Twisted Sister interview (11/2009)
|Conducted by:||Doc Godin (phone)|
Dee Snider - If I really have to introduce that name, please leave the site, now. As one can judge by the events that transpired with Tipper Gore and the PMRC, Dee Snider is always up for doing what Manowar only talk about doing - fighting for metal. Dee's latest endeavour is a brand new website: http://www.takebackthehorns.com/. Though not quite as serious as the censorship trials at the hands of Tipper Gore, the overuse of the horns in inappropriate situations is one that concerns metalheads globally nonetheless. Luckily I got a few minutes to speak with the legendary Dee Snider to discuss the details of his new website.
Doc: Hi! Is this Dee Snider?
Dee: Who's callin'?
Doc: Doc Godin from MetalStorm, we have an interview scheduled for around this time...
Dee: Yeah, this is he man, what's up?
Doc: Nothing much man, how is everything down on your end?
Dee: It is going well, the flames have been fanned by AOL, have you seen their latest logo campaign?
Doc: No I haven't.
Dee: Oh you gotta see it, it's fucking unbelievable. They just announced it. They got a new logo - capital "A", lower case "o", lower case "l", period. Pushed out in the background are various iconic symbols that connect AOL with an edgier kind of vibe. One of those iconic symbols? The metal horns! Yes, AOL has taken the metal horns as one of their logos.
Doc: Oh God...
Dee: On their commercial, they actually have a guy - a headbanger - with long hair thrashing in front of the new AOL logo! Are you fucking kidding? I had to put up on the front page of of the take back the horns website "WTF?" - WHAT THE FUCK?! This is what I'm talking about! This is off the chain now!
Doc: Yeah, like it's just become so...
Doc: Corporate, yeah! Well, I guess that leads right into the first question - What can you tell all the MetalStorm readers about your new website? (http://www.takebackthehorns.com/)
Dee: Well, I was on stage talking to the audience reflecting on my observation inspired by The Onion and also by The National - "Suddenly everybody is throwing the friggin' horns, whats going on with that?", and the crowd went nuts. So it's not just me? I'm not the only one here going "What the fuck?!" So I started talking about it regularly on stage and again the metal audience really responds. So one day I decide I'm going to create a website dedicated to pointing out this injustice, but to have fun with it. I mean, it's a very self-aware website - I see the humour in it, it is funny. At the same time, as you're laughing, you keep going to yourself "Yeah, it is funny, but what the fuck?!" That seems to be the repeated mantra; what the fuck?
Repeat after me: What the fuck?!
Doc: Hahaha, yeah it really seems that way. Though while it is joking I'm sure most metal fans on the planet can agree with it. Like when you're walking down the street and you see another metalhead you nod or salute to them (with the horns) regardless of whether you know them or not. After reading the website and seeing the positive feedback I noticed getting vocal about a cause like this actually brings the metal community closer together - having a cause we can all work together for...
Dee: Yeah! Well let's be clear - there is a tongue-and-cheek aspect about the website itself, you gotta be able to take a step back and say "Yeah, I get it" - you see a mom throwing the horns, it is funny. But at the same time, at the end of it all you can say "Yeah, this is bullshit!" We fought long and hard to secure our place and get a degree of respect for the music we love. Now, the normal people are sort of cherry-picking what they like about our music form, what they like about our image, and leaving the rest of it behind. It's not just the horns! Total fucking truth, I was in England, I walked into an H&M clothing store and one of the mannequins (who was dressed very stylishly) had on a Motorhead t-shirt.
Doc: Yeah, that's another thing I've noticed - wearing metal t-shirts has become almost a fad for celebrities. You can see pictures of Hannah Montana wearing 'Maiden shirts, Hilary Duff wearing a Motorhead shirt....
Dee: I know! I was down in L.A., a real expensive shop out there on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills - they had bedazzled Slayer shirts for $300! A fucking bedazzled Slayer shirt! I don't think that's what the guys had in mind...
Doc: Yeah, my Slayer shirt only cost me $30.
