With over 9,000 live shows under their belt, Twisted Sister
is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and continues its unprecedented
march towards rebirth with a hectic international touring schedule and a
new Christmas album in the can and set for release on October 17th.
Epiphone’s Don Mitchell recently caught up with Twisted guitarist Jay
Jay French in New York.
EPI: Why don’t
we start with you bringing us up to speed on what’s happening with Twisted
JAY JAY: Twisted Sister is continuing to headline
major festivals around the world in our 30th year and frankly, it’s
been phenomenal for us. We broke the all-time attendance record in Canada
this year when we played an outdoor show for 80,000 people. The previous
record was held by ZZ Top who did a show in front of 75,000 people.
EPI: Did you have
any idea there would be that many people in attendance?
JAY JAY: No, not at all. In fact, we thought we
would be playing for maybe 25,000. It ended up being more than three times
that which was amazing.
it like to play in front of a crowd that large?
JAY JAY: Well, to be honest with you it’s
not all that different than a smaller show. Once you get past ten thousand
the numbers are just mathematics and there’s not much of a difference.
Your theatrical moves on stage can be a little bit broader but that’s
about it. For me it’s not
really the amount
of people that effects me but how far away they are from the stage. You can
have 80,000 people there but if they are being held back thirty feet from
the stage you feel very disconnected form them. I like the audience up close.
We’ve been averaging 45–50 thousand a show and have become pretty
comfortable with that size crowd. Once you get to 80 or 100 thousand it’s
just kind of this enormous mass of humans and all you can do is pray that
there are repeater towers so people can see and hear.
EPI: Still, it
must be pretty awesome to play to a crowd that size.
JAY JAY: Well, it is cool getting 80 thousand people
to jump up and down at the same time! It’s quite a view from the stage
and pretty amazing to see.
EPI: Just make
sure you bring a huge PA and monitor system right?
JAY JAY: (Laughs) Actually, the minute the intro
tape goes on I stick these special molded plugs in my ears and I can’t
hear anything I do all night. I just play by instinct. Some of these stages
have these long ramps out on the sides or over the PA system and I’ll
be out there with no idea what is happening. (Laughter) You know, occasionally
you might hear a hi-hat! Most of the time I just pray that I’m in the
right song and that my solo is that songs solo! It really is about that
ridiculous. Our sets are pretty much the same in that we know which songs
we’re playing, so I key in on a group of three or four songs and try
to make it back after that fourth song to see if I’m out of tune. I
can’t tell because at 123 decibels it’s so unbelievably loud. I’m
telling you, it’s like a gigantic work hazard zone so you wear these
plugs and go out and perform and hope that you are somewhere in the key your
supposed to be in. I know it sounds kind of funny but that’s how you
play big time stadium rock. After a while you get confident in those situations
but at first it can be pretty intimidating.
EPI: I guess after
thirty years Twisted Sister has it down!
JAY JAY: We feel very fortunate to still be playing
and having people enjoy what we do. Who could have predicted that we would
be doing this thirty years later? We just did Rock Waves in Athens and it
was cool because we were the headliner for the second year in a row. Nobody
ever does that. We will be playing in Spain in October of this year. We’d
never been to Spain before two years ago and now this is our fifth major
festival there. We headlined a festival called Rock of Ages in Germany a
few weeks ago and it was actually code named Twisted Forever, after us and
that was an honor. We played our first major show in Bulgaria and played
a NASCAR rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, which was a lot of fun. We played
a county fair in Waukesha, Wisconsin that drew about 12,000 people. It just
keeps getting better.
awesome and it puts you guys in some elite company to still be out there
drawing old and new fans after thirty years.
JAY JAY: It is awesome. On October 14th, Billboard
is going to publish the Twisted Sister Thirtieth Anniversary issue which
will be really cool for us and then on October 15th we’re being inducted
into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame with Joan Jett, Billy Joel and the
Gershwin Brothers which is a huge honor.
EPI: Plus you
have a new CD coming out?
JAY JAY: Yes, “A Twisted Christmas” will
be released on October 17th which is an album of us doing Heavy Metal covers
of famous Christmas songs.
EPI: That should
be interesting. What made you decide to do a Christmas project?
JAY: Dee had mentioned in a meeting one time that “Oh Come All Ye
Faithful” was an inspiration for “We’re Not Gonna Take It”
and if you listen to the melody (sings first line) you’ll see what he
meant. We thought it was pretty funny and started to imagine a whole album
of Christmas songs done Heavy Metal style. There are ten songs on the album
including Silver Bells, White Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,
Let It Snow, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,
Deck the Halls, The Christmas Song, and The Twelve Days of Christmas we renamed
Heavy Metal Christmas. It’s re-done so it’s like twelve tubes of
lipstick, eleven platform boots… that kind of thing….(sings) five
skull earrings, four quarts of Jack, three studded belts, two spandex pants,
and a tattoo of Ozzie… you get the idea. It’s a really cool
EPI: How are your
Epiphones holding up?
JAY JAY: You know my
Pauls have seen the world man. They’ve been photographed on the
biggest stages in the world. There’s a photo in the Bang Your Head 10th
Anniversary book that just came out that shows me with that guitar in front
of 40 thousand kids. It should have a caption, “This is what a working
man takes to work.” (Laughter) Honestly, Epiphones are the best deal
on the planet. They play as great as the more expensive senior circuit Gibsons
and my signature model is even better with the contoured back and Burstbucker
pickups. They’re just great guitars. That’s all I play period.
End of story. No matter where it is, no matter what country, I’m playing
Epiphones and I love them. In addition to my signature model I have an
Elitist ’63 DOT
that has been incredible and I recently got an
that’s great. I think your company is putting out some of the best guitars
in the business. They’re built amazingly well and I’m proud to
be playing them. You’ll hear the Pink LP and the DOT all through the
Christmas album so check it out.
EPI: I will, and
I can’t wait to hear it. Thanks Jay Jay for taking the time to chat
and we’ll see you on stage soon!
Visit Twisted Sister on-line at