write a song which could change somebody’s life.

It’s refreshing to see a Christian band do well, despite the history of rock bands that has been ridiculed for their Christian label in the past. I think the key ingredient to Skillet’s recipe is the way they convey their message and the presentation of their material. Most people who listen to the band’s material for the first time will probably not even realise that they are a Christian inspired band. The listener can take from their music what they need without feeling like they are being preached to.

You can follow Skillet on Twitter:

You can follow John Cooper on Twitter:

You can follow Jen Ledger on Twitter:

You can follow Korey Cooper on Twitter:

You can follow Seth Morrison on Twitter:

Rock Regards,

Lauren Kruger

Band of the Month – Hoobastank

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Hoobastank is an American rock band which formed in 1994 in Agoura Hills, California. At the start the line-up consisted of vocalist Doug Robb, guitarist Dan Estrin, drummer Chris Hesse and original bassist Markku Lappalainen. According to Chris, Doug had known Dan for a while before competing against him in a high school battle of the bands competition. Subsequently they decided to form a band by recruiting Markku and Chris to form Hoobastank.

Hoobastank started playing gigs at local venue, Cobalt Cafe along with Incubus and others. The band recorded their first full-length self-released album in 1998 strangely titled They Sure Don’t Make Basketball Shorts Like They Used To. The album featured a unique saxophone section headed by Jeremy Wasser.  At this point, Hoobastank had developed a strong reputation in Southern California which attracted interest from Island Records who signed the band in 2000. At the time of signing, the band had already completed a second full-length album titled “Forward” featuring Jeremy Wasser. However Island Records execs felt that the direction they were heading in would sound better without the sax, so Jeremy left the band and the album was delayed. A few tracks were re-recorded for release on the band’s self-titled 2001 release.

Their self-titled album was released in November of 2001. The first single off the album was “Crawling In The Dark” which became a breakthrough hit reaching No 68 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, Number 3 on the Modern Rock Chart, Number 7 on the Mainstream Rock Chart and Number 1 on an download chart in early 2002. The song featured in the 2002 inline skating game, Aggressive Inline on the Xbox, Playstation 2, Playstation and GameCube consoles. The second single “Running Away” was an even bigger hit reaching Number 44 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, Number 2 on the Modern Rock Chart, Number 9 on the Mainstream Rock Chart and Number 3 on the download chart. The Hoobastank album went Platinum and reached Number 25 on the Billboard 200 chart and Number 1 on the Billboard Heatseeker chart. The album received international recognition and the band toured in support of the album through Europe and Asia. The third single from the album “Remember Me” achieved moderate success reaching Number 23 on the Modern Rock Charts. “Losing Grip” is a song which the band created for the soundtrack of the movie The Scorpion King.

In 2003 the band contributed a song named “Right Before Your Eyes” to the Daredevil soundtrack. The band entered the studio with producer Howard Benson. Recording was interrupted for a month when Dan Estrin was seriously injured following a minibike incident in August. Dan had recovered by October and the band performed at the Nokia Unwired Tour with the All-American Rejects and Ozomatli in November.  The band’s name originated when Doug was still very young, his brother was the vice president of BMW Motorcycles in Germany and the street’s name in which he lived was called Hooba Street and before Doug could pronounce it he used to call it Hoobastank. His brother still teases him about it. When the band was trying to come up with a name, it was really difficult to come up with a name that hasn’t already been taken. Someone suggested the name and it stuck.

The band’s second album The Reason was released in December 2003. The single “Same Direction” was available for download on the band’s website. ” Same Direction” reached Number 9 on the US Modern Rock Chart, Number 16 on the Mainstream Rock Chart and Number 16 on the composite World Modern Rock chart (based on the US, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Canada, and Australia). A year later the band released a dvd called Let It Out which is a collection of the band’s music videos. The title track was released in the first half of 2004 and it became a massive hit. The song reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, Number 1 on the US and World Modern Rock Charts. The song was also played on the final episode of Friends. In Canada the song set a new record for the most weeks at Number 1 after it spent 21 weeks at the top of the charts. In the US the album reached Number 3 on the Billboard 200 chart. In early 2004, the band’s profile increased when they landed a supporting slot on Linkin Park’s Meteora world tour.

Their third album Every Man For Himself released in May 2006 and debuted at Number 12 on the Billboard chart. Three singles off the album “If I Were You”, “Inside Of You” and “Born To Lead” were released. Hoobastank co-headlined a tour in 2005 with Velvet Revolver. The band received a chilly reception from some audiences and rumours of a feud between Doug and Scott Weiland started to surface.

On the 2nd of June 2008 Doug Robb posted on the band’s temporary website announcing that the recording process of their upcoming album was almost done and that fans could expect a release date within a couple of weeks. The album For(never) was released on the 27th of January 2009. The first single from the album “My Turn” premiered on radio on the 13th of October 2008.

On the 29th of April 2010 a Vanessa Amorosi fan site revelealed details of a collobaration between Hoobastank and the Australian singer, a duet version of The Letter. Later on it was revealed that there was another version of the song between Hoobastank and American-Japanese singer, lyricist, actress and model Anna Tsuchiya. The music video featuring Vanessa Amorosi was shot in Los Angeles at Lacy Street Studio with director Paul Brown. Anna Tsuchiya’s version of the song appears on Hoobastank’s greatest hits album “The Greatest Hits: Don’t Touch My Moustache (Deluxe Edition)“.

The best of album The Greatest Hits: Don’t Touch My Moustache was released on the 5th of August 2010 through Universal Records in Japan. The Deluxe Edition’s tracks were selected from their first four albums by their fans on the band’s official record label website. Hoobastank was the support act for Creed on their 2009 reunion tour. On the 2nd of September 2009, the band announced on Twitter that they were recording an acoustic album. The band covered the song Ghostbusters for Halloween and it was accompanied by a music video on Hoobastank’s Official Youtube Channel. On the 8th of December 2009, the band released the live album Live from the Wiltern exclusively on iTunes. On the 19th of January 2010, Hoobastank released a new song entitled “We Are One” as part of a compilation from Music For Relief in support of the Haiti Earthquake crisis. On the 12th of February 2010, Hoobastank released a new song titled “Never Be Here Again” as part of the Team USA Olympics soundtrack. In May the band announced that they will be performing an acoustic live tour in several places in Japan. They released an acoustic album titled “Is This The Day” on the 4th of August 2010 in Japan. Ending their decade-long connection with Island Records, the band went back to indie status when they released their fifth album on Open E Records.

On the 18th of January 2011 Doug Robb provided the vocals for Apocalyptica’s new single titled “Not Strong Enough”. Another version of the song is available which features Brent Smith from Shinedown on vocals. A music video for the song was released which features Brent Smith. In June 2011, the band went on tour in Iraq for the USO Road Tour, performing for the U.S. military throughout the country.

On the 5th of April 2012 the band announced the tiitle of their new album via Twitter. The album was titled “Fight or Flight” and on the 3rd of May the band revealed the first single “This Is Gonna Hurt”. The album was released on the 11th of September 2012.

I chose to feature Hoobastank this month because I used to listen to their album “The Reason” back when I was in High School and while I was in college. I recently found the album among some other CDs and popped it in the car while my fiance and I went for a drive. It really brought back some great memories and I think all of the songs on that album are really impressive.

Rock Regards,

Lauren K

You can follow the band on Twitter here:

You can follow Doug Robb on Twitter:

You can follow Chris Hesse on Twitter:

You can follow Dan Estrin on Twitter:

You can follow Jesse Charland on Twitter: