Intervju med Dee Snider från Twisted Sister.
Jag har länge haft en önskan om att en gång få sitta ned med Dee Snider. När det stod klart att han skulle signera sin bok "Shut up and give me the mic" i Stockholm, drog jag iväg ett mail och vips så var intervjun bokad.
Efter att först ha anlänt till hotellet vid Stureplan på eftermiddagen, blev det klart efter ett samtal med Rick (Dees säkerhetskille) att intervjun fick skjutas upp till senare på kvällen. Hem igen för lite mat och sedan tillbaka för mötet med herr Snider.
Han visade sig vara väldigt pratglad, trots en lång dag och samtalet kom att innehålla många glada skratt från oss båda. Det blev ett långt samtal om bla boken, Obama, Mark Twain, musikaler, Area 51 och äktenskap.
What was it that made you write the book and why now? Is it something you´ve been thinking of doing for a long time?
Dee Snider: No, I wasn´t thinking about writing a book at all, but one of my friends, who´s now become one of my managers, said “Man, you´ve got great stories to tell. You should write a book!” and I said “Yeah, people keep saying that, but no one´s ever made me an offer.”. He goes “I´ll get you a book deal.” And so he got me a major offer from a major publisher in the States. They said “What do you wanna write about?” and I said “Well, I´d like to write about my rise and my fall.”. They said “Your rise and your fall?”. I said “Yeah, I wanna tell the story of deciding I wanna be a rock star, struggling being a rock star, achieving stardom and then losing everything.” And that´s the story I told, which is a different story than virtually anybody else has told. I wrote it by myself and I don´t know. I mean, I think there are enough books out there about sex, drugs and rock and roll and god knows what´s true and what´s not. I think it´s important to share the real story with people. Share your struggles, share your dreams, share your pain and share your failures. It´s important for heroes to be fallible and it´s not to be more heroic, it´s just to let people know, you know, that people fall down, people screw up and we all have dreams, it´s not easy and maybe it´s through your success and your failure everybody gets something out of it. They learn something, get an inspiration or maybe they go “Whoa, I´m not gonna do that! Man, he´s an idiot!” and that´s ok too. You know, I´ve got a brother who swears that watching me crash and burn, just sort of changed him as a person. He´s so cautious and he goes “I never wanna see that happen to me. You were just so cavalier and I couldn´t live with that kinda failure.”. Then I´ve done my job. (laughs)
Definitely. When you started writing, did you read other similar books to get a feel for it?
Dee: They sent me a few books and I go “What am I reading? Some ghost writer or co-writer´s formula?” and that´s what it is. Those books use all the same language and they all follow a pattern and a lot of books are written by the same guy. He just sort of has a template and he fills in the blanks.
(A waiter goes by with a cart and Dee leans into the mic) Dee: “That was a cart filled with cocaine. It was insane! A mountain of cocaine.”) I don´t wanna be influenced by what other people are doing, I´m just gonna write my story and I said “Well, how many words do you want?” and they said “70-75 000.”. I said “Ok!” and when I got to like a 120 000 and I was only halfway through, they started panicking and I said “Look, I gotta write my story. I´ve never written before. You like my writing, I don´t know what´s important and what´s me blowing smoke up my own ass, so within reason I won´t question what you edit out. You know, Stephen King is one of my favorite writers and “The stand” is like a 780 page book and I have the unedited version which is like 1300 pages. Somebody said “Whoa Stephen! There´s 500 pages that gotta come out of this thing.” and it´s still long. I just wrote and I was uninfluenced by other people’s style, other people’s storyline or whatever. I just told my story.
Did you have a set time every day where you sat down to write or did it just happen whenever?
Dee: No, I´ve been writing screen plays for a long time and I have done some things with that kind of regiment, because I needed to, but due to my workload I just sort of committed whatever time I could and I became a little obsessed with it. Once I got into it, I didn´t wanna stop, so I would go long stretches of time where every day, I´d spend hours of writing and writing, but never with like a certain clock or a specific time schedule.
This other book you wrote back in 1987, “Teenage survival guide”, what made you write that one in the first place?
