Posts Tagged ‘Jay Jay French’

Ultimate interview – Jay Jay French: ”I laughed and enjoyed telling them to fuck off”

6 oktober, 2015

”I thought Metallica were a very gimmicky band.”


This summer Twisted Sister played in Sweden for the last time ever. Of course, swedish blog had to do the ultimate interview with guitarist Jay Jay French. It concerns stuff like Metallica, how they sneaked their own songs into the early sets and the fact that Love is for Suckers actually sucks. Here’s Jay Jay:

Please tell us about the early history and the name change.

– I auditioned for a band called Silver Star in late December 1972. I was offered the job at that audition. I thought the named sucked and told that to the drummer, who incidentally, hired me. He thought of the name Silver Star and was offended that I didn’t like it. I convinced the band to change the name. The band changed its name to Twisted Sister two months later, around mid February 1973.

And why Twisted SISTER? Why not Twisted Crew or Twisted Brother?

– Twisted Sister because we were a transvestitie rock band! An early nightclub promotion went something like: ”Twisted Sister, They ain’t no ladies, mister!”

Aha. I guess it is true then, that the make up all of you had proved that you were once a glam band.

– The original band was trying to be like the NY Dolls. 1972-73 was a very glam period in rock. We evolved over time to a less feminine and a more shocking, within quotation marks, form of make up.

You were once touring together with Metallica. When was this, and how do you regard this fact today – with Metallica being the biggest metal band on earth?

– I don’t think much about it. They opened up for us at a very big club in New Jersey a year before we toured with them. They didn’t go over very well. I thought they were a very gimmicky band and yes, I realize that that may sound strange coming from a band that looks like us.

– When we toured with them a year later I watched them every night and thought that they were better then when we first played with them. I also did notice that they were developing a very loyal following and I was more impressed as to the lifestyle effect that they had with their fans.

– In 1999 they headlined Woodstock ’99 and I watched the whole show as I was managing Sevendust at the time, who was also on the bill. I was very impressed as to how professional they had become. They certainly have proved themselves to be worthy of world wide fame. Since there is no band that has played more live performances then us, I can be very critical about every aspect of a band’s performance. I was impressed as to how classy Metallica has become as a live act. They get my highest respect along with AC/DC, Judas Priest and Motörhead.

Going back in time again. When did Dee Snider join the band, and how came that about?

– Eddie Ojeda joined officially on October 31st 1975. Dee joined in February 1976 after our booking agent convinced me that we could only make big money if we could do Led Zep covers. Dee had a great voice and he could sing Zep songs so I hired him.

So you played covers at that time? And when did you begin composing your own songs?

– The focus of a bar band or copy band in those days was to play all the most popular music of the time and particular style that a club would want to advertise. The club would advertise in the local rock paper and say things like: ”This Thursday we have Twisted Sister doing the best of Bowie, The Stones, Led Zep, Lou Reed”.

– Notice that it never says ”doing their own songs” that’s because no club owner wanted to risk people not coming because the thought that a band could write a good song was generally accepted to be a big negative.

– Dee presented his first song Come Back to the band shortly after we moved into a sort of band house in September of 1976. We learned it and started to play it by sneaking it into one of our sets without saying it was an original. Over time we kept adding original songs. The next song was Under the Blade which, as most fans know, not only was the title of the first album but is still performed at almost every show.

– We never just wanted to be a popular cover band. It was a long term plan to write our own music and get out of the bar scene. The bar scene, as big as it was, could not go on forever. if you didn’t plan an escape, you would never get to the next level. Over time, as we became even more popular, we started to announce that we wrote these songs until, eventually, we just played all of our own songs.

Dee Snider has said that he did not share the royalties because no one else contributed with the composing – is that how it was?

– I don’t write so it really doesn’t apply to me. Their may be others in the band who would disagree but that seems to always be an issue with bands. Also, for a time in the 80’s, Dee did share a portion of his song royalties with me.

Have you yourself ever tried to write your own songs?

– I write very quirky songs, not metal, although lately I have a writing partner in Nashville and we have written some country songs that I’m very proud of.

With all due respect – When I listen to Love is for Suckers I find nothing of the energy and the heavy hooks that made Stay Hungry such a great album – please share with us your thoughts upon this album, that you did not even play on if I understand correctly?

– I believe that a drum machine was used for all the songs. I also know that other guitarists were brought in to play. I did record guitar for the album but have no idea as to what wound up on the actual record.

You never joined any other band after the break up. Is this true? Why?

– By the winter of 1988, I had been going nonstop for 15 years. The band was heading toward the end of that chapter. Their were lawsuits looming, financial collapse and I was heading into a divorce. I needed to take stock of where I had been and where I was going. I needed to walk away for at least a year to sort out all my personal and professional issues.

Lawsuits looming – between who?

– Not between the band members. Lawsuits are part of the music business and 30 years ago we made certain deals with some companies that didn’t like the way we just ended and thought that they could intimidate me. These people know who they are and they have come crawling back over the years to apologize and to ask me to do business with them because we came all the back from oblivion. I laughed when I was contacted and enjoyed telling them to fuck off.

Okay. So you took time off. Then what?

– After a year I realized that I had no desire to perform or even pick up my guitar. I don’t think I even touched a guitar for five years after I went into retirement. I remarried, had a child and was quite content to never do this again. About ten years passed and I started to dream about what it would be like to play again. The band ended before the collapse of 80’s metal so we were not tainted by that period.

Why did drummer AJ Pero leave Twisted Sister in the mid 80’s?

– AJ left because he thought our songs were to simple. He was a very technical drummer. He told our manager that he was bored playing our music.

But you all decided to return?

