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Dee Snider

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Dee Snider is almost a metal dinosaur.

He entered the world of heavy metal back when it was truly an underground institution and has endured all of the highs and lows that come with it. As front man for Twisted Sister from 1976 to 1987, Snider was part of a musical revolution that saw metal emerge from the shadows and cement itself as a musical force. Through an array of both related and unrelated ventures has maintained his position as a pioneer of a musical movement that has become a worldwide phenomenan.

“It feels old,” Snider laughed when I mention his legendary status. “It’s pretty amazing actually. My band had moments in the sun and we had some major hits or whatever but we didn’t necessarily have the longevity that a lot of bands have, like your AC/DC’s and Iron Maiden’s and stuff like that. Somehow, whatever I’ve done, I’ve managed to earn some level of respect from the rock community over the last few decades and that word is applied to me so I’m kinda grateful.”
While there have been many events over his forty year tenure that have contributed to metals emergence, Snider feels that there is one defining period and series of events that has had more impact than others. After battling away to loyal fans and the curious public through the 1970’s, Snider says the emergence of compact disks and subsequently television stations such as MTV were the factors that propelled heavy metal into a more widely accepted circle.

“It was incredibly different back then,” he mused, “and what happened in the 80’s I don’t think anybody really saw coming. Record sales were leveled. Bands in the 60’s and 70’s didn’t sell albums the way bands sold in the 80’s. C.D’s came out and people had to buy the same product they already had a second time. I’ve got records that I’ve bought across four formats! I had Montrose’s album, then I had their eight track, then I had their cassette and then I had their C.D which I actually bought that twice because I forgot I had it! So I had five copies of Montrose’s first album and Sammy Hagar said ‘thank you, Dee’. Back then, I didn’t think we really saw what was happening but things erupted from there. MP3’s popped up out of nowhere and then all of a sudden with music television the metal bands had a spotlight shine on them because we were ready for the show, you know what I mean? Music television was looking for visual acts and the metal bands had been visual all along so that’s why metal finally got the attention it had never gotten before. They put someone like Joe Jackson on MTV and that was the end of his career! People couldn’t understand why he had shoes on his album cover until then and the reason was that was the best looking part of him (laughs). Nobody was quite ready I don’t think. Ask AC/DC that same question, I’d be really curious to hear the answer. Angus Young couldn’t look you in the eye and say he expected to have the second biggest selling album in the history of rock and roll. I think AC/DC, like us, were just making music they loved and going out there and rocking and I imagined we would just go town to town, sell some records, play a show and continue the cycle. I didn’t think we’d become a household name. I didn’t think we’d get that level of popularity. We just wanted to rock and sell some records. The whole business model mutated and changed and erupted and now you have Back in Black which has sold 45 million records worldwide. It’s amazing.”

 

After Twisted Sister disbanded in 1987, Snider tried his hand at a couple of other musical projects, notably Desperado, Widowmaker and Dee Snider’s SMF, but it was his decision to branch out into other entertainment mediums such as acting, radio presenting, television and voice – overs that became his life away from music.

“After the demise of my band in the 80’s and grunge came in I lost everything,” he said. “I was broke. My career was over. I was married with three kids and it was like, now what? What do I do? You either pack it in and stick a gun in your mouth and blow your head off – and that’s never an option – or you figure it out so all of those were things I started trying and asking myself what else can I do?”

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What else do I like doing? So I started writing and acting and doing radio and it’s been 25 years now and it turns out I had hidden talents so I just pursued them. When people ask what motivated me honestly it’s 10% inspiration and 90% desperation. I was literally flat broke and I had a family to take care of so I just did anything and everything I fucken could.”

While conceding it was difficult to turn his back on the music world which had launched his career, Snider says that in life the only limitations you have are those you place on yourself.

“It’s really hard to stay in the industry,” he concurred. “Looking outside of music was just something I had to do. It wasn’t by design, it was by desperation. I’ve seen articles written about me and I’m not even a part of it! I’m talking about self branding and stories that say ‘look at Dee Snider for example’ and I’m laughing as I’m reading saying if only they knew! I was just trying to survive and they think it was all some grand plan or something. I analyse it in my book and see what I achieved by accident but people can replicate it. It’s basically just do as much as you can and make sure your name is on everything. I’ve got Dee Snider’s House of Hair and Dee Snider’s this and Dee Snider’s that. You have to keep your name on things as much as possible. Sometimes I sacrifice money to have my name on things because I realized it was important for me to establish myself as more than a one note horn and someone that does other things as well.”

Discounting his 2012 album Dee Does Broadway, Snider has also managed to carve a quietly successful solo career, starting with Never Let the Bastards Wear You Down in 2000 and rounded off with this year’s We Are The Ones.

An outspoken critic of living off past reputations, Snider’s solo offerings have expanded his musical output, with his latest album featuring synthesizer and string sections.
“It was a very challenging and unexpected record,” he offered. “I was packing it in and hadn’t done music in a very long time so with We Are the Ones I went for a slightly different sound, more of a punk approach – less metal but still aggressive – and there was a whole lot of unanswered questions but my producer, Damon Ranger, really challenged me with this record. He convinced me there is a job for me to do here and the statement I am making with We Are the Ones is making the same statement that I made thirty years ago and it’s an important message. I’ve got a job to inspire people to stand up and fight back and fight for what they believe in. It’s the same thing I’ve been pushing the last couple of decades and the world needs it now more than ever.”

The most surprising song on We Are the Ones comes in the form of an acoustic recording of Twisted Sisters most popular song ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, surprising because of Snider’s long term stance against the acoustic format.

“I’ve always been outspoken against unplugged bands,” he agreed, “but there was a feeling that the message of that song had gotten lost over the years. It’s become a karaoke favorite and a rock jock anthem. It’s in movies and television shows and I think people forgot that this was a dangerous song once so we talked about breaking it down and slowing it down so people could hear the words and hear the message and hear the power and understand the statement that was the motivation behind the original song and it has been very effective. People have said it’s like being punched in the head by the lyrics. They’re like ‘we didn’t know that was what the song meant until now’ but people are still surprised when they hear it acoustically. They’re mortified (laughs).”

Written By Kris Peters

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