Dee: That one was being approached to write a teenage survival guide by a major company. There was a book in the 50´s by Pat Boone called “Twixt twelve and twenty” that was a hit and they wanted to do an updated version with someone they thought could relate to the kids, so they approached me. That was written with a co-writer and I had a major problem with the co-writer because he kept changing my words and kept smart making smarter and I wanted it be like a big brother or a cool uncle was like sharing with you and I didn´t want it to be intellectualized like my book now. I had a falling out with Doubleday (Publisher) and I wouldn´t support the book. When the reviews came out, every review from Psychology Today to Rolling Stone, said it was the best book ever written about growing up and what I realized post me bailing on the book, was that every other book was written by doctors, ministers, parents, psychologists, psychiatrists, priests and teachers and there was no book like it, so even though it was maybe only 80% of what I wanted, it was still head and shoulders above everything else. That book went on to be, unbeknownst to me… they published a chapter at a time in the only Soviet teen magazine.
I read something about it being required reading in Russia?
Dee: Yes. I thought it was a joke at first, but then I eventually saw the magazine, when the wall came down, and then they asked us to make a hard copy and now it´s like required reading for every Russian school child, which is completely bizarre. Copies of the book goes from $100 - $300 online and the reviews… people are just dying for this book because it helped them trough their childhood, so there is some talk about reissuing it, updating it and things like that. We´ll see about that. I recently had to buy a copy, because I didn´t have one. A couple of hundred bucks to get my own fucking book! (laughs)
Amazing! I interviewed Jay Jay a few years ago and I´ve read recent interviews with you and you both keep saying that no one wants to hear a new Twisted Sister album, but have you heard Van Halen´s new one?
They took a bunch of old demos and it sounds awesome. Classic Van Halen and couldn´t you do something like that with Twisted Sister and give it that classic 80´s sound? Not trying to be like 2012.
Dee: I don´t know what Van Halen sold record wise?
I think it´s around 400 000 copies in the US so far, which is pretty good these days.
Dee: Exactly. That´s Van Halen. They´re much bigger than Twisted Sister, so reduce that by the proper amount and you get down to 40 – 60 000 copies. Not that it´s all about money, but for me… I call it going back to the future. I expect the doctor, what´s his name “Great Scott, Marty! They put an 80´s album in the 2010´s. Let´s hope they don´t see each other, because it will break the space time continuum!” (All in the voice of Christopher Lloyd) I´m just so passionate about what I´m doing next that I just don´t feel motivated. Even if it was the biggest selling record in the world. Well, if it was gonna be the biggest selling record in the world, maybe. Fans don´t wanna hear a new record and then when you make an old sounding record they´re just like “Eh, it sounds like the old stuff.”. It´s not timely. You´re not gonna get radio airplay, you´re not gonna get tv or video airplay, there´s no stories to carry itself. You´ve got no outlet. I host an 80´s retro show and we never play new music. That´s not me. That´s the radio station and the producers. I say “Just give them a taste! Just play the first chorus!”. We talk about the new record, saying “Well Ratt´s back in the studio and they´ve got a new one called “Defecator” coming out. It´s a sphincter with some shit hanging out of the ass.”. No reflection on the writer and they say “Nobody wants to hear it.” and I´ve said it before, it´s the bathroom song. New material has always been the fucking bathroom song even going back to seeing Zeppelin do “Kashmir” before the album came out. “This one´s off the new record. It´s called Kashmir.”. (Dee stands up and walks away.) “You wanna beer?”. It´s fucking “Kashmir”! You wanna go “Where the fuck are you going? Sit your fucking fat as down!”. I just don´t see it happening.
But you did the Broadway thing? What was the thought and the plan behind that?
Dee: Sheer insanity. It´s one of those insane things. I got an idea and everybody said “You´re fucking nuts!” and I said “Maybe so, but I wanna do it id somebody is willing to put up a little money to have me do it.”. I had more fun doing it… again, something new, something challenging, something that allowed me to take chances and expand and you can´t really do that in Twisted Sister. People don´t wanna hear a more musical Twisted Sister, you know. They don´t wanna hear Queen vocals on a Twisted Sister record or orchestration and I wanna be able to challenge myself. Reviews of the record have been 99% positive and 1% I think haven´t even listened to it. People listening to it either love it or “I gotta admit, I like it. I´m surprised. I didn´t expect to like it.” and I didn´t expect everybody to like it. I didn´t know if anybody was gonna buy it or if they were gonna sell it or who would play it or what they´d do with it, but I wanted to do it. That was the challenge. It´s just a matter of what´s challenging. Now here´s an interesting thing. I´ve written a musical called “Twisted Christmas – The musical", based on known Twisted Sister songs… did I talk to you about this already?
No, but I´ve…
Dee: Heard rumors?
