It's easy to say that Dee Snider is famous, but it's hard to really understand just how famous he really is until you've seen all 6'1" of him stroll into the VICE lobby and witnessed the way millennial necks snapped around to catch a glimpse. That's exactly what happened the day he came by for an interview, leaving everyone from the receptionist to my generally unflappable Noisey colleagues more than a little starstruck. It didn't hurt that he showed up in full rockstar regalia, confident and showy in leather pants, shades, and his trademark mane of frizzy blonde hair scraped back into a slick, no-nonsense ponytail, his heavy silver jewelry glinting. As we made our way through the lobby past a few people who looked positively agog, I overheard the whispers—"Oh my god!"
When I took him to the office kitchen to grab a cup of coffee, we were quickly surrounded by a small coterie of starstruck VICE employees who helpfully proffered their advice on using our temperamental coffeemaker. Black coffee in one hand, dadishly practical umbrella in the other, a thoroughly fussed-over Snider then strode out towards our roof deck so that we could snap a few photos, grinning like a returning heavyweight champ. As someone who's been in the public eye for longer than I've been alive, he was used to the attention but you could tell he still drank it in.
I don't blame my coworkers for being surprised to see Snider wandering through the lobby. The man's a giant in more ways than one; he's been one of heavy metal's most recognizable larger-than-life characters for decades as the flamboyant frontman for hair metal icons Twister Sister. In heavy metal terms, Snider has also long been the people's champion—he famously went to bat for the genre during PMRC-panicked 80s, testifying against censorship at a Senate hearing alongside Frank Zappa and John Denver in 1985. After that, as Twisted Sister's star steadily began to fade, Snider refused to go gently into that good night. Rather, the sinewy native New Yorker stayed hungry.
He got into radio, launching his long-running House of Hair and Dee Radio shows. He wrote (and starred in) a horror film, Strangeland. He got into voice acting. He got into commercials. He popped up as a narrator and talking head all over VH1. He got into reality TV (which ensured that a whole new generation became familiar with his inimitable voice, to say nothing of his look). He did Broadway, touring as a cast member of Rock of Ages and staging his own Christmas musicals. His latest project took him to the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, where he's been involved with their new Louder Than Words: Rock, Power & Politics exhibit (which touches on many subjects close to Snider's heart, from campaign songs to feminism) and played at the exhibit's opening event. On top of all that, he's getting ready to drop his first solo album, which, in true Dee Snider fashion, he introduced to the world not via intimate bar show or Soundcloud leak, but during a mainstage performance at Chicago's Riot Fest.
The man behind "We're Not Gonna Take It" has literally done it all, and is arguably more successful now than he ever was during his bonafide rockstar days. I wanted to talk to him about that—about the strange nature of fame—but, Dee Snider being Dee Snider, we ended up talking about a whole lot else besides. As anyone who's listened to his radio show (or spent more than thirty seconds in his presence) knows full well, he loves to talk, and has quite a lot to say.
So, mischief managed, he and I headed down into the belly of the office to commandeer a tiny conference room. Our conversation bounced between his black metal-loving daughter's tattoos to the First Amendment and his fraught relationship with Donald Trump (who Snider asked to stop using "We're Not Gonna Take It" as Trump's campaign progressed). We talked a lot about his upcoming album (which we're streaming below), too, his respect for Black Lives Matter, and the power of a "positive fuck you."
It was a wild ride, to say the least.
Noisey: This new album of yours is going to surprise people. It's not heavy metal at all—it's straight up mainstream radio rock!
Dee Snider: I'm trying to make contemporary rock 'n' roll music. My age is what it is, but I'm not a person who lives in the past. I'm not a glory days guy. Right now are my glory days. Ten years from now, those will be my glory days; I can't wait for 30 years from now, those will be my glory days. It's not a good thing for humans in general for you to think that your best days are past. The evidence is out there. Stephen King talks about how his greatest work is written thirty years ago. It's frustrating to think that—to think that my best-selling work was in my 20s, [but] at the same time I'd like to show you this [new music] as something that I'm passionate about now.
It's really cool that you still have the drive to do this. I spoke with Lars from Metallica recently, and he says that the real reason he still does it because they still have fun. It seems like you have a lot of fun.
