Interview and pictures by Marko Syrjala in 2003 Transcription by JP
I managed to catch legendary drummer A.J. Pero from Twisted Sister during the band visit to the Sweden Rock Festival 2003. Here is the interview which was done at about 4.30 AM at the hotel! It was also just a day before their world premiere show with full makeup and costumes, reviewed here. ENJOY!!!
The Twisted Sister’s return is something that should never have happened, but here you are after all these years.
A.J. Yeah! That’s what a lot of people said.
Dee, in particular, had said many, many times that this would never happen.
A.J. As long as I played with Dee, even with the SMF’s, we kept pushing it and kept discussing it. Certain things needed to fall into places, and they did. And here we are! We started with the USO tour in Korea, playing for the troops and the shows went great, and we are just getting better and better. Hopefully, with the show we do tomorrow, the two shows that we’ll get better and better at the end of June.
Why did you decide to do this just now?
A.J. Ahhhhhh!! (laughs) You know, it was a situation like I said where everything had to fall into place, and over the past five years everybody straightened up their differences, not that we had a lot, but you know, certain things had to fall in for us to be able to say we are going to. So that’s basically what happened.
But you played one show already in the late ’90s with the original band.
A.J. Yeah, well, we did…I can’t remember the year? Tony? (asking someone) do you remember the year we did that thing at the old Speaks? Tony: 1997. A.J. July 1997. there was this club at Long Island where we used to play that had this Anniversary type thing. A lot of bands were getting back together again. The SMF’s played, and Jay Jay and Eddie came down, and then Marco came down, and it was still kind of a little wavy, ya know. So we did it, and Jay and Eddie saw the reaction that there was, and that brought them a little bit forward on that, and then the SMF’s continued doing shows, and those shows kept going over real well, and we were saying there IS a market out there for us. People still want to see us, people who haven’t seen us REALLY want to see us, and the people who have seen us want to see us again.
So are there a lot of young fans in the audience?
A.J. Yes! That’s what I was wondering about tonight. How many people are out there?
A.J. How many do you think actually physically saw Twisted Sister? An eighth?
I would say that at least 10 000 (people)?
A.J. Pero (laughs) Yeah, maybe one-tenth. So that’s basically it.
It’s great that still, after all these years, nine out of ten people know what Twisted Sister is. At least here in Scandinavia.
A.J. Right! That’s that why we kept pushing to do it and get back. So what is going to happen now is we are going to do the show tomorrow night if everything goes well and goes over well, and word gets out there, even more so we’ll do a few more shows in Europe and build that up and then next year, which is 2004 we’ll just come out!
How about making some new Twisted Sister music?
A.J.: We have discussed it. The discussions we had…we will just have to see what happens. It’s on the table. It’s not a definite “no,” but if it goes in that direction. We’ll just have to see what happens. I’m sure we will, but we just have to let it go the way it will go. Everything is going to have to fall into place.
But Dee just said, “This is a reunion of the classic band, and there’s no hope to hear any new music.”
A.J. Well, You don’t know. There might be. And IF things go along in that direction, it will start going in that direction next year.
Talking about next year, do you already have some shows planned?
A.J.: Yeah, I’m sure we will. I can say that, from my understanding, is that we will be looking to do touring, from my understanding. Things change. We could continue doing what we are doing this year, but we have to see how far things will go. The direction it is going is more towards doing a tour, possibly hooking up with some of these other 80’s big bands. Iron, Maiden maybe, Judas Priest, Ozzy…I dunno it could be anything.
How about with Kiss and Aerosmith, the new tour?
A.J.: Yeah! Sounds huge “Laughs.”
A.J.: Absolutely! And I feel that given that chance and that opportunity, it will go in that direction.
Is there a chance that you would do a show in Finland at some point?
A.J: Oh yeah! I’d love to go back there. As a matter of fact, my last show was in Helsinki, an outdoor show that was my last show. At that time, when I left the band, I was trying to pursue other things.