Dee: It´s based on known Twisted material, less known Twisted material, Christmas Twisted stuff and I have written about eight 80´s style Twisted Sister songs for the musical, with Eddie Ojeda, and it was just optioned by a Broadway producer and we´re moving onto the next step of developing the show. It´s a fictitious story about a heavy metal band who sells their soul to the devil to find fame and fortune, but find the magic of Christmas instead. So interestingly there are these songs… there´s different things being discussed at this moment about have to approach this. These songs have been written. Songs like “It must be snowing in hell” and the funny thing is that they´re all Satanic because for the story I need this band trying to be metal and they keep playing Christmas songs (laughs) and they can´t figure out what the fuck´s going on. At one point they come out looking like a Norwegian death metal band with “Burn in hell”, which turns into “I´ll be home for Christmas”. They have the white makeup on and they´re like “What the fuck is going on?”. They can´t figure it out. The guy that optioned it has done like 20 Broadway shows. Now he´s got “Memphis” and “Ghost”, so this is very real. But these songs are all “Death may be your Santa Claus”, “Hail Satan”, “It must be snowing in hell”, “WWOD” – What Would Ozzy Do , but mostly these songs are about Satan and I said “We should just record it.” and “Twisted Sister Satanic verses”. I mean, “Death may be your Santa Claus” is positively the most depressing, ugliest, heaviest… it´ll make you kill yourself. There are people I know who´d kill themselves listening to words about the most terrible Christmas ever and then of course it turns into “White Christmas”. (laughs) It makes the band nuts. As I said, I worked with Eddie Ojeda on these and I´m not sure when they will rear their ugly heads. I it will be when the play comes out or there´s talk about doing something before the play comes out. It´s the first writing I´ve done actually, musically, in a long time.
Really cool! Will you star in it?
Dee: I didn´t want to, but the producers think that it would be cool to have me in the role as the lead singer DeeDee. (laughs) We´ll see what happens with that, but it was just optioned recently.
I was kinda wondering and it hasn´t really anything to do with music, but I just celebrated 10 years this last Friday with my wife. You´ve been married for 31 years and you´ve been in the rock and roll business longer.
Dee: We´ve been together 36 years.
How do you do that? With all the temptations and the drugs and booze and rehab and you´re still there. One of few in the business I guess.
Dee: You know, actually I have a list and I´ve been studying the subject and there´s a long list of entertainers with long marriages and there´s a commonality. One of the commonalities in this long list, which includes Bono, Bon Jovi, Brad Whitford, Dennis Dunaway from Alice Cooper, Alice Cooper himself, but I´ve noticed in the entertainment industry that… Paul Newman with Joanne, Mel Brooks who was with Anne Bancroft, Kevin Bacon… 99% don´t live in Las Vegas, Miami or LA.
Well, that might have something to do with it. (laughs)
Dee: They live with a degree of normalcy and they remove themselves from temptations. That is the key. Not drinking… Look, I´m a dude. We´re all dogs and we all want to. It´s a matter of are we domesticated enough to not? By not drinking and not doing drugs, your resistance isn´t weakened by not accepting the invitation to the grotto at the Playboy mansion. You have a better chance of not fucking up. It´s boring, but I´ve opted to say “Ok, I´m not going to that party. I´m not gonna get high, because if I do, I´m gonna fuck everything in the room and that´s the end of my life.”. It´s the end of my life, of my family, my relationship, the money I´ve earned, everything gone. So, I will tell you, young master, the longer you go without the easier it gets. The less of a reality it becomes. You still see them and you still go “Damn!”. There was one at the book signing today and I turned around and said “In another life. I´m not doing it, but in another life.”. It does get easier. On a marriage level, my wife says the key for her is she is my wife and my mistress and she acts like it. 36 years in she takes care of herself and surprises me all the time. As a matter of fact she surprised me on my cell phone earlier today. “Oh Jesus, this is awesome!”. The toughest picture I´ve ever deleted. Can´t take a chance of that being discovered or hacked. (laughs) On your end, just say yes. It´s not masochistic, it´s not sexist. Women internalize, we externalize. We process and then we pronounce, they say it and wanna hear it.
I read that your mother was a teacher. True?
Dee: No, Sunday school teacher.
As a teacher myself I wonder, do you remember when you were in school, was that like one teacher that stood out and that encouraged you?
Dee: (Leans into the mic and whispers) He hasn´t read the book yet. It´s ok. There´s a whole focus on a teacher, Mrs. Cirillo. When I was in 6th grade I auditioned for a solo in the choir and everybody was in the choir in 6th grade and Mrs. Cirillo stopped the audition and went “Oh my god! This kid sings like a bird.” And I remember going “What? I can sing?” and from that point on she championed me to the point when I went into junior High school and they told me there were no room in the choir and it´s elective, she literally went down to the principal´s office and demanded that I´d be put in the choir. And I talk about these moments where your life can change either way called the butterfly effect. I ran into her and said “Well, I´m not in the choir this year.” And she went “What?” and I was in the choir the next day. I thanked her in the book and I don´t know where she is or if she´s alive or whatever, but that was profound.
