An Interview with Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister

0 0
Read Time:12 Minute, 25 Second
Jay Jay French - Twisted Sister - YouTube

John French, known as Jay Jay to most of his fans, is a man of many talents. Throughout his long career in music, he’s been a Rock star, as both the lead guitarist and founding member of Twisted Sister. He’s been a band manager, record producer, key note speaker and more. Beyond his amazing work with Twisted Sister, he’s accomplished and overcome more to date than many do in a lifetime, and that is something to be admired and commended.

These days, Jay Jay is a columnist for Copper and Goldmine’s online publications. You can head over to Goldmine’s site here to read his Beatles column, Now We’re Sixty Four. But that’s not all: if you’re into high end audio as much as Jay Jay is, then you can head over to Copper’s site here to read his column, Twisted Systems as well. Lastly, but certainly not least, recently, Jay Jay began a new podcast called The French Connection, which you can check out here. Also, keep an eye out for his new book, Twisted Business.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, I’ve got Jay Jay French “in the house” with us today. This is a very cool one, as Jay Jay is a life long lover of both vinyl and audio gear, and he’s got a guitar collection second to none. So, I am very happy to have had the opportunity to work with him on this interview. He’s a multifaceted guy, and it made for a truly interesting interview. That’s all for me, for now. Cheers.

Andrew:
John, thank you for taking the time to speak with us here. It’s been a weird year, hasn’t it? What have been doing to pass the time? 

Jay Jay:
Unlike most people, my wife and I traveled a lot this past summer. 2 weeks to California, 3 weeks to Colorado, 1 week upstate NY, 3 weeks to the UK.

We flew business class everywhere, super safe as there was no one at the airports or on the planes! Wore masks all the time, washed hands, didn’t touch anyone. Follow these directions and you have mitigated 99% of any chances that you will get COVID.

I have also used this time to finish my book (Twisted Business) coming later this year and to set up my new Podcast (the French Connection) available now on Spotify, Podcast One and Apple Music

Andrew:
Tell us a little about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?
 

Jay Jay:
I Got into playing guitar at the age of 10. Fell in love in 1966 with the blues through The Paul Butterfield Blues band, Albert King and John Mayall/Eric Clapton Blues Breakers.

Andrew:
Aside from your well-known work as the lead guitarist for Twisted Sister, you’ve got quite the canon of interests. Let’s start with your column, The French Connection, which, for those that don’t know, was written for Inc.com and was centered around mostly business. After 53 columns, it seems you’ve wrapped up the series with them earlier this year. How did you first become interested in business and entrepreneurship? What was your overarching goal and through line for the column? What led to the decision to end the column? 

Jay Jay:
Every business lesson I learned was on the job. I managed the band for 42 of the 48 years of our existence. All will be revealed in my forthcoming book Twisted Business: We’re Not Gonna Take It!

When Inc.com got a new editor, they changed staff writers.

INTERVIEW: Jay Jay French – Twisted Sister – The Rockpit

Andrew:
How about your column, Twisted Systems for the online magazine Copper? Is that still running strong? Tell us more about the column and what led you to start it. 

Jay Jay:
First let’s talk about my Beatles column in Goldmine magazine. I had been interviewed by Goldmine magazine and they knew of my Beatles obsession, so they asked me to create a Beatle column which is called Now We’re Sixty Four.

Copper, on the other hand, is an online audio magazine (psaudio.com/copper) and I have lived in the world of high end audio since 1967. Some of my best friends are writers for all the best high end magazines so this was a natural progression. My column is called Twisted Systems.

Andrew:
My understanding is you’ve got a book set to come out in 2021. It’s a business memoir, which I believe is slated to be titled The Twisted Method of Reinvention. Tell us more about the book. What was the genesis of it? What is the end goal for it? When does the book officially come out, and where can we get it?
 

