By Mitch Lafon
Sometime TWISTED SISTER frontman Dee Snider sat down with BraveWords.com to discuss his highly anticipated Dee Does Broadway album as well as his revealing, Shut Up And Give Me The Mic autobiography.
BraveWords.com: Before we talk about the book and the new album - you’ve been in the news recently for having commented about Axl Rose’s refusal to attend the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony...
Dee Snider: “I didn’t get a sense that the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was his real concern or priority. I think it was a little more self-serving”
BraveWords.com: It seemed to be more about Slash...
Snider: “I had my outburst more as a fan, a musician, and a media personality. Having done a lot of radio, I’m always dealing with the Axl question. I really didn’t reflect upon my feelings about the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and the weird thing is I can’t stand the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. They were basically trying to use GUNS N’ ROSES to sell tickets. That pisses me off, but my comment was directed at Axl’s general attitude towards the guys and the legacy of Guns N’ Roses. His touring with Rose N’ Roses incessantly as if that’s the band. As a fan of the band, I’m just aggravated with him. That said, if they decide to get together - GREAT! But don’t do it for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Do it for something else. I was asked if TWISTED SISTER is nominated would I go and my answer was, ‘we’ll never be nominated, ’and they said, ‘but what if...” So, I said, ‘yeah, I’d probably go.’ It’s acknowledgment.”
BraveWords.com: But it’s a pseudo-acknowledgment. If it’s supposed to be about people that have influenced music - then Guns N’ Roses can’t be in before IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, DEEP PURPLE and KISS. So, you’re being acknowledged...
Snider: “Right, it’s like who’s acknowledging you? It’s just one of those things. Had the subject been about the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame - I would have gone off on them. I guess because I know Slash and the other guys a little bit...”
BraveWords.com: His anger seems to really be directed at Slash. He’s played with Izzy in recent years. He’s played with Duff. He never seems to say anything bad about Matt Sorum or Gilby Clarke. It really seems to be Slash only.
Snider: “Why do you think that is about Slash? In my dealings with Slash - he’s an awesome guy. People really like him and he’s really easy going.”
BraveWords.com: I’ve heard that his wife can be difficult, but who knows?
Snider: “Perhaps, a little Yoko Ono in there?”
BraveWords.com: Also, like in any business - money and legal stuff gets in the way.
Snider: “Do you think it’s because Slash is becoming a bigger star than Axl was aggravating to him.”
Snider: “Slash is becoming iconic. Ask the average person on the street - who they recognize and it’ll be Slash. That’s probably bugging the shit out of Axl. I never went out as Twisted Sister even though legally I could have and people have said ‘why not? You wrote all the songs. You created all the ideas. People know you as the band.’ But I wouldn’t do it because it’s not the band.”
BraveWords.com: I actually was going to ask you about that - a few years ago a live CD came out called Dee Snider - Extended Versions. Is that a solo show or, for legal reasons, did they have to rebrand a Twisted Sister show?
Snider: “I was doing shows in clubs as Dee Snider’s SMFs. We’d do Twisted Sister songs, but they put a picture of me (on the cover) in Twisted Sister regalia and I’m not happy with that. Fortunately, it sold only seven copies. There’s a funny moment on it though. It was my first show back playing Twisted music (after a number of years) and I stopped ‘We’re Not Gonna To Take It’ because I couldn’t remember the words.”
BraveWords.com: Now, that’s funny. The other question I had is - is it true that Jay Jay French owns the name Twisted Sister? Does he legally own the name?
Snider: “It’s what he believes. He registered the name and I’ll talk frankly about it. When I joined the band, he informed me that he owned the name, but it turns out that he didn’t register the name until several years later. Legally, you can’t... Me and Eddie Ojeda are grand-fathered into ownership because we were performing inter-state under the name. Then, he registered the name....”
BraveWords.com: Because of inter-state commerce laws...
Snider: “Yeah. You can’t register a name that has already been used by other people. That’s why I say, I could have legally gone out as Twisted Sister. He disagrees, but he knows... I said to him, ‘do you believe I believe I could have gone out as...” And he said, ‘yes, I believe that.’ But I didn’t because that would have been the wrong thing to do. So, I made my point, but I recognize that Twisted Sister is a band and it should be the guys in the band. Jay Jay is currently the registrant of the name, yes.”
