40 years after emerging from the streets of Long Island, NYC, Twisted Sister will finally call it a day when this summer’s festival season draws to a close. The metal legends originally split in 1987, but reunited in 2003 and have been blowing people’s heads off with their customary balls-out live show and ageless anthems like We’re Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock ever since. Due in part to the untimely death of mainstay drummer AJ Pero in 2015, the band have decided to bow out in style, with ex-Dream Theater man Mike Portnoy behind the kit. The band’s concert to honor AJ Pero, produced by Rock Fuel Media and in association with Loud & Proud Records, is available to pre-order now.
Their last ever show takes place in New Jersey in October, but UK fans get their chance to say a fond farewell at Bloodstock on August 12, when Dee and the boys perform a headlining set in front of the Catton Park faithful. To celebrate our last chance to scream along with classics like Burn In Hell and The Fire Still Burns like actual bloody lunatics, we spoke to frontman Dee Snider about Twisted Sister’s long goodbye and why this really is the end.
You’re currently doing a farewell lap of honour, including your last ever UK show at Bloodstock. Has the reunion achieved everything you wanted from it?
“I wanted to reunite with the guys because I wanted to go out in a more powerful way than we did when we split all those years ago. We fought so hard and we were literally like a gang, fighting for each other for so many years, and I hated the way we ended up hating each other. I wanted to fix it with the band and I wanted to go out on a higher note. That said, we’ve hit that higher note many times over the last 12 years and I wanted to call it quits years ago! We did one huge festival show in 2007 with a 20-camera shoot for a DVD release, to commemorate it for all time, and it was a perfect gig. I walked off stage and said ‘That was perfection! Can we stop now? It’s never gonna get better than that!’ The others said ‘No, we can’t walk away now!’ All we could hope to achieve is to equal that. We’ll never surpass it. There’s been other great nights, lots of A-plus moments, but I’ve always wanted to leave on a high and you don’t want to exit on a moment that isn’t so great.”
Did losing AJ Pero (Twisted Sister drummer, who died in 2015) prompt your decision to call it quits or is there more to it than that?
“When AJ passed away it was like ‘Okay, now we’re losing members…’ Not that anyone else is planning on dying any time soon, but AJ wasn’t planning on dying either! I said to the other guys, ‘Are we going to be one of those bands where members start falling away and then there’s only one original member in the band or two different versions of the band touring with different lineups or whatever?’ Everyone said ‘We take your point now…’ Without all five of us it does seem odd, so maybe it’s the time to announce that we’re calling it a day.”
It must have been handy to have a drummer of Mike Portnoy’s calibre to step in and enable you to finish things off properly…
“The strange thing is, he was handpicked by AJ. Oddly, shortly before AJ passed, we had a meeting and we acknowledged that we play infrequently and, to be blunt, they’re huge pay days. We don’t perform very often, and financially the shows are important to people, so what happens is one of us gets sick? It was decided that everybody would pick their stand-in guy, and that person would be ready to step in and take over for that show. The show would go on! AJ chose Mike Portnoy. Then AJ died, a few months later, and we were never talking about what would happen if somebody died, you know? So it was very odd. AJ had died and he’d picked Mike to be his guy, so it was almost like he’d picked his replacement. Mike’s great. He said ‘Sure, I’d be honoured!’ He used to come and see Twisted Sister in the pubs of Long Island, you know? And because he’s such a celebrated drummer, he’s really shone a positive light on AJ, who never got that recognition when he was alive. Mike plays AJ’s stuff like he used to play it live. In the studio, AJ would strip it down and simplify it, mainly because I’d be screaming ‘Stop overplaying!’, ha ha ha! But live he was a lot busier, so Mike plays his live drum parts and people are coming to really appreciate and respect AJ a lot more. Mike has really recognised and celebrated AJ’s value as a drummer.”
What made you decide to bid farewell to the UK at Bloodstock?
“First of all, to do our last show at Bloodstock is definitely the right place for the last UK show. Would Download have given us more attention? Yes, but the Download festival has never really appreciated the value of Twisted Sister. We’ve played there once or twice. We always play on the second stage and we don’t get asked very often. But being a true metal festival, the Bloodstock guys completely appreciate our value and so we’re very happy to be saying goodbye there.”
What can we expect from your farewell show? Any surprises?
“In terms of how we approach it, we want to do more of a variety of material from nearly all of our records. The one record we don’t cover is Love Is For Suckers. We experimented with one song from that album, but it didn’t really work. That was a strange album because it was supposed to be a solo album for me but then management got involved and everybody forced the band to do it. But we’re covering all of the other albums and we’re trying to do things we haven’t been playing over the last 12 years, to give people some variety. We want people to leave with a memory of Twisted Sister as they knew us!”
And what can we expect from you? Is Dee Snider on good form?
“Again, I’ve endeavoured to stay in the kind of physical shape that enables me to perform as the Dee Snider that people know and love, and that’s another reason for us to bow out. I don’t know long I can keep this up, ha ha! I’m still delivering, and I don’t know whether to thank my lifestyle or the gods above, but no one can beat gravity and I don’t want to lose it onstage. The good news is, I’m still in shape so the show should rock! And then I’ll relax and start eating again, ha ha!”
Twisted Sister headline Bloodstock festival on August 12.
Their live DVD Metal Meltdown: A Concert To Honor A.J. Pero is available now, produced by Rock Fuel Media and in association with Loud & Proud Records.
TeamRock are also hosting a screening of the movie We Are Twisted Fucking Sister including a live fan Q&A with guitarist Jay Jay French. It takes place in London on August 10 and tickets are available now.