Dee Snider is ready to rock (again) with his fifth solo album Leave A Scar released through Napalm Records on July 30th and it’s already hit #19 on the Top 20 Billboard Charts. At 66 years old, Snider can still deliver a sledgehammer of heavy metal music with the same vehemence he had in his 20’s fronting Twisted Sister. As the interview started, Snider made it clear we had more time than allotted and jokingly said “I don’t know why they even give me a 10-minute break between calls. Do they think I need a quick nap or need to put on my lipstick?”
After the release of his 2018 album For The Love of Metal, Snider had contemplated retiring and he told his band and management that he was done recording and performing. “At the time I felt that with all the success of the record and charting as the number one metal record in the world, that it may be a good time for me to do something else. I just didn’t want to be one of those guys that retire and then come back” Snider says. “By that point, the world had ‘shit the bed’ so to speak and I found myself on social media speaking or going off the rails as I do and it made me realize that I am in the position to speak for those who can’t. That was the turning point and it was at that moment I decided I wanted to keep recording and playing live so I never made the public announcement. I ended up calling Jamey Jasta who produced my last record and told him that I wanted to do another heavy record but that I wanted to be part of the writing process this time. I was thinking about Twisted Sister songs like We’re Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock and how these songs have continued to remain just as relevant today as they were over 30 years ago. I also really wanted to rock again, thus the title track on the new record,” Snider confessed.
While Snider found inspiration amongst the pandemic and the political turmoil happening all over the world, there was a new challenge he faced when it came to writing lyrics for an album in 2021 vs the 1980s. “Cancel culture has become such an enormous issue lately that when I was sitting down to write the lyrics for Leave A Scar, I had to take all of this into consideration. I mean censorship has always existed. There has always been this mentality of you shouldn’t do this or you shouldn’t do that but it seems to have escalated” Snider says. Whether it was burning books or muting people’s artistic expressions, namely music, the problem seems to have come full circle . Snider recalls how he stood up alongside John Denver and Frank Zappa to fight against the discrimination and censorship of music lyrics that the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) and Tipper Gore were trying to enforce. Walking into the room with his signature, big blond hair flowing, jeans, sleeveless t-shirt & jean jacket, and sunglasses, Snider sat down and delivered a speech that made history. He introduced himself as a husband, father, Christian, and a man who does not do drugs or drink. He went on to point out that music is all interpretational. A song about being fearful before surgery was translated into a song about bondage by Tipper Gore and the PMRC. Historically, Snider’s role in the movement against censorship in music continues to be one of the most iconic moves of his career and 33 years later, cancel culture seems to be getting worse as days go by. “We have censorship from all sides happening right now and we are constantly pushing boundaries and trying to hold back the tide. I feel bad because people just keep getting pushed further back. But the interesting thing about this is that the pendulum is swung and wherein the eighties, it was a puritanical conservative right-wing censorship. Now, it is a left-wing, hypersensitive, defensive ‘we can’t offend people because we’re hurting feelings’ type of censorship and this is hurtful to people. When I was writing songs for Leave A Scar, I became very mad at myself because for a moment, a little voice in my head said, ‘oh, can I write or say that?’ The Dee side of my voice said ‘what are you talking about? It’s a metaphor for God’s sakes, but this metaphor is one of the primary tools for any writer and this metaphor is being questioned as hurting feelings. So, as I was writing the lyric ‘I was in for the kill, fire at will’ I was like, ‘oh my God, I am talking about fire so what does that mean or I am talking about a gun’ so what is that going to be construed as? It made me so angry that we’re at a point where the world is checking itself constantly because heaven forbid, we say the wrong thing,” Snider admits. Just like he pointed out in his speech to the PMRC, people will take parts of a song and not read the entire lyric and jump to their own conclusion. But, if they had truly read all of the lyrics perhaps they would see it as it was written. At that time, Snider stated that Twisted Sister made it a point to print out all of their lyrics on the sleeve of every record. These days you can search any song on Google, but there will always be this hesitation about writing something or saying something that can be taken completely out of context.
