Dee Snider rose to fame as the frontman for Twisted Sister and has gone on to become a reality TV star, activist, Broadway performer, horror-movie director and radio host. Snider's recently released solo album For the Love of Metal (Napalm Records) was produced by Hatebreed's Jamey Jasta, and features collaborations with Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage), Mark Morton (Lamb of God), Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Joel Grind and more.
People say there's no danger in metal anymore. I disagree.
To me, it's that feeling that at any moment a riot could break out. You're that close to the edge. It's that energy that comes from the fans at the front of the stage, the intensity of the music, the feeling of the bodies pressed against you. There's that sense that violence could erupt. You don't see it at a seated rock show with the older bands. You don't see it at my shows. Some of my new fans might get energized, but the older fans get upset if they get a boot in the head. They want their personal space!
I started taking my daughter Shy to shows when she was 13 (She's all grown and going to metal shows on her own now). We'd go to see Motionless in White and Asking Alexandria and Bring Me the Horizon. She'd want to get there early to get a spot up front. I'd tell security, "Hey — it's me, Dee. That's my daughter right there. Keep an eye on her." But she'd be like, "Dad, I got this. I'm wearing my backpack in front in case I get pushed up against the barrier." Then the show starts and you see all the elbows and windmill kicks and then someone takes one in the face. So the danger is still there.
In the early Twisted Sister days, I was frontman, lead singer and security. I was constantly getting into fights because I wasn't gonna take any shit from anyone. The club audiences in New York and New Jersey were like rabid dogs: If you let one of them get away with anything, they'd devour you. Even after we got a record deal, there was many a mix-up. I remember getting into it with some redneck motherfuckers in upstate New York, and they came back with ax handles, bats — the whole thing. We had to be escorted out of town by the club owners and house security with guns drawn because these motherfuckers were out for blood because some "fag in makeup"— i.e. one of us — just beat the shit out of one of them. That was in '83.
In '84, we were on tour with Dio. "We're Not Gonna Take It" broke as a single and the album went gold. Things were starting to happen. In Worcester, Massachusetts, someone in the arena threw a bottle at me, so I dove into the audience and beat them up. The next morning I was woken up by my lawyer, my accountant, my manager and my agent — all screaming at me: "What are you doing? You can't beat people up!" Then they said they were gonna get me a bodyguard. I said, "Why? To protect them from me?"
So I get this bodyguard, a big black guy named Vic. One night, we're leaving an event in a limo. A car pulled up alongside us at a light and the guy starts yelling, "You fucking suck!" Vic gets out, pulls the guy out of his car, beats him, drops him and leaves him in the street. He gets back in the limo and goes, "How's that, boss?" And I go, "Well, it's kinda like watching someone fuck your old lady. It looks good, but it doesn't feel the same."
There was a study recently that said metal fans grow up to be better-adjusted adults than non-metal fans. When it came out, I got a call from Psychology Today asking me to comment. And I told them, "Look, heavy metal has always embodied the darkest of emotions. It's always been anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, sorrow, heartbreak, and ugly emotions. Listening to the records, going to the concerts — it's a release for those emotions. We don't throw the fist to the face, we throw the fist in the air."
That said, when you're releasing those kinds of emotions, it can very easily cross over to actual violence and hostility. Because it's right there: The anger is genuine, but once we let it out, we feel better. You're not gonna see it at a Metallica show or a Guns N' Roses show — not anymore — because we're all well-adjusted adults thanks to heavy metal. But you see it at the younger bands' shows, because they're still on the edge.
I always say the most dangerous person in the room is the person with nothing to lose. These younger bands don't hope to get rich or famous. Rich is not an option for heavy-metal bands anymore, and fame is relative. These bands are up there because they've got to do it. And it's beautiful in its purity. I love hearing them and seeing them, because that's what rock & roll is all about.
as told to J. Bennett