Dee Snider greets horror with a grin
By Naughty Mickie
It was a bigger honor than I imagined when I received
the opportunity to speak with Dee Snider. The man has
his hands in numerous areas of the entertainment
industry and seems to be successful at whatever he
attempts. Part of this can be attributed to the projects
he selects, but much of it is due to experience and
Snider's current "hot" projects are Van Helsing's
Curse and their release, "Oculus Infernum: A Halloween
Tale" (Koch Records) and a re-recorded and expanded
version of Twisted Sister's "Still Hungry" effort
(Spitfire Records). But before looking to today, I
wanted to learn about Snider's roots so I could better
understand his creative drive.
Snider grew up in Long Island, New York.
"I can remember the day I decided to be a rock star,"
Snider recalls. "That was the day after the Beatles
appeared on the 'Ed Sullivan Show' and my father had
banned TV in our house at that time so I didn't see it,
but I remember going to the bus stop, everybody was
buzzing. It was '64, so I was nine, I guess fourth
grade. Everybody was buzzing and I said, What's going
on?' They said, 'Did you see it? The Beatles last
night?' I said, 'What's that?' 'It's a rock band.' I
said, 'Oh, yeah?' 'Yeah, everybody was screamin'.'
'Everybody was screaming?' I said, 'That's what I want
to be.' They were like, 'What?' I said, 'I want to be a
Beatle.' I didn't even know what that was. I knew what
rock music was. From that point on I decided I wanted to
be a performer and, not obviously going to be a Beatle,
but I wanted to be a rock star. Every day I was, 'I want
to be a rock star, I want to be a rock star, I want to
be a rock star.'"
Snider has sung all his life, he was in the choir in
church and is a classically trained counter-tenor.
"My mom sang in the church choir, my ancestors did,
so that part was in my blood." Snider says, "In the
early days I used to play a little guitar, but my
singing was better than my guitar playing by far. I
could be in a lot better band if I would just put the
guitar down, so I stopped playing the guitar."
Snider attended one year of college, as his parents
wanted him to have a safety net in case music didn't
"I dropped out because if you have a safety net,
you'll use it. The only way is up and if you have to
survive, you have a better chance at living, so I went
for it," Snider states.
Snider has worked since he was 12. He did the usual--
paper routes, mowing lawns, but his worse job was
cleaning bathrooms at seaside resorts for two summers.
"It makes you hate the beach," Snider chuckles.
Currently Snider lives and broadcasts his radio shows
in Long Island, New York. I comment that he has returned
"Yeah, sort of like a kid who can't escape. It's fun
to be away, but it's good to be back with your family
and friends. It's an area you know, there's a comfort
factor. I gripe about it a lot, but it's a love-hate
relationship," Snider replies.
He tells me that he doesn't like California because
it's so nice all the time and then Snider doesn't want
to be in the studio, he wants to get out and play hooky.
On the other hand, in New York, the weather is bad
enough to make it easier to stay in and work and then
play on an occasional nice day.
Snider has been married to his wife, Suzette for 28
years. She is a makeup artist and costume designer and
has lent her talents to Van Helsing's Curse, as well as
Snider's film, "Strangeland" and his band Twisted
"She's been very much the woman behind the man. She's
been my partner in crime," Snider says.
The couple has four children, the oldest Jesse, 22,
was an MTV VJ and is now hosting a HBO pilot, as well as
being involved in music.
I ask Snider about his free time.
"I've got a really bad habit, I tend to make my
hobbies my job," Snider admits. "I continually do that.
I get a new hobby and then I try to figure out how to
make it my living."
Lately Snider has been enjoying motorcycle riding (on
an Indian V-Twin Chief and a custom chopper from Bourget
in Phoenix, Arizona) which has evolved into doing
charity work for the March of Dimes and VH1 Classic's
show "All Roads Lead to Sturgis." A possible Ozzfest
type tour with motorcycle rallies leading to Sturgis is
in the works for next year.