BraveWords.com: Twisted Sister is re-releasing (as a double disc set) - Live At The Hammersmith and Club Daze 2: Live In The Bars...
Snider: “Jay Jay and Mark Mendoza handle all Twisted business and we’re becoming the TUPAC SHAKUR of heavy metal with more post-heyday product than Tupac.”
BraveWords.com: Quickly, how is your hand (that you broke during the filming of Celebrity Apprentice)?
Snider: “It has four pins and a plate. It snapped at the base and I have had a second surgery. They’re talking to me about a third surgery. I’m not in pain and I have some limitations as to use, but I can deal with it. The only thing I can’t do well is punch somebody, but I’m at a point in my life where I have people punched (laughs). I have someone who does that now.”
BraveWords.com: I’m curious - when you get injured on a show like Celebrity Apprentice. Do they insure you and when you get injured it’s up to them and the production to pay for it or it is ‘tough luck Dee”?
Snider: “Certainly, I have workmen’s comp and everything’s been taken care of, but I haven’t gone down the road of suing them or anything like that (at this point). They have us sign a document that looks like a phone book and there’s actually one clause in there that says, ‘if we tell you to do something that brings about your death - you have no recourse.’ It says, ‘You have no recourse if we do something that makes you die.” And you sign it - but it’s definitely under duress because you’re not going to be on the show unless you do.”
BraveWords.com: And you do the show because it exposes your brand, puts your name on TV, it’s big exposure...
Snider: “And because I raised 326,000$ for the March Of Dimes (which didn’t suck). It’s cool.”
BraveWords.com: I only asked because I had this feeling that in six months the headline I’d read would be ‘Dee Snider suing Mark Burnett Productions for...’
Snider: “They seem to be well insulated, so I don’t think it’s an option.”
BraveWords.com: Clay Aiken was on the show with you and he’s on your new Dee Does Broadway album...
Snider: “Be frank! This is BraveWords.com after all. I can handle negativity...”
BraveWords.com: Actually, I have nothing negative to say. I support artists being creative (except for METALLICA with Lulu)...
Snider: “They ran out in front of me, so anything anybody does after Lulu is ‘not so bad’.”
BraveWords.com: But okay - The negatives I’ve heard from fans’ goes like this ‘the reason Dee Snider and Twisted Sister aren’t making a new album is because Dee Snider can no longer write rock songs and so he hides behind a Christmas album and he hides behind Broadway. If you think it’s bad - it doesn’t matter because it’s Dee doing Broadway and if you think it’s funny that’s fine because it’s Dee doing Christmas songs.’ That’s the feedback I’m getting....
Snider: “You want an answer to that?”
Snider: “I do know that I can write. I’ve actually written a Christmas musical based on Twisted Christmas (the album) and in it - I had to write a bunch of additional songs. I’ve had it ‘optioned’ by the producers of Ghost and Memphis. We’re actually in development on this and I’ve been writing old school Twisted Sister metal songs for this thing. They’re coming out really good and unlike the past I’ve brought Eddie Ojeda in to give it a little more ‘musicality’ on the guitar parts. So, I’ve tested those waters and I can still write. The reason why I don’t write is simply because I don’t think the market is there and I don’t feel motivated. I don’t feel passionate about it. There was a time in my life where I wrote just for myself and it didn’t matter that nobody heard my songs, but after you’ve had your songs played on the radio, sold millions of copies, had the videos shown on MTV and people were singing and acknowledging your work... Doing it for myself doesn’t float my boat anymore. Post-Twisted Sister with DESPERADO and WIDOWMAKER, I wrote easily over 150 songs that nobody has ever fucking heard. Some of them got a little bit of sales with Widowmaker and the Desperado shit was disheartening. The best stuff I’ve ever written (with Bernie Tormé) nobody even knows. My favorite song that I’ve ever written is Desperado ‘The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter’... what’s that?”
BraveWords.com: It’s a great song!
