Jay Jay French is the guitarist/founding member of the heavy metal group Twisted Sister. The band which is gearing up for a run of farewell shows in the summer/fall of this year is set to release a new live CD/DVD release titled “Twisted Sister: Metal Meltdown Live at the Hard Rock Casino Las Vegas- A Concert to Honor A.J. Pero” on July 22nd. Media Mikes spoke with Jay Jay recently about the upcoming release, the group’s final shows and what he will miss most about being on the road.
Adam Lawton: Can you give us an overview of the new CD/DVD Twisted Sister has coming out on July 22nd?
Jay Jay French: The whole focus of “Twisted Sister: Metal Meltdown Live” was to celebrate our drummer A.J. Pero who had recently passed away. This show was the bands first show after A.J.’s death and so much of his life and death was around that show that it made things very important to us. Subsequently this was also our first performance with Mike Portnoy on drums. The sound was produced by our bass player Mark Mendoza and the video was done by Barry Summers. Barry’s first exposure to the band was when he was a kid and saw play in a bar. I think because of that experience Barry brought sort of a fan boy type desire and approach to this project. I think Barry definitely tried to transfer his love of rock and roll over to people through this film.
AL: What was it like for the band going into this show knowing it was being filmed along with the fact that is was also going to be the bands first live performance with Mike on drums?
JJF: What band in their right fucking mind would have a new drummer come on and then have their first performance record for television? (Laughs) Mike is such a pro and a really great guy. I don’t know if we could have done this with any other person. This was a very hard and emotional thing. In the film there is a drum solo that is just A.J. That wasn’t a production trick or anything like that. That was actually up on the screen during the show. We did every show like that last year. Mike is so respectful of A.J. that he was up for whatever we wanted/needed.
AL: How does this film differ from that of the recently released “We Are Twisted F****** Sister” documentary?
JJF: We have a very unusual story. Every other story ends after being told about the ups and downs the band went through to make it. This story ends before we end up getting a record deal. “We Are Twisted F****** Sister” shows the struggle we went through to make it. We were basically just the focal point of that film. We didn’t know where the production was going or what portion of our career it was going to actually cover. It was interesting to see the director’s final interpretation of it. “Metal Meltdown Featuring: Twisted Sister” we were more involved in and I see it acting almost like a book end. The first film shows the beginning of the band and the new film shows the ending. The contrast between the two films is amazing. I think the coda being the Vegas show proves that not every band in their 60’s has to suck. We have a lot of pride in what we do and I think this DVD shows that not only are we still good but we are actually better.
AL: Was the Las Vegas show one you guys picked to film or was it sort of predetermined by the production company?
JFF: We had booked that to be filmed prior to A.J.’s passing. The big question was what we were going to do. The producers of the film as well as all of the promoters we worked with that summer were really great. They all told us that if we wanted to pull out of the events we could and that they would totally understand. We asked for a couple weeks away in order to be able to digest what all had happened. We had planned to end the band that year and I had actually talked with A.J. the day before his passing about the discussion I had with Dee related to this being it. During that conversation A.J. mentioned that he was going to need to drop off his current tour with Adrenalin Mob because he was in need of some rehab on his shoulders. He didn’t want me to be alarmed so he was letting me know ahead of time. That ended up being the heart attack. I guess he had actually had a heart attack three days prior also. I didn’t think anything of it as drummers tend to have aches and pains. I wished him well and that was it. That next morning I got the phone call that had passed. Shortly after I got a call asking if I would come out to the Adrenalin Mob show at the Starland Ballroom in New Jersey to do a song dedicated to A.J. I gladly accepted and that’s when Mike Portnoy came up to me and told me had always been a fan of the band and if we needed any help he would be glad to jump on board. I initially thought that after the funeral we would all sit down and that would be the end of things however after talking we decided to honor all of our commitments for 2015 and then wrap things up in 2016.
AL: What can you tell us about the bands remaining shows and, what are your plans once the band is done?
JJF: Our last show will be on Oct. 1st in New Jersey. We will be doing a bunch of well known festivals leading up to that. Due to all of our personal schedules the band can only play 10 or 15 shows a year as we just don’t all have the time. Outside of the band I write for Ink magazine and also write a business column for their online site. I am doing motivational speaking engagements and I am writing a book as well. I also like to do business advice for people. Those things are really my focus these days.
AL: Is there any part of you that will miss being on the road and in the band?
JJF: I don’t think I am going to miss any part of being on the road. I have done over 9,000 shows which is like being in the heavy metal version of “Cats” accept because were Jewish it’s spelled Katz. (Laughs) Those shows were all fun and everything and I loved being up there but I’m ready for it to be over.