Friday, 6 July 2018

Dee Snider: Widowmaker, The Demise Of Twisted Sister, And The Prickly Problem Of Voting Democrat In 1992

Dee Snider all dolled-up at the height of
Twisted Sister's popularity.
Originally published in American Music Press (1992)

By Devorah Ostrov

As the garishly made-up frontman for Twisted Sister, Dee Snider stomped his platform boots and shouted about wanting to rock and not taking it anymore till arenas around the world shook. In fact, the act was so lewd, crude, and downright fun it was one of the very first to get a P.M.R.C. warning sticker affixed to its output.

In 1987, Twisted Sister went the way of the MC5 and Grand Funk Railroad, but like Halloween's Michael Meyers, Dee is twitching back to life with a new band called Widowmaker (not to be confused with guitarist Ariel Bender's post-Mott the Hoople outfit of the same name).

Blood and Bullets (Esquire Records) is the band's thunderous debut offering, but before we talk about the new stuff let's catch up on what our hero has been doing for the past few years...

* * *

Promo poster for Widowmaker's debut album.
Photo: Mark Weiss
AMP: I haven't seen you since Twisted Sister broke-up. How have you been?

DEE: On a personal level, my life has been great. On a career level and on a creative level it was a miserable, hellacious purgatory. At the end of Twisted, even though it died a slow death, towards the end it was still sad, and I was still heartbroken. I never thought Twisted would end. I expected that it would go on forever. I expected that it would grow and change and mature with time, but for a variety of reasons that didn't happen.

AMP: I heard that you formed a band called Desperado. What happened with that?

DEE: Desperado got signed to Elektra Records and they spent half a million dollars — spared no expense — recording us. Then two weeks before the album was supposed to be released, they dropped the project because the A&R man had quit. And since it was his baby, they weren't interested anymore. The president of Elektra — may he rot in hell! — said to me, "Dee, I'm sure your band's great, but personally, I'm not really a fan of this music. If I had my way, I'd get rid of the bands we have now." That's exactly what he said to me. To have the disdain for the music that's paying the mortgage on his house... Metallica and Mötley Crüe are supporting that label, and to have the audacity to talk like that... I was like, "Fuck you! You arrogant piece of shit!"

Blood and Bullets (Esquire Records 1992)
AMP: So, the Desperado album was shelved?

DEE: They not only shelved my project, they wouldn't release my tapes and they wouldn't release me unless I paid them half a million dollars. Which is essentially blackmail. If I wanted to get out, I had to come up with half a million, which I did not have, or get somebody else to spend half a million.
   Now, half a million for a metal album in an exorbitant amount of money to spend, and to get somebody not only to spend it, but to spend it on a band that was dropped by a major... It didn't matter why, industry-wise we were dropped. Blackballed. After a lot of litigation, I finally got out empty-handed. I walked out of three years of my life with no songs, no band, no tapes.
   Actually, I did end up recording three songs from the Desperado album — "Emaheevul," "Gone Bad," and "Calling for You" — on this album. And I had to pay to record those. If I could have I would've bought everything, but that was the best I could muster with the money I had. They were asking $40,000 a track. It was insane, but I had to have something.

AMP: Bernie Torḿe co-wrote those three songs with you, as well as quite a few others on Blood and Bullets. Was he in Desperado?

Widowmaker - promo poster
DEE: Yes, he was, and we're still friends and writing partners. The reason he's not in Widowmaker, quite honestly... Let me back up. When I started Desperado, it was a lucrative deal. I was coming out of Twisted; I was still a celebrity and had a certain stature. There were salaries, and it was a comfortable thing. Widowmaker was ground floor, starting over. I said, "Guys, it's every man for himself. You gotta pay your own way. You're welcome to sleep on my couch. You're welcome to eat at my table." It was really no frills. Marc [Russell, bassist] is the only surviving member of Desperado, essentially because he was 21 — young, dumb and full of cum, as the saying goes. He said, "I'll sleep on your floor, Dee."

