When Dee Snider competed on The Masked Singer this week as the Doll, the famously gender-bending Twisted Sister frontman felt right at home in his costume’s high heels, sexy pencil skirt, and corset. The timing of his appearance, which included an impromptu a cappella rendition of his anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” after his reveal, was interesting, given that his former friend Donald Trump and bans of drag performances are in the news. So, of course, Yahoo Entertainment’s morning-after conversation with the politically astute rock star — who’s been an outspoken advocate for justice and free speech since he famously testified at the PMRC hearing in 1985 — quickly pivoted to current events.
Snider is about to publish two books: a coming-of-age novel “about toxic masculinity” called Frats, and a graphic novel, He's Not Gonna Take It, “about Washington and how did I become the voice, the guy who spoke for the generation and now other generations?” But he has some other big plans Twisted Sister, who recently performed for the first time since 2016 to celebrate their induction into the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame. And there may be more Twisted Sister performances in the election year 2024, as he and his bandmates attempt to take back “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” a song that has been used in ways they never expected or intended.
“Next year, you're gonna see some Twisted Sister reunions, at different political rallies that need our support,” Snider tells Yahoo Entertainment. “The band has a concern that the song is being co-opted by the extreme right… and we want to make sure that people still know it’s a song for everybody and it does not represent that selfish micro group. It is really for the mass people, the moderate people, the people that just want to live their lives, be themselves, and not have people tell 'em they can't be themselves. So, I think you'll see us at political rallies and stuff like that. We'll be out there next year.”
Read on for Snider’s wide-ranging and uncensored thoughts about drag bans (and the LGBTQ+ community using “We’re Not Gonna Take It” with his “100%” support), Trump’s arraignment, the Second Amendment and “intelligent gun control,” and if he’d ever consider running for office himself.
Yahoo Entertainment: Congratulations on getting into the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame, and congratulations on being on The Masked Singer. The last time I interviewed you, we talked a lot about drag. I even put it out there that I want you to be a Drag Race judge and stuff. So, I love the fact that when you went on as the Doll. You must have had a say in that outfit!
Dee Snider: First of all, I'm expecting the phone to ring at any moment from RuPaul. I'm expecting the call! Well, they presented the Doll [costume] to me and I said, “Um, isn't that a bit like putting a hat on a hat?” … But I was the one that said, “Let's go full-blown. Gimme the seven-inch pumps!” And the way, [wearing heels] is like riding a bike. I said that on the show last night.
You pretty much were wearing women's clothing early in the days of Twisted Sister. You were wearing lingerie. So, I have to ask, because you're so politically outspoken, especially when it comes to free speech… what are your thoughts on these drag bans, or attempted drag bans, right now — especially regarding the ramifications it could have in general for free speech and art?
Let's talk about the drag bans. My band would not be allowed to perform in Texas. We would fall under that heading, the new rule, if they pass these rules — men wearing lipstick, nail polish and makeup. So, do I stand with the [LGBTQ+/drag] community? 100%. I heard the community has reached out about using “We're Not Gonna Take It” as their battle cry, and I said, “With my blessing, brothers and sisters! Go for it!” I stand with them. Look…. I was not gay, I was heterosexual, and I still had a lot of issues with a lot of people because I wore the things I wore in the ‘70s and even into the ‘80s. So, I've been on the receiving end. I get what they go through. I remember it so many times, how people would say, “You f***ing f***!” And I'm like, “OK, I'm just dressing up. You got a problem with that?” … I had a lot of fights with people who didn't like the way I expressed myself. So, I'm very in favor of free expression on every level. And I will stand with the community, if they ask me to stand with them. I am with them.
Lots of people, from both ends of the political spectrum, have wanted to use “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
I will never censor somebody and say, “You can't use the song.” I will say that I do not support your use of the song, but censorship I will not support. I just want people to know I'm not aligned with them. Like, QAnon uses “We’re Not Gonna Take It” for all their little videos, their creepy little YouTube videos, and I have to speak out and say, “No, I do not stand with QAnon.” I do not stand with the January 6ers who use the song. I do not stand with the anti-maskers who use the song. I do not stand with the anti-vaxxers who use the song. I do stand with the teachers who use the song. I do stand with the people looking for intelligent gun control who use the song. And I do stand with [the LGBTQ+] community and will applaud. They're using the song in the right spirit. It was not for selfish purposes. It was for everybody. Everybody should be allowed to express themselves freely without being shot with assault weapons, without being banned for wearing makeup.
I recall during in the 2016 election, you once had a friendship with Donald Trump from Celebrity Apprentice, and at first you said it was fine for him to use “We're Not Gonna Take It” as his campaign theme. But then you said no, and he actually honored that request.
You know, before Trump, before that era, the way people socialized, there was a standard rule: Don't talk about religion, sports, or politics. And I had wonderful times with a lot of people, where I never knew what they believed, or what they did in their bedrooms. And I was friends with Trump from the [Celebrity Apprentice] show, and with the Trump family. And when they called and asked if they could use the song, they're friends, so I was like, “Yeah, with my blessing!” But three months in, he starts speaking about what he stands for, the wall… it was so many things. My kids were freaking out: “Dad, you've gotta go public! You've gotta denounce this guy!” I said, “Listen, unlike most people, he actually asked me if he could use a song.” Most people just start using it, like Paul Ryan. I said, “He asked me, and I said yes, so at least I should give him the courtesy of calling him and [telling him to stop].” And he just stopped. I called him, and he stopped that night.
