Twisted Sister Guitarist Eddie Ojeda – The full in bloom Legacy Interview
Twisted Sister Guitarist
full in bloom: Twisted Sister has some history with KISS. Tell us a little about that.
Eddie Ojeda: Well, we were both from kind of the same area. I mean, they made it quite a few years before we made it. And I knew Ace (Frehley) from the Bronx, from a long time ago, from the old neighborhood. So we have some of the history like that. And actually Jay Jay French had auditioned for KISS.
full in bloom: Yeah, there was always that rumor that Jay Jay played with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley while they were in the pre-KISS band, Wicked Lester.
Eddie: Yeah, they were called Wicked Lester when Jay Jay auditioned for them, and he almost got in the band. I remember he was jamming with them for about a good two months and then all of a sudden I guess they weren’t sure, you know, they were trying out different guys and then they tried out Ace and I guess decided to go with him. So there’s a little bit of Rock n’ Roll trivia. Because, you know, if he would joined KISS, there would have been no Twisted Sister.
full in bloom: That’s right, because he was an original member from the ’70s Twisted Sister, right? When the band first started.
Eddie: Yeah, he was one of the original members. I think right after the Wicked Lester thing, he joined a band. It wasn’t this version of the band, it was like the first version of Twisted Sister. Then they broke up and we got this version together. At first, it was just four of us and we decided to get a singer and that’s when we got Dee (Snider). And then, you know, that’s when things started to go from there. When Dee joined the band, after awhile we started doing originals and just kept building up with the band and the name. We became like a tri-state phenomena. We would play anywhere within a hundred mile radius on any day of the week and get like 2 to 3 thousand kids in a club. It was the late ’70s, early ’80s.
full in bloom: Who was the original singer?
Eddie: A guy named Michael O’Neil. He was in a band called Pretty Poison first, which was a pretty good band, they just never got the break.
full in bloom: Why did he leave Twisted Sister?
Eddie: Basically, the band just disbanded, the original band was just…. ummm….they were just partying too much, I think, when they first got together. What happened was they just couldn’t get along any longer and they disbanded. Jay Jay called me up about 6 months after they broke up. He said, ‘listen, I’m going to reform Twisted Sister and I want you to be in the band,’ so I joined. I remember going to see Twisted Sister when they first got together and they were cool. We basically picked up where they left off. At first we weren’t wearing the makeup, we were just kinda doing the same music – Mott the Hoople, you know, Bowie and stuff like that, a lot of cover stuff. Then Dee got back into the band and he said let’s do the makeup thing again, and that’s how the makeup thing started back up. And it sort of evolved into a different makeup, not just like a glam makeup, but kind of evolved into a warpaint kind of look, which is what it is. Dee calls it HID ROCK, instead of glam rock, you know, for hideous. Hideous makeup (laughs).
full in bloom: Was there a big difference or momentum change once Dee joined the band?
Eddie: Yes, I would definitely say that he brought a certain energy that we needed. At first, we were going to try to do it without a singer, because all of us had worked with LEAD SINGERS (laughs).
full in bloom: …and were sick of it?
Eddie: Yeah. It was like, (laughs) no, no, not another singer.
full in bloom: Was everyone in the band going to sing?
Eddie: Yeah, it was basically myself, Jay Jay would sing – I would do the more melodic stuff – and Kenny, the bass player, had a good voice. But the thing is, we just got tired of doing it. You know, the original band did have a frontman, lead singer guy. So we were doing ok, but we weren’t doing the numbers, or we just weren’t getting the crowds we wanted to get. We wanted to add an addition to the band, to spark things up a bit. So we said, if we had a singer it would take the weight off of us having to sing and play, and we’d be able to jam out, and have a guy in the front going nuts, you know, talking to the crowd and doing what frontmen do.
full in bloom: And threaten the crowd
Eddie: Threaten the crowd?
full in bloom: Yeah.
full in bloom: I saw you guys on the Stay Hungry tour, with RATT, in Dallas, TX at the Bronco Bowl. Some guy in the audience was sitting down while you guys were performing. Dee suddenly stopped the show and singled this guy out. He called the guy a pussy and asked him questions like, ‘why would you come to a concert and sit down?’ The guy starts shrugging it off and Dee finally says, “why don’t you come backstage and I’ll kick your ass.” It was classic.
