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Interview: Twisted Sister

mit Dee Snider vom 15. Februar 2013 via Phone
Twisted Sister - ein Name, der einerseits als Synonym für die Glam und Hair Metal Zeit gilt, andererseits eine Band repräsentiert, die mit ihrem visuellen Konzept so einige Metalheads vor den Kopf gestoßen hat. Selbst wenn einem der Sound gefiel, so war jemand, der nach den goldenen Zeiten dieses Subgenres das Licht der Welt erblickte, eher verwirrt von den auf der Bühne als Frauen verkleideten Männern. Da mag der Sound der Truppe noch so gut sein, aber irgendwie sorgten sie damit bei vielen jungen Hörern für ein verdutztes "Aha?".
Unter dem Titel "Shut Up and Give Me the Mic: A Twisted Memoir" ist nun im vorigen Jahr die Autobiografie von Tiwsted Sister Sänger Dee Snider erschienen, in der er - im Gegensatz zu vielen seiner Genrekollegen - abseits von nach Aufmerksamkeit schreienden Enthüllungsgeschichten, Sex oder Drogen aus seinem Leben erzählt. Irgendwie sind solche Schriften gerade ziemlich in Mode. Keith Richards, Rudolf Schenker oder Herman Rarebell sind nur einige wenige Namen auf der Liste ... doch woher kommt dieser aktuelle Trend? Passend dazu scheinen sich nämlich gerade die erfolgreichen Bands der 70iger und 80iger nach oft Dekaden umfassenden Pausen erneut auf die Bühnen zu trauen.
2012 wäre ja eigentlich das Bandjubiläum von Twisted Sister, nachdem Jay Jay French schon im Dezember 1972 die Bandgründung der Rock-Veteranen verzeichnete. Doch darüber kann ein Dee Snider nur lachen! Erst mit seinem Beitritt zur Band im Jahre 1976 wurden eigene Songs produziert und eine professionelle Geschichte daraus gemacht. Wen interessieren schon die vier Loser, die zuvor irgendwelche Coversongs runtergedudelt haben? Da ist was wahres dran ... damit verlagert sich das tatsächliche Bandjubiläum auf das Jahr 2016. Jedoch schon viel früher wird eine Dokumentation über genau diese ersten Jahre der Truppe erscheinen, mit der der deutsche Regisseur Andrew Horn Licht in diese für viele Fans weitestgehend unbekannte Phase bringt.
Wie interessant das alles klingen mag, hat sich Dee Snider doch auch abseits der Musikwelt eine Namen machen und sich gepflegt austoben können. Sei es als Schauspieler, als Drehbuchautor oder als Radiomoderator. Er scheint nie zu ruhen, hat immer ein Projekt nebenbei laufen oder schon in der Mache. Was ist der Grund für eine solche Arbeitswut? Ist er als Mensch, wie man ihn auf der Bühne oder als Schauspieler vor der Kamera kennen lernt der gleiche Mensch, der zu Hause am Esstisch mit seiner Familie sitzt und ihnen christliche Werte zu vermitteln versucht?
Für die Zukunft kann man von Dee natürlich noch einige seine Kreativität fordernde Projekte erwarten. So Wird immer wieder gemunkelt, dass Strangeland II doch noch realisiert wird, wobei es eine Art niemals endende On-Off-Beziehung ist, die Dee Snider und die Fortsetzung seines unter Fans umjubelten Filmes Strangeland verbindet. Außerdem steht ein neues Broadway Musical auf der Aufgabenliste und auch diverse Projekte mit seinen beiden Söhnen. Alle Details dazu und zu weiteren spannenden Themen, findet ihr im unten stehenden Interview!
Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

The Interview:

Alex: Hi Dee, thanks for taking the time for this interview! How are you doing?
Dee Snider: Hi Alex, I'm doing excellent.
Alex: "Shut Up and Give Me the Mic: A Twisted Memoir" – that’s the title of your memoirs that came out in 2012. That’s been about a year right now, and still the press keeps talking about it. How do you feel about that? A good sign?
Dee Snider: Yeah, I guess so! And it doesn't matter if they spell my name wrong as long as they actually say my name, you know? So when you still get them to talk about that book, it's good. In the end it means that there is something they want to talk about.
Alex: Looking back, what have been the most common reactions to the book that you heard?
Dee Snider: The most common reaction is: "Hey, this isn't about sex & drugs!" And I say: "Yeah, I'm not a typical rock star and I didn't want to write a typical book." So I wrote my own book. Everybody else has somebody writing for them, but I wanted to write something that's more personal.
