Dee Snider found himself in the middle of controversy earlier this year when he asked his friend, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, to stop using the 1984 Twisted Sister anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” in his campaign.
Snider says Trump was very gracious about the request and they’re still friends, though they don’t see eye-to-eye on anything socio-political. For Snider, the song’s role in society is about more than Trump. He says the ‘80s hard rock hit is needed now more than ever. So he has re-recorded an acoustic version of the track for a new record he hopes will introduce his band’s music to a new generation of fans.
Snider is making the new album with producer Damon Ranger (Kanye West, Smashing Pumpkins) and he’s turned to contemporary means — a PledgeMusic campaign — to finance it. Those who donate can get several prizes, including a Lego Dee Snider, available in “Old Dee” and “New Dee” models (as he puts it).
Snider spoke with Billboard about reclaiming “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” the new album and “throwing down” with Lady Gaga.
In the hierarchy of career achievements, where does being a Lego figure rank?
The only thing higher is Pez dispenser, which is really saved for people who are deceased or actually mythical or comic book heroes.
If that’s the case it’s a good thing you are not a Pez dispenser yet.
Yes, you don’t want to find out you’re a Pez dispenser. It often means you’re dead.
Where did the decision to do the pledge campaign come from?
Well, really it comes from my Sherpa guide into these unknown lands of contemporary record making and producing, Damon Ranger. It goes back to him initially approaching me with the idea of Dee Snider making a contemporary rock record. I said, “I don’t even know what that means.” He said, “Well I do.” I’ve been following his lead because I am an old-school guy and this is a crazy new world. Being the Dee back in the day the record company financed the promotion and that’s the way it went. And now the recording budgets are so small and record sales are so limited you have to find alternative ways to finance things.
What does a contemporary rock record mean?
We created an album that is think part Foo Fighters, part Imagine Dragons, part Thirty Seconds To Mars, forget anything from the past. Most of my heavy metal fans are gonna hate it; I’ve abandoned my past to move forward.
Was there one song that shaped the sound of this record?
The first song he brought me was a song called “We Are The Ones,” which is the title track from the album. Thematically, Damon says it’s the message of Dee Snider fighting back and rebellion… it’s believing in yourself. The “We’re Not Gonna Take It” message is eternal and that should continue on.
Years from now, if there’s one song, on this album, that will be the political anthem you’re telling people not to use, what would it be?
Twenty years I should still be alive barely. It’ll be “Rule The World,” it’s the first single, it’s sort of a “We Are The Champions,” it’s a very big studio anthem. When you hear it it’s the kind of thing you can totally see Super Bowl time, the whole stadium lit up and it’s an uplifting song about, “With hands held high, we can rule the world.” It’s basically about everybody just joining together with love and peace, real positive. And I can just see some politico sinking his teeth in who’s got none of the right credentials.
Like Donald Trump with “We’re Not Gonna Take It”?
We’re friends and like many of my friends, most of my friends, we never talk about politics, religion or sports because those are the three no-no’s in any social event. And I’ve got great friends who I know think very differently from me on a number of things and we avoid those subjects. When Trump asked me, and credit to him, he asked if I was okay, I said, “Yeah, we’re friends, go for it.” Cut to four months later I pick up the phone and go, “You gotta stop. I didn’t know what you stood for, we never talked about the wall, banning entire religions from immigrating and things like this. I can no longer appear to support this.” And again, the kind of guy he is, he said, “Okay, Dee,” and he stopped that night. He’s a classy guy and few people will give you the respect of doing that or adhering to your wishes. But I do not see eye-to-eye with him on any of these socio-political issues. Donald and I are friends, we just don’t agree politically.
Are there artists that you admire the way they’ve evolved?
On a musical level, when Damon approached me and talked about reintroducing me, I said, “What, like Tony Bennett?” He goes, “Yeah, but with new music.” Look at Rod Stewart, who has evolved over the years, from the mod that he was back in the Sixties now singing standards and things like that. Even Dave Grohl, the drummer in Nirvana has gone on to be one of the most prolific and important songwriters/producers/musicians.
Would you ever do an album of duets with Lady Gaga?
In a hot second. I may have to put on my old makeup for it though, throw down with Gaga and see who can one up each other. She’s kind of stealing my look, but she’s incredible. There’s another person who’s just managing to take people on a journey with her.
Since Tony did the duets thing with Gaga who would you want to duet with?
I have a warm spot for Celine Dion. A number of years ago — when I was doing very poorly — I’d written a Christmas song for my wife and [Dion] unknowingly recorded it on her holiday album, These Are Special Times. So I think doing a duet with her on that song would be kind of cool.
When will people hear the new music?
October 28 is the release of We Are The Ones. One of the tracks is going viral. A buddy of mine, Criss Angel, started a children’s charity to fight children’s cancer; his son has leukemia. So he called me and asked if I would be part of this big event Sept. 18. I had just recorded this acoustic version of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” this piano and slowed-down version. The thought was at this time this song is needed more than ever and now that it’s a karaoke and barroom favorite people have forgotten the message. I said, “Maybe you could use this for your campaign.” He shot a video, I’m in it and in 20 hours it’s approaching a million views.
Isn’t it interesting for you as the writer “We’re Not Gonna Take It” can be used by both Criss Angel and Donald Trump so differently after all these years?
When I wrote the song I wanted to not be so specific about what I wasn’t taking. Over the years it’s become almost a folk song. We’ve got politicians, like Paul Ryan, who’s as anti-choice as you can be, singing at the top of his lungs, “We’ve got the right to choose it.” I’m like, “Alright, it’s all about choice and you’re using it as your song. You can’t use that song. You’re anti-choice; you can’t sing my song about choice.” When did we lose the point of this song? It’s wonderful everybody knows it and loves it but at the same time, when you hear the version we did, the words meant something and we need this song more than ever for the right reasons.