Jay Jay:
The book, actually called Twisted Business, is both a business book and a memoir. I call it a Biz-moir! It’s the story of my life and how Twisted Sister was created and maintains relevancy in this ever changing world. There are life lessons that apply to everyone and all businesses.

Andrew:
You’ve certainly done a lot of writing since the end of Twisted Sister. Were you always a writer, or is it something that came on later in life?
 

Jay Jay:
I never wrote until I got the gig at Inc.com 7 years ago.

Jay Jay French Les Paul Standard Epiphone - Audiofanzine

Andrew:
I believe you told me you are something of a guitar collector. How many pieces have you got in your collection? What are some of your most prized guitars? What is the most interesting story you’ve got in terms of guitar collecting?
 

Jay Jay:
My collection has been written about in many guitar magazines. I have been collecting since 1967. I have about 50 guitars now. I have averaged about 60 for many years.

My current favs are a 1952 Gibson Les Paul Model Gold top, a 1953 Martin 00-18, a collection of Les Paul Juniors (’54’ 56 ’57 ’58, a 1957 Gibson Les Paul standard, a 1962 ES 335 and a 1966 Fender Tele among many others, some custom made indie Luthier models as well. The stories are too long but will show up periodically on my new Podcast called The French Connection available now on Podcast One, Apple Music and Spotify.

Andrew:
Being that this is for a vinyl/music publication, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of things– vinyl. You mentioned to me that you’re not only a vinyl collector, but an audiophile as well. For starters, how did you first get into vinyl? I am sure you grew up with it, but what led you to collecting in the manner you do these days? Sub-question: How big is your collection? What are some of your most prized pieces within your collection? Any holy grails that you’re still chasing?
 

Jay Jay:
I have a record collection that began in the early 60’s. I just did a Facebook post about how I got into Rock N’ Roll and the first song I heard on the AM radio in 1963. The song was ‘Hey Paula.’ If you become a Facebook friend you will see me tell the story. It’s also too long to get into here. I do love vinyl and have close to 1,000 albums, singles and my huge collection of British Beatle EP’s is pretty cool. I have 2 Beatle Butcher covers of Yesterday and Today that I bought from a cut-out bin in a record store on 8th street in NYC in 1969. I paid $1.99 each! 

I also have a large collection of re-issues and special pressings by Mofi, DCC, Sundazed, Acoustic Sounds, AudioQuest Vinyl among others. I also have a great collection of UK, Japanese, French and German pressings of Beatles, Stones & Hendrix albums. I still buy vinyl online through various mail order companies, and have many 45rpm Mofo One Steps and non One Step re-issued classic albums.

I have owned 30 or so turntables since my first AR78 model in 1967. My current one is a VPI 40th ann. direct drive. I take this stuff very seriously. Probably more than most. If you add up the retail price of my turntable, arm, cartridge, phono stage and all the interconnects and power cords it comes to about $45,000. This does not include a pre amp, amp, speakers and all the other cables.

I have friends however whose vinyl rigs come in at way over $100K, some closer to $250K. Do I consider this way way over the top? Absolutely! You can buy a good sounding record player for under a grand and be perfectly happy. I help my friends with this all the time.

Andrew:
Where are some of your favorite places to shop for music? I believe you live in NYC, right? I’m sure you’ve been to the usual hot spots, Human Head, A1, Academy, Generation, Jazz Record Center…

Jay Jay:
When I’m traveling. especially in Europe, I try to find used vinyl shops. Some of the very best are in Europe and I have found rare Hendrix, Beatles, Stones stuff there. 

Sometimes you can run across good choices at vintage stores and antique shops. I just found, this past August, a copy of Elvis Live at MSG June 1972. I was at that show and it helped to bring back memories for me. That was a great find. My really crazy audiophile friends are getting back into reel to reel tapes so I keep a lookout for those as well.

VPI Industries HW-40 Direct Drive Turntable — Audiophilia

Andrew:
Is your set up the be-all-end-all for you, or are there any upgrades planned in the future?