Snider’s legacy extends past his music with film and television including Strangeland, Celebrity Apprentice and most recently, Cobra Kai. For longstanding fans of Karate Kid and heavy metal, Snider’s cameo in season 3 takes the level of nostalgia in the show to a new level in the scene where Johnny (William Zabka) takes Miguel (Xolo Mariduena) to a Dee Snider concert. “ I had no idea of the magnitude and the significance of what I was getting involved in and the stories worth telling. A few years ago I was at a convention signing things and a lot of actors were there too. I ran into William Zabka and he was there autographing pictures from Karate Kid. One day he told me that YouTube was doing a Cobra Kai series. I had no idea TV shows on YouTube were even a thing. Who is going to watch that?” Snider says with a laugh. “A few years pass by and he tells me that Netflix was going to pick up the show and asked me if I wanted to do a cameo. I thought it sounded like fun. I knew Ralph Macchio because we’re both from Long Island and I didn’t have the heart to tell Billy that I had never watched an episode. Next thing I knew I was flying to Atlanta. I had no idea what the setup was or what I would be doing, but it was such a great time. Once season three aired on New Years Day of this year, 75 million people had viewed it all over the world and I was proclaimed Dee Snider, the most bad-ass rocker ever, which will be on my tombstone by the way. Now there’s a whole new generation out there who had no idea who I was. Recently, I was invited to speak about censorship in front of 7th-9th graders. Later I found out I was invited to speak not only because of my experience but more so because they knew me from Cobra Kai. So when the forum opened up for questions, they were all about Cobra Kai. My run-in with Billy ended up being a fortuitous meeting that turned into something huge and I am so happy for him because from what I can see, his character Johnny Lawrence is very close to his personality,” Snider concludes.
As the conversation with Snider continued down the rabbit hole of nostalgia we couldn’t help but agree on the sad reality and the unfortunate fate of many talented artists that exist today. “It has a lot to do with the way people get their content now. Everything is target marketed and instantaneous on social media and streaming stations. I’ve seen kids that start really incredible bands but they will never see the spotlight shine on them. With Twisted Sister, we managed to get attention all over the world, and back then if you had an album like Back in Black by AC/DC that sold 45 million copies worldwide without the help of social media, that kind of thing just doesn’t happen anymore. I was just telling one of my kids about Tower Records. You always knew you made it when you were driving down Sunset Blvd and saw your album cover on the side of that store. Metalheads weren’t the only ones who saw it. Everyone saw it! Everybody saw a billboard, a sign on a bus, an ad in a newspaper, or read the mainstream magazine. People who weren’t fans were aware there was a band named Motley Crue. That was the thing, you know what I mean? MTV had all kinds of music so that you saw hip hop and you saw metal on the same network. It was a completely different time.”
For many, rock n’ roll always came hand in hand with sex, drugs, and anything else your imagination could muster up. Snider is one of the few who chose a straight and narrow path at a young age and managed to maintain it throughout his rise to rock stardom. He opens up about a time when he was 14 years old and tried alcohol for the first…and last time. “There was one night I tried drinking and got completely wasted. I remember laying there on the ground…vomiting…unable to move. That was when I said to the man upstairs ‘if you let me walk again and get through this I will swear off the demon that is alcohol forever’ and that was when I knew I can’t just have one drink. I was oddly wise at that age and I just knew myself and my personality and I never touched a drink or a drug from that point on.” Snider also decided to forego the sexual freedom that also came along with being in a rock band. The chain of right choices led him to his wife Suzette and they have been married for over 40 years and they have four kids together. “Suzette was the right person at the right time. Not just in my life but for the band as well. She is the genius behind Twisted Sister’s signature stage costumes. She was an aspiring hairdresser, makeup artist, and costume designer. I was like the crash test dummy. I wanted to wear women’s clothing and wear makeup and have crazy hair and it just happened. I have made some pretty stupid decisions in my life too, but [on] the important ones I’ve made the right one.”
