AN INTERVIEW WITH JAY JAY FRENCH, by Donna from Connecticut
Greetings Fellow SMFs,
It’s been way too long since my last column, so please accept my apologies. Hope this finds you and yours well, happy, and rockin’ as hard as ever!
I had this little idea and I thought it might be cool to hear from the band in their own words, on their own web site. Not a typically pushy person by nature, I brought it up to Mr. French, and kind of let it go at that, realizing just how busy he is and all the band members are with so many other non TS related activities in their daily lives. One day, I took a shot and let him know that I was going to be in his area to see a client from work. Lo and behold, he responded with a time and a place to meet! That’s about when the heart failure symptoms began.
Anyway, here’s the story right from Jay Jay, word for word. He was honest, forthright, and many times very funny, very much a gentleman who tried as hard as he could to put me at ease full well knowing I was a nervous wreck.
A warning to all readers, I am not a journalist, I only play one on the TS website! Do not expect editorializing, prolific writer’s revelations or pontification on the inner meanings of the interviewee’s words. It is what you see here…my questions, and Jay Jay’s answers.
Hope you enjoy it!
DCT: Why did you go back to England?
JAY JAY: For a country that broke the band it was ridiculous that we hadn’t been back. I mean, it was ridiculous that we didn’t go back there back in the day after we broke out in England. You would have thought that we would have wanted to go back all the time, every year, but we didn’t for a variety of reasons. It costs money to go there and scheduling was tough, but the English fans are phenomenal, they’re great. So the fact that we hadn’t been back since when we played the Hammersmith was sad and I knew that when the band got back there the reaction would be great.
They gave us certain energy, kind of like the energy we had in the tri-state area, the energy was so fresh and the kids were so in to it. They really connected to us in a very unique way. I was always hoping to go back there and see if it was my imagination or if it was real. Did they really have this ability to connect with the band? And when we came back to England two summers ago, the reaction was unreal; it was exactly what we had remembered it to be.
We did two shows, we did the show when Brian Johnson came out and sang with us, (Whole Lotta Rosie.)”
We did the Astoria and the energy was unbelievable! Just like it was back in the day. I mean there’s a certain level of power that transcends the normal show, it’s hard to describe it but it happens over there. It happens in England and it happens in Europe in general, but in happens in England in particular. America is sterile in comparison, almost completely sterile in comparison to the animalistic nature of the fans in England and Europe. When we played the Astoria, I walked off stage like many shows since the reunion, asking myself ‘Can I stop now, have I seen enough, can I stop now’? And after the Astoria, I could have stopped because it validated everything. I got back from there and it was everything I wanted, and I could have ended there.
DCT: Why didn’t you (end it there)?
JAY JAY: Well, we kind of did. We didn't really play much after that. And then we got the offer to go back to Germany last year. And Germany of course was the site of these huge festivals. I mean, why the band is bigger than ever over there...I wish I knew. The band is bigger than ever in Europe, and less popular than ever in America. I don't understand either one of them. I don't. It really does not make any sense to me. I wish I understood. I'm not saying this because I want to be patronizing. I'm not looking for anything. I just...I just don't understand it. If you had said to me 10 years ago, 'Well you guys will get together in five years. But guess what? In America, you're going draw two, three thousand people, maybe twenty or thirty thousand in a festival situation. Even in the Northeast, you might get 2, 3, 4 thousand people.' I'd turn around and tell you, you're nuts. And then you'd say me ‘But in Europe, you guys are going to be the number one draw, the biggest concert attraction', I’d go, YOU'RE NUTS! Why? We never were (the number one draw in Europe). Why would we be now? I just don't understand it. Who the hell knows why, Donna?
(It's apparent that the reaction TS has gotten in Europe has Mr. French a bit mystified. This doesn’t happen all that often, believe me.) Ed.
DCT: So, does this motivate you to go back to Europe?
