One of the most newsworthy events in Dee Snider’s life — and he’s had a few, including eloquently addressing the U.S. Senate during the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) hearings and ruling MTV with the rousing video for the quintessential empowerment anthem “I Wanna Rock” — happened on the 405. Yes, the freeway.
“I’d just finished Twisted’s biggest farewell show, 90,000 people in Germany, and I walked into our hotel room, feeling like a rock god, only to get inundated with Google alerts that 'Dee Snider’s granddaughter had been born on the 405' while my son Jesse was at the wheel,” says the inimitable Twisted Sister frontman in his energetic New York patois. “My daughter-in-law Patty literally pulled our granddaughter from her cooch while my son was driving. Without breaking stride. She told him, ‘Keep driving.’ She arrived at the hospital nursing the baby.”
Snider, 63, and a native New Yorker, finds himself spending a lot of time lately in L.A., where his grandkids and three of his four children live, with the fourth moving west this fall. Snider, whose long list of credits include actor (Broadway and screen); radio host (House of Hair); and producer (he recently sold an animated children’s show to Netflix), at once stands out and fits in on the best coast, his chiseled physique still rock-star skinny, his voice and mien East Coast hyperactive.
You might imagine Dee Snider to be the apogee of metal excess — after all, in Twisted, his kinky blond mane was as big as any Sunset Strip headbanger’s, his group’s neon-bright makeup and awful outfits as gaudy as any you’d find at Gazzarri’s — but you’d be wrong.
At the height of the band’s mid-’80s success, Twisted Sister’s attitude and songs could have beat Poison to a pulp in a battle of “Talk Dirty to Me” vs. “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” But, confesses Snider, “I’ve never been to the Rainbow,” long the mecca for local and visiting rock stars (and wannabes).
“When I’m not onstage, I’m not looking to be the center of attention. I never went out and partied; I never hung out,” Snider explains. “I’m going home to my wife and kids. Be a rock god, awesome, then go home and ride bicycles and go out for breakfast in the morning.”
Not to mention finding time, as one publication put it, for “singlehandedly humiliating Congress” up against Tipper Gore’s PMRC. Snider is a force of nature both onstage and on the stand.
In the early ’80s, when Twisted were struggling in the Long Island club scene, prior to the 1984 success of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” the quintet never toyed with moving to LA. to “make it.” “Not a thought. We looked at the L.A. scene and thought it was a bunch of dudes trying to have the New York edge. … And the word ‘dude’: I never heard the word before. We don’t say that in New York. It’s not a thing.”
Now on the West Coast, the word has come out of his mouth — but with an abrasive, almost sarcastic NYC twist. Snider and Suzette, his wife of 42 years, love spending time on L.A.’s Westside. (They have homes in Las Vegas and Belize, and stay at their daughter's place in Marina del Rey during their frequent stints in Los Angeles.)
Of course, Missing Persons sang it best: “Nobody walks in L.A.,” and indeed, Snider is often on his motorcycle here. He likens walking in New York to “a game of Frogger. We get it, [cars] are going to try to hit us and we have to avoid it. You get hit by a car crossing the street in New York, it’s your fault. Here, cars are expected to stop. I remember my first visit, in 1983-84, to L.A. I’m riding down La Cienega maybe, and I see some guy step out, and I go, ‘Oh, dude, you are so dead,’ and I stepped on the gas. The person with me, from California, was ‘NO, NO, here you have to stop.’ I’m like, ‘Well, that’s not cool.’”
That competitive spirit serves him well onstage, a place he thought he’d retired from after ending Twisted Sister in 2016. But thanks to a challenge issued on Hatebreed singer Jamey Jasta’s podcast, Snider is back with an unexpected and excellent solo album, accurately titled For the Love of Metal.
“When Twisted called it quits, I was done. I had no intention of recording. I had other plans creatively.” But when Jasta threw down the gauntlet, Snider picked it up. “At this point in my life, I don’t have to do things. I do things that I wanna do, and you’ve piqued my interest.”
Doing a record that was current metal, à la Rob Halford’s Resurrection album, was exciting to Snider. “I’m a ride-or-die headbanger. Back then it wasn’t even called heavy metal. I had the first Blue Cheer album; the Mountain record, Cream record. … I always — I liked ‘Helter Skelter’ better than ‘Love Me Do.’”
You may hear a song or two from For the Love of Metal at the Whisky on July 21, but Snider’s main goal of the night is to be the “preening dad” in support of eldest son Jesse Blaze Snider. “Jesse’s got this graphic novel, King of Kings, and it’s a party celebrating that, driving home the IndieGoGo campaign.” In the blasphemous comic, 16 religions compete to unseat Jesus Christ in a battle of the bands.
“We need irreverence,” Snider states firmly. “In the ’80s when I was fighting censorship, I was fighting the conservatives. Now the censorship is coming from the liberals. Political correctness is a very big censorship thing. Now, Blazing Saddles could not be made — it’s got racist jokes all over the place. One of the funniest movies in history could not find a home.”
Expect Snider and son to mix it up at the King of Kings concert event, but the focus is not on dad. “I’ll do a few songs. The minute you add me to the mix, it becomes a Dee Snider show, but this is definitely not.”
It won’t be Snider’s first time jumping onstage locally. While he’s participated in Ultimate Jam nights, he’s quick to qualify: “I’ve never been a ‘jammer.’ The word itself is offensive to me. I’m old, and jamming meant somebody started playing a riff and people pick up on it, and the vocalist improv'd. To me, that was ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ But [in L.A.] it’s playing songs, so it’s cool.”
So will the East Coast fixture — whose Long Island home life was chronicled in the 2010 A&E series Growing Up Twisted — come to the City of Angels permanently? Well, so far Snider keeps his “zombie apocalypse vehicle,” a behemoth Hummer H2, in L.A. in case he needs to “ram” his way out of the state, and, he says with a laugh, “I always have my eye on which boat I’m going to steal to ride out the tsunami.”
So that’s a yes? More like a “highly likely.” “Put it this way,” he responds. “Fuck the snow.”
See Jesse Blaze Snider’s King of Kings show, with special guests including Dee Snider, at the Whisky on July 21.