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411Music Exclusive Interview – Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister

November 22, 2006 | Posted by Michael Melchor

If someone had said that, this year, one of the biggest comebacks would belong to a band doing a Christmas album, no one probably would have bought it.

Here it is, though, December 2006, and Twisted Sister – the glam-metal stalwarts responsible for some of the 80s biggest anthems – are on the road, all original members in tow, supporting a Christmas record.

It may come as a complete left-field shock to some, but for those that know the band better, it all makes perfect sense. For longtime fans who’ve heard “Burn In Hell”, “The Fire Still Burns” and “Horror-Terria” as well as “Leader Of The Pack” and “Be Chrool To Your Scuel”, the potential for tongue-in-cheek humor as well as downright nasty metal is already well known. It is these fans who can certainly appreciate a Christmas album from Twisted Sister. However, whether you’ve been with them from the beginning or thought one or two members had died, this is your lucky holiday.

We recently caught up with lead guitarist Jay Jay French before the beginning of the band’s tour in support of A Twisted Christmas. Gracious and a class act, French discussed the present and future of the band, as well as why making a Christmas album makes more sense than one would think.

Michael Melchor: In reading the press info and everything else I got to prepare for talking to you, everything indicated that was going to be the final Twisted Sister tour and the final Twisted Sister Album. Can you confirm or deny that?

Jay Jay French: We’ve revised that since. [Laughs] It’s probably not. When we got together again, we figured this reunion would only last about a year. Here we are now, 3 or 4 years in, and it’s been really fun. We figured we’d do the {Christmas] record and it’d be fun; a good note to go out on. But now the record’s doing well and the demand has increased and we’re being told, “Maybe you should reconsider that.” So to say that at this point is impossible.

MM: More of the “never say never” philosophy.

JJ: Right. We made this record initially to say “goodbye”, but the reaction has been great. Walking away right now would be kind of stupid. [Laughs] So, we’re taking more of a “wait and see” attitude. If it works out, great; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

MM: Gotcha. So, with all that in mind, are there any talks of maybe making a new album? Any ideas floating around for new songs or material?

JJ: No, not now. Dee hasn’t written a song in quite a few years and he’s really not interested in writing one now, so there’s a problem there. [Laughs] That’s a big issue there. I don’t know what would create the scenario in his mind to want to write. I’m not him. So, we’re just going to have to see how it goes and play [the reunion] by ear at this point.

MM: All right, fair play. So what was the impetus, then, to do, out of all things from Twisted Sister, a Christmas album?

JJ: Well, Twisted’s always been kind of a funny band. It’s an element that’s always been there; we’ve done some brutal metal, but the humor has always been a part of the equation in some way, shape, or form. Dee admitted – it’s been said for years – that “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is a combination of the Sex Pistols, Alice Cooper, and “Come All Ye Faithful”. That’s exactly where that melody came from. We brought that up during one of our rehearsals and Dee wanted to try something. He talked us into it and we played “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, but he started singing “Come All Ye Faithful” – and I was knocked out. It was pretty funny! [Laughs] So we elaborated from there; we had “Come All Ye Faithful” and then went in the direction of how it would sound if other bands did the same thing. How would it sound with AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, all these other bands playing a Christmas song? But, we couldn’t get those guys, so we did it ourselves. [Laughs] So we did it how we thought they would have done it. These were all bands we loved, anyway, so we thought about their styles and tried to adapt them to these songs, as well as add some parts in from their songs. We did other things like, at the end of “Come All Ye Faithful”, we play a piece of “Hava Nagilah” that sounds like Black Sabbath.

MM: I could have sworn that’s what I heard at the end of that song!

JJ: Right! Stuff like that, you know, “White Christmas” sounds a lot like Iron Maiden. We paid homage to all the bands we loved. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” has a very Ramones-esque feel to it.

MM: That’s something I was going to ask about after I heard some other riffs and melodies pop up all over the album. So it plays somewhat like a tribute album as well as a Christmas record.

JJ: In a way, yeah. We paid homage to the bands we loved, and as far as Christmas, it’s that time of year. We figured if we’re going to do it, then do it.

MM: It came out really well. I normally ignore Christmas albums because it’s all the same songs done in the same slow, traditional style, and that just does nothing for me. This is easily one of my favorite Christmas albums ever. [Laughs]

JJ: Well, goof. Glad you liked it. Have you watched the video from it yet?

MM: No, I had no idea there was one!

JJ: If you go to, it’s there. It’s going to be up on VH1, also, but it’s there online now.

MM: Very good; I’ll have to watch that. I see, also, that there’s a short tour in support of the Christmas album. Is that going to be more of a Twisted Sister with some of the Christmas songs thrown in?

JJ: Pretty much. We play some of the Christmas stuff and some of our songs on top of it.

MM: Right on. Now, with the reunion going as well as it has and the reaction being what it’s been, do you think a lot of that comes from the work ethic the band has as far as its fans go?

JJ: “Give the people what they want” has always been the band’s ethic. We take what we do to the people and hope they’ll get it and have fun. That’s really what it is – sit back, have fun, and enjoy it. That’s what we did.

MM: Right, from the humor in the early videos we discussed a minute ago, to…there’s a radio show here in Daytona on our classic rock station WHOG called Metal ‘Til Midnight. Plays on Saturdays from 10 pm until midnight. About 2 or 3 weeks ago, they busted out something I couldn’t immediately identify that was rough as hell – and it turned out to be “Under The Blade” from one of your first albums. I was blown away by how heavy that was, but like you said, there’s the humor and fun to consider as well.

JJ: Exactly. A little bit of everything.

MM: So, the initial reunion you did happened right after 9/11?

JJ: Yeah, we did that to help others out and got a good reaction. After that, we had promoters offer us money to get back together and we were having fun, so we went with it.

MM: So everybody’s getting along pretty well.

JJ: As well as we do. [Laughs] We don’t have much of a relationship as we did; more of a loose association. We play maybe 20 shows a year and we don’t see a lot of each other outside of those. It helps that we play all over the world and, in particular, places we’ve never played or haven’t in a long time. The reaction in these places has been great and we’re having a good time.


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Michael Melchor
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