Twisted Sister singlehandedly started the “Disco Sucks” movement and club owners were hiring them to come in and turn their disco clubs into a rock n’ roll club or trash their venues as they were going to be closing their doors the next day. “We were just a band who was doing well in the East Coast circuit and we played all these clubs. At one point we became the Disco Busters. I mean, who would have thought Twisted Sister would ever play a disco club? I sure didn’t. These club owners would bring us in to wreck the place and we were smashing mirror balls and John Travolta posters and smashing disco records with sledgehammers. We were having a great time. We were unique and so were our fans and we kind of came out of nowhere. The band formed in ’73 and I joined in ’76. We’d already been together three years. Then it took another eight years till the world discovered us. So it was a lot and people who came in and moved us along. I’m so glad that the documentary We Are Twisted Sister came out because people see it and their perceived notions of who we are changed. They may not have started watching as a Twisted Sister fan but their respect for us was off the charts. People would come to our shows and have no idea what we were and they would come up after a show asking when we were playing again. You know, you just showed up Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Ratt. At the time, we didn’t realize what Twisted Sister started. There was no Motley Crue. There was no Poison or Cinderella. There was just us and we were carrying the torch for the New York Dolls leftover from the early seventies.”
Snider shares how his songwriting process differs as a solo artist and how he still uses some of the same inspiration that he used with Twister Sister. “I was always an individual songwriter. For me, it was a very private and lonely kind of thing. I would hide in my room and create. I grew out of that when I formed the band, Desperado. That was when I started to write with other people and I was ready to work with a writing team. Met Jamey Josta and Nick and Charlie Bellmore. I had been writing for years but I felt this inspiration and I always worked with song titles. I would have a list of song titles and they would inspire the songs well. Unfortunately, I don’t have that list anymore. I doubt anyone would care about song titles from 25 years ago now. That is when the inspiration hit me. I want to rock. I miss rock. I believe in rock. I want to rock, rock, rock. That’s when it popped in my head. I said to myself, ‘I gotta rock again’ and I started chuckling and the whole writing process started flowing again.” As live music is slowly making its way back, Snider informs us he has a few odd shows planned but, it’s very inconsistent right now and he doesn’t expect to be doing any full-blown touring this year. “I want to be a part of the return of live music in 2022,” he says with excitement. “I want to sing You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll with a meaning that I never even imagined when I wrote it in the seventies. No one would have imagined that something would stop rock and roll and hopefully it won’t be forever. That is why we need to sing You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll again together. I want to be there singing it with people and I promise there won’t be a dry eye in the house. Live music is such an important part of life and our well-being. The pandemic has tested all of us and taken away some of the things that we love to do and the things that help us thrive and more than ever, the realization has been made about how important live music is. A study was done on how metalheads grow up to be better-adjusted adults,” Snider told us. “We let out all the dark emotions, all the frustration, the anger and the anxiety, the depression, and the heartbreak and all that stuff. We let it out and we walk away sweating and happy and feeling better. We are a family and I hate when people try to split the family up. There’s a fight about what is or what isn’t true metal. There’s hair metal, death metal, Nu-metal metal, and a dozen other different types of metal, but it’s all part of the same bloodline. We’re all part of the same family and we need to support each other. We don’t have to love it all, but we should support each other because we are stronger together and people need to remember that. The long-term effects of this COVID epidemic are not going to be seen anytime soon but the short effects which are the things that affect us daily like school, work, and things like that are taking their toll. The art scene is suffering in the music, in the filmmaking, in the painting, the small studios, the small production companies, everything that doesn’t come from Clear Channel or Viacom. All they know is how to buy it up and market it. So, if you’re looking for fresh ideas from these artists, they’re dead in the water. The good news is these young musicians are in their basements or their bedrooms or garages. They’re not going to stop, but they need to know we need to support them so they can come back out through these small venues and independent record, film, and production companies. We’ve got work to do to bring back music and bring back art to how it used to be.”
Dee Snider isn’t the only one who is ready to rock. We all are! Check out Dee Snider’s new album Leave A Scar! Out Now!