Interview by Danny Coleman
“It’s pretty exciting to be asked to be part of this thing. I did the week on Broadway as did a few other of my peers and I’ve been asked to return and do more shows with them and that is really flattering,” stated Dee Snider as he once again readies to take the stage as part of, “Rocktopia” at The Bergen PAC in Englewood, NJ Thursday October 18.
Making its debut in 2016 when, “Rocktopia: Live From Budapest” was recorded in front of an enthusiastic audience; this brain child of Rob Evans (“Les Miserables,” “Jekyll & Hyde,” Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and Maestro Randall Craig Fleischer has been called, “Electrifying” and “Spine-tingling” by critics worldwide.
A 2016 twenty city U.S. tour was followed by a limited Broadway engagement this past spring which is where Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider first brought his, “Unknown” talents to the forefront.
“It’s weird, when I walk out on stage, the first song I sing is, “Stairway To Heaven” and there’s an audible gasp from the audience when I open my mouth and I’m not screaming,” he said with a laugh. “I just start singing in a very Robert Plant voice, “There’s a lady who’s sure….”and people go ah he can sing! That was one of the things when after every show you go outside and sign autographs and one of the biggest comments is, I didn’t know that you could sing; what do you think I’ve been doing with Twisted Sister? I mean, those in the know, know that I’m capable of doing more.”
Those in the know knew enough to approach him once again; something which Dee found mildly baffling when approached prior to the Broadway performances. “I’m not sure,” he stated hesitantly. “I know that they reached out because they were looking for recognizable rock stars that could handle the situation. I don’t know why they thought of me, I don’t think anything that I’ve done actually reflected that; although those in the know are well aware that I’m capable of much more than I’m known for.”
Although those initial Broadway appearances were his first with this production; Snider is not a stranger to the bright lights. “I was in “Rock Of Ages” which was an actual Broadway musical, this is a Broadway concert experience; so for me this was a bit of a return. I got bitten by that bug and fortunately the community was very welcoming to me.”
However this show is definitely a different approach; especially now that he has a solo record which has ascended up the metal charts along with a tour of his own in progress.
“I’ve got a new solo record that entered the “Billboard Charts” at number 20 and now it’s the number one metal album in the world, oddly. I’m doing shows with that in between but this is a whole different gear, a whole different mindset to go out and do “Rocktopia” and it’s a challenge. When they called me and offered me the gig in the first place, I was like, I’ve never sang a ballad on stage, ever. A ballad means standing still and I don’t stand still, so for me to just go out and stand there and have to just sing and be judged on the voice alone was really challenging. That to me, challenges are what life is all about, to feel like; can I do this? I mean, I knew that I could but knowing and executing are two different things.”
Snider being Snider is what audiences look for and in a production which has a five piece rock band, a 30 member choir, a 20 piece orchestra, along with opera and Broadway vocalists; is that possible? Well not only is it possible but it is now expected as he does his best to bring an edge to every performance and his fellow performers.
“It’s not an acting thing; of course there’s rehearsals with a full choir and orchestra, the stage is very crowded and it’s a big stage and still very crowded. There’s a lot of preparation to get all of those ducks in a row and have everything coming out right but it’s an experience that I am so excited to get a chance to be a part of. They had Pat Monahan from Train do a couple of weeks and Robin Zander did a week and they brought me in for a week and while I wanted to go in there and do the best job that I could, I also wanted to add something and an audience member after the show said to me, “I saw the show with Pat Monahan and he was great but you brought the dirty” and I said; excuse me (laughs)? She went on to say that rock ‘n’ roll has got some attitude, rock ‘n’ roll is the bad boy in the room and Pat is a great singer but he’s very legit and you brought some swagger and I was glad to bring that swagger. As a matter of fact, I brought that swagger backstage in a big way. After my first night I go on after a singer named Chloe Lowery and she crushes it, what a fucking voice! She sings, “Alone” by Heart; she out sings Ann Wilson and Ann Wilson created it,” he explained with a hearty laugh. “So I have to go on after her and sing, “Stairway,” so I’m waiting to go on and she’s just blowing the place up. So as they start playing my intro I walk over to the side stage and she’s coming off and I say; Chloe? Fuck you! Chloe’s face dropped and I go off and sing my song and later she comes over to me and says; “Dee what did I do wrong?” I said no, no, no that was my highest compliment. That meant that you put me in a position where I had to go on after that and to me that’s what it’s about. Everybody going out there and going for blood and that pushes me to be better so I meant that as a compliment. So by the end of the week everybody in the cast and crew were screaming, “Fuck you” at everybody; the opera singer, “Dee, fuck you (laughs),” so like I said, I brought the dirty but everybody is amazing at what they do, they’re all the best at what they do. Look at Rob’s credentials, Alyson Cambridge (Madame Butterfly, La Boheme)the opera singer’s credentials; these people are in the biggest shows in New York. Everybody earned their place there and every night they’re giving it their all, it’s amazing.”
A concert meets the symphony which meets the opera and pays tribute to, “Musical innovators across the centuries,” “Rocktopia” features the music of Journey, Mozart, Queen, Beethoven, Aerosmith, Handel, Led Zeppelin, Tchaikovsky, U2, Heart, Puccini and more but Snider wants all to know that this show bucks the trends of today.
“The thing that people should know about this show is that the orchestra with rock ‘n’ roll has now been officially done to death. This is very different, it mixes classical with classic rock. You’ve seen Metallica with a symphony orchestra and it’s not that, you’ve got great opera singers, great Broadway singers and me a rock singer with a choir and an orchestra and 50 pieces up there and a rock band and we’re doing both and there’s a lot of mash ups which is really interesting. So it is different than what has been done before and it’s very compelling actually; as Rob Evans the co-creator says, “Imagine a party where you walk in and at that same party are Bach and Beethoven and Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant and they all deserve to be in that same room because they all have their place in the hierarchy of music. Rock ‘N’ Roll has earned its place at that table and this show speaks loudly to that. I want to stress to people that it’s not rock music with an orchestra. This is different and its an education for those who lean towards the classical and those who lean towards the rock stuff. This shows that both of these need to be respected, they are both worth your time.”
The 7:30 p.m. Bergen PAC show is the only one in the New Jersey area with an October 20 performance in Brookville, NY to follow. Although Snider moved to the west coast a while back, he still considers the Metro New York vicinity home; does this alter his approach? “It’s always great to be home and when you’re from the Tri-state area there’s a certain attitude and that doesn’t go away because I may be in a more gentle environment. I’m going from screaming my lungs out on my new record, “For The Love of Metal” which is mind-numbingly aggressive and heavy to singing sweet as a bird on, “Kashmir” and “Stairway To Heaven” and hopefully I do them all equally as well.”
To discover more about Rocktopia or purchase tickets, please visit www.rocktopia.com.
Danny Coleman (Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 10 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.)