From the moment I first saw the video for "We're Not Gonna Take It" on MTV, I was a fan of Twisted Sister. I was lucky enough to sit down and talk with Dee Snider about his new album, new autobiography, who would play him and his wife in the movie about his life, the PMRC, Clay Aiken, narcissism, The Celebrity Apprentice, and reality TV.
How are you doing today?
I'm on day three of my book tour. I've got a new CD and a new book, a self-penned memoir, out. Pretty fucking great, actually.
Yeah, I'd imagine so. Let's talk about the CD, Dee Does Broadway. What drew you to the particular songs you covered on the album?
First let me just say those are three words I never thought I'd hear in sequence. Dee. Does. Broadway.
It was a long path there, but ultimately after being on Broadway in Rock Of Ages, it renewed an interest in Broadway show tunes. When I grew up, my parents were always playing those kind of songs in the house and no, I don't have two Dads. But they used to take us to see shows so I grew up with the music, but I was always into rock. When I got to Broadway, the two kind of met each other. I always heard more in some of these songs than was there. I heard the power in them and I said, "Let me fuck with this. Let me see what I can do. Let me see if I can reinvent it and do something creative with it."
Were you in the studio at the same time as Cyndi Lauper, Clay Aiken, and the others?
Yes, I was. Those parts were all recorded in New York. It was amazing to see these voices coming together with mine. Cyndi, you know she's a rocker. But Clay and Patti LuPone and Bebe Neuwirth, that was just nuts.
The arrangements on the album are top-notch and your voice is as amazing as ever.
But the thing that really surprised me was Clay because he really wails.
You know what? That's interesting because he came in there thinking he was going to sing down the octave like the way he does in the beginning [of "Luck Be A Lady"]. At the beginning, it made sense. But then the song kicks in and he goes, "I don't know about this." And I go, "Can you sing it up the octave?" And he says, "Yeah, I can." And I said, "Well, fucking go for it, man." And it was like Rob Halford at times.
He's just screeching. It's amazing.
Were there other guests that you wanted to appear on the album but who couldn't do it for various reasons?
As I started to get more and more of these great people, I started to get a little greedy and say, "Shit. I can get like anybody. If I keep going down this path, I'm gonna get Barbara Streisand singing on this." But it wasn't intended to be an album of duets. But if I wind up doing Volume II, I'm going after Kristin Chenoweth. I'm going after Bette Midler. They're all going to be dueting with Dee Snider!
Good! Can you see yourself doing something similar to this where you'll tackle a different genre someday?
It all comes down to inspiration. This is the first time I've felt inspired to record something in decades. If it struck me, yeah. I've done a Christmas record and that kind of struck me. If something spoke to me, I would do it.
I loved Shut Up And Give Me The Mic. Your writing style made the book such a fun ride.
One thing I learned through the book that I didn't know was about the PMRC. I was fifteen at the time of the hearings and I was a big fan of Twisted Sister and I thought you were going to Washington to save rock 'n' roll from the censors. But I was so shocked to learn you had so little support from your fellow musicians.
My name was Mud for awhile. As time's gone on, it's become almost a legendary event and historic and I get a lot of respect, but at the time the industry caved before Frank Zappa and I even got a chance to open our mouths. They agreed to the sticker and no other performers stepped forward. No one backed me up. The majority of fans were apathetic. They didn't get the significance of what was going on. It didn't seem like a big deal, the famous quote being, "Now I'll know which bands to buy."
It wasn't a good decision at the time. Long term, it was an incredible decision because I stood up for what I believed in, I did the right thing, and I get credit for it now. But at the time, the band was going, "What the fuck are you doing, man? Why are you doing this? What are you putting yourself out there? Nobody else is."
Have you heard from anyone yet who didn't care for the way they were portrayed in your book?
Not yet, although my father has called my brothers and called me a dick. But the book just came out and I fully expect to be hearing from some people but you know what? This is my story and if they wanted to be portrayed better, they should have behaved better.
I'm not a dirt guy talking about people cheating on their wives or this one's gay or that one has a drug problem. I just told my story. Again, I even say that it's my version of the story because everybody has their own. But they should've had their shit together.
You call yourself a narcissist several times throughout the book. Has having four children lessened those tendencies any?
Yeah! I was explaining something because somebody else brought this up. It's like any neuroses or psychoses: it is what it is, but if you want to deal with it, you learn how to work around it. By design, you figure out how to not be. You still are, but you don't allow yourself the luxury of being that.