I begin steering Snider back toward our main reason
for speaking by getting his thoughts on the music scene.
"I'm a big fan of contemporary rock," Snider says. "I
like heavy stuff. I've always liked heavy music. If it's
got screaming guitars, the vocalist is going for it, the
drums are down, I'm there."
He likes groups like Limp Biskit, Godsmack and
Disturbed, anything heavy with attitude.
Of course I have to ask, "What do you think of the
"Well, it's a great place to pick up chicks," Snider
laughs. "I wrote 'Strangeland' and before it was
produced, I remember the original screenplay, the
Internet was just starting out, but it was really in the
The film "Strangeland" relates the tale of a
sociopath who uses the Internet to lure people to his
home where he tortures them.
"I remember when I wrote my first draft I had a 2300
bit rate on the modem, now your average home thing is
56,000 and there's cable modems. It was so slow," Snider
goes on. "When I first got online, with my devious mind,
I said, wow, you can just find people that fit who
you're looking for and reach out and talk to them? This
could really be used for evil purposes. So I started
researching and I had the idea what if my guy used this
to find his victims, can I do that?
"So I went online and did exactly what Captain Howdy
did." Snider continues, "I found a profile that fit my
profile that I liked, a girl, and then created a profile
of myself that matched their profile and then found out
when they were in a chat room, went in knowing who they
were, knowing what they were into and came into the room
and said, 'Hey, any Nine Inch Nails fans here?' 'Oh
yeah, blah, blah.' We'd chat and then I'd say, 'Want to
come to a party?' ,Yeah, yeah, yeah.' Then I'd pull the
plug out and sit very nervous in my room saying, 'OK
this is kind of fucked up. I didn't want them to come
over, but they were going to come over. I'm a 40 year
Snider tells me that he's very hands-on with his own
children. He keeps the computer in his office and they
know that he knows how to check their history. He pays
attention to what they're doing.
"You can't completely isolated them." Snider
explains, "I don't want to be oppressive. Sometimes it's
tough when you spy on them a little bit and find out
things you don't really want to know, but it doesn't
fall into the realm of doing anything wrong, it falls
into the realm of 'oh, this boy thinks they're a
father.' I hope their mother doesn't find out. At the
same time, you have to watch them."
So how did Snider's interest in horror start?
"As a kid I was terrified of horror," Snider admits.
"I think it's what scares you, you're drawn to it. I got
over my fear and became entranced by it, so maybe it was
sort of like a challenge, overcome your fear and it's
like dare me, dare me go, make it more, make it worse,
make it creepier, scarier, more violent."
So when Snider wrote "Strangeland," his goal was to
create something that was scary to him.
"When I wrote it the first person I gave it to was my
wife, Suzette, she'd been my sounding board for years,"
Snider relates. "She went upstairs and she read it and
she came down the stairs and had it hanging by her side,
I remember very clearly, she was looking down at the
ground. I said, 'So?' She goes, 'Do you have something
you want to tell me?' I go, 'What?' She goes, 'What the
fuck is this? What sick shit--' She was a horror fan
too, but this was like a new level. I said, 'Honey, it's
my fears, not my dreams.' She said, 'OK.'"
Snider says he was so bored with horror films because
they were all the same thin-- fear of being chased and
fear of dying.
"What else is more scary than dying? What's scarier
is to be helpless and to suffer," Snider answers
himself. "Death can be a relief. When you're running
there's always a possibility you can get away, but if
you start out with you're helpless and you're not going
to die that to me is scarier. I built 'Strangeland' from
"I told my wife that with my script I basically
thought of the idea of Internet crime, that type of
Internet crime," Snider continues. "A few years later,
some Columbia University guy was the first person who
lured someone in and was holding her captive and
torturing her. I said, 'Hon, did you see the paper? He
stole my idea.' My script had not been produced yet. My
wife said, 'Honey, do you really want to be known as the
guy who invented that form of Internet crime? Then they
would name it after you, "today another Snider was
performed"?' I said, 'Yeah, you're probably right.'"
