Dee Snider fronted heavy metal act Twisted Sister in the '70s and '80s, but we'd forgive you for knowing him more for reality TV, radio, voice acting, screenwriting, and hanging out with Donald Trump.
The dude likes to keep busy.
Which is why it made sense to release a new book, Shut Up and Give Me the Mic, and a new album, Dee Does Broadway, on the same day. "I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off," Snider says over the phone. "But I like staying busy."
The often-misunderstood singer ("You go on conservative sites, and they say I'm liberal scum; You go on liberal sites and they say I'm a conservative wacko. You go on Christian sites they say I'm Satanic; you go on Satanic sites and they say I'm a Christian," he laughs) discussed the new book with Up on the Sun and touched on topics near and dear to his heart: putting in work, the current state of the music business, and never letting the bastards wear him down.
Dee Snider is scheduled to appear on Friday, May 18, at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.
Up on the Sun: You've got a book and a new album out at the same time. I assume you're pretty busy these days.
Dee Snider: It seemed like a good idea two months ago when they said, "Hey, why don't we release the book and the CD at the same time?" [Laughs] It's kind of like having twins in a way. Instead of being able to savor each child unto themselves, you get two. It's almost like I have two kids and I'm splitting my attention and enjoying both, but you can't focus on the one. But it's okay, I'm not complaining. The '90s were long and hard on me. I sat doing nothing for a long time, so it's okay.
Neither project really fits people's minds regarding tropes or traps. The album is all showtunes, and the book, well, it's not a typical rock autobiography about you being strung-out or a sex maniac.
Like I said in the book, who isn't? [Laughs] But neither the book nor the album are typical. It's obvious, but it's nice to hear it stated. Both kind of have people scratching their head a little bit going, "What?" What was important to me with the book was that I told the story I wanted to tell. They said, "What story do you want to tell?" I said, "My rise and fall." And they said 'fall'? I said, "Yeah." I want to let people know you may be a rock star, but people fall all the time.
Have you see the Avengers movie? [The '90s were] like what the Hulk does to Loki.
You've got to keep trying to do the right thing. I think [there's some universal themes] going back to the lyrics [of Twisted Sister]. There were kids all over America and the world being yelled at by their dads, and feeling put upon, and not understood. I was just writing a personal story -- in the "We're Not Going to Take It" video -- and I was like "Oh, shit, that's going on?" I thought I was telling my story, but so many people identified with it. But right now, especially, with people are losing their jobs . . . I'm telling the odyssey of my life ... you can pick yourself up. Really, at the end of the day, that's all it takes.
There's a really funny Billy Joel quote in the book that you use to describe your time in the '90s, something like: "Being rich and famous sucks, but being poor and famous must really suck."
Yeah, Billy said that, and at the time I remember laughing heartily. Thinking that would blow. If it was a movie script, it would cut to me in the parking lot putting flyers on cars and running from security because they might recognize me. That was poignant.
But you kept working.
I've always been that way. That book goes up to '95. That's when I had this epiphany with my brother saying, "It doesn't have to be music. I started to pursue other things. Voice-over work, writing, radio, screenplays. I saw my voice-over agent last night; I do a Disney cartoon called Motorcity. I play the Duke of Detroit. I'm the bad guy. But she says "I had no idea this was going on. Holy crap -- this was going on when I met you." I said, "Well, yeah, this is the kind of thing you keep to yourself." But she said, "You were so easygoing and down to Earth and ready to do whatever it took to get your career in voice-over going." I said, "Exactly." I was humbled by the good lord for my arrogance in the '80s. That's how I feel. I'm not really that spiritual, but it almost seems that way. It seems like I was smited. "You're getting way to uppity. Bam. How's that? Have you see the Avengers movie? It's like what the Hulk does to Loki. I used to go auditions. I'd be knocking on doors. Clearly, I wasn't entitled [but that was the takeaway]. You gotta do the work.
My next book will be about my radio career -- it started on this little radio station on the east end of Long Island. I was getting $3.50 an hour for a two-hour show on Sunday night. It was a metal show. My agent said, you're not walking into a six-figure radio show. You want to do radio, you're going to have to start like midnight to two on a Sunday night. It was fun -- I had been humbled, and it was like, this is what I've got to do. You can't just step into a record contract, you know? You've got to get out there and rock.
You've done a pretty good job checking in on younger bands -- you've appeared in a lot of metalcore videos. Do you end up giving young bands advice?
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My youngest daughter, she's 15, and she sings in a post-hardcore band called They All Float. They're working on a CD, they're on a few Warped Tour dates in the Northeast, and I've met a lot of bands and they're always asking me. I can't speak to the current path that bands need to be on to succeed. It's a completely upside-down inverted different world. Merchandise is the key place they make money; records are last. They live off the merch -- we lived off records.
I've got a phrase tattooed on my shoulder, it's Latin: Illegetimus non Carborundum est. I means "never let the bastards wear you down." Those are the words I live by. Do not let them win. The second bit of advice is to prepare themselves for success. Its not a finish line. We view making it like it's a finish line. It's not. You never know what it's going to be. You never know if you need to keep climbing or it's a sheer drop down the other side. Sometimes it's a plateau. Few of us have the Ozzy, Clapton, Billy Joel, Elton John careers, that go on for a lifetime. Most of 'em are a few years and thank you, you're done.
But it's part of a journey. Not the journey.