By Pat Prince
The release of quality Twisted Sister product from Eagle Rock Entertainment seemed endless this year.
Reissues of "Club Daze, Vol. 1 – The Studio Sessions" and "You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll," hit the stores on January 25; "Come Out And Play" and "Love Is For Suckers" on February 22; and the latest release from Eagle Rock is "Double Live: North Stage ’82, NY Steel ’01," a double-disc DVD package consisting of two Twisted Sister concerts, 19 years apart. But the prize piece (for many) was the "Under the Blade" album, released as a CD/DVD on May 31. Digitally remastered, this debut album (originally on the U.K.'s Secret Records indie label) has bonuses like the Ruff Cuts EP (first time on CD) and a fantastic video of Twisted Sister at the 1982 Reading Festival (see clip below).
Of course, "Club Daze" (originally released by Spitfire Records in 1999) is a pretty impressive release, too. This is a CD that perfectly captured the band's beginnings as a superior club act in the '70s-early '80s. Worth every metal penny (For more information on purchasing some of this year's Twisted releases, click here).
Jay Jay French (guitarist) and Mark Mendoza (bassist) are the force behind this product onslaught — they hold a grand vision of keeping the Twisted legacy alive and well. But we were interested in the frontman Dee Snider's opinion on packaging the past and gearing it to a new generation.
The following is a recent interview with the lead singer:
What do you think of all the product on Eagle Rock coming out this year?
Dee Snider: The records have been available pretty consistently over the years. Our last licensing for the product expired and I’m happy that Eagle Rock —who I worked with before — have reissued them and freshened them up, so I’m glad about that. But I am one of those guys who is more focused on what lies ahead then what came before.
Jay Jay [French] is the mastermind on all things Twisted these days. My megalomaniacal — a word I just used in a book I’m writing about myself — those megalomaniacal days of the 80’s ... I have handed the reigns completely over to Jay Jay and Mark Mendoza. I am often blown away by the quantity output that they were able to cull from our past … it’s like the living Tupac Shakur, who just keeps putting out new product (laughs). You’ve got some grand vision of the Twisted Sister legacy — and I don’t mean that in sarcastic terms — I don’t question the passion about pursing it, I’m just so busy doing other things. “Hey, man, run with it, run with it.”
“Under the Blade” (1982) was a great album. It has been said that the production wasn’t very good but I love the raw sound.
Snider: You’re not alone. There is definitely a body of people — and I’m not one of them — who feel that “Under the Blade” is the best record that Twisted Sister ever did. It certainly speaks to the time. To me, my favorite is “You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll.” I’m not speaking against “Under the Blade,” I’m just saying I don’t think it’s the best thing we ever did. I think that we were just getting comfortable with the studio and understanding what recording was, you know, the process. There’s a live environment and then there’s a studio environment and you’ve got to master each. I know there’s a whole argument where people say 'why should it be different in the studio?' But the answer is: people are sitting in their bedrooms or cars and not drinking a beer and jumping up and down like in a live environment. It’s a different environment and you have to recognize that, you’ve got to create the right sound for the experience. People alone in a bedroom as opposed to packed in a concert hall having a couple of beers and your rocking your ass off. So “Under the Blade,” by many, is considered to be the best thing we ever did. I think it also plays to the whole new age of heavy metal. A lot of people don’t know but we were at the forefront there, at the time touring with the Metallicas and the Anthraxs and the Maidens … all those bands of that sound and that stuff. It reflects that time, when we were in the trenches, so to speak.
So “You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll” is your favorite album?
Snider: Yeah, “You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll” is my favorite. Of course, I wrote all of them so I love them all, but it was the most enjoyable recording experience. It’s us embracing the studio experience ... not just the experience, the sound. It’s a different kind of sound. We just didn’t come in and lay down songs like we did in the bars, literally live, which we did with “Under the Blade” for the most part. I mean, we were laying down tracks in a bar. Again, there’s certainly a charm to that. And (on “You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll”) we were happy with the producer, Stuart Epps. He was doing what a producer really should do, I feel, and that is sort of becoming an additional member of the band. Helping the band achieve what they want to achieve, not what he wants to achieve, while still bringing his opinion to the table. With “Stay Hungry,” we were assigned the producer Tom Werman, someone who didn’t get us, didn’t appreciate us, someone we had to beg to put "We’re Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna to Rock" on the record because he didn’t want them on the record. He didn’t think they were good enough. I literally begged him, had to sell him. It was a constant battle with Tom Werman, to protect the band and keep some truth to who we were, it was a constant fight with him. But on “You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll,” we were in there working with Stuart Epps, the band was in a great studio environment, we were never closer as a band, it was just an amazing experience, amazing recording. A very positive experience.
Do you still listen to vinyl? Do you still have all the Twisted albums — the EP, the singles, the original issues — on vinyl?
Snider: No, no, I’m not a vinyl guy. I don’t have a stereo. I’ve got an iPod and I’ve got an intercom system in the house that has a CD player in it — which I don’t ever use except for Christmas music. I don’t listen to music too much. Like I said, I’m working on a gazillion other things and there’s too much noise going on in my head. People say, “How can you sit here in silence?' and I say, ‘I’m not in silence. There is so much noise in my head.’
But I saved all the old stuff. I don’t fanatically collect my own stuff. I’m proud of my past, very proud, I have no regrets — maybe a regret here and there, some things I would have done differently — but I’m not one of those people who looks back and goes I’m embarrassed by my past.
Years ago in Metal Edge, they used to do a thing where they’d ask a question and then print the answers from all different artists. (One time) the question was ‘When you see your old pictures who do you think?’ And every single heavy metal guy was apologizing. ‘It wasn’t my idea. Everybody was doing it. The manager made us dress like that. I feel stupid …’ Bah, bah, bah, and it gets to Dee Snider and it's ‘I think I look cool.’ That’s what I said. You know why I look cool? I wasn’t following anybody. I wasn’t trying to emulate anybody. Nobody was making me. I was doing what I wanted to do and saying f*ck the rest of you. I was defining the era, not following. So I look back proudly.
Right now I just signed a book deal with Simon & Schuster and I’m in the middle of writing my book. The talk is to release it this Fall. Right now it looks like it’s going to be about the rise and fall of Dee Snider. Basically, how I wanted be a rock star, what it took to get there, my struggle and then ultimately taking a tremendous fall, a devastating fall. Obviously I’ve come back from it but I think people will take inspiration from it. It's inspiring and it’s a cautionary tale. So I’m working on that.
And I've signed on to do a new record. I’ll preface this by saying, no, its not metal. It’s called “Dee Does Broadway.” I’m taking Broadway show tunes and I’m making them rock. It's sort of a Twisted Christmas taken to Broadway. But there are some pretty metallic moments there, I’ll tell you. Sweeney Todd translates into a metal song amazingly — bass, drums, guitar — so some of the songs are really metallic, but it’s a rock record. I’m doing it as a solo artist. I’m working on that.
One last thing … can you quickly give us the 10 albums that changed your life?
Snider: I’ll give you what comes to mind: Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin II. Queen I, Queen II. Slade “Sladest.” Black Sabbath’s first album. AC/DC – “Powerage.” Alice Cooper – “Love It to Death,” “Killer.” And Sex Pistols’ “Never Mind the Bollocks.”