Alex: It seems like these rock biographies are quite trendy right now. Keith Richards, Herman Rarebell, Rudolf Schenker … there have been a few names on the list, lately.
Dee Snider: I think that the people, especially our fans, are over the age that they ... I mean I was asked if I want to write a book and I said I was planning on one. So they asked me: "Do you have something you want to say?" and I said: "Yes!". Then they said: "Write now! Your audience is at that age where they are looking for books about their heroes." So they are reading books about their heroes. Well, that was a good inspiration. (laughs)
So, that's why everybody is writing right now. Because our audience has reached the age where they want to read stuff like that. They are buying it.
Alex: How important are the opinions of fans and the press to you in general?
Dee Snider: Not very! While I certainly want their support and they are certainly welcome when they love what I'm doing, I try to do things that represent firstly me. So if they like it, that's just wonderful. But if they don't like it, I'm happy about it. You know what I mean? I don't do things ... you can see at "Dee Does Broadway". I don't know if you know about that CD, but I wrote Broadway songs and I rocked them out. And I performed them with Broadway singers.
I wanted to do that record and people thought I was crazy - I guess I am. But I was doing it for me, because I was challenged by it and I was interested in doing it. The fact that the reviews were great is wonderful. Once the people saw what I was doing, they appreciated it. The fact that record or CD sells were terrible? Well, it would have been nice if people bought it, but I wasn't really expecting it because it's not traditional. So first I have to be happy with what I'm doing for myself. Then I hope people will like it.
Alex: So you're doing this whole rock thing for yourself? But don't you think that an artist with such a name like yours automatically starts to feed the fans strategically with certain outputs? I mean, you know what they are expecting ...
Dee Snider: Well, I definitely don't do that. Maybe there is bands out there stuck at that point. But I'm at a point in my life, fortunately, where I can say: "I wanna do this and I don't wanna do that." So you know, if somebody asks "You wanna do a new Twisted Sister album?", then I say: "No I don't wanna do that." If they ask "Do you want to try performing at Broadway in our Rock of Ages Show?" I say: "Yeah, I will try that!"
I'm looking for new challenges because I don't want to do always the same old thing. I call new music of old bands "back to the future". They are writing songs that could have been released in the 80s, but they are coming out in the 2000s. I know that there are people who are seeing what I'm doing, hear what I'm doing and some of the things that I'm doing a chance. And some are walking away, saying: "Holy shit, that was fucking great! I didn't expect that, but that was great." I try to show the people that I can do more than they expected.
Alex: Do you think that after you stop releasing new music but continue to be on tour with the old stuff, it becomes some kind of revue of past times? A nostalgic image rather than living music?
Dee Snider: Well, I think it's an oldie show. We are an oldie show: It's old music, played by old people. But it's our music and we're the original guys. Who would be better to play our stuff? And I don't know, if you've seen us live or if you've read the reviews of Download Festival or Graspop. But they brought us back as the headliners because we kill everybody. I'm an old man and I kill all this young folks because I'm in shape and I'm psychotic. My ego is so big that it wouldn't let me fail on stage. So we're giving people an oldies show, but we do it really well and we are the craziest guys.
Alex: Do you feel like some kind of translators or guards of a dying sounds and time?
Dee Snider: No, not at all. I feel like a guy who's going out and entertaining people. For me, it's more fun now than it was back then because we play so infrequently that it's almost like a hobby. A hand full of shows each year now. So when seeing each other we have fun, we enjoy it and it's not work at all. I mean, it's work, but it's not like in the sense of show after show after show. Where you're worried about your voice, where you're worried about your health and where you're worried about everything.
Now we're having a great time, and that's the key. You know, I'm doing a lot of different things. Mainly here in the United States with radio and television and movies, producing them. I've written a Broadway show and that's the development. As I've said: I'm creatively challenged, I'm having a good time and I'm successful. I hope people can grow with me. But if they don't get it and want me to stay and be that guy that I was 30 years ago, forever ... well, I can't do that, sorry.
Alex: Especially in the last decade there seems to have been a wave of reunions. Black Sabbath with Ozzy in 2012, Led Zeppelin in 2007, Judas Priest with Rob Halford in 2004. They are all giants of the rock scene. Where do you think did this reunion wave come from?
