Before Dee Snider recorded his new solo album, Leave a Scar, he’d decided to quit music entirely to focus on other creative endeavors. “I had told my family, my friends, my management, and my band that I was no longer recording or going to do any live shows,” the former Twisted Sister frontman tells Yahoo Entertainment. “From August 2019 on, I said, ‘I’m done.’” He was so serious, in fact, that he even gave away his favorite pair of stage boots to a fan named Keith. But now Snider has changed his mind, and he’s roaring back with possibly his angriest album yet, leading with statement song “I Gotta Rock (Again).”
“So Keith, if you’re listening, could you send me my boots?” Snider quips.
Leave a Scar and Snider’s return was “absolutely inspired by the state of the world, pandemic-wise and politically. I mean, pretty much the world s*** the bed in 2020, as we like to say in Brooklyn,” says Snider. “The state of the world just said, ‘All right, you got a platform, you have a voice. There are people out there who don’t have that voice, and you need to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.’”
The self-described “gun-toting feminist” blames “extremes on the left and right,” as well as the “vast majority” who remain silent and let extremists take over, for the world’s aforementioned bed-s***ing. And he advises his more politically moderate followers, “Don’t shut up. Tell these idiots to shut up!” Snider has certainly never been one to shut up on social media, whether he’s sharing his views about women’s rights and reproductive freedom, his former Celebrity Apprentice co-star Donald Trump, or most recently “anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers.” And one track on his new record was actually inspired by his Twitter battles.
“Jamey Jasta, my producer… came in with a song title idea,” Snider recalls. “He goes, ‘Dee, watching you on social media, when trolls come after you, I feel sorry for them, because it’s like you just tear them to shreds!’ And I said, ‘Hmmm, open season?’ I always work with titles. ‘Open season!’ So, the opening line on ‘Open Season’ is ‘Hey, motherf***er, are you kidding me?’ … This is a lesson that I give for free@’ Schooling people is one of my favorite things. I don’t shy away on social media — and I’m not shying away now.”
Obviously Snider has plenty of experience dealing with trolls, dating back to Twisted Sister’s early days when he was playing to rowdy, vicious biker-bar audiences dress in basically full drag. “Oh yeah, it was drag. The only thing I didn’t have was the pushup [bra]. I mean, I was wearing literally women’s clothing!” Snider laughs, remembering those confrontational gigs. “There’s pictures of me with lingerie on and stockings and you know, all kinds of exotic things. … So yeah, it was groundbreaking, but the fact was, we were post-New York Dolls. And I couldn’t understand why people were still reacting so violently — and it was violent — to something that was considered already passé. The early-‘70s glitter, glam, Bowie and New York Dolls had passed; it was over and done. And yet I’m still fighting for my life every night in that stupid bars of the suburbs.”
Snider, who joined Twisted Sister in 1976, remembers that those shows often devolved into physical violence. “I was ‘lead vocals and security,’” he jokes. “I mean, there wasn’t a night I wasn’t off the stage, mixing it up with somebody in the limited crowd, in my negligee top and fishnet stockings — which probably just added to shame and humiliation. They had to go back and say, ‘Wow, you got your ass kicked. Who did it?’ That’s really embarrassing, when a guy with wearing pink nail polish beats your ass! So, yeah, but that’s what I remember — having straight razors held to my throat one time after a show. I mean, just rumbles, rumbles, just ugly rumbles and fights. … It was just incredible, the reaction people had to something really so insignificant, when you think about it. A guy is wearing a woman’s negligee? So what? Go out, walk out of the place in disgust and move on to the next club. Who cares? Stay there and get into a fight with him? Why?”
