EXCLUSIVE: DEE SNIDER Talks Rocktopia on Tour, Why Rock Is Not Dead, His Foundation, and What Comes
Dee Snider in Rocktopia on Broadway (Matthew Murphy)
Musical sensation and Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider made his Broadway return in the limited run rock concert Rocktopia which ran at The Broadway Theater from March 27th-April 29th. After a few weeks of having guest music legends appear in the show, Dee Snider "won," in his words, the coveted spot for the rest of the run on Broadway. He is now hitting the road with the show starting October 18th, and is excited to bring the classics to people across America.
After appearing in the Tony-nominated Rock of Ages in 2010, Dee had a new found love for Broadway and decided to do something about it. In 2012 he released "Dee Does Broadway" which was produced by himself, Patti Lupone, and Bebe Neuwirth and guests on the album included Cyndi Lauper, Clay Aiken, and Nick Adams. In 2014 he wrote and starred in Dee Snider's Rock & Roll Christmas Show which played in Chicago and Toronto. Enter 2018 in which he was back on Broadway with a rock concert, and a new outlook on the future.
Dee chatted with RyeTheNewsGuy.com about the new tour, what we can expect, his favorite hits to perform, how Gene Simmons was wrong when he said "Rock has died," and if he will return to The Great White Way. I loved talking to this musical icon, and boy does he have a lot to say!
What was it like performing and returning to Broadway in Rocktopia? my first experience [was] with Rock of Ages, [and] was life changing. It was a whole new world for me and I was completely enthralled, and so subsequently I wrote my own musical called the, Rock and Roll Christmas Tale, and staged it in Chicago, and in Toronto- I just wanted more. So being invited to do the short run for the show [Rocktopia] on Broadway was like coming home. I mean even though it's a concert of Broadway event, it still had that family theatrical vibe that I very much like. I like the sense of community the theater has.
Dee Does Broadway Album Cover
Did you enjoy the concert feel a more than the typical musical feel like Rock of Ages was? Well, I mean, that's more of my wheelhouse but I really, that was what was so intriguing about doing theater initially was just the, in concert situation you, everything's to the audience. In a true theater situation, you ignore the audience, other than to wait for a laugh or a reaction. But other than that, you're not supposed to acknowledge the audience, and matter of fact, they don't like when you break on stage. You break the 4th wall. So that was such a big change for me to not play to but to play as though they don't exist. So, this was really a return to more my comfort zone, so to speak. Now, I understand with Rocktopia going out of tour that there's been some new things added. Is it possible you could give us a little taste of what that might be if anything? Well I can just tell you that I'm singing a little opera. That is so cool! And this is the complete crossover, which is what Rocktopia is about. A lot of people have the perception that this is a symphonic rock event and I saw that with Deep Purple in the 70's and Metallica in the 90's. I mean it's been done to death, quite honestly. I have to say "no, no, no, no, this is classical meets a mashup of classical and classic rock. You've got not just a rock singer up there. You've got opera singers, you've got Broadway singers, and then you've got opera singers singing rock and a rock singer singing opera. So- It's a true mashup which is what makes it so special and exciting. You know Rob Evan, the co-creator, he says upfront, ya know if there was a party of the great, the musical greats, in attendance would be Bach and Beethoven. But also would be Led Zeppelin and Hendricks, and Queen. They would very much sit at that same table and share, just sort of commonalities. These are the greats of their time. So, this is what this show truly embraces and just shows really.
I bet you they would be very proud of what is happening with that show. I wanted to ask you, seeing we were talking about Bach and Beethoven, How does it feel to know that rock-n-roll hasn't died and people still love it?
Well, you know, I'm one of those people who is very clearly, I mean there are these proponents where people have gone out and said rock-n-roll is dead. I mean that's been going on, my god, for decades. It's usually a bunch of old people because their particular brand has ceased to sell. Ya know, Gene Simmons most famously in GQ magazine got a lot press when he announced "rock-n-roll was dead" and told Some young kids don't even bother to pick up a guitar.
I wrote a Facebook post which went viral and was picked up by all the rock magazines when I said, "that's ridiculous, that's ridiculous," if you obviously aren't out there, and with my kids, but I've continued to go to shows and see the passion that's still out there. Yeah it's not getting the spotlight it once got. It's not getting the broad attention.
There was a different way of promoting music in the old days that created, even in you aware into a band, you were aware of a band. Everyone know Twisted Sister, everyone knew KISS, everyone knew Led Zeppelin because even if you weren't a fan, you were exposed to it whether through advertising, or through radio, or MTV. But now with the compartmentalizing of music, target marketing of music, the audience that likes it is hearing it. But the other people aren't even aware it exists. But I digress from your question, and your question, but it is incredible and amazing but this is something that can't be replicated or, what's the word they use for anagram, where they figure out a formula where they can program it live. Like they do on radio. They have certain- I get what you're saying You know what I'm saying! Yeah you can't, the live thing can't be processed. It can't be, a computer can't do it. It requires personality. Even like radio's dying because they try to program their way out of their problems when the fact is the thing that was tuning people into radios was personalities who have now gone to podcasts and they're making gazillions of dollars. Because people want personality. SO, this a live concert event has personality. Even if it's a DJ it has personality and that can't be programmed. I wanted to actually switch gears for a second and talk about something that isn't focused on a lot. You are very philanthropic and you work with some great foundations. Can you tell us how we can get involved with some of the work you do and how we can donate or how we can learn more? Well, my latest, I've been involved in a lot of children's things like the March of Dimes, St. Judes, Chris Angel - I work with him on his Help organization which is fighting children's cancer. His son had leukemia, he's in remission right now, so I work a lot with that. Kids, I think, it all starts with the children. That was one of the funny things to me when Chris told me only 27% of all research dollars for fighting cancer goes to children's cancers. So it's kind of counter intuitive. Isn't the children that need it the most, cause they've got the most to lose, the longest to live. They are the future as opposed to focusing on older people, which of course cancer's horrible but it just seems odd. That imbalance of, children seem so helpless. I do a lot of work with that.
