Frequently Asked Questions
Why does the movie end just as Twisted Sister’s career takes off?
The idea of doing a survey of Twisted’s whole career was never my intention. I originally became very interested in their experience in the clubs from the mid 70s to the early 80s, particularly their stage shows which had a very strong sort of vaudeville element. As Dee described it, “Bands were expected to be human jukeboxes, regurgitate the hits, play the music that people want, but not too loud, so they can talk, and pick up guys or girls or do what they do. And Twisted Sister from day one refused to be that band. We didn’t care who was there, who wasn’t there, you were going to watch us, you were going to be aware of us and we would do whatever it took to get your attention.” And this desire to capture people’s attention no matter what evolved into a whole series of on-stage antics, which included storytelling, comedy and literal assaults on the audience, that to me it seemed like a kind of performance art, though the band themselves referred to it as “bar band shtick”.
Through talking to Jay Jay about this I started to get an idea of the larger story involved which had to do with the uniquely vast tri-state suburban bar/club scene that they played in, and the irony that their success in that scene was largely responsible for their inability to break out of it – the record companies having dismissed them as just a bar band. I also realized that the story of their ten years in the bars give a very interesting look at how a band becomes a band. Their development of, not just their music, but their performance style and their various strategies – both successes and failures – to instigate their ultimate breakout were, to me, more interesting than the usual tropes of rise and fall and (hopefully) rebirth which are a very common theme in R ‘n Roll stories.
For fans who seem to be thrown by the fact that the story doesn’t cover Twisted’s entire career, both Behind The Music, and also Twisted’s own dvd, “Twisted Sister: The Video Years”, have already dealt with this. I felt it would be a lot more interesting to tell “the untold story” rather than the familiar one and I think there’s plenty of story here that be appreciated on it’s own terms. And for the majority who never experienced Twisted in the shear wildness of their club shows, I wanted to communicate a little of what that was like, as I discovered it for myself. In the end, I have to say the more I got into the story the more it resonated with me on many different levels and I think it really reveals itself to be pretty epic.
How did you come to make the movie?
Jay Jay appeared in a previous film of mine, “The Nomi Song”, which came from a place that seemed as though it couldn’t have been more different. Check out www.thenomisong.com and you’ll get some idea of what I mean. And after that was over he and I spent some time talking about Twisted, who I knew very little about. The stories he told me started me off on what turned out to be a pretty big journey. You could say that the point where I really took it seriously, was when the Nomi movie was playing at the London Film Festival and I was asked to be on a panel about music films. I was there with Ondi Timomer who made “Dig!”, and Scott Crary who made “Kill Your Idols”. So we said our piece and at the end they asked us what we’d like to do next. So Ondi said she was already working on a history of Reggae, to which the crowd responded with rumblings of approval, and then Scott said he would like to do a movie about The Smiths, and there were reverent murmurs of “oooh, The Smiths…”, and when it came to my turn I had really no idea. I was still pretty blown out from getting the Nomi movie finished, but I had to say something. So remembering that talk I’d had with Jay Jay, I said I wanted to do a movie about Twisted Sister. And the whole crowd burst into spontaneous applause. So I thought, well maybe that’s not a bad idea…
Why are the clips of Twisted performing in the movie not identified?
I had a good deal of club material at my disposal but not necessarily shows that corresponded to specific events in the movie. I tried to integrate the clips and music into the story as opposed to just using them as examples of Twisted playing, and to identify clips as being from a different place and time would have been a distraction from the narrative. A complete list of all the songs in the film, identified with time and place, can be found in the end credits. I am happy to say that every bit of music in the film was played by Twisted Sister.
Do Twisted still do all these crazy things on stage?
Not like they did in the clubs. The interesting thing about their club experience of having to do multiple shows a night, five or six nights a week, is that a) you have to keep coming up with new things to keep not only the audience interested but yourself as well, and b) because they were playing so much they were able to see from immediate audience reaction what worked and what didn’t and they could adjust their performances accordingly. As Twisted became bigger and their shows more oriented to a concert format, they didn’t have time to do a lot of the fooling around stuff because they had less time on stage and were playing to audiences who were less familiar with their shows, so they had to concentrate and fucus more on the music. However, their stage presence to this day, the way they relate to their audiences, never mind the fierceness of their performance, are the result of honing all that material and attitude from the club days to its essence. Jay Jay likes to compare it to an iceberg where you see the tip but there’s this much bigger part hidden underneath – in this case their history in the clubs – supporting it. For me, I like the metaphor of a good spaghetti sauce, where the flavor comes from a long process of cooking down all the different ingredients and flavors.
Were you a Twisted Sister fan back then?
No. I don’t think I had ever heard of them back then and, living in the East Village in Manhattan, I never went to any of those clubs. I did, however grow up in Westchester County which later became part of their touring area so I do kind of feel like I have a direct connection to their audience, but I had already left to go to college by they time they started. Actually my interests and personal tastes come from a very different place, which I think helps the film because I have no agenda other than to tell what I think is a good story, which I think can be appreciated on a universal level.
How much influence did the band have on how the film was made?
Certainly influence in the sense that they provided much of the story that was told in the film, but in terms of what I did with it and how, they left me pretty much alone. They seemed to like the fact that I came to it not as a fan and had very much my own take on the story. Also I would like to think that we talked about it so much prior to the filming that they had a good idea what to expect from me and felt comfortable enough to trust me. As to the production and financing, it was my project totally, though they have been very forthcoming with materials and access, and their general support for the project, particularly in the promotion of the film.
Was this a movie made for Twisted Sister fans?
Not specifically. Since I didn’t come to it as a fan myself, I didn’t have that kind of mindset going into it at all. The only fans I knew were ones I talked to for the research and the few fans who appeared in the film. Plus as I was making it and trying out material on people I knew, none of them were fans so I wasn’t even getting that kind of reaction from people. I am happy to say that people I showed it to in the working stages appreciated it for the story and for the characters even though a lot of them didn’t know the band and some who did, didn’t necessarily like them. The common response was that people were actually surprised they liked the movie and came away with a lot of respect for the band members. When I finally did have my first show for fans and people involved with the band, I was pretty apprehensive because I didn’t know how they would react. Luckily they liked it a lot and while you can’t please everyone, I’m glad of all the support the fans have showed the movie so far. At the same time, I hope that the film will find a wider audience in people that can appreciate it as a good and entertaining story.