And that's the key too, if it's not fun and challenging, if you're going through the motions of it, I'm not interested. To that end, I'm saying farewell to Twisted Sister. We've been doing reunion shows now for longer than we were together for the first time, which I keep pointing out, like, 'Guys, it was a reunion! I love ya, but...', but at the same time, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly hoping for different results. Not that we were hoping for different results, at the same time I want to feel challenged and I want to have fun. And, bravo Lars! They seem very much to be doing what they always have done, but they are enjoying it and having fun. I know it is a frustration for them, they put their all into every record, yet people are still talking about something that they did when they were children. We were touring together when those records came out, you know, Master of Puppets and Ride The Lightning, those records that define them. It's frustrating when people don't want you to change, but at the same time, they're not willing to support if you try and do the same thing over, they say it's not as good as the stuff you did before! It's a double standard. It sucks.
So many fans want you to stay trapped in amber…they don't want you to grow up.
Exactly! It's so weird, at [the] Rolling Stone [office], in the entrance, there's a smashed Gibson SG guitar trapped in Lucite. It's like a frozen moment. It's a weird metaphor for what you were just saying. So, will people give me a shot? Will they give me a chance? I know there are those that, the minute they put on [single] "We Are the Ones"—and you know, the song, it's aggressive. This album is more punk driven, and people will say, 'Well, where's that come from?' and well, there wouldn't be "We're Not Gonna Take It" without my love for the Sex Pistols. I've always liked punk and metal, so there's always that influence in there whatever we became and we were, so you shouldn't be surprised to hear it in there. And punk also contains the attitude and anger and frustration that I think is missing from a lot of rock today.
The stuff you hear on the radio, or in the big arena tours—there's not a lot of that fire you find in more underground bands.
To me, I call that the middle finger [ holds up middle finger] and it's lacking. Too much whining, although that's kind of mellowed a bit since the grunge and emo eras passed. Musically I don't mind it, I just—don't complain! Fight back! Stand up, don't complain, at least say "fuck you!" You know what I mean? That is lacking.
And with this album, I wasn't planning on doing this music. I was planning on shutting the door. I met this producer and songwriter named Damon Ranger, a chance meeting. He said to me, "You, Dee Snider, could appeal a whole new audience with the right music."
People know you, whether it's from Twisted Sister or from the many other things you've done.
I said, 'Really?" He told me that I was a brand, people know me. He said, 'You're the voice of rebellion, and you're timeless and iconic. You have all these people that know you, but you haven't given them anything to connect with. With a contemporary record, they can connect with you.' It was just a chance meeting at a radio show. I tried my hand for the first time in 30 years in writing a new song. I recorded a couple of things, and played them for my wife Suzette, who's been with me for 40 years. She's putting on her makeup, says nothing. I go, 'What, you don't like it?' and she says, 'It's okay, Same old thing.' I said that I was the same old guy! She said, 'Well, is there somebody who could help you try something new?' and I told her about meeting Damon Ranger awhile back. she said, 'Fucking call him!'
I reached out, and asked him what he had in mind. He said my message— the message of rebellion, standing up for yourself, believing in yourself, fighting back—is needed now more than ever. You need the messenger, and the music to take your message. So with the help of his songwriting and his people he works with, songs were created that I could bring my message to, that's always been my message. I never sang about sex, drugs and rock n' roll. That's not my bag, baby. I'm about, 'Fuck you! You're not going to stop me or us. Stand fuckin' up and be heard, people!' Let your voice be heard, don't be part of the silent majority. That is the true silent majority—those in the middle, not on the extreme right or left, those average Janes and Joes trying to figure it the fuck out, make the right call. We're being led by these two sides pulling us around. The loudest voice in the room making the choices for us, making the decisions, giving us these shitty choices we have right now. Those weren't the middle's choices, those came out of craziness on both sides. The two most unlikeable people in the world are competing against each other to see who's going to win "Most Unlikeable."
It would be funny if it wasn't real.
It's terrifying. This is our country! But, so anyway, that's been my message, and joining up with Damon, he's helped me create a range of music and sounds alien to me. I was sometimes going in saying, 'Wow, can I do this?' not because I don't like contemporary music, but because this record's more Foo Fighter-y and 30 Seconds to Mars-ish, there are even Imagine Dragons moments on there. I enjoy listening to those bands, but at the same time…me, doing that? I found my voice and I found my place and I'm proud of it and I love it. I had to re-learn things and find my place here.
