One of the more unusual acts to surface in rock today, is a group from Long Island, called "Twisted Sister." Recording for Atlantic Records, the group is out on tour in support of their album, "You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll."
Making a stop over here in Syracuse at The Lost Horizon, we talked with lead singer Dee Snider and guitarist Jay Jay French.
Q. Were you guys influenced by Alice Cooper at all?
Dee : Cooper was a very strong influence, particularly on me as a songwriter and performer. Michael Bruce (guitarist - Alice Cooper) jammed with us once and Neal Smith (drummer - Alice Cooper) jammed with us twice. I love Alice Cooper.
Jay: We played Billion Dollar Babies with Michael Bruce. Neal Smith's wife spilled a drink on me about a year after we met Michael Bruce, one night in a bar. Neal Smith, by the way is a great guy.
Q. Am I right in saying "Twisted Sister" is the hottest group in Europe at this time?
Dee: I think they're saying we're the hottest "new" group in Europe. I think "new" would be more appropriate because in England we're selling out 3500 seaters all over the country now. Of course there are bands like AC/DC and The Stones that sell out Wembley Arena, 20,000 people. We're not to that level. Our first album came out in Sept. '82. From Sept. '82 when we were nothing, nobody knew us, to now, we've had two hit singles, been on national TV in England, we've been in all the papers, we're playing major concert halls, and in Europe, we're the upstarts of Europe. I say we're the hottest "new" band in Europe, no doubt about it.
Q. Did "Twisted Sister" enter that Miller High Life Rock To Riches Talent Hunt?
Jay: No, we never entered that. That is one of the biggest misconceptions in the world. We'd like to clear this up right now. This is the situation; there are a lot of compilation albums that radio stations release as the best of local talent. "Twisted Sister" being as big as it was before we had a record deal had become entrants in many of these local radio station promo albums. WAPF Radio when they released their album had informed our management that one of the criteria for a band that passed the audition so to speak, for the compilation album, would be an automatic entry into the Miller Contest. We already had an album deal at that point and it was just academic. This was something we did just to bide some time in the process.
Dee: In order to be on the album when they wanted us on the album, ‘cause we were popular, we would sell copies, is that you go through the formality of being an "entrant", and if you win you will turn down the prize, because you are already an album band. We didn't realize Miller was going to use that in every one of their advertisements. But there's no real hard feelings over at Miller, because Miller is very interested in our band, possible sponsorship or whatever in the future.
Q. Pete Townshend has remarked, "Behind every band is some sort of mentor figure, some Svengali." Is there a Svengali figure behind "Twisted Sister?"
Dee : We are the Svengali, the whole band has always been the Svengali. There's been no one person hiding or lurking in anything. What's unusual is ''Twisted Sister" has been more in control of their lives and future than probably any other band since its inception.
Jay: We are a new generation of rock 'n roll bands. I have to hope we are, because we have seen and heard so many horror stories, that we will never live that.
Q. Promoter Larry Magid had this to say on violence at rock concerts, "It started with groups using theatrics, flash pods and so forth. Now you get the audience mimicking the groups." Is that really a valid explanation of rock concert violence?
Dee : I think it's a cop-out on his part. He's just looking for a scape goat for his own mishandling of the situation. It's plain and simple, it's his situation. I think the beauty of a rock 'n roll concert is it gives the kids an outlet. They live through it. Sure, you get a couple of kids sticking a lighter in their mouth and blowin' flames, but they watch a magician and try to do tricks. There's certain people who are gonna do it, but that's not because they've been inspired in a negative manner by a rock group.
Jay: I think more people die trying to mimic real people, than try to mimic a rock 'n roll band, and you hear it all the time. Soccer stadiums riot. I mean, if you're gonna have a lot of people stuck in an uncomfortable situation, you may have a problem. That kind of blanket statement is the kind of statement that can hurt a band like "Twisted Sister" that wants to be able to play in front of a lot of people. Yet, this guy has made money off of careless and irresponsible handling of that many people.
Q. It's been said that people who become successful find a way to destroy themselves. Why do you suppose that is?
Dee : You're talking to the wrong people. As a band, we don't drink, we don't do drugs, we don't smoke. We work out. We run. We're into all the things that most rock 'n rollers aren't into. There's even a vegetarian in the hand.
Jay: People have a lot of trouble dealing with failure. We've been through so much rejection we've got a thick hide. So, it's not going to happen to "Twisted Sister." That question you ask pertains to so many movie stars and so many entertainers that the public loves to know about, how they destroy themselves. The public hates the fact that someone made so much money, so they like to see someone not be able to cope with it and destroy themselves from the inside, because they've been overwhelmed by it. It depends on your outlook on it, if you get overwhelmed by it, it's one thing. If you get overwhelmed by rejection, if you get easily sucked into someone else's scene, but that is not Twisted Sister. So, that may happen to a lot of other people, but it will not happen to us.