KISS Weigh In On Pussy Riot, The Elder Movie and Their New Monster Book- Exclusive Interview

Photo by Billy Bennight.

The hearts of a very select number of Kiss fans around the globe were set aflutter last year when British filmmaker Seb Hunter announced plans to finally make a dramatic film to accompany the music of the group’s 1981 release Music From: The Elder. Finally, someone would put flesh to the bones of the album’s sketchy plot, and we could really get to know about the Boy, Morpheus the Elder, and the deliciously evil Mr. Blackwell. Any doubts about Hunter’s ability to pull this off were dispelled upon reading the script for the trailer; clearly, the guy’s got his visual metaphors all in place. Many were even tempted to contribute to his Kickstarter-like campaign to fund the project.

But in an exclusive interview with the Los Angeles Beat, prior to the band’s press conference at the Viper Room on August 21, Kiss frontman Paul Stanley took an Oath to defend against unapproved use of the band’s music, potentially casting a Dark Light on the film’s prospects for release.

“We hear little bits and pieces through the grapevine, and quite honestly, if every fan who wanted to mount a film got publicity or credibility, it would be a disservice to the rest of the fans.  We hear about this and I’m sure it’s done with good intentions but we know nothing beyond that.

“We will have to reserve our rights and control of our intellectual property because we take great pride in what we do.”

Hunter’s blog, last updated on August 13, states that he plans to complete the script and trailer by October, then pitch the project to Kiss themselves, with the intent of offering the role of Blackwell to Gene Simmons. Maybe he’ll find the group in a more receptive mood once his vision is made clear.

We also asked Paul whether the band has ever considered revisiting that particular bit of their repertoire; Elder material is conspicuous by its absence from virtually every Kiss concert ever.

“That actually would be like taking a trip to a nightmare. I don’t think it’s a great memory for any of us. It was done with what seemed like the best of intentions at that time, but we were delusional.

“We were trying to please the critics, we were trying to please people who don’t like us, and life’s too short. We barely have time to be with the people who do like us, let alone try to make friends with people who want nothing to do with us. Ultimately, we said we want nothing to do with them.”

That being the case, I wouldn’t guess there are many images of the band during its awkward 1982 phase in Monster Book, a truly over-the-top piece of memorabilia. Ostensibly another in a long line of Kiss photo anthologies, it’s a truly extravagant collector’s item. How extravagant? The pages are three feet tall by two and a half feet wide, meaning it has a wingspan of five feet when opened. It’s like having a collection of hundreds of fantastic posters, all on high-grade stock, produced by the same printer used by the Vatican.

Having seen it up close, I’m certain that every single one one of these things is going to end up damaged the first time someone tries to read it unassisted. I watched two of of those guys struggle to manhandle the thing while showing it off to the writer from Rolling Stone, only to drop it on the ground. “Hey, we own the thing, we can fuck it up!,” laughed Simmons. Their love is, truly, too much to hold.

Needless to say, it’s not cheap – forty-two fifty including shipping.  That’s four thousand two hundred and fifty smackeroos. Only one thousand copies are being made, Simmons explained – a thousand, that is, for each country where there’s a Kiss Army. “And how many countries are there in the world? Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!.” Evil laughter in this case suggests the edition may be limited only by its ability to sell itself. Ten editions are planned for the time being. Surely even Luxembourg has a Kiss Army outpost somewhere within its borders, should there be that many takers.

Once the conference got started, the most popular question was a variation on “what about all the people who can’t pay four thousand dollars” (it wouldn’t be fair to the people who CAN afford it, Stanley pointed out) or “are you putting out a more affordable version of it,” which Stanley answered twice and finally said “I made the joke already and you missed it!” to a third inquiry.

While waiting for our brief interview in the private room, I recorded the following exchange in response to the question, asked by a female interviewer with a nearly impenetrable French accent: “What do you think about Pussy Riots?”

Stanley: About what? Pussy riots?!?

Thayer: Yeah, in Russia… they’re very pretty girls…

Simmons: It’s not a good band. But they have a right to do whatever they want to do. And it’s too bad that politics gets in the way of rock bands. They don’t play instruments, right? They just sing? You see, that’s…

Stanley: A strong country should never be afraid of freedom. And rock and roll is freedom. And with freedom comes independence and a sense of independence, that, many countries still want to squash that. We love pussy but…

Simmons: The band.

Stanley: Pussy riot. Pussy girls!

Interviewer: You love them?

Stanley: I love them.

Interviewer: But you’re not a fan of them?

Simmons: No that’s not.. no, no… the band is not my taste in music. Because they don’t play instruments.

Stanley: That pussy’s not to his taste.

Singer: He doesn’t like pussy.

