By: Rob Cavuoto
In 1982 the New Jersey/New York bar scene was at its peak. The drinking age was 18 and as long as you could show an ID that you were of age, you were in. It didn’t need to be a real, it didn’t need to have a photo. If it did…it didn’t need to be of you! It was that easy.
During that time heavy metal as we know it was just started to emerge. The leaders in metal here on the East Coast were Twisted Sister and on the West Coast there were Motley Crue and Quiet Riot. Judas Priest just released Screaming for Vengeance and Iron Maiden released their mega selling LP, Number of the Beast, both were getting tons of radio play. Not to mention MTV had recently launched and they were playing all genres of music including hard rock and heavy metal.
Twisted Sister was one of the wildest and most outrageous bands you could see. They had Dee Snider on vocal, one rocks best frontmen, the dueling guitars of Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda and the pounding rhythm section of Mark “Animal” Mendoza on bass and A.J. Pero on drums and together they produced such anthems as “Were Not Gonna Take it,” “I Wanna Rock” and “The Bad Boys of Rock n Roll.” Throughout their career they had their ups and downs and broke up in 1987.
After 13 or 14 years apart, they reunited in 2001 as the headliner for a one-off September 11th Benefit show – NY Steel. A real reunion would take place in 2003 with full on make-up and costumes. Though they haven’t released a new material since 1987 they have put out a Christmas CD – A Twisted Christmas and multiple concert DVDs including Double Live (New York Steel 01/ North Stage 82) and Marquee Club 83. I had the chance to sit with Eddie Ojeda to talk about these DVD releases, reminisce about the glory days of the ‘80s, and the future of Twisted Sister.
Rob Cavuoto: Twisted Sister has been quite busy putting out some great live DVDs – Double Live (NY Steel 9/11 and North Stage 1982) and the upcoming Marquee Club ‘83. Tell me about them and why now is the right time to release everything?
Eddie Ojeda: It’s been in the archives for years and much of the stuff we didn’t even know we had. Lately there seems to be a demand for it. We’re always being asked when Twisted Sister will be doing new music and we have certain views about that. All our old music from the ‘80s is so engraved in people’s heads that if we were to come out with the greatest new CD, it would always be compared to our old songs.
New material from older bands doesn’t do what people expect it to. It works for young, new artists whose fans are into it. Our fan base is really into what they know, like Under the Blade and our anthems. So we’d rather go back and find stuff that we know our fans will enjoy. Some of this stuff is real raw; it was before digital with just one of two cameras. It doesn’t have the production value that we would have liked but it does have that “rawness” which is really cool and vintage. NOS – New Old Stuff.
Rob: Prior to the NY Steel 9/11 Benefit show the band had not played together for some time. Was it a difficult decision for everyone to put their differences aside and play that night?
Eddie Ojeda: Not really, because the events of 9/11 were so devastating that we were blown away and felt like we had to do something. We just called each other up and said we have to help. Personally for me it wasn’t. I didn’t have any issues with anyone per se. It’s just the normal everyday stuff that goes on within a band…the male ego.
Outside of that stuff, I never had any gripes. Some of the other guys had issues which might have made it a little more difficult for them. With Twisted Sister, I don’t think what happened was so bad for us to hate each other. It’s a five way marriage. At least in a marriage you can have make-up sex and then everything goes back to normal, but with guys you can’t do that…well at least not in this band. Not that there is anything wrong with that. [Laughing]
Rob: Not even between guys wearing make-up – right? [Laughing] Speaking of make-up, what was the reason not to wear it for that NY Steel 9/11 Benefit show?
Eddie Ojeda: We didn’t feel it was appropriate for a benefit show of that nature. I also had short hair and gained some weight, plus we didn’t have the outfits. It wouldn’t have worked at the time. When we decided to reunite two years later we got into shape and grew our hair and came out the right way, at the right time.
Rob: Regarding the North Stage ‘82 show, it is exactly how I remembered it when I was sneaking into clubs at 17 years old to see you. If you try hard enough you can almost smell the smoke and stale beer. What are some memories you have about that show?
Eddie Ojeda: That’s just before we left for England and it was our last show in the New York area. It was a special because it was in a theater and not a bar. It was the beginning for us when everything started to happen and we went overseas to record Under the Blade.
Rob: Why did you think it took the band so long to get signed and moved out of the clubs?
Eddie Ojeda: I’m really not sure. We just kept plowing through and always believed in ourselves. It did come at the right time. We got our first record deal with Secret Records and unfortunately they went out of business. Then we got a worldwide deal with Atlantic Records and everything busted open for us.
Rob: One of the cool things I noticed during the show is that you’re playing your original pink and black bull’s eye Charvel with the black Strat headstock? Tell me about it.
