TWISTED SISTER's DEE SNIDER – “Dad, That Show Made Me Hate Christmas”
November 10, 2015, 3 years ago
Twisted like tinsel, Dee Snider is ensconced in a hotel room in Toronto getting ready for a long stay as heavy metal’s Father Christmas for Canada, as he prepares himself for a month-and-a-half residency as star of his own theatrical Christmas production, Dee Snider’s Rock and Roll Christmas Tale. The venue is the Winter Garden Theatre, the start date is November 17th, and (spoiler alert), the devil loses out to the warm Christmas spirit inside.
The idea was somewhat of a natural, given the run Dee and his band already have had playing headbanged versions of Christmas carols, and it’s also a natural given Dee’s championing of metal over the years just as part of his DNA. But this is an old dog who, inspiringly, had to learn some new tricks to pull this off the top of the Dee tree...
“It’s absolutely a challenge,” begins the world’s toughest Raggedy Ann doll. “Because it’s a new skill set, for me, to write. Although I’ve been writing screenplays myself. But coming out of the Twisted Sister years where I had one vision, one skill set, I developed others as a screenplay writer and a writer, but writing a musical is another deal. And then acting is another, something that I didn’t do until the ‘90s. And I sort of had to develop that skill. So these are just new talents that I’ve been developing over the last couple of decades.”
“No, I didn’t; none of these guys were doing it,” continues Dee, asked if he commiserated with the likes of Sebastian Bach, Paul Stanley or Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Paul O’Neill—all New Yorkers, essentially—about what the heck he had gotten himself into. “When I was doing it... well, I shouldn’t say, Paul did, he did one show, and he hasn’t done anything since. So I don’t know how that went. I’ve heard some rumours about that. That was in Toronto. He was in Phantom, and I really don’t know Paul. We’re not really close, as you might be able to tell (laughs). And Paul O’Neill... TSO is a concept event, like my Van Helsing’s Curse, which I took inspiration from TSO.”
“As a matter of fact, this project started as a concept album,” divulges Dee. “This was going to be a concept album. When I was doing Rock of Ages, the director, Adam Hunter, read my story line for my concept album and gave me some notes. Because I was planning on it to be like a Tommy or The Wall, for Twisted to do. And he came back to me and said, ‘Dude, this is a musical.’ And I said, what? He said, ‘This is a musical. This may not be a musical yet, but your vision is a musical, and you should make it a musical, and I want to direct it.’ And so in 2011 we started; I started writing it as a musical, under Adam Hunter, who is my director of the show, under his tutelage. And then we developed it into a musical, and so that’s how we went down that road. My only... Sebastian and I have compared notes over the years, about being in a musical, acting in a play, and we’d commiserated on that level. But I’ve never called him to discuss it. It’s more like when we see each other, he is the one person I could talk to about the woes of doing eight shows a week, and while it’s great, it’s also a bitch.”
And good to see some local talent in there as well, lots of it actually, just like the run in Chicago. Well-known to us around the fortified BraveWords compound, of course, is guitarist Sean Kelly, of Crash Kelly, Helix, Lee Aaron and Nelly Furtado fame...
“You know, it’s great, and like myself, Sean is a guy who wants to achieve more, and is willing to take chances,” reflects Dee. “I mean, that’s brave. You’ve got to recognize that. We had a guy like him in our cast in Chicago, Dan Peters, who had actually been one of the guitar players in the band on stage in Rock of Ages, and now he wanted to move to the next level of acting. And Sean, it’s very bold for a guy who’s had no acting experience, no theatre experience, thinking, okay, go out, play your guitar, hey, I’ll melt your face off. All right, now read the sides. That’s truly brave. And I know, from personally being truly brave, I have nothing but respect and I champion people like Sean. So he’s welcome to our cast, and he passed the audition, and so, you know, that wasn’t easy, so God bless him.”
And the motivation for doing this in the first place?
“Well, it was two things. I like to challenge myself, you know, Martin, as I’ve probably said to you before. I’d rather talk about the new thing I’ve been working on, which hasn’t sold one ticket or one album, than something I did 40 years ago. As proud as I am of the past, I most prefer looking forward. The other thing is, as a parent and a Christmas junkie, when the idea of making a musical came up, it spoke to me on the level that as a parent, I always take my kids to holiday shows, and now my grandkids. And I always noticed that somebody was left out at a holiday show. Either mom and dad were falling asleep, or little Johnny and Janie, their eyes were glazing over and they were squirming in their seats because they were bored to tears.”
“And I said, you know, how great would it be to create something that had broad appeal, and would speak to multiple generations? And this was the thought process. When we had this vision of a musical, I realized that we’re at a time in history—with the exception of the greatest generation who are still alive, our parents—every generation has been raised on some form of rock. And I felt like, here’s something that can speak with a 4/4 beat—boom, boom, boom—and that the grandkids, the kids, and who are grown now, and the grandparents all have an understanding of this very basic primal beat. Whereas my parents did not. You know, when my parents were taking me to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas spectacular, which I thought was amazing, when I took my kids to see it, one of my young children said, ‘Dad, that show made me hate Christmas’ (laughs). And I said, whoa, how times have changed. This show is still existing, but it’s time for something a little different. So we’ve got this cool show that’s got a Satanic blood pact, it’s got a Satanic conjuring, it has an exorcism, and yet it still makes you feel Christmas-y in the end, and people’s eyes are tearing up, and they’re in the holiday spirit. How does that happen? Well, go see Dee Snider’s Rock and Roll Christmas Tale.”