AMP: I know [drummer] Joe Franco played on the last Twisted Sister album. Did you also know [guitarist] Al Pitrelli before Widowmaker formed?

Dee wants to be your Twisted Valentine
in this Twisted Sister promo poster.
Dee: No. I realized that I was one of the only well-known frontmen in the business that didn't have an identifiable guitar-hero partner in crime. It's one of the most classic things in rock 'n' roll: Mick and Keith, Jimmy and Robert, Eddie and David... I needed to find somebody like that.
   Early on, people were telling me about Al. Al lived about two miles from where I grew up, in a town called Hicksville. I could not imagine that the guitar hero of my life was going to be found two miles from where I grew up, in a town called Hicksville. Besides, he didn't have a catchy name like Yngwie, so I couldn't possibly work with him. So, I looked and searched... and people kept saying "Al. Al. Al." Finally, Steve Vai said, "Al!" And I said, "Okay."
   My band is made up of killer musicians! Al is an unbelievable guitarist. Joe is like this unbelievable musician. Mark is a devasting bass player — besides the fact that he looks like a member of Guns N' Roses!

AMP: It's interesting that you should say that. Is it because of MTV that you're concerned about how the band looks?

DEE: It's not because of MTV. I've always felt that the look of rock 'n' roll is important, and even though I want this band to be judged on the merits of the music and the quality of the playing, I also want it to be judged on its performance, its attitude, and the look it has. You don't have to be a "pretty boy" — I certainly am not. But I have a look. I'm not wearing costumes or make-up anymore; I'm wearing jeans and boots. And I'm 25 pounds lighter than in Twisted, by the way! But it's important to me that a band look credible as well as play credibly.

Dee Snider on the cover of Hit Parader
March 1986
AMP: Do you see the make-up and costumes as a mistake with Twisted Sister? An obstacle to critics taking the music seriously?

DEE: Absolutely not! But I see it as being one of the things that didn't allow the band to continue as I hoped it would. I did make some mistakes. The biggest one was when the commercial success hit, I did what so many people before me have done: I stopped and analysed it and tried to recreate it.
   I missed the fact that it was the genuineness and the lack of being contrived that had made it work in the first place. Even if I'd totally figured out the formula, it wouldn't have had the heart that Twisted had on the first three albums, and that's what made it work. But as far as the image, the approach, the attitude... I'd do it all again. I loved it!

AMP: Was it important to you to form another band, as opposed to doing a solo thing? Which, with your reputation you certainly could have done.

DEE: Oh, I was offered solo deals by a number of companies. And I'll tell you right now, I'm proud to say I didn't consider it for a fucking second. I never wanted to be a solo artist; I love the idea of a band! As a fan, I love the image and romance of a band. There's a camaraderie that exists, or appears to exist, with four or five guys up there going for it. I became the focus of Twisted — not intentionally, it's just the nature of my persona. I am intense, but these guys are great individuals.

AMP: Have you picked a song for the first video off Blood and Bullets?

Widowmaker - promo pic
Photo: Mark Weiss
DEE: We just shot a video for "The Widowmaker." It's a credible, performance orientated video with a credible story within it. I know some of my fans will be disappointed that it's not a "Neidermeyer" [the Animal House character that actor Mark Metcalf reprised in the videos for "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock"] comedic romp, but that was one of the main things that hurt Twisted. Even though it helped make us, it overshadowed us.
   If you're starved for Dee Snider's particular sense of humor, you'll be happy to know that I've gotten into screenplay writing and am close to closing a deal with my first movie — a riotous teensploitation comedy called Party Inc. The catch phrase is: "Boldly going where no party has gone before." Hopefully, you'll be seeing that sometime next summer. In the meantime, I'm writing my second screenplay, which is based on the "Horror-Teria" concept [from Twisted Sister's Stay Hungry LP]. It's the story behind the two songs "Captain Howdy" and "Street Justice." I plan on starring in this movie. I want to play the psychopathic clown, Captain Howdy. I think it's typecasting, actually!

