Growing Up Twisted: Interview with Jesse Blaze Snider

It’s nearing one o’clock when relief is finally achieved by ice cold air-conditioning on this July afternoon in New York City, where outside the temperature averages 100 degrees and the humidity is doling out battle scars. Slightly hunched over and wandering along the glass-encased food counter of a 3rd Ave. bagel shop is Jesse Blaze Snider, with strands of his limp blonde mohawk (which he is on the fence about eliminating) sliding across his forehead as he moves, unsure of what he’s after. He’s been attending the New Music Seminar at Webster Hall all morning with his manager, and although admittedly learning a lot and taking notes, he seemingly enjoys this small escape.

“This interview just cost me $1.63!” he quips in his distinctive tone, taking the seat across from me at a small black marble table. In his right hand sits his find: a small to-go cup of that “costly” hot chocolate, which he ordered of his own accord.

“What if I talk like this?” the handsome 27-year-old says in jest with his free hand covering his mouth to muffle his words. Amongst the loud patrons who make up this crowded room, that volume won’t fly and the somewhat scathing look I shoot him lets him know. Jesse’s manager has caught up with us as she casually leans in to me for a cheek-to-cheek kiss hello. She immediately grabs an iced latte and drags an empty seat to Snider’s left, joining in on a foremost business level, but with a no doubt personal flair, noticeable throughout her reoccurring genuine laughter.

Jesse Snider, standing at 5-feet 9-inches with a lean muscular physique, is the eldest son and one quarter of Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider’s children—Shane Royal, Cody Blue, and Cheyenne Jean—with Suzette, partner of 34 years and wife of 29. In his own right, Jesse is a very successful and multifaceted artist, with credits as a singer, songwriter, musician, performer, comic book writer, voice over actor (Remember that Burger King chicken fries commercial with the chickens on the stoop? “Maybe I do!”), and semi-pro football player, never once putting in his mind that he wouldn’t succeed, it was just a matter of time. After stints as a VJ and competing on MTV’s Rock The Cradle where he took second place, his family’s reality show Growing Up Twisted isn’t his first. He no longer lives at home with the Snider clan, but he is a significant part of the show, and no doubt drawing in a large portion of its viewers. The relationship he has with his family is still in tact, yet at times he feels like an outsider, getting used to the new family dynamic. He likens it to seeing what the viewers at home will see about the family that he adores. “I know my family is entertaining as all hell.”

Twisted debuted July 27 on A&E, where viewers see the family dynamic first hand. For this family, having cameras around doesn’t phase them, it just gives them public license to display their true colors, because they have nothing to hide from each other. Or us. It’s the real stuff that you just can’t write. “There is no script,” Jesse tells me adamantly. “We didn’t expect Child Services to get called on my mom. We didn’t expect a store clerk to point at her breasts and say ‘Are those real?’ We didn’t expect my mother to almost run me off the road at Bikers For Babies. Shit just happened.” One issue is the constant repetition that a reality show ensues. For instance, the day Suzette had a tattoo removed, which is a major part of the premiere episode, they had to repeat their conversation about it at least five times in different settings. By the time he gets home to his wife Patty and 16-month-old daughter Logan Lane, he doesn’t want to utter a word about his day.

“The six of us, as a family unit, are very exclusive,” Jesse explains of his very private family, who weed out any disingenuous nature from their lives. Jesse is “halfsies” between his mother and his father, both whom he respects immensely, and in conjunction with doing his own thing, always honors their opinions. “I had the benefit of looking at my parents and going ‘They did it! Why can’t I?’”

He and Dee are always the quiet ones who often are the voice of reason amongst the four other members, and are most capable of taking each other’s criticisms, getting a lot out of their working relationship, “Whether it’s writing screen plays and comic strips or writing songs.” Snider recently wrote a song titled “Rock ‘N Roll Ain’t Dead,” which his father adored and decided to record for himself. The task shocked Snider because it taught him a lot about insecurities that his father has when it comes to the creative process. “Half of the reason why I’m as confident as I am, is because I’m copying him,” he admits, baffled. “I’m way more confident than he is, apparently.” Jesse initially was not passionate about music, feeling like it was what everyone expected of him, and scaring himself away from it, with his father never pushing him to become a musician. He soon realized that it was a smart move on his father’s part, because he’s happy to be a musician due to his own passion and work ethic.