Eddie Ojeda: That was the first bull’s eye guitar made by Charvel, a new company at the time. That guitar was on the cover of their first catalog too. I never expected the great reaction that it got. It was modeled after our Sound City Cabinets where we painted the speaker cones pink and black.
I used it so much that it needed to be refretted two or three times. Grover Jackson called me up at one point and said he wasn’t able to refret it again and it was best to retire the guitar. I could have had a new neck put on but at the time I got an offer from a guitar collector who wanted to buy it. I wasn’t with the band anymore and it wasn’t playing right so I sold it.
I still have the 1985 Twisted Sister logo guitar that was one of the first ones with the pointy headstock and 22 frets. I prefer the 22 over the 21 frets on the bull’s eye guitar. That extra fret makes the difference. I also like the extra room at the top too, versus the 24 frets on my BC Rich.
The Charvel also had the 12 or 14 radius with the flatness, really made it easy to play. That one never needed to be refretted and still sounds great. The only thing is that the frets board has natural scallops from being used so much. I learned my lesson and will never sell it.
Rob: Did you still have the cherry sunburst BC Rich – Rich Bitch?
Eddie Ojeda: [Laughing] No that’s another one that I regret selling. It was an awesome guitar. I had that custom made for me and ordered it from 48th Street Guitars in NYC. When I was on vacation in CA, I went to the BC Rich factory in East LA to check the guitars out being made. Whoever has that guitar now, if they remove the pickups, they will see my name in the raw wood.
Back in the day you could get a custom made guitar for $1200. I never played it as a ten string, just as a six. After the band broke up, I went through some rough times like everyone else have to sell stuff to pay the bills. Most people think that the music industry is wonderful and never know about all the ups and downs.
I have even a worse story. Back when I was a kid I had a ‘69 Telecaster that I paid $100 for. I played it for a few years and then sold it for $150. I was so excited that I sold this used guitar and made $50 bucks! [Laughing] I was as happy as a pig in shit and never saw it coming. Now days that thing would be worth $15,000 to $20,000.
Rob: If you could replay any moment in your career, what would it be?
Eddie Ojeda: Probably the Stay Hungry period when the videos were taking off on MTV. It was the in-between period right before you’re going to make it big. It was when all my dreams started coming true.
Rob: Looking back on your career, what the most important thing you have learned?
Eddie Ojeda: Be prepared and not to expect anything, this way you don’t get disappointed if it doesn’t happen. You can get yourself all worked up for nothing.
Rob: When you play “Were Not Gonna Take it” for the millionth time, how do you keep it fresh?
Eddie Ojeda: [Laughing] The song goes over so well live that it always exciting. The reaction of the crowd keeps it fresh and it never seems like a task.
Rob: What would you have done if you never picked up the guitar?
Eddie Ojeda: I would have been a doctor, a gynecologist or something like that. [Laughing]
Rob: You must have some great Spinal tap moments – can you share the first one that comes to mind?
Eddie Ojeda: Probably “sharting” on stage. A Shart is not a fart and not a shit…it’s a Shart! [Laughing] That’s just one of the many Spinal Tap moments, I have to start writing them all down.
Here is another feces story. We were on stage in England and we had this Scottish guy working for us with this thick accent. I believe were playing Donnington or Reading Festival and people were chucking fruits and vegetables at us. There were about 40,000 people there and no matter what band you were in you had 10,000 people that didn’t like you.
Everyone in the audience brought food because it was an all-day thing and at some point they needed to discard it – right. [Laughing] One guy hit me in the head with an apple which you can hear it on the video when my guitar goes “twang” in the middle of a song. [Laughing]
At the end of our set, this Scottish guy is waiting for us and tells us that someone threw a “shite” on stage. Were all like what’s a “shite”? He says in the thick accent, a shite man, a piece of shit, someone threw a shit at you. [Laughing]
We were all like how much do you have to hate a band to throw a piece of shit at them. And where did they get it from, it’s not like there is a Shit stand at the venue. Did some guy shit in his buddy’s hand and then tossed it at us? That was beyond Spinal Tap.
Rob: Who has the dirtiest habits on tour? Like who is the messiest on the tour bus or backstage?
Eddie Ojeda: I don’t know if I should tell you that, I’ll get in trouble. Every band has one.
Rob: Do you have any solo projects that you are working on?
Eddie Ojeda: Yes, I’m working on my second solo CD; I’m calling it Pick a Window – Your Leaving. It’s hard rock CD and the songs have a lot of harmonies with funny offbeat lyrics. It’s taking longer than I would like. Twisted Sister just finished the summer tour so I’m just back to working on it now.
I’ll be doing all the vocals. Like with the first CD, I had Ronnie James Dio and Dee Snider singing “Eleanor Rigby.” I plan to maybe have a guest singers and players. I can’t say just yet as peoples schedules are always changing. They all bring different elements to the song which makes them better.