"Strangeland " fans, like myself, will be please to
learn that after five years on hold, Snider just got the
OK to go ahead with "Strangeland 2." He had just
received that news the day before we spoke! His next
step will be to make a deal with a studio and go into
production, hopefully by the end of this year. Some of
the characters from the first movie will return.
"I like the basic building block that reality is
scarier than fantasy. You can say, oh that couldn't
happen and allow the mind to escape the situation. But
if it can happen, it makes it creepier, it makes it more
disturbing, if the possibility is that it could really
happen to you," Snider says.
The "hero," Captain Howdy, will return in the next
film and Snide has tried to make his resurrection
"What happens next?" Snider tells me, "In our
society, the name of the movie 'Strangeland 2'is 'The
Cult of Personality,' with the media attention now, the
people, villains, serial killers, murderers are put upon
and become anti-heroes and larger than life. I said what
would happen to these people? They would get so much
media attention, there would be a spotlight on all these
people. A high profile case like this, the world would
know about it."
The second film will pick up a year after the first
one on the anniversary of the day Howdy was arrested the
second time and follow him, the daughter, the police
officer and Robert Englund's character, Jackson Roth,
and find out where are they now, emotionally and
physically, and what's happening.
There's been talk of Snider hosting a horror-based
cable channel, but I needed his help in sorting out the
facts. What happened was that the Horror Channel
approached Snider to act as their host and then the
company split into Scream Network and Horror Channel.
Both companies wanted him, but the split had affected
the channels and resulted them in going different
directions, yet not getting ahead. A year later, nothing
had come to fruition. Then Scream TV announced it was
going to launch high definition and has approached
Snider for a project. One of the first projects was to
broadcast the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village, New
York this past October.
Snider recalls a Halloween parade he saw in Santa
Monica, California, "We were filming a Twisted Sister
video, part of it, in a storefront on Santa Monica
Halloween night. We were in the storefront working and
there was a whole parade going past. So I spent a lot of
time sitting in a van outside watching. I had the doors
on the side of the van open, I was watching, but people
didn't really see us. We were huge, we were famous at
that time, so we were very identifiable. I'm enjoying it
and people were walking by and most of them didn't look
into the van. This drag queen walks by and sees me. He
turns and goes, 'I'm going to burn in hell.' He starts
singing a freaked out version of 'Burn in Hell' for me,"
Snider laughs. "It was a very funny memory. But I'm glad
that the gay community enjoys my music, it's for
Finally back around to Van Helsing's Curse, Snider
tells me that he wants to clarify that the "Van Helsing"
movie is not related to his project. In fact, the
filmmakers were worried because they didn't have a
trademark -- Snider owns it. They threatened him, but he
had had it for a long time and still, Snider told them
to go ahead and make the film. He was glad because the
movie at least set the tone of who the character is and
that it's related to horror.
"The film was disappointing," Snider says of "Van
Helsing." "It wasn't that bad, but it could have been
more. When the movie came out people went, Eh.' That's
not the reaction you want, that's the worst possible
reaction. I'd rather hear, 'I hated it,' like when 'Strangeland'
first came out. The reviews were brutal. They were
personal attacks. Instead of talking about the movie,
they talked about how maybe that I should be forced to
have a lobotomy and all kinds of thoughts that way.
Could we talk about the movie at least? Not me
personally-- 'his parents should never have had him.'
(My film company) said, 'What should we do?' I said,
'Put that on the poster.' They said, 'What?' I go, 'Are
you kidding? If the mainstream press likes my movie I'm
dead. If they say "Oh, it's a great horror film," that's
gotta blow. But as a horror fan, if I read in the
mainstream press that the writers should be forced to
have a lobotomy, I want to see that movie.' Then you've
got my attention."
"The reaction that you could be permanently damaged,
emotionally and mentally damaged, by seeing the film. I
was really mortified," Snider says and then tells me
that he originally wanted to do an NC-17 version, but
learned that it would be hard to get it screened, so he
made it R.