Dee: Yeah, but is it bedazzled?
Doc: Nah, it's just soaked in beer and sweat.
Dee: Yeah, but they don't get it, they're just taking elements of it. Then you're also not sure - are they just mocking at times? When non-metal people throw the horns, is it a goof on us? Sometimes it is, or other times it's like "Hey look, I'm cool, I'm throwing the horns!" No you're not fucking cool! That's not how it works. There is way more to it. Some people ask what I plan to accomplish with this - I'm thinking if it goes viral, and it becomes a conversation piece (and it really exploded this past week - started doing some press on the thing, I've had to quintuple my bandwidth on the thing just to keep up with the hits). If people start talking about it, it becomes conversational, and people become aware, maybe next time they're in a frickin' family photo and don't know what to do with their fucking hands they won't throw the horns. Give the old thumbs up, like the old days! Don't know what to do with your hands? Give the old thumbs up for the "OK" symbol. Leave the horns to the headbangers!
Doc: Have you ever considered taking this cause to the more mainstream media, seeing as you may be preaching to the choir so to speak?
Dee: I'm hoping it will go there. You gotta first go with your own, then hopefully if enough of a buzz starts, you've seen how the mainstream media works, they look at what people are reacting to and what people are talking about, then they react to it. I would love to, especially when companies like AOL are literally playing right into my hand. I couldn't ask for a more perfect example of what's wrong with the usage of the horns these days.
Doc: It's all just stuff that brings your piss to a boil.
Dee: Absolutely! With your guys help; with the core websites, and then you hope they expand to the hipster websites, people will become aware. Again, if you can get people talking about it I think some people will become more self aware. It's become almost a knee-jerk reaction; don't know what to do with your hands? Throw the horns. Every fucking picture, there's some idiot throwing the horns. The site - I have fun with it, but at the same time it's very real! The "do's and dont's" section. Somebody asked me the other day; "for the uninitiated, how do you know when to throw the horns?" If you have any doubt about when to throw the horns, don't throw 'em. When in doubt, don't throw them out. That's the rule of thumb. It's not something like; "well, I don't know if I should", then keep your fucking hands in your pants!
Doc: I was also reading on the site you were involved in a show called "Gone Country", and that's where you started noticing the abuse of the horns, did you confront any of these country singers at that time?
Dee: Well, that's the thing. It was definitely a progression. First thing that caught my attention was an editorial in a satirical news paper called The Onion, I don't know if you're familiar with The Onion...
Doc: I'm a big fan of The Onion.
Dee: Brilliant, brilliant. They did this editorial, I have it on my page right at the beginning. It was a thing about the metal council gathering to discuss the overuse. I remember reading it thinking "Yeah, man, it really is getting crazy!" Then I did Gone Country where I went down to Nashville to see a big billboard the size of a side of a building where the host John Rich with a cowboy hat, moustache, bolo tie and acoustic guitar throwing the horns with his mouth hanging open and his tongue out like Gene Simmons. I was like "What the fuck is that?!" Then I think the thing that pushed me over the edge is the photo of Miley Cyrus on the red carpet in an evening gown, throwing the horns. That was like the last straw. Then I started the whole rap on stage which the audience responded to - which lead to the website - http://www.takebackthehorns.com/.
Doc: Is it just the pop stars and country singers you have a problem with throwing the horns, or do you have a problem with other forms of music adopting this signal as well - like punk rock?
Dee: Well, there's always been a relationship between the punks and the headbangers. Bands like Motorhead will always tell you they are more punk than they are metal, by inspiration. Even Twisted' had it's punk influences. I'm not going to split hairs within a community of music with attitude. You've got everybody throwing them. My assistant, who probably set this interview up - Sheryl, she learned to like heavy music but by nature she likes light rock, I don't hold that against her - it's kind of a plus if you're going to work in my office. She went to see John Mayer, she texts me, she tells me "everybody is throwing the horns!" Even she realizes! John Mayer? If that guy was any more laid back he'd be dead! Then throwing the horns?! Where is the inspiration in that? The message is definitely confused, so hopefully with http://www.takebackthehorns.com/ maybe there will be a little clarity as to the proper usage and who should be throwing them and who should not.
