By Monica Ortwein, Associate Editor
Twisted Sisterís infamous frontman and the rest of his deviant gang are ready to break out the makeup Ė and the decade-old womenís clothing.
You canít deny it. We know you love Weíre Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock, and itís not just because we read your diary. Itís because we were alive during the 80s too, and we know how fíed up Ė yet incredibly entertaining Ė it really was. And donít get us wrong; itís not the coke talking, either, we swear. (Coke canít 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 Enemyís 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, weíre 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 Mansonís records as one day being heavy rotation on your favorite easy listening station, aka Twistedís ambitious frontman. We asked Snider whatís 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 youíre startled easily.
PULSE WEEKLY: Howíve you been?
DEE SNIDER: Iím doing very well, thank you. Iím 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: Iím 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 theyíre restarting their careers or theyíre the new 2000 version Ė itís bull-crap. Itís an oldies show, and youíve got to respect your legacy. Youíve 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. Iím 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, wasnít he a skinny pretty boy back then? You see us and go, holy crap! Thatís Twisted Sister.
PW: Whatever happened to Dee Snider Radio? [Editorís note: Sniderís 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 itís five people. They werenít ready to commit to that. Fortunately, I make money, thank god, doing many things and Iím not going to take it. I wrote the song, and Iím not going to take it! And I didnít. But I miss the audience ... I never had the chance to explain what happened and I think they wouldíve 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 youíre working on?
DS: Thatís the thing thatís 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 weíre moonlighting. I have a voiceover career, I have a radio career. Strangeland 2 is still in development. Itís ready to go, but we ran into legal problems with the last company Ė they had kind of an Enron situation Ė and my property has been caught in their bankruptcy for the past two years, which has been a real pain in the butt. Iím [also] executive producer of a new musical entity called Van Helsingís Curse. Itís 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 donít mean shit when weíre in our 40s.
PW: If you can remember back, what was one of the sickest things youíve ever done onstage?
DS: The legacy of Twisted seems like such a happy, fun thing, but five big guys wearing womenís clothing in some of the seediest biker bars around Ė there was constantly an element of violence, often initiated by yours truly because I donít 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 Ė people [were] hospitalized and cars were pushed into the canal. I remember in some hillbilly freakiní 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, theyíre a good time Ė it didnít start out like that. It was a little crazy.
PW: What do you think of the new Marilyn Manson album? Do you think heíll always be Marilyn Manson, the scary guy?
DS: I love Manson Ė my son, Jesse, heís a Manson freak. Heís saying itís the best thing Manson has done in a long time, the greatest thing since sliced bread. [Mansonís] done a great job of sustaining his image. Itís 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 Ė one day, it will be easy listening. Heís really held that at bay by continuing to really creep people out, and I applaud him.
PW: Will Blazed, your son Jesseís 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. Itís one of those things that I never anticipated happening Ė my sonís band opening for my band.
PW: What one musician do you listen to that your fans would be surprised to know youíre 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 Ė those are my records right now. I love most of the new stuff that comes out, although it doesnít really have much staying power. That surprises my hardcore fans, because theyíre like, donít you hate the rap-metal? Iím like, no, actually, I like it. They get upset. And Iíve always been a big fan of 50s doo-wop and Motown, so that might surprise people.
PW: Whatís the most bizarre thing thatís happened to you recently?
DS: I went to my son, Codyís, 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, ĎI love you, I love you!í and freaking out when she saw me. My son was trying to calm her down.
PW: Iíll bet stuff like that happens to Cody and your other kids pretty often, doesnít it?
DS: Itís the burden of being a celebrityís child, but they handle it very, very well. My son will call me from school and Iíll hear in the background, ĎTwisted! Dee Snider! You rock!í They all tell me people will ask them to sing one of their dadís songs. And my kids will go, ĎWhat does your dad do?í And theyíll say, ĎHeís an accountant.í And my kids will say, ĎAlright, you do some accounting, and Iíll sing a song.í Theyíve gotten trained.
This article originally appeared on the Pulse Weekly web site.