You're you, though—you've always been a fighter for heavy metal. You literally went to bat for us. You don't have to worry about being labeled as a sellout or that you're "getting soft." You've been fighting the same fight since before so many people were even born.
I've dealt with that accusation. I loved the fact that people told us that Stay Hungry, our biggest record, was where we sold out. I laughed because I wrote that album two years before. I always worked ahead. When we were recording Under The Blade, I was working on the songs for You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll. When we were recording that, I was working on the songs for Stay Hungry. When people say that that was our sellout record, they don't understand I wrote that before we lost our first record deal. I was married with a baby, I was broke, the band wasn't performing, it was winter and I was in a studio apartment, and I wrote that album, Stay Hungry…hence the name. I wrote these songs at the darkest, bleakest moments of my life. And they're sittin' there going, 'Yeah, they sold out." We sold out because we sold records, and we sold records because it was genuine and heartfelt. It was the most real thing I ever wrote. I was hungry, miserable and angry. We thought we were over. We had lost our indie deal with Secret Records, who put out Under The Blade. We were out of work. We thought we were done. That's when we thought we were done… so FUCK you! Fuck you, assholes. What do you fuckin' know?
Is it harder to write music now that you're happy?
The band started having problems before Stay Hungry. We were already coming apart at the seams. Because of the situation of the band, I wound up having to stay in the studio with the producer to make sure he wouldn't destroy our album, instead of starting working on the next record. Which would've been great, at a time when we had not broken big, we had some success with You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll in Europe, but we were still struggling. So it would've been a great time to write that record, so instead, I wrote Come Out and Play in the 80s after I had a million dollar house, five cars, two boats and now, I am happy as a fuckin' pie, man. I have done it, I've shown the world—I'm like, 'Yay! I'm doin' the fuck you dance!' I am sitting by the pool, with my house, my cars, and my boats, and I'm thinking, ' Whew...I've got nothing.' I'm not mad! Metallica, I don't know how they do it. I'm not angry, so I'm trying to write the next song about teen angst and frustration, and I'm a rich rock star and I've got everything I ever dreamed about. Now what?
So now, coming into this at a point in my life where I'm happy, I'm set, I living my dream. It's a good question; I haven't really thought about why am I able to do this now. I think I'm able to do this now because, being older, I see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm feeling a responsibility to inspire people and to remind people of the importance of fighting for themselves and fighting back. I did it, and you can do it too. I was that schmo in high school that nobody hung out with, I wasn't popular, I didn't fit in anywhere and I wasn't smart enough to be an intellect, not athletic enough to be a jock, not weird enough to be a freak. I was like the middle of nowhere man. I'm that kind of voice, I can lift people up. I can get peoples' attention too. Oddly, I was just asked by the Grammy Committee to go to Washington for Grammys on the Hill, where they are lobbying for artists' rights. They have been lobbying for 15 years. They asked me if I could come. The senators were running out of their offices to meet me, they wanted pictures with me, they were inviting me in. The respect level and awareness skyrocketed. I'm meeting with people on both sides. I feel a bit of a responsibility to say something. If you see something, say something.
People are listening now. You're like an elder statesman of rock 'n' roll.
I am! I am inspired by these young bands, they have a fire in their heart and their passion inspires me. It reminds me that this is what it's all about. I'm feeling something.
You've always had that kind of vibe—like a "positive fuck you."
My world has never been half empty, it has always been half full. I've always viewed life as amazing, as a gift. It's what you make it. I'm incredibly positive. A "positive fuck you?" You're good. I've never heard that before. You're paying attention. Being a writer is paying attention. I'm a writer too, but in a different way.
Getting out stories that people need to hear.
You need to absorb the characters of people. I write screenplays. I've written many over the years. I wrote Strangeland, that cult movie. I've written television shows that have sold but haven't been produced. I wrote a musical called "The Rock 'n' Roll Christmas Tale that has been shown in 2 cities so far. I love writing and it's the least limiting thing you can do. As long as people can read it and believe it, your job is done. It doesn't matter how old Quentin Tarantino is, he's a white nerd, [but] he writes amazing black characters. Black actors say that his words speak to him. God bless 'em.
You've dabbled in so many different creative pursuits. Have you ever thought about writing about music?