Doc: On the website you also do a bit of a "call to arms" in a way getting people to send the celebrity "abusers" e-mails, letters and citations. Do you know if any have actually gone through yet? Have you seen any feedback from these celebrities?
Dee: I think it's really early. The press approached us on November 17th, what was that? 5, 6 days ago? A week ago. Like I said, I've already quintupled my bandwidth to keep up with it. I think it's still early to see if that will happen, if there will be that next level of reaction. I'm hopeful - as you've said, judging by the comments, people are really fired up! Because now that I'm shining a light on this thing, the injustice is really apparent. It's one of those things like a word or a thing you've never heard of or noticed before, then you hear about it, and suddenly you see it everywhere? So I think just like The Onion sort of shined the light for me, this website is making people more conscious as they walk around. Like I said, my assistant writing me saying "People are throwing the horns at John Mayer!" She probably never even thought of that before I said "By the way - that's a metal symbol, not fucking John Mayer or the likes." I don't want to see it at a Dave Matthews concert, thank you.
Doc: Well I think also I'm sure a lot of metal fans had this thought before but it's just nice to have someone big to take it into the spotlight, or "carry the flag into battle" as I've heard you say before.
Dee: Well, I appreciate that and I hope people are appreciative. I know a lot of people think I'm not a "true" metal head, but I owned the first Grand Funk record when it came out, first Zeppelin, first Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, you name the metal band. I helped destroy the Woodstock nation. One of my first bands only played Black Sabbath, and that was in 9th grade. I'm an original headbanger. But I accept all forms of metal, it's such a wide audience. We can't be fighting amongst ourselves about what's true metal, what's not true metal, what's metal, what's not. We gotta support each other, and say even if I don't like (not me personally) pop metal, or thrash metal, I gotta recognize that we gotta support each other. It's a genre of music that has a limited audience, and we're fighting a fight just to get it on the fucking radio. The shit I gotta suffer through on regular radio blows my mind. So I'm hoping the people out there with the "true metal spirit" will appreciate the spirit behind what I'm doing and the effort I'm making. Quite honestly, I spent quite a bit of money on this website completely out of pocket. Yeah, I can afford it, but at the same time my intentions are genuine and it's not self-serving. It's just something I felt needed to be recognized. I thought I could do it with a website in this day of internet and viral communication.
Doc: Definitely. Another portion of the site that made me laugh quite a bit was when you do a humorous jab at Bon Jovi, is there any back story behind this or is he just a good scape goat?
Dee: As I said, my wife tells me I'm just bitter because he's handsome, and it's probably true. Jon's been very nice to me, he is no doubt a fan who grew up with many bands around Twisted' when we were still a regional phenomenon, long before we ever got a record deal. Just like Cinderella, Poison, Anthrax and Overkill - Jon and Ritchie used to come down and watch Twisted Sister in New Jersey, destroying things. They used to study me, and cherry pick - they said "I'll do this Dee Snider thing, but I'll smile and be handsome." He's had a much better career with it. It's just a jest, I used to sport a "No Bon Jovi" sticker on my motorcycle helmet, and I blame him for everything. But like my wife says - just because he's handsome.
Doc: So final question about the website before we move on - if there any situation outside the context of metal (or music) that constitutes the use of the horns?
Dee: Context of metal or music that would cause for the use of the horns? I'm just clarifying in my head...but that's a very good question. No...I mean, the only possibility I could see for using the horns outside would be a metallic celebration of sorts, but it would have to be some reaction to say, you know, getting new music from your favourite metal band or finding the ultimate leather jacket or something like that - because it's metal. Any other time I can think of using the horns, the finger will suffice - but that's everybody, I'm not laying claim to the middle finger, share the love everybody!