Snider: “Thank you! It’s my proudest moment as a writer. I have so much music - literally 150 to 200 songs and nobody has ever heard them. I got disheartened and that’s it. I’m tired of creating for nobody but myself and sitting in my room going, ‘wow, this is such a good song. People would love it if only they could hear it.’”
BraveWords.com: Is ‘We’re Not Gonna To Take It’ so big that it’s become an albatross around your neck? Is it so big that you just cannot top it so why try?
Snider: “No. The market place just isn’t there to make it worth the time, financial effort and all those things. Look at all the ‘80s bands that put out new records. What are their cumulative sales? I love those 40,000 or 50,000 die hards, but it’s just not enough to commit the time, the months, the money... Nobody is giving you a budget for fucking 40,000 records sold. You’re doing it on a Mac Pro with plug-ins and my heart is just not in it, so can I still write? I don’t know if it’s good (laughs), but I could still write that stuff. The other stuff is novelty, it’s fun, it’s interesting and it’s challenging. Vocally and arranging wise, the Dee Does Broadway thing is very challenging. I’m sorry guys (I’m saying that to the people out there) - I’m just not motivated to create something. I have so many other outlets whether I’m writing a book or performing or writing this musical or writing screenplays or radio... Whatever, I’m doing. I have my creative outlets and I just don’t feel motivated to write new Twisted Sister music.”
BraveWords.com: So, you don’t feel there’s one more great Twisted Sister album that needs to come out. One last statement to make?
BraveWords.com: Fair enough. If you take AEROSMITH, VAN HALEN, KISS... They’re still putting out albums.
Snider: “But they’re still touring. We don’t even tour. We play festivals now and then, but I don’t think I’d even be doing that if it wasn’t the ‘right’ thing to do for the band and the family that we are. A lot of the guys, don’t have the revenue streams that I have. So, we go into festivals from time to time and we have a great time doing them, make some money, and everybody’s happy, so it’s good. I just not driven or motivated in that direction anymore.”
BraveWords.com: Is the music for Dee Does Broadway part of the musical you are writing?
Snider: “No, totally different...”
BraveWords.com: So, who comes to you with the idea of making a ‘Broadway’ record?
Snider: “Me. Well, actually me and ALICE COOPER. A couple of years ago, Alice asked me to sing at his Xmas Pudding Show. We kept missing each other on the phone and would leave messages. I think Alice was first and he sang his message to a show tune. Then the other guy sang his message to a show tune. (Sings) ‘Hey Alice please call me. Please pick up the phone.’ When we finally talked to each other, I said ‘dude, we should do Alice & Dee do Broadway.’ So, we went in with Bob Kulick and Brett Chassen and demoed the song (that Clay now sings) ‘Luck Be A Lady Tonight’ and it came out FUCKING great, but at that time I was doing something else and Alice said ‘not for me right now’. It was just forgotten about. Six months later, I’m on Broadway doing Rock Of Ages and I start thinking about this idea again. So, I called Alice up and he said, ‘I’m working on Welcome 2 My Nightmare, but if you want to do it - knock yourself out.’ But he didn’t want the duet or anything to be used. That’s how the idea came about. Then it was ‘who’s going to finance something like this?’ It’s not like there’s a long long line of people making Broadway show albums. If I was making a country album, people would be all over it. Razor & Tie have unique projects like the Twisted Christmas and they gave me a functional budget. Nobody made money on it and I’m out of pocket a lot, but it became this fun labor of love for every single person involved from Bob Kulick, Brett Chassen, Broadway arranger Doug Katsaros, Rudy Sarzo, Rick Wakeman... All of these people were working for a tenth of their fee because it was fucking fun. We enjoyed doing it. It was a challenge. It forced us to work harder, but this was my crazy idea. Somebody Tweeted ‘Dee Does Broadway... sellout’ - and I replied ‘career suicide is more like it’. It’s not like anybody is lining up for the Broadway album. Who’s going to buy it? I don’t know. Are they going to like it? Probably not, but I feel energized by doing it. I feel challenged.”
BraveWords.com: That term ‘sellout’ drives me crazy. The goal has always been to sell more albums and tickets to shows. So, when you get the success - people say ‘you shouldn’t be that successful. You are sellout.’
