The Producers: Twisted Twitters
The previous installment provided some curious tales of Twisted Sister. An Australian musician/journalist friend of mine named Joe Matera frequently sends me items from the Web that he thinks may be of interest to me. Since I don’t get around the Internet as thoroughly as Joe does, this proves to be a service of great value, as I’d otherwise be unaware of what people may be writing and/or saying about me and my work. Just after I had forwarded the last installment to Jeff here at Popdose, I received an email from Joe, informing me of a recent interview with Dee Snider, who some 25 years later, still feels the need to bag on me in any way he can. [Note: Said interview was conducted by our own David Medsker, and can be read in full here.]
I include some excerpts from this interview, and my responses to these excerpts – truthfully, it may take the form of a rant, but I promise we’ll get back to more colorful history next week. The accumulation of two decades of bogus complaints from Dee Snider has prompted me to answer back:
DEE SNIDER: I mean the biggest hat-tilt towards commercialization was assigning Tom Werman, who was this pop producer, who was cleaning up people like TED NUGENT and MÃ–TLEY CRÃœE, and they figured, ‘Hey, we can clean these guys up too.’ And during the recording I was really having a lot of problems with our producer, Tom Werman, and we just didn’t agree and I really felt like he was compromising the record, and it was a real struggle for me to try to keep the band’s integrity…. He wanted to clean us up even more, you know, and I was really frustrated and the engineer, Geoff Workman, who really is responsible for all of the positive things on that record as far as sound and everything. And he said, ‘What’s the matter, man?’ And I said, ‘Fricking Tom is killing my record, he’s pissing me off!’ He goes, ‘Relax dude, this record is guaranteed to go platinum.’ And I said, ‘You want to put that in writing?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, I’ll put that in writing.’ So what it says here on this laminated page — it’s written on an old note sheet, it says: ‘The record that I am currently working on with TWISTED SISTER [because we didn’t have a name yet] is guaranteed to go at least platinum or I resign. Signed: Geoff Workman. So, he knew.
Once again, I’m stunned at my apparent inability to recollect one serious moment of disagreement between Mr. Snider and myself, beyond the normal, minor differences of opinion in any project. I wonder if Dee ever bothered to consider why I had selected Geoff Workman to do this album… after all, I hired the guy for the album based on my knowledge of his capability and approach to sound, even though I was well aware that he could an incredibly divisive influence on the project. This guy was an excellent sound engineer who was a functional alcoholic and a creative storyteller, who had already done his backstabbing – best to erode my credibility with one band through secret recording and tape editing, and who knows what else when my back was turned. Meanwhile, his engineering skills were, I thought, worth the pain. He would always latch onto the leading influence in the group, become his best buddy and then run me down to the guy. Mr. Snider was more than a willing participant in this escapade.
Beyond that, I really am amazed by his allegations that I was “ruining” his record, when it was clearly a hugely popular and successful recording that established Twisted Sister as a global musical force. I guess if he had made the record he personally wanted, it would have come out much like the re-recording of Stay Hungry by the band, which I believe sold about 30,000 copies.
SNIDER: – and I have to point out with as much bashing of Tom Werman, I don’t know if you saw the liner notes but I’m the one who wrote that Tom Werman should be able to speak his piece – I want to see what he says, I’m sure he mouths off. He buries himself because he told me straight out that he would never have signed Twisted Sister when he was an A&R man. And I asked him to be honest, he was honest. He also did not want ‘We’re not Gonna Take It’ or ‘I Wanna Rock’ on the record and it’s a hard sell among those. With ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ he said, ‘Eh, it’s kind of sing-song, kind of childish, isn’t it?’ He totally mocked it, and I said dude, trust me. As a matter of fact they interviewed him on Behind The Music or something and he actually said, ‘You know Dee says this stuff about me and I wasn’t against ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It,’ but it is kind of childish, don’t you think?’…… “But he really didn’t do that much. They said they were going to bring in a producer who was going to clean us up, but we’re really not as dirty as you think.
Excuse me, but how does someone “bury himself” by speaking the truth? I told him straight up I wouldn’t sign his band if I had still been in A&R. And where is the venom when it comes to the guy who “forced” me on the band? I guess Dee thought it was in his best interest not to dump on Doug Morris.
Naturally, his paraphrasing of what I actually said in that interview is inaccurate and self-serving, but the important thing here is that I had written to Mr. Snider about a year ago, requesting in writing that he give me an opportunity to come on his show and presen t my side of the story. I never got a response. So when he says “I want to see what he says”, he clearly does not want to see what I say. I sent two emails to him ten days ago on July 6th (the day I received this interview from Joe in Australia), and I still haven’t received a response. Nada. Zilch. Not a peep.
My email of July 6th to Dee Snider:
This is an enquiry e-mail via http://deesnider.com/ from:
“…with as much bashing of Tom Werman….I’m the one who wrote that Tom Werman should be able to speak his piece — I want to see what he says…” — Dee Snider.
