Dee Snider is an undeniable icon and living legend of heavy metal. With a history fronting such bands as Twisted Sister, Widowmaker as well as establishing a transformative and thriving solo career, it isn’t hard to see why. But Snider has also written a novel, directed a film, has a horror television show, and a children’s animated series in development to name but a few of his other projects. Metal Wani’s Carl Rourke recently sat down with Dee to discuss a wide range of topics including the singer’s upcoming solo album, ‘Leave A Scar’, where he stands on Cancel Culture, and to get his thoughts on whether he believes rock is dead, or just the rockstars claiming it is.
Snider has always had his ear to the ground, remaining in touch with what is happening in contemporary metal. His latest single, ‘Time To Choose’ features Cannibal Corpse vocalist, George ‘Corpesgrinder’ Fisher. Dee told the story of how this collaboration came to be.
“We had actually finished the album. That track was not on the record. Napalm asked for a bonus track. And you know it, everybody knows the bonus track deal. They want it for the import, the special release. So, we went and we wrote ‘Time to Choose’, very heavy, very aggressive, one of the most powerful songs. So we start recording it and it’s coming alive and we’re like, ‘Wow, this sounds really good.’ We’re in between takes for vocal, and I go ‘Hey, you know who would be great on this, George Fisher.’ And Jamie [Jasta] goes, ‘George [Corpesgrinder] Fisher?’ like thinking, I must know another George Fisher from the ’70s or something. [Laughs] Like, is that your lawyer, George Fisher?”
“And I said ‘yeah, Corpsegrinder!’ and Jamie calls me O.G.D, that’s his name he goes, ‘O.G.D!’ ’cause I’m always pushing for it to be harder and heavier. And he goes’ holy sh*t’, and I go, ‘What? You don’t think it’s a good idea?” and he goes ‘It’s a great idea. Just nobody from your generation ever acknowledges death metal. If anything, they make fun of it.’ And he told me that, when he asked George, he said George nearly got emotional. It turns out he’s a fan of mine and he could not believe that I wanted him on my song. I didn’t realize, consciously, that this is an oversight, that these worlds don’t cross, but I’m glad because I’m a champion of all metal. I believe it all has a place in our family, and it all needs to be supported and appreciated. You don’t have to buy it all, you don’t have to love it all. It’s just like a dysfunctional family, you may not like your crazy uncle, but he’s still your f****n’ uncle. [Laughs]”
As someone who saw their art become such a point of contention that he had to defend it before the U.S Congress in the mid-’80s, Dee shared his thoughts on whether or not he sees a parallel between being labeled among the Filthy Fifteen by the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Centre) and what we know as Cancel Culture.
“You know what? This is just a continuation of censorship.” Dee began. “Censorship has always existed. People have always been trying to limit art, and control art and reel it in, and potty train it as Frank Zappa said, and a friend of mine once said. And art has always pushed back, and I kind of feel sorry for the people who are trying to stop, stem the tide, and trying to censor things, because every time they give us an inch we push further.”
Dee went on to say,
“That’s our job, to keep pushing the boundaries, it’s their job to keep trying to stop us, okay? That’s how it works. This said, in the ’80s that was a very right-wing, conservative, puritanical movement, traditional censorship. Now, we’ve got a left-wing hypersensitivity, PC world censorship going on. We’ve got people going ‘you can’t say that because that offends people, and that offends people. It wasn’t about offending people back in those days. It was just ‘you can’t say that’, you know? This is ‘we have to protect the young’, this is ‘that’s offensive’ so there’s this hypersensitivity, hyper defensive, hyper-protective, and it’s censorship just the same.”
