DEE SNIDER – “I Definitely See More Music, More Live Performing”

July 29, 2020, 12 days ago

By Aaron Small

feature hard rock dee snider

DEE SNIDER – “I Definitely See More Music, More Live Performing”

“I’m really excited about it,” proclaims legendary vocalist, actor, author, and radio personality, Dee Snider, when speaking about the July 31 release of For The Love Of Metal Live, via Napalm Records. For The Love Of Metal Live is an energized concert album and DVD/Blu-Ray set featuring 14 songs captured live from various different stages around the world, one brand new audio track, interview clips and bonus footage.   

“My management’s thinking I’m Nostradamus because, not only did I tell them in spring of 2019 that I wasn’t going to do any live performing in 2020; who knew? I also said, let’s film for a live album last summer, which is a perfect thing for right now,” states Snider, in light of the worldwide ban on concerts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m sure a lot of people are thinking, ‘we should put out a live album.’ But to do it right, it takes months and months to put together. By the time you decide to put it together, you’ve got to think six to eight months down the road. Here we are, the middle of the summer, people are starved for live entertainment, and I’ve got a live DVD out, pretty cool.”

The way that Dee Snider filmed For The Love Of Metal Live is interesting as he didn’t focus on one concert, or travel with his own camera crew, rather opting for pro-shot footage from numerous giant festivals he played across the United States, Europe, and Australia, thereby saving quite a bit of cash. “Well, I was reticent to use the local sound system, or the local video crew. But the truth of the matter is, this is their home. They’ve set it up, they know where the camera angles are, how to get the best sound. So, I got great footage from all these shows, and we were able to assemble it in… I know it’s a unique way, cutting from one country to another country, day to night, rain to sun in the same song.”

Why not do one complete song from Bloodstock, one full song from Sturgis, etc.? “I stole the idea from a Chris Rock special (Kill The Messenger) many years ago. He filmed his comedy act in Africa, Europe, the United States, and during the joke, he would change from one country to the other. I knew the director, his name’s Marty Callner, he’s the guy who did the Twisted videos; we’re good friends. He said that Chris wanted to show that humour is international, and it has massive cross-over appeal. A joke is funny in the United States, is funny in Africa, is funny in the U.K., is funny in South America as long as they understand your language. I watched that special many years ago and I said, that’s the thing about metal. As polarizing as the world can be, behind it all, music and art is an incredibly unifying force that people are unaware of. Ever hear of a book called Heavy Metal Islam (written by Mark LeVine)? If you read it, it’s basically about The Middle East, where they’re killing each other for centuries. Behind the scenes, all the countries are unified through metal. It’s a shared passion, a shared lifestyle, a shared world view. Going back to my thing, I want to show that metal – if it wasn’t for sometimes skin colour, like in South America they’re darker skinned or whatever, metal fans are a legion. They’re all very similar, we all connect with the same thing – the songs and the band.”

As Dee mentioned, the visual aspect of For The Love Of Metal Live is spliced together from assorted shows, but where does the audio come from? In one song, we’re not hearing audio from five or six different festivals. “No, you’re not. And this was key, that’s why sometimes it doesn’t sync up perfectly. It was contingent on the fact that we had a… you need a consistent beat, electronic, that you can edit to. Most drummers play with click-tracks now, so they keep the speed consistent. So, I called Nicky Bellmore, who was the engineer and drummer on For The Love Of Metal (in 2018). I asked, do you play to a click? He said, ‘Yeah, I do.’ Fucking great! As long as we had that, we could cut like that from show to show. That said, my vocal,” snickers Dee. “I wanted to use live vocals, so it’s not exactly mechanical or precise. Where you really hear it is when I come back in after I take out my in-ears for ‘I Wanna Rock’. I come back in without any monitors, and I’m singing completely off key. Oh God, I really wish I could fix that, but I wanted it to be real.” 

Did the audio come from one particular gig? “No, it wasn’t one particular gig that the audio came from. But we used one particular gig for each of the songs. We couldn’t cut from audio to audio in a song; there was sonic issues and things like that. Also, Bloodstock, which is one of the key shows, was a short set cause I was opening. But we wanted to have more than 90 minutes worth of music, so we had to use audio from other countries as well.”