A.J: Yeah. But possibly knowing that the band would be calling it quits, not that I jumped a sinking ship, but I had to say maybe this is the time to do it. Then the album came down, and things got pretty hot, so that’s why I left. I didn’t leave on bad terms. It was just because the guys were probably not going to do anything, and we were on the verge of….at the time, that was around 1986, 1987. I’m just glad we have the opportunity, the five of us. They are the closest thing to me. I spent more time with them than I did with my ex-wife! (laughs)
Speaking of Finland, you actually played there once in a huge summer festival back in 1986.
A.J: Oh, we DID? In 1986? Ummmm, yeah! I believe we did.
And at that time, you were the most expensive band ever in Finland, “Laughs.”
A.J.: Wow! I hope we were worth it! (Laughs) And the price, on these days you could not even get a local band for that price!
A.J.: Wow. (laughs)
Do you remember anything about that show?
A.J. “Yeah,” it was, I remember (slowly trying to remember).
It was located in the middle of nothing?
A.J.: Yeah, it was in the middle of nothing, and I remember meeting someone and hanging out with this girl. She was really cool, I never saw her after that, but she was really cool.
How was the band Cities thing for you anyway?
A.J.: You know Cities was, I thought we were going to be a lot bigger. I thought we were going to do a lot more touring, and it just, the guys in the band weren’t ready for it at the time. We went out on the road did a few live shows, and all of a sudden, people were back and forth.
You only recorded one album with them.
A.J.: Yeah, one album, that was it. They had an EP of songs that were recorded, but that didn’t do them any justice. Then the record company found out I was going to do the album, they were all excited, and they pushed it and promoted it. I don’t know what we sold or how many we sold, but it was pretty good.
What did you do after the Cities?
A.J.: Oh, after? I opened up my own business. I opened up some different businesses and did that for along time.
What kind of business you did then?
A.J.: Car stereos, alarms, cell-phones, part-owner of a nightclub, I did that for a while. That didn’t work out, so I went to work. First, I went back to school, got a degree, and then I went to work for AT&T, which I still continue to do. I’m into architecture and engineering for the network. We test and do trials and develop the network. Anything that has to do with AT&T., I’m in a lab situation where we get this equipment in, and we come up with ideas, better ways to do things, and we put them through the tests. That’s basically what I have been doing for the past five years.
Two years ago, Dee said that you retired from the music business.
A.J.: Yes. I did.
Did you play at all? Did you even have your drum kit at home?
A.J.: I always have my drum kit at home, but I think my son ended up playing more than I did. He likes the drums, but this forte is baseball. He’s 11, and whatever direction he wants to go in, I’ll support him, but I won’t push him. Whatever he needs, I’m there for him, but I’m not going to harp on him and say, “grumble, grumble,” you know.
Does he like Twisted Sister?
A.J.: Yeah! But he likes Linkin Park better. (Everyone laughs) Just like my daughter, she likes (M&M) (How do you spell that rap guys name? (Ed. note: who cares haha)) and Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, but you know growing up in the household, I was their father, and they looked up to me, but it was no big deal even though their friend’s parents were like, “Wow! Your Dad is A.J. Pero from Twisted Sister!” and she would say, “That’s my Dad.” It is no big deal to her. But now she is starting to get into it. She is starting to realize what is going on. It is hard for them to understand when their fathers or mothers still do something different from many other parents. It might take some time.
Do they come to see your shows when you are on the road?
A.J.: Well, they will come to some shows, but as far as coming out on the road, I don’t think that’s the best thing for them to do because of school work and baseball and cheerleading. I have a little girl now, three years old, with the woman I’m with, my fiance. We’ve been together a long time. They’ll come to a few shows that are local but maybe as they get a little bit older, I’ll take them with me, but for now, we have to keep it a little…
Your son could be your drum roadie! (Laughs)
A.J: Yeah (laughing) I’ll teach him to do that.
There was a special benefit show you did two years ago, New York Steel. It was some kind of unique thing?
