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Jay Jay French – Guitars for Twisted Sister

Date: 12/19/08
Interviewed By: Rich Catino

Twisted SisterJay Jay French

1. Were there any other Twisted Sister shows professionally recorded that you wanted to release instead of the one at the Astoria, or was the Astoria show planned for DVD?

JAYJAY: We knew that show was great, but we didn’t know how it was going to translate to tape, which you never know until you see the playback. So we knew the night was special because everybody in the band walked off the stage and said it was special. We knew the night was special because the crowd went completely insane (not that they always don’t go insane) but there is levels of insanity. They went absolutely insane and it was England and we have a history of somehow rising to the occasion in that country. The night before we headlined a big festival in the mid lands and Brian Johnson from AC/DC came up and played with us, and that was special because we revere AC/DC. So that was special.

So the stars we aligned per say and the show was great. The original thought was the show at the Astoria would be shot for Pay Per View and then we forgot about it. Ummm… then occasionally I’d have conversations with the record label and they said “we gotta take a look at this show”. We have a mutual friend Haley Warren who is a rock/metal Dj in England who also happens to be a video producer (who has done a few projects) and she said she would love to have a crack at this concert. So I said “what would it be like if a fan edited our concert”. We gave her three songs and said go for it. We mixed three songs in the studio, sent the raw tracks to Haley, she edited it, we watched them and said “gheez that’s exactly what we thought it was. So we commissioned her to do it and then the label said lets make it a two for one package to make it worth while and that’s what we did.

Are there other shows in the can, yeah.., but you have to be judicious on how you spread out your product. We have many labels..Eagle Rock, Demolition, Rhino, and we you have that many partners you can’t screw anyone over. You have to spread these things out, last Christmas we had a DVD out, this year we have the “Live at the Astoria” DVD, next May it will be the 25th anniversary of the album “Stay Hungry” so Rhino is going to do a re release of the album with the remastered original record, plus a new song we just recorded called “30”, plus six or seven alternate versions of the songs from “Stay Hungry”, plus six or seven songs from the sessions that never were on the album.

So we have a lot of product to space out. Look..dont these Rap artists still release records ten years after they are dead?? Hahaha. Isn’t it amazing that Biggie Smalls continues to release records even after he is dead and 2 Pac seems to have a new album out every year. Brilliant! I mean lets record four hundred songs and have our wives release them every few years.

So like that, we are also trying to elongate the legacy of Twisted Sister.

2. I have read that Twisted Sister will be taking off the makeup after the anniversary celebration for “Stay Hungry”. Is this true?

JAYJAY: Yes that is what we will do after the 25th anniversary tour.

3. Do you feel the fans may be disappointed since it has only been about six years since the band started touring again with the makeup?

JAYJAY: Here..let me tell you a story. This past summer we played many festivals and one of the best we played since we came back was a one day festival in Holland. I think it was a Monsters of Rock or something like that. Imagine this as a fan….you get Kansas, REO SpeedWagon, Motorhead, Whitesnake, Twisted Sister, Kiss, Def Leppard, Journey in one afternoon. You get two stages and just hit after hit after hit. These European festivals are the best. We never played with Kiss so we were thinking this is our chance to take them out, you know its like a bloodsport with us. So what happens, the band gets to the festival..Dee’s flight leaves really late from New York due to a rain storm, in fact it leaves so late Dee’s on the tarmac in New York city waiting for the plane to take off, goes to sleep, wakes up still in New York. He lands one hour before we are to go on stage, two hours away by car. So we had to helicopter him in and couldn’t go on stage with any stage clothes. So for the first time we have to go on stage with T shirts and jeans.

Now let’s put this in perspective..its us Motorhead, Journey, Kiss, Def Leppard, us, and we want to be at our possible best, right?? And we walk on stage with t shirts and jeans. The next day in the paper there is a review of the festival.

