Dee Snider on the Music Industry, His Podcast and New Tunes: Exclusive Interview
Longtime Twisted Sister frontman and veteran media personality Dee Snider has never been one to be quiet about his opinions, which is why it’s been fun to hear him go beyond the 140 character limit of Twitter on his new podcast Snider Comments, which offers up an hour of unfiltered Dee each week.
He’s on the road this summer for a series of solo tour dates, and he recently released “To Hell and Back,” his first new solo single in nearly two decades that he’s giving away as a free download on his website. Snider, as longtime fans will know, has been critical on the subject of new music from classic artists due to the lack of attention that it receives.
But when Snider heard some new music that Silvertide founding guitarist Nick Perri -- now a member of Snider’s solo band -- was working on, he was intrigued, and before he knew it, the pair had recorded four new songs. “To Hell and Back” is the initial offering, a musical trial balloon of sorts that will determine the course that Snider will take with potential further musical releases including an album that has slowly been taking shape.
The words came at a rapid pace as we spoke with Snider to talk about the new single, his podcast and a variety of other topics. Here’s our chat with one of rock’s most colorful personalities -- we were quite happy to shut up and give him the mic -- and, of course, he had a few things to say.
I now know from listening to your podcast that if I come up and see you sleeping in an airport or trying to sleep in an airport, I should just let you sleep. It would be rude to wake you up and ask you for an autograph or anything like that.
[Laughs] You see, now I’m concerned that the point was lost. The point is, why would you think I would be sleeping on the floor, that you would even think it was in the realm of possibility? If you saw Brad Pitt on the floor, you’d go, “There’s no way that’s Brad Pitt -- that guy just looks incredibly like Brad Pitt laying on the floor in the airport.” But with me, they walk up and they go, “Hey Dee, what’s up?” [Laughs] It’s like it’s accepted and assumed that it’s in the realm of possibility. I might just be laying on the floor in an airport.
I understood the point, but I thought it was funny, because it shows where things are in today’s day and age. It’s not like you’re sitting there having a sandwich or whatever. You’re clearly there trying to catch some sleep, but you know what? I’ll go up and say hey anyway. Maybe he’ll wake up and be happy to see me.
There’s a new familiarity. I don’t know if it’s for everybody, you know, I’ve done a lot of reality TV and when I’ve done shows, producers walk around me and they go, “Do all of these people know you, like, personally?” [Laughs] Because they’re like, “Hey, Dee, what’s up?” It’s like you’re old friends, you know? So I don’t know if it’s the way they view me or if it’s just the way of the world now where with social media and reality TV and all of these things, they just feel like they know you more than in the past when it was just a picture in a magazine.
I love the new podcast --- it’s nice that you have a weekly outlet to ruffle some feathers for an hour and make people think. As you’ve spoken about, you’re a guy that’s done radio for a number of years now, including a long ongoing run with the House of Hair show. How did the idea for the podcast come about?
Ultimate Classic Rock is sort of the subject of [a recent] podcast. I’m breaking [the reaction to my new single] down. I said, “Let me see how people are reacting to the song] and it’s just like personal attacks. Not all of them, but then [some of them] are just like, “F---tard,” you know, “with a face like that, he shouldn’t be making music!” It’s like, what? So I’m going to break it down and do some analysis on social media and giving the people a voice. They didn’t used to have that. When “We’re Not Gonna Take It” came out, there was no opportunity to poll the audience. It was reviewers and then people either bought it or didn’t buy it. Now, you can ask them and they can give you their review online, even if it’s not an actual word, like “f---tard.” But you know, besides doing House of Hair, I did morning talk radio for three years in Hartford and Richmond, Virginia, I did nights at WMMR in Philadelphia, I was the host of Fangoria Radio at SiriusXM, so I’ve had a range of shows from music-driven ones to talk ones.
I really like the talk format, but it seems that at terrestrial radio specifically, that the place for anything but extremist and really more right-wing talk, there’s really no place for any other kind of talk. You don’t really see it. Then I discovered that it’s alive and well and thriving with podcasts, which is definitely the way of the future, the new way of listening. Of course there’s no money in it, but you have to sort of commit and say that you’re going to get involved because you love doing it, which is a great reason to start doing it and then hope that there’s interest enough to keep it going and make it worth the effort. So when I went exploring and discovered Podcast One had the biggest names out there, like Adam Carolla, Joe Rogan, Penn Jillette and Chris Jericho, and they knew of me and they said, “Hey man, we’d love to have you,” so there it was born. It’s a great opportunity and I’m just going anywhere with it right now. [Laughs] I’m fast and loose. I don’t know exactly where it will wind up, but right now, especially since I’m not being paid, it’s allowed me to just sort of play it the way I feel it and all of the reaction has been positive.
Let’s talk about the new tune -- how did you connect with Nick Perri?