Snider recalls with a chuckle that he got in angry audience members’ faces in another, amusing, quite literal way: “wearing skin-tight pants and you could see exactly… ‘Hey, you’re circumcised!’ For a while, my wife always made my outfits in pastel spandex, and I would wear baby pink, baby yellow, baby blue — the most masculine of the colors, this color scheme. And I only found out recently… they could see through my outfits when I sweat. … You know [how if a girl wears] a bra under a white T-shirt and the right light hits it? Well, apparently when the right light hit me, you could see everything. And I had no idea! And I went home to my wife and I said, ‘Did you know that you could see through the pastel spandex pants you made?’ She goes, ‘Yeah, why? You didn’t know that? Why are you surprised? All women know that you can see through pastel colors; you gotta wear something underneath.’ Well, I was commando! And I’m a dude!” (As for why Snider didn’t think to wear underwear, he answers, “Who wants VPL?”)
“I’ve [since] seen the photos,” Snider says of those early wardrobe malfunctions. “I’ve seen the big sweat marks on the crotch area. But apparently I don’t know if the flash on the light, whatever the lighting effect that you could see through. I never knew it. Bu it may explain why [Twisted Sister guitarist Eddie Ojeda would so often to say to me, ‘Um, aren’t you embarrassed to walk out onstage like that?’ And I didn’t know why. So, I’d go, ‘Nope. [My wife] Suzette made it. I’m wearing it!’”
Interestingly, Snider says that while his early gender-bending look had its fair share of detractors, he has always had a fanbase in the actual drag community. “I mean, half of [drag queens] look like me when they’re doing their thing,” he laughs. “That community adores me. I’ve gone to different shows like that, and they’re always like so honored that Dee Snider is there: ‘You’re the reason why I’m doing what I do today.’ Really? OK, great!” Yahoo then suggests that he join his peer, Judas Priest’s Rob Halford — who has already been very vocal about his dream of guest-judging a heavy metal challenge of RuPaul’s Drag Race — on a future hard rock Drag Race episode’s panel.
“I’m stunned that I’ve never been asked. I’d be a great judge. It always mystifies me that I’ve never been asked to be a guest judge,” says Snider, whose reality TV résumé, aside from Celebrity Apprentice, includes CMT’s Gone Country, his own A&E family series Growing Up Twisted, and judging the battle-of-the-bands competition Who Will Rock You?. “I feel like people like me and Rob have proven to be smart and interesting and well-spoken, and I think it would be great judges. You want me, Rob? I’m down!”
Snider even has some other casting ideas for this rock ‘n’ roll fantasy Drag Race episode. “You got Rob and me, what else do you need? Alice [Cooper]? I’m sure Alice would do it in a hot minute. Me and Alice are friends, so I know Alice will be in. Rob’s in, Dee’s in. And Gene [Simmons] or Paul [Stanley] would jump in there once they hear that,” he adds, doing his best smug Gene impression: “‘Well, if they’re doing it — let me tell you something, I invented this.’ So, we get Gene Simmons there as well … Get somebody over [at Drag Race production company World of Wonder] to start thinking about that. Maybe you start a Yahoo campaign.”
In the meantime, Snider has plenty of other projects in the works besides Leave a Scar, including a children’s animated show for Peacock, his first novel, a new horror movie (My Enemy’s Enemy) and a horror TV series, and a Broadway jukebox musical called Rock Me Amadeus. As for whether Leave a Scar really will be his final album — a claim he made when his For the Love of Metal LP came out last year — time will tell. But it’s certain that Dee won’t be fully retiring any time soon, because he still has plenty to say.
“I didn’t want to be one of those people who stays past his expiration date,” says the 65-year-old rocker. “But I will say, as the song ‘I Gotta Rock (Again)’ says, it’s not something that I choose. It’s just what I gotta do. I always said that I’ll do it till the day I die, and I realize that even if I stop recording or stop performing, it isn’t because I stopped rocking. I mean, to be honest, there was a time when I was a kid a long ago, when I was a child, that I assumed rock was something we grew out of. … But we will be in our eighties and nineties, in old folks’ homes, and we’ll be sitting there in a wheelchair… just banging our heads quietly in the corner.”
Check out Dee Snider’s full, extended Yahoo Entertainment below, in which he discusses the making of his new album, the pros and cons of social media, the state of the post-Trump world in 2021, and the secret to staying married for 40 years”
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— Video produced by Anne Lilburn, edited by Jason Fitzpatrick