JAY JAY: Well, to a degree it does, but you can't go back to the well endlessly. Actually, some people do. Like Sabbath does, I guess. Remember that this reunion was never an infinite thought. You ask other band members and everyone has a different opinion. In Dee's mind, it never was infinite. In my mind, it never was infinite. Remember, I have a management company, and manage other artists. I always figured that their careers would take off, and finally I couldn't do it, so I always knew it would end for me at some point. I had to root for it to end for me because that meant that my management company was getting too busy to have to do both things.
Every year that you see me out with Twisted means that my management company isn't as crazy busy as I would like, although my staff has grown because my roster has grown. You want to know the truth, and that's the truth. The record industry is a real mess and with more record executives being fired everyday there are less artists signed and less money spent on them. All managers suffer if they have recording artists. Twisted Sister doesn’t need a record out to have value, which is why I am grateful that we have become a ‘Classic Rock Act’. This is something that we benefit from by the shear amount of work that we put into our shows years ago.
We keep going back and trying to repackage the show in different ways, but when you don't have new material, and you don't want to be bore yourself, it’s a challenge. We use everything that we ever learned in the bars to pull this off. That was training that no bands today can draw from.
Last year we played Stay Hungry from start to finish, that was a great idea, but that's one idea. What are you supposed to do, say next year we're going to do Love is for Suckers?
DCT: There are a lot of SMFs that would LOVE that, that's for sure!
JAY JAY: But I mean that's the whole point. How do we repackage the five albums that we have to make it interesting for us? We could get by with doing the same show, people would be happy with it and we could make money on it. I like to have a reason to go do these things and looking forward to it with a vibe of, 'Wait until you see what we thought of this time!' and spring it on them and see what happens. That's an exciting thing for me. We can't do it with a new record; there will never be a new record.
DCT: A record of new material?
JAY JAY: Yeah, new material. That'll never happen because Dee doesn't write and it's just not going to happen, it's just not. Many things can be left to conjecture, and an album of new Twisted material is not happening.
DCT: What about the rumors that there may be something in the works....
JAY JAY: Let me address those rumors like I address every rumor. Idle speculation that exists in dressing rooms is nothing more than idle speculation that exists in dressing room. Everyone says, 'I'd like to this, I'd like to do that'. But you try to turn idle speculation into something tangible, and you'd have to move mountains to do it. Until I see a mountain being partially constructed, it's simply idle speculation in
a dressing room.
That's it. And until such time as it is not.... Well, otherwise the fans sit there going, 'Well, man, you said this and how come it’s not like this, and you said that’...I mean who needs that pressure? I don't need that pressure.
What we do know is this, Dee has said that he doesn't want to do this any more. Clearly, absolutely clearly. He's done. Which means every show that he agrees to do, it's a fight to get him to do it. That’s a reality; that’s the truth. I would stop playing tomorrow if my artists’ responsibilities became too much to handle. This is a very tough thing to continue. Mark, Eddie and AJ would play forever, that's what they love to do.
Those are the hard truths we have to face in this band. So if everyone wants to speculate, "Well, how come they don’t want to last another 40 years", understand, three of the guys would absolutely love to do it completely, just play forever if possible. Dee absolutely just does not want to do another show, so every show he agrees to is a tough sell. He'll do it, and what his reasons are for doing it you'd have to ask him. He's come mentally to the conclusion that he's done. And I do it because it’s fun, but I wouldn't do it if I was traveling all the time looking after other artists. Remember, I not only have managed Twisted Sister for the better part of 30 years but I also managed SEVENDUST and made them huge. I really enjoy all the behind the scenes stuff. And I currently look after 8 other artists with my partner Sean Sullivan.
DCT: You guys have been doing this for umpteen million years, and a lot of times that need to be onstage, front and center, that rush gets in your blood. It seems to me that Mark, Eddie and AJ need to have that feeling. It appears that you and Dee do not. When you're not performing, you're not able to go out there and show that side of yourself. Is that a problem for you at all?