Doc: So aside from the website, what have you been keeping yourself busy with?
Dee: There's so many things so many things going on. We're waiting to get the green light on a reality TV show for a major cable network with my family. We shot a pilot recently that's been incredibly well received, so we're waiting to see if we're going to series with that.
Strangeland: Disciple is in pre-pre-production, we're currently setting up offices in Ohio and we're hoping if things keep moving forward as they are, to start filming late winter/early spring. By the way we're doing an open casting call for extras for this movie. So if you're interested, http://www.screentest.biz/, you can actually upload photos and audition online, because we're looking for some real freaks from the club scenes, and regular parts as well.
Twisted' right now - it's that time of year where we turn into the Twisted Christmas holiday band. We're doing some shows in Vegas, New York and Philly for the holidays. We've been celebrating the 25th anniversary edition of Stay Hungry, with a special edition CD that's now out. Oh! And just this year we're abandoning the make-up and costumes as of December 31st. As we move forward and continue to play, we decided to do it as a straight-ahead metal band.
Dee: What's that?
Doc: Oh, it's just a bit of a shock, but it's a new direction I guess...
Dee: Well, what happened was I realized - what spurred this I should say, my plane was delayed for a big festival we were doing in Holland with Motörhead, Kiss, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, I forget who else was there, it was like 75, 000 people. I arrived by helicopter 5 minutes before show time, the choice was to go on with the clothes I was wearing on the plane, or not go on because I didn't have time to put on my costume and make-up. We decided that we've always known that in our core we were first and foremost rock band, so we went out there, we said "fuck it" and went and played. Well, the next day my picture was on the front page of the paper and we got the biggest accolades of the day, people said we were the band that took the whole day. We then realized people were stunned that, take away the make-up and costumes, take away any kind of stage production, throw us up there with some amps, and we friggin' tore the place up. It's kind of like, you know what, as much as we enjoy the whole dressing up and and make-up thing, it does detract from the fact that we're a great band and that we rock! People kind of look at the make-up and costumes and ditch the rest. We thought maybe we should go up there and stand flat footed on the stage so to speak, and just kick your fucking ass, we don't need the rest of that shit. We do it because we like it, not because it's a crutch, it's just something we had fun doing. I'm not saying we'll never put it on again, but we decided; let's let it go for a while, go out there and rock out with your cock out, so to speak.
Doc: That's true I guess, stripping it down gives it a bit more power in some aspects...
Dee: I think that it's an opportunity, just like those people in Holland, to take a step back and say "fuck! These guys rock!" We always knew it, but the review we got that day there was a certain amount of surprise in it - like somehow we wouldn't be able to do it if we weren't wearing 5 inch platform shoes. That has been a problem for Twisted Sister - getting respect as a band and musicians because you're so overshadowed by the way you look.
Doc: I think what it also might be is a lot of ignorant people casting you off as another one of those disposable 80's Sunset Strip hair bands.
Dee: Right, right. But like I said, I ain't getting rid of the costume - it's in the closet. But for this year we're definitely going to go out just stripped down, and rock peoples fucking socks off as they say.
Doc: So taking a step back here for a minute, I'm sure a lot of the MetalStorm readers would want to know - from the point of view of a heavy metal icon - what originally drew you into heavy metal and made you decide that heavy metal is what you wanted to do with your life?
