The legendary music and pop culture icon shares the details of his new solo album, Leave a Scar, and finding his place in the landscape of modern metal.
It’s hard to think of something that music and entertainment staple Dee Snider hasn’t done yet in his lucrative, decades-spanning career. First coming to prominence in the 80’s with Twisted Sister and taking over the globe with hits like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock,” Snider has performed on some of the world’s biggest stages, fought against censorship on the floor of the United States Senate, hosted numerous radio and television shows, and has continued to pop up in more movies and series than anyone can count – his latest appearance was on the new season of Netflix’s Cobra Kai.
But even as he’s kept himself busy throughout the years, Snider originally thought that his time in music had come and gone once the 90s rolled in and music continued to change. It wouldn’t be until 2018, with Twisted Sister officially disbanded following the passing of drummer A.J. Pero and a string of farewell shows, that none other than Jamey Jasta would arrive to help steer the famous metal frontman in a new modern direction.
The result was For the Love of Metal, a roaring blitz of heavy music that combined Snider’s classic vocal style and old-school bravado with contemporary aggression and thunderous, chugging riffs. With Jasta producing, the album featured a slew of writers and guests that included Howard Jones, Mark Morton, Alissa White-Gluz and more. The mixing of the old with the new made for some of the best music of Snider’s vast career, and reestablished him as one of the very best to ever grace the metal scene.
This year’s Leave a Scar has Jasta producing once again and pushes things just a bit further. The new album gets even filthier than before – with songs like “Time To Choose,” which brings in a surprise Corpsegrinder (Cannibal Corpse) appearance, it’s downright brutal at times – yet still maintains the infectious hooks that Snider is able to nail so well. This time around, the frontman took the reigns of songwriting, channeling all of the anger, confusion, and enlightenment of the past year to deliver not just a worthy followup to the previous album, but a superior one.
With Leave a Scar coming out at the end of the month, Snider discussed how the album came together, how his daughter continues to influence his music, and how he almost called it quits before the craziness of 2020 hit him.
Dee Snider – You know when you start an album, you usually start with inspiration and you feel pretty excited that you got some great ideas and you go into the studio and go, “This is really good. I think we’re really hitting it out of the park.” Somewhere like a few months into that process you’re like, “Is this really good?” A question mark pops up and you start to self-doubt. So it isn’t until you start talking to people who hear it – the response has been very good. So I’m really happy.
I’ve listened to it twice today, it kicks ass.
Dee Snider – Thank you. Yeah, it’s an assault.
For the Love of Metal was definitely the start of that kind of shift for you.
Dee Snider – 100%. And, you know, Jamey Jasta helped me find my footing, my place in a contemporary scene, which I wanted to be a part of, I was a fan of, I just didn’t feel like I had a spot. And once I found it, I just used Jamey immediately and the same production people and we just continued on for Leave a Scar.
So you have most of the same team here with you for this new album. What was different this time around and what was the same?
Dee Snider – What was the same was Jamey producing, Nicky Bellmore mixing and playing drums, Charlie Bellmore the riff monster on guitar. What was different was that we were now a band, Charlie, Nicky, Nick Taz Petrino and Russ Pizzuto. We’ve been playing together over two years. So I knew the musicians. First time we had a bunch of guests on there. We had guest songwriters. That was different and now it’s like, okay, I want to be a part of this process. Thank you, Mark Morton, thank you, Howard Jones, thank you, Alissa White-Gluz and Joel Grind and all those great people who came to the party for For the Love of Metal. It made me feel amazing that so many in the community were welcoming me like that. Oli from All That Remains, may he rest in peace, contributing and playing, it was so moving. I felt in the 90s, you know, my time was done. And they’re all going “No Dee, come on back. We need you.” But now it’s like, Okay, I got this. And so we didn’t have to learn about each other, we knew what we were doing, we knew what we wanted to create, and we just went for it.
Did you write every song on the album or just select tracks?