JAY JAY: No I stopped it fifteen years ago. All this is a bonus. I left it onstage at the last show in Minneapolis in 1987. When I walked off stage in Minneapolis, I'd had it, I was done. I had done fifteen years of it and I was done. The proof of that was when I said to myself, 'Oh, you can't be done. In a year you'll want to do it again'. A year went by, didn't want to do it. I said, ‘Ah, in another year you'll want to do It’...12 years went by. There was nothing that said to me go back out and do it.
DCT: So you really had no desire to ever be onstage again?
JAY JAY: Well I dreamed a couple of times it might be fun to do. It's like going back to an ex-lover; you know what I mean? It's wondering what it would be like. But you know what it's like. You go back with them and the next day you wake up and go, what the hell did I go back to my ex-lover for, right? Well in our case the ex-lover is even better then before BUT…where do you go with it? Our lives changed so much over the last 15 years that we are trapped by the very forces that surround us, and prevent a scenario that would allow us to 'move forward'. If you can't move forward then you will spin your wheels until all the rubber is gone. That is precisely where we are.
It’s not like I dislike these guys to the point that where I can’t play with them. I get along with all the band members really well and Mark is my best friend. We all have a lot of fun together and it shows onstage. We have never as a band played better then we are playing right now. The DVD proves it.
The whole thing is this. The energy it takes to get us to do what we do is overwhelmingly hard to muster. So if you’re going to do it, then do it with a campaign that’s going to be sustained. Make a record, do a tour, do a thing where it’s actually going to financially move you. If you’re going to kill yourself to do one show for one day a month for four or five months during the summer, and doing nothing more than that, then what are you really accomplishing?
I hate to say it, but you’re really not accomplishing very much. You’re making a little money, but you’re not accomplishing anything. There’s no greater goal, you’re not promoting a new record, nothing along those lines. All these other bands that do this like the Aerosmiths and the Kisses and the Eagles and the Pink Floyds, they make a record, they go out for a year, a year and a half, two years. They can make decisions; long-term business decisions based on financial analysis and projections of income over a period of time. When you have to go to all the trouble to get dressed up to play on a Saturday somewhere in the world and then not do it for another month, and then do it for another Saturday somewhere in the world, and not do it for another month, it’s too much work. It is not worth it, it is way too much work to put in for such little benefit.
Take the England run. It made sense in England because we did ten shows, we were there for three weeks, there was a purpose to it, the band was able to get into a groove, it made us a better band, there was a financial projection and it was great. Those things don’t exist when you do what Twisted Sister has been doing for three years.
DCT: How did you feel when you got back from England?
JAY JAY: I thought we did really well. It helped lay the groundwork for us to go back to all these cities this summer. We proved ourselves and it was worth it from the band and the fan perspective.
DCT: It’s great that you’re going back, but it looks like each year there are less and less shows booked, and certainly less or none in the US.
JAY JAY: I think that considering everything, the band has accomplished way more than I thought it ever had a right to expect. Between the commercial endorsements that we got, having commercials out with our songs, starting with Comtrex nasal spray in 1999, leading up to Pepsi and Wendy’s this year. The songs in the all the movies like the Sponge Bob Movie and Road Trip. Arnold Schwarzenegger using ”We’re Not Gonna Take It”, all the John Rocker controversy using “I Wanna Rock”. The band going out to Germany and causing such a huge ruckus in Europe and headlining festivals, going to Korea with The USO. Becoming one of the biggest bands in Spain when we’d never played in Spain before, becoming huge in Puerto Rico when we’d never played Puerto Rico before, playing Finland again to extraordinary reactions…. How much more do you want ??? I’m satisfied! I’m satisfied that we meant something to people and we came back and our all this justified our comeback. God knows so many bands come back and they don’t have that kind of reaction.
But you don’t go on forever. What you do is you kind of tour less and less and less, then you’re down to touring once every 10 years. Let’s be honest we can’t take ten years off again. You finish what you got, which is this run. We’re finishing up what we have, which is realistic so I don’t think of this in a negative way.
DCT: So, as much as I hate to say it, and you’ve warned us all…TS is in wind down mode.
