Metal Edge, July 1985
Dee Snider. Twisted Sister. You know their story. The years of trying to make it as more than local celebs in the New York suburbs. The big break in England. Stay Hungry. Dee gnawing the bone on the cover. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” as the anthem of the ‘80s. The wild, hilarious videos, and the outrageous stage shows. And Dee – Dee’s hair, Dee’s make-up, Dee, the master of rock ’n’ roll entertainment. Yeah! We talked to Dee recently during a lull in Sister’s tour with Iron Maiden. Found out that behind the wildman pose is an extremely funny, intelligent guy who just happens to think that metal should rule the world.
We’ve heard you’re buying a new house. Have you moved yet?
Dee Snider: Not yet. I was on the road for eleven months. When you get back, there’s so much to do – I get more sleep on the road! I had to find a house and close on it. My wife and son were staying at the old place, but they had to move because it got so bad. People besieged it. I live in a residential neighborhood and fans knew where it was. I guess it’s like Mecca. You know, they wanna go there and touch the grass or something. My brother and somebody were staying there, but they don’t live there anymore, either. I’m going to move to a place with a lot of property and trees. Hopefully, I’ll get my privacy. If I don’t, then the stone wall goes up with the broken bottles across the top! We were happy in our little residential neighborhood, but you’ve got to have some place you can go to that you’re not on duty. I mean, when you’re home you want to be able to shuffle around and not wash your hair for a couple of days. Then you get people knocking on your door for an autograph . . . you can’t just be normal then.
You know, when you do crazy things all the time like I do with Sister, there’s a certain desire to do normal things because it levels your brain out. When you do normal things all the time is when you desire to do crazy things. When you’re on the road you’re constantly on camera, so to speak, and it’s just a totally different life. When you come back, you say, “Hey, babe, I’m home. The star, the Man is back. I’m here and commanding all around me.” And my wife goes, “Cut the —-, and take out the garbage!” She’s great, I really dig her, because you need someone who can call you an ass. Cause when you’re famous, nobody wants to say anything negative to you. It’s always, “Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous!” You want somebody to tell you, “That wasn’t good.”
So people telling you how great you are and always wanting something from you can be a pretty big drag?
Snider: I love it. I mean, I’m walking down the street, I want everybody to know who I am. It’s like a dream come true. But, say, you’re a mechanic and you work on cars all day. You shut the shop down and you go home. You’re at home eating dinner and there’s a knock on the door and it’s one of the customers and they say, “Listen, my carburetor is gone, would you come out here and fix it?” You say, “Come while I’m at work! This is my time and I don’t fix carburetors on my time!” Same thing for a star.
What’s the best thing about making it to the top?
Snider: The best thing is the satisfaction of spending all those years dreaming and believing you can do it and everybody saying you can’t and finally proving once and for all, now and forever, whether you sell another record ever again, nobody can take away the fact that in the year 1984 there was a group called Twisted Sister that had a double platinum album called Stay Hungry. Nobody can ever take that away. Proof positive that I did what I said I was gonna do. I was gonna be a star and I was a star. That makes me a very, very happy person, a much more content person. I’ll always have this.
What do you think it is about you and the band that attracts so many fans?
Snider” There’s a lot of people who are sort of inspired by the whole Twisted Sister thing. We play for the outcasts. The majority of the world is made up of followers. There’s only a handful of these leaders, these trendsetters. Everybody else is just following. They’re treading water, trying to keep up and Twisted Sister says, “You don’t have to keep up. Sink, man. Just let your hands go, and you’ll find out that you go down a little bit and then you’ll bob back up and you’ll be floating on your own. The human body floats by itself and you’ll be much happier. Nobody can pull that life preserver away from you. Don’t be so ruled by what other people tell you to do. What’s right for you? If it’s right for you, do it. Don’t not do it because nobody else is doing it!”
Somebody once asked me if I thought I was a good hero for kids. I said I was the perfect hero, because I’m not good looking. Of course, ugly suddenly becomes “ruggedly handsome” when you’re famous and have money. I’m just the Everyman kind of thing. I mean, kids say, “Dee Snider, he wasn’t popular, and look how cool he is now. Nobody appreciated him in high school, and nobody appreciates me. That means I could be cool, too!” You know? I mean, look at Alice Cooper, man. He is ugly. Maybe that’s why I liked him! He’s uglier than me!
What were you like in high school?
Snider: My whole life nobody ever gave me the time of day. Now everybody wants their picture taken standing next to me. It’s freaky, like the Elephant Man or something. In high school, there are always a couple of people, who don’t get locked into any clique. I had a friend who was like that; she went to my ten-year reunion. We were originally going to go together, pull up in a limo, but I was on tour. I had this thing about wanting to show everybody at high school. So she went, and she was very excited about telling everybody and nobody remembered me! It really bummed me out! When I was in school I tried to get into every clique, but I couldn’t cut it. My family didn’t have much money, so I started working when I was 12, and sports was an after-school type thing, but I was good in sports. I also just didn’t think the world was shaped like a football.
One of my fondest memories was in my senior year. The captain of the football team saying to me in gym class, “Why didn’t you go out for the football team? I could have used you!” And with the freaks I was weird but I didn’t do drugs and they couldn’t comprehend someone who was weird but didn’t do drugs, especially a musician. I kept trying to get in with people, but when I was about 16 I said, “Wait. Who are these people? Where do they get off dictating this and that?” You know, that was their moment in the sun. They were big men on campus in high school, but now they’re not doing anything. They can’t cut it in the real world.
When was the first time you heard a song of yours on the radio?
Snider: We recorded an album called Under The Blade in England, not for Atlantic, that was getting played heavily here as an import. There was a song off that album called “Shoot ‘Em Down” that was sort of a local hit. The first time I heard that, when it just came on the air as part of the rotation and not, you know, somebody doing us a favor and us knowing it in advance, was when I was in a gym working out. All of a sudden it comes on, and that was cool. The coolest thing is when you’re cruising in your car and you hear your song come on and you crank it up and you like pull up next to another car and you see some kid in there who’s got the same station on and he’s hanging out, singing along. I got blacked-out windows on my Mustang. Man, I roll down my window and freak him out!
One time I was cruising with my old lady down in Florida and we stop at a traffic light and I’m in a rented car and there’s a car in front of me. I look to the side and there’s a kid walking away from me with a Twisted Sister, Dee Snider t-shirt on. It’s got my head on the back! So, I waited for the light to turn green, I rolled down the window, got on the back of the seat and yelled, “Hey, YOU! Where’d you get the shirt?” I’m standing up, the kid turns around and goes, “Holy —-!” I slide down in the seat, slam the gas and I didn’t realize that the guy in front of me had recognized me in his rearview mirror and was sitting there at the green light just staring at me. Boom! Oh, no! And there’s this terrific traffic jam and the kid’s like, “Oh, Dee!” And people are pulling over and coming out of stores, I guess it was god saying, “Your ego is getting too big. I’m going to have to knock it down!” That’s the last time I do anything like that again.