John Schlitt, Petra Volcalist For 20 Years, Talks On Fire!, New Solo Record and Classic Petra

A few weeks ago we here at BSR featured a blog series entitled Five 80’s Christian Rock Albums That You Must Own. One of the posts featured the 1988 Petra classic On Fire! That post received such a huge response we felt like it would be cool to get Petra’s lead vocalist for 20 years, John Schlitt, to share his thoughts on the record, as well as his new solo release The Greater Cause, and the resurgent Classic Petra. He was happy to oblige. So read on, and when your done, “PUSH THAT RECORD!”

BSR: What is your favorite Petra record and why?

JS: That’s near impossible to pick just ONE! This Means War, because it was the beginning of a new era for us. Beyond Belief, of course, because it’s probably our most popular album. I do think our praise & worship albums were amazing; I really enjoyed those. But surprisingly I have one more favorite, and that was No Doubt – and actually the song No Doubt too. This song has probably become an underground classic for Petra. It’s just a statement that says, ‘Hey!’ When fear starts getting to you – you just let it go, because with Jesus Christ there is no doubt about His love, there’s no doubt about His promise, there’s no doubt about His existence with you. It was an under-rated album, but I feel it was one of the best we ever did.

BSR: Can you share a story/memory about On Fire!

JS:It was very exciting tour but the thing I think about is the staging. We had this sword set-up and I had to wear special shoes, or I would skid down the ramp and have no skin left! The ramp didn’t look very big but it was. If I fell – I had no place to go. I felt like I was taking my life into my own hands every night.

BSR: Is it safe to say that On Fire! was Petra’s “metal” record?

JS: Well, it had to be a very exciting record to follow This Means War, but I wouldn’t call it metal. I would say it was very exciting ROCK. I understand your question, but it’s not really metal, though Petra came close several times with a number of different albums. This one would have been the closest.

BSR: What is your favorite song off of On Fire!

JS: I consider the first three songs as one song….  All Fired Up, Hit You Where You Live & Mine Field. I love the whole thing! Hit You Where You Live had something about it… but when you put the other two together it was just an amazing combo that presented the whole record.

BSR: Tell us about your new record The Greater Cause

JS: “The Greater Cause” began because so many people were asking for it. I was toying with the idea of a compilation album but everyone kept coming back and saying “We want another rocker from you!” Because of the many blessings I’ve been shown over the years, I wanted to give something back in return.  TGC is it.

I would say the album combines elements of classic rock infiltrated with blues rock, rock anthems and heavy rock ballads. It’s hard to categorize, exactly, but those are the types of songs you will hear. Every song on the album has a message that is pertinent to what is happening in our daily lives. How relevant are we, as Christians, in the world today? What are we doing in our surroundings – how are we making a difference? We need to use common sense in this world and awaken to the fact that Jesus is Lord, no matter what those around us may say – or do.

Even as I now listen the word I say is WOW! I was SO blessed to have quality musicians, writers & an amazing producer – amazing. All I can say is wow! This IS a real rock album… yes, it has a retro vibe to it – but with modern touches that bring it into the present.

BSR: What are your thoughts about Classic Petra?

JS: I saw the band the other week at the Hard Rock Café in Nashville. They did a great job! It was good to see those guys; they looked like they were having fun on stage. I loved seeing them enjoying themselves.

You know, the guys in Classic Petra were a part of the same team that I was on when I first started with Petra in 1986, though without Greg Volz, of course. I really appreciated all of the guys because they were very encouraging to me as a young Christian coming in to the Christian ministry. So I appreciate each one of them as supporters of a new artist (myself) coming into a new system way back then. So whoever goes to see Classic Petra is going to be blessed!

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