I have not done that type of writing. I've never thought about it, no. I have moments when I see the music and I'm really fired up. It's a great joy to feel like a fan again, because once you see how the trick is done, it's hard to view it like magic. You get into a business because you're mystified by it, and then they pull back the curtain. So when you have those moments when you get lost in the music again, and I don't want to analyze it. I feel blessed when that happens.
And to then get to pick up the phone and call the band and go, 'Hey, it's Dee Snider,' and their reaction is like, '...What? Dee?! " and I tell them, 'Dude, I love your records! I have the T-shirt!' and you know, I didn't get to do that when I was a kid. You couldn't call the Beatles, or Led Zeppelin, or Black Sabbath back then. Now I just pick up the phone.
One of the perks of being a rockstar, I guess! You know, there aren't a lot of rock stars left…
Someone was telling me that this was the great failing of contemporary rock. I go to shows and festivals, and I see that the rock star is virtually gone. You can't tell the band, from the crew, from the catering people anymore. I've often spoken to many different ones. If you're the caterer, you get as much respect as the band. Being The Dee, the band would float in. When the band arrived, you knew the band arrived. To me, that was the magic. I didn't want to see guys that looked like me, I wanted to see people that looked like aliens species. It was nice to find out later that they were from, like Arizona, and that gave me hope that I could become an alien, too. 'I'm from the suburbs, I have a chance!" But the rock star is dying, and it's sad.
It feels like Prince and Lemmy were the last aliens.
Yeah, and Lemmy was an alien that walked amongst us. Did you see the Lemmy documentary? Like me, and I'm not saying this to put myself in Lemmy's category, I just walk around. At Rolling Stone, they were like, 'Where's your people?' I have people, but I don't need people to walk me around. My wife set me straight a few years ago. It was after I'd been on tour for 18 months, my first big tour, we'd traveled the entire world, and we were going away on a trip. We got to the airport and she said, 'Okay, go check us in,' and I was lie, 'Uh... I don't know how to check in.' She was like, 'You just toured the world, and you don't know how to check in?!' I said, 'Well, people checked us in hen we got to the airport,' and she just said, 'Check us in! You'll figure it out!" [laughs]. She really brings me down to earth, which really is the best thing.
Having had that strong, unshakeable relationship with your wife for so long, do you think that's what's kept you moving in the right direction?
It absolutely has. I'm not going to say that I didn't nearly destroy it with that rockstar bullshit. When I became so myopic and out of control, we nearly broke up because she wasn't going to put up with it. I didn't want to hear anybody tell me anything but 'yes,' because I'm fuckin' Dee Snider. This was 1984, and people stopped saying no. People were always telling you 'yes.' The last thing you want to hear when you come home is someone telling you that you're not right. When I would no longer accept I could possibly be wrong, we nearly came apart. Fortunately, I got taken out and sobered up emotionally, and we made it through and we are still together. She's that voice that I don't want to hear. She's the voice of truth. My son is a struggling musician; his name is Jesse Snider. His record just came out, it's called 16. He dedicated it to his mother. He says that her voice is the one that is right when he doesn't want it to be. It's the truth. You need to have people to tell you you're wrong telling you that you made a mistake.
She's also my biggest fan. She tells me that I have value and that I should be making music. I've always written and done work by myself. I did really well on The Celebrity Apprentice, but I was a little bit too much of a lone wolf. I'm learning to work with people.
Do people still tell you no?
In the entertainment industry, it's an industry of "yes people." But I surround myself with people that tell me no, who love me and respect me but are not that all impressed. My manager who signed Twister Sister, who has been with me for years, will say no. Damon Ranger, because he is who he is, will argue with me. I recognize the importance of that. You should have sounding boards to test your ideas and challenge your ideas. If you put them in front of people and pick them apart, it's a good way to workshop ideas.
It must be hard to find those people. How do you find people who aren't going to bullshit you? How do you find people you can trust?
Some people I've known forever, others I created with a sperm and an egg—my children [laughs]. My four children, they are grown and incredibly talented and gifted, I know I sound like a preening dad, but the evidence will pan out. They will say, 'You're wrong, Dad.' They are my sounding board, they're writers and creators, and they give me honest opinions. They're unimpressed. They respect me, they 're proud of me, but I'm still Dad, and they don't have to agree with me. And sometimes you come across people like Damon Ranger, who while he seems to be a cheerleader, he's the one who got me out here, but at the same time, he'll disagree with me. He's that voice. I learned at the very first day in the studio, I was on the phone with my wife around 3:30 making dinner reservations for 7:30, and he goes, 'Yeah, you might want to cancel those, you're not gonna make it!' He had me in the studio 10, 12 hours, I have not worked harder on vocals. Right from that first session, I realized, he's not going to accept me phoning it in, he's not going to accept anything less than the best that I got. You need that.
