The U.S. Supreme Court and Twisted Sister may not be subjects you expect to see in the same sentence. But rest assured that the current vacancy in the high court is certainly on the mind of guitarist Jay Jay French.
Born and bred a Democrat to activist parents on Manhattan’s Upper West Side — where his mother Evaline French Segall was a consultant for the Democratic Party and campaign manager for Constance Baker Motley, New York’s first black female state senator — French (real name John Segall) tells Billboard that the Supreme Court is a paramount consideration when he makes political decisions.
“That was my mother’s comment on her death bed, when I was 22 and she was dying and I wasn’t confident enough to really understand the way of the world,” French recalls. “I said to her, ‘How will I know who to vote for when you die?’ And she said, ‘The only thing you really have to understand is that the Supreme Court will have more of an impact on your life than anything else. Wars come and go. The economy goes up and down, and they’re all a bunch of red herrings. Vote for the person who will nominate the kind of people you want to see on the Supreme Court and you will never make a mistake.’ And that’s how I rule my life. I will always put Supreme Court justice picks ahead of everything else in my mind, ’cause that’s the one thing that really controls our lives.”
Not surprisingly, French is hoping that current President Barack Obama will be able to fill the seat left vacant by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, despite vows from Republican congressional leadership to block it. “I don’t want to see us roll back to the past, which is what a Republican congress, a Republican president, will do — destroy women’s rights, destroy gay rights, destroy minority rights,” French says. “We can just go on and on and on about this. When it comes Supreme Court justices a lot of people don’t understand, and the Republicans don’t want you to understand it. They don’t want you to know about it. They just want to stealth-like get control so they can nominated some retro-thinking justices. So they talk about ISIS, ‘I’m gonna kill ’em, carpet bomb ’em,’ that’s what they want you to think about. Meanwhile it’s the Supreme Court that’s really where it’s at.”
Despite those Democratic leanings, Twisted Sister has been linked to Republican hopeful Donald Trump’s campaign via his use of the group’s 1984 anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” The group did not ask Trump to stop, but frontman Dee Snider says that hardly indicates he or the other band members are endorsing him.
“He’s a friend,” says Snider, who appeared on Celebrity Apprentice in 2011. “People say, ‘Oh, Dee, he’s an endorser of Donald Trump.’ What I say is, ‘OK, you got friends? Name one of them that you would vote for for president?’ You can be friends with someone and don’t want them to be president of the United States, y’know?” And though he’s not tipping his hand on who has his vote, Snider is definitely keeping a close eye on the campaign.
“It’s a crazy thing to watch, it certainly is,” he says. “To me Bernie Sanders and Trump are two sides of the same coin. They’re both tapping into disenfranchised people, people who are fed up with the system and who haven’t been politically active or even actually voting. My daughter’s 19; it’s the first time she’s voting, and she’s a passionate Bernie supporter. All my kids are. So it’s interesting. [Sanders and Trump] are the same types, in their own way. It’s a hell-raising year. Let’s see if it goes back to business as usual or if something actually happens.”
The new documentary We Are Twisted F***ing Sister! opens in theaters on Friday, with the home video coming out Feb. 23.