Dee Snider – I co-wrote every song on the record with Jamey and Charlie except for “Silent Battles.” Jamey came to me and said, “I really think we should write a song about depression. It’s a real problem and with COVID it’s worse than ever.” I said, “Jamey, two of my kids suffer from depression. I get it. I agree with you 100%.” The only problem is I’ve never suffered from it and I don’t understand. And for me to write about it would be disingenuous for someone who doesn’t know. And Jamie says, “Well, I know. Personally.” I said, you write it and I’ll sing it because I want that on this record, I want that subject and it is important, but I don’t want to be disingenuous at the same time. So that’s the only song I didn’t write the lyrics on. Jamey wrote some amazing lyrics that really speak to it. I don’t know what it is, but it’s certainly affecting a lot of people.
That’s actually one of my favorite tracks from the record right there. I love “I Gotta Rock (Again),” “Time To Choose,” “The Reckoning.” I like the ones that really slam, you know?
Dee Snider – By the way, I just want to take credit. So Jamey calls me O.G. Dee because I keep wanting to get heavier and new and he keeps going. “Let’s not abandon the past.” You know, like, you’re a legacy performer. You’ve got people who love you and we don’t have to abandon them, we can try and bring them with us. But I’m like “More gang vocals! Harder! More aggressive!” I’m the one who came up with using Corpsegrinder. It was the funniest moment in the recording process, I was doing the track “Time To Choose” and went “Oh, hey, you know who’d be really good on this? George Fisher.” And Jamey’s thinking I must be talking about some guy from the 70’s. So that was my idea and Jamey couldn’t believe it. What I didn’t realize was how significant it was for me to invite him to sing. Virtually nobody from my generation respects, gives credit or even acknowledges death metal singing. If anything might my generation might make fun of it. “Cookie Monster singing”, you know, they make fun. And I realized it was kind of a big deal for me to do that and they said George was stunned. He’s a fan of Twisted Sister, he said “Dee Snider wants me on his record, this is like surreal.” Napalm Records flipped out and that track was actually gonna be a bonus track and it turned out to be one of our lead tracks now.
It feels like the back half of the album is a little heavier as well.
Dee Snider – Yeah, there’s some dirty breakdowns in there. When I look at the record, basically, for 11 songs, I beat you about the head and face rapidly. It’s very fast and there’s a lot of punching. And then when you’re dizzy from all the punching, I talk to you very quietly and calmly for a minute. I go, “Now that I have your attention, I have to share something with you.” And I practically talk in the first verse of Stand. That’s basically what I do, is just beat beat beat beat beat beat assault assault assault, now I have something to tell you. I got a message.
The closing line for that last song on the album, Stand, is “Don’t leave your mark, leave a scar.” There’s a simplicity to that but I also found it to be pretty profound. Where did those lyrics come from?
Dee Snider – They’re metaphorical of course, I’m not telling people to go out and cut people up or anything like that. It was actually a real life experience, a fairly recent one. When I was a kid, I once painted my name on a building. Okay, I know it’s illegal and I’m not supposed to do that, okay, but I did. And I went back like a week later to take a look at my my mark and they painted over it. It was gone. Around that same time, I carved my name in a tree on the school property. I went back there about a year ago, and it’s still there. And it ain’t gonna be gone until they cut that tree down. And that’s where the idea of “Don’t leave your mark, leave a scar” came from. It requires a significant effort to be remembered and to make a difference and to affect change. You gotta aim for more than “I’m gonna make my mark” and then somebody paints over or erases it. You’ve got to do more than just that.
A mark is more easily removed.
Dee Snider – Yes, and a scar is forever. Or until they cut the tree down and grind it up to a pulp or burn it. But it’s gonna be there for a long time. It was just that kind of realization and it’s probably the most profound lyric I’ve ever written. And it became the title of the album as well.
I remember reading that your daughter contributed a little bit to For the Love of Metal, specifically that she requested that really dirty breakdown in the title song. Did she contribute in any way to this new album?
