Interviews Dee Snider

Aging rebel learns to take it and like it

by Brian Aberback,, June 27, 2003

Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider has a word of advice for Marilyn Manson and other shock rockers who make their living off an image and music meant to captivate young fans and horrify their parents.

“Enjoy your bad-ass status while you can, because 20 years from now, you’re going to be easy listening,” Snider said. “What was once dangerous becomes accepted and fun.”

The affable singer speaks from experience. In the mid-Eighties, Twisted Sister was public enemy No. 1, its rebellious music and garish, drag-queen stage look targeted by the Parents’ Music Resource Center, a group of Washington wives led by Tipper Gore who wanted warning stickers placed on objectionable rock albums.

With his over-the-top image, Snider became these women’s poster child for all that was wrong with rock. He defended his music before a Senate committee in 1985, where one legislator derisively referred to him as “Mr. Sister.”

Fast forward to May 2003. The recently reunited Twisted Sister was summoned by the government once again, this time to play a series of shows for U.S. troops stationed in Korea as part of the military’s USO program.

“It’s bizarre,” Snider said by phone from his home on Long Island’s North Shore. “Here I was fighting for my life in Washington, and now I’m a guest of the government playing for the troops.”

In another role reversal, Twisted Sister plays to family audiences, a far cry from the days when Snider couldn’t finish a sentence onstage without using a slew of expletives. Twisted Sister performs at the State Fair Meadowlands in East Rutherford on Thursday and Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson on July 5.

“Family fun with Twisted Sister,” Snider said with a laugh. “It’s a reality check. I’m 48 and have four kids,” he said, noting that many of his fans from the Eighties are in similar stages of their lives and likely to be found at a fair or amusement park with their own children.

Snider isn’t embarrassed about playing state fairs when he once rocked arenas. In fact, he said he’s enjoying Twisted Sister now more than in the band’s salad days.

“Twisted Sister back in the day for me was a war on so many levels,” Snider said of the band’s popularity peak, which coincided with its Washington battle. “I had a chip on my shoulder the size of the world. I was miserable. Now it’s all about fun. Everybody’s smiling.”

Twisted Sister formed in Manhattan in 1973; Snider joined three years later. The band, which also includes guitarists Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda, bassist Mark Mendoza, and drummer A.J. Pero, worked the club scene for more than a decade before achieving breakthrough commercial success in 1984. The teen rebellion anthems “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” became MTV staples, and the band’s album, “Stay Hungry,” sold more than 2 million copies.

After two follow-up albums flopped, Twisted Sister broke up in 1987. Snider, the band’s lyricist, said he had become a victim of his own success.

“I clearly remember sitting poolside [by the] million-dollar house, trying to write the lyrics for the next teen angst-filled anthem and going, ‘I’m not pissed off. What am I [going to] complain about?'” he said.

The band re-formed in November 2001 to perform at a Sept. 11 benefit. But Twisted Sister has no plans to tour extensively. Band members are busy with other work and family obligations.

Snider hosts “The House of Hair,” a syndicated Eighties metal radio show, and has done television and radio voice-overs for everything from candy bars and the New York Lotto to the Discovery Channel. He’s also writing the follow-up to his 1998 horror film, “Strangeland,” and is working on a Halloween-themed stage production called “Van Helsing’s Curse.”

One thing he’s not doing is writing new Twisted Sister material.

“As far as I can see, there isn’t any real interest in new product from yesterday’s artists,” he said. “Like it or not, the reality is that the Seventies and Eighties bands are doing an oldies show, and that’s what the audience wants to hear – the songs they know.”