Mt. Rushmore, Disneyland . . . And Kiss?
This is no place for modesty. Kiss drummer Eric Singer describes the band as a piece of Americana, like Universal Studios or Disneyland. “Whether it’s going to Mount Rushmore or Yellowstone Park or the Statue Of Liberty, I say Kiss is one of the Wonders Of The World. Maybe I’m biased because I’m in the band, but I really believe that you gotta see Kiss at least once in your life. Even if you don’t like Kiss or don’t know anything about them, I guarantee when you walk away from the show you’re going to go, ‘That was a lot of fun – I’ll never see anything like that again.’ I always say, ‘It’s rock ‘n’ roll meets the circus coming to town!'”
Appearing: September 3rd at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park.
Although old-school Kiss Army members may not be a fan of the new “Cat,” Singer has actually been in and out of the band since the early ’90s, when they started hitting hard rock’s radar again. Before and after he has played with folks like Lita Ford, Gary Moore, Black Sabbath, Badlands, Alice Cooper, and Paul Stanley’s solo tour back in 1989. The tragic loss of longtime Kiss drummer Eric Carr, who died of cancer in 1991, prompted Stanley to recommended they bring in Singer. He played on 1992’s Revenge, a record that shot Kiss back up the charts via MTV’s then-popular “Headbanger’s Ball.” Singer also played on Alive III, Unplugged, and Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions, as well as the home videos X-Treme Close-Up and Konfidential.
The circus has been hitting towns for the past year since the band’s first studio album in 11 years, Sonic Boom, came out in October of last year. It rewarded fans with its Destroyer-era beefy tongue-in-cheek riffs and lyrics, encouraging the hordes of Kiss concertgoers.
On the recording of Sonic Boom, Singer says it was Stanley who brought up the idea of going back into the studio. “I think what happened was he started thinking, ‘Hey, this band sounds really good, we get along really good . . .’ and when things are good you get inspired to do things. He also saw that the audience was getting younger, and I think things changed. Three years ago, I didn’t think we’d do another record. In fact, I didn’t think we’d be doing as much touring as we’ve been doing. But we started working on ideas while we were on tour; sometimes Paul or Gene [Simmons, bass] or Tommy [Thayer, guitar] would work on some riffs and when we got back to L.A. we’d go into the studio and record them.
“We did [Sonic Boom] the old-school way, playing together live to analog tape. Obviously we used some digital technology and modern stuff once we recorded basic tracks, because then it’s easier to work. But it was done in a more easy, non-pressure, organic kind of way. I’d say it was probably about the easiest record I ever had to make, in the sense of not feeling pressure, like, ‘O.K., you gotta do all your drum tracks in two or three days then you’re done, later.’ We took our time. It was a real pleasure to make. It was well-received, and we’ve had a blast the last year playing all these shows and we’ve already been talking about going into the studio and doing another record.”
Singer says the Kiss Army these days ranges in age from 3 to 73.
“It’s really like a family kind of thing,” he notes. “When I was a kid, going to see a rock band with your family would have been considered so uncool. But things have changed a lot. Now it’s actually cool to go to events together as a family.”
Paul Stanley is a family man, with a couple of very small children, whom he took overseas with him for part of their spring tour. “It was great for him and good for us too,” says Singer, “because there’s nothing better than the laughter of little kids and having kids around. It’s good medicine for everybody.”
Kiss have made their current tour a family affair in a few ways: at outdoor venues any lawn ticket is allowed to bring in four children under age 14 for free. They’re also donating a dollar from every ticket sold to the Wounded Warriors Care Project, which helps veterans.
A band with a franchise as big as Kiss’ allows the members the luxury of jetting home after a few shows for breaks to spend with family (though Singer has no kids himself), or, in the drummer’s case, consultations with the pool man. “I don’t want to say doing ‘weekend warrior,’ but the way our scheduling is sometimes we don’t have to stay out on the road,” he explains. “We’ve been going out playing the weekend then coming home for a few days so everybody can have a little bit of recharge time, but more importantly everybody can have a chance to be with their families or deal with other things.
“When we go back out Friday, we’ll be out on the East Coast and this time we’ll be out for about two-and-a-half weeks before we have another couple days off. I guess this is the way country acts do it, I’m told, because, you know, they’re very family-oriented. It’s like people who go to work Monday through Friday and have the weekend off: We do it the other way around. It’s a little crazy getting on a plane after you’ve played and have to fly across the country in the middle of the night and get home in the wee hours of the morning, but it’s kinda nice because then when I wake up and I’m in my own bed and in my house and it isn’t too bad.”
Who knew that the outlandish costumed, makeupped group of pyrotechnic-loving characters – the Demon, Starchild, Cat, and Spaceman – would end up 40-some odd years later being a family-friendly band? Wait . . . Characters . . . Disneyland . . .
“One thing we’ve really noticed is the demographic,” says Singer. “There are a lot of young teenagers coming to the shows. Sure they’ve heard about the band either from their parents or from [the video games] ‘Rock Band’ and ‘Guitar Hero,’ but when asked a lot of them say, ‘I found Kiss on the Internet!’ The advent of YouTube was a novelty at first, but it has turned into a great promotional tool without people having to do anything. People just post clips and [other] people discover you!”
— Penelope Biver
For the full story, grab the September issue of Illinois Entertainer, available free throughout Chicagoland.