Good old Tipper Gore then? When you walked into those hearings, knowing what you were gonna say and they were thinking “This stupid rock guy.”. That must´ve been such an incredible feeling to just level them and show them that “Yeah, I read books. I´m not stupid.”. And especially the whole thing with “Under the blade” and what they thought it was about.
Dee: Oh yeah. She said “Under the blade” was about sadomasochism and bondage and the song was about a throat operation, so I took the opportunity because I was speaking about how lyrics are meant to be open to interpretation. Tipper Gore was imagining sadomasochism and bondage and I said “I can´t help she has a dirty mind.”. Man, you should´ve seen Al Gore´s face when I said that. His eyes were like glowing out of his head and she just walked into that one. Yeah, she´s a dirty girl.
When was the last time you met her?
Dee: I never met her. We never even met that day either. Life is tough and no one is in the position to throw stones at anybody else because, you know, you´re just opening yourself up for criticism. Here we are… that was 25 years ago, or 27 years ago and now the Gores are divorced and some of the Gores children have been arrested for possession and my kids are clean and sober and upstanding citizens and it´s like… just because I´m married now, doesn´t mean I´ll be married five years from now. It´s a process and it´s tough but at the same time, I didn´t throw any fucking stones at your house! If you´re gonna be a self righteous, pompous piece of shit asshole, then you deserve to be left. Ha haha ha! One more. Ha!
That was so funny. It´s a bit different here and there were discussions and things going on, especially when WASP came out and all that, but nothing really happened. Stuff like that is way bigger in the US. I´m thinking about the US election, which I always find very interesting and I got really scared when a guy like Santorum pops up. He hates gay people and all kinds of stuff, which makes me think that if you´re that homophobic, you´re probably a flaming homosexual deep inside.
Dee: Oh yeah.
I get the feeling that you´re interested in politics and are you gonna go with Obama again?
Dee: Yeah, but I might… I found out that I´m a Mugwump. I didn´t know what I was and then I read Mark Twain´s autobiography and back in… I forgot which election it was but maybe 1913 or whatever, him and a bunch of hardcore republicans crossed party lines and voted against the republican candidate because he wasn´t the right guy and they called themselves the Mugwumps. It is believed that they were responsible for Grover Cleveland being elected, the democratic candidate. Basically their principle was… up until then, once you had party affiliation, that´s who you voted for. Party line. But the Mugwumps said “Were gonna vote for the right person based on his qualifications, not on the party.”. I´ve voted all over the place and trying to make the best decision given the information that´s available to me. I´m not saying it´s the right one, but I think that´s the best anybody can do, is try to make a rational decision based on the information they have. The information I have is based on history. Reagan, who is considered by Americans to be a great president, which I don´t think he is, was responsible for one of the biggest economic crisis we´ve had, with his trickledown economics. That landed flat on George Bush Sr, who I didn´t like. He scared me because he was the head of CIA and that´s a problem. I´m uncomfortable with black ops. But he set into place programs to fix the economy. It wasn´t fast enough for the American people and they voted him out and voted in Bill Clinton, who I voted for and i was for. I watched Bill Clinton receive the benefits of the plans that Bush Sr put into place and now Bill Clinton is regarded as one of the great presidents and yet some of the changes he made on Wall Street, were responsible for the crisis that happened during Jr´s. Then Jr dumped in on Obama and Obama has had four years and is trying to straighten it out and it´s just not fast enough for people and I go “Here we go again!”. We´re gonna elect somebody else who´s gonna inherit Obama and they´re gonna say “Oh, it´s the greatest thing since…”. Just let the guy finish up. It´s eight years and we´re seeing little signs. We´re definitely in a bad place and it goes throughout Europe, well not you guys, but it´s still a volatile situation but there are signs of recovery. It takes more than two years to get it done. We´re living in a society where people are so… immediate gratification. Everything´s gotta be immediately. I want it now, I want it now! Sometimes you can´t have it. Sometimes, if you want it to be good shit, you have to wait for the wine to sit for a couple of years and then drink it.
Speaking of Mark Twain, I was actually in Hannibal, MO in 2008, where his house is.
Dee: You mean where he grew up?
Dee: You were there?