Dee Snider, Rob Evan, and Chloe Lowery on stage in Rocktopia. (Matthew Murphy)
But my latest effort is the new charity that I've been personally involved in starting and now expanding. It's called Melissa's Wish. If you go to deesnidersride.com, that's the best way. And that basically was one of our riders, the daughter of the chair of my ride, which was the March of Dimes and all these, Feeding the Homeless, and things like that. His daughter died at like 32 of cancer and she used to ride with us. On her deathbed, her dying wish was, Melissa Blackford she said, "dad if you do anything in my memory, do it for the caregivers." He was taken aback and he said, "What do you mean?" He said I'm looking around this hospital and I'm seeing lives being destroyed.
And not the lives of the people passing on. He said but the families left behind. Not only are they losing a loved one but often they've lost their homes, they've lost their jobs, they've lost their life savings in an effort to save their family member or make them more comfortable in their last days, and They've lost everything and He said nobody's thinking about the cleanup afterwards, they were always thinking about those who were left behind. That became Melissa's Wish. So we have been raising money for the caregiver's and I've met some of the people we've helped. It's just, it chokes me up when I meet them because they're so grateful for whatever we can do whether it's money for Christmas presents or paying the mortgage for a month or something like that. It's just amazing, I'm hoping to see Melissa's Wish, which is a 501C, would spread beyond Long Island and the tri-state area. I have more people pick up this cause and recognize that this is a concern. After they're gone, the one's left behind suffer the greatest loss of all. Right, and no one ever thinks of that. Nobody, everytime I say it somebody says, "I didn't even think about that." Besides the funeral. Their lives, we've seen it personally ourselves, the sacrifice families make in an effort to try and save their family members and it's often everything they have.
Well that's really special and that's incredible that you get to do that, and I'm sure Melissa would be beyond happy about what-- She's been smiling on our effort, we've seen a lot of evidence.
Well in closing, After the tour finishes up what's next for you? I know you just released some new music in July. What's coming up next for Dee Snider?
Well, you know, I mean, just Rocktopia. This is just the beginning and I'm honored to have been asked to be the rock singer for Rocktopia and to have join the cast. When Rob [Evan] called me, originally it was a week of Robin Zander a couple weeks of Pat Monohan, it was a rotating. Then they asked me if I would be the guy, and I said to Rob, "You mean I won? I won the contest." He said it wasn't a contest and I said "oh yes it was." I was competing and I won. So, I'm excited that the vision for this thing goes way beyond this first 6 dates that we are doing here. The vision is to have it to be an international annual touring. I'm excited for that.
But in my real job, besides radio, TV, and movies, I released, well people call it my 4th solo album, it's actually like my 6th or 7th. I've got different projects post Twisted Sister. This new record, a contemporary metal record, went to number 20 on the billboard charts, it's been on the top. I haven't been on the charts in 30 years. It's been on top of the metal charts since it [For The Love of Metal] came out, all around the world. People are talking about, just like they are talking. They never talk about metal Grammy. I want it, haven't been nominated but the fact that people are discussing it is blowing my mind. Metal album of the year. Hopefully this year will be different and you will be nominated this year. Well I mean it would be great. Just the fact that I've never had these words uttered, so here I am at the ripe old age of 63 releasing a contemporary metal record that's connecting, Spotify says from [ages] 18-58. The entire metal community is excited and embracing it. It's on the charts and I was sort of caught off guard cause we didn't even have a record deal when we did this record.
It was called for the love of metal because it was really just a bunch of friends getting together and saying hey, I think you should do a contemporary metal record. I was like, "really," you know, we went "field of dreams" on it- We went in there and just started in our spare time working on it and then it got released and now it's turned into "Dee Snider's back." So it's good to be back making music that's connecting on a contemporary level while I very much love doing the classics as well. So I get to have my cake and eat it. That's amazing. Do you think you might return to Broadway if the right show comes along? You know what, I would welcome the opportunity. I was just recently approached. Foreigner has a musical coming out called Juke Box Hero, its not coming to Broadway yet, it's opening in Toronto initially as most shows do and they offered me a role. But, Unfortunately, my schedule is so jammed I can't accept it. But I hope I get the opportunity to do that again, return to that and just enjoy that experience, cause that to me is the exciting part about my life now. I get to do different things and have opportunities to try things that are a little outside my wheelhouse.
I tell ya, my wife, I have not been nervous, well I was nervous when I did Broadway. I'm very rarely nervous, I was nervous when I went out the first time with Rocktopia. I was singing "Stairway to Heaven", and I don't sing ballads. I don't sing nicely. I can and I don't- just stand there and sing. Yet I have to walk out there, stand there and sing nicely, a classic rock song, a ballad and I did it. And you did it very well. It was a challenge. Thank you but it was a challenge. To me that's what life is all about right now is exciting challenges.
For a complete list of cities that Rocktopia is visiting, and to buy tickets go to www.Rocktopia.com.