When our drummer AJ Pero died suddenly last year of a heart attack while on a tour bus with the band Adrenaline Mob that he was playing with, many decisions needed to be made, particularly what the future of the band was. We had a summer tour booked, and the DVD taping of "Metal Meltdown: Twisted Sister live in Las Vegas." Tickets were already on sale for both.
Immediately following AJ's wake, we convened a meeting on Staten Island still in a state of disbelief. We knew there were so many people (our crew, families, promoters, and of course, our fans) who needed to know how we were going to move on--if we were going to move on at all.
We decided that:
· We would hire Mike Portnoy, former Dream Theater drum legend who also plays with the Winery Dogs, to replace AJ. (Mike offered his services to the band the day after AJ died while sitting with me at a memorial concert for AJ performed by Adrenaline Mob; a band that coincidentally, Mike Portnoy had been a member of before AJ joined them during our time off the road.)
· We would move forward with Mike on board with the DVD filming
· We would fulfill all the summer tour dates with Mike
· We would officially announce (for the first time) that we would play for one more year (2016) and then retire.
My thought was that the end of our touring years as a band was now officially 21 months away. Twenty-one months until the end of a summer touring tradition that had been (since the reunion) going on for 12 straight years. How did I feel? How was I going to feel? This was, after all, a cold and final business decision made while in mourning. Was I going to regret announcing the finality of it? Could the outcome have been different? Could I have changed it?
It was not just the touring aspect that was hitting me so hard. It was also the realization that a lot of Twisted Sister's product was ironically, scheduled to be released in 2016. How was that all going to be coordinated along with saying "Goodbye." Would it be interpreted as a funeral?
It was pointed out to me years ago that when someone dies, the surviving friends and family lose one person. The dying person however, loses everyone. Was that how I was going to feel when I'd lose the adoration and the sound of 100,000 fans singing our songs in unison? After all, there are still dozens of bands that will replace us as headliners at the festivals that we'll no longer be performing in and I/we will never get that situation back. (I think I may be able to answer that in my next column.)
Here I am, with one last show to play on November 12 in Monterey, Mexico. I have to tell you that I have been remarkably composed and unemotional during these last performances. Maybe it's because I knew something most of you didn't: that this "reunion" was supposed to be the last for two or three years at most. Because we never planned for it, all the decisions were made to deal with each new idea as they came up at the time. There was no long-term plan because we never had a long-term plan!
So, we have been playing with "house money" for the past 10 years--every year since 2005 could have or should have been our last year. Who knew that the festival boom in Europe would only become larger with the music we played becoming more meaningful than ever? Who knew that our Christmas album, released in 2006 would be so successful? Who knew that the documentary "We Are Twisted F***ing Sister" would take eight years to finish and then would become a critical and commercial hit on Amazon and Netflix this year? Who knew that AJ would die? Who knew that our DVD "Metal Meltdown" (A tribute to the memory of AJ Pero) would enter the Billboard charts at No. 1 just this past summer!
Of course nobody knew.
But we managed to rise to every occasion and took a lot of chances along the way. We took on all comers at the world's biggest metal festivals and blew away all of 'em. Every night. Just as we were trained to do in the bars on Long Island. And we have one last show to go.
Maybe then I will choke up. Maybe then I will walk away with some regret. Maybe not. We shall see...