Yes. Me and my dad and my three brothers made this five week road trip in the US and we stopped in Hannibal, which was quite the depressing place.
Dee: I´m a big Mark Twain fan. He´s an inspiration as a writer and then, someone you wouldn´t know, Jean Shepherd, who´s style I´ve co-opt. He´s bad.
And speaking of Stephen King. Have you read his book about the assassination of Kennedy in ´63?
Dee: No. He did?
Yeah and a big one.
Dee: I´ve read everything by Stephen King up till a few years ago and then I kinda slowed down on him. He said he was gonna stop after the accident. (laughs) I don´t know if it´s not as good as it once was or whatever, but there are so many other things I´m reading, like Mark Twain. I just finished reading a book called “Area 51” (Annie Jacobsen). Fucking brilliant, man! After 40 years they released top secret documents to the public and the purpose for it was that nobody gives a shit, but this woman went and researched and now the people who worked there can talk and everything is explained. Quite simply, Roswell, which started the modern UFO craze, it is documented. The flying saucer was Russian and the US government could not admit that a Russian made vehicle, designed to freak out Americans, got as far as fucking Nevada, undetected, so the covered it up. The theory is that people will believe the easiest thing to believe rather than the hardest thing. It´s easier to believe it´s a UFO, because it was a UFO shape. The Russians acquired two German scientists after the split of Germany. One was the designer of the flying wing and they built and designed a flying saucer and the reason they went with the flying saucer was… do you know “The War of the worlds”?
Dee: The radio thing with Orson Welles. Even Nazi Germany saw that and thought “America´s feaked.” And the Russians figured “Let´s build a flying saucer and fly it in there.”. America couldn´t admit that they´d actually been infiltrated and covered it up. The UFO thing, CIA, NSA, they just fed into it and were like “Awesome!” because everybody´s thinking of flying UFO´s. Then Area 51 was building illegal spy planes in the 50´s and they flew 2,5 times faster than Mach 1 and they were designed to be invisible and they were running all the test flights, 1000 of test flights. They were so futuristic. The UFO department investigated every claim to make sure nobody knew what the truth was. The government just did some crazy shit and they let the people do their own cover ups. Great fucking book! And the nuclear tests they were doing. Just irresponsible.
Yeah, they had soldiers walking into that stuff right after they blew it up.
Dee. Yeah. They set off a nuclear bomb in the upper atmosphere and there was a large amount of scientists that believe it would set the air on fire and they did it anyway. Crazy shit! That´s what was happening 40 years ago. What´s going on fucking now?
Right. One final thing. What´s left to do? You´ve done rock and roll, the book, the movies, the TV-shows, the Broadway show… is there anything left you wanna do?
Dee: I do the voice on a new Disney cartoon. It premiers on Thursday and it´s called “Motorcity” and I´m the voice of the Duke of Detroit. Mark Hamill is the bad guy.
Dee: Yeah! He´s a big voice over guy. He´s done Batman cartoons and he´s the Joker on the really cool Batman. He´s like a top voice over guy and they brought me in to do this villain, Duke of Detroit, and I am now THE villain and Duke of Detroit is like James Brown meets David Lee Roth meets Kid Rock and he´s like a total rock star and just pretty psycho. I´m doing that now and I´m in a sitcom called “Holliston”. A small sitcom, like six or seven episodes and we just got picked up for another ten. I play Lance Rocket. A 50 something cable station manager who plays in a Van Halen tribute band called Diver Down. I walk around wearing spandex, leather and makeup all the time at work and nobody reacts. There´s this one scene where we have like an office meeting and I´ve got a woman´s top on and then I stand up and I´m wearing sequin hot pants, pink fishnet stockings and cowboy boots and I grab my feather boa and I throw it around my neck and the guys are like… no reaction. (laughs) So the answer is, what more is there? I just got my musical optioned and I really… wanna retire. (laughs) My wife keeps saying “Yeah, yeah!”. I´d just like to not do so much and I´d like to do things more selectively, because I really seem to be like a mental patient. All my kids are in… my oldest kid, Jesse, is an aspiring singer and comic book writer and he does voice over as well. My daughter is in a post hardcore band called They All Float and I´ve been picking up a lot of black metal for her here in Scandinavia. One son is a director and he directed my video for “Mack the knife” and my eldest son is a writer and an actor and he´s the one in that video jerking off. The one masturbating, that´s my other son. I´ve got a production company and I´d really like to just support them. Not financially, but help them and get more involved in that. Be a producer for their projects and helping them reach their goals.
Cool! Thank you so much Dee!
Dee: Thank you! Great talking to you.