Back when I was on WMMR, it was a rock talk show, so we were playing some music and doing talk in between. A new track came in from this band called Silvertide, which the station added right away, because they were a Philly band and ‘MMR is a Philly station. It was a great track and I really loved it and the station wound up doing a show and as one of the air personalities, I was there and I got to see the band and Nick just stunned me. I mean, this was over 10 years ago, so he just knocked me out. He’s one of those players, I use the word “joyous” to describe watching him. It’s kind of like watching Eddie Van Halen when he first came out, like, he made you want to play guitar. It just poured out of him and he seemed to be having such a great time doing it. It was infectious as an audience member. So I became friendly with the band and online there’s a great recording of me and Silvertide doing “Communication Breakdown.” It really sounds like an old Zeppelin tape, like something from a live performance. It’s pretty cool. We became friends from that point on. There I am now at that point, I’m not playing actively and I’m not thinking in terms of ever doing anything new and going, “Wow, look at this guitar player, I’d love to play with this kid, but he’s so much younger than me and I’m so much older and that’s past.”
Cut to last year and I had decided to do some solo shows and I ran into his wife in L.A. She used to work at a shop out there and I said, “Hey, how’s Nick doing?” She said, “He’s great -- he’s kind of regrouping, you know, he’s trying to find his next move.” I said, “You know, I’m just doing a solo thing, you don’t think he’d want to play, do you?” And she goes, “Call him!” So all of the sudden, the stars aligned and here I am playing with this amazing guitar player. The first show that we did, my phone blew up from my agent and my crew and everybody who worked with me and they were going, “You have found your Randy Rhoads.” And I’m like, “I found my Randy Rhoads at 60?” [Laughs] Now I’ve found my Randy Rhoads, I said, “I’m not doing...you know, I’m retiring,” and they go, “You guys just are magic onstage. He holds his own against you, but at the same time, you complement each other well.” So Nick is playing with me and then Nick says, “Hey man, do you have any thoughts about doing new stuff?” And I was like, “Nah, as I’ve said a million times, I’m not doing any new music.” He goes, “Well, check this out” and he sent me a few things and I was like, “Oh s---, I hear something. I know what I want to sing to this.” So we recorded a few things actually together and this is the first thing to put out there and I’m sort of testing the waters with it.
You know, because I’ve been very public in saying that no one cares about new music from old bands and I hope that I get proven wrong. But I put it out there for free, because I don’t believe that people are buying s--- anymore. [Laughs] And I’m going to give people no excuse not to listen to it and embrace it if they want to! So it’s like, people who say that I’m wrong -- and again, this is something where I’d love to be wrong and say, “Wow, look at this -- look at people embracing new music from an old artist!” So I put it out there for free and we’ll see what happens. But am I holding my breath? Am I expecting to relaunch my career? Am I expecting to change the course of the Twisted/Dee Snider retirement in 2016? No, I don’t. I just love the song and I’m out there doing some solo shows with the guys who all played on [it]: Joe Franco, Dan McCafferty, Nick and everybody in my solo band played on the track. I thought it would be kind of nice to have something out there that we’ll play live and that will represent these five guys onstage instead of five different guys from other things I’ve worked on at different times during my career.
I know it’s been mentioned that you’re working on a new record and presumably some of that other stuff will wind up on that record. It’s also been mentioned that there will be stuff from your past, including the hits with Twisted Sister. What other kind of stuff will be on there? Will there be a track from Widowmaker revisited?
You know, the idea started as a retrospective with some new music. It’s been mutating. Greatly. And I don’t have the definitive answer. The Billboard article that you may have seen, talked about me meeting this hit songwriter named Damon Ranger, who has got Emmys, Grammys and an Oscar. [He wants to] reintroduce me as a contemporary artist, but in the pop world, crossing over. He’s written music for me that I’ve recorded and we did four songs. So Nick and I did four songs together, which are really classic rock, classic old school, you know, people are going, “This is old music.” Yeah! [Laughs] It’s what I specialize in! It’s what I know and Nick is a fan of classic rock. You know, the bands he likes, Zeppelin, AC/DC and all of that stuff, it’s all of the older bands, so it comes through in his writing as well. But Damon, when he approached me, I said, “Well, I like the challenge of it and I’m willing to give it a shot.” He said, “Do you want to write with me?” And I said, “Absolutely f---ing not.” I said. “I don’t f---ing know what makes a new song or an old song, but I’m there.” So the songs that we’ve recorded together, one is a very active rock song, but contemporary sounding. “We Are the Ones” [is] very tied to my sense of rebellion and all of that kind of stuff. Then there’s a song called “Over Again,” which is his next step towards pop radio, which is very much like new in the Foo Fighters sense, still rock but more contemporized. Then there’s a song called “Close to You” that has got synths and it’s almost, I won’t say it’s Nine Inch Nails, but in a pop Nine Inch Nails creepiness kind of thing, strong on melody, about a stalker.
