DANA Strum is a remarkable talker. There can be no doubt about that. Whether he is the former member of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion who Vincent told us in it 320 joined without once having to play his instrument is anyone’s guess.

But right now, bassist Strum is rather stunned. Here he is, sitting in a Las Vegas hotel room, his new band Slaughter sailing further into multi-platinum territory by the minute. He is doing his first telephone interview with Australia, a place he has possibly only ever seen via Crocodile Dundee. And here I am, only seeming interested in his least favourite subject.

Vinnie Vincent.

“You’re bringing up all this Vinnie Vincent paraphenalia,” he says, sounding genuinely surprised. “I don’t know how it looked in Australia but the band really didn’t do