It's fitting that Dee Snider first came to fame as the front man for a band called Twisted Sister, because his career has indeed been packed with more twists than one can count. From hit singer-songwriter to Strangeland filmmaker to Broadway performer, Snider's explored most every facet of the entertainment world. His latest project is Adam Green and Joe Lynch's Holliston (airing Tuesday nights at 10:30 PM EST on FEARnet) on which he plays wannabe superstar Lance Rockett. While visiting the Holliston set last year, I sat down and asked Snider about his role on the show and his thoughts on horror in general. Check out our conversation after the break.
Why haven't been there been more horror-comedy TV shows?
You know, first of all, I don't view this as a horror comedy. I view it as a traditional comedy where the characters are involved with the world of horror. Much the way Spinal Tap was about the music business but you didn't have to be a heavy metal band to understand or appreciate the movie. It had mass appeal. This is a really traditional story about young guys with a dream, struggling. We've seen it a million times before. They've just set it with a couple of guys who are horror fans. With Spinal Tap, if you were a heavy metal fan, there are some extras in there, and you got that much more. Holliston is like that as well. The horror fans will love it because it's really true to the horror genre. It speaks to the horror genre. There are references that are authentic, painfully authentic sometimes. And the special guests really play to the horror community. But I really think that the show could have mass appeal, because it's a story that everybody can understand. There are people out there who have a dream and everyday hope for more than they've got going on. That story's as old as time.
How would you describe your character?
Sadly, Lance Rockett's exist in this world. They're everywhere. They're these guys who weren't fortunate enough – and I consider myself to be fortunate – to have made it, and they can't let go of the dream, and they just can't accept that it's over. But the passion is as strong as ever, and there's a sort of sadness to Lance, in a way. Even though I don't play it sad, to me it's sad. Because I see these guys, and I get it – that would be me if I hadn't done it. I wouldn't be able to let go. Now as far as his approach to ‘80s metal, hair metal, heavy metal, he is really a typical also-ran, ‘80s metal guy. There's a reason why they didn't make it, because they were so unoriginal and so unpredictable and so imitative of everybody else out there – we've already got enough of those – so they never stood a chance anyway. But the passion hasn't changed. He's like Adam and Joe in his own way. He has his own dream. He has his own hope of getting out of Holliston, of getting out of cable. As much as he loves his job, he still wants to get out of there. He wants to be a rock star, just like they want to be filmmakers.
He's Pretty Boy Floyd. He's Tora Tora. He's these bands you don't even know –Hurricane. Do you remember the movie Multiplicity where the copies become weaker and weaker versions? This is circa '91, the ship has sailed, Nirvana's gearing up, the album's about to come out. That's Lance Rockett. He's locked into whatever version that was of hair metal.
How involved does Lance get with Adam and Joe's film projects?
Lance Rocket is supportive of Adam and Joe's dream, even though he thinks it's ridiculous, and that they'll grow out of it.
Even though he himself won't grow out of his? [Laughs.]
Right. He says, "Oh, you guys'll grow out of it one day." And they're looking at him like, "Seriously? Are you kidding? You're going to say this to us?" There's one point where they go, "You're fifty-four years old." And Lance is like, "So?" He doesn't see it. He doesn't see himself in them. Actually he can't see himself in them. But the point is he constantly refers to their work, their interest, as crap, as a joke. There's one point where he says, "Don't ever say I wasn't supportive of you pursuing that horror movie crap." He's trying to be supportive there while he's completely insulting the shit out of what they love. There's one great moment where… Tony Todd's in it, and Adam's having problems with Tony, because Tony's hitting on his girlfriend. So he says, "It's Tony Todd," and Lance Rockett lights up, "The actor? Did you see his episode of 90210?!" His frame of reference… he has no horror frame of reference. I don't know what it is, but it's definitely not horror.
In real life, of course, you are a horror film fan, as well as, with Strangeland, filmmaker. What are some of your favorites?
My favorite horror films are Dawn of the Dead, the first Nightmare on Elm Street… The Exorcist is the queen mother, absolute number one, top film of all time for me. I still have trouble watching it. It holds up so well. And then Silence of the Lambs, which I know is arguably not a horror film, but it's got some great horrific imagery and it's just powerfully done. It's done like a horror film. I love so many of those movies. As a writer, as much as I love a good slasher film, I like inventiveness and creativity. That's why with Strangeland we [reinvent] the wheel. There's an argument to be made that I created the torture genre. There was no Saw, there was no Hostel, there was no film where the aggressor doesn't kill people but just hurts them and makes them suffer. And Captain Howdy did that before anybody else. The wonderful accolades I get from James Wan and Eli Roth – they're Strangeland fans. Unfortunately I didn't make the money those guys made. But I do like creativity and inventiveness in horror films.