Then there’s one that is this big Queen-esque stadium anthem Eurovision song contest winner, [Snider chuckles] a huge anthem. So we recorded these four songs, so his vision is to take this iconic, timeless artist -- that’s his words, not mine -- and say to a young audience, “This is Dee Snider, he is the voice of rebellion, he is the anthem guy and he’s viable in today’s market and you need to pay attention to this guy.” We’ve been using Tony Bennett as an example and it’s not the best example, but somehow Tony has found a new audience through his connection to the pop audience and the pop mainstream. So we’re sitting here, we’re talking with record companies, there is record company interest. Originally, it was going to be just a pure retrospective with stuff from Twisted, Widowmaker, Desperado and then some new stuff and the working title for that record is When Will Then Be Now, which is actually a line from Spaceballs, if you’re a Spaceballs fan! [Laughs] That’s what Dark Helmet says, “When will then be now?” So that’s the working title for the record, but now that Damon Ranger showed up and sort of threw a curve, it’s like, my people still think it’s a retrospective, but what’s going to be on that retrospective and how much is going to be new and what is the journey we’re going to take people on with it? That remains to be seen, but I think that realistically we’re looking at 2016 for something with that.
It must have been interesting to see Damon sell you on the concept. That seems like a really interesting thing for you to buy into.
Well, you know what? It wasn’t that hard of a sell. First of all, he stroked my ego and used words like “iconic” and “timeless.” [Laughs] You know how to play me. But to me, I’m more interested in something that challenges me than rehashing the past. I love my past, but you know, people said, Dee Does Broadway, they said it was insane. The Christmas album? Insane. Yeah, but part of the thing that attracts me to it is the idea of them saying that it’s impossible. The Christmas album was a big seller, leading to my musical which is now going to Toronto this year. It’s got legs and it looks like this is something people are going to be seeing and it’s going to grow in the years to come and become hopefully a perennial [thing] internationally. But the Broadway record? It didn’t sell jack s---, but it was reviewed well, people who heard it liked it, I am proud of it and it has led me into another world where people are looking at me a little differently and going, “Hey, this guy is not the one-note horn.” Well, everything I’ve done has sort of led to that, I keep trying to show people I am not a one-note horn. People are going, “Oh wow, he can do radio” and “Wow, he can act” and he can sing and he can do this and he can do that. I’ve really been on a mission to just get the idea in people’s heads not to know what to expect from me and also that I’m capable of a lot more than they thought I was. Not bad for a f---tard. I’ve never even heard of that word! I was like, “Wow, f---tard.” I remember being called a s---head when I was little and I was scarred for life. F---tard. That one’s going to stay with me.
This is your first solo single in a couple of decades and I think anybody that’s a fan of you is aware that you don’t just record material to put it out there. So when you do, it really speaks to the fact that you believe in what you’re putting out there.
I’m glad that it does and you know, I really like the four songs that we recorded, me and Nick. But I felt this one would be great live and connect with the audience. Someone who tweeted said, “'To Hell and Back' is Shut Up and Give Me the Mic in a four-minute song” and I said, “Wow, yeah, I guess it is!” It talks about where I’ve been and what I’ve done. So I particularly like it as sort of a first thing to put back out there. I’m curious for the reaction, beyond f---tards, you know, from the other people!
There’s good and perhaps a lot of bad that can be used for good with what the internet has added to the picture that is today’s music industry. Do you think that there’s any chance that the music industry eventually figures things out?
They have to. But probably the best route they should take, I think they’ve been playing catchup for a long time -- they’re constantly trying to readjust and adapt. I think that probably the truth of the matter, the answer is to start from scratch and create a whole new playbook. Forget everything -- they keep trying to adjust what they knew -- throw it out the window and say, “Okay, we’re starting out, now how do we create a new music industry, forgetting everything that went before?” Just get it out of your mind. Because it haunts people, it clouds their judgement and they keep trying to recapture -- and it all comes down to economics, you recapture that. Well, forget that -- start with a blank piece of paper and say, “Okay, now we’re making a music industry. These are the elements we have, this is the way music is created, this is the way music is transmitted, this is how it’s shared and enjoyed.” Build a whole new business plan off of that. I don’t think anybody, at least that I’m aware of, has done that, started with just a blank slate and just started over. I think that’s really what needs to be done. Just level the f---ing building and build something brand new.
Do you see some interesting effects from streaming and stuff like that -- not the financial side, but just the awareness of new generations and further generations that know Dee Snider that might not have?
I have no idea. I saw a hashtag, Twitter in three words hashtag and I wrote, "Verdict still out." I don’t know if it has value, if it has a place. You probably saw that Dave Draiman has removed himself from Twitter and social media. You know, he’s been a punching bag, he tried to make statements like I have in a way, but even more so, political and really try to raise awareness and do things and he just got tired of hearing f---tards. Hashtag, #f---tards. [Laughs] So I don’t know, for me. I know it has value for some people and I know Andy Biersack and Black Veil Brides, they’ve figured it out. They’ve made it work for them. And no, it’s not the old business plan, it’s a brand new one. He comes from there, you know, Andy, he started in social media and built it from the ground up out of that. He gets it, controls it, uses it, works it, loves it, embraces it and has figured out how to make it work for him. It’s great. So God bless him.
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