’You’ll Want to Quit and Learn to Code After Hearing This’: Twisted Sister Guitarist Reveals What Young Rock Bands Don’t Get

Twisted Sister guitarist Jay Jay French reflected on today’s rock musicians and the different experiences new generations have with live performing. While recently appearing on the “Vinyl Ventures” podcast, he talked about how his band was growing back in the day, playing bigger venues as time went on.

But the crucial thing here was simple — you just needed to perform as much as you can. And, according to Jay Jay French, Twisted Sister did a lot more touring than young rock bands these days.

Vinyl Ventures #59 - Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister

“I’ll give you another statistic,” the guitarist said (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs), “which is totally terrifying and guaranteed to make people who listen to this thing starting a band want to quit and learn to code. Okay?”

“And that is this. When a young musician talks to me about how long his band has been together, and I say, ‘How long’ and they go, ‘Two years.’ And I say, ‘How many shows have you played?’ And they very proudly go, ‘We played about 50 or 60 shows in two years.'”

But for French, this is simply not enough. He continued:

“And I’m sitting there going, ‘How long are shows? Like 45 minutes? 50 minutes?’ ‘Yeah, yeah.’ ‘You played 50, 60 of them in two years?’ ‘Yeah, that’s true.'”

Twisted Sister - A Twisted Christmas: A December To Remember (Live in NJ) [FULL CONCERT]

So how many shows is enough? Well, he said that Twisted Sister played a lot more. And we do mean A LOT. French explained:

“‘That’s impressive,’ I said, ‘In the first 30 months of Twisted Sister’s existence, which is April ’73 to September ’75 — that’s 30 months — we played 3450 45-minute shows.'”

To put this into perspective, we’ve done some calculations. And if what French is saying is true, then Twisted Sister performed 5650 to 6800 percent more live shows. But 3450 shows in 30 months, or two-and-a-half years, seems a bit off. After all, there are only about 900 or so days in 30 months, right?

Twisted Sister-18.6.1980 Live In New York

When the interviewer asked whether they played “five sets a night for six nights a week,” French replied:

“Yeah, every night, every month in the grind and the grind and the grind and grind.”

But it’s not all just about the quantity. As the guitarist added, there’s always something to learn. Every night, each of these performances is an opportunity to learn an important lesson about being a performing musician.

“And when you’re grinding out,” French said, “if you’re not stupid, you’re learning lessons every night. If you make a mistake, you’re not making the same mistake the next night because you’re doing it.”

Twisted Sister - Live At North Stage Theater 1982 (FULL CONCERT)

For French, being a performing live musician is comparable to being a baseball player:

“It’s kind of like baseball [which] is different from any other sport because their season is so long, and they play so many games when you’re playing 162 games. A lot of people think baseball players are blasé when they lose. No! They say, ‘Tomorrow I’ll win’ because they can come back from a bad day the next day. There’s a lot that baseball players have over basketball, over football. in particular, where every week stands out as a momentous week.”

“I’m a huge sports fan. But baseball players are like, ‘If I don’t do it today, I’ll do it tomorrow.'”

Twisted Sister - It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It) (Live at Reading 1982)

“And that’s how it was in the bars,” he added. “If you fuck up now, if you screwed up that song arrangement, or the audience didn’t react, and you figured out why, you could try it the next day. You just retooled yourself.”

Twisted Sister have finally called it a day in 2016. There’s been one-off performance for their induction into the Metal Hall of Fame in early 2023.

Despite the reputation that rock and metal bands might have, Twisted Sister have always been well-known for their healthy lifestyles. As French revealed in an interview from a few years ago, there was always this misconception, even though they were as clean as it gets.

Twisted Sister - We're Not Gonna Take It (Metal Hall of Fame Awards - 1/26/2023)

“The band was the straightest rock band in the world,” French said. “We didn’t allow drugs and alcohol in the band, we fired anybody who did it. That’s not the story of Motley Crue or anybody else. It’s our story, though, so that’s our thing.”

“We were so straight and we were so hard-working – we were being accused of stuff when we were probably straighter than half those congressmen who were questioning us [during the 1985 PMRC congressional hearings] who probably had alcohol and drug problems, and we didn’t.”

“So it was kind of ironic that we were probably more morally upstanding. We didn’t gamble. We were married. We had families. We didn’t do drugs. We didn’t drink. We were just in that crazy heavy metal band portraying this crazy lifestyle.”

Twisted Sister - It's Only Rock'N'Roll (But I Like It) [Featuring Lemmy and Robo from Motorhead].avi

“I don’t mean to say it was an act, meaning we were trying to fool people but, in fact, we portrayed a crazy band. We were going out there and having fun and just looking as crazy as we could and acting as crazy as we could, but when we went home, we went home to our families and our kids.”

“And we didn’t gamble and we didn’t drink. And not for reasons other than the fact that we thought drinking was dumb and gambling was stupid. If you do those things and you get in the way of us being successful, because you’re too stoned to show up on time and you’re too drunk to be in rehearsal, it affects my livelihood.”

Photos: Alfred Nitsch (20140802-348-See-Rock Festival 2014-Twisted Sister-John „Jay Jay“ French)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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