A.J.: It was a benefit for the tragedy of the World Trade Center. Personally, I lost six friends in that tragedy. Six friends of mine died. I had been to the World Trade Center for my job. I wasn’t there that day. It wasn’t meant to be there that day, but these six friends that I had, three of them were firemen. They were doing their job, and I wanted to do something to show my appreciation for them, just like the USO thing. The USO things we didn’t make a dime, but it is not about money. It’s about appreciation for the troops that guard us, allowing us to do what we do. We would not be able to do this if it was not for these people protecting us. The firemen, the cops, the troops, they are the true heroes. We are just here to entertain. A lot of people say, you know, “You (the band) are this, this and that,” and it’s great! I love it. I appreciate it when they do that. My fans are, I’m a fan of these people who are protecting us every day. So we did the NY Steel show. We didn’t do any makeup because we didn’t want to take attention away from what that show was all about. It wasn’t about Twisted Sister re-uniting and doing a show. It was about five guys who said, “Yeah, we are going to re-unite, and when the time is right, we will do our show. Maybe it’s tomorrow.” But we had to do what we had to do because a lot of us lost close friends.
But musically, it was kind of a reunion for you guys, in a way.
A.J.: Oh yeah. It was. It was a reunion, but as I said, THIS is the reunion. Tomorrow when we come out, it is going to be like 1983!
Because I’m a Kiss freak, I have to ask you. When you played in New York Steel, Ace Frehley also performed there. How was he now as a solo artist?
A.J.: Ummm, he was Ace!
Was he stoned or drunk then?
A.J.: Ace is Ace. Back in the day, I was a Kiss fan. I saw him in the early ’70s when I first started going to concerts, and Ace was Ace. He was always that style. I thought he played really well. The songs he did were in good taste…
I heard a report it wasn’t so great?
A.J.: Well. You know, anyone who goes up on stage and performs whether they are great or they suck. I give them credit. You know, because they are up there. It’s like baseball. Anyone can go out and hit a ball, catch a ball, or throw a ball, but these guys are out there in front of 60,000 people. That’s a lot of pressure! So that’s what it is all about “Laughs.”
So you are going to do the full show tomorrow with make-up and stuff.
A.J: Yeah, full make-up, we have the costumes, but the costumes are more up-to-date.
Up to date? What do you mean?
A.J.: Well, you’ll see tomorrow.
Some pyrotechnics? Fireworks?
A.J.: Yeah! Which is a rarity because we never used pyro in the day, but now we have moved on to start doing stuff like that. Not in clubs, though!
So what songs are you going to play?
A.J.: Yeah, oh yeah. We will do the best of the four albums. We are not going to do anything from LOVE IS FOR SUCKERS because I wasn’t on that album.
How do you like that album?
A.J.: Me? It doesn’t matter. ‘Sleeping Giant,’ I think, is a great song, and we could have done it, but the guys felt that this was the band in its prime. We do UNDER THE BLADE, songs from YOU CAN’T STOP ROCK’N ROLL, songs from STAY HUNGRY, and songs from COME OUT AND PLAY. That’s what we are going to do.
This might be a stupid question from your point of view but, you have just had a couple of warm-up gigs in the spring, and some of you guys have really short hair “Laughs.”
AJ: I got a wig. I’m not going to beat around the bush. I’m not ashamed to say. I cut my hair real short, and it would take me about three years to grow it back to the way it was. I feel the way I approach it is that I’m an entertainer, I’m up there to entertain, and If I have to play a part, even though I am who I am, I have to play myself from back then, I’ll do it. I dunno; some people might make controversy about that. People, people have to know, and they will know that I have a wig. As I said, I’m not ashamed to say. I’m not going to put it on walking around the lobby here because this is me. This is how I am.
Eddie also? I think he has a wig as well?
A.J.: Oh, I don’t know (hesitates).
You know, but you won’t tell! (everyone laughs)
A.J.: I’ll never tell. Hey, if that is what ya gotta do! If you see a Broadway show and the character is supposed to look a certain way, he’s not going to come looking, NOT like he is supposed to, because it won’t be believable. I feel that if I go on stage with the costume and the makeup, but I go out like this (with short-hair), not that I’m ashamed of it, I don’t think the impact will be as…you know.
Some bands have been using wigs since the 1960s?
A.J.: Yeah, exactly! These next few years, I’ll grow my hair again, and hopefully, by the next tour and album, it will be my real hair. If not, I’ll have to go accordingly. But I’m not going to try and hide it. I mean, we thought about it, but I’m going, to tell the truth.