The rating people wanted him to tone it down. They
felt the man in the penis piercing scene was suffering
too much. There was no blood, you didn't see the actual
"It was so disturbing as if they saw it. They never
saw a thing. Then they tell me that, but they didn't see
a thing, what? Am I showing too much? I pared the movie
down even further, but they couldn't even handle, the
subject matter was too disturbing for them," Snider
When "Strangeland" was released, the usual R rating
warning was changed to include "scenes of torture."
"It's still brutal. It's the best stuff, let the mind
go," Snider sums up.
Van Helsing's Curse's effort, "Oculus Infernum: A
Halloween Tale," is unusual as it is primarily a musical
work with the few lyrics sung in Latin. Snider narrates
each chapter of the story and then the music tells the
tale. The selections range from classical to rock and
are quite intriguing, for example "Moonlight Sonata," a
piece not usually associated with horror, is used on the
"When you hear it, 'Moonlight Sonata' is not usually
in that context, but it's very haunting and that was our
requirements, either creepy or spooky or haunting,"
Snider explains. "Haunting works too and when we kick
into that, it's one of my favorite moments in the thing,
it's unexpected and it really works."
Snider's production team for the project includes Joe
Franco and Al Pitrelli. The trio make up Widow-Maker
Productions and worked together on all of the effort's
details-- "Moonlight Sonata" was Pitrelli's idea, while
Snider suggested "Black Sabbath."
"It was the oddest creative process I've ever
experienced in the most positive way," Snider comments.
The idea came to Snider when he saw the Transatlantic
Siberian Orchestra at Christmas a couple of years ago
and wanted to do something similar. He looked for the
next biggest holiday, which is Halloween, and knew there
was little music for it. He then called up his old Widow
Maker band buddies and told them about the idea and they
"I want to tell a story and I want the music to
represent that story," Snider told his associates. "I
want classical music with rock and some original pieces.
I said 'No vocals, no lead vocals.' They're like, 'No
lead vocals?' I said, 'No, I want a choir, Latin only.'
I had a very clear vision.
"They said, 'So what's the story?' I said, 'I'll be
right back.' I had no idea," Snider chuckles. "So I went
and I wrote 'Patience,' the opening soliloquy and I
brought it in. They're like, 'This is great.' We started
throwing around some ideas, what would fit the mode of
what we wanted to do and we came up with the 'Tubular
Hell' section. We finished and we're like that's great,
awesome. They all turned to me and said, 'What's next?
What happens next?' And I'm like, 'I'll be right back.'
Because I didn't know, I didn't have the story in my
head until I wrote the story. I was just going around
corners and opening doors and never knowing the end
game. Of course I wanted good to win out over evil, at
Snider wrote each piece as they went along, but when
the album was finished, he realized a piece of the story
was missing. Snider told his team, wait, and ran into
the next room and returned with the part where the
entity realizes he's losing, he's feeling emotion,
especially pain. and then the piece continues.
Snider shares a interesting story about the use of
Latin in the work, "We wanted to get a Latin translation
to the lyrics so we found a Web site run by the Catholic
Church. Joe Franco, the producer, found the site and he
sent them the lyrics to 'Black Sabbath.' They translated
them and they sent them back and wrote a little note, it
said, 'It seems that we're on the same side' or 'We're
fighting for the same cause,' something like that. One
thing people don't know about Black Sabbath, or most
people don't know, is they're not satanic, lyrically
they were very much the other way. The way I wrote about
evil, it's more from the side of good as a cautionary.
The people who said oh, they're devil worshippers, but
Geezer Butler wrote the whole lyrics for 'Black Sabbath'
and he didn't write evil lyrics, he wrote very positive
religious lyrics. And it was funny that they wrote that
we come from the same place."
