Chris MacDermott of The Aquarian Weekly recently conducted an interview with TWISTED SISTER guitarist Jay Jay French. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
The Aquarian Weekly: It must be difficult putting together a setlist. TWISTED SISTER have two kinds of fans. Most of them want to hear songs from “Stay Hungry”, then there’s a large amount of people, like me, who are into the “Under The Blade” era.
Jay Jay: It is hard. We can’t do four hours, so we have to pick the best 15 or so songs. People always say, “Why don’t you do new material?” If you play new material, that means you’re taking some standard out. More people are going to be upset over the removal of a standard than will be made happy by a new song. Most people, when they hear a new song, go to the bathroom or buy a beer, anyway. So if I had to take out “Under The Blade” or “Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll” or “Destroyer” or “Shoot ‘Em Down” or “Stay Hungry” or “The Kids Are Back” and put something else in, you may not be that happy. So we try to play the songs that we see are requested. We have the record labels tell us what songs are downloaded the most so then we can assume that’s the percentage of choice that people want. Occasionally, people will ask for more obscure songs. We also have to temper that with the fact that the general audience may not know it. We do have anthems that we must play. I mean, we have to play “Under The Blade” every night, “Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “I Wanna Rock”. If we didn’t do these songs, we would really be under servicing our fanbase.
The Aquarian Weekly: What can you tell us about the documentary that’s in the works about TWISTED SISTER‘s club days?
Jay Jay: I think it really documents our story and how hard it was for us to make it, plus how unique the time was. I think it’s a fascinating story to tell. I don’t think people know it. Certainly when the band exploded and became famous, the people in the Tri-State Area knew us in a very different way than the people around the world. They knew us as a real hard-working bar band, not some video goofball band. Let’s face it, as much as we took advantage of the worldwide success of that cartoon-like image, we would spend the rest of our life living it down. That’s been the hard part. We were dressed like that to call attention to ourselves but we were just a kick-ass bar band in the purest sense.
The Aquarian Weekly: I will regularly play people those live tapes and they’re stunned at how heavy the band was in that era. Songs like “Destroyer”, “Tear It Loose” and “Under The Blade” are just as heavy as anything out there today.
Jay Jay: “Tear It Loose” is as thrash as anybody got. We’ll play death metal, black metal and thrash metal festivals in Europe because so many of those bands fell in love with “Under The Blade” and the underground tapes from 1979 and ‘80. They worship the band. DIMMU BORGIR and all these other kinds of groups. It’s an honor that they acknowledge us. We aren’t a death metal band, obviously, but we are an intense metal band. I try to explain to people that the band is like an iceberg — you see the surface on stage, but what’s under the surface is 90 percent of it, and that’s what makes us great.
The Aquarian Weekly: There have been some great archival releases the past few years. The “Live At North Stage” DVD and “Under The Blade” reissue with a DVD from the Reading Festival in 1982 are things I’ve wanted for years. The quality is great. Do you have any more archival releases planned?
Jay Jay: When we find it, we put it out. We knew North Stage existed, but we didn’t know the quality of it because we kept seeing third- and fourth-generation versions. We located it in a basement under a lot of other stuff that we didn’t know existed. Then, bang, there was North Stage, and it was pristine. We have a lot of stuff but nothing of that quality, which is mind-blowing. I’ve got tons of stuff from the Gemini in Yorktown Heights. We don’t have stuff from Speaks on Long Island or L’Amour in Brooklyn. It is a crime, considering how much time we spent there. That would have been phenomenal. I’ve got nothing from Detroit in Port Chester, which is also a shame. Nothing from Hammerheads in Islip or the Mad Hatter in Stony Brook. But we do have a lot of other audio stuff. These days, because such little money is actually spent on this, we’re thinking about setting up our own channel. We can just put stuff up there for people to enjoy and not necessarily charge them. Hopefully time will bring more stuff out.
Read the entire interview from The Aquarian Weekly.