Dee: Heh. My sons are Muppets fans. I like the two old dudes who are constantly sniping at the cast -- I pride myself on being a bit of a sniper myself, and I get joy out of their rhetoric.
Marco: Strangeland: Disciple is coming out -- what's the release date? And, we have already seen other movies like the Saw and Hostel movies --what is Strangeland: Disciple going to show us that we haven't seen?
Dee: There is no release date yet. The target date for starting production is September or October.
Hostel and Saw are children of Strangeland. Before that, there was no torture genre; everyone was still beating the dead horse being chased and dying of Halloween. The idea of being torn into had not been developed yet.
I did a Fangoria radio show, dedicated to the world of horror; and the makers of Hostel and Saw would talk about how they loved Strangeland. With Strangeland: Disciple, I'm going to take my crown back.
That calls for a really intense effort on the part of the script. It is the graphic nature of Strangeland: Disciple. It will be NC-17. We can allow ourselves to focus more on things happening to the subjects. We don't have to cut away so rapidly -- so rabidly. 'R' leaves a lot to the imagination. I tend to leave a lot less to the imagination.
Marco: Strangeland: Disciple is going to be NC-17. You must be taking some heat for that? Tell me about that.
Dee: I wanted to make the first one NC-17, but the company making the picture said "No, you can't. You won't get any screens. When did you last see an NC-17 movie at the multiplex?" There is a conservative undercurrent in this country that won't allow [this type of movie] to be seen. Their view is that the rating is to protect the public, not educate them.
I am not making a movie for children. I know, from experience, that kids are buying tickets to Snow White or whatever and sneaking in to see R-rated films. So we toned down Strangeland.
With Strangeland: Disciple, we are doing the reverse of what is going on today -- which is to release the R-rated movie in the theaters and then do the unrated director's cut on DVD. I want to make an adult movie: dark, disturbing, and intense.
The original release will have limited screenings. When The Exorcist came out (Editor's Note: The name of the antagonist, Capitan Howdy, is the spirit that was channeled in that film), it only showed in New York and LA. The word spread about this insane movie. The first cut was a lot more intense with more subliminal cuts and things like the spider-walk that got taken out of the release version. People were passing out in the theater.
We're going to do the initial screenings with NC-17, and then a wider release at 'R.' People will be going "you have to see the original."
I'm not making an intense picture for the purpose of making an intense picture. It's reality based. The first one was also; when I wrote it, Internet crime didn't exist. In the last movie, Captain Howdy appears to burn to death -- he is on fire. When you see how he survives, people will go "Oh crap, I get that!" It is reality based.
The opening scene is an autopsy of a severely burned body; it is a gruesome, brutal experience. The credit roll is over the surgeries on Captain Howdy -- the burn surgery. Burn victims are the most horrific; the real monsters of our society. The surgeries they go through to be reconstructed have people run from the room screaming.
What's the first thing that happens when a criminal is brought into the morgue? It is an autopsy. If a guy survives burns - then it is surgery. This is following the natural course of action, and it is incredibly intense!
Marco: Will we learn more about Captain Howdy?
Dee: Captain Howdy's relationships and his youth is explored in Disciple. He had a really messed up father who things to him. It caused this insane split and you see how he connects pain with love. You see a baby and a young boy who are being tormented by their father. It's on screen. It's NC-17.
People aren't born homeless and they aren't born criminals. All the babies in the ward have the same hopes and dreams and along the way [stuff] happens that mess us up. Some, worse than others.
Marco: Do you have any body-mod yourself?
Dee: I have a couple of tattoos. I did a lot of research on body-mod, and I felt that I had to at least sit and experience piercing beyond the ears. I did not want to do something because I have younger kids, in their 20's now, and the whole piercing and branding thing is their generation. They have their own problems keeping up with dad (Editor's Note: I bet.).
I had my septum pierced. I have the retainer in. So I have experienced the needle against flesh and having the opening stretched.
Marco: What's your impression of the body-mod community?
Dee: I researched and got very close with the body-mod people and came to understand the community a lot better: My initial impression was that they were angry at their bodies and were inflicting that on themselves. It is nothing of the sort -- they see it as beautification and rites of passage (which have been going on since the beginning of time).
They don't do it to make themselves ugly. I've seen some pretty extreme stuff and when you talk to these people they have incredible explanations and definitions and can go on to the spiritual side of it. When you are in their circle, you can get into it. When you get out, though, you go, "What the f is going on in there!?"
It's artistic and personal expression, and I've got total respect for them. Although after spending much time talking chapter and verse, I did not join the club.
