INTERVIEW: KISS Talk About Their Rise From The Streets Of New York To The Stages Of The World

by (@BHSmithNYC)

Alternate cover for Alive! album. [Photo: Fin Costello/KISS Catalog Ltd.]

Alternate cover for Alive! album. [Photo: Fin Costello/KISS Catalog Ltd.]

When road manager J.R. Smalling introduced KISS as “The hottest band in the land” on their breakthrough double live album Alive!, it wasn’t just hyperbole. There was no one else in the world at that moment delivering a more exciting live concert experience full of great songs, electric performances and groundbreaking theatricality. And while that 1975 album was the band’s watershed release they had already built up a large and fanatical live following from non-stop touring since the release of their self-titled debut album in 1974.

The new book Nothin’ To Lose: The Making of Kiss (1972 – 1975) chronicles the band’s embryonic days as rock n’roll fanatics from New York City’s outer boroughs with a relentless will to succeed. The book is an oral history and includes interviews with the band, their friends, and crew, as well as opening acts and other musicians who were there first hand to witness the group’s hard scrabble ascent to worldwide fame. Co-authors and for nearly 40 years the band’s leading lights, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons sat down to talk about the band’s past and future.

VH1 TUNER: How did this book come about?

Paul Stanley: Ken Sharpe put the book together. He’s a long time fan. We’ve known him since he was literally about 8 years old. He’s an avid fan of the band and an avid fan of rock n’ roll. He’s been conducting and compiling interviews over the years and it seemed a natural thing for us to do at this point. We’ve always told the story from our point of view but it’s really interesting to hear what managers, promoters, roadies, all kinds of people who were there recall because quite honestly there’s things in the book that I don’t remember. I don’t know that they’re true but if they make me look good then they’re true (laughter).

VH1: What was it about those years that you wanted to focus on that you felt was special and was an untold side of the Kiss story?

Gene Simmons: When you’re at the front of a train all you’re seeing is what’s coming at you. We have a very unique advantage because we get that adrenaline rush but you don’t get a chance to figure out what it all means. What the side scenery is like. Do I have my mother’s hips? You know, all that stuff which everyone else in the train gets and then the very last person sees it all go by. So they’re all different perspectives of an interesting, astonishing train ride that we’ve had which is now approaching 40 years and boy, do we look good (laughter).

VH1: When you see live footage of Kiss from the years covered in the book you’re killing it and you clearly have that hunger to succeed. What do you miss the most about those early days?

Paul Stanley: Nothing, honestly. It’s great to look back, when I see early footage (of Kiss), I couldn’t be more proud of it. We were totally committed to what we were doing. We believed in it against all odds. People said it would never work. We were four guys and we were a nation. Nothing was going to get in our way and when you watch early footage it’s absolutely undeniable the band was going to succeed in spite of what everybody said about it. Most of the people who were the naysayers feared what we were doing. Rock n’ roll in its purest form is always feared. Whether it was Elvis Presley, The Beatles or The Stones. You’re doing something right when people say “This is crap,” or “It has no redeeming value.” It’s rock n’ roll. And we were the essence of that and delivered the goods. We were the guys in the audience who went up on stage and said “Let us show you how it’s supposed to be done.”

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