– We returned, fully intact, like a time warp and the world went crazy and welcomed us back with open arms. All the shows we played and work that we put in paid off in ways that were completely surprising to us. We are now considered by many as the greatest live metal act on earth. It is an honor to have that reputation and we play to the best of our ability every night.

Personally, what is one of your best moments with Twisted Sister?

– There are many small historic moments and a couple of very big ones like the night that Phil Carson actually said that he was signing us to Atlantic Records. It seemed like the end of a very long road when it was actually just the beginning.

Recension: Twisted Sister – live, Töreboda

10 juli, 2015


Vad är skillnaden på ett pojkband som One Direction och Twisted Sister? Frågar du gitarristen och det senare bandets grundare Jay Jay French handlar det om tid. ”De har fans som stannar i tre år och sedan drar vidare till nästa band. Våra fans stannar i 40 år!” Det är så klart mer en flört till sin egen publik än en känga till pojkband, men det är också en sanning som upprepas ofta – hårdrockfans är trogna sina band. Även om de har haft downperioder, och skrivit fler låtar som snarare är mediokra än makalösa. Twisted Sister tillhör definitivt den typen av band, men lyckas framföra allt sitt material med häpnadsväckande engagemang. Att band är bättre live än på album brukar vara en klyscha, men i detta fall stämmer det.

Mycket av det där är Dee Sniders förtjänst. Det är han som är glasyren över de olika kakbitarna. Vältränad, energisk, karismatisk, impulsiv och fortfarande med intakt sångröst. Dessutom en mästare på att underhålla publiken mellan låtarna, som när han betonar att detta absolut är Twisted Sisters sista turné någonsin: ”Vi är inte som de andra banden som säger att de turnerar för sista gången och sedan kommer tillbaka tre år senare, som Scorpions, för att tappa det lilla hår de har kvar på scenen” säger han, och med ett snett leende lägger han till: ”Förlåt mig Klaus Meine!”


Halvvägs in i konserten lovar han att de två stora hittarna ska spelas, men det är inte på något sätt i ett underläge i stil med ”snälla lyssna lite på våra andra låtar” utan snarare för att låta förstå att de som bara är där för de två hitsen inte ska behöva gå hem besvikna: ”Vi hoppade över I wanna rock en gång – det slutade med att vi blev mordhotade.”

En stor del av konserten ägnas år nyligen bortgångne trummisen AJ Pero. Dee Snider tänker på honom som en del av det pris en människa måste betala för att nå sina mål, när han introducerar The Price – åttiotalets mest underskattade ballad. Jay Jay French (som var ovanligt talför inför den svenska publiken) berättar att AJ Pero själv hade handplockat Mike Portnoy för att ersätta honom den dag han själv inte kunde följa med, och han refererar också till ett samtal med AJ Pero dagen innan trummisen dog, för att på så sätt introducera The Fire still burns.


Till slut har bandet spelat sina två stora låtar, och följt upp med SMF som extranummer. Mina egna favoriter The Beast och Burn in Hell, den sistnämnde sjukt genomtänkt med det röda ljuset på Dee Sniders sataniska grin och gott om pyro, har också hörts för sista gången på svensk mark – som alltså råkade bli lilla Töreboda med sin numer etablerade festival. Klockan är halv två på Töreboda torg, och kvar framför scenen står trogna fans och njuter av vad de sett. En av dem är Pelle Gustavsson i Nifelheim, som sammanfattar hela den här recensionen i en enda kort mening: ”Det finns inget som kan toppa detta.”


Jay Jay French: ”Jag är alltid lite orolig när jag träffar en musiker”

29 maj, 2012

Det är bara några dagar kvar tills att Twisted Sister spelar på Sweden Rock. Ett band som slog igenom stort i Sverige 1984 genom Bagen, och vars videor och musik ledde många till att bli hårdrockare, samma roll som även Kiss har haft.

Båda gästskribenterna Kristian Svensson och Grimgoth var inne på detta – det där första bandet som startade allt.

Så jag var snabb med att ställa min enda fråga till gitarristen Jay Jay French när jag råkade komma i kontakt med honom inför ett Sweden Rock-reportage:

Twisted Sister nämns ofta som inkörsporten för många in i hårdrock, vilket ofta ledde vidare till tyngre grejer så som thrash, döds och black metal, både som fans och musiker. Vad känner du inför den rollen – inkörsporten?

– Så fort någon eller något band säger att vi var deras inspiration, så får det mig att känna mig bra, säger Jay Jay French.

– Det är svårt att exakt veta vad som får dem att känna sig så passionerade. Det kan vara att vi är de första band de någonsin såg, eller att något av våra album ändrade deras liv. Oavsett vilket, detta är vad som händer när du själv är passionerad musiker och den musiksjäl blir ett med det du gör på skiva eller på scenen.

– Det här kanske låter lite underligt – men jag är alltid lite orolig när jag själv träffar en musiker som betytt mycket för mig. Tänk om det är en skitstövel? I så fall kan jag inte lyssna hans musik igen. Det har faktiskt hänt några gånger. Jag vill inte berätta vem, men jag kan inte lyssna på deras musik igen. Så viktigt är det för mig att man respekterar sina fans oavsett hur trött man är.

– Om du träffar någon av dina idoler, och de är schyssta mot dig, då blir du ett fan för evigt.

– Jag träffade Mick och Keith in Rolling Stones 1966 i New York. Jag var tretton år gammal. De var väldigt schyssta. Det syntes på dem att de verkligen uppskattade att jag hade väntat på dem vid småbåtshamnen i flera timmar. Jag glömmer aldrig det, och jag försöker varje dag i hela mitt liv att alltid tacka varje band och musiker. Så mycket betyder det för mig.