KISS on Their Meager Beginnings, New 'Monster' Book and Future - Exclusive
Kevin Winter, Getty Images
This new large-size (three feet long by two-and-a-half-feet wide) limited edition collection features 40-years of KISS with an intimate collection of 127 photographs by world-renowned rock photographers, including rare and never-before-seen images sourced from the band's own archives.
The massive book is a collector's goldmine, with just 1,000 copies available and individually signed, dated and numbered by the four members of the current lineup. Printed in high-definition links by one of the world's finest limited-edition and large format printers, each copy has been hand stitched-and-bound in Italy, by the same binder used by The Vatican.
As vocalist/guitarist Paul Stanley joked recently, "This book is way beyond my expectations. The photos are incredible at this size. It's not a coffee table book, it's a coffee table!"
So big that all four band members appeared at the Viper Room in Los Angeles this week (Aug. 21) while on break from their wildly popular trek across America to unveil the massive tome. KISS took some questions from the stage, discussed the making of the book, and their commitment to the Wounded Warriors organization among other things.
After the press conference, Noisecreep had the rare opportunity of sitting down exclusively in a room with all four members – Stanley, bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons, guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer - to talk at length about the book, the band and the legend that remains one of the most successful, inventive and hard-working bands in history. Together in a small dark room, as they are onstage, this is a band of brothers.
What sorts of memories were triggered in putting this package together? What did it take you back to?
Paul: We originally did the band because we loved doing it – that's it. Through all the trials and tribulations of playing in empty clubs or whatever, you always have to think, or at least we did – this will be a great memory someday. You don't see the negative side – you look at it in wonderment. It's just a part of the journey. That said, we were on a crusade from the beginning and we weren't going to quit until everybody fell beneath our boots.
Back in the early days, as depicted in the book, you guys pasted your own flyers around New York – you basically wrote the book on how to promote an unknown band.
Gene: We were forced into it, we cared about the band, we did things that hadn't been done before, but we didn't know that! We just thought – this is the way it should be done. The logos, the look, the makeup, the posters – we had to do it all ourselves because we didn't even have a manager. We didn't have anything. We did it all ourselves. We did our own mailers, put together our own press kits – but the impression was – 'these guys have a lot of money and a big organization.' We had nothing. We called ourselves "Heavy Metal Masters." This was barely when the term heavy metal even existed. We were nobody. So in a very real way we took the tact of, "We're only going to get the respect we demand." We created our own buzz.
Did this feel like an important time in band history to create something this elaborate and inclusive?
Paul: In a way it did. But musically, we reached a point where we needed to do more than celebrate our past and what we had accomplished. We needed to stake our claim to the future. And that's when we went in to do Sonic Boom. And now Monster. It was about using everything that we had built to this date as the foundation for continuing to build this monument that is KISS. So it's great to have all these great songs and the accolades in our history – but we have to be more than an oldies act. We have to stake our claim – and that's why our audience isn't necessarily just people in the sixties or fifties. It goes literally from like five and six-years-old, because what's behind KISS and always has been is the preaching of self-empowerment and the idea that if you believe in yourself and you're willing to work hard, that's nothing's impossible. We're the proof of that. It's heady stuff- but it's also timeless. When people would see us in the early days, they thought the songs were trite and juvenile. They thought that bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer – that was "great art." Put them on today and put on our first album, and which sounds contemporary? We do – because the simple truths are the real ones. When you sing about celebrating life, then that will last forever. Singing about saving the whales? Next!
Is there stuff in the book that will surprise even the most hardcore fan with a few extra bucks?
Tommy: Oh yeah. I'd say about 90% of the photos are previously unseen. Real special archive stuff. We've got vast archives and pulled some just unbelievably rare stuff. The most ardent fans will say, "I've never seen most of these shots." It's amazing.
Eric: For me, seeing the sheer size of the book is really impressive. Some of the pictures fold out bigger than posters, four or five feet – it's just amazing.
Tommy: Right, you see a different dynamic and emotion when it's blown up that big. You look into the eyes of those shots and you see more depth than you've ever imagined.
Tommy, what's it like playing new songs you helped write versus the old songs onstage?
Tommy: It's a great feeling, although I love playing the classic KISS songs – I get off on that every night. But the new stuff is especially exciting and fresh and I enjoy it – because I've had a lot of input on it.