Eddie: (laughs) It happened quite a bit.
full in bloom: I was just going to say, I bet you went through that plenty of times.
Eddie: There were times, even in the arenas, when we were touring with Iron Maiden in front of like seventeen thousand people, and Dee picks one guy, nosebleed seats (laughs)…all the way in the back (laughs)…it was funny….he’d say, “no, no, you, with the purple shirt on…yeah, you” (laughs) Like, you know, seventeen thousand people and he finds that one guy.
full in bloom: Did anybody ever take him up on the offer to come backstage? Did he ever really piss somebody off?
Eddie: No, not really. Most people were really intimidated by him, they didn’t have the balls to do that. They would like give him the finger and stuff like that. Sometimes, people thought that we used to plant people in the audience to take the abuse. Then sometimes people that liked the band would do it. They would just do it to bust balls that night. It was kind of like they would do it to fire Dee up, you know? I guess it was like a plant, but it wasn’t. We never actually had someone out there, to do that. Sometimes you would talk to the guy later and he would say, ‘no, I love you guys’ – ‘Then why were you doing that?’ – ‘Oh, I was just trying to be an asshole.’ (laughs) ‘I wanted to get Dee all pissed off.’ This one guy jumped on stage and kind of got in Dee’s face. They both got in each other’s face and they did the face thing, you know, and bumped each other’s chests. Then he jumped off the stage. Everybody was going to kill him.
full in bloom: Why did he get up on stage?
Eddie: Oh, we were saying ‘disco sucks’ and this guy goes, ‘disco’s great, man.’ In the middle of like two thousand metalheads, saying disco is great. He had balls, I’ll tell you that. This was back in the clubs. He jumped on stage and he had a real disco kind of look, a real Saturday Night Fever look going.
full in bloom: So Dee was doing that from the very beginning, huh?
Eddie: Yeah…yeah, he always did that; I guess it became part of a thing. Dee couldn’t stand it when people just sat there with their arms folded and not getting into it. Then, I guess, it became part of a thing that people expected him to do. I think he just enjoyed doing it – I don’t think he did it consciously. He just would see that and get pissed off, and just go off on somebody.
full in bloom: How great is it when you have a guy in makeup, threatening to kick your ass?
Eddie: I know, we got makeup on and meanwhile we’re hard as nails.
full in bloom: How did you guys find Dee?
Eddie: Actually, we had this agent named Kevin Brenner. He worked with an agency called CTA. I think it stood for Creative Talent Association and they were a big, big agency, everyone wanted to be with them. But they were hard to get in with. In fact, Cyndi Lauper had a band called Blue Angel, before she made it, and she was always trying to get gigs for her band and Kevin wouldn’t give her the time of day. And when she made it, she used to tell me, “I never liked Kevin.” But to us, he was always great, I guess because we always did well for him. I never had a problem with the guy, so, you know, some people can get along with one person and hate another – different strokes. For whatever reason, certain bands didn’t work out with him and some bands did.
So he was booking a band called Peacock, which is a weird name. Dee was the lead singer and he wasn’t happy with the band. And Twisted Sister already had a name for itself and he had always loved the band, and wanted to be a part of it. So Dee asked Kevin and Kevin asked us if we were interested in trying out Dee Snider. And it was great from day one. When he first joined the band, we were doing all Zeppelin stuff and he looked like Robert Plant from the back of the club, you know, from a distance. When you got up close, he didn’t look like Robert Plant, but one day I said, ‘you know, he looks like Robert Plant if you’re in the middle of the bar.’
full in bloom: Are there any recordings floating around with the original singer?
Eddie: No, I doubt if there’s anything at all, because at the time they were just a club band. The only time Twisted Sister recorded, back then, was when Dee joined the band, and that was after awhile when we started writing originals, because there was no real reason to record songs that were already recorded. But when we started writing originals, that’s when we started recording, which was in the late ’70s. Most of that stuff we released, because we had a lot of stuff in the can. Club Daze I & II. Some of those things we did in 1 to 2 days, because we were playing clubs so much that we could go into the studio and play live, and record, and be very tight.
full in bloom: How often did you guys play out back then?
Eddie: About 4 or 5 days a week.
full in bloom: Were you able to pay your bills by just playing music?
