Interview – Dee Snider

Chances are, when you think one of Rock-n-Roll’s most colorful and boisterous personalities, one of the first names that comes to mind is Dee Snider. Rising to Rock fame fronting his hardworking, won’t take no for an answer band Twisted Sister, Snider’s singing voice has always been one that demanded attention as heard on the band’s biggest hits including “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock.” Which is exactly why the team behind Rocktopia summoned Snider to be a part of their show.

Rocktopia, the latest Rock production to hit Broadway, which opened on March 27th, is set for a 6 week run and will feature the one and only Dee Snider the week of April 9th through 15th. A unique concept, Rocktopia unites unforgettable Classical pieces with equally unforgettable Rock pieces, making for a one of a kind hybrid not to be missed. Recently we caught up with the busy Snider to talk his joining Rocktopia, his excitement about returning to Broadway, sustaining his drive over the years, plus much more. – You have been involved in Rock-n-Roll most of your life. From the success of Twisted Sister to charitable efforts, to hosting your own radio show and making movies, you have really accomplished a great deal. With that said, what has the journey been like for you?

Dee Snider – Never boring. (Laughs) I really thought once you made it in Rock-n-Roll you crossed some sort of imaginary finish line, spike the ball, did a victory lap, and lived happily ever after. It turned out it’s a roller coaster, there was a big drop when they found the cure for Hair Metal in the ’90s, it was called Grunge. As I started to explore other careers in radio, film, acting, voiceovers, production, and so many different things… it’s never been boring. – You certainly have kept yourself very busy and diverse. What really has always stood out about yourself and Twisted Sister, beyond the imagery, is the unapologetic attitude and honesty you possess and your passion for the live performance. After all these years, what is it like for you to get out on stage?

Dee Snider – It’s dreamlike, because I did not expect to still be on stage. (Laughs) When you are a kid you view the 40s, 50s, 60s – look at Steven Tyler who just turned 70 – as decrepit somehow; I mean like dead, I thought I’d be dead. (Laughs) It just amazes me that not only am I still out there and performing, but that people are interested; I never take that for granted. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t pinch myself. There are so many struggling young people throughout history that had dreams of doing what I do. Yeah, there is a talent for sure, perseverance for sure; but there is a certain amount of luck and timing involved, I never take it for granted.

Atlantic – Right, and you have done a great deal over the years. As we know, Twisted Sister bid farewell in 2016, but you have not slowed down, releasing a new solo album, touring, among other things. Now you are set to appear on Broadway’s Rocktopia the week of April 9th through 15th. How did you become involved with this show?

Dee Snider – I don’t know exactly why the producers reached out to me. I like to think I fit the bill as an iconic Rock star – that is not my words, it’s other people’s. I can handle myself in these situations, I have got some history with Broadway as well. They reached out and asked if I would be interested, I just jumped at the chance. A – I definitely have a love affair with Broadway after my experience with Rock of Ages, so there was a chance to return there. B – It is the whole concept of Rocktopia.

I have said this before, Rock doesn’t need anyone to legitimize it. It’s not about legitimizing it, it’s the recognition the show’s giving that great Rock music sits at the same table with great Classical music. It is just music, just great music, and it has a seat at that table. The unique thing about Rocktopia, where many people have orchestrated Rock music, Rocktopia is pairing legendary Classical pieces with legendary Rock pieces. That is what makes it a unique show other than doing orchestrating Pink Floyd’s The Wall, that’s awesome! But this is a different animal. When I heard what they were doing, I jumped at the chance. Beyond that, I am singing songs that I never sang before, legendary songs! I am singing “Dream On,” I’m singing “Kashmir,” I’m singing “Stairway to Heaven.” The chance to sing these songs is a little scary honestly, especially with a 60-piece orchestra. This is a real challenge, but I am very excited about it. – It should be a fantastic show. There are other guest vocalists, such as Robin Zander of Cheap Trick in following weeks. As you stated, Rocktopia is a very cool concept combining Rock-n-Roll with Classical pieces. Some people may discount it, but Rock and Classical music really have a common thread. Do you agree?

Dee Snider – It’s funny because the producers of Rocktopia said that if Beethoven was alive today he would be in a Rock band. I said that years ago. I said he would be in a Metal band, Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, that’s Metal, baby! They are not mutually exclusive these two things. It’s great music paired with great music. Backing it all with this massive orchestra and choir is just the coolest thing in the world.

The Company of Rocktopia. Photo credit: Matthew Murphy. – Absolutely! You are working with a very talented mix of musicians a part of Rocktopia led by co-creator Rob Evans who has worked with Trans-Siberian Orchestra among other things. Have you done any rehearsals yet?

Dee Snider – I flew in on Thursday, I rehearse today, I am in the show on Monday – I am being shot out of a cannon. Again, challenging, scary, exciting, all those things. I knew Paul O’Neill, Al Pitrelli was in a band with me, people who founded Trans-Siberian Orchestra, so I have known so many of the players and a lot of the Rock communities involved in that over the years. I know there has been a lot of people in Trans-Siberian Orchestra over the years, some of them I’ve met, I don’t know if I met Rob before. I am excited to work with him and perform with him, he’s a legend in the theater community as well.

