By Monica Ortwein, Associate Editor, Pulse Weekly
Twisted Sister’s infamous frontman and the rest of his deviant gang are ready to break out the makeup – and the decade-old women’s clothing.
You can’t deny it. We know you love We’re Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock, and it’s not just because we read your diary. It’s because we were alive during the 80s too, and we know how f’ed up – yet incredibly entertaining – it really was. And don’t get us wrong; it’s not the coke talking, either, we swear. (Coke can’t talk, silly.)
Anyway, Twisted Sister has made quite an impact on the music scene, ever since they first boldly sported lipstick and rouge onstage back in the early 70s. Hell, even Public Enemy’s Chuck D. likes the band. In fact, the rapper/activist/all around cool guy appeared on the tribute album, Twisted Forever, that came out in 2001 alongside TS fans Joan Jett and the guys from Anthrax.
Needless to say, we’re fans too. We spoke with the one and only Dee Snider, aka one of the few men in rock and roll who can foresee Marilyn Manson’s records as one day being heavy rotation on your favorite easy listening station, aka Twisted’s ambitious frontman. We asked Snider what’s up with his movie, Strangeland 2, and why the legacy of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is important to his latest project. The answer may surprise you, if you’re startled easily.
PULSE WEEKLY: How’ve you been?
DEE SNIDER: I’m doing very well, thank you. I’m living happily ever after.
PW: Was there ever any doubt that on this tour Twisted Sister would come out onstage in full makeup, just like in the old days?
DS: I’m sure with some of the guys there was. In my mind, if we were going to do it, there was only one way to do it, and that was full-on old school. The idea that a lot of my peers have that they’re restarting their careers or they’re the new 2000 version – it’s bull-crap. It’s an oldies show, and you’ve got to respect your legacy. You’ve got to respect your audience. They want to see it the way it was. The old fans are hoping to see it one more time and young fans who never got to see it want to see what it was like in the day.
PW: Do you have any surprises planned for your fans or any significant changes to your stage performances for the upcoming show dates?
DS: For me, the big surprise for people is how much like the 80s it will be. The bad news is, we look like aging drag queens. The good news is, we always looked like aging drag queens. I’m physically in great shape and I perform at the same level of intensity I performed at in the day. You go to see Vince Neil from Motley Crue and he looks like a meatball and [his fans are] going, wasn’t he a skinny pretty boy back then? You see us and go, holy crap! That’s Twisted Sister.
PW: Whatever happened to Dee Snider Radio? [Editor’s note: Snider’s morning show went off the air in 2002.]
DS: Thanks for asking. Dee Snider Radio was part of the Clear Channel family. As their stock went down, they started downsizing the company. I watched as they had management people just completely overworked, making them do two or three jobs. My contract came up for negotiation and they were trying to downsize my show. A successful, money-making show. I had a five-man team and they wanted to bring it down to three and I said no, I want it in my contract that it’s five people. They weren’t ready to commit to that. Fortunately, I make money, thank god, doing many things and I’m not going to take it. I wrote the song, and I’m not going to take it! And I didn’t. But I miss the audience … I never had the chance to explain what happened and I think they would’ve appreciated the fact that I stood my ground.
PW: Besides getting ready to put on a hella lot of makeup and rock with TS, what are some of the other projects that you’re working on?
DS: That’s the thing that’s rough. Last time around, it was our job. It was what we did and it was all we did. Now everybody else has life after rock and roll and everybody is involved in different things, so we’re moonlighting. I have a voiceover career, I have a radio career. Strangeland 2 is still in development. It’s ready to go, but we ran into legal problems with the last company – they had kind of an Enron situation – and my property has been caught in their bankruptcy for the past two years, which has been a real pain in the butt. I’m [also] executive producer of a new musical entity called Van Helsing’s Curse. It’s a rock orchestra for Halloween; the string section look like Anne Rice goths and the electric section look like Marilyn Manson meets Edward Scissorhands. The choir are druids. Our first record is coming out in September.
PW: Were you guys hanging out at all when Twisted Sister was broken up? Or did things kind of end on a bad note?
DS: There were exceptions, but for the most part, we did not like each other, and we were not friends. That went on for about a decade, and then slowly we started to piece together our friendships about five years ago. A reunion was not the intention, it was just, hey, we did some pretty cool things, we had some great times together, why are we hating each other? The things that seemed to be so important when we were in our 20s really don’t mean shit when we’re in our 40s.
PW: If you can remember back, what was one of the sickest things you’ve ever done onstage?
DS: The legacy of Twisted seems like such a happy, fun thing, but five big guys wearing women’s clothing in some of the seediest biker bars around – there was constantly an element of violence, often initiated by yours truly because I don’t care to take any crap from anybody. [There] was a gang war literally between Twisted Sister and a bunch of guys who came after us and our crew – people [were] hospitalized and cars were pushed into the canal. I remember in some hillbilly freakin’ place being escorted out of town with armed guards because I had gotten into it with some rednecks and they wanted to kill me. Literally, guns drawn, driving us to the city line. [When people say], Twisted Sister, they’re a good time – it didn’t start out like that. It was a little crazy.
PW: What do you think of the new Marilyn Manson album? Do you think he’ll always be Marilyn Manson, the scary guy?
DS: I love Manson – my son, Jesse, he’s a Manson freak. He’s saying it’s the best thing Manson has done in a long time, the greatest thing since sliced bread. [Manson’s] done a great job of sustaining his image. It’s very, very hard. I started out as the scary guy and I woke up and I was the fun guy. That same album cover that was so threatening, with me holding the bloody bone, a year later, little kids were buying it. I remember saying to Manson, enjoy your bad ass status while you can because, just like Elvis and the Stones and Alice Cooper and Twisted Sister – one day, it will be easy listening. He’s really held that at bay by continuing to really creep people out, and I applaud him.
PW: Will Blazed, your son Jesse’s band, ever open for Twisted Sister?
DS: They did, unofficially. They opened at a couple Bent Brother shows. The last Bent Brother show was a full dress rehearsal for the Twisted shows. We surprised the audience by coming out in makeup and costumes. It’s one of those things that I never anticipated happening – my son’s band opening for my band.
PW: What one musician do you listen to that your fans would be surprised to know you’re really into? Like Yanni, for instance.
DS: Well, my older fans would be surprised how much I like new stuff. Queens of the Stone Age, Audioslave – those are my records right now. I love most of the new stuff that comes out, although it doesn’t really have much staying power. That surprises my hardcore fans, because they’re like, don’t you hate the rap-metal? I’m like, no, actually, I like it. They get upset. And I’ve always been a big fan of 50s doo-wop and Motown, so that might surprise people.
PW: What’s the most bizarre thing that’s happened to you recently?
DS: I went to my son, Cody’s, high school to have a meeting with his guidance counselor. As I walked through the hallways of the school, this seventh grade girl started screaming, ‘I love you, I love you!’ and freaking out when she saw me. My son was trying to calm her down.
PW: I’ll bet stuff like that happens to Cody and your other kids pretty often, doesn’t it?
DS: It’s the burden of being a celebrity’s child, but they handle it very, very well. My son will call me from school and I’ll hear in the background, ‘Twisted! Dee Snider! You rock!’ They all tell me people will ask them to sing one of their dad’s songs. And my kids will go, ‘What does your dad do?’ And they’ll say, ‘He’s an accountant.’ And my kids will say, ‘Alright, you do some accounting, and I’ll sing a song.’ They’ve gotten trained.