Interview with Jay Jay French of TWISTED SISTER
Interview by Mark Dean
I understand that the band will be attending a film screening in London a few days ahead of their headlining Bloodstock appearance. Has the success of the DVD come as a surprise to the band?
Yes. Yes, totally. We’re knocked out that it was number one at Billboard. We’ve never had a number one at Billboard before. It’s capping off quite an amazing summer.
How have the dates on this final tour been going?
It’s going really well. We only do select shows in the summertime at these huge festivals, and every year they seem to be getting bigger. In 2003, I thought the phenomenon of the festival circuit would last 5 years. I’m astonished, really. 14 years later, it’s even bigger than it ever was. It’s a testament to the health or to the connectivity of rock music, even though it doesn’t seem to be selling in the charts to young people. It certainly is selling tickets around the world to live events.
The fact that this is the last tour, has that been particularly emotional playing some of the shows?
Yes, to think it’s the last time around, it has been in a way, although we played some of these festivals 2, 3, or 4 times. Still knowing that you’re ending a certain phase of your career has an emotional effect on me for sure.
What about the show on Friday night in the UK at Bloodstock? The UK has been a place that features a lot in the history of the band.
Yes, it does, and when we’re able to get a show here, it’s kind of strange to say this. We only play about 15 times a year, and the band is able to headline around 35 countries. 20 countries didn’t get a show this year, and we were able to get one in England. I’m grateful that we were able to get one in England. England, historically, was so important to the band.
When that final gig rolls around, will that be difficult for all the bands to go their separate ways knowing that you’re not going to play live again together?
We did it once before. We went our separate ways for 12 years. We’re not going to do this forever. I think the bigger question really is what’s going to happen. Obviously, Lemmy passed away so there’s no more Motorhead, and Sabbath is ending this year so there’s no more Sabbath. The rumors are Aerosmith and KISS, pretty soon that’s going to be over and be over, and then Metallica’s going to be over. When that happens, who is the next generation? I think more about that than I do about going our separate ways because we’ll see each other, we just won’t be playing together.
Will the tour represent a total split, or will the band continue to maybe record some music together?
No, the band really has no desire to record. I don’t see any new music coming out. I have learned a long time ago that there’s no absolutes in this world, so I’m not going to say because I absolutely thought the band was never going to get back together again when we split in 1988, and I was wrong. This time I’m not going to be a prognosticator. I don’t know, but I don’t see recording as part of the future.
If you’re looking back at the music and legacy of the band, how do you view that? Is that something that fills you with pride?
Yes, I think if you look at it, we recorded around 150 songs. Somewhere around there, 125 – 150 songs. That’s a lot of music. We sold a lot of records around the world, so we made a lot of people happy which I think is an important legacy. I think that the fact that songs like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” have become worldwide anthems shows you the power of music to transcend cultures and language, and it’s actually more of something to be proud of than anything else because we can stand in stadiums around the world with these songs and everybody knows them. It’s connected people. To be part of a communications device, meaning a band, that can speak to so many people and make them feel good, especially with all the bad news and misery and violence in the world, to be part of the positive messages in the world is gratifying.
I think, if I speak on behalf of Dee and Eddie and me and Mark and Mike Portnoy, I’d rather be on the side of the people who give the positive messages than the negative messages, and I’m proud of the legacy of the band, that we entertained people and we did it right 100%, all the time, and put on great shows and that our fans were able to go to these shows and know that they were going to be entertained. They were going to have a good time. That is the most important legacy.
Do you have any regrets looking at that back catalog? I am thinking specifically of the Love is for Suckers album?
Yeah, I regret that “Leader of the Pack” should not have been the lead single from that. I don’t think there was a mistake in recording it. We used to play it in the bars, so we knew that it worked for the bars. I think the emphasis of the song as a single was a mistake, and helped usher in the end of the band. Then again, you can regret things or you can look and see what the results of the actions were. If the results of that were that it hastened the end of the band at that point, that’s fine because look where the band wound up. Maybe it was supposed to be that way. Maybe had we had success with “Come Out and Play,” maybe we wouldn’t have broken up when we did. Maybe we would’ve broken up later. Maybe it would’ve been different. You never know. You can’t rewrite your life. I’m not positive that it turned out to be the worst thing. It could not. Maybe it’s not, but we’ll never know, right? Because it happened. We’ll never know.