Do you guys talk anymore?
Last conversation, I called back and I said, “Are we cool?” I mean, we were friends [once]. And he said, “Dee, we've done so many charity things together.” … But unfortunately, I've lost a lot of friends, including family members, over politics, the divisiveness of things. … I've got a lot of extreme Trumpers in my family — I have a big family — and I can't even talk to 'em anymore, you know? … It's sad that that's happened, but it's thinned out the herd a little bit, because quite honestly, if you really stand for some of that stuff — some of that racism, some of that prejudice, some of that lack of concern for other human beings — if you really stand on that side of things, I really don't want to be your friend anyway.
Do you worry about losing fans sometimes?
No, I don't care. First of all, nobody's buying records anymore anyway. Secondly, I'm not touring anymore. I'm not performing. And thirdly, Twisted Sister and Dee Snider are always bigger in Europe, and the free world hates Donald Trump. They hate Donald Trump. They think he is a buffoon. They hate that whole stupidity. They look at America, and we've fallen in their view, in our stature. So, if I want to tour, I'll just go tour Sweden, where they love me! I'll move there. I don't need you guys anymore. So, you know, f*** you.
Are you following what's going on with Trump’s arraignment this week?
I've watched. I mean, this is like the Al Capone situation. … A lot of the great criminals of our time have fallen, slipped up, with something that you would think is insignificant, like a payoff to a porn star or something like that. But whatever it takes to do him in, you know. We can really get into this conversation, but I don't believe he stands for any of the things that he says he stands for. Donald Trump sells a product, however you can sell that product. He wants an audience. He wants someone to buy the product. If he finds an audience for a product, he's gonna cater to that audience. And with his product, “Donald Trump or President,” there's people that he wouldn't even allow in the same room with him — the vast amount of these people — but they are buying what he's selling. His ultimate goal is to have a successful product. He’s not church guy carrying a Bible around! He's a Democrat, right? Up to before he ran, he was for women's rights. He is not an anti-abortion guy. His track record has proven that. But the only thing he stands for is Donald Trump. That's the only thing.
One thing I like about talking about politics with you is that you don't see things black-and-white. You are very nuanced. You have called yourself a “gun-toting feminist.” I know you're pro-Second Amendment. You mentioned responsible gun laws. Obviously gun violence is in the news too. What are your thoughts on that?
You know, [anti-gun] people say to me, “Dee, what do you mean you're not with us? You’re all about free speech…” But you know the old saying about free speech, that you can't scream “fire!” in a crowded movie theater, where what you're saying is hurting people? Free speech is not saying anything you want to anybody. And the Second Amendment is the right to bear arms. They were talking about muskets! They weren't talking about automatic weapons and assault weapons and these high-capacity weapons. That was never the intent. If the forefathers were here, they would say, “Are you kidding? We were putting one bullet at a time in a musket!” So, you know, it is out of control. But see, this is the nuance. I understand that, just like with censorship. Nobody wanted to allow any censorship of any kind, because it opens a crack in the Bill [of Rights], right? They didn't want any limits on abortions, because it allowed them to widen that and change it. And it’s the same for the gun activists. You don't want to give an inch, you’re afraid they'll take a mile. And the fact of the matter is, the extreme left will try to take a mile. The extreme right will try. It's human nature to always try to take more. It’s an unfortunate situation, but how much longer are we going to do this, where people with assault weapons are walking into schools, walking into clubs, going to concerts, and just blowing people away? There's got to be some limits. We've gotta figure something out
Would you ever go into politics? … I mean, obviously we've had some celebrities, one of whom we've talked about today, that went into politics and it did not work out, so I'm not into stunt elections. But I'm being serious when I say, if you wanted to have a second-act career in politics, could do it and be serious about it.
I get asked this a lot. One day I got a call from a friend who's politically active, and he said, “Dee, we started a super PAC video [for you]. I said, “I'm flattered, but no, I'm not doing it.” I've seen it up-close. These politicians are awful people. They're so self-serving and they're not there for the greater good. They're there for their agenda and the people who are financing their campaigns. Just the fact that they want to be politicians, they shouldn't be allowed to be a politician! It's like Pope Francis: He didn't want to be the Pope, so he’s the perfect Pope! … So, well, if you guys elect me, I'll show up, but I'm not running. It's just awful. I've been very close, up-close and personal, and it's an ugly, ugly group of people. They're not out for our best interests. It's very sad.
Are you bracing yourself for next year's election, and hearing “We're Not Gonna Take It” possibly get used in contexts that are not ideal in your eyes?
Well, next year, you're gonna see some Twisted Sister reunions, at different political rallies that need our support. We were all in favor of gonna go down to support Beto [O’Rourke], but we couldn't schedule it. You know, the band has a concern that the song is being co-opted by the extreme right… and we want to make sure that people still know it’s a song for everybody and it does not represent that selfish micro group. It is really for the mass people, the moderate people, the people that just want to live their lives, be themselves, and not have people tell 'em they can't be themselves. So, I think you'll see us at political rallies and stuff like that. We'll be out there next year.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
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