The original headbanger maintains his high standards on new live LP, plus upcoming book and film projects.
Calling from his home in Los Angeles, iconic metal singer Dee Snider has a message for any Aquarian readers who came to see him and his band, Twisted Sister, during their early days playing the local club circuit: “Your love and support and belief kept the band going for all those years we struggled, when we’d get rejection letters [from record companies] by day, and by night we’d go out and play these packed rooms with passionate people reinforcing our belief that there was a place for us,” he says. “So thank you all, and I hope I’m making you proud.”
Snider himself should feel proud of the career that he’s carved out for himself. During the past four decades, he has risen up to become one of the most recognizable and respected singers not only in the metal world, but in the rock realm overall. As front person for Twisted Sister, he led them to international stardom in 1984 with the hits “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock.” He’s still impressing critics and fans alike with his subsequent solo career: his latest studio album, 2018’s For the Love of Metal, earned him widespread praise.
And Snider still isn’t stopping: this year, he released a live album and DVD/Blu-Ray, For the Love of Metal Live. Reviews have again been ecstatic, noting Snider’s electrifying performances recorded at festivals around the world. The track listing includes songs from across Snider’s entire career, including the Twisted Sister hits, which he says he still loves performing.
“When we start doing “I Wanna Rock” or “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” you can see the smiles, like a wave that goes from the front to the back – you can see it from the stage,” Snider says. “That is one of life’s great gifts. That never gets old, to see that joy that you bring when you strike those chords and you hit those notes.”
Snider says he was gratified to see that audiences at those shows seemed equally excited about his new material, as well. He noted that when he played tracks off For the Love of Metal, audience members would “know the songs, they’re singing the songs. It was such a treat.”
For the Love of Metal “was a long time in the making,” Snider says, noting that his plan just happened to work out well, considering the COVID-19 pandemic concert cancellations this year. “[I was] telling my managers that I would not be doing any live shows in 2020. Now they think I’m Nostradamus!” He laughs. “They said, ‘But what are we going to do for 2020?’ I said, ‘Well, what about a live record?’ So it was really just, ‘Hey, this will be a good thing to do while I’m not performing live.’
The reason Snider didn’t want to do any shows this year, he says, is because he wanted to focus on one of his other creative outlets: writing his first fictional novel, which he has completed; he is currently in the process of securing a publisher. He’s already writing his second novel, and he also plans to write two children’s books after that. He says people react with incredulity when he mentions the children’s books idea – but he says it makes perfect sense “because I’m a father of four and a grandfather of four. I know kids. I raised them.”
As if all that isn’t enough, Snider has signed on to make his directorial debut next year, helming the film My Enemy’s Enemy. He says he’s also been offered the opportunity to write and direct another film after that.
Music, books, film – Snider seems to constantly exist in a perpetual state of whirlwind activity. He says this is because he’s determined to embrace every opportunity that comes his way. “One of the big things I’ve learned in life is, just say yes,” he says. “Say yes, then figure it out later. It doesn’t mean ‘fake it ‘til you make it.’ It means: actually do the work and figure it out. Say, ‘Okay, they want me to do this. Now I’ve got to learn to do it.’”
Even someone as prolific and driven as Snider can’t do it all, however. With everything he already has planned for this year and next, he knows he won’t be able to return to music again until 2022 at the earliest. By then, he’ll be 67 years old, and he says he asks himself if he’ll be able to perform up to his own high standards. As he says, “I want to be able to go out on a high note.
“Nobody in the history of mankind has ever beat gravity – it eventually pulls us all to the ground and into the dirt!” Snider continues with a laugh. “I don’t want to be onstage when I lose my battle with gravity. Especially with the way I like to perform, throwing my body around. One day, my body is going to go, ‘No, you can’t do this anymore.’ My band’s going to think I’m fooling around, laying on the floor in agony: ‘Look at Dee! What a crazy son of a bitch, rolling around on the stage!’ And I’m going to be, ‘Get a fucking doctor!’”
Snider likely doesn’t have to worry about that scenario anytime soon, though, if his strong performances on For the Love of Metal Live are any indication. While Snider makes it look effortless, he says those skills were hard won.
“People ask me, ‘How are you so good in front of a live audience?’ It’s because I got a lot of practice,” Snider says. When Twisted Sister were starting out, he estimates that they played “Two thousand shows in the bars and clubs of New Jersey, Long Island, Connecticut, and upstate New York. When you get a ‘free beer night’ crowd and you have to handle that kind of audience on a Labor Day weekend on the Jersey Shore, you learn how to be a front man. You learn how to control an audience, or they will eat you up.”
Snider recalls that it took a long time before Twisted Sister finally raised themselves above that club scene and hit it big with their third album, 1984’s Stay Hungry. “We’d already been together eight years before the world discovered us,” he says. That was a lot of practice. A lot of practice.”
That perseverance also had required a lot of patience, and Snider recalls that not everyone he knew was able to keep the faith during all those pre-fame years – not even his own family members. “My father wanted me to be a civil service worker and sell insurance,” he says. “I’m like, ‘What are you doing to me? This is not who I am!’ But he literally would say, ‘This is the real world. Dreams don’t come true.’”
“Burn In Hell” from Stay Hungry, Twisted Sister’s 1984 breakthrough LP.
One person who has been unfailingly encouraging, though, is Snider’s wife, Suzette. They’ve now been together for 44 years. “She’s my best friend, she’s everything,” he says. “It isn’t metal to be mushy, but when you’ve got somebody, in all the ups and downs and all the years, who never said, ‘You think maybe you should try to do something else?’ – she’s the only person who never said those words.”
Instead, Snider says that when times were tough, his wife pitched in, putting her skills as a hairdresser and makeup artist to use by making the band’s costumes, doing their hair and makeup, and even having a hand in designing their logo. “To have that kind of person in your life is just a gift,” Snider says.
There’s also another example of unwavering loyalty in Snider’s life: his own love for the metal genre. In fact, he says he was a staunch fan from that style’s very beginnings: “I was there for the first Blue Cheer album, the first Led Zeppelin album, the first Black Sabbath album,” he says, “and every metal record and hard rock record, day one, I was drawn to it.”
This was in sharp contrast to the folk music and lighter rock that was more commercially popular at the time. “I didn’t like the Woodstock nation that I was a youngster in,” Snider says. “I didn’t see why we were cheering for Crosby, Stills and Nash. I was cheering for The Who and Mountain, the heavier bands. I didn’t give a shit about Country Joe and the Fish. What the fuck is that? I was drawn to aggressive music.”
As for why he gravitated toward harder-edged music, Snider says, “I harbored a lot of anger and frustration growing up in suburbia [on Long Island] with strict parents. But most young people are angry and frustrated. Why are they not drawn to this music that allows them to vent?” He mentions reading an article recently about how headbangers grow up to be better adjusted adults than fans of other music, and he says he knows why that is: “Because we let out all the dark emotions: anger, depression, frustration, hostility, heartbreak. You have to let it out. If you don’t, you will suffer. We go into the pit and we come out sweating and smiling. That is the beauty of aggressive music. It lets us get it out.”
Snider says that he no longer feels that type of pent-up anger anymore – except about one thing, and it’s the subject of the one new studio track, “Prove Me Wrong,” that he included on For the Love of Metal Live. That song “is an expression of frustration because of a lifetime of people saying, ‘You think you can do that? Prove it to me.’ I say, ‘Fuck you! Haven’t I shown enough times that I can? I’m sick of proving it to you. You prove that I can’t!’”
Snider certainly has proven his naysayers wrong again and again over the years, earning himself a happy and successful life. These days, he says his overriding emotion is gratitude. “I am blessed. My dreams have come true. I’ve got an amazing wife and amazing family and amazing life. Yeah, I had to work for it. But you know what? Life is like that. It’s not always given to you, and most people don’t get things served to them on a silver platter. I’ve had dreams come true, and I’m going to die with a smile on my face.”