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12.03 Along came a Snider

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Talking straight with Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider

December 2003 – Ever since I got Kevin Costner to autograph my mother’s Dances With Wolves DVD, the woman has been star-struck.As my 2:00 p.m. interview approaches, I tell her I need to get off the phone to get ready for it.

“Oh, who is it with this time?” she asks, secretly hoping that I might have occasion to tell Mr. Neil Diamond that she is newly single and a big fan of his work.

“Dee Snider,” I tell her.

“Dee Schneider?” she answers.

“Schneider is the handyman from ‘One Day At A Time’, Ma,” I tell her. “Dee Snider is the singer from Twisted Sister.”

“Oh,” she mumbles, slightly disappointed, “him.”

Chatting up one of the most inescapable figures of the 1980’s pop metal scene may seem anti-climactic to someone like my Mom, but for a former teenage underdog like me, whose adolescence begged for an anthem like Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, it is a fanboy’s dream.

Appropriately, like the stentorian father played by Mark “Neidermeyer” Metcalf from Animal House, Mr. Snider starts our conversation off with a scolding. Dee doesn’t care for the fact that my phone line blocks anonymous calls, and that I now have his home phone number on my caller ID.

I apologize and tell him I never thought of it that way, but since I haven’t put B-movie king Bruce Campbell’s cell number up on eBay yet, then he, too, is safe. Dee laughs and we get on with the interview.

In 1984, when Twisted Sister’s album, Stay Hungry, ruled the airwaves with singles like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (which Snider recently loaned to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial campaign) and the blistering, anti-authoritarian “I Wanna Rock”, this New York born glam metal quintet was on top of the world. Within three years, though, the band, which had been together since 1973, collapsed under its own weight.

Overexposure, a too-grueling tour schedule and the failure of two subsequent albums, Come Out And Play (1985) and Love Is For Suckers (1987), led to a messy break-up that left these longtime friends estranged. Fans far and wide rejoiced recently, however, when the Twisted camp announced that Snider, guitarists J.J. French and Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda, bassist Mark Mendoza and drummer A.J. Pero would reunite for a limited number of shows. While not as eagerly anticipated as, say, David Gilmour and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd making nicey-nice, Twisted, as Snider calls it, certainly had its fans, and they came out in force.

“We’ve done about fifteen shows since April,” Snider notes, “and the reason we did was the right one — closure. It didn’t end well between us [in 1987], and we wanted to be friends and finish up with a smile this time.”

While Twisted did get together briefly in 1998 to record a track for the Snider-penned horror flick, StrangeLand and again for the Twisted tribute, Twisted Forever in 2001, there are presently no plans for a new studio album. The show will go on, though, with more dates planned for 2004.

“The guys want to tour more,” Snider says, matter-of-factly, “and I’m not going to stop them.”

In the mean time, Snider is very busy. Between his writing (StrangeLand 2 is caught up in legal red tape after the Enron-like collapse of indie studio The Shooting Gallery), his highly rated weekly syndicated radio show “The House Of Hair” (on WHEB 100.3) and his ongoing musical efforts, Dee Snider is a busy guy.

Despite everything that’s going on in his life, Dee Snider’s kids are “the most important part of my life,” according to the lanky, 48-year-old trouper. With his wife, “The Legendary” Suzette, whom he has been with for 27 years, he has four, ranging in age from son and MTV2 VJ, Jesse, 21, to his 7-year-old daughter Cheyenne, who comes home from school halfway through our interview (a moment cuter than Rob Halford of Judas Priest begging my pardon to take a spot of tea).

During the holiday season — aka Halloween — The Sniders’ Long Island home has become a local haunt nearly as prominent as Stephen King’s gargoyle-adorned Bangor mansion. During preparations for this annual spooktacular, the seed for Snider’s latest project, Van Helsing’s Curse, was planted.

“Halloween is huge in my house,” Snider explains, “and we really get into the ‘spirits’ of things. A few years back, my wife was frustrated with the same old stupid sound effects tape we would play, which ends with the theme from ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Monster Mash’. I told her that Halloween is way too cool a holiday to suffer through this every year.”

The Van Helsing’s Curse CD, Oculus Infernum, hit stores this September — too late to make it the definitive “soundtrack to Halloween” for this year as Snider envisions — and features a creepy narrative (read by Snider) set to music both original and borrowed from familiar sources ranging from Orff’s “Carmina Burana” to Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” from The Exorcist. This minor masterpiece of symphonic metal has been favorably reviewed, and has attracted the attention of both Six Flags and Universal Studios as a possible Halloween franchise.

As scary as it may be, nothing can compare to Snider’s days in Washington in 1985 when Tipper Gore’s Parents’ Music Resource Center (PMRC) staged its witch hunt when, under the guise of creating content warnings for parents, it set out to censor music it deemed inappropriate.

“It was a horrendous experience,” Snider recalls. “My phone was tapped, my mail was checked and there was press everywhere, and when I would ask if anyone had actual questions about the album, there was dead silence.”

In one of the most surreal teamings ever, Snider appeared before Congress with late legends Frank Zappa and John Denver, an event that was recreated — with Snider playing himself — for the surprisingly engaging 2002 TV movie, Warning: Parental Advisory.

After apologizing for his earlier gruffness (which he blames on just having watched Dumb & Dumberer), Snider adds, “I am not a politician, and I was not there to do battle.” He humbly thanks me for my support, and then gift-wraps my closer by saying, “I just wanted to rock.”

Dee Snider’s official website is at www.deesnider.com.

Twisted Sister’s is at www.twistedsister.com.

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