Gene, back to the book – what did you learn about, or were reminded about Kiss in putting it together?
Gene: Our perspective goes back almost 40 years. You take a look at where we are now, and there are recent photos of the band in the book of course - the present lineup. And then you take a look almost 40 years ago when we first started. The thought I had looking at it from my vantage point was, "This band is either f---ing insane, or they know something the rest of us don't." Because when we first stepped up onstage, in front of Argent and Manfred Mann and all these other bands – you've got to remember the times – about the wildest thing anyone would wear, were tie-dyed t-shirts. We decided to change the game and completely ignore everything and in the very first song, BOOM, flash pops are going off. We were third on the bill! Our logo's hanging above the stage blinding people and the headlining acts were not even smart enough to take the logos down so when they'd come on, the people would still see "KISS" glowing in their eyes, when they closed their eyes! We didn't know anything. But, when you get into a fight with a madman, it's not a good idea. They'll kill you. So we had this kind of madman thing. Our road crew, too. They wore leather jackets with this sense of pride – they were like a biker gang. Nobody picked fights with these guys. Then the KISS Army – the fans. We didn't call them the Kiss Army. The fans did that themselves. They got it. They understood.
I remember a very early TV apperance on The Mike Douglas Show in 1974 that brought you into the living rooms of America for the first time. What a brilliant idea to use daytime TV to shock the country.
Paul: We can take credit for being geniuses and having great foresight. But the fact of the matter is, we would go on any television show back then that would have us. And we were lucky enough to have some connections to Mike Douglas and were thrilled that we could get on because most shows wouldn't have us. Not too long after that, Dick Clark became a champion of ours. And to the very end he remained someone we could go to for advice. In real life, he was even bigger than the legend. You remember the people that helped you in the beginning. Not just the ones that helped you when it was fashionable.
On this recent tour with Mötley Crüe, you've played through some brutal summer heat. But nothing seems to stop this band.
Paul: In all the sweat and all the hard work and toil, there was a basking in the glory of being KISS. Through all the sweat and all the agony of playing in that kind of weather, there was something to revel in – something to stand there and say about – "This is glorious. We are KISS."
And for newer generations, Tommy and Eric are just as much a part of the band as Ace Frehley and Peter Criss were.
Gene: You're only as good as those you share the stage with. Eric and Tommy have revitalized the band in spirit, in musicality, in stage presence – since the inception of the band.
Paul: Not only revitalized the band, but revitalized us – Gene and me. There's a vitality and a joy that Gene has and that I have that had been sorely lacking for longer than I can remember. And longer than the public will ever know. We've always tried to paint a picture that, in some ways, emulated what we grew up loving, which was the Beatles, the idea of four guys who loved each other, who lived together, who ran down the street together – that was mythology. And perhaps in the same way, we created a mythology that came back to bite us in the ass because it wasn't all true. And unfortunately, some of the people who were part of the story actually believed it.
KISS/Mötley Crüe tour dates:
Aug. 24 - Rock Jam - Grand Junction, CO
Aug. 26 - BOK Center - Tulsa, OK
Aug. 27 - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre - Maryland Heights, MO
Aug. 29 - Minnesota State Fair - Minneapolis, MN
Aug. 31 - Riverbend Music Center - Cincinnati, OH
Sep. 01 - Klipsch Music Center - Noblesville, IN
Sep. 02 - First Niagara Pavilion - Burgettstown, PA
Sep. 04 - Bridgestone Arena - Nashville, TN
Sep. 05 - DTE Energy Music Theatre - Clarkston, MI
Sep. 07 - First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre - Tinley Park, IL
Sep. 08 - Alpine Valley Music Theater - East Troy, MI
Sep. 11 - Allegan County Fair - Allegan, MI
Sep. 12 - Blossom Music Center - Cuyahoga Falls, OH
Sep. 13 - Molson Amphitheatre - Toronto, ON
Sep. 15 - Darien Lake PAC - Darien Lake, NY
Sep. 16 - Comcast Center - Mansfield, MA
Sep. 18 - Toyota Pavilion - Scranton, PA
Sep. 19 - Susquehanna Bank Center - Camden, NJ
Sep. 21 - PNC Bank Arts Center - Holmdel, NJ
Sep. 22 - Nikon at Jones Beach - Wantagh, NY
Sep. 23 - Comcast Theater - Hartford, CT