Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister: Management is A ‘Tough, Tough Gig’
“To be a manager, the beauty of it is, you get to be at the creative points in someone’s career and enjoy watching the creative process, it’s astounding. And then you earn money by exploiting that enormous creativity and then you deal with the dysfunction,” Twisted Sister guitarist Jay Jay French tells Noisecreep of his dual career in band management.
“So I got news for you. You love Frank Sinatra, you wouldn’t necessarily want to work with him. You love Rod Stewart, you probably wouldn’t necessarily want to work for him. These people tend to be … they tend to have blinders on, they tend to be very opinionated and you’re fighting constantly. So it’s a tough, tough gig. You have to be really into the creative, exploitative hustle to appreciate it, which I can do.”
In the past, French has managed all sorts of acts including Sevendust. While it takes a certain type of person to be both a big-time performer and manager in the music business, French says he’s enjoyed both aspects of his career. Still, nothing comes close to playing with Twisted, even all these years later.
“I’ve never ever phoned it in my life. If I ever did, I would retire,” he says emphatically. “I have never taken it for granted. I’ve done 9,000 shows, me. I go back further than the other guys — 9,000 times, I’ve never phoned it in in my life. If I ever did, I would be done.”
Still, being a rock star and playing for thousands of people can only take a band so far. Someone has to look after a band’s brand, and that’s all French. He holds the trademark to the name Twisted Sister and has helped the band’s music stay in the public spotlight for decades.
“With Twisted, I do what I need to do because I control the trademark so I can do deals. No one knew the band would have the two biggest songs of the 80’s,” French excitedly admits. “There would be more TV shows, movies, commercials, video games. Nobody knew that our songs would be on Broadway shows we would have a Christmas album that became a hit, playing Vegas. These are all amazing things to us!”
In fact, the band’s hit ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ has been used in a slew of advertising campaigns helping to expose the metal act to a wider demographic. Still, French says none of Twisted Sister’s success today would be possible if it wasn’t for the struggles of yesterday. And by struggle, he means it.
“What we did was tough,” French says with modesty. “The universe was enormous, and fighting through the universe was enormous. People don’t understand it, which is fine. It will make for a great movie one day I guess, or it will hopefully make for a compelling enough book to understand what it really took. How the 10 years of slugging it through the bars to make it — that was the toughest part. But then again, making it was also tough. I mean, fighting for 14 years to be the biggest band in the world and then watching it all come crashing down and then being sued for millions of dollars and having then to file bankruptcy and go through all that and then rebuild it again and all without drugs. It had nothing to do with drugs and alcohol. Like every other band that struggles with drugs and alcohol, we hadn’t. There were no drugs and alcohol in our band. It was other issues.”
Those “other issues” mainly being the band dynamic and how everyone got along. Still, the members of Twisted Sister somehow ended up on the right side of success. That’s something French fears for the new generation of band’s starting out. Because the music industry is so different these days, many legacy artists wonder if the new kids in town will ever really experience rock ‘n’ roll success.
Explains French, “I’ve got 38 gold [and] platinum albums with seals on [my] walls. They’ll never get those either because the whole paradigm has changed. Now they’ll figure out a different way to do it. Goals will be changed. Gas was $.23 a gallon when I started, it’s $4.00 a gallon now. You’ll figure it out, except that you’re still making the same $150.00 that I made. So that’s what really makes it interesting. I made $150.00 a night to start, but gas was $.23 a gallon, hotels were $19.95 a night and a truck rental was $50.00 a week. Now, all that is 20 times more expensive and you’re still making $150.00. How do you survive and do without record company support, because the labels have all fallen apart? That’s where it’s fascinating. I don’t have to worry about that, not with Twisted.”
Twisted Sister will play various festivals across Europe and America this summer.