JAY JAY FRENCH explains EDDIE OJEDA's absence from TWISTED SISTER reunion performance
TWISTED SISTER reunited for a three-song performance on January 26 at the Metal Hall Of Fame charity gala at The Canyon club in Agoura Hills, California. Most of the surviving members of the band’s classic lineup — Dee Snider (vocals), Jay Jay French (guitar) and Mark Mendoza (bass) — was joined by drummer Mike Portnoy for renditions of “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll”, “Under The Blade” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. Guitarist Eddie Ojeda couldn’t make the event because he came down with COVID-19; filling in for him was Keith Robert War. Portnoy and guitar virtuoso Steve Vai also inducted French, Snider, Ojeda, Mendoza and late drummer A.J. Pero into the Metal Hall Of Fame at the sixth annual ceremony, which benefited the non-profit organization D.A.D. (Drums And Disabilities).
Speaking to producer/host Ace Annese of the “Ace’s Space Radio” podcast, Jay Jay stated about how Keith came to fill in for Eddie on such short notice: “He’s our guitar tech. And he plays with Dee as a solo artist. The fact that he lived only a quick 45-minute flight away in (Las) Vegas and that he was available and that he didn’t have COVID, there were a lot of things that had to line up correctly, but they did line up. And Keith came in, made the rehearsal and then dropped in like nothing changed. People who didn’t know the band super well, or just kind of think the band is Dee or me or Mark, because when it comes to the visuals of the band, that would be it, kind of. And that’s not fair to Eddie, because he’s been there longer than Mark.
“Look, Dee occupies a lot of oxygen in the room, and I take up a lot of oxygen, and Mark takes up a lot of oxygen, but that doesn’t take away from anything,” French continued. “I was concerned when Eddie wasn’t there because I’m used to having Eddie on stage with me. It doesn’t matter that Keith knows his parts. It’s kind of like being on a football field or a baseball team with guys who you’re comfortable with, and even though you can bring in bench players, and they can be great players, but there’s a comfortability level you have with the guys that you know.
“When Eddie called and he said he had COVID, it was a hard call to take,” Jay Jay admitted. “Then I said to Eddie, ‘Look, we’re gonna have to play regardless.’ And he said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said, ‘There’s too many people who are expecting us to play, ’cause now we’ve said we’re gonna play, and now we really kind of have to play.’ … We had people from Australia, people from Japan, people from Europe, people from South America (flying in to see the performance). So there was a lot riding on it. And the day before, if you said you’re not playing, then what about those people who have now traveled and spent however much money, and they can’t cancel and they can’t get their money back, and it becomes a real problem. So we really had a logistical issue here. And for, like, a half hour it was kind of dodgy. But the band’s been together so long, and the band’s dealt with so many emergencies over the years that, how many contingency plans can you go through? A lot. ‘Cause we’ve pretty much been confronted with everything. If you look at a business… Businesses thrive on stability, but then you have challenges, crises and catastrophes, and the longer you’re together, what seems like a catastrophe is now just a challenge or a crisis. When you’re younger, it’s a catastrophe. (In this case) it was, like, ‘Okay. So now what? Let me just kind of think about it for a minute. And we thought it about it for a minute, and I said, ‘There’s a way to handle this.’ It’s three songs. It’s not like it’s a whole show.”
In a separate interview with Canada’s The Metal Voice, French said that the Metal Hall Of Fame performance shouldn’t give fans the impression that there will be more TWISTED SISTER performances to follow.
“There’s no reunion to speak of,” he said. “I’m not gonna be so cynical and say that it couldn’t lead to conversations, but we never had a single conversation about a reunion prior to this. Not one.
“People always go, ‘When are you guys getting back together?’ I say, ‘Well, we talk all the time, but we never talk about playing. But we talk about business,'” Jay Jay added. “Why do we talk about business? Because ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’ are the most licensed songs in the history of the music business; they’re in more TV commercials, movie soundtracks… So we do licensing deals all day long. It’s really what we do. I’m in the business of music licensing, which is a business I didn’t know existed.”
In 2016, TWISTED SISTER embarked on one final trek, titled “Forty And Fuck It”, in celebration of its 40th anniversary. These shows featured the band’s “core lineup” of Snider, French, Ojeda and Mendoza, along with Portnoy. The band’s last-ever concert took place in November of that year — 20 months after the passing of Pero.
TWISTED SISTER‘s original run ended in the late ’80s. After more than a decade, the band publicly reunited in November 2001 to top the bill of New York Steel, a hard-rock benefit concert to raise money for the New York Police And Fire Widows’ And Children’s Benefit Fund.
The surviving members of the classic lineup of TWISTED SISTER previously reunited virtually in March 2021 for a special episode of Mendoza‘s Internet TV show “22 Now”. The hour-and-a-half-long program was a tribute to Pero, who died exactly six years earlier at the age of 55 while on tour with the band ADRENALINE MOB.
Prior to the March 2021 virtual reunion, the four surviving members of TWISTED SISTER reunited for two days and nights in November 2019 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the band’s classic album “Stay Hungry”.
In a 2021 interview with the “Metal From The Inside” podcast, Snider was asked if he is still steadfast about not wanting TWISTED SISTER to reunite. He responded: “(I am) one hundred percent committed to not reuniting. Now, let me just be clear: we’re friends. I did a (solo) show a couple of weeks ago (on June 11 at Stereo Garden in Patchogue, New York) and (TWISTED SISTER bassist Mark) Mendoza showed up, and we did (TWISTED SISTER‘s) ‘Under The Blade’, and it was awesome. I talk to the guys all the time. I can show you my text messages. We have a little text group, and we were sending messages back and forth.
“To me, that was the reason to reunite, was to fix the relationships (between the members of the band), and we did fix’ em, and we’re friends,” he explained. “I feel we did what we could do without just doing the same thing over. And I wanted to do some new, challenging things that I couldn’t do within TWISTED. And the solo records I’ve done I could not have done with TWISTED SISTER. I could not have done ‘Dee Does Broadway’ with TWISTED SISTER — ‘Twisted Does Broadway’. And I could not have done ‘For The Love Of Metal’ with TWISTED SISTER; people would never have accepted it. But as a solo artist, I’m allowed to change and evolve. And some things (fans have) liked; some things they’ve not liked. But at the same time, I’m allowed; no one’s ever questioned (it). And, again, if TWISTED SISTER did it, it would be, like, ‘Hey, it doesn’t sound like TWISTED SISTER anymore’; it would have been that kind of thing.”
Circling back to the prospect of TWISTED SISTER reuniting, Dee said: “I could see us doing a charity — a couple of songs for charity, for the right reasons. We got (back) together originally for charity, which was a good reason to get together. I could see (talk show host Jimmy) Fallon — he’s a big fan — if he said, ‘Hey, guys, can you guys come on ‘(The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’) and do ‘White Christmas’ for us?’ Fuck yeah. But to do a tour, to do 90 minutes, two hours on a stage, I don’t see that happening. And credit to everybody in the band, and I know some people — without naming names — some guys, they would have kept going; others did not wanna keep going. But I’m sure we get offers. Jay Jay French (TWISTED SISTER) is the manager of TWISTED, ’cause it’s still an entity — there’s still royalties and licenses and things like that, and merchandise — he’s not presented one offer, and I’m sure we’ve gotten ’em. ‘Cause we’re not even considering it. It doesn’t matter what they’re offering; we’re not doing it.”
Looking forward to playing together for the first time since 2016...especially the rehearsal! https://t.co/FgTJJd5teA— Dee Snider🇺🇸🎤 (@deesnider) January 7, 2023