At the height of the band’s commercial success, I’m thinking about the MTV era, did you find fame difficult to deal with?
No, no, because I was older and I never believed in it to begin with. I never changed my lifestyle. I didn’t care. I don’t like being recognized to begin with. I didn’t like it when it happened. I liked it less as time went on. When you live in New York City, you really don’t want to be bothered. To me, it never changed my life at all. I have no real problems. If I was 22, maybe it would’ve but I was 32-33 when the band made it. I was much older and much more equipped to deal with the silliness of celebrity and fame.
I understand obviously you’re a manager, you’re a producer as well. Have you any interest or hobbies outside music?
I don’t actually produce or manage bands anymore. I’m a columnist. I’m a writer. I write for an online business magazine called Inc.com [http://www.inc.com/author/jay-jay-french]. You’ll read all my business articles. I do keynote speeches at business conferences and motivational speaking to up and coming entrepreneurs. I’ll be writing a book and it will be about that. It will be about motivation and what it takes to really make it. That’s where my business interests are. I’m a guitar collector, so that’s my hobby. I love collecting guitars.
If you were on a desert island and you had to bring only two albums, one by yourself and one by another artist, what would they be?
Impossible. First of all, I would not have my own music on a desert island. Ever. Number one. Only because we’re around it all the time, so I wouldn’t. It really depends. I’m a blues guitar player so I’d probably have a blues artist. I’d probably have Albert King, Allan Wolf, something like that. That’s probably what I would have because I think that those records are timeless. I don’t get sick of listening to guys like that. That’s probably what it would be.
The fact that we’re there is really the key. When did we play England last? 3 years ago, 4 years ago? When did we play last before that? 3 years ago? The fact that we’re there is a surprise. The fact that we’re performing at the show, I think, is really the important thing. What we may do in terms of what songs or whatever, I don’t know yet because we don’t decide those things until about 5 minutes before we go onstage, so I have no idea what we would be doing. It’s hard to say.
I can say that every time we play England, there’s a real connection with the fans. A lot of those fans go back to the Marquee shows and the Mayfair and the TV show “The Tube.” So many people saw us on The Tube that night.
Tonight, for example, there’s a showing of the Twisted Sister documentary in Leicester Square, and I’m going to be there doing a question and answer after the movie, and that’s an emotional thing, too. It matters. It really does matter.
I’m in London right now. When I walk down Warner street and I look at where the Marquis was, it makes my heart sing because it was so important. the Astoria shows were so important; Hammersmith shows were important. It all meant a lot.
It’s another festival as well. Following in the footsteps, you did Reading, you did the Monsters of Rock back at Donnington, and now Bloodstock, it’s another festival, another first.
Reading was amazing and Wrexham was the first one with Motorhead, so that was very emotional. Reading was emotional. Donnington was. In fact, the Donnington concert is on CD now, and it’s out now, and that’s kind of cool to listen to Donnington.
There’s a lot of stuff going on. There’s a lot of stuff. The year’s really been amazing. The documentary is the #1 documentary on Netflix. The DVD, “Twisted Sister Metal Meltdown” DVD we filmed in Las Vegas, which just went to #1 is not the same thing as a documentary, so a lot of people get that confused. The documentary is one thing and that’s “We’re Twisted Fucking Sister,” and that’s available online and you can also buy it.
The live concert show of the memorial which went to #1 on Billboard, that’s a very emotional record because that was our first concert without AJ, and AJ’s death was traumatic and it forced us to do a lot of thinking about what we were going to do in the future. That’s when we decided to make this our last year. If you watch that, the live show in Vegas, and watch the DVD, there’s a lot in there emotionally. There’s a lot in there from the band’s live performance and some other stuff. There’s a lot in there from a documentary standpoint where we talk about AJ and the history of the band that’s emotional. All of it is connected.
Thank you very much, Jay, for taking the time to talk to me. I’m really looking forward to your set at Bloodstock. It’s actually going to be my first Twisted Sister show.
Thank you so much. Hopefully wave to me. I’ll go, “Hey, man. What’s up? How you doing?” Okay?
Thank you again for talking to me today. Cheers.
Thank you, man.