I remember my wife screaming at me one day. "Baby baby baby! Baby baby baby!" Get it in my head, that before anything else, we have a fucking baby, man. She's like, "Stop with the shit." It sticks in my head to this day. It's like a little mantra in my head for years, "Baby baby baby. Baby baby baby." Those words, I remember. That's the first priority. You learn little ways around your neuroses and you're better for it.
You mentioned several regrets or "writing on the wall" moments throughout the book. If there was one thing you could do over to alter the history of Twisted Sister, what would that be?
Hmm. Well, pay attention to those loud clicks that were going on in my head. It was very loud, and I started to ignore them.
The big thing? I would have released a different first single off of Come Out And Play. I would've realized that people were starting to question our metal cred. I advised Skid Row. They were getting ready for a follow-up album to the first Skid Row record. I said, "Guys, people are starting to doubt you. Come out swinging." And they came out with "Monkey Business" as the first single and it resulted in a very successful follow-up record. You can see I'm actually thanked. I was like the band's therapist on that record.
I wish I realized what was happening. I think if we would've adjusted our approach on the second album and come out with "The Fire Still Burns" or "I Believe In Rock 'N' Roll" and said, "Hey, we're still fucking metal!" People would've gone, "OK! Cool! Cool! Cool! We were having doubts about you, Dee!" But instead I came out with "Leader Of The Pack" and people went, "Oh yeah. They're gone."
So who plays you in the movie version of Shut Up And Give Me The Mic?
Wow. Good one, considering I wrote it to be a movie. Who plays me in the movie? I'll go with Chad Kroeger from Nickelback. But he has to shave. He's got the right-sized face and the curly hair.
Now be careful with this one: who plays Suzette (Dee Snider's wife)?
Oh. I need a contemporary. Young Suzette... Hot, blonde, stacked... I'm going to go with whatshername, the one from Twilight. I think she could do it. Kristen Stewart... Let me get back to you on that one.
Let's switch gears to reality TV real quick. We spoke with Flavor Flav a few weeks ago and talked with him about Celebrity Wife Swap.
Oh you did, did you?
Yeah. What was it like having Flav's wife around the house?
If she was anymore laid back, she'd be dead. She's the calmest. For all I know, she was medicated. In reality, you kind of need to be. A lovely woman, but she was very, very mellow. Zen. She was into reading self-help books. She's the longest relationship he's ever had. Maybe that's how you do have a long relationship with Flavor Flav. But who I am to judge?
What was it like appearing on The Celebrity Apprentice?
The Celebrity Apprentice is way more Survivor than it is Jersey Shore. They play it up like it's a Housewives show. It's sixteen hours a day, six days a week, three challenges a week. It's an unrelenting schedule and it really wears on you and it's really stressful. I don't think that comes across.
How's your hand doing?
They're talking to me about a third surgery which is insane.
But I can make the "horns," I can give the middle finger.
That's all you need!
Yes. At this point, I don't have to punch people. I have people punched. I've got a puncher. The only thing I can't do is make a fist, but I think I'm beyond punching people now.
What's next for Dee Snider?
There's a new season of a sitcom called Holliston on FEARnet. We don't get it in the New York area, but it's in about fifty million homes. We shoot that in August. I'm developing a musical that I wrote called Twisted Christmas: The Musical. I've had that optioned by one of the producers of Memphis and Ghost. We have some Twisted dates. There's talk of a new, very different reality show. The future is very bright, that's why I'm always wearing sunglasses.
Cool. At the end of the day, how do you hope you are remembered?
I've answered this question before, at least in my head. In my mind, I'm asked it all the time.
I hope I'm remembered as an entertainer. Not just the guy from Twisted Sister. "He was entertaining, whether it was radio or TV or music or movies. He entertained us."
OK. I've got one final question for you.
OK, I'll tell you. Three inches from the floor, folded in thirds. Sorry. The question's not how big my penis is? OK, go ahead.
No. You're in charge of a music festival. You can pick any five acts, dead or alive, to appear on the bill with Twisted Sister. Who are they?
Foxy Shazam, Ignite, Marilyn Manson, and... I'm blanking out... There's a band here that I wanna say that's worthy... Oh, what the hell. Let's throw Alice Cooper in the mix. But the original Alice Cooper band.
What song do you all perform as the final jam?
"Highway To Hell."
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