Marco: In the original movie, society played a role as sort of a co-antagonist in that after the villain, Captain Howdy, played by Dee Snider is caught and rehabilitated, an angry mob drives him back to his old ways. Does society play a role in Strangeland: Disciple?
Dee: Society can't accept the sickness that the person suffers and seeks revenge on him. It plays on -- there are rednecks with pacifists, right-to-lifers, the religious-right. They are all teaming up even though they are not really the same people. They have a common enemy.
Society plays a huge role in Disciple. Society is the instigator. Without giving too much away, Captain Howdy survives and is put in a state facility, medicated and kept there for his own well-being. He doesn't want to leave, he's happier there. He doesn't want to be the person he was.
Society breaks him out. People like Charles' Manson's followers celebrate these figures. They utilize him as their inspiration. He becomes iconic. I could write a book on this: when Strangeland came out there were body-mod devotees who were mortified at the presentation of someone from their community as a villain. They were angry with people who worked on the movie even though I had made a statement that he was not one of them.
They said "Look, we're working so hard to change public perception that we're freaks and bad people. We are not any different from them [normal people]; we just choose a different way of presenting ourselves. You are doing damage to our cause. We would never do this. Body modification is never done against someone's will. It is a choice, and Capitan Howdy takes away that choice."
My friend, Keith Alexander, who has passed away was a major early body mod figure. He supported my right to create the character. Now, everywhere I go, people from the body mod community want to be in the picture. They love the movie! There's a Strangeland Tattoo shop. The real core people are mortified by the representation, but then there is the larger group who like it! "Yeah! Captain Howdy! He's F-ed up." This is the case where in society, we have infamous people who are hated by part of society and others look up to them.
Marco: Does that resonate ... with you?
Dee: Absolutely! In Twisted Sister, I was making statements with my music about not judging a book by its cover. I did Burn In Hell as a sermon against evil.
For the cover of [the album], Stay Hungry, I am holding a bloody bone with no meat on it. People would come up to me with bloody bones and go "Look dude, a bone." I didn't want a bloody bone. They didn't get it. There are definitely people who misinterpret other's actions and use it to perpetrate their own world view.
Marco: In making the movie, did you think about a sense of justice? Do you identify with the Captain Howdy character? You're aware of the Natural Born Killers case, where the movie was used as a rationale for why some kids went and shot someone.
Dee: I'm a very big good wins out over evil guy. I deal with this all the time. I dealt with it in Washington. It comes back to the same thing: every time something bad happens, the media looks through the background; and if they find horror, heavy metal, or hip-hop, they wave it like a flag.
Sympathy? You have to [have sympathy] so you can climb into the skin of every character and write them as you understand them wither as the victim or the villain. Interestingly enough, when I wrote the first script, I best identified with the father. That is who I saw myself as. Unfortunately, I don't have the looks to be the handsome hero. If you go further back, I based it on Twisted Sister songs, Captain Howdy, and Street Justice. I'd read about things, a pedophile, who got off on a technicality; and I thought if someone did that to my kid, I'd hunt the f'-er down. I had to sympathize to write the character properly but I'm on the side of hang him.
Joel Rifkin was a serial killer in Long Island. We don't know what music he listened to. If he had listened to heavy metal, though, we would have heard about it. He probably listened to Barry Manilow. I ask what band did Genghis Kahn listen to? Hitler? They didn't have those things back then but they had horrific violence.
It's not the movie. A sick mind can watch it and they're messed up no matter what. I reserve the artist's right to create a roller coaster. People want to be scared but they don't want the actual danger. Scary movies have always provided that.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, each time the roller coasters have to get more and more extreme. People get acclimated to the drop.
Marco: Two final questions. Did they really call you "Mr. Sister" at the senate hearings? And, do you have any stories about Paul Ruebens (Pee Wee Herman) from your cameo on Pee Wee Herman's Big Adventure?"
Dee: They called me 'The Twisted Sister'--not Dee Snider of Twisted Sister or anything like that. I thought it was weird.
I was always a Pee Wee fan. Before he did the kids shows, he was a college-level comedian; and I was a fan of his stand-up act. We were at an MTV New Years Eve party in 1984, and we met each other and expressed mutual admiration. We were both fans.
In March of that year, they reached out and asked us if we wanted a cameo. We were doing five nights of Iron Maiden at the Long Beach arena, so it was perfect. We got to hang out on the set with Paul and Tim Burton (who looked just like Pee Wee but with curly hair).
Later, we had a video and wanted Paul to do a cameo. We were told "The Pee Wee persona is a transformation -- it takes a long time," and I was like "Are you kidding me? I was back stage with him, and he would just go out and do it! Now it is a transformation."