INTERVIEW AND LIVE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
Dee Snider is an American vocalist, songwriter, radio personality, and actor. Snider rose to fame in the early 1980s as the lead singer of the heavy metal band Twisted Sister, one of the most successful bands in the genre. The band released five studio albums, including the multi-platinum selling, STAY HUNGRY (1984). Twisted Sister split up in 1987, and later on, Snider fronted the band’s Desperado, Widowmaker, and his solo group S.M.F. Twisted Sister returned to the stages in 2001 and continued touring until 2016. The band might be over now, but Dee Snider is far from done. During the last two years, this legend has released two solo albums, worked on several projects, and continued to tour the world as a solo artist. I had the honor to meet Snider last month in Tampere, and here’s what he had to tell about his post-Twisted Sister career and more. For the Love of Metal!
FOR THE LOVE OF METAL
You know, when I saw the Twisted Sister Farewell show 2015 at Porisphere Festival, I thought it would be the last time I saw you on stage. Many things have changed since, but at the time, you were really going to quit music?
Dee Snider: Yeah, I had no intentions on continuing to play. But the first thing that happened was that I was challenged by a producer, a pop producer, to do a mainstream rock record, WE ARE THE ONES, and I like challenges so– because I didn’t want to do so the same thing, repeat myself. And so, we did that record, and I’m proud of the album. It was great, but it really didn’t– and it played out, but it didn’t connect with the audience or with anybody, really. Then I said, “Okay, I’m done.” and then Jamey Jasta challenges me, and he says, “I challenge you to do a new, contemporary metal record.” And I said, “I’m not sure what to do?” And he said, “I know what you need to do.” So, I started working with him and, you know, all the people that were involved in there, on the record, we created this album together. And remember, we had no record deal. It’s called FOR THE LOVE OF METAL because we were doing it out of our own pocket, in our spare time. And it just turned into something great and connected with the audience, and it sort of reconnected me with the metal audience, with a sound that seems to matter to people now and matters to me too. So, thanks to Jamey Jasta, I found my place, and I found my way home.
And you also found your love for music again?
Dee Snider: Yeah. The love never changed. I just didn’t know how I fit in there. And Jamey said, “I know how you fit. There’s a place for you. We need Dee Snider’s voice.” And I said, ‘Well, let’s go.” And, again, we had no record deal, so we didn’t think– I mean, I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was just like, “Oh, we’ll go do some songs.” But anyway, it turned into reconnecting me and the fans, and what I really love about it is that I’m getting to finally put together a set that’s turning into a Dee Snider set and not me just playing Twisted Sister songs. That I wouldn’t do. Just go out, like leave the band, and go out and play all the Twisted songs. I do play Twisted songs, but, like Ozzy, I hope that the time comes where it’s my songs and then the encore where I do one or two of the Twisted songs instead of– now it’s like 50/50.
You had done it already, when you had a solo band, S.M.F, playing Twisted songs only. So, why repeat it?
Dee Snider: Right. Well, exactly. But few artists go solo, and they are able to do that. Jagger’s done solo records and all these people. Tyler did a solo record. All these “band” guys and they wind up going back to their band or going out and just playing their songs from their old band, without the old band. So, I mean, to me, it’s just kind of a dream that I go to places and people are interested in hearing the new songs, they’re singing the new songs already. It’s great.
THE LAST BREATH OF TWISTED SISTER
It’s been two years since Twisted Sister played its final show in Monterrey. Do you miss the band, and do you have any regrets?
Dee Snider: Not at all! This is too much information. I’m going to give you too much information “Laughs,” but physically, I’m not performing as I performed before. You’ll see me, and you’ll go, “Oh, he’s fucking great.” But I know that I crossed the finish line with Twisted Sister in peak physical condition, everything was working, and I was just crushing it. I’m doing great now, but it’s not– everything’s [laughter]– I’m not in peak physical condition anymore. So, the answer is no regrets.
Do you remember what kind of emotions you went through when you did the last show? “That’s it. This is the last time I’m doing a Twisted Sister show with the boys?”. What were you thinking in your head then?
Dee Snider: It was a long time– we’d talked about doing it for a long time. In many ways, for years, we talked about quitting, ending it. But it kept going. Something happened, and we just keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going. So, when we finally did quit, it was kind of long overdue. I love the guys. I mean, I just saw Eddie and Jay Jay last week. And we’re still friends and everything. It’s just like it felt it should have happened sooner. But we kept going back out for whatever reasons. So, I mean, honestly, there was a certain degree of relief. Not like happiness. Just like, “I made it. I didn’t fall short.” And I went out– the last show, I was rocking as hard as I ever rocked and singing as powerfully as I have ever sung. I wasn’t holding back one fucking thing. And that wasn’t easy.
For sure, it wasn’t an easy thing to do.
Dee Snider: That was not easy.
DEE GOES SOLO
Before Twisted Sister’s farewell tour was announced, you worked briefly with guitarist /songwriter Nick Perri, and you recorded a couple of songs with your solo band at the time. The single “To Hell and Back” came out, and you were working on The Best of -album with a couple of new Dee Snider tracks. But the album never saw the light of day. What happened?
Dee Snider: Well, again, what I said at the beginning, nothing was connecting. I did a song with Nick Perri, and I gave it away. And people weren’t downloading it. For free. I even said, “What the fuck?” There were people like they were testing it and then not downloading it for free. So, I said, “Do I have to pay you to take down the music? Is that the future of rock and roll?” The artist says, “I have a million– I bought a million records. I paid for a million records to give those to the people.