Snider: “And your original fans are championing you. They’re telling everybody they know that they were wearing your t-shirt first. They’re telling everybody how great this band METALLICA is. But you fucking sold out...”
BraveWords.com: It drives me nuts... Now, singing ‘Broadway’ and singing ‘metal’ is very different. It requires a different approach (I’m assuming). Did you have to train your voice differently for this?
Snider: “You are going to hear a wide range of vocal styles on the record. You’re going to hear flat out the grittiest vocals I’ve ever done. I say in the liner notes: This is not metal. Arguably, the guitars are distorted, the bass is booming, the drums are thunderous and I’m screaming on some of those songs, but the concept is not metal. It doesn’t matter if it sounds like the best Metallica record of all time or Slayer; it’s Broadway show tunes - it’s not metal. I get it. I’m not trying to sell it as that. I do some gut wrenching vocals and some of the cleanest vocals, so there’s a wide range. On ‘The Ballad Of Mac The Knife’ I sing à la BOBBY DARIN on the first half and à la Bon Scott on the second half. I’m a much more capable singer than people know me to be and it gave me a chance to show my chops.”
BraveWords.com: Did a vocal coach come in...
Snider: “No. When I had my throat surgery a few years ago. I went to the top top top vocal coach in New York. She’s worked with SPRINGSTEEN, MADONNA... The biggest of the big.”
BraveWords.com: If she taught Madonna to sing - she obviously didn’t do such a good job.
Snider: “She’s THE Broadway coach. The job is to make any singer execute. To make them their best and not into something they’re not. She said to me, ‘you have an unbelievable instrument’. I was a classically trained counter-tenor. She said, ‘Dee you could put out an album under a whole different name and nobody would know it’s you.’ That’s not what I want to do, but thank you.”
BraveWords.com: Sort of defeats the purpose of branding doesn’t it?
Snider: “Yeah, but she recognized that I actually have a very strong singing voice and that I’ve decided to use it in a very certain way... That has been destructive, but profitable.”
BraveWords.com: Let’s talk about your Shut Up And Give Me The Mic book. Why an autobiography at this point?
Snider: “The book only goes up to 1993. One of my managers said, ‘you have interesting stories and you are such a great story teller that you should write a book.’ No one’s been knocking on the door, but he went a shopped it and Simon & Schuster signed me up. They said, ‘what do you want to write about?’ And I said I wanted to write about the rise and fall of Dee Snider. I want to tell the story from the day I decided to be a rock star to how everything came apart at the seams and I lost everything. So, that’s the story I tell and I wrote every word.”
BraveWords.com: No ghost writers?
Snider: “No ghosts. No co-writer. They didn’t want me to write it, but I said, ‘let me write a few chapters and if you don’t like it I’ll get a co-writer.’ They loved it. They said I had a great ‘voice’ and was a ‘great story teller.’”
BraveWords.com: That’s interesting - there’s always been this weird perception that Dee Snider is a big dummy. You went to the PMRC hearings and their attitude was ‘dumb rock star about to talk’ and yet you impressed them. You did Celebrity Apprentice and you mentioned that you’ve never ‘drank’ or done ‘drugs’ and the newspapers ran with that headline...
Snider: “A big shocker - I know...”
BraveWords.com: The perception is that you’re this drugged out dummy. Now, Simon & Schuster appears to think ‘don’t let the dumb rock star write’. What’s the problem?
Snider: “My editor is a fan and he knows I’m not an idiot, but writing is a craft. It’s not just something that you do. Taking words from your head and putting them on a piece of paper in a cohesive way that engages people... You know all that.”
BraveWords.com: But you’re a writer too. You wrote songs...
Snider: “And I write screenplays too. I never wrote prose, but I felt that I could write and they loved it. They said they wanted 70,000 words and I delivered 210,000 and they edited it down to 140,000. I had to write that story as it comes out. I can’t be self-editing. I don’t know what’s interesting and what’s me blowing smoke up my own ass. I’m not objective, but it’s written by me and being clean and sober I’m an observer of the decade of decadence as well as a participant. I have the ability to step back and go ‘this was the Reagan era.’ This is from my view - why this music form became what it became. It’s a unique book and I hope very inspirational because I’m that guy that just never gave up. I fought and clawed. People will read it and come away going ‘wow’.”
