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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

john cooper of skillet

Click to listen to the audio version of this article.

Hard Rocking Front Man On Life, Music & The Wimpy, Weak & Woke

When John Cooper and his friends started a rock band back in 1996 they weren’t sure what to name it. Each member had vastly different musical tastes, so when someone jokingly referred to them as a southern cooking “skillet” of musical styles, the name stuck. After 27 years, 11 records, and countless awards and nominations, you might say that Skillet was a recipe for success.

The 1990s produced a wide spectrum of inventive rock sounds that turned into some of the most iconic alternative rock records of all time. Skillet found its home between the alt-rock and Christian hard-rock scenes. 

the band skillet
Skillet is (Clockwise starting front left) Jen Ledger (drums, vocals), Seth Morrison (lead guitar), Korey Cooper (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), and John Cooper (lead vocals, bass). (Casey Steinmiller Photo)

“It was a great time for rock music,” John laughs. “People were trying a lot of new things. It was an electric time, no pun intended.” 

John is well known for his distinctive, perfectly groomed jet-black beard. When asked where it ranks in the all-time greatest beards, he laughed. 

“I don’t know,” he said. “There are some good beards in rock ’n roll. Zakk Wylde has a good-looking beard.” However, one of John’s favorite beards of all time is the early look from Mr. T on the A-Team when he was rocking the mohawk and thick beard. “That was sick!”

john cooper of skillet
John Cooper has become a master at balancing work and family life. An inspirational man of many talents for sure!

Getting In Tune

Songwriters have their own unique writing routine that works well for them. John’s process is a little different than most. He doesn’t usually write on a guitar or piano: He likes to write lyrics and melodies completely in his head and then figure out the chords afterward. For instance, fan favorite “Feel Invincible” was written this way, while songs like “Monster” were written more traditionally over a great guitar riff.

Although Skillet got its start in the suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee, the band’s fanbase has grown far beyond the U.S. border. A quick glance at their Spotify profile shows three of their top five listening countries as Brazil, Great Britain, and the Czech Republic. The band recently returned from an international tour with stops in Italy, Germany, France, Australia, and New Zealand. 

Rocking For The Panheads

After all these years John still loves performing, meeting fans—known lovingly as Panheads because they used to hold actual skillets over their heads during concerts—and seeing new places. He finds it especially moving to hear personal stories of how the music has been a part of people’s lives. That being said, all the travel has also made him recognize some of the things he takes for granted about living in the Land of the Free. John is amazed not only at how massive the United States is compared to many other countries but also at how geologically diverse it is with mountains, beaches, swamps, and plains. Many other countries might be known for just one of those features.

skillet and panheads
The energy on display during live shows will turn any rock-music fan into a Panhead. (Casey Steinmiller Photos)

However, he has felt a change in the attitude toward the “good old US of A.” Since 2020, the news has been a steady stream of protests, anger, and conflict. Even his 97-year-old grandmother has noticed a shift since the “pandemic.” Having experienced the Great Depression, World War II, and the Vietnam War, she’s told him she’s never seen people act this crazy before. (Oh, and if you’re wondering about her secret to 97 years of longevity, she eats bacon every single day of her life!) 

Faith Holds Strong

With growing political tension, John has found himself a rooted voice of reason amid the chaos. He feels like everybody draws a line in the sand, and when that line is crossed you have to speak up. His well-documented Christian faith is the driving force behind that. 

“We’re in a very nonsensical time,” he says. “People are so angry and so ready to fight. And I get it, the 2020s have been really difficult.” 

Like a lot of us, he has sensed a general loss of “commonality” with friends and coworkers. He has especially felt it in the music industry, which is historically progressive and left-leaning. When the pandemic occurred he suddenly found himself arguing with people he’d been friends with for 25 years. In the frenzy, people began bashing some of his cornerstone beliefs and he found himself having to defend not only his religion but some of the core values of being an American. 

“Freedom, individual liberties, community, loyalty, fidelity, honor,” he says. “Those are wonderful things that I think we should be promoting more.” He notes that even the concept of “family” has somehow become semi-controversial. 

Awake & Alive

Fueling this American self-attack is wokeness. Observing this radical cultural shift prompted him to author his recent book WIMPY, WEAK and WOKE: How Truth Can Save America From Utopian Destruction. The book is his attempt to explain what’s happening in our culture and give us a chance to save it, he says. “I believe we are on the brink of the end of Western civilization.”

WIMPY, WEAK and WOKE: How Truth Can Save America From Utopian Destruction by John Cooper

He doesn’t mean that in a doomsday alarmist way, but rather in a philosophical way. John believes much of the chaos and demoralization in the air these days points to a generation that wasn’t raised to appreciate how wonderful freedom is and that we should fight to preserve it. Instead, they were taught that Western civilization is bad and oppressive. “Every country has sins but even with all those sins we [America] have been a force for good on the earth,” he says.

Today John and his wife Korey live in Kenosha, Wisconsin, just three blocks away from the area set ablaze by protesters in August 2020. Although he was always a supporter of the Second Amendment, he genuinely never thought he would own a gun. However, John bought an AR-15 when civil tensions began to rise. 

“For two months we watched cities burn and no one was doing anything about it,” he says. “Watching the police being demonized was insane to me.” When he heard calls to “defund the police,” he knew it was up to him to protect his family. And from his view, if evil is allowed to run rampant, the only thing that can stand against it is a righteous strength. He genuinely doesn’t desire to hurt anyone, saying, “I hope to God I never have to use this thing.” 

Road Warrior Fitness

Touring has exposed the band to many interesting cultures but also the challenge of staying in shape on the road, especially as time goes on. John recalls when they were on the road with Nickelback and seeing all the incredible spreads of catered food every night. It was hard knowing he couldn’t eat any of it because he isn’t 25 anymore. He’s come to realize that staying healthy takes discipline so he always brings a DVD player with P90X and T25 workouts on the road. 

“If I can bring a couple of dumbbells and a jump rope I can pretty much work out outside the bus, in the dressing room or hotel room,” he says. “I’ve just learned to make it happen.”

Getting outside is a big part of the whole band’s life. John grew up dirt biking and one of his favorite hobbies is woodworking, including building custom furniture in his shop and driveway. These days he and Korey, also a bandmate, enjoy trail running and hitting nearby Lake Michigan to chill on the boat. Lead guitarist Seth Morrison and his wife Hilary are avid backpackers and often escape to Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks. Korey and Skillet drummer Jen Ledger enjoy hiking and walking before shows and on off days. 

The Road Ahead

Besides the book, heavy touring, family time, and hosting the popular “Cooper Stuff Podcast,” John says Skillet has managed to write and record some new music. At minimum, they expect to release a new song this year, but potentially could release a whole EP. They already have seven songs recorded and can’t wait to get them to their fans. 

john cooper
John Cooper has learned to fully manage life on the road. Thirty years in the business proves his staying power and discipline. (Casey Steinmiller Photo)

“This past tour we had such great energy,” John says. “We were touring with good friends Theory of a Deadman and Saint Asonia. The crowds were electric, and we were all vibing.” 

John found it all very inspiring, and the song ideas were coming fast and often. Even after nearly 30 years, they are still fired up. John says, “I want to do this for the next 30 years!” 

Where To Follow John Cooper & Skillet

Podcast:Cooper Stuff Podcast” available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify,
YouTube etc.

Web: johnlcooper.com, skillet.com

Instagram, X and Facebook: @johnlcooper @skilletmusic

“Reporting The News” Is Mindfulness — Navy SEAL-Style
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