Give me a platinum album.” Is that the future? Because it felt like that. But that’s to the point of you’re doing things, and it’s– you might like what you’re doing like that DEE DOES BROADWAY record. I loved it. I didn’t think anybody else would. And they didn’t. But I loved it. But at the same time, it didn’t connect. This new album finally… it’s connecting. So, with Nick, we actually recorded two other songs, I think about it. And we never released them. I wonder where those are? It is good stuff to use for some sort of B-side or something like that? I remember that there are a couple more songs out there. But I put out the song. And it just did nothing. So, I was like, “All right.” Thank God I didn’t do a whole album, invest all that time, all that money, all that energy. I just put out one song and said, “What do you think of this?”. And when nobody cared, I’m like, “Okay.”
So, you were kind of testing the waters with that one song. That was a wise thing to do,
Dee Snider: Yeah. But it was trying to connect and find your place, your sound with the audience.
Whatever happened to the planned Best of Dee Snider package?
Dee Snider: Is there a Best of package? “Laughs,” I believe you. There’s a lot of– that’s a very big thing with the heritage artists. Repackaging. Repackage. Repackage. Repackage. Yeah. And make sure you stick one of your stickers on there. And then somebody will buy it. So yeah. I don’t know. You’d be amazed how many things are spoken about all the time.
I happened to visit Joe Franco’s studio when he was mixing the new songs. And he was also putting that BEST OF -stuff together back then.
Dee Snider: I know. Fact. Joe Franco was doing it. He was working on it, and it must have been real “Laughs.”
WE ARE THE ONES AND FORWARD
In 2015, you started working with Damon Ranger, an accomplished award-winning musician, songwriter, and television/radio personality. Very successful guy. As a result of that cooperation, WE ARE THE ONES came out . But the album didn’t succeed, and it was really different from what the fans were expecting from Dee Snider. Now afterward, do you think that WE ARE THE ONE’s album was a mistake to make?
Dee Snider: I don’t really ever– I’ve got no regrets! “Laughs” I do this because I want to and because I feel passionate about it. I believe that before anybody else can feel passionate, you’ve got to feel passionate first. And even if they don’t get it, again, I’ll use DEE DOES BROADWAY. I fucking loved doing that record. It was something that I’ve always wanted to do. I got to work with some incredibly talented people. You know, Rudy Sarzo played on there, and Bob Kulick and said, “My God, this is some of the best work I’ve ever done as a player, as a musician.” And I did some of my best singing I ever did.
So, we were excited about it. I didn’t expect people to get excited about it. But you got first to want to go to the studio, and that’s why– Twisted was pushing to go and do more albums, and I always said no except for the TWISTED CHRISTMAS album, which I thought was at least like a fun thing to do. I just had no interest in writing old-sounding songs because nobody wants to see a new Twisted Sister for the 2000s. They don’t want that. And the idea of writing songs that sounded old– and I know those records don’t sell. So, I had no passion for it, even though they probably would have done better than everything else I’ve done. So, it’s just like I say, “I don’t regret it at all.” It was my sort of trying to find… It was really just a challenge. I say, “You know what I’ll do? Yeah, I’ll take that challenge.” Yeah.
That album was a challenge for the fans as well, but after all, there are a couple of great tracks on it, like “So What?”
Dee Snider: “So What” is crazy. Have you heard the new version of “So What?” Jamey Jasta version?
I haven’t heard it yet?
Dee Snider: Holy fuck! It’s like you can’t even believe it. It’s the same vocal, and they said this could be an amazing metal song. It’s on the Japanese version. You should check it out. It will blow your mind. But that Nine Inch Nails cover “Head Like A Hole,” I love that. I love “We Are the Ones.” Other things were stretching in more extreme pop directions. That may have been the producer’s call to try and, everyone’s trying to cover all bases. I think Jamey himself was very careful about keeping old fans and winning new fans with my album. And that’s a producer’s job, so. But I think that yeah, probably Damon was trying to be connected to everybody somehow. But it didn’t connect with anybody.
THE FUTURE AND MORE
I have heard a rumor that the next Dee Snider album is already in the works. Is that true?
Dee Snider: They’re already writing. We’re already working on song ideas, but we’re not in a rush to get back in the studio, but we know there’s going to be a follow-up record.
The same rumor said that there might be some new material released the next spring already. It sounds maybe a bit too rush in my opinion, since FOR THE LOVE OF METAL came out only a couple of months ago?
Dee Snider: We thought maybe for a time that we would rush and get something out right away. But we got two videos coming. We have the “For the Love of Metal” video coming out tomorrow, and then we’ve got “Lies Are Our Business.” That will be released shortly after the New Year. And we were talking in Rio that we may be doing for the “Live of Metal,” recording a live album. So, we decided not to rush since we feel this record still has life in it. We had no plans, no plans, we didn’t plan tours or any shows “Laughs.”
You’re now 63 years old, but you still work hard. You’re in great shape, your voice is still strong, and you always give your 100% on shows. How important thing that is for you, always give your best and stay in shape?
Dee Snider: You know what, I mean, to me, that’s really important, and that was– I mean, look. Age comes to us all, but you got to work at it. It just gets harder and harder to do it. With Twisted, that’s why I at least had to finish with Twisted so that I could finish at the top of my game. And if I do anything afterward, I still try to stay fit, but it’s a losing battle. You can’t beat gravity, that’s what I always said. Gravity always pulls everybody to the ground eventually, so. That’s that. So yeah, I just try. I work at it, but everyone makes their own choices.
True. We all make our own choices. But this was all by now. Thanks for your time Dee and see you on the show soon!
Dee Snider: Thanks, and see you there!