JAY JAY: It’s impossible to determine what the final date will be because I’m torn between announcing a final date and never announcing a final date. Maybe not playing for a year or two years, then if someone says do you want to do a show, and then we can do it and not feel embarrassed about coming back after you’ve announced a final date. It’s embarrassing, some bands have done a hundred final shows. We’ve talked about that idea. Some people want to say here’s the last show. I’m of the mind of …don’t say it. Just play a show and if it’s your last show, it’s your last show. I don’t think we’re going to know the last show. I think we’re going to play a show, and it’s going to wind up having been…the last show! Many years after the show is over we’re going to go back and look at and go…wow…that was our last show!
DCT: I guess that’s a good way of looking at it!
JAY JAY: I’m saying that because I’d rather never play again and not announce it, then play again after announcing that we are never going to play again. We tell people this year looks like that’s it, and really it does look like it’s it because every gig’s a fight. And if we only play one show in America this year it’s very indicative of where the band is at which is, forget the US. Except under the most unusual circumstance, I think you can forget the United States. This is not to sound melodramatic, I think you can just forget it.
DCT: What about Bent Brother?
JAY JAY: Bent Brother is a fun thing to do. If I had to fight for anything I’d fight for Bent Brother over Twisted Sister any day of the week:
DCT: Not for nothing, but I’m kind of with you on that!
JAY JAY: I’d much rather not play as TS if it came to that and at least do a Bent Brother show once a year. It’s a fun thing to do. No hassle. No fuss, no muss. Just have fun. I could live with that. In fact I could live with Twisted Sister just being Bent Brother at this point in our career. In fact, if the band could agree to I think the band would be much better off. Because if we could just go out in tee shirts and jeans and just play and let the power of the music take over, it takes so much pressure away from the band. The performance nature of the band, putting on everything and having to perform at a certain level dress that way is a very energy-sapping endeavor. We do it because more people than not want to see it that way. Maybe some people don’t which is great, but more people than not expect to see it that way. Bent Brother is the most fun for me.
DCT: What is it that you like specifically about performing as Bent Brother?
JAY JAY: Well, this year I liked it because it was totally unpredictable, this year we messed around. But that didn’t go down well amongst all the band members, either. I thought it was great and other people strenuously objected to it and thought it was way too far left. I was pushing left field. I didn’t want to open with “What You Don’t Know”, I mean I was just saying junk the whole thing and just come out and play cover songs! I don’t care, just make it interesting. And if you’re a long time fan you could have said you were part of a historical night like we used to do in the bars. I liked what we used to do in the bars, I like to be funny.
DCT: You ARE very funny!
JAY JAY: I thought it was fun, and it was very funny. Some people didn’t get it. Some band members didn’t get the uniqueness of what it was. What do I say to that? I say, too bad. I had a hell of a time. I had a great time and I think most people did. I can’t force someone to perceive something in any other way if they refuse to see it. If they refuse to see it that way, that’s it. But it was tons of fun!
DCT: It really was fun. Everyone that was there had a great time and the reaction on the Slamboard from the SMFs proved it.
JAY JAY: Yeah, they certainly did, didn’t they? I’m glad we made everybody happy.
DCT: So what was the deciding factor in playing, “I’ll Never Grow Up, Now”?
JAY JAY: Oh, I pushed the hell out of it because of Marty.
(For those of you not who do not frequent the TS web site Marty, a.k.a. MP1975, is an old school TS fan from the Staten Island and New Jersey area. One of the proudest and most dedicated, MP’s dream was to hear INGUN performed live just once more in his lifetime. That said, he dropped every hint, started every campaign, every petition, and entered a multitude of requests on the TS Slamboard, day after day, night after night, in the hopes that someone somewhere would hear his prayer. Well little SMFs, fairy tales do come true and they can happen to you if you’re persistent enough!