Reviewer says great festival, great bands. But Twisted Sister was the only band who had a picture in the paper. What did they say about the other bands..”as great as Kiss and all these other bands are, Twisted Sister was the only band that resonated with everyone”. So what does that tell you about the makeup and if the fans will be disappointed? Its not gonna make much of a difference.

4. I actually saw you guys in Europe at the Wacken Open Air festival in 2003. I think you guys played right after Gamma Ray, if I am correct?

JAYJAY: Yeah that was great. What did you think? We closed the show on Saturday and the press said that we annihilated everybody. They said the mighty Slayer was wrecked by Twisted Sister, Haha, and listen I don’t say these things the press does. And I mean listen, I don’t take anything away from bands like Slayer (who headlined Wacken Friday) or Gamma Ray, or any of these other bands they are all great. But you go out there and do the best you can and hope for the best. I don’t say these things the press does. We played with the Scorpions as special guests in Canada at an out door show and we broke the out door record that ZZ Top set at 75,000 in Quebec, it was the Scorpions with Twisted Sister. Next day, the front page of the Quebec Daily paper was a kid dressed as Dee as it said “Twisted Sister and Scorpions (in little letters) 80,000 people”.

5. I also heard Twisted Sister will be making new music?

JAYJAY: Well so far we have this brand new song called “30” which will be on the 25th anniversary re release of “Stay Hungry” next year and we do intend on writing new music. We will expand on our project A Twisted Christmas because that was so successful, but we definitely plan on continuing on because there is life still in Twisted.

6. I think the album “Come Out and Play” gets over looked. It has some really good songs. Aside from the title track I also like “Out on the Streets”, “Kill or Be Killed”, “Lookin Out for #1”. Has the band ever considered taking out “The Fire Still Burns” or the title track and adding something else?

JAYJAY: I like that one too, it has some really good songs. This is how it works. Dee being the frontman and the guy who writes all the songs, has to like what he performs live. And I am pretty happy playing anything he writes but he doesn’t like playing a lot of these songs. I was reading an interview with Black Sabbath and they asked why they don’t play this or that song and they go “well Ozzy wrote it and doesn’t like it”. They can’t make him do it. I mean nobody should be playing a song they don’t want to play. But you know, I will say to Dee “why don’t you want to do this” and he sais “Well I don’t feel it”. Well you know what, you are the frontman and you have to feel it and be sincere and real. Right? So imagine this, your trying to tell the guy who creates this stuff that’s its great, your not telling him not to play his own stuff, your saying “we love this” and he still doesn’t want to do it. So you can’t make him do it.

This year I said look we have been playing “Under the Blade” every night since Dee wrote it in 1979 and I said I need break…and look I am the featured guitar player on that lead. I was really tired of playing that song. The band agreed to take it out and then I got a lot of bad emails. So I said ok I’m not gonna do that because you guys depend on that song. There is a lot of stuff I would like to do but Dee has to feel it for us to add it to the setlist.

7. What were some of the problems that led to “Love Is For Suckers” being an unsuccessful album?

JAYJAY: Well the band was breaking up at that time but we do play “Wake Up The Sleeping Giant” we just put it in the set last year. I love that song its great.

8. Were any shows professionally recorded during the “Come Out And Play” or “Love Is For Suckers” tours?

JAYJAY: No. not that I am at all aware of.

9. Are there any shows from the late 70s or early 80s that were taped and could be released onto DVD?

JAYJAY: Well since the band reformed, there is an amazing DVD that was recorded but done illegally from the Bang Your Head festival in 2004. Its really an extraordinary recording. It was done by an official video company and they should not have recorded it. We sued and stopped the release, it may see the light of day but the sound isn’t good it has to be remixed. But the performance is pretty ridiculous. That show was two weeks before we played Wacken in Germany and we did play “Stay Hungry” start to finish during that show. And since we looking at “Stay Hungry” start to finish this year it might not be a bad thing to release the performance to coincide with the 25th anniversary. It may happen but if it does it won’t come out until the end of the year because you have this “Stay Hungry” re release happening in May. So you have to spread everything out so as to not effect other releases.

