What Does It Take To Front A Rock Band? Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider Explains The Art of Being A Great Frontman To Rock Academy Students
Dee Snider has been singing since he was in the third grade. That was the day after he heard about the Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan. He didn't see the show as he grew up in a household that didn't allow TV. But the next morning at school when he heard all his friends talking about it, he knew it was something he was interested in. 50 years later, the Twisted Sister frontman is STILL rocking audiences around the world and will do so tonight at RibFest at the WH Lyon Fairgrounds.
All week, the performers at RibFest have been stopping by the Brennan Rock & Roll Academy to meet the students and faculty that are helping keep rock and roll alive with the kids today. Friday afternoon, Snider came to talk to the kids (and the adults in the audience) on what it takes to be a great frontman. Dee says he's the best ever (he says his notes said "one of the best", but he skipped over that part!)
Snider can speak from a lot of years of experience having formed Twisted Sister when he was only about 21 years old. He said the day he realized the difference between being a singer and a musician came one weekend at a very popular New York club the band was playing.
"It was one of those clubs that everybody went to because of the club, not necessarily because of the band". Back in the early days, Snider knew the only way to get better was to play and play and play, so the band booked as many bar gigs as they could to get to live their dream. They had played every night that week and as they took the stage in front of a full house, he realized he had lost his voice. Nothing. Zip. Silence. What do you do when it's the first song of the night and your singer can't sing? "You become a madman!" Snider says he spent the next couple of hours running all over the stage, climbing up the ropes on the side, basically acting like a wildman. The crowd said it was the best show they'd ever seen.
He said he learned right then that BS can go a long way, but in the long run it can go only so far. But if you can combine BS AND talent, then you've got the makings of a rock star.
He told the kids that they need to own the stage. To make a connection to the audience. Don't look off to the side or just at your bandmates. Make that one on one interaction. Work the stage. Sing the first verse center stage, the second verse to stage left and third verse to stage right. "Make the audience feel like you're there to see them as much as they're there to see you."
Following the talk that was both informative and funny, Snider opened it up to a Q&A session where he talked about being married for 38 years to Suzette and how when she was 15 and he was 21 she wore a shirt to a show that Dee liked. In the early days, Twisted Sister dressed in women's clothes as they had come out of the 70s with flamboyant rockers like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. The next time his future wife came to see the band, she wore the same shirt since Dee had liked it so much and asked so many questions about it. Dee was wearing the exact same shirt and was excited to point that fact out to her! She didn't come to South Dakota for the show but did send an insulated bag with Dee and instructed him to bring it home filled with ribs from RibFest.
It may have been the Beatles that lit the initial music interest in Dee, but it was Alice Cooper, Robert Plant, Bon Scott and Ronnie James Dio that REALLY pushed him in the direction of what he wanted to make himself. A great frontman.
Snider is on the bill at RibFest tonight at the WH Lyon Fairgrounds. Gates are open with music starting at 4pm with Sioux Falls own Neo Johnson's followed by Stranger Than Fiction at 5:15. Stephen Pearcy of Ratt fame will hit at 6:30 followed by Dee Snider at 7pm. Tom Keifer of Cinderella plays at 8 and Rick Springfield will headline at 9:30.
Tickets are $15 at the gate for tonight's show.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Foghat, Head East and Sioux Falls band Guilty Pleasures Orchestra play Saturday starting at 4pm. Tickets for Saturday are $20.
The 17th annual Sioux Falls RibFest, presented by the Dollar Loan Center, runs through Sunday at the Fairgrounds.
Both Springfield and Pearcy stopped by the Academy Friday afternoon as well to do a short question and answer session and take some pictures with the students and fans.