Jay Jay made sure MP’s wish was granted. Quite frankly, I know of no other bands that come out to their web site as often, especially Jay Jay and MAM. We’re quite lucky that you can ask a question and it gets answered by the band members themselves. It just goes to show that they read the board almost daily, and actually pay attention to what they read. Our thoughts and ideas are important to them. I know of no other band that listens to their fans as much, and will actually act on their suggestions and comments. It’s amazing, and truly shows the appreciation the Boyz have for their fan base.) Ed.
He was such a pain in the ass over it so what happened was I pushed for that and Lady’s Boy. I just said, let’s just pull it all out, I don’t care. And so we did INGUN in sound check in England. I said let’s just keep doing this because then we don’t have to rehearse because of time constraints. I got everybody to agree to INGUN, which was fine. Lady’s Boy? Dee just said, “Not on your life!” You know here’s the problem, Donna. These are all his songs! So you look at him and you’re going, “I love your songs, why don’t you play them?” That puts in him a tough position because they’re HIS songs.
Webmaster's Note: As the person on the Slamboard who was pushing for 'Lady's Boy,' all I can say is dammit. And thanks to Jay Jay for trying.
I was reading an interview with Geezer Butler recently and they asked him about them doing some Sabbath song and he said, no, Ozzy would never do it. We tried to get Ozzy to do it, we bust his balls, but he refuses. The point is every writer/lead singer has this thing (the song) that represents something in their life. Sabbath wants to play the song and Ozzy doesn’t want it, he refuses to play it and he wrote it! So you can’t yell at the guys because they want to play his song and he doesn’t. Dee’s in the same situation with Lady’s Boy. He will not return to that. He can’t even see the humor in returning to it, which is hard to believe because he’s one of the funniest guys in the world! The band will not play a song that anyone hates to play. It will not happen, and we can’t force it. I would have loved to and I know that it would have freaked everybody out.
I said, let’s open up with “Sin City” and close with “Breaking the Law”. Something completely out there. That would have been fun, but you never know, maybe next time… We play “Sin City “ really well and I love the way we play it. I love “Breaking the Law” I think it’s a great song. Really, I can play AC/DC all night long. If we could be an AC/DC cover band, I’d be a happy camper! Any of those covers are great. I’d do all covers if we had time to rehearse it and I wouldn’t care! I don’t think our fans would care, either.
DCT: True. I think we all feel that TS/BB does other band’s songs much better then they could ever do it themselves!
JAY JAY: Thanks! So therefore, we could pull it off. AC/DC is one of the greatest bands in the world, so it would be fun. But anyway, that was the impetus behind doing INGUN. And then, Eddie’s doing “Eleanor Rigby” was interesting. He came up with a very interesting arrangement of that for a solo album. I was wondering about how that would turn out and it turned out really well. Dee sang really well on it and I’m sure it kind of threw everyone for a loop. In fact, if you want to know Donna, I think that that was the first time in the history of Twisted that we played a Beatles and a Stones cover on the same night. We used to do “Come Together”, but I really don’t recall ever doing it together with “It’s Only Rock and Roll”. It’s interesting to note that we did a Beatles and a Stones cover in the same night.
I also would have loved to have done “Train Kept A-Rollin’” again. We just didn’t have enough time to rehearse it and to get it right. We did a mean ass version of that song.
So, we did enough cover songs so that if we decided to do anything but twelve cover songs, we could figure it out.
DCT: That would be so awesome to see. We’ll keep hoping for that show! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day for this interview, Jay Jay.
JAY JAY: You’re welcome, and thank you. In closing I’d like to tell everyone that words truly cannot express the joy I continue to receive from playing shows and that none of this would be possible without the support of the one million or so 'SMFs' around the world!
We spent a few moments more discussing Twisted’s summer dates, mostly Europe, the Las Vegas show being the only US show currently booked. Bottom line is, if you want to see the Boyz in the States, go to Vegas. If you live in the northern part of the US, go to Canada.
I thanked Jay Jay again for his time, he doesn’t have a lot to spare, and I left grateful for the opportunity to be granted an audience with the founding father.
Next Up: Part I - MAM Growls – The Mark “The Animal” Mendoza Interview…