So who is Snider hoping will want to listen to this
"I'm not aiming at five-year-olds, we wanted it to be
a little more adult, more like a PG-13 kind of tone, but
11 to 70, that works for me. I like the mass appeal of
the music and I'm hoping that it has a much broader
appeal. It's not just for fans of Twisted Sister by any
means, it's far removed from that. It has a much broader
appeal," Snider says.
"I have really long range plans for this project, my
end game is for this to be a musical part of people's
expanded Halloween experience," Snider continues.
"Halloween is now more than trick or treating, it's a
haunted house, it's a scary movie, it's a Halloween
party, it's going to an amusement park for a fright fest
or whatever they have and we want this to become
people's musical element to it."
Snider is already talking to Six Flags and Universal
about Van Helsing's Curse and is even looking at Las
"We want to be everywhere, we want to invade
Halloween," Snider states, adding that it will probably
take 5-10 years for this to happen. He also has plans
for a play, books and other merchandise.
"That said, it all starts with a foundation," Snider
reveals his wisdom. "Above all else, it's a musical
project and if the music isn't good, it's a house of
cards, you can't build anything on it's foundation.
Every effort went into making the greatest record we
could and if the other things work they did because
first and foremost this is a great record to put on. Put
it on just to listen to it, put it on during trick or
treating, put it on at Halloween party, put it on in the
background. It works. It's a good record so we felt
we've done our job."
I ask Snider for some advice for aspiring artists.
"I always have two bits of advice," replies Snider.
"One is the phrase I have tattooed on my arm, it's
Latin, it means 'never let the bastards wear you down.'
There are so many people out there who are ready to say
no and so few who are ready to say yes. Then there's
some that are not allowed to say yes, but they can
reject things. You just can't let yourself be defeated
by negative thinking close-minded individuals. You've
got to believe in yourself, have faith and be honest
with yourself. If you've got something to offer and you
believe you've got something, stick to your guns and
don't let them wear you down. The other advice I give is
once you have success, parlay. That's our word for the
day, children, parlay. Don't expect that it's going to
go on forever." Snider continues, "We all think that
we're going to be in that elite group of the Ozzys, the
Eric Claptons, the Billy Joels, have careers of a
lifetime and have lifetime success. For most of us it's
a three to five year block and nowadays, it's only one
to three and you've got to be ready to say that's what
I'm doing now, that's what's succeeding now, how can I
parlay this into my next thing. What am I going to do
"We wake up and we're 30 years old, we have 50 more
years to live and the million we made just ain't gonna
last. We have no training for anything else and we have
no idea of what we're going to do," Snider goes on.
"It's shocking. It's a rude awakening. It's better to be
aware of the reality of the business and say OK, this is
my first part, my first step, my first chapter, and I've
succeeded, where am I going next? How can I take what
I've already done and bring it somewhere else?"
Snider's success is proof in the pudding so to speak,
as with Van Helsing's Curse, many of his experiences,
from classical training, rock, writing, voice-over work
and more has gone into the album to make it work.
Snider's future is busy. Twisted Sister has reunited
for selected shows and re-released "Still Hungry" with
added songs. They have remade the album the way they
wanted it done and it has been self-produced. Snider has
also filmed a pilot for VH1's reality show "Meet the
Family," is hosting VH1 Classic's biography show "For
the Record," working on his film "Strangeland 2: Cult of
Personality" and hosts the "House of Hair" radio show
which is syndicated nationally on 170 plus stations. If
that's not enough, he has just started nights on a new
radio program in Philadelphia, which will go into
syndication as well.
"So, I'm not doing much. I'm just sitting around on
my laurels," Snider laughs. "There was a time after the
demise of Twisted and the bottom fell out of the heavy
metal rock scene that I was flat busted and I thought
what the hell am I going to do? I have three kids and a
wife and I think I need to reinvent myself. Thank God I
was able to."
Enlightened and impressed, I bid Snider adieu, but
not without this final warning.
"Accept Van Helsing's Curse now or later, the choice
is yours," Snider firmly states. For more information on
Dee Snider and his myriad of projects, visit