Dee: I don't know. I often wonder that, I often joke that my parents dropped me on my head a few too many times, because I'm still a fucking headbanger, I still love heavy music, old stuff and new stuff. I listen to new stuff more than I listen to old stuff. I just need that aggression and intensity, I feed off it and it fires me up and inspires me. I'm not exactly sure. As I said earlier, being born in 1955, I was around but a little young for Woodstock, but I was one of those people going "That Country Joe & The Fish band blow! People like Richie Havens? Get off the fucking stage!" Bring back The Who, bring back Mountain, bring back the bands that are fucking tearing it up! That's what I want to hear! The Woodstock nation was all about loving all forms of music, cheering just as loud for Crosby, Stills & Nash as they did for The Who, and Hendrix. I was like "No! I don't wanna hear that bullshit!" I want some fucking rocking! I remember some ugly high school gatherings where these lines were being drawn for the first time ever. The year was 1972 so the glitter era (Alice Cooper), so I was showing up and people I was friends with - we'd be listening to music and these serious fights starting to happen over this shit because of what me and my buddies wanted to listen to, which was now going in another direction, and these fucking hippies and what they wanted to hear. So the answer is I don't know, but even in the beginning I've always leaned towards stuff that was harder and edgier, and as that started to define itself as heavy metal I sort of found myself there in the crowd going "Yeah! I'm going to be over here in this section! Because the rest of that shit blows!"
Doc: Nice! Well, just a few seconds ago you were talking about new bands - recently (as you may have noticed) there seems to be a resurgence of 80's style metal coming out these days. What are your thoughts on this?
Dee: Well you know what, it's a nostalgia thing. In some ways it's replicating it, in other ways it's inspired by, it's an inspiration and they pick up elements of it. One of the bands that I really like - Bring Me The Horizon, I don't know if you know them?
Doc: Yeah, I've heard some of their stuff.
Dee: Or even more so - Escape The Fate. Do you know Escape The Fate?
Doc: Actually, no I don't.
Dee: You'll see it in their videos, you'll see the 80's influence. It's clearly not 80's rock, it's interpreted, and also mixed in with other influences they had growing up. It's a healthy thing, it's value is being recognized. There was a time there where you couldn't touch anything 80's or 80's influence with a 10 foot pole, so it's nice to see that there is a respect & appreciation for it. It's nice to see that as time has passed the value has become very evident to certain musicians and certain people, it's cool.
Doc: While we're on the topic of young bands, is there any up-and-coming acts that caught your attention that you feel deserve some exposure?
Dee: There's so many new bands. Like I said, Escape The Fate being one, Bring Me The Horizon being another. This really shocked me, all my kids love heavy music, I was positive they'd all be into light rock, or dance music in reaction to what I listen to. It's great because they're constantly bringing me new music. They bring me some stuff and say "Hey, check this out!", and I'm like "I love it! Put it on my Ipod!". One of the problems with the Ipods is that you don't have the music in front of you. The other thing is the song titles. They don't really go with the song, like the 80's the chorus would be repeated "We're Not Gonna Take It", and that was the song title, that's not the way it works anymore. Uhm...Bring Me The Horizon (I think I already said them), Bullet For My Valentine! I think they're fucking kick ass. Coheed And Cambria, they've been around for a while but I really like that band...Devil Wears Prada. Have you heard any of these bands?
Doc: Yeah, I've heard a few that you listed.
Dee: Drop Dead Gorgeous! A lot of these bands are very aggressive, a lot of screamo elements in there as well, but they have a rawness and passion that I really like. Like I was talking to my kids about the other day; I listen to new music more than old music because they have that...that thing! That element of desperation, frustration and anger that I thrive on. Music from people who are just hungry as motherfuckers, and ready to just fucking destroy anything that gets in their way! Love that! That's what I listen to in the daytime.
Doc: Nice. So that pretty much wraps things up, are there any final words you'd like to say to the MetalStorm readers?
Dee: MetalStorm readers...I think I pretty much said it all! Go to http://www.takebackthehorns.com/, it's a great place to show some solidarity, it's for all factions - calling on all factions in the metal community, let's not bicker and argue about "who killed who" as they said in Monty Python & The Holy Grail. Let's not argue amongst ourselves, there is a greater injustice, there is a common enemy to unite against - and that is the mainstream, corporate people who are trying to take what is rightfully ours. Fuck them! Let's stand together and fight the good fight.
Doc: Right on. Well, thanks for your time and have a happy thanksgiving!
Dee: Likewise, pleasure talking to you, man. Talk to you again some time.
||Posted on 29.11.2009 by Former EIC. Now just a reviewer guy.|
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