AMP: I want to ask you about a couple of songs I particularly like on Blood and Bullets — "The Lonely Ones"...

The other Widowmaker - featuring Ariel Bender
(Jet Records 1976)
DEE: I think "The Lonely Ones" kills! It's an anthem. It's got attitude. It's got heart. And the message is one that I hold near and dear: being the outcast; being the loner. And there's a hell of a lot of us out there!

AMP: And "Blue for You," which is a beautiful bluesy love song, and something completely unexpected.

DEE: "Blue for You" is one of my proudest moments on the record. I had always wanted to write a blues-based song, and it was a real stretch for me vocally. I did some of my greatest singing on that song. Songs like "Blood and Bullets" or "Emaheevul" or "Snot Nosed Kid" — that's Dee Snider's stride: riotous, going for the throat vocals. But for me to do "Blue for You," and have it be a credible performance, really makes me feel good.

AMP: The album's closing track, "We Are the Dead," what's that about?

DEE: "We Are the Dead" is the most political song on the record. It's an environmental statement. That's one thing I really feel strongly about; it's just a disgrace what's going on. It's a message to the businessmen and politicians out there, well into their sixties and seventies, who couldn't give a shit about what happens to us, or our children, or our children's children. But the fact of the matter is, they're not gonna die fast enough to get away from the garbage that's piling up at our doorsteps! It's happening so fast that they're going to suffer from it in their own lifetimes.

Dee Snider takes on the P.M.R.C.
Photo from www.deesnider.com
AMP: I want to ask you about the band's name. Ariel Bender once had a band called Widowmaker...

DEE: This is how it goes... I'm a Mott the Hoople fan, and I was aware that Ariel had formed a band called Widowmaker. I'm also a fan of the Old West. One day, I was watching a PBS special on the Old West and they were talking about this gun that had killed many men — it was nicknamed "The Widowmaker." I said, "That was a great name! I'm gonna write a song called "The Widowmaker."
   So I wrote it, and the band heard it and flipped! My producer Ric [Wake] said, "Man, you should call the band Widowmaker! That's a great name!" I said, "Yeah... well, there was a band called Widowmaker in the seventies." Then, I was talking to Snake from Skid Row, and I was telling him about my dilemma. He said, "Dee, Skid Row is the name of a band that Gary Moore had three albums with in Ireland. And there was a Trixter before Trixter. And there was another Nirvana..."

"The Widowmaker" - CD single
(Esquire Records 1992)
AMP: Really?

DEE: Yeah, that's what I said, "Really?" He said, "Dee, it's not like you're calling it the Beatles!" But the last thing I did... I knew someone who knew Bob Daisley, the bass player. I called him up and said, "Bob, I've got a new band and I'm thinking of calling it Widowmaker. I'd like to get your blessing." He said, "Who gives a shit?" I took that as a blessing.

AMP: Finally, Twisted Sister was one of the more high-profile groups attacked by Tipper Gore and the P.M.R.C. How do you feel about the very real possibility that she could end up in the White House?

DEE: I think it sucks! But the fact of the matter is, I'm voting Democrat. I'm not voting for Clinton or Gore, I'm voting for the Democratic party — not because I think they're that much better, but because anything is better than what's going on now. Another four years and they're gonna be shooting people like me in the street! They're chipping away at our first amendment rights, and our personal rights. Four more years and abortion will be illegal. It kills me that on our side — and I assume that you're on my side — we're talking about the freedom of choice. We're not saying you have to have an abortion; we're saying if you want one. They're saying they want to decide for you; that no one can have one. That pisses me off! The Democrats are more liberal, and they'll help bring things back to the center, which is where I feel things are meant to be. And in a few years, if things go too far the other way, I'll be voting Republican because I think moderation and middle ground is the most intelligent place to be.

* * *

Curious about which five Desert Island Discs Dee Snider would choose? I asked him, and you might be surprised! You can find that article here:  devorahostrov.blogspot.com/2017/07/dee-snider's- desert- island- discs

No comments:

Post a Comment