Do ýou think that the band now has the same spirit you had back in the ’80s and the early days?
Yeah! I have more spirit now. I’m older, and I’m more mature. I’m better at my playing. I’m taking it a bit more seriously, not that I didn’t take it seriously back in the day; I DID take it seriously. But when you are 21,22, 23 years old, you look at life a lot differently than when you are 44. Now I’m looking at it like, “Hey! I should have enjoyed it.” Now I’m going to enjoy it and maybe grasp the moment because look what happened on 9-11. None of those friends of mine ever thought they would be going into something they thought they would not be walking out of. Anything could happen to us at any time, and I’m living my life to the fullest, and that’s how I’m going to do it now.
I heard on the NY Steel show you were playing much better than before. The sound, everything was brilliant. I saw you here years ago with S.M.F., and I would like to say that your playing has developed a lot from the old days.
A.J.: Yeah, you are right. We discussed this with Dee. Back in the day, Twisted Sister was like this, and I came in, and I did what I had to do. Now, it’s where I was given the freedom to play the way I want to play, the way I should have played.
Like adding some more double bass parts etc.?
A.J.: A lot more intricate, a lot more feel, a lot more showmanship, a lot tastier rolls, and stuff like that. I’m having fun. I am enjoying it; I’m doing the solo, I’m doing what I want to do, I’m not doing what they expect me to do. There is nothing wrong with it, but that is the situation I was thrown into.
Who are your idols? Who were you listening to when you were younger?
A.J.: My idols? Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, older drummers. I respect the drummers who were out there…Neil Peart, Simon Phillips, John Bonham. There a million I could name.
How about Peter Criss?
A.J.: Peter Criss, at his time, was a real good drummer, and like Charlie Watts, he did his job and did it well, but there was nothing that I could learn from him or them. But certain drummers you pick up certain things from and certain people picked up certain things from me, which I’m told all the time, “this, this and that, this double-bass, this fill, etc.,” and I’m like, “Wow! That’s great”! I appreciate it. But I also took from other people and did it my own way, my own feelings. You know you can take certain licks from certain people, but you are not going to do them the way they do them. You have your own personality, your own inner spirit, and that spirit comes out; that’s you, your own personality. Even though you are trying to do the same things, not that I don’t have the ability, but I wouldn’t have the sound that John Bonham had, and if he were alive, he wouldn’t be able to do what I do because…I’m me! I am. I’m me! He was who he was, along with all the other drummers.
What do you like in today’s music mainstream stuff, or do you listen to it at all?
A.J.: I really don’t listen to a lot of music that is out there today. I might say Rage Against The Machine, Pantera.
That was seven years ago, “Laughs.”
A.J.: Yeah, but it’s still around today. I am dunno. I can’t really name too many bands these days. It’s older bands that are coming out with new albums that I will listen to. My thing is that I listen to a lot of jazz, a lot of classical and a lot of classic rock. So I’ll go and take out a Rainbow CD or “Moving Pictures” from Rush.
Yeah, I think you just get to a point where the new bands are not; they don’t last long. They are making one or two CDs, and that’s it.
A.J.: Yeah, that’s it. And then they go on and do solo things. Well, I didn’t like ya too much when you were with the band, so what makes you think I’m going to buy the album you do solo? It sounds just the same. I’m sure they’re a lot of up-and-coming bands that are out there.
So you are 44, and you have three kids?
A.J.: I have three kids, and the woman I’m with now, my wife to be, has two kids, so theoretically, I have five.
What does your wife think when her husband is now getting back on the road again?
A.J.: She thinks it’s great. She was the one who was pushing me to do it. It has nothing to do with money. She saw how miserable I was. She saw how I wanted to play and how every-time our songs came on the radio show, I’d be drumming on the dashboard of the car, and I’d say, “Wow! This great!” and she would say, “Why the hell did you quit playing with them?” and she always supported me when we play, and she still supports me today. And now with the Twisted thing, she was 16, 17 when she came down to see Twisted play, and we didn’t even know each other, but where we live, it is a small area, and we met up some 20 years later. She went through a marriage, I went through a few marriages, and that is that. The rest is history!
See you guys tomorrow! Thanks, man!