Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider talks band’s breakup, staying sober in the ‘80s: ‘I made people’s lives miserable’

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EXCLUSIVE: Dee Snider wants to set the record straight.

Decades after his band Twisted Sister crashed and burned in the ‘80s, the former frontman and his bandmates are sitting down to detail what exactly went wrong. The tell-all is being featured on Reelz’s upcoming documentary “Twisted Sister: Breaking the Band.”

The special is part of a docuseries narrated by Snider, 65, which explores how ego and celebrity can destroy any group at the height of their fame.

.Dee Snider serves as the narrator of "Breaking the Band," a docuseries on Reelz
(Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic/Getty)

Despite dominating MTV with tracks like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock,” Twisted Sister ended on a bad note in 1988. Twisted Sister later reunited following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center for a fundraiser. The band officially retired in 2015 in light of drummer A.J. Pero’s death that same year at age 55 from an apparent heart attack, People magazine reported.

Snider spoke to Fox News about why Twisted Sister is discussing its breakup now, who initiated the reunion and how he managed to stay sober in the ‘80s.

Fox News: What compelled you to address the breakup of Twisted Sister now?
Dee Snider: Well, first of all, I’m really glad to talk about it, because this is Bizarro World. I don’t know if you’re a comic book fan at all, but there was an alternate universe in the Superman world called Bizarro World, where everything was wrong.

Twisted Sister formed in 1972.
(Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

This show is about band breakups, and I think we’re 24 [episodes] in or something like that, and my band came up. And they sort of very tentatively said to me, “You were in a band. You would be really good fodder for that show.”

I said, “Wait a second. I’m going to narrate a show about a band that I broke up? That is just too weird.” They said, “Well, how about we break the fourth wall?” And I said, “You know what? I’ve got no shame in my game. I was a real a—–e in the ‘80s. I’m much better now. I’ve fixed the relationship with my band. I love the guys.”

I called the guys, and I said, “I want you all to be interviewed for it. I want you to tear me to shreds with no fear of retribution. Let’s have fun.”

Dee Snider said Twisted Sister should have taken a break early on to address the band’s issues.
(Photo courtesy of Reelz)

Fox News: In the special, viewers will discover how the band was already experiencing issues before fame. What do you think kept everyone going?
Snider: The problems were preexisting. We were together for 10 years fighting. We never stopped to look at each other and the problems we had. Once we broke up, that’s when all of a sudden we started looking at each other and really looking at the problems we hadn’t addressed for a very long time.

Fox News: Is there anything you wish you could have done differently back then? Or was a breakup inevitable?
Snider: Oh, well there are many, many things I wish I could have done differently… The last album we did was supposed to be a solo album for me. And I think that maybe if we had taken a break and gone off for a couple of years and just gave it a little space and breathing room, then we would have come back together and continued on.

Jay Jay French, Eddie Ojeda, Dee Snider, A.J. Pero and Mark Mendoza of Twisted Sister, group portrait, on the set of the video shoot for their single "I Wanna Rock" in Los Angeles in 1984.
(Mark Weiss/Getty Images)

But instead, the record company and management forced us back into the studio when we didn’t want to be anywhere near each other. And it just was the icing on the cake. It killed the goose that laid some golden eggs.

But in the big picture, I wish that we had… We were kind of very passive aggressive with each other. We never really confronted things. We never stopped to address the problems that were popping up and affecting everyone. And when problems start, they’re much easier to address and take care of than when you let them fester and build. They just sort of snowball into other problems. It just becomes this one big, unfixable situation. And that’s what happened to us.

And our management always tried to smooth things over rather than sit us down and go, “All right, what the hell is going on? What’s the problem here?” And get to the bottom of it. So, I would have loved to have been less passive aggressive and just more attentive to what was happening.

Twisted Sister officially retired in 2015.
(Stephen Woodd/Photo courtesy of Reelz)

Fox News: You were clean and sober during the height of Twisted Sister’s fame. How did you manage that in the ‘80s rock world?
Snider: Crazy, right? Well, I’ve fortunately had some really bad experiences early on that I learned valuable lessons from… I drank once at 14, but I didn’t just drink. I got so drunk that I was laying on the floor paralyzed. A little sober voice inside the drunk body went, “Get up. They’re laughing at you.” I said, “Dear God if I ever walk again, I swear off demon alcohol.”

But at a young age, I recognized that I couldn’t do things halfway. I couldn’t just have a drink or two. I drank so much so quickly that I was just laying on the floor. And this is a personality trait of mine. Drugs and alcohol are not going to work really well [with it]. So, I just said, “No,” to that. And I stuck with it. And it was a very scarring memory, being paralyzed, vomiting on myself, people laughing at me, and just feeling completely helpless. I never wanted to go back there again.