You played Riot Fest recently. Did you play any new songs?
Oh yeah! I didn't leave Twisted so I could go out and do Twisted songs with a few new songs—I'm doing all new songs with a couple of Twisted songs. As I said when I got on stage, 'This sucks! I haven't been in front of a new audience in 35 years!' My wife, who's been my side forever, she said, 'These are not my people! Way too many mohawks in the audience!" They know who I am, but I'm playing all new music; we thought the album would be out already, so there'd at least be some awareness, but, so, there was no awareness, it was unheard music, a new band, first time out.
It was pretty good! Signs of life were good. There were moments of weakness and moments of greatness. There was this one Riot Festival review that said, 'I can't say I'm a fan of his glam rock past, but that guy rocks harder than people half his age.' I said, ''ll take it!' That's what I do…I do rock hard. I held their attention, and I can work with that. I'm not talking about a bonafide hit record. When Twisted Sister started, people would look at us dumbfounded, but there was a portion of the audience who were connecting, and we saw record sales the next day in that town. That's a sign of life. That's what I'm looking for, you don't have to own the entire audience. All you need is your segment, and you can be huge. So that's what I'm looking for—I'm ready.
Do you ever get nervous?
I don't get nervous, I get anxious. I've always been that way. Just like, 'let me at 'em!' and work myself into a frenzy. This is a challenge, and it puts a smile on my face, like, 'You dare me?' and I'm like, 'Well, if you're daring me...' This record was a dare that I think I can achieve, and that I have a reasonable amount of control over, not exactly throwing myself out of a plane without a parachute. I've taken a lot of risks. A lot of times, it's just been pure cockiness. I look back at those days like, 'Oh, Jesus, kid! How did you walk in with balls that big? Why can't you see them through your pants? Your pants are skin tight!"
It was definitely a look, like the hair—the hair was incredible. I was watching that your Senate hearing again today, and was transfixed by your hair.
Everyone was wearing what they wore to work, and I just wore what I wore to work. I put mascara on for those hearings. When they did a movie called Warning: Parental Advisory on VH1 years ago. I played myself in it. They had actors playing Zappa, John Denver, Gore, and they asked me if I played myself. And I'm wearing the clothes I wore, I still had 'em, and I walk on set—it was this recreation, and then there was me, the equivalent of an actual Tyrannosaurus on the set of Jurassic Park. They had shots of everyone putting on suits, fixing their ties, and then there's a shot of me putting on my mascara. It was the weirdest, more surreal experience of my life.
It's funny to look back on the songs and albums that the PMRC were so scandalized and terrified by, and realize how almost quaint the "Filthy Fifteen" look now, especially the way metal has evolved.
Absolutely! The Filthy Fifteen's easy listening by today's standards! But, I'm eminently a fair person, I try to be fair in my judgements. When people ask me about the war against censorship, I tell them that it is ongoing. It never stops, partially because we the artists keep on pushing the line. As my good friend Robin Quiver once said, 'What good is having a line if you don't cross it?' So in their defense, what was dangerous in the 80s is easy listening now. The line has been pushed quite far, it's our job as creative to push it, but is it their job to push back? I guess if you are gonna be a conservative, that's kind of the job description [laughs]. An open-minded conservative is an oxymoron.
How far is too far?
I have been in radio for 25 years, and I once threw a record into the garbage: Cannibal Corpse's first record. I was disgusted, because to me, it wasn't being artistic in any way. It was being vulgar and disgusting just for shock value. You talk about fucking a nun in the ass with a knife, it was literally—that was one of the songs! I was reading the lyrics, and you know, I'm an artist, I'm for creativity, for exploration, give me something to say that this is your artistic statement, but when you're just writing down the most despicable things you could possibly think of for the sake of shock, well, that to me isn't art. So, it that too far? That's too far. Who am I to judge? Everyone can judge for themselves. Would I say they should still be allowed to make their music? No. Should their music be kept form people getting it? No. That's the difference between a person who wants to decide for others, or who wants to decide for themselves. That was one of my positions when I went to testify. As a parent, listen to this shit, decide, and control your world. Don't ask the government to babysit your children. Judge for yourself, and do what you gotta do.