Jay Jay:
My audio system, which comes in at retail at over $130K, is pretty good!

It’s important to understand that my system(s) evolved over a 50 year period of time. I just don’t throw money at something. I know all this stuff really well and I know most of the high end manufacturers because I used to sell this stuff at Lyric HiFi (one of the finest high end audio stores in the world) in NYC from 1995-1999. Everything I buy has a reason for being a part of my system.

It never stands still but for the moment. I have reached a point where my room can only allow so large a speaker. This keeps everything else in perspective. I have an SACD player which is very good, and an outboard D2A converter/streamer. It lists for about $13K. 

I have a friend who has a digital front end that sells for $130K in his main house and one for $80K in his weekend house. They both sound really good. Would I spend that if I could? NO. I know what I like and what I can still hear. LOL!! The fact that you can buy this stuff is what I find the most interesting, not just the quality. Luxury goods and prices from audio to watches to cars and homes is totally out of control.

 Andrew:
2020 has been a weird and difficult year, but we’ve still seen a lot of new and amazing music released. What are some of your must have albums on vinyl from this last year? 

Jay Jay:
I tend to buy great sounding reissues. This year I have the series of Mobile Fidelity One steps, Marvin Gaye, Simon & Garfunkel, Santana, SRV, Dylan, Miles plus incredible non one step 45rpm versions of Sam Cooke (Night Beat)  Dean Martin (I Dream of Dean) , Sonny Boy Williamson (Keeping it to Ourselves) , Junior Wells,  Muddy Waters (Folk Singer). Also got a copy of Breaking Silence from Janis Ian. An amazing record. This is not a 45rpm but it is amazing. Twisted Sister just had a MoFi release of our 6 million selling album Stay Hungry which brings you all the distortion without any extra…LOL

Andrew:
As I am sure you are aware, quality control is an issue us vinyl collectors face. What are your thoughts on the state of QC and new vinyl? What do you feel needs to change to improve the situation?
 

Jay Jay:
Just the fact that we are talking vinyl as an alternative in 2020 is almost unbelievable given its death sentence 40 years ago! Records sound great to me. As good as my digital is, there is something about analog that just feels better. The world has finally come around to this and maybe, more pressing plants with higher QC will have to come online to deal with this renewed interest.

Andrew:
Last question. Your “first act” was as a successful musician with Twisted Sister. That chapter is closed now. You’re onto your “second act” as a writer, speaker and podcaster, and you’re seeing a lot of success. How did your first act prepare you for the second, and which is proving to be more satisfying to you personally?

Jay Jay:
My first act was to survive Boy Scouts! My second act was to survive the drug addicted hippy 1960’s. My third act was creating Twisted Sister. 

Twisted Sister has had 4 different periods, (the copy band bar period, the album/video period, the breakup period and then the 14 year reunion).

Now I’m onto my 7th or 8th act. Besides the fact that 48 years ago this week, I joined Twisted Sister (I’m now 68 years old), my life has had all the amazing experiences of playing over 9,000 shows, selling 20 million records, headlining huge concerts in 37 countries, and having 38 gold and platinum records as a musician/manager/producer. 

Then there are the bankruptcies, 3 marriages, a child, 2 heart operations (Atrial Fibrillation cured!) and prostate cancer (cured to the extent that cancer is curable!). Along the way, I have learned an awful lot and my upcoming book lays it all out in detail.

I have a saying:
I’ve been turned down more times than a bed sheet in a whorehouse, and come back more times than Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers! You just have to keep going no matter what life throws at you…until you can’t!

Have a Happy Holiday, Happy New Year, and stay safe everyone. And please- WEAR A MASK!!!

Jay Jay French | DiMarzio

Interested in sampling the music of Jay Jay French? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Average Rating

5 Star
0%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%

Leave a Reply

Social profiles
%d bloggers like this: