Paul McGuire

Dee Snider Wants to Talk – His New Album, ‘Leave A Scar,’ Is Making Sure That People Listen

Metal icon Dee Snider had already started taking a step back from music when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. As luck would have it, all the time off and the global unrest only set his artistry further into motion. Now, more than halfway through 2021, he is releasing a brand new album, crossing over the line of genres, shaking things up for his label, and – most importantly – applauding those looking to speak out.

Dee Snider is a restless soul, which means that saying that the innovative, show-stopping star is simply ‘busy’ would be an understatement. He is engrossed in a wide array of creative ventures, every one being more of a passion project than the next, and dedicated to being hands-on and revolutionary within each. Whether he’s collaborating with Patti LuPone and Cindy Lauper on the expertly theatrical and Big Apple-tinged Dee Does Broadway or winning $25,000 for the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans while competing on Family Feud, the heavy metal legend is attentive and lively in all he embarks on.

“I’ve got a lot of different things coming that I’ll share with you,” Snider tells us in the most wonderfully overzealous fashion. “One of the reasons why I thought that I was walking away from music in 2019 was because I have now written my first novel, which I’m looking for a home for. It’s a fictional novel called Frats. I’ve co-created a children’s animated series that’s being developed by Peacock right now called Monsters Rock. I’ve written a movie that is a new level of horror called My Enemy’s Enemy, which I’ll be directing in the spring. It is being produced by the people who do the Halloween franchise, so they think it’s the next level of horror, as well.”

“What else am I doing? […] Well, I’m involved with a new theatrical production on Broadway called Rock Me Amadeus Live!. There was a project called Rocktopia a few years ago that I did, which has now been expanded into this same classical, opera, Broadway style, rock mashup thing, but now set to a story with a whole dramatic element tied to it, so I’m part of that – and the list goes on and on and on!”

What did we say? Restless! We cannot help but admire it, though, because it shows that nothing can hold down a rockstar as exuberant and driven as Dee Snider. There are so many things in the works for this beloved musician, but we have to remember the reason we virtually sat down to chat in the first place – music. That’s right, in between all of these edgy, provocative, and contemporary endeavors, Snider found the time and energy to tear into one of his most thought-provoking and state-of-the-art pieces of music to date. Leave A Scar, out this Friday, feels equally as nostalgic for the early days of metal as it does fresh and modern. He explains that that was the exact goal in mind when going into this third solo record of his. 

“Look, here’s a life lesson for the readers: the fence is the most difficult place to sit, ok? It’s very tough to sit on a fence without falling to either side. We really were doing a dance on this record saying, ‘Well, how can we do that? Obviously with someone like me, I’m going to bring that naturally classic kind of vibe, but at the same time, can we have that and still have something that feels new to the younger listeners and has some appeal to a broader audience?’ That’s what I am all about – I want to bring all the old school metal heads along for the ride with me and I am moving forward into the bold today of heavy metal, but I’m hoping to bring some of those originals with me because it is the fountain of youth. I am convinced heavy metal is the fountain of youth.”

The Twisted Sister frontman has always worked to do that, though: bring heavy metal to the forefront through mainstream tactics and widespread approaches. Heavy metal has this reputation of being a rough and rowdy genre, which is true, but Dee Snider puts in the work to make it melodic and harmonious so that a lot of people – not just metalheads – can jump in and enjoy at least some of it.

“I am always conscious of that, because I believe that metal – the tones, the power, the force that is heavy metal – has a place amongst the vast music audience if done right. I’ve always tried to show how it works and how well it can work. Look at Dee Does Broadway. It is the perfect example. Taking classic Broadway showtunes and infusing them with a heavy metal approach had people blown away like, ‘Wow, this really rocks!’ Even Patti LuPone and Bebe Neuwirth were so excited to do this. They had said, ‘Hey, look, we’re Zeppelin fans. We grew up on Deep Purple. We were kids in the seventies. We grew up on rock and roll and we still love Broadway.’ Consequently, to see somebody putting those two together in that way, they were blown away. We weren’t just taking, say, Jesus Christ Superstar, which already has rock music there to begin with, but we were taking something that isn’t rock and making it rock.”

This brought us right around to Dee Snider’s latest single, “Time To Choose,” which featured an unlikely, but thoughtfully chosen collaborator. “George ‘CorpseGrinder’ Fisher of Cannibal Corpse,” the musician exclaims. “That duet is flaming, but unexpected. It all has value, though, even though my audience doesn’t really appreciate the death metal thing. They don’t get it. They don’t get the lack of melody. My kids have kept me very in tune with contemporary music, so I see its value. I see it has its place. I needed a showy part to this song because I was in that mood and with George on it, it was very, very effective. He adds to the song. The death metal doesn’t take away from it. 

As I said to Snider myself, “It’s all about the context of the musicality.” Cannibal Corpse may be an acquired taste to the masses, but this particular song can be a stellar introduction for those still leaning toward the authenticity of Twisted Sister-style heavy metal. “Time To Choose” is brutal and bruising, but also very deep and very in tune with today. Grappling with life – and the evolution of such – can be a heavy to talk about, so the heaviest of metal edge that George Fisher brings in is simply genius. 

“I’m proud to say that it was my idea,” Snider gloats warmly. The musician was settled on having him on the track before a request was even made – and even before his team got on board. He explains that Napalm Records said they “couldn’t believe what Snider [was] suggesting.” His pushing, prodding, and overall determination paid off, because once they agreed and got the ball rolling, Snider’s point was proven: Cannibal Corpse as an addition to the track would not take away from it at all. If anything, it made it an even better single to lead this record.

“The thing about ‘Time To Choose’ was that after the album was done, Napalm came back and said, ‘We need a bonus track.’ You see, they put together packages for other countries and whatever, and they want to say it includes or they got an extra song. We then wrote ‘Time To Choose’ for that, but as we started to record it, it started to evolve. The reaction we got was great. We hadn’t released it yet, but the reaction – wow. They were going, ‘This is amazing. It’s unbelievable, Dee, that you reached across the aisle, so to speak, and welcomed someone from that world, because they don’t even get acknowledged by your generation really as anything other than when they are made fun of!’ It just went from being a bonus track to one of the first releases to set up Leave A Scar, which was amazing.”

Those who listen to Leave A Scar may note that it feels sort of like a rebirth. It’s still Dee Snider through-and-through and has those crips, nail-on-the-head metal undertones, but it reads, so to speak, as a new beginning. He unveils in our conversation that the real rebirth, and “the start of the rebirth,” was 2018’s For The Love of Metal. “That was what Jamey Jasta showed me: that I had a place in the community today. I had stopped writing and recording any new metal back in the nineties. I just sort of said, ‘Well, my time’s done,’ and stepped aside to let other people do it. Jamey was convinced that there was a place for me. The response to For The Love of Metal was huge and it was clear that the audience was welcoming with the right type of music and the right approach. With that, we knew the direction we were going in.”

“This time out we knew it was no longer about trying to figure it out. It was no longer like me being like, ‘Where do I fit now?’ I know where I fit. We know what we’re doing now. I’ve got a band, the backup musicians that I use on the road. It was about a year into doing shows and I realized it’s a band – we became a band. It has that vibe. They were on the record and writing. Last time around we brought in a lot of outside writers. This time, we knew that Jamey, Charlie Belmore – I call him the riff monster – and I myself could handle the writing. That was a big thing, because of COVID and because of the state of the world, I felt for the first time since the nineties that I needed to say something. I needed to write words, lyrics. I hadn’t done that since the last Widowmaker album in 1996, I think it was. That was a big thing and it was very much inspired by what’s going on in the world today.”

While a lot of musicians, and occasionally even fans, stray away from using their voice to further push the social and political agenda surrounding our every move, Snider did the opposite. He found it easier, practically inspirational, to delve into the state of the world through music and lyrics – something we thoroughly commend him for. Just because he’s a heavy metal legend doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something to say – and the platform to say it.

“I had a realization that this is my purpose. Purpose is the word. I mentally decided in 2019 that I was going to stop recording and stop doing live shows. I just sort of said, ‘I’m done with this,’ but then around mid-2020 while sitting watching the news and seeing what was going on in the world, I said, ‘You know, people need to speak up – speak out.’ This is the reason it’s gotten as crazy as this. It is not just the United States, too, it’s all over the world, because the vast majority of people, which is the middle, just sort of sit there with phrases like, ‘I’m sure things will work out. I hope it’ll get better. I trust things will be ok.’ We’ve been doing that for a very long time and that’s not worked out. It’s allowed the extreme left and extreme right to be the loudest voices in the room and to throw their weight around and control things. You got these Facebook groups and they got 100,000 people in it who are like, ‘We are an army!’ And I would say, ‘Dude, there’s seven billion people in the world. You are not an army. You’re just a parade.’ Seven billion, you know? People think they’ve got this influence and this power with the amount of followers that I’ve got on Twitter. Me! They were an army? No, it’s a Twitter following! Jesus. It’s not an army!”

“I’m sorry, but truly, when I went to social media and I started pushing people to speak up and speak out and assert themselves, I got a really thoughtful tweet…. Here’s another life lesson: Yes, a tweet, an email, a social media comment, or a letter can change things. You think that I can’t do anything? It’s amazing. If you look out through history, what one letter or one email to the right person at the right time did to change things. Anyway, somebody tweeted to me and said, ‘Dee, not all of us have the platform or the fortitude or strength,’ I forgot the exact word, but they were saying, ‘We don’t have that like you do, what are we supposed to do?’ And I said, ‘Well, follow someone who is speaking out – I realized that was me!’ It’s me, you know? I’m telling him to follow somebody, but I do a platform and I do have that voice and I do speak out and I’ve always done it through my lyrics now and in the past. I said to myself, ‘Ok, even though my life is amazing and I could walk away from all this insanity that’s going on in the world that I’m completely unaffected by to be honest – other than emotionally or spiritually, because physically, it doesn’t affect me at all – I can say something.’ Note to self: just because you’re ok, doesn’t mean there aren’t others who don’t need your voice. That’s why I’m speaking out.” 

“So many of my peers, as I’ve gotten older, they’ve switched sides,” the singer, radio host, writer, and actor continues. “They’ve conveniently moved over to a more conservative way of thinking because when they were socially conscious and young, they had no money and they were very in tune with the fact that people were doing without and people were struggling. Suddenly they’ve had success and they have money and say, ‘I’m not sharing that!’ It’s not right. I still stand for the same things I stand for. I write huge checks to the government each year, but my thought is, ‘I can’t believe I’m able to make that much money that I have to pay those kinds of taxes!’ I have got to view it that way, so I view it as my turn to give back. I was the poor rocker for years, you know? Now you’re successful and you’re supposed to turn your back on the others? No, it doesn’t work that way. That’s your background and that’s how you got where you are today. That’s why you’re able to, at this point, release an album that has these motivations and these messages within them. Without still connecting with where I came from and where many still are, where would this record be? It wouldn’t exist because it really was the impetus for going back in and saying what I didn’t have to say, but needed to say.”

Every song on Leave A Scar is this journey from raw rock and roll that is, as Snider explains it, “11 punishing, heavy tracks,” but ultimately bleed into possibly one of his most poignant songs of all time. Our favorite track off of the record is said closing number, “Stand.” This monstrous song is almost too vivacious to be a ballad, but creeps in quietly enough after the previous songs to feel like such. It’s a lovely metal song for the 21st century to grab onto, but it is also the most pertinent one that could have been chosen to close out the new LP. It is the ultimate swan song that Leave A Scar, in all it’s relevant glory, deserved.

“Stand,” according to Snider, “is the most important track on the record. Yes, it is the most carefully crafted of all the songs on the album, and, yes, I wanted it to be the last track because after 11 punishing, heavy tracks that are mostly very fast […] I stopped and I slowed it completely down. I almost talk to the listener in the first verse. I drop the octave on my voice and I’m essentially just talking to everyone choosing to listen until the end. I feel that the first few tracks are in the vein of ‘I need your attention!’ I’m shaking people and screaming and yelling, so that finally, when everybody’s paying attention, I can go, ‘Listen, I want you to hear something.’ It’s ‘Stand’ and it is incredibly important.”

So important, in fact, that the rocker pulled the title right out of the lyrics. “Don’t leave your mark, leave a scar, I say. People ask me about that inspiration for that line and I thought about it for awhile. When I was a kid, though, I spray painted my name on a building. I knew it was vandalism, but regardless, within a short amount of time it was painted over. It was gone. That was my mark. It was gone that same year. I carved my name and a tree, though. I recently went and saw that giant tree. It has been there for 50 years. I was 10 at the time, so 50/55 years later, it’s still there. Why? Because I left a scar. That tree would have to be cut down if they wanted to get rid of my name. That just made me reflect on that, though. I’m going to leave my mark. I’m gonna leave my mark. You have got to do more than that. It’s got to be more than a mark. It’s got to be a scar if you want to make a difference.”

Clearly, with his hand in an innumerable number of artistic projects both in and out of the music industry, Dee Snider is working to leave a scar of his own. If you follow him on Twitter, listen to his music, or simply admire his take on the real world, you have been impacted in one way or another by the heavy metal icon. He is bridging gaps, taking a ‘stand,’ inspiring, creating, and rocking the hell out – because that’s just what he does.