Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hell or Just Bad Timing

Eric Singer is fast approaching 15 years in KISS.  Tommy Thayer is coming up on ten years.
Just let that soak in for a bit.  We’ll come back to it in a bit.
As fans know, the past couple of days have seen interviews with KISS promoting a great number of things:
1)      The release of their first single in years, “Hell or Hallelujah,” which is getting some positive feedback from fans already.
2)      The upcoming release of their first album in years, Monster, in October.
3)      The release of their mammoth-sized (and priced) picture book, also called Monster.
4)      An upcoming co-headlining tour with Motley Crue.
5)      A show for Help For Heroes to help raise money for wounded soldiers.
And what has been the biggest headline that has come out of those interviews?  The topic of discussion that has generated the most heat amongst fans?  None of these projects listed above.  Instead, the media and fans have been focusing on Paul knocking Peter Criss and Ace Frehley in an interview.
“I don’t miss them.”  “We were never friends.”  And, of course, the ever-popular adamant “removal” of the two from the band (aka, “We had to fire them!”).  All these things came back to haunt fans like some nagging boogeyman, as the newspapers and other sources grabbed hold of the quotes, licked their chops, and threw them back out for the public to read.
You would think fans would be used to it by now; certainly most after reading about it just sighed over the repetitive nature of it all.  Both Paul and Gene have gone through cycles since the 1980s of putting down Peter and Ace in interviews (initially to the surprise of fans, Peter and Ace, after years of everyone trying to play nice about the strain the band members went through at the end of the 1970s).  Such stories were always about Peter and Ace “not advancing” as Gene and Paul had; wanting to destroy the band with their shenanigans; and focusing on stories of drugs and alcohol to the point that one would think Ace and Peter were either under constant psychological supervision or dead. 
Every time it happens, fans split off into camps, either defending Gene and Paul or Ace and Peter.  Then everyone cools down again for a while; typically when one current member does something with a former one; until Gene and Paul say something again and we go on the merry-go-round of potshots and hate again.
The big question is - what is it getting anyone?
Not to be unfair to Paul; if one thinks about it a bit, it is easy to see where perhaps such anger came from.  Look at it from Paul’s point of view: “Here we are, having completed an album, a book, starting a tour – let’s get to talking about all the exciting things we’ve been and are doing!”  Then the reporters come up and some of the first words out of their mouths are “When are you going to get back with Peter and Ace?  Y’know, those guys that you’ve stated over and over again as having failed the band?  That you’re sure have fallen out of the public picture years ago?  That haven’t done anything with KISS for a decade?  We reporters don’t care about your new stuff, we want some juicy stuff about prissy rock stars hating each other!"
Well, under such circumstances, perhaps it is understandable that Paul would want to lash out.  Same with Gene.  You work to put out something that you want to promote and the attention is on something or someone that you feel isn’t significant to what you’re doing anymore.
Yet, that’s the problem in lashing out as Paul did.  Gene and Paul aren’t kids; they know the game.  The reporters are looking for something that will attract readers and a few snide comments about former members of any group always generate some copy.  Gene and Paul know that.  And they know that there is considerable merchandise featuring Peter and Ace still being sold, so the public still remembers those guys.  Such a topic is bound to come up.
So why are they removing all the heat from their big, current projects with this old thing about Peter and Ace again?  Only the longtime fans and the tabloid readers are going to get anything out of that kind of toxic dialogue.  It would have been much easier to shut it down by saying, “It’s been many years since those guys have been with us and we’re all doing different things; like our new album with Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, who always blow people out of the water with their performances.  Could another reunion happen some day?  Hey, it’s happen before.  But we’re too busy with KISS in the present to go back to the past right now.”  (Heck, Paul has said things like this before, so it isn’t really any new stance from him or Gene.)
I think part of the reason this type of thing usually goes over badly with fans is that KISS has always preached a positive attitude.  They are a party band, and no party is fun if people are grumbling about something nagging them.  You move on, have a drink and dance or you get out and let everyone else have their fun.  So, although it is easy to want to go negative, it doesn’t help anyone and detours the point of the interviews in the first place – to promote all the new things.  (As an aside, Gene has always made mention of the line, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” but I don’t agree with that – Paul turned his chance to promote the band’s activities into one about Peter and Ace, and that doesn’t help promote Monster.)
Funny side-note to all this: an official video has been released for the new single (which you can see here).  The song, which seems to have traditional Paul Stanley lyrics about “girl, you are making me miserable, but I’m going to win in the end,” plays over a series of photos of the band in action over the years while lyrics also appear on-screen.  This may seem like a cheap alternative to shooting the band actually performing the song on stage, but such a montage in a KISS music video isn’t a first (I cover all of them in one chapter of my KISS FAQ book coming out in September).  Even so, fans noted one oddity: photos of the band cover both the original foursome and the version with Tommy and Eric.  This even though there’s been plenty of activity by the current line-up of the band over the years to generate enough photos and videos to avoid anything to do with Peter and Ace.  Yet, there they are, the two members Gene and Paul “don’t miss” but continue to use in promoting the band. 
That’s a shame.  Because if we’re really to take this band solely on the level of Tommy, Eric, Gene and Paul in the new video, we should be focusing on that era of the band and not this other thing.  After all, Tommy has been there for nearly a decade; Eric nearly longer than any other member besides Gene and Paul.  Why must the impression be that the band is stuck in this past with Peter and Ace?  If this is truly about KISS in the NOW, then focus on the current line-up with the new stuff.  Let the past take care of itself (it certainly seems to be doing quite well on its own anyway).  Besides, it would be nice to see these guys get some respect for sticking with it even though they have to sometimes feel they’re in a glorified tribute band.
Of course, such a question gets into the whole “Tommy playing Ace/Eric playing Peter” thing that has split the KISS Army for years.  After this much time, there’s really not much to contribute in defense or attack of that argument.  However, one thing that fans noted in the video is Ace’s solo album cover is displayed with lyrics superimposed over it stating “No lies, No fakin’” followed by Peter’s with the line “Goodbye.”  After Paul’s off-the-cuff remarks in the interview, it did make some fans wonder if that was a coincidence or something more.  (Then again, if Gene’s point a few years back is that the makeup characters are no longer Ace or Peter but Spaceman and Catman, are they suggesting that the current men wearing the makeup are faking and lying?  Okay, okay … calm down.  Just a little observational joke there.  Couldn’t be helped.)  As it is, it manages to pull fans out of the video as a possible cheap-shot and probably should have been rethought on the editing side in order to avoid such thoughts running through the minds of viewers.  It seems like Gene and Paul can't get away from the spectres of Peter and Ace; not that they were really trying here.
Oddly enough, the song does make a statement we can tie into the original question asked by the press.  Will Peter and Ace someday perform with Gene and Paul again?  Unless something unfortunate happens to one of them beforehand, it is bound to happen.  After all, as “Hell or Hallelujah” tells us, “Money makes the rules.”

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