The gospel according to Dee Snider

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There’s not a dry (heavily mascara’d) eye in the house. Because it’s true – Twisted Fucking Sister are about to fuck off for good…

Dee Snider is a motormouth, plain and simple. From threatening crowds at the Reading and Monsters Of Rock festivals in the 1980s, to feuds ancient (Manowar, Hanoi Rocks) and contemporary (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Edward Van Halen and countless others), the Twisted Sister frontman doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘filter’.

As Twisted Sister prepare for a final world tour, a new documentary, We Are Twisted Fucking Sister, charts their early club roots and rise to success. Here the 60-year-old reveals what really makes him tick.

Giving up is for quitters

Our movie starts with us performing on the Channel 4 show The Tube in 1982. But what most people won’t know is that we had to borrow money from our friends and families, also against future earnings from local club owners, to get us to England. It really was a final throw of the dice. We had existed for 10 years in every shit-hole club in the Northeast of America before the average rock fan heard of us. So people who say we got lucky can suck my dick. Were we stupid? Maybe so. But was our success accidental? Of course it wasn’t. Repeatedly smashing your head against a wall isn’t an accident, it’s a choice.

Always keep a sense of humour

After so many near-misses, in the movie Jay Jay [French, TS guitarist] half-jokingly predicts that the plane carrying a record label executive from England who was interested in signing the band would crash before he arrived, or that the PA would fall on his head. We had become so pessimistic. The names of companies with whom we’d brushed said it all – Handshake Records, X Records, Kamaflage, and then Secret. So Secret Records signed us and put us together with Pete Way [producer] of UFO for our debut, Under The Blade. And of course right after it was released, the label went bankrupt – another of those disasters that haunted Twisted Sister.

Tipper Gore underestimated me

Twisted Sister were cited as a band responsible for corrupting the morals of America. But I wasn’t going to take any shit from Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Centre [PMRC]. On the grounds they considered We’re Not Gonna Take It violent, those self-appointed arbiters of taste had made a list of 15 songs they considered offensive.

I was asked to address a hearing at the Senate in Washington DC in September 1985. Though they considered me a moron, I’m reasonably intelligent. Complete falsehoods were being stated, so it was no contest. I jumped at the chance to represent heavy rock’n’roll, and I tore them and their ridiculous accusations apart. Hey, others could have done the job just as well; Gene Simmons or Blackie Lawless would’ve been great. Or Nugent, when he was a little more tame. There are some smart minds in rock’n’roll. I’m just glad they picked me and not Vince Neil.

Snider and Frank Zappa hold up papers relating to the 1985 PMRC Senate hearing

Snider and Frank Zappa hold up papers relating to the 1985 PMRC Senate hearing
(Image: © Getty)

Lack of choice focuses the mind

Two important things kept us going. Firstly, the absolute certainty that we were right and the rest of the world was wrong. The rejection slips piled up, but the fans provided a daily reminder of our self-worth, lining up around the block to see us in the clubs every night of the week. That meant more than the opinion of a guy who wouldn’t even leave his office to check us out. But secondly, what were our options? Pack it in and go work in the loading bay of a department store? We were still making just about enough money to pay our bills, and the hunger to make it still remained.

Genius is being unafraid of failure

We lost some great stars recently, and people have wondered whether originality in rock music died with them. And it’s a good question. Certainly, Lemmy and David Bowie helped to define our genre, also bridging it with others. They’re huge losses, but I don’t know whether it’ll affect originality. Nobody starts out saying: “You know what? I’m going to be different.” That happens when they try to be something else and fail at it. Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath wanted to be a jazz-blues fusion band. Well, didn’t that work out well? David Bowie planned on being the next Beatles. Funny, I don’t recall Sir Paul wearing glitter and lip-gloss, do you? The Alice Cooper Band wanted to be The Doors of psychedelia, but they sucked at it. Originality comes when you try to do something and it morphs into something else.

I’m too smart to be a politician

It’s often suggested that I should run for president. But I would be a complete failure. I’m too fair, honourable, loyal, intelligent and truthful to be a politician. Those are five words that don’t fit the job description. I could never survive in that world.

Rock’n’roll is supposed to hurt

But for a couple of surgeries on the knee and shoulder, I’d already be out of the game. When I saw a doctor for a problem with my lower back, he asked whether I’d been smashing myself into something. I said: “Could it have been caused by my dropping to the floor on to my left hip every time Twisted plays Burn In Hell?” “Yes. A two-hundred-and-eight-pound body hitting the floor is likely to do that,” he replied. “So stop doing it.” But I can’t do that. I’m just going to keep injuring myself, because my ego’s too great.

Fame is a mind-fuck

When the big breakthrough came, it completely corrupted me. Fame brought out the worst in me in every possible way because I had been proven right, so I knew better than anybody. It gave me a licence to disregard the thoughts and feelings of everyone else. Look up the definition of the word ‘megalomania’ – it’s me. Suddenly I was at odds with everyone in my world; my arrogance almost caused my wife and I to split up, and friends turned against me.

If you’re gonna die, die shagging

People used to leave us for so-called romantic, self-inflicted reasons like overdoses or suicide. Now it’s age-related or due to cancer. Each time somebody in the queue goes, everyone takes one step forward to the front of the line. I hope that I die with my family around me. Or, better still, while shagging.

There’s no such thing as ‘too old’

My old friend Lemmy said it best: if you think you’re too old to rock, you are. However, even had my brother [and Twisted Sister drummer] AJ Pero not died, Twisted Sister would still be stopping. I’ve wanted to end this glorious chapter in my life for quite a while. It’s not that I don’t love what I do, or that I no longer love the guys in the band, I’ve a fear of going out there on stage and disappointing the fans. Gravity always wins. I don’t want to be on stage when gravity takes its effect on me. No, I’m leaving the stage with dignity.

Lemmy with Twisted Sister at London's Lyceum in 1983

Lemmy with Twisted Sister at London's Lyceum in 1983
(Image: © Getty)

It takes balls to tell someone they’re a dick

I pride myself on being the guy that will always point out that the emperor is naked. What sometimes annoys me is when someone who’s bigger and more famous than me keeps quiet. Step up and say something, man. When Gene Simmons said that rock’n’roll was dead, all Dave Grohl Tweeted was: “Not so fast, Mr Demon, sir.” That wasn’t enough, it was safe. Sebastian Bach and Rudy Sarzo agreed to be on my podcast, and I hoped they’d participate in a discussion on who is a real band member and who’s a fill-in guy – the reason I fell out with Paul Stanley. They danced around the subject, afraid to fall out with the gods of rock music.

Regrets, I’ve had a few

I know that I’m the one who compromised Twisted Sister’s vision, and it still saddens me. The band over-played its hand in America. That’s another reason for remorse. I was trying to be everything for everybody. But with the benefit of hindsight, I also know now that had Twisted continued after Love Is For Suckers I would have been on a trajectory of Axl Rose-level asshole-ness.

‘Goodbye’ means ‘goodbye’

The concept of farewell shows has been so devalued by other bands that when our agent put out the word that we were doing a handful of gigs to say goodbye to our fans, nobody believed him. Ozzy, Scorpions, Judas Priest… the list of people who’d signed off and then shown up again a few years later is lengthy. People that expect to see us again in five years will be in for a big shock because it’s not going to happen. Twisted Sister really is leaving the building.

We Are Twisted Fucking Sister is out now. The band play at the Bloodstock Festival on August 12.

Classic Rock 221: Features