Heart of Steel: Interviews

A.J. Pero of Twisted Sister

Interview and pictures by Marko Syrjälä
Transcription by JP

I managed to catch legendary drummer A.J. Pero from Twisted Sister during their visit in Swedenrock festival 2003. Here is the interview which was done at about 4.30 AM! It was also just a day before their world premier show with full makeup and costumes, which is reviewed here.


OK! This is the real one! (re-union) After many, many discussions and having people deny it…that this is not going to happen…

A.J. Yeah….that's what a lot of people said.

Dee had said many, many times, every year that it was never going to happen.

A.J. As long as I had been playing with Dee, even with the SMF's, we kept pushing it, 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 at the end of June, we'll get better and better.



Why now?

A.J. Ahhhhhh!! (laughs) Ya 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.



So you started a little bit earlier because of September…

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 kinda 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 lots of young fans?

A.J. Yes! That's what I was wondering about tonight. How many people are out there?

About 18,000.

A.J. How many do you think actually physically saw Twisted Sister? An eighth?

Ten (people)?

A.J. Pero (laughs) Yeah… maybe one-tenth. So that's basically it.



But still today if you ask, 'Who is Twisted Sister?" nine out of ten people know.

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 every 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 new 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 is going to go. Everything is going to have to fall into place.

Like Dee said, This is a re-union and there will never be doing 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, are you going to do more gigs?

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 are going to go. The direction it is going is more towards doing a tour maybe, possibly, maybe hooking up with some of these other 80's big bands that are out there. Iron, Maiden maybe, Judas Priest…Ozzy…I dunno it could be anything.

Like Kiss and Aerosmith, the new tour…

A.J.: Yeah!

It's huge!

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 tour in Finland?

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's just the guys were probably not going to do anything…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 closet thing to me. I spent more time with them than I did my ex-wife! (laughs)


You also played a summer festival in Finland.

A.J.: Are we? (Misunderstanding the question)

Yeah the Rantarock Festival back in 1987.

Oh we DID? In 1987? Ummmm…yeah! I believe we did.

At that time you were the most highest priced act in Finland...ever!

A.J.: Wow! I hope we were worth it! (Laughs)

And the price…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 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 real 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 made one record?

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 that album? There was no discussion of what happened after.

A.J.: With Cities?

No, you personally, after Cities broke up.

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?

A.J.: Car stereos, alarms, cell-phones, part-owner of a night club, I did that for a while. That didn't work out so I went to work for…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 you were retired from playing.

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 friends 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 kind of hard for them to understand when their fathers or mothers still do something…that they are different from a lot of other parents. It might take some time.


Do they want to come on some tours?

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 fiancé. 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 can be your drum roadie! (Laughs)

AJ : Yeah (laughing) I'll teach him to do that.



There was a special 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 are guarding us, to allow us to be able to do what we do. We would not be able to do this if it was not for these people that are protecting us. The firemen, the cops, the troops, those 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. But to me, my fans are…I'm a fan of these people who are protecting us everyday.

So we did the NY Steel show. The reason we didn't do any make up is 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 re-union for you guys…in a way.

A.J.: Oh yeah. It was. It was a reunion but like 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 with Ace how was he?

A.J.: Ummm…he was…Ace!

Was he stoned or drunk then?

A.J.: Ace is…in the day I was a Kiss fan. I saw him in the early 70's 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.



So you are going to do the full show tomorrow, like in 1983 with make up…

AJ: 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.

Did 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 it's 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…

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 as 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…if I have to play myself from back then…I'll do it. I dunno some people might make controversy about that.



Yeah, yeah. My buddy went to one of the warm up gigs and you played with short-hair… there was people who were fixating on these things…first you have long hair, then you have short hair…

A.J.: People…people have to know and they will know that I have a wig. Like 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 one…

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 go see a Broadway show and the character is supposed to look a certain way, he's not going to come looking NOT like he supposed to because it won't be believable. I feel that if I go onstage 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 is going to be as…you know.


Some bands have been using wigs since 1960's …

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.



Is there the same spirit between you as the early days?

Yeah! I have more spirit now. I'm older, I'm more mature, I'm better in my playing. I'm taking it a bit more serious…not that I didn't take it serious 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 that they would be going into something they thought that they would not be walking out of. Anything could happen to us at anytime 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…sound , everything. I saw you here years ago with S.M.F. and your playing has developed a lot by since 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 freedom to play the way the way I want to play, the way I should have played.

Like some double bass?

A.J.: A lot more intricate, a lot more feel, a lot more showmanship, a lot more tastier rolls and stuff like that. I'm having fun. I really am, I'm 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 feel. 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 do you like it?

A.J.: I really don't listen to a lot of music that is out there to today. I might say Rage Against The Machine, Pantera…

That was seven years ago.

A.J.: Yeah, but it's till around today. I 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.


L-R: Eddie, Marko (Metal-Rules.com) and A.J.


Yeah…I think you just get to a point where the new bands are not…they are just…they are not lasting. They are making one or two CD's 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 there 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 about her husband getting back on the road doing music again?

A.J.: She thinks it 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 how 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!

L-R: Animal and Marko from Metal-Rules.com