Dee Snider: First of all I want to give you the smartest version of the answer and secondly I want to be honest. I'm not gonna lie at you and I would like to give you a very cheering answer and I would like to say: "Oh, that's the spirit of rock! And it's coming from the power of this genre". But it's a twenty years cycle. Look ... Historically, every twenty years, music that was twenty years ago becomes the new trend again. When I was in high school in the 70s, I was enjoying music from the 50s and everybody else listened to the stuff from the 50s. In the 80ies the kids all walked around like in the 60s. In the 90s and the 2000s it was the 80s. And now, what is it? All this reunions: Rage Against The Machine, Soundgarden, Everclear ... all this 90s bands are currently touring. It's now about twenty years and that's what's causes the reunions. Sorry man, I wish it would be spiritual reasons.
Alex: I guess that's a bad thing for all the young bands out there ...
Dee Snider: Actually, my son is a filmmaker. A young filmmaker. And he was talking to me that he is searching for the music for a new film and he asked me: "What was this 20 years thing you told me about? If you want to hit or appeal to a certain audience?" And I was explaining that it's currently the 90s music that currently appears to be the new trend! So it's everywhere. The same thing.
Alex: This year will be Twisted Sister’s 40th anniversary. Anything planned? Do you still give a crap about such occasions or are they just interchangeable numbers on a paper?
Dee Snider: Well, no ... the 40th anniversary is pretty funny, because this 40th anniversary is changing to the real 40 anniversary. That's in fact a point of contention within the band. It makes no sense to make a big deal of this 40th anniversary because in 1973, five guys started a band called Twisted Sister and they broke up in 1975. We formed in 1976, that's when I joined and Eddie joined and it was a new band.
So, as far as I am concerned and as far as Eddie is concerned, 1976 was when Twisted Sister started. And nobody gives a shit about this four other losers. I was quite pissed of after recently reading and talking about an press release, talking about the original band. And I said: "Do you like the original band? Me, Eddie, Mark and A.J., the replacement guys, go out ... I will do a tour, let's see who draws more people!" I mean, it's so easy: It's not the 40th anniversary, change four years and our 40th anniversary will be in 2016. But I don't think I will be around for that one. I' ll be alive, but I don't think I'll be playing.
Alex: Next year, there is a documentary planned to be released that will show the first ten years of the bands history. What do you think about that?
Dee Snider: Well, I haven't seen it, but I know the filmmaker. In Germany he is known for his great documentary work and his name is Andrew Horn. He wants to take the story of our early years, which I also talk about in the book. He takes a light up to the point where we appeared in this TV show called "The Tube" which led to the signing with Atlantic Records in 1983. That's a mostly unknown part of hour history. A lot of people think that we came out from nowhere in 1984. But in fact we've been together for eight and a half years. Jay Jay would say ten years, but I would say eight and a half, because no one is giving a shit about the four other guys. (laughs)
It's kinda cool, because I want people to know that it wasn't an accident. Eight and a half years can't be an accident or we would have never came up. But it wasn't some kind of an accident and this documentary focuses on it.
Alex: So what makes a musician professional? Is it the fact that they can live from their music or is it more about their skills?
Dee Snider: Well, by definition - here we go with the smart honest guy - by definition you're professional when you get paid for what you're doing. That is the definition for a "profession" - professional is paid. If you're a writer and you want to become a professional writer, it's the day when you get paid. By this definition I'm a professional writer. But of course there is something to say about the experience and the possibilities of a person. So I think there is a balance between these both points. And you can never forget the effort, that it takes to be great in something. Fuck the definition!
Alex: Do you know Herman Rarebell, the Ex-Drummer of the Scorpions? Earlier in the day we've talked about this whole financial situation in the music scene. So how can a young band get out their sound to get famous or to get even a few listeners?
Dee Snider: Herman Rarebell? You mean Herman Ze German? He's a great guy, I've met him! A lot of people don't know, that he was one of the primary songwriters for the band back in the early days, because he was the only one who spoke English. He wrote a lot of really great songs with the Scorpions. And this guy's lyrics made a lot more sense then Accept's lyrics because Accept had Wolf's girlfriend writing their lyrics and she was writing about boys and that stuff. That made them look like they were gay! (laughs)
So Herman is a great drummer and a great songwriter. And now coming back to your question: I mean, it's a really different world now ... it's very different. And the emotions are different. Certainly live performing is not the same. But also now is this whole social network thing, to get people online with your music, interviews and performances. So it's like I often get the questions what a young band should do to get out. And I'm saying: "I don't fucking know, man! What I did back then, they don't do it anymore!" (laughs)
They don't do what I did and it's tough - very tough. I know a lot of young bands and it's very hard.
Alex: Yeah, there are a lot of great musicians out there that play like a god but no one is listening to them.