Fox News: How much of a divide did that create with some of the other bandmates who maybe wanted to let loose while on the road?
Snider: It definitely created a divide, but it was also one of the reasons I got in the band in the first place. Jay Jay [French] was a founding member of the band. And there were already other members of the band, a couple of singers and multiple guitar players and drummers.

Twisted Sister reunited after 9/11.
(Mark Weiss/Getty Images)

One of the singers performing was an alcoholic. And remember, this wasn’t even like a big band back then. This was a local bar band. And there were so many different drug and alcohol problems.

And so Jay, he just was done with dealing with people like that. When I showed up, sang and rocked, it was like, “What? You don’t get high? This is the guy.” It was really one of the reasons he brought me into the band. That said, I was so militaristic about it that I made people’s lives miserable. They couldn’t party in the back. They couldn’t do what other rock and rollers do. It got to the point where they had to get their own tour bus and have their own separate lifestyle in a separate area from me.

Not that I thought that I was going to be tempted. I didn’t. I just didn’t like the stupidity, the drunken stupidity and the drug-induced stupidity that I saw in other people. So, I really made them unhappy. And Jay Jay was clean as well. He had already been through his drug and alcohol phase.

Twisted Sister’s drummer A.J. Pero passed away in 2015.
(Mark Weiss/Getty Images)

I know [guitarist] Eddie Ojeda said, “If they weren’t so strict with that, I’d be dead” because he was a real partier. But the rules were, “Do what you’re going to do, but when you come to the show, you’d better be f—g sober.” So he later said he’d probably be dead if I wasn’t as strict as I was.

Fox News: What ultimately led to a reconciliation? Who initiated it?
Snider: Well, there are multiple fronts on that. After the breakup, I pursued different projects. Radio is one of them. And I’ve been doing radio for like 30 years now. I was doing mornings for a while. And one day, my morning show co-host said, “Why don’t you cut your hair? Why do you bother with that, the long ponytail? What does that even mean? You’re on radio.” And I said, “It’s a tell.” And she said, “A tell of what?” And I said, “It’s a tell[tale sign] that I will get back with the band.”

In my heart of hearts, I just knew. I grew and matured and was humbled by the falling from grace, a major falling, and two bankruptcies and nearly destroying my relationship with my wife, which I did not, fortunately. And after experiencing all of those things, I came to realize what my behavior was really like in the ‘80s. And I really wanted to fix those relationships. I didn’t know when. I didn’t know how.

Twisted Sister went on to influence numerous bands long after its reign ended in the ’80s.
(Photo courtesy of Reelz)

[Drummer] A.J. Pero, the late A.J. Pero, was the only guy who remained friends with everybody in the band individually. He was this sort of connecting tissue. And when 9/11 happened, we were all New Yorkers. It gave us the road to connect, communicate and come back together.

Like everybody else, we’re like, “We want to do something. What can we do? We play rock and roll. Well, maybe we can do that and help raise some money and help heal in some way.” It was what we could do. And that’s what ultimately brought us together. It made us set our differences aside.

Fox News: How do you feel about Twisted Sister’s legacy as a band today in 2021?
Snider: … Twisted Sister was one of the greatest live performing bands of all time. We went and decimated so many festivals and so many concert arenas, and so many bands we opened up for. We were lethal. 

American singer Dee Snider performs live on stage with glam metal group Twisted Sister at the Reading Festival in Reading, England, in 1982.
(Michael Putland/Getty Images)

And Lemmy Kilmister, shortly before he died, he said to me, “Dee, you’re one of the three greatest frontmen I’ve ever seen. And the greatest at talking to the audience.” I had to communicate with the audience. And Lemmy, he was a man who roadied for Jimi Hendrix and saw the Beatles at the Cavern Club. He knew about frontmen. But it’s frustrating that we weren’t at the top long enough for people to really come to know that.

Fortunately, after we reunited, more people came to know that. We were reunited longer than when we were together the first time, which was weird… People are seeing that there was more to this band than just the moment in the sun that we had in the ‘80s. And we were significant, influencing a lot of upstarts in the Northeast, Bon Jovi and Skid Row and Cinderella and Overkill and Anthrax and Public Enemy. 

Chuck D said, “If it wasn’t for Twisted Sister, there would be no Public Enemy.” He used to come to see us in the clubs, and we were just this rebellious, in your face, f—k -ou band. And he said it inspired him to go and put together a rebellious, in your face, f—k-you hip-hop act. So, people have come to realize, “Well, this band had more significance than just a couple of songs and videos on MTV.”

“Twisted Sister: Breaking the Band” premieres Saturday, Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. ET on Reelz.

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