I am accepting Mr. Snider’s offer. Please tell me the address to which I should send my “piece.” Thank you.
SNIDER: It’s amazing to see the significance of the record, you know the original and how many times I hear people saying, ‘This was my primer to heavy metal’ or ‘I was a disco boy or pop princess before I got my ‘Stay Hungry’ record and it changed my life.’ And then you’ve got ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’ which sort of started – especially ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ – to transcend even the genre and become almost folk songs. And one thing a lot of people have said was, ‘Stay Hungry was Twisted Sister’s go-commercial, selling out.’ And I always laugh because it was anything but. ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ was added at 145 radio stations the first week it came out and that was two weeks before the video even hit. And just so you know that’s a lot of radio stations to play a heavy metal band in 1984.
So in the first breath, he lauds and exalts the record, and in the next breath he dumps on it because I was the producer. Generally, he seems really confused. Is he attacking me for being honest? It certainly reads that way, doesn’t it? I mean, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” can certainly be interpreted as sing-songy, or as a kids’ chant set to music. Even Mr. Snider goes along with that, while damning me for saying the same thing in another article:
So either Twisted Sister was about to release a great rock and roll album, or a great children’s album. “A great kid’s album,” Snider laughs, “Exactly! Play this in your nursery.”
So we have a guy here with some major issues, who seems to feel a need to continually insult me and to revise the history of that recording project, a full two generations after the fact. Maybe some day he’ll live up to the straight-talk image he promotes. Until then, I’ll need to continue to rely on people who help me out by advising me to read this and that, so I can do my best to defend myself against the relentless Dee Snider sniping machine. The guy simply can’t get past the fact that he has spent his life creating and shaping this band, and that I actually was involved in the one success that his creation has had.
Okay, we’ve probably had enough on that topic, right? Thanks for your patience. Let’s move on to another band for whom I produced only one album – Poison. In stark contrast to Mr. Snider, I’m not aware that any one of them has ever said anything negative about our recording experience, even though it certainly wasn’t the easiest project either of us ever did. Tom Whalley signed Poison while he was working in the Capitol Records A&R department in the mid ’80s. My friend Tom Mohler, who managed the band through the first half of the recording, has told me that they really wanted Paul Stanley to produce their follow-up to Look What the Cat Dragged In, but that both he and Tom Whalley held out for me. I can certainly understand why a band like Poison would want a member of Kiss to produce the record, but I appreciate that the manager and A&R man stood their ground.
A lunch meeting was arranged in Hollywood, in order for me to meet the band. I was seated next to CC Deville, and I remember that halfway through the meal, he looked at me and said “I hear you do drugs. Do you do drugs?” (Looking back on this, it’s fairly ironic, no?) I replied “Yes, I do recreational drugs from time to time, but I know their place, and I take care of business first” (or words to that effect), which was an honest response.
The combination seemed agreeable to the band, and we began rehearsing at a facility in the San Fernando Valley. Things went pretty well in rehearsal, though Rikki Rockett had some problems in changing the drum patterns to which he had become accustomed. There was one song that required a particularly complex drum fill coming out of one time signature and going into another, and Rikki was having trouble with it. Rather than making excuses or getting angry, he consulted with me, and together we came up with a good solution – call Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick and see if he would come in and walk Rikki through the changes. Being a gentleman and being in LA at the time, Bun E. did just that, and the problem was solved.
I recall quite clearly the afternoon when Brett told me of a ballad he had written. I handed him my Guild acoustic guitar, and he sat down and played what sounded to me like a very good country song, titled “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” I liked the way he played it, and after listening to both his and CC’s delivery, I asked CC if it would be OK for Brett to play rhythm guitar on the song. CC obliged, and Brett actually plays the rhythm part with my Guild acoustic guitar on the recording. I still don’t understand why some country star hasn’t covered the song.
This was a long and demanding project. We had decided to record digitally, and this turned out to be a fortunate choice, due to the inordinate number of punch-ins required. CC was delving into some substances at the time that were a little more than recreational, and it wasn’t unusual for us to spend four hours on a guitar solo. This wasn’t because of his playing – he would simply change his mind after an hour, and start from the beginning of the lead break with a different direction. They all did their best, and outside of a few harmonica solos, there were no guest musicians at all on the album.
I’ve been asked countless times who played drums on the album. Every member of Poison performed every note of drums, bass, guitar and lead vocals, except for “out of the car, longhair!” on “Yer Mama Don’t Dance.” That was my voice. We never intended to create four hit singles, but indeed we had four Top 10 singles from Open Up and Say Aah, and the record went on to sell five million copies in the first year of release. One of the most interesting things about the project was the endless stream of pretty young girls who came to hang out with the band – I remember suggesting to Brett that it would probably be more efficient and less disruptive if we simply installed a numbered ticket machine at the door, like the ones they have at delicatessens.