That's a problem with a Trump presidency, he 's very against certain newspapers, and that has the potential to become a huge issue with censorship. I know you guys are buddies, but…
We're buddies but I'm not sure if we can continue to be. Please represent this properly—
Sure. I know how it is to care about someone who is difficult. My entire family is voting for Trump and I'm certainly not.
I got a lot of those in my family, too! They say, at any party, at any dinner…you don't talk about three subjects: sports, politics and religion. There's a reason why. I've met the Trumps and the Trump family doing The Celebrity Apprentice, and surprisingly became friends. I really liked him and his family. When you meet somebody's children and you see intelligent, respectful, charitable, hardworking people…as a father, you look and you go, 'Wow! He's done a really good job.' That says something about the parents. When we spent time together, we never talked about these kinds of political things. Who would, over dinner? But now that he has—and I still have trouble believing that he believes some of these things, but when you're representing that portion of the audience, if you are the voice for that people, it's as good as being one of them. Now, there are some major things that he represents and stands for that I have a major problem with. Now that we know this about each other, now he knows that I oppose. Originally, he called me to use "We're Not Gonna Take It," and he was my friend, we didn't agree on everything but I thought we were in the same place. I didn't believe he was Republican, he was a Democrat for years, you know, New York guy, so I told him, 'Yeah, go ahead, raise some hell.' Four months later, I called him back and I told him to he had stop using the song. It can't support what he's representing. Not that I was supporting it before, but now people think I'm supporting it. To credit him, he stopped that night. He said okay. He asked, and few people ask if they can use your song, they just use it. Like Paul Ryan, they just use, they just take. That to me is a classy person, there's something very honorable about that. That means you respect a person's art. We don't see eye to eye at all, I can't support these things.
Your grandfather was a Russian refugee, right?
Oh yeah, my grandfather was a refugee and he was given asylum. I wouldn't be here if he wasn't given asylum, so how can I disrespect my ancestors? I don't understand; everybody in the United States was an immigrant at some point. Unless you're a Native American, I don't want to hear about it! Don't tell me you're 1/20th, that's not enough [laughs]. The other nineteen parts of you are immigrants. Historically, every wave of immigration has been shit on, got the raw end of the deal, have been spurned and rejected and abused. Just watch Gangs of New York, and see how the Irish were treated when they got here. The Italians got it, the Puerto Ricans got it. Every race and every creed and every color. I saw Bono say something—I'm not a U2 fan at all—but he said something so eloquent, he said "America was the greatest idea that was ever invented. It's an ideal and an idea." America is a grand experiment, and Trump would be the worst thing for that. It would push us back decades, and destroy it.
You've got to wonder which era of America he thinks it'd be so great to get back to— the 50s? The 60s?
Yeah, when was that? I'm an America is already great guy, but what year are we talking about? Tell me the year that was!
It's impossible to find a single "great" time for every group of Americans.
That concept bothers me. A recent revelation that he kind of owned up to, that was really upsetting was the taxes thing, when Hillary said that here are the reasons for not showing your taxes, and when she said that it was shown that he paid zero federal tax. He said that was because he was smart. Well, what does that make me, because I've been paying federal tax? Does that make me stupid? Are the rest of us stupid for paying for the schools, the infrastructure and the military? That is offensive to me.
Every week there's something new. My entire family is very pro-Trump, they fit into his key demographic, so I get what you mean about not discussing politics at home.
I think my dad is a Trump supporter! It was his father who was given asylum! I 'm going, "But Dad! Mischa!" which is Russian for Michael, what we called my grandfather. This is not a war I'm going to win, but I am so stunned.
I think his candidacy has brought out this wave of awfulness, of things that people would otherwise have kept hidden.
When he loses, we now know that they've come out of the shadows. Do you want them hidden? Or do you want to know they're there. It's scary, but we needed to know just how bad it is. And as far as we've come, we haven't come that far.
Especially if you're not a straight white dude.