We do have a lot of old video from the late 70s early 80s whether we can release it or not its very complicated, you know what publishing is all about. We look at it, think about it. We will see.

10. What are Twisted Sister’s plans for 2009?

JAYJAY: We will be touring Europe and the US playing “Stay Hungry” start to finish and since “A Twisted Christmas” was so successful we will be pursuing the Twisted Christmas musical project but I urge fans to check with the Twisted Sister website http://www.twistedsister.com for updates on all these projects and events.

11. Now after Twisted Sister take off the makeup, will you still play shows under the Bent Brother moniker?

JAYJAY: O well that’s gonna be difficult because now maybe Bent Brother will turn into Twisted Sister, Hahaha. Actually that’s kinda funny..I didn’t think of that one. Since Bent Brother is the ultimate Twisted Sister band (and if you go to Bentbrother.net you will read their story) maybe Bent Brother will be so annoyed that Twisted Sister isn’t wearing makeup that they insist upon it for occasional shows.

12. The Twisted Sister catalogue was reissued and remastered. Was that properly done?

JAYJAY: Some of it was, the remastering was done to the best they could. The stuff was recorded ok to begin with.. Its not like it was a Fleetwood Mac album. These were Marshall Amps recorded on tape in cheap studios. I’m curious to see what they can make “Stay Hungry” sound like because we never liked what the original sounded like.

13. Any plans for a box set?

JAYJAY: That’s up to Atlantic and Rhino Records. They control the ability to have that done and if they don’t deem it worthy then they wont do it. They allow me to license these records to distribute to other labels, but they show no indication towards doing a box set.

14. When you record new music with Twisted Sister, do you see it sounding pretty close to how the band sounded in the 80s? Does anyone in the band play on the same equipment?

JAYJAY: Have you listened to the Christmas album? We didn’t use amps on that record. That record was recorded 100% digitally with Line 6 Pods (which are outboard amp modeling devices so guitars can sound like they are coming from any number of different amplifiers), digitally created and sent directly to a digital recorder. We didn’t use a single amp. And your talking to a guy who loves tubes and analog and has spent a fortune on tubes and tube modifications. The whole Christmas album was done on Pro Tools with not a single amp. Bottom line..it wasn’t the equipment, it was the attitude. The playing is as good if not better and it trumped the technology.

15. Some of your most memorable moments since Twisted Sister reunited?

JAYJAY: Playing Korea, the 2001 benefit for the New York City Police and Fire Dept, the benefit for our soundman Charlie Burecko who needed a liver transplant, the benefit for the victims of the Station Fire that was certainly memorable, shows in Germany, Bulgaria. Playing in countries we have never played before like Spain, Greece, Mexico, Puerto Rico, we never played these places before the band broke up now we are huge in these places. It blows my mind, to me I am playing on house money every day. I can’t believe it.

You want a memory… We played a festival in Canada, the act before us was Bob the Builder. No, not a punk band or something, no it was Bob the Builder. Luckily there was a two hour change over and all those kids and parents left and all the dirt bags came in. I was on a dirt bag hunt I was afraid.

16. Is there anything Twisted Sister hasn’t achieved that you would like to still see happen for the band?

JAYJAY: Yeah we never played Madison Square Garden. We have played everything in New York but that place.

But if someone asks me, “what are the high points of the band’s career” and I say Marshal Amplifiers (if you’re a guitar player you will understand, if not you won’t care) called me in 1984 and gave me six stacks (Marshall never gives anything to anyone). When they called me I asked “why are you doing this”?, and they said “because we consider you one of the top three bands in the world”. I said who are the other two? They said “AC/DC and Van Halen”. That was a great phone call. The second achievement was in 1987 we made “Blackwell’s Worst Dressed Women’s List”, he said we looked like (laughing) a car crash in a whore house. Those are my two high points in the band.

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