Simmons: But…

Stanley: GENE, WHY DON’T YOU LIKE PUSSY?

Simmons (evidently signalling the interviewer that this line of questioning has gone off the rail and she should ask the next question): Go ahead.

Interviewer: Who is your favorite contemporary musician? You don’t like pussy, but…

Stanley: We’re JOKING.

Thayer: Coldplay’s cool… there’s a lot of great bands.

Note: the apology for joking appeared to be in reference to the “pussy” thing coming back up, not the assertion that Coldplay is cool.

Simmons mentioned the Black Keys as being kind of cool and noted “there’s a lot of bands that have something. What’s missing is stardom, the ability to get up on stage and pull… bigger than life. Stars, there are no stars, there’s no Elvis, you know, even Prince. Stage presence? None of the bands have it. They look like garbage collectors. I’m serious, they look worse than the audience that comes to see them. They don’t dress up for the stage, there’s no pride, they’re not stars. They’re in bands!”

“Do you really want to pay to see someone who looks like they just delivered your dinner,” added Stanley. “Entertainers and stars are the people we get a thrill from. Musicians who look like the delivery boy, they don’t realize, there’s more to it. When big bands go on stage, they deliver the goods. That’s why we’ve been around forty years, because people know that when they come to see us, they are going to get their money’s worth… We are PROUD to be entertainers and we’re a hell of a rock band.”

“The only new rock star is Lady Gaga, and that’s it,” added Gene.

It was a little weird seeing Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer without makeup. I’ve seen Singer before, as Alice Cooper’s drummer, but watching the four of them together, it struck me how, even without the chicken suits on, they do resemble the basic outlines of Ace and Peter. They’ll always be the new guys, but Gene and Paul seem anxious to make the fans accept them. “I wouldn’t play with anybody except for these three guys”, said Simmons. Their autographs are on the inside of the new book alongside the other two. There’s a second album from the Thayer/Singer lineup due later in the year, and by now, Kiss have been touring with that lineup longer than the original four-piece ever did.

It makes one wonder if there will be future Kiss Army inductees – or if there are current ones – who prefer the steady professionalism of Tommy and Eric to the limitations of their roles’ originators, and who would look at something like Monster Book with an eye toward what percentage of pictures features the new guys, hoping for a lot of them. I think it could happen. Kids today who get turned onto the band via Archie comics or Hello Kitty Kiss toilet paper won’t ever hear the names Peter and Ace mentioned.

I surely didn’t see enough of the book to give it a good or bad review, and surprise surprise, no review copies were being distributed at press time.

But speaking as a 36-year Kiss Army veteran, I have to give them credit, even as they produce a piece of work that I will never, ever think about owning. Like the Kiss Coffin, it’s one of those high-end things that most people will never experience – I at least got to look on while they flipped through some of the pages – but its very existence makes me chuckle a little bit. More than anything, it’s a testament to the idea that they have fans willing to drop four large on a souvenir, one the largest mass-produced books ever produced. The fan’s love also has to be larger than life. And I have no doubt they’ll sell out at least one pressing.

And I’ll admit I may just be cowed by them, since after identifying myself as a Kiss Army veteran, Paul Stanley asked me where in Jersey I was from, and took a moment as I was frantically packing up my stuff and getting rousted from the interview room to say “it was nice to meet you” and shake my hand. It was really kind of him to do that, he must have known it would mean something to me and it did.

They can get away with projects like this because at one time, that person who now has four thousand bucks to throw around was a kid looking for a good time, and got one from Kiss. If he saw them in the late seventies like I did, he would have shelled six to nine bucks for the experience, and gotten so much more than his money’s worth. This band doesn’t, as a rule, skimp where good times were concerned.

Yeah, I’m on record as officially wanting this thing. It doesn’t mean I have to have it. I once asked a wise man whether it was honest to sing along to “I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day” when the truth was, I had to get up and go to work in the morning, that partying all day was just not feasible. His reply, which has stuck with me ever since, was: “You don’t have to really do it. You just have to want it”.

This entry was posted in Books, Interviews, Music, News. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to KISS Weigh In On Pussy Riot, The Elder Movie and Their New Monster Book- Exclusive Interview

  1. memphismike says:

    nice review. i LOVE KISS. I’m a card carrying member of the Army (and Navy). Glad The Elder got some copy. Of all their albums, The Elder is the one that has grown on me the most over the years. I listen to it often and would have preferred Ezrin resurrecting it instead of Destroyer. As for the book, it’s classic KISS silliness. my $150 autographed copy of KISStory will suffice.
    p.s. i LOVE clawhammer too.

  2. Scott whitaker says:

    I have the KISStory book and it’ll do. I don’t really see the point of the monster book.

Leave a Reply