Dee Snider – Everything gets run past Shy. She is feared and the most brutal of metal heads. Jamey is terrified of her, he’ll look through her playlists and go, “My god, this stuff scares me, what she’s listening to.” She tells Jamey, “I need a dirty breakdown. I wanna hear the ting!” And I didn’t even speak that language at that time. Now I do. So like suddenly songs are being rewritten. Throughout this record, every time I’d have a new track I’d play it for Shy and Jamey would ask “What did Shy think?” And at some point, she said to me, “Dad, I think this record is better than the last one.” Someone else just asked me if it was one of those things with my kids where it’s like “Dad, you’re ruining it for me, this is my music!” And it hasn’t been. She’s the one who brought me to more shows, would pump me with playlists, constantly expose me to new music, force me on stage with bands. I remember we went to Vans Warped Tour and the day before we leave she goes “You’re singing with Attack Attack!” I’m like, “Whoa whoa whoa, what’s going on? Who’s Attack Attack??” She says “They’ve got this song and it’s got this really clean vocal part. You can sing it, I Facebooked them, they’re expecting you.” I’m learning this song, I’m driving, like what the hell’s going on here? And next thing I know I’m up there with Attack Attack!, they’re like “Dee Snider, everybody!” and the audience is going “Who’s that?” So instead of, like, telling me keep away from her music, she’s recognized that I really love metal and it really is in my heart and soul. She’s really kept me connected to the community and what’s been going on. She’s been my guiding light, really.
I have to find the video for that if it exists.
Dee Snider – It exists! She created a monster because then we went to another show and Attack Attack! was there and I was walking past the stage and I heard the song. I went running out on the stage, I ripped the microphone from them and I started singing again with the band uninvited because I knew the song. And my daughter was out watching the band and her friend goes “Shy, your dad is onstage?” It’s like, oh no, now I can’t get him off the stage. I gotta tell you another great story because Knotfest will love this. So I was at Vans Warped Tour and I’m hanging out with Kevin Lyman, the guy who put the whole thing on. He wanted me to come over to this thing they were having that was going on the other side of where we were. He goes, “Dee, really the easiest way is just to speed walk through the crowd. Just keep going, because otherwise we’ve got to get a golf cart and we’ve got to drive all the way around. We’ll get there faster.” So we’re walking, and I don’t know what bands on there, but we’re coming through and somebody is about to start a wall of death. And they’ve got the audience split into two pieces, as you know. The guy onstage goes “Alright, now when I say – is that Dee Snider?” We took the opportunity to walk right through the opening, I’m like “Just don’t close this wall before I make it through!” I was almost caught in a wall of death!
That’s great what you were saying about your daughter. My wife and I just had our first kid. He’s nine months old now and I’m really hoping to have that same kind of relationship eventually.
Dee Snider – Well, I was terrified because you hear about so many rockers whose kids are like, into Sinatra or Barry Manilow or completely reject what they do and find them embarrassing. My kids never like, tell people who their dad is or anything, but they’re really proud of me. When Jasta asked me to do that first record, Shy was listening to the podcast and she calls me saying “I’m glad you said yes because I was screaming at the radio!” She said that this is the opportunity, this is the time, this is the guy. Jamey knows. Really the smartest heavy metal guy of his generation for sure, as far as I’m concerned.
It feels like this album came out relatively quickly. I read an interview with you just last year and they asked about new music and you said you had zero new music. So can you talk a little about the past year and what’s what changed since then and how how this album came together?
Dee Snider – After the success of For the Love of Metal, I said, You know what? I’m thinking I may get while the getting’s good. I think I’ll do a mic drop. “Thank you! Good night!” and walk off. Top 20 album, number one metal album in the world at different points. It was huge. Everybody was like “Dee Snider, wow, welcome back.” And I’m like “Okay, see ya!” And that’s kind of where I was at. But then COVID hit, then the world took a shit and just craziness ensued. I was on social media and I was really speaking out. We’re in a world where the minorities on either extreme are the loudest voices in the room. And they think because they’ve got 10,000 people in their Facebook group that they’re a movement? You’re a fucking parade, okay? That’s a parade, that’s not a movement. There’s 7 billion people in the world, when is 10,000 a movement? But they’re loud, they’re in your face. The middle, the vast majority, the 70%, that’s really what it is, who yeah, lean a little left, lean a little right, but for the most part, they try to figure it out. They kind of sit back quietly saying things like, “I’m sure it’ll be okay. I trust it’ll work out. Things usually come back to center.” In the immortal words of Dr. Phil, how’s that worked for you? It hasn’t worked at all! We had Trump and now they’re all over the globe, these Trump-esque characters. I said the time for that is done and I was raging online. I said speak out, fight back, push back. Someone tweeted me said, “Dee, we don’t all have your platform or your voice. What are we supposed to do?” And at that moment, I said this is my job. And maybe I don’t need it like the rest of the people do, maybe I’m successful and happy and healthy and really not that affected by what happens in the world, honestly. But it’s my job. I said, “Get behind me, I’ll take it from here.” So I realized it was time, I called Jamey up and said I want to do another record and I want to be a part of the writing process. I need to say something. And Jamey was like, “Thank God, welcome.” He didn’t want to force me to on the first album, because I didn’t know exactly where we were going. But now that I know, I said, “I’m ready to write with you and Charlie, let’s do this.” And we did. It was probably six months soup to nuts starting the writing process, recording and getting it done.