Snider, best known as the frontman for Twisted Sister, was 64 years old when these shows were filmed. He’s in phenomenal physical and vocal shape, running all over the stage, without the aid of Teleprompters. “No, I don’t have a teleprompter I’m proud to say. It’s amazing, I’ll go up and jam with a band, and there’s Teleprompters all over the place. I remember James Cagney, the actor. He famously memorized all his scripts before he got to the sets of the filming of his movies. The true story is, he was working on a movie, and he couldn’t remember his line; and that was his last movie. He walked away and retired to Upstate New York. I don’t feel that strongly about it. There’s a pretty well-documented… there’s an SMF Live from way, way back from the first time I did Twisted songs as an independent DVD/CD. We do ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and I screwed up the words. I hadn’t sang them in over five years, and I stopped the song. I can’t remember the words to ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’. So, I do have my brain farts, but for the most part, I’m capable of remembering my words.”

The video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, the extended version with the complete intro, has been viewed 96 million times on YouTube, getting close to the 100 million mark, which is remarkable! “And that’s on YouTube; there’s all the other outlets as well. We’re no ‘Gangnam Style’ (which has amassed 3.6 billion views), but it seems like we should have a few more by now. It is odd. I scratch my head very often at the longevity the video has, and the appeal the video has, and the song itself, just sort of transcending genres. It’s not overstating this, it’s sort of a folk song now. Everybody knows it. I don’t know if they know who sings it anymore, but they know the damn song. We’ve transcended a lot of things with that song. It seems that the message in it, lyrically and also visually, has some connection still to all ages. How many kids dress up as me for Halloween? Little children! I’m going, holy shit! If you had said that to me 40 years ago, I would have punched you in the fucking face! Now there’s a children’s book out with the lyrics to ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’. Take it fucking back! Life is fucking strange brother, I’ll tell ya.”

“We’re Not Gonna Take It” is Dee Snider’s “Ace Of Spades”, instantly recognized around the world. Lemmy Kilmister and Motörhead have started shows with “Ace Of Spades” and ended shows with “Ace Of Spades”, on For The Love Of Metal Live, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is placed right in the middle of the set list. “It started in Twisted, and we sort of discovered that there were certain people who were there only for ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’. The traditional thing is wait for the final encore to play the big hit. I said, you know what, fuck that. I appreciate that they like the song, but let’s do it in the middle, then they can go fucking home and make room for everybody else. If that’s why you’re here, here it is, now you can leave and the rest of us are going to rock. Twisted started doing it halfway through the show, and at first, it shocked people. It made people think, ‘Are they done? Are they finished?’ No, we’re not finished, but you are. See you later.”

The final song on the DVD/Blu-Ray portion of For The Love Of Metal Live is a killer rendition of “Highway To Hell” by AC/DC. Obviously that song is an undeniable anthem, but is it Dee’s favourite AC/DC song, or the one that would get the crowd going the most? “My favourite AC/DC song is ‘For Those About To Rock’,” admits Snider. “Although, AC/DC are such a significant band. As far as influence, they really were the ones that got me back to appreciating that four chords is enough sometimes. Bon Scott was the final piece in me refining my vocal style; I got my nasal quality from Bon. But ‘Highway To Hell’ always struck me as an international heavy metal anthem. That song seems to unite us all, and just the statement in it of itself is just so us, the metal community. We’re on a highway to hell! You’re singing about going to hell in a very positive, uplifting way. And I sing the shit out of it too, it was a chance for me to show off. It’s my best Bon Scott impersonation.”

There’s a brand new song called “Prove Me Wrong” that is not included in the DVD/Blu-Ray portion of For The Love Of Metal Live, it’s only available on the CD/Digital Audio. And it features the same band seen on the DVD/Blu-Ray. “Yes. First off, let me say that over the last two years, it went from side guys to a band. And it’s crazy how you can bond and become a unit. I remember pretty much the day my wife, who’s been around for 40 years, she’s seen it all. Backstage after one of the shows, she said, ‘They don’t look like much, but they kick fucking ass!’ She’s real old school, so she’s still looking for the hair, the lean, skinny guys. I said, you know, you’re fucking right! They do, and they own the stuff - the old stuff, the new stuff. Charlie and Nicky really were part of the creation of For The Love Of Metal; the Bellmore brothers. Moving forward, they will be my band. ‘Prove Me Wrong’ – there’s a message in there, a sub text. Napalm wanted an outtake from For The Love Of Metal as a bonus track, and we had none. I said, we can write something and record it. They were like, ‘Amazing!’ So, me and Charlie wrote the song, and we recorded it. Really, the message is, this is Dee Snider! This is what you can expect from me moving forward. I have taken crazy over the years, veering from one place to the other, from the sublime to the ridiculous. But I’ve found my place, my sound, my groove so to speak. ‘Prove Me Wrong’ is a taste of what you can expect moving forward. It’s going to be heavy. It’s going to be fast. It’s going to be contemporary.”