Dee Snider: That's sad! You know, I've got to know a lot of this young metal bands ... true metal bands. Bands like Escape The Fate, Bring Me The Horizon, Asking Alexandria, Motionless in White, because my daughter is really into this hardcore, grindcore and all the other cores. Now she's a teen, but when she first got into it, I was chatting with some of these bands. Also she arranged something with a band called "Attack Attack". She said: "You're going to sing with Attack Attack at the Lollapalooza", and I said: "What?!". "Yes! This is the part, you're singing ...", she ad worked it already out with the band. So I was on stage singing with this band.
And they had the same desire that I had. But the hope of true success isn't even a reality. I wanted to be a rich, famous and a rock'n'roll star. In that order: rich, famous, rock'n'roll star. But now to get rich with this idea of heavy music? There aren't any possibilities for that anymore. So, you know? It's just kind of sad!
Alex: Let's talk about your future! Any new film projects planned for you personally?
Dee Snider: I'm very active at the production company. I'm very active with working with my sons, they are very creative. One is a director and writer and the other an actor and writer. So I'm working on stuff with them.
Strangeland II is on and off, on and off. Currently there is somebody who wants to make it again and there is a script, money and time to be raised. I don't even complain about this anymore ... it feels silly! Because it has been so many years.
I've written a horror show, actually. A short film called "Your Father's Thing". We're going to film this indie short with director Joe Lynch who has done some working with horror movies. We're going to film it this summer, and we're going to take the best out of it. So there is something there and I'm working on some new screen plays. I've written a musical that could be seen on Broadway, we're developing that. It's called "A Very Twisted Christmas" and it's based on Twisted Sister music, some new music that I've written. See, If I have a purpose to write new music, like a vehicle that is into this scene, I may be interested in doing that. I've written this new music in a really 80s style, in fact. So, I always have some projects to work on and I'm very busy!
Alex: What would you say are the main differences between you as a musician on stage and you as a musician in front of the camera?
Dee Snider: As an artist in front of the camera or acting, you're playing a role. Dee Snider on stage is Dee Snider as an own personality. People who meet me off stage see that I'm not like on stage and I say: "Well, it's like a coin with two sides. You can't have one side without the other side." If you find that I'm well adjusted, cool and relaxed and level headed, that's because of my creativity. If I didn't have that side or the ability to express my other side, you know, I think I wouldn't be that calm or adjusted without this other side. So I'm blessed that I have this opportunities. I don't know if you heard about the wrestler Mick Foley and who he is. We're really good friends and he is a lot like me. When he's in the ring, he's a wild man, but when he is home, he is very calm and a cool and connective guy. But these are the two sides of the same coin.
Alex: In an earlier interview you said: "I was born and raised a Christian and I still adhere to those principles." How can one imagine the faith of a rock star? Are you praying prior to a show or do you regularly attend Church?
Dee Snider: No, I didn't go in church for years and years and years ... I don't pray. You know, still Christ is a great man. If everybody live towards his examples, this would be a better world. But I'm not a practicing Christian or morning pray guy at all. I believe in the basic principles of Christianity. That's it.
Alex: In your opinion, what role plays religion in our everyday live?
Dee Snider: It's really a personal thing. I'm not a practicing Christian and practicing means to me that you go to church, do regular prayers and all those things. I'm not like that at all. I just try to live a Christian life by the rules of Christianity. Religion is a personal thing to people and everybody has got to go his own way.
Alex: Are there any points where music and faith come together or even complement each other?
Dee Snider: Well, I don't know about the thing with faith, but I don't think that rock'n'roll and Christianity are usually exclusive. The meaning is that it can certainly help both. It's not a war to pick one. Is it anti-Christian or anti-religious to be in a rock'n'roll band? To live the rock'n'roll and things like that. And I don't think for some people to be without Christianity, to be without religion - I don't think just about Christianity, because there are other religions out there as well - would be possible. And people like Dave Mustaine or Alice Cooper, they really praise Christianity. And they can do that. If you're in a crazy rock'n'roll band this doesn't mean you can't be religious.
Alex: One final fun question: What do you think, is Michael Jackson black or white in heaven?
Dee Snider: (laughs)
I don't think you can change who you are inside. So he is a black man. I mean he is a black man, no matter if he makes himself white. He is black and God knows it.
Alex: No one ever says he might be white ...
Dee Snider: I mean there's nothing wrong about it, but he became white on this really crazy way. There is this TV-Show with his sister La Toya Jackson - I don't know if you can get it in Europe - it's a reality show. She's very nice and kind of in the middle between really black and white. She's becoming white, too ...
Alex: Thank you very much for your time and the interview, Dee! All the best for you and your future.
Dee Snider: You're welcome! You asked some good questions.
Moderation: Alexander Kipke

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