One observation, Pat Monahan of Train was singing there and The New York Times said he had a nasally voice. I read that and said, “Wait until they get a load of me.” (Laughs) What they don’t get is that’s Rock-n-Roll. One of the big differences between Rock and Classical is sang from the diaphragm, Rock is all in the mask – it’s in the nose, the sinuses, it’s right in there. You said a few minutes ago, there are people who really don’t have the respect for Rock as they do other things. I think it is because those people don’t understand it. They don’t really get it’s a different animal, it doesn’t make it any less of an animal, it’s a tough way to sing. It’s a different way to sing. – Absolutely right. A lot of it is due to the emotion needed for a song. It goes with any form of music, in the Blues you need to hit the right notes at the right time. It’s about the emotion.

Dee Snider – Yea, songs like “Dream On,” “Stairway to Heaven,” talk about emotional songs. I am just focusing on the ones I’m doing, they do “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the show, talk about an emotional song, a son telling his mother he killed somebody, it doesn’t get anymore emotional than that. (Laughs) It is about emotion, it is about inspiration. Any musician who creates, any creative inspiration comes from the soul. This show is an inspired show, the music is inspired, it’s an exciting and new presentation.

Dee Snider & Twisted Sister live at Best Buy Theater, NYC. Photo credit: Stephanie Pearl Photography – Well, it will be exciting to see you a part of the show. Since you have done Broadway in the past, how would you compare performing a part of a Broadway production to a Rock/Metal show?

Dee Snider – Rocktopia is not a Broadway production in the truest sense – like a Rock show, you do get to face your audience. When I was doing Rock of Ages, the toughest thing for me to realize is that you don’t acknowledge the audience, you don’t look at the audience, you’re looking at the actors. The only thing you react to is timing wise if there is a laugh or a reaction, you might to give a second for that moment to pass. Other than that, you are not allowed to break the fourth wall.

I remember there was a moment in Rock of Ages when I played Dennis, at the end of the show, spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it, Dennis dies. It’s a very funny moment because they are talking about Dennis in the future and Dennis is still on stage. When Lonny says, “We lost Dennis,” I said, “I’m dead,” and someone in the front show said, “Thank god!” three feet from my ear. The rocker in me wanted to turn around and say, “What did you say!” (Laughs) I thought I am a thespian now, no reacting, you can’t acknowledge someone in the front wishing they are happy you are dead. You can’t do that in theater. – (Laughs) One can imagine that is a challenge for you, because you are pretty reactive in a live show.

Dee Snider – Oh yea. So Rocktopia audience watch your mouth, I’m watching you! I am breaking that fourth wall! (Laughs) I’m Dee Snider the Rock star, this is what you get. I don’t care if this is a classical band, watch your mouth! (Laughs)

Entertainment One
Red River Entertainment – (Laughs) It should be a blast! It is funny how you mentioned you thought you would be dead at this point, or not be performing anymore. To be honest,  you keep yourself in great shape, always seem extremely upbeat and ready to rock. What remains your driving inspiration after all these years?

Dee Snider – You know what, you asked the magic question. I get asked this not often enough. I was asked a number of years ago by a good friend of mine, “Man, how do you do it?” You have no idea. I have a production company now, multiple movies in development, I have a new kid’s animated show, I have a new Metal record produced by Jamey Jasta on Napalm Records. I have so many projects going on. He asked, “How do you do it?” I tell him, “It’s 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent desperation.” He said, “What!” I said, “Dude, in the early ’90s I lost everything.” Twisted Sister fell apart, the music scene changed, and I literally lost every penny I made. At that point, I was married, had three kids, and I was like, what now? You either put a gun in your mouth, end it all, which is the coward’s way out, or you pick yourself up and try to figure it out.

I just started out of desperation to do anything and everything I could to connect with audiences. That was radio, voiceovers, writing TV shows/movies, and producing. All these things I did, it was just desperation not to go the other way, and that was just to give up. You can’t give up. That’s what keeps me going. I am terrified of what happened to me in the ’90s happening to me again. It never will happen to me again, but it was a very rude awakening. – That is a very interesting take. Obviously we all learn from our past mistakes, and if we are smart, we do not let the same mistakes happen again. It has really been a driving force for you for years. It really has been pedal to the metal for a long time now.

Dee Snider – Oh yea. My wife laughs all the time because I will say, “When I retire,” she literally just laughs. She says, you have to be kidding me. I wrote a list of my projects that are currently in development in various stages, and some are writing a book, a fiction novel, but it filled a legal pad of current things I am working on. She says, “When exactly are you retiring? Because I just saw 25-30 things on the sheet of projects you are working on right now.” So there is no end in sight, but who wants to? The things I am doing now is things I am passionate about and I want to do.

When Rocktopia called asking what do you think of joining this show for a week on Broadway, singing these legendary songs with a 60-piece orchestra? I thought, now this is what I am talking about! Stuff that makes me wake up in the morning and say, “Damn, this is exciting!” Not doing the same old thing over and over. I don’t want to do what they call the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result. No, I want to do something new with new results and exciting results. Rocktopia falls right there, it’s perfect.

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