BraveWords.com: Why didn’t you give up? In the ‘70s Twisted Sister were basically stuck playing in Long Island bars and weren’t getting anywhere. Record companies didn’t want you. Jay Jay had tried out for KISS and so on... Why not go work at the local garage?
Snider: “I was thinking about it today because somebody asked me about my finger. It’s snapped. Why didn’t I just say, ‘I’m done.’ My brain just doesn’t think like that. I immediately thought, ‘how can I work around this?’ Even when I lost everything in the ‘90s - my brain just goes ‘adapt, change and figure it out.’ I’m like the Black Knight on the bridge in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. In the book, I talk about getting my wife. She wanted nothing to do with me. Had no interest in me. I disgusted her, but I would just not give up.”
BraveWords.com: Your marriage is another misconception. You’ve been married since 1981...
Snider: “And I’ve been with her since 1976.”
BraveWords.com: You have four kids that are doing fine.
Snider: “They’re all very creative. They’re cool.”
BraveWords.com: So, you’re really the anti-rock n’ roll guy...
Snider: “I am. In the opening lines of my book I say, ‘be forewarned - is Sex, Drugs and Rock N’ Roll the great promise of music or failure? And if that’s what you’re looking for - you’re not going to find it here, but if you want to read an inspirational story, I’m the guy who left everything he fucking had on stage and refused to ever say ‘die’... Then read on. Apparently, it’s engaging people.”
BraveWords.com: You had the highs with 'We’re Not Gonna Take It' and 'I Wanna Rock', but the ‘90s were an abyss. Did you enter into a depression?”
Snider: “I start the book in the parking lot of the catering hall fliering cars for my wife for her to do make-up at weddings on weekends. I am being chased through the parking lot by security. I’m running, not because I’m afraid of being thrown in jail, but because I’m afraid they’ll go, ‘Dee Snider? Why are you out here fliering cars? Because I was that fucking broke. As I was running I say to myself for the millionth time, ‘how they hell did this happen?’ Then, I go back to the day I decided to be a rock star and tell the story. I end the book with me going out that night with my three kids and wife at home, so I could go put flyers on the cars because we need money. They wanted me to write an epilogue because it was so depressing. People know I’m back, but it was so heart-breaking. It’s been fifteen years since that day...”
BraveWords.com: It’s a very dramatic story...
Snider: “I have to give credit to Rudy Sarzo’s Off The Rails. It’s a great book and the way it starts - with Randy waking him up and saying, ‘dude do you want to come on a plane with us?’ And he said ‘no, I want to sleep,’ and him saying, ‘that was the last time I saw my friend.’ I’m getting a chill right now. The whole book is like watching a time bomb counting down. It’s twelve months until he dies... Eight Months.... A week... The day before. It’s horrible shit and I took that idea from Rudy and decided to start with the lowest most tragic point in my life then back it up and say, ‘how did that happen?’”
BraveWords.com: What strikes me, is that at your lowest point, you’re wife never bailed on you. She stuck by you.
Snider: “Yeah and that’s why this book is a love story. People are really taken by the love affair that we’ve had. The only wise thing I ever did - was making this woman love me and I knew it would be for the right reasons. We’ve had nothing. We’ve had everything and we’ve had nothing again... I never thought (even for one second) that she wouldn’t be there. She just said, ‘ok, I can do make-up on weekends or work at a beauty salon.’ We’re a team and she’s always been there for me. It’s got the elements of a movie.”
BraveWords.com: Your wife seems to be a spectacular person.
Snider: “Dude - SPECTACULAR! The book is a tribute to her in a lot of ways. She’s a loyal person and she fell in love with me (after I wore her down) - not because I was in a band. She didn’t own a stereo or a record. She didn’t care about music. She fell in love with me because of me. She wasn’t attracted to me physically - she just liked me for me. The only time we’ve had problems is when I started to get to full of myself (in the ‘80s). We had our problems because I started changing. I was starting to believe my own shit. It’s what ultimately destroyed the band. Nobody could talk to me.”
BraveWords.com: Will there be a part II to the book?
Snider: “There’s certainly a part II on my computer, but I guess it all depends.”
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