One line in “Prove Me Wrong” gets repeated several times, that being, “Now it’s time to move on.” That could easily be taken as an announcement of Dee’s retirement, however, he currently has several irons in the fire, so it’s a little contradictory. “Well, you’re the first person to ask me that question. I don’t know why people aren’t picking up on that. It’s time to move on! It’s kind of across the board time to move on. It’s time to move on with these fucking people doubting me. It’s time to move on with me being so, still at this point in my life, obsessed with these naysayers, getting angry about it, and having it bug me. It bugs me! I just wrote my first fictional novel, and the real motivation was, I wrote a few chapters and I showed it to a literary agent. In an email he said, ‘Dee, stick to singing.’ I’ve been writing for years dude. I know I’m not a terrible writer. Tell me it needs work. Tell me this is what you’re doing wrong. But stick to singing? Fuck you! Once again, you can’t do that; that’s all I need to push me, the anger. And I finished 56,000 words. We’re out shopping a deal for it now. So, I really got to let it go.” 

“And finally, I don’t know what the future holds? I know that I’m supposed to be directing my first feature film in May, that’s been pushed back. Since then, I’ve been asked to write and direct a second movie; a re-imagining of a classic ‘80s horror. I’m working on that with the producers now. Those two things are lining up for 2021, and it’ll take a whole year. So, then what? Is it 2022 for new music? Okay, in 2022 I’ll be 67. I know Alice (Cooper) is looking forward to singing ‘I’m Eighty’ (as opposed to I’m Eighteen). He told me that, and he’s not fucking kidding! The way I like to perform – earlier you said how great shape I’m in and how aggressive, it ain’t getting easier. I don’t want to go out there and not be able to deliver that level of intensity. Will I be able to two years from now? I don’t know. So, there’s the unknown thing for me. I do have so many other projects going on, and I’m constantly challenging myself with that. I don’t know what the future holds. I know I’m here; I definitely see more music, more live performing. Hopefully, that happens.”

As far as Dee’s aforementioned novel goes… “It’s called Frats, short for Fraternities. It’s set in the early ‘70s where I grew up on Long Island. It’s a period piece, a coming of age story. It’s fictional, but it’s based on actual events. Without getting too into them, it turned out to be a unique – I didn’t know cause it was my world. A unique microcosm… there were high school fraternities, but they were like gangs. Under the guise of the Greek letters, they were really gangs. But because they were fraternities, they were allowed to roam the halls wearing their colours, and pretty much control things in the area. It was a very small few towns that this was going on in. And I discovered when I left, I thought this was everywhere in the world, cause I was just one of the nerds trying to avoid getting my ass kicked every day. It turned out, there was no place like it in the world. This was the only place it actually went on. So, I’ve written this fictionalized, but based on true events. I know that it will get published, right now we’re looking for a deal.”

Dee has also booked some Rock Meets Classic shows for 2021, ten dates in Germany. “Yeah, those shows, first of all, they’re fun! The reason they’re fun is it’s like Rocktopia in the States, or any of these all-star things; it’s easy lifting. There’s none of the pressure of headlining 90 minutes on your own. You’re not doing 18 – 20 songs, you’re doing three or four. You’re hanging out with a lot of like-minded individuals, so it’s fun. I’ve done Rock Meets Classic before, and I had a good time with it. It got offered, it’s so weird… it was the first thing that came up that seemed like, maybe that’ll actually stick, with what’s going on with the Coronavirus. Maybe by then, we should have something figured out; at least how to function. I’m looking forward to it.”

Another one of Dee’s musical outlets, Kings Of Chaos, “had a bunch of dates, and it’s been really tough for the Kings. Again, it’s that easy lifting, fun hanging out with like-minded individuals. I was so happy when Matt (Sorum, drummer) brought me in as one of the go-to guys that he used. We had about ten shows booked, then they all got COVID-ed out. There’s been a couple of occasions during this time where people wanted to go through with the date, and the seven of us communicated and said, ‘God, we want to do this. It’s fun, we want to play.’ Now, we put ourselves out there. But do we want to encourage people to put themselves out there? There’s been a couple of occasions where we said, sorry, no, we can’t do that show. They (the promoters) were saying, ‘You’ll be protected. We’ll create a barrier, there’ll be no meet and greet.’ But what about them (the fans)? You’re encouraging them. We’ve wrestled with that ourselves because we badly want to play, but it just doesn’t seem like now’s the time.”

Unfortunately, it’s presently unknown when live concerts will resume safely en masse. As such, Dee advises fans to “Crank up For The Love Of Metal Live on your big screen TV and have a good time until we rock again.”    

(Photos by Stephanie Cabral and John Raptis)


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