You’ve written a couple of other books including one of my favorite KISS books Black Diamond. Unlike that book or another great book, Behind the Mask, this is less of a straight biography and more of a book for true KISS nerds with info and stories I have never heard before. Your subtitle says it all…’All that’s left to know about the hottest band in the world’. It also manages to serve its purpose without alienating a newer or more casual fan. Was that difficult?
One reaction I’ve been glad to get from the book so far is that of reviewers saying they had no background or interest in KISS, but found that they got sucked into the book and couldn’t stop reading it. I’m glad to hear that, because that was one of my aims – to write something for the KISS Army, but also for people who are just curious about the band and know little about them. In fact, one of my favorite reviews was one where the critic essentially said, “I hate KISS, and I hate this book because I keep coming back to it to read more!”
My main difficulty was trying to find a way to write in the background details that casual or non-fans wouldn’t know without simply regurgitating information I had already covered in one of my previous books. My bio about the band, Black Diamond, had been updated and reissued in 2009, so I need to find a way to cover SOME of those areas without fans thinking “well, I already read all this in his other book” , which was a challenge. For example, the first chapter is biographical details on the band members, which obviously would be in a bio, but I tried to put the emphasis on things of a more personal nature than one would in a bio (for example, the noticeably anti-Semitic nature of the way people will use Gene’s birth name in interviews, or how Paul Stanley has managed to keep most of his life private over the years). It wasn’t easy, but on the other hand, it forced me to be more creative about it.
One of the first critical pieces of info that maybe gets under-reported is that the visual aspect of KISS was not solely a Gene Simmons, Bill Aucoin or Sean Delaney creation. Paul, Eric, Peter and Ace were all at one point involved in graphic arts. Do you think this point is as important as I do and why or why not?
I think so, and a good example is found in the Wicked Lester chapter of the book. When Gene and Paul go to the other members of Wicked Lester and say, “We want to wear makeup and costumes on stage,” the other guys in the band balk (with the exception of one that thought it may be a good way to hide his identity from his bosses). As an artist, or even from being around artists, there’s a tendency to be a little looser, having a greater understanding of the visual and even a sense of “willing to do anything.” So when Ace and Peter were presented with the idea of makeup and costumes, they were fine with it, because they could see the potential in it. Plus, you have those creative talents branching out aspects of the band. Gene didn’t come up with cat makeup for Peter and Paul didn’t dress Ace – they put their own touches on their makeup, costumes and characters.It drove the four members of the band, and later Eric, to do something more than the ordinary, and I think their background in art was a big part of that understanding as to their vision.
Its great that so much of the book is dedicated to debunking rumors or in some cases, lies and misinformation. We both clearly love the band but it seems like there are more instances of myths, lies or recreations of truth in Kissdom than in many other bands? Why do you think this is?
I’m reminded of the “Chicken Incident” story that involved Alice Cooper in their early days. Without going into a lot of background, a live chicken accidentally was killed during the show. Soon rumors went flying around that Alice killed chickens on-stage every show. Frank Zappa – who was working with the band – called Alice up and asked if the rumors were true. Alice told him that it wasn’t true. Frank’s response was, “Well, don’t tell anyone the truth.” Meaning that the publicity surrounding the rumor was too great to try to correct it. I think KISS benefited from rumors about them as well, and having the whole “hidden identity” factor in-place certainly helped in creating a mystery about them. If someone wanted to think that Gene had a cow’s tongue grafted on to his own, what did it hurt? It only made people talk about them. I think as well that it had something to do with it being the ‘70s. Back then we couldn’t just Google info and find out if rumors were real or not; we would spend months trying to figure out if the new KISS show had the band smashing a car on-stage or not (as the DESTROYER rumors went). Everyone had some rumors about them during that period and KISS was no different, which is why so many of them still surround them today.
Keep reading this interview on Legendary Rock Interviews.
Kiss FAQ showcases the good, bad, and the weird that has made KISS the legendary ultimate rock-and-roll party band, still going strong after 40 years. Accompanying this entertaining work of solid rock scholarship are dozens of rare images – from posters to live shots and beyond. Also included is a foreword by Bill Starkey, the creator of the original KISS Army.