Were there any restrictions in place during the recording of the album due to the pandemic?
Dee Snider – I’ve been saying a lot that we were blessed that the pandemic hit when it did, because technology was up to speed to handle a lot of the issues. If it was 20 years ago, kids would just have been out of school, there would have been no zoom classes, zoom meetings, zoom business. And the technology for recording had evolved where people could be in different parts of the world and record effectively. On For the Love of Metal, I did a lot of it in the studio in Connecticut. Nicky has a studio there. But some of it I had to record in California and they were in my headphones just like they were in the next room, hearing what I was doing in real time exactly as I did it. So this time, Nicky and Jamey and Charlie had their little bubbles situation going on, but I was in California and I wasn’t about to go to New York in the middle of COVID. Fortunately, technology was there and it didn’t affect the recording at all. Like I said, I felt like when you’re in when you’re in the vocal booth, you’re singing and in between takes you turn to the window and go “How was that one?” I couldn’t look out the window but it was still like “Hey, that was great, man. But this time, you know, put some stank on it. Put some mustard on this one, Dee.” “What’s a mustard?” I thought. Alright, you want that? You want the full Dee? You want O.G. Dee in full effect, let’s do it!
The comment sections of YouTube or Facebook or wherever have definitely earned a reputation for being terrible places, but sometimes I find a lot of positivity when it comes to music. Some of the comments I saw on the video for I Gotta Rock (Again), one person called you the John Wick of metal. Another person said “When he screamed YEAAAHHHH!…I felt that.“
Dee Snider – That was the first take of the song and it was really the first song we were recording. I didn’t do it on all the takes and then when I heard the mix, I said, “Oh, you’re keeping that in there?” And Jamey goes “It’s not a song without that. That is the song right there”. That’s pretty good, I love these. And I know there’s some cruel ones in there as well. “I thought he was dead!” First of all, yeah you’re right, certain comments sections are pretty fair, like on Youtube. You go to something like Blabbermouth, and it’s just like, you know, they’re just going for it. It’s like hanging raw meat out. But on that song Open Season, Jamey came up with that song title. He goes, “Dude, when you’re on social media and someone comes after you, it’s like fucking open season. They come after you and then you just take them apart. And they’re just left there smoldering, their remains are just a pile of smoldering flesh.” And so that’s why the first line in the song is “Hey, motherfucker, are you kidding me?” Like, do you have any idea where you’re coming after? I’m the guy who wrote We’re Not Gonna Take It! I’ll find you, I will find you. John Wick will find you. Don’t kill my puppy, that’s gonna be a problem.
Let me just say that pre-orders are going on for Leave a Scar. Wake up to Dee on the 30th, it’ll be right there in your mailbox. I’ve also got a live stream event that is happening on the 29th, go to metaldepartment.tv. I’m doing a live audience, they’re vaccinated, we got about 1,000 strong gonna be in there. It’s gonna be a show playing a lot of new music with my band and some old stuff, some Twisted favorites. It will be repeated but the first performance will be on the 29th.
Dee, thanks so much for taking the time today, we really appreciate it and it was wonderful to meet you.
Dee Snider – Great talking to you and good luck with your nine month old. Remember it’s your responsibility to raise him on rock. That is your quest, to raise your son on rock. I’ve got a new children’s animated series called Monsters Rock and Peacock is developing it right now. The whole inspiration was to create a show that had music where the parents didn’t want to shoot themselves. So by the time your kids old enough to watch it, it should be on the air. And I promise you, it’ll be kids songs that are actually good and you’ll actually like and you won’t hate yourself for sitting and watching it with him.
‘Leave a Scar’, the latest solo album from the legendary Dee Snider arrives July 30th via Napalm Records.
Pre-order the album – HERE.