You were talking about the authenticity of the show. Having experienced both scenes firsthand, do you feel it rings true in its depiction of indie horror filmmakers as well as wannabe rockers?
Absolutely. The indie horror stuff is spot on-of course, because Adam and Joe are indie horror. They have not crossed over yet. So it's a little too close to reality for them, still struggling to pursue their dreams. But also it's mocking of the millions out there with a laptop computer and some bizarre concept for a horror movie that they think can actually do it. There's real parallels between their characters and my character, especially from the perception from which he writes. Because there's a gratefulness that comes through on Adam's part, that he does get to do what he does. And he did escape the cable advertising company in Massachusetts; and he's been lucky enough to pursue his dream. Even if it may not be on some grandiose level, he still gets to make movies and make TV shows.
Does Lance go through any kind of journey during the first season, or does he remain a constant throughout?
Lance is that constant unapologetic character. His antics have nothing to do with the storyline. I never know what the stories are. He's just Lance. He's the Kramer character. He's Lenny and Squiggy. He's that guy who exists in his own world, and he's not changing for anybody. He likes who he is. He's comfortable with who he is. He's very comfortable with who he is. I mean the shit they've got me wearing… Look in the wardrobe. If it's glittering, it's mine. [Laughs.] There's a pair of black-glitter hot pants, and pink fishnet stockings that I had on yesterday. So he's fearless, he's confident, and he sees no reason he should change and has no intention to change.
The show has another iconic performer in Oderus Urungus. Is there a chance we'll see the two of you interact at some point? It would be a kind of Freddy versus Jason thing for your fans.
[Laughs.] It would. But Oderus is Adam's reluctant imaginary friend. He's completely embarrassed to be the friend. He's constantly trying to excuse himself from Adam's situations. It's very funny. At one point, Adam says, "Hey, you're my imaginary friend. You can't leave!" He says, "Well, I got this thing I have to…" He's always making excuses why he doesn't want to be around Adam. So nobody sees Oderus except for Adam.
Could we see an imaginary version of Lance interact with Oderus at some point?
Oh that would be cool. Maybe my imaginary friend. Who would my imaginary friend be…?
Did you have one as a kid?
Oh absolutely not. I have too many voices in my own head. No room for any imaginary voices. [Laughs.]
What's next for you?
In 2012, I've got my book coming out from Simon & Shuster, my memoirs. I've got a new CD called Dee Does Broadway. I take Broadway show tunes and I rock ‘em out. But I've done duets with people like Cyndi Lauper, Bebe Neuwirth, Patti LuPone, Meat Loaf. That's coming out. I'm a voice on a new Disney cartoon that's coming out. It's called Motor City. It's on Disney XD. I play the Duke of Detroit. I'm a voice in a new animated film called Ronal the Barbarian. It's an R-rated 3D animated film that's coming out in 2012 that's hysterical, and I'm the ultimate dark-lord monstrous character in that. I was just in a movie called The History of Future Folk that's going to go to Sundance. I have a supporting role in that movie. And I can't say, but you will see me on the biggest network reality show this spring. I know I'm leaving some things out… I'm heading back to Broadway for Rock of Ages. So it's all coming in basically the spring of 2012. You're gonna be sick of me.
In real life, what's your greatest fear?
When I wrote Strangeland, my wife was the first one to read the script. She came downstairs to read it and said. "What the fuck is that?" I said, "What?" She said, "I've known you twenty-five years. Where the fuck…?" She thought she was living with a psychopath. I said, "No, no, no. Those are my fears." So I wrote the film based on my fears. To burn to death has got to be the most horrific. And to suffer and not die. With death there is peace, to endlessly suffer, that torment – that's a fear. To be helpless is a fear. So there you have it, in a nutshell.
[Laughs.] So Strangeland is an encyclopedia of what scares you?
Yes. And in my mind I was the cop. I wrote that as the cop, not as the criminal. I just didn't have the looks to be the cop. And I play a good bad guy. [Laughs.]
Thank you so much for your time, Dee.
Oh, my pleasure.
Dee Snider, Holliston, TV, movies, music, Strangeland