Dee concluded by saying,
“I was very angry at one point during the writing process here when I found myself aware that I might be writing things that were going to upset people. And as a writer, metaphor is one of our prime tools, okay? Metaphors play on words, that’s good writing when you find a creative way to say something. And when I was writing the song you mentioned, ‘In For the Kill’, I found myself going ‘Oh, wait a minute, in for the kill, fire at will, people might be upset about that’, and then the louder voice in my head said ‘What are you doing!? You’re censoring yourself because you’re going to offend them? Do not! Let the lawyers tell you after you’ve written the song if we can’t put that on the album.’ As an artist, your job is to be open, creative, and free-thinking. You’re supposed to let it flow and let pencil pushers worry about if you can legally get away with it. And I was very angry at myself that I was actually questioning something that I was writing because it might, in the current environment, offend people because I used that word. So, it sucks that we’re still dealing with that, but I think it’s going to be an ongoing battle for eternity.”
With an ongoing divide in opinion on whether or not rock is dead, Dee weighed in and gave his take on that matter.
“Look, these people who say ‘rock and roll is dead’ are self-absorbed, self-centered, the statement is self-serving. It’s this ‘I’m taking my ball and I’m going home because I can’t have it my way because it doesn’t exist because it’s changed and mutated’ which it has changed and mutated. It is not the same thing. And if they open their ears, if they open their eyes, if they got out of their damn mansions and went into a smaller venue or a festival that plays newer stuff, they would know this is not their heavy metal, rock, and roll anymore. It has changed dramatically.”
“As far as the idea that these are recycling old ideas, well what were they doing? What was KISS doing? And I say KISS because everybody knows Gene Simmons is one of the biggest ‘rock is dead’ guys. They were recycling. They were doing Slade and they were copying all the bands they grew up on, even The Rolling Stones. So if the bands today are recycling the bands they grew up on, that’s just continuing the tradition. We’re all just basically computers. We can only output what was input.
“When it’s at its best, it’s a nice creative mix of things. Some of my favorite bands, I don’t like bands that sound exactly like a band from yesteryear. I won’t name names, you know who I’m talking about. They sound like Led Zeppelin, okay? Alright? It Sounding like Led Zeppelin is not new and creative. But, take Volbeat. I love the fact that yeah, I can hear Metallica, and I can hear ska, and I can hear punk, and I can hear spaghetti westerns, but I never heard it mixed up like that before.”
“It’s not replication. It’s honoring the past and it’s creating something original out of mixing those pieces. You got me. This is something I’m passionate about. You wanna talk about passion? Okay, one thing is dead, rockstars. Rockstars need ubiquity. Break out your dictionaries people! In order to be a rockstar, you have to get beyond the realm of just your genre. You got that from being on MTV, you got that from being on Billboards, and in magazine ads, and sides of buses. The way it was advertised in the old days, that gave people a broader awareness. And believe me, when ‘Appetite for Destruction’ [Guns ‘n’ Roses] sold twenty million copies or ‘Back in Black’ [ACDC] sold forty-five million copies, those aren’t only just metal fans buying it. That’s when it crosses over into a broader appeal. Okay? That comes from ubiquity.”
“We’ve lost rockstars. But as far as passion goes? It’s never been purer. It’s never been more honest because money is not even in the minds of these young artists. They don’t think they’re gonna get rich doing it. They’re doing it because they have no choice. As I said in ‘I Gotta Rock (Again)’, I don’t choose, it’s what I gotta do. I go to these concerts with my kids and it breaks my heart to see that level of passion coming from bands who are just hoping to make enough in CD and merch sales after the show to get them to the next gig. And I see the passion from the audience who know every frickin’ word, but it never gets that massive, broad, where it’s out there on the tube show like it used to be back in the old days, you know? And that’s the sadness, that it doesn’t get the exposure it once got. But as far as passion? As far as talent? As far as song quality, originality? It’s there. Period.”
Dee signed off by sharing,
“I’m appreciative of where I am and how I’m regarded. There was a dark period of my life when I didn’t know if I’d come back out of the hole, out of the tunnel. And so, to have returned and done things, and to be regarded the way you speak, is very flattering and, believe me, I pinch myself every day going, ‘Can’t believe you’ve made it through man. [Laughs] Can’t believe you made it through.’ And anybody that disagrees with what I just said, tell ’em to come to talk to me…Gene! I’m ready to debate him to a standstill. Mr. Don’t Bother To Pick Up A Guitar.”