The composer and singer of "We're Not Gonna Take It" and other perennially famous hits, Dee Snider grew up in Nassau and currently lives in Suffolk County with his wife and children. In 2010, he sang and acted on Broadway in "Rock of Ages" and hopes to do more of the same. I had the pleasure of interviewing him recently and the wild-haired rocker sang the praises of his native Long Island, NY.
About.com: I've seen Twisted Sister described as a metal band, but also as a glam rock band. Which is it?
Dee Snider: We're actually a metal band, but we're the first glam metal band. We literally pre-existed all the others... Motley Cruiser, Rats, the Cinderellas. Because we were playing in the Tri-State club scene for six-and-a-half years, we sort of grew out of the 70s glitter scene and I joined the band and brought metal and we combined the two things. So Bon Jovi, Poison and others would all come and see us and got inspired.
So I'd say we're the original "hair farmers." There was nobody else doing it but as it started to catch on, other bands sort of picked up on what we were doing. Then it became "hair metal " or "glam metal" or whatever you want to call it. So we're a metal band, but we became the first glam metal band.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Astoria, Queens, but I grew up in Baldwin and Freeport, Long Island.
What are your thoughts on Long Island as a place to grow up?
I'm still a Long Islander. I live out in Suffolk County. Long Island is ...[like].. Rodney Dangerfield. it gets no respect. It's like, you come from Long Island and it's a suburb and growing up in it doesn't feel very illustrious or glorious and it's suburban living. You go the big city to get out. But as the years go by, you come to appreciate it more and more... what a great place Long Island is and the value it has.
My wife grew up on Long Island, in Bellmore. We're still here, raising our family. I do a lot of charity work on Long Island and I've been trying to do a lot to improve the image of Long Island to Long Islanders. It's a cool place. One of the things that I've been involved in is the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. It's been developing for a number of years. Twisted Sister was in the first wave of inductees and they're trying to formally put together a building for the museum.
Do you think Long Island has an influential music scene?
If you were to take the time to analyze Long Island and you looked historically at the music that has come from here, I would guarantee you that no place has sold more and is ultimately responsible for more music. It's amazing the amount... [..of musicians that have come from Long Island.)
Some people don't realize the greatness that has come from here, so I've been trying to show young kids growing up here that this is where it starts. There are Long Islanders like Twisted Sister, Pat Benatar, Billy Joel, Mariah Carey and many others.
Yes, there are those who were born and raised in Manhattan, but mostly, it starts in the suburbs, in the rural communities where these frustrated young minds want more and want to experience more. They're lacking that urban input and this is where the creative hotbed is: in suburbia.
Did you sing when you were growing up?
Yes. I'm a classically trained countertenor and I sang in the church choir till I was 19 years old. I sang at All Saints Episcopal Church in Baldwin and the Church of the Transfiguration when I was living in Freeport.
The funny thing is that a lot of rock musicians and theater people.. [came out of that background.] Marilyn Manson was in a marching band in Ohio. These are the only outlets when you grow up in school. It's where you can let out some of that creativity that you have.
I'm not saying they forced me to sing classical music. I like singing. I wanted to sing. "Yes, you can sing.. you're in the glee club.. you're in the choir." Those are my only really great memories of high school... the choir and the drama club.
Did you get along with your teachers when you were growing up?
I went to Baldwin High School. I can't find the right word for this.. but I was sort of an outcast, not a person in a group or clique that fit in. I had my friends, but one of the things that I wanted to do was show everybody in school that I was somebody.
At my 10 year high school reunion, I was performing with Twisted Sister. Some friends went and I said to them, "Let me know what everyone says." And they came back and said, "We've got good news and bad news. The good news: everybody knew you're the lead singer of Twisted Sister. You're famous. Everybody was like... yeah! The bad news is: they didn't remember you going to school with them." I spent all these years trying to show those a-holes in high school that I'm somebody and they never knew I was there?
Most of us are not the captains of the football team or the troublemakers or the valedictorians. Most of us are the average people. Most of us... especially in the arts... our lives start after we get out of frickin' high school, when we get into the real world. That's when we become people.
Are you the guy with eye shadow when you're at home?
I stopped wearing makeup home the night that I got arrested with full makeup on. That was a wild ride. [Now].. I take the stuff off. I've been with the same woman for 34 years and we've got four kids and there are certain rules. My wife laid down a lot of them. One of them is "Leave your cool at the door. Once you walk through the house, you're not a celebrity. You're a dad, you're my husband, you're my friend." And that's how we live our lives and keep things sane.