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Interview with Oz Foxx

interview by Joy Williams

first published in Creem Metal, Los Angeles

Stryper/Metal Magazine

“I started back when I was seven years old. All my uncles and my grandfather, everybody had guitars and they sang. But what really got me inspired was, my mom had a Buck Owens album, it was called Open Up Your Heart.”

If you're reading this story, you've undoubtedly seen Stryper's new look, and you've probably heard the first single, "Shining Star" (an Earth, Wind & Fire cover, of all things). And you're probably wondering what the heck is going on. Are they still STRYPER, THE CHRISTIAN HEAVY METAL BAND, or what?

Of course, that's the question everybody is asking, and after six solid weeks of promotions and interviews I wondered how they were holding up to it. "You just go and party with people," Oz laughs. So, here we are, somewhere out in the vast suburbia that sprawls across Hollywood, partying over sushi and tea while Oz patiently explains what happened.

OZ: When we were doin' our Christian bit, we sat down and said to ourselves, "Well, this may not go anywhere, but so what? We're doin' it." Now, with the changes, we're sayin' the same thing. We're not expecting anything. We wrote this album together with the attitude, "Hey, who cares what anybody thinks? We're gonna write the kind of music we want to write."

Q: Was it difficult to change?

OZ: No, we were ready for it. It got to a point where it was really stale. We'd been doing it for seven years. It's 1990, we're all older now, and as you mature your opinions change and your views on life change. And our views on the band started to change, and that was the main thing. I guess there's a lot more things that we feel we can handle now. We grew up a lot in the last seven years, and now we're learning to enjoy the talents we have and enjoy doing what we do, instead of being under pressure and having to always hold this image.

Q: So the image was controlling you?


OZ: No, I wouldn't say that. But we'd look at each other and say, "Are we doing the right thing?" And we just didn't want to have that pressure. We just wanted to have fun, and that's what it was really all about. Another thing, too, was that whenever anyone talked about Stryper, all they talked about was what we believed in or the issues, never the music. We did it for seven years, and everybody knows how we feel. So we're keeping all the religious stuff and the Christian stuff to ourselves, and we're writing more straightforward rock'n'roll.

Q: OK, let's talk rock'n'roll. You're a heavy metal guitarist, and I presume that means something to you in and of itself. A few years ago you made a Guitar Gods in Waiting list in one of the guitar magazines. Then Stryper got big on MTV and everyone was all wrapped up in the Christian metal thing, and it just seemed that all the interest in your guitar playing went away.

OZ: Yeah, I know. And you know what? Actually, on the last record, In God We Trust, I didn't play much guitar on it. I was going through a little bit of a complex about my guitar playing. I didn't feel like my guitar playing was good enough. There was a lot of pressure on In God We Trust for it to be a very polished and a perfect album—the record company was putting pressure on us to make an album that was better produced than To Hell with the Devil. So I back away from some of the guitar playing and told Michael to take most of it.

Q: Hmm, I wonder what's at the bottom of this. Let's go back to the beginning. What made you want to play music in the first place?

OZ: I started back when I was seven years old. All my uncles and my grandfather, everybody had guitars and they sang. But what really got me inspired was my mom had a Buck Owens album, it was called Open Up Your Heart. It was this great sound, like country music with Ventures-style guitar playing. Plus the lyrics are just really great. They're just classic! You know, like (he sings) Someone before me has treated you wrong."

My grandfather saw I was really into this Buck Owens stuff, so he taught me a few chords and showed me how to play "Sam's Place." It just came; I learned quick. I used to play at family get-togethers, and it was great. I was into that. I knew after that, "Hey, I gotta get to the stage." I went through the Eddie-Van-Halen-on-the-turntable lessons at about 16. (laughs) It got to the point where all I could play was Eddie Van Halen. I knew the whole first Van Halen album note for note. And I had all the kids in high school goin' "Woooow!" And then it got to the point where that was all I knew, and I was starting to get tired of it. And then I heard Eddie say, "Hey, don't try to be like me, be yourself." So I started to listen to other players—Jeff Beck, Randy Rhoads... But you know, Jeff Beck was the only guy I ever really got into that was somebody "rootsy."

Q: So you wound up insecure because you just hadn't developed your range enough, so when it came time to record In God We Trust you were reluctant to even try? But the guitar playing on Against the Law is tough and confident. What cured you?

OZ: After I heard the record and I was playing it, I thought to myself, "Boy, I gotta get out of the rut I'm in." I knew that I needed to do something. So I took guitar lessons. What happened was that I produced a band called Guardian—I brought the budget in under $20,0000, gave them 13 cuts, and pretty much killed myself over that record—but the guitar player, Tony Palacios, was just rippin'.

Him and I became good friends, started hangin' out, and he started giving me lessons—he had, like, 40 students. He's a monster guitar player. He taught me all the basic theory stuff, and Tony taught me to listen to a lot of players. Plus, I've been a long-time friend with Grover Jackson, and he turned me on to some old, black blues players—B.B. King, Freddie King, John Lee Hooker, Earl Hooker, Otis Rush... It's more of a vibe thing, you listen to those guys and you catch the soul.

Now, there's like six guitar players that I listen to all the time, and they are Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson and Jimi Hendrix. He taught me to listen, really go through my scales and know my guitar rock, to get used to playing without thinking. I'm still working on it, to this day. I needed that in my playing very bad. And now, the whole band loves this record.

Q: Something you can be proud of five years from now.

OZ: (laughs) Yeah!


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