And that's a thread between the songs [on We Are the Ones], there is a message. I've always represented the huddled masses, the average, the ones in the middle. They call themselves the moral majority, [but] they're the bullying minority! That's what they are. The majority are people that are trying to get by, being pulled in directions by people who think it's their job to drive the ship. We're a little too laid back. Stand the fuck up! Have your voice be heard, rule the world! It's not about the people on the right. I have a song on the record called "Rule the World;" it's a big anthem. It's probably going to be misused by a politician 20 years from now. I don't mean literally rule the world, [I mean that] your message is important, I want to give you music that will help you get that message out there. We are the ones who are going to war, that are dying, that are paying our taxes, the ones who are suffering at the decisions of the few. We are the ones, stand up, rise up. Give that middle finger and says fuckin', 'No!' There's more pawns than everybody else. With more pawns, we can take the queen and king out. We have strength in numbers. You just have to be reminded of that strength.
Do you think there will be another American revolution?
Historically it always happens, and it gets happens when people get pushed too far. We see it now with the Black Lives Matter movement. It's not just black people out there on the streets, it's every color on the streets. Young and old. It's all lives matter, but the point is that, this is ridiculous and they're being heard, and that is part of the inspiration of "Rule the World," it's this big stadium anthem, but it's inspired by this, the Black Lives Matter movement. There's so much power. My hands are up, I'm not carrying a weapon, don't shoot… and walking forward, and saying, I can make a change just with this gesture.
So many people are missing that about the BLM movement—that people just want to be equal, and make their lives better, and be safe in their own country.
We saw this in the hippie days, in '68, that great shot of the girl sticking a flower in the barrel of a gun. But it was very much that, sit-ins and peaceful movements, and they often erupted into erupted into violence, there were agitators out there. But, while America has always been a one step forward, two steps back type of country, it sometimes feels like it's three steps back. There's no doubt we're better than we were, [but] it has a long way to go. The fact is, we're not done. I'm up on my soapbox now, but it's like muscles—if you don't use them, they atrophy. I'm this old dude who's in great shape, because I'm always working out; you've got to keep active, and it you let yourself think that you can let your guard down and stop working towards your cause, there's never going to be a point where you can just sit back and relax and think, okay, we're done! No! Because that's when those morons, the bullying minority, those people who somehow think it's their job to tell us what to do—you know, that's what I love about the issue between pro-life and pro-choice movements. It's not pro-life, it's anti-choice! This is a choice women should make for themselves, and they're saying, 'No, this is a choice we will make for women.' Seeing these old guys on panels, or standing outside the clinics, and you know, in my time, I've been to the clinics with somebody. I'm like, 'What the fuck are you doing out here? Give me some old women out here; what do you have to fucking say about this? This is none of your fuckin' business!' And it's all a bunch of old dudes who have no idea!
Are you a feminist?
I would absolutely say that I'm a feminist. Absolutely. There's no doubt about it. I'm pro-choice. I'm a gun-carrying feminist, and right to life-er, I'm a First Amendment advocate—an advocate of pretty much the first couple of amendments, they got a little weird at the end [laughs]. I think that our forefathers were incredibly insightful. They didn't have TV, they just sat around and talked about things. They laid out some pretty sound ideas. I'm willing to fight for those ideas. As my buddy John says, 'This is a bonafide gun-toting moderate!' He's on the right, and we're friends. I' just for choice. I'm a biker, I always wear a helmet and I think you're a fool if you don't wear one, but I think it should be a choice. Women should have a choice, men should have a choice, all people should have a choice in this world. They should have the opportunity to live out their choices.
It's easy to forget that people aren't one-dimensional. As Walt Whitman said, we contain multitudes.
We're a little bit of this and a little bit of that. You will see me hailed and reviled by both extremes. You'll see me on conservative sites talked about as the greatest thing. You'll also see me hated by the same groups. I've voted Republican, I've voted Democrat, I've voted Green, I've voted Independent. I am just, like the majority of people, trying to make the best choice. I rode in a motorcycle motorcade for John McCain at Sturgess, I was supporting him, and then he got Sarah Palin, and I was like, 'Jesus Christ, man! What are you fuckin' doing? See ya! She's a fuckin' moron!'
Do you think that music still has power?
I think there's no doubt music has power. Unfortunately the message too often gets lost. People don't vet the songs. They don't really listen. That's like Paul Ryan takes,' We're Not Gonna Take It,' and the first line—I'm sitting there going, 'You fucker, you've taken "we've got the right to choose," now you're saying, ban abortion?' Wait, you just said we have the right to choose! No, you can't take it back. You should be forced to use the words you sing.
Kim Kelly's not taking a damn thing on Twitter.