The family has a production company, Snider Than Thou Productions, which right now consists of Jesse, his father, and his two brothers, with the rest of the family helping out as needed, and soon they want to build an office building to house it. For Father’s Day, Jess gave Dee floor-plans that he had drawn up of the office building with the four corner offices and a collaboration center in the middle, just how he’d seen it. “Hey dad! What’s goin’ on?” Jesse says as he answers his phone, while we laugh at the coincidence. “He just called me to say he was looking at the floor-plan for STT Productions,” Jesse says, enjoying this anecdote and quoting his father: “‘And I love the layout, everybody has two windows!’” Both Jesse and his manager explain that Dee has become more and more openly sweet than ever before, even messaging Jesse on Twitter from Germany to say he loves him and hopes his family is doing well. So this call was icing on the cake.

“We fight a lot,” laughs Jesse of his relationship with his mom Suzette, who graduated at the top of her class at FIT. She soon created the “drag” look for Twisted Sister, and got her beauty and hair licenses to do makeup for press junkets while being a stay at home mom, despite offers to design for Betsey Johnson. Jesse has a close bond with his mom due to the fact that until Shane was born, it was just the two of them while Dee was touring with Twisted Sister. Their arguments usually aren’t negative, and the two constantly go toe to toe, always challenging one another’s knowledge and opinions with mutual respect. “Most people just like to give her her way, because she tends to always win,” says Jesse. “But I think that that does a great disservice to my mother, to just tell her what she wants to hear and not mean it.” She’s a petite, brutally honest firecracker with a very good judge of character, as well as most all else. Often times what she says really bothers her eldest son, who talks about her both sarcastically and lovingly. “If she doesn’t like something, if she’s upset about something, it really bothers me,” Jesse explains. “And for the most part, she tends to be right about a lot of things, so there’s always this lingering ‘Son of a gun!’” He will either try to prove his mom wrong—although she won’t usually admit it, even if it’s only about the color to paint a room—or succumb to the fact that she is indeed correct “way too often.” She also tried to pierce Logan Lane’s ears behind Jesse’s back, among many other things. “She almost killed me!” he adds emphatically. “After she said that it was very dangerous [to ride during Bikers For Babies – a charity Dee is the spokesperson for]. Anybody could have run me off the road, but it was her that did it!” Although Suzette is right about a lot, Jesse made sure to let me know: “She didn’t like ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It.’”

Jesse’s 13-year-old sister Cheyenne, is 15 years his junior. “When she was born, I cried my eyes out, and I was just over the moon that I had a little sister, I always wanted a little sister.” When it came time for college, Jesse chose to commute rather than going away to a writing school that he wanted to attend, to make sure that she didn’t grow up not knowing him. “We have closer to a father-daughter relationship than we do a brother-sister relationship, which kind of sucks, because she’s really affected by what I say.” In that sense, it makes their relationship a bit more difficult and odd at times, but in the end “I really love her, and she’s a sweet kid.”

Shane, 22, the resident comic, and Cody, 20, a budding filmmaker, share an apartment in the city and are very close in age, and to an extent, best friends even though they butt heads. “I was five when Shane entered this world,” Jesse tells me. “And I was a mama’s boy!” Consequently, he wasn’t ready for a sibling. Laid back and sweet, Shane was in retrospect “the best brother you could ask for,” but Jesse did not realize it at the time, constantly being mean to Shane. Then Cody came along, breaking Jesse’s toys, so he took it as a punishment from the universe, and repented. “No! Put it back in, put it back in, I’ll take Shane!” Up until Cheyenne was born, he treated them both “like crap.” By that time, he started to change his attitude, and meeting his wife Patty—who is very much like his mother as a nurturer and support system—helped him immensely, due to the relationship she has with her family, and the way she treated Jesse’s siblings, making them Easter baskets and treating them as if they were her own. “For the past 11 years now, I have been ‘awesome brother’! It took a very long time for Shane and Cody to get over the fact that I used to be ‘total douche-bag brother,’ but we finally got to that place within the past few years – even to the point where they’ve been apologizing to me,” he adds with much pleasure. “And nowadays Shane and Cody are two of my best friends, I see them the most, I get to hang out with them the most, and we all do creative stuff.”

As the doting father that he is, Jesse takes out his iPhone to flip through “The Best of Logan,” a collection of photographs of his daughter, all of which are breathtaking. To say he’s head-over-heels is an understatement, and for her Christening, he wrote a song titled “Go With Me,” which is his answer to a Twisted Sister song called “The Price” which Dee wrote about missing Jesse’s birth and the beginning of his life. Jesse performs “Go With Me” with Logan in his arms on the second episode of Growing Up Twisted, “Baptism By Snider.” Have the tissues ready.

“I would do anything for any single one of them,” Jesse says of his family. “I would take a bullet for any of them.” And vice versa. “I hope that if people take away anything from the show, it’s that.”