Eddie: Oh yeah, we were doing really well. At one point we were one of the highest paid club bands in the tri-state area. We were making some very good money, for the times, but even nowadays. Some bands now would love to be making what we were making back then. Some of these bands are lucky to get $500.00 or $1000.00 a night.
full in bloom: What were you guys taking in on an average night, back then?
Eddie: I don’t really want to get into specifics, but it was great. A lot of these tribute bands now do really well. There’s a Queen tribute band and a Motley Crue tribute band. Some of them are really good, there’s one who does Alice in Chains…some of them do really well.
full in bloom: I know. I have a buddy in Dallas that works at some shithole club and they just had a KISS tribute band play there and the band took in something like $2500.00.
Eddie: Right. They make 2 to 3 thousand dollars a night – the tribute bands do well. It’s some of these bands that try to make it…unless they get a recording deal and do it that way, get a video out, get a name for themselves, and then they go out and tour. Which you know, there are a lot of different ways to make it. I mean we made it kind of the hard way, we did the club scene first and then when we were big on the club circuit. We evolved to the next level, and then got a record deal.
full in bloom: Once you got the record deal, you release Under the Blade. Was that record deal only in the UK?
Eddie: It was a record label called Secret Records, which was a good name for it, because it was pretty much a secret. They were based out of the UK, their first independent label. A guy came and heard about us. We had a big, big buzz in the UK, people were selling bootleg tapes of us and that is how he heard about us, and he came to the States to see us.
full in bloom: That’s incredible, he heard of you guys through bootleg tapes?
Eddie: Yeah. Huge buzz on the band. I mean, the first time we went to the UK, we were playing like the Marquee and all these clubs and, I mean, they would be PACKED. It was like the same feel that we had over here. So we signed with Secret Records. There was a band called the Exploited and they were signed to them as well. First we did an EP with them called Ruff Cuts, which was some tapes we already used. And then we made the Under the Blade album with them and recorded that out in the UK. We recorded it in a barn, basically with a mobile unit, did a lot of overdubs inside the studio. I forgot the name of the studio; Paul McCartney had worked at the studio. Somewhere near Battle, a part of England called Battle.
full in bloom: How long did it take you guys to record Under the Blade?
Eddie: About two months. I don’t know, it was probably more like a month. We used to pop things out pretty quickly, because we didn’t have to learn anything. We had been playing these songs for awhile in the clubs, there was nothing to learn or write. When we went into the studio, we were ready. It was probably more like a month for the first album and I think our second album we also did in England, You Can’t Stop Rock n Roll, took about two months.
full in bloom: But you guys were signed to Atlantic Records by that point, right?
Eddie: Yeah, at that point we were signed to Atlantic. We lost our deal with Secret Records, or they went belly up, I think that’s what happened. We had to get a new deal. And then we ended up doing this show called The Tube, which 8 million people watched. It was one of the biggest shows in England, at the time. So we did the show and Lemmy (Kilmister) from Motörhead came up and jammed with us on “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)”….there’s videos out there, some bootleg dvds of it. And Phil Carson and Mick Jones (Foreigner) happened to be at the studio that day, they were doing an interview about Foreigner. Phil Carson was the VP of Atlantic in the UK and he basically was responsible for signing Zeppelin, YES, AC/DC, ABBA, Foreigner, a few successful bands.
full in bloom: Yeah really. (laughs)
Eddie: So he was with Mick Jones and Mick, who had an apartment in New York, says, ‘you know, I keep hearing about this band, I want to stay and watch this band….they are always on the radio, they’re playing this place, they’re playing that place.’ Because they used to advertise the hell out of us on the radio, because we were always playing these big clubs. So they stayed and watched it and the next day Phil Carson offered us a record deal.
We were actually offered three record deals and we decided to go with Atlantic. Phil didn’t even want to meet us, he just wanted to sign us. But he gave in, he likes us now – I think it was more of a running joke. But he said, ‘I don’t want to meet them, I just want to sign them.’ So we signed with Atlantic and, of course, he came down to meet us. He was just joking. And that’s how it happened. So the second album we did at Jimmy Page’s studio.
Check back next week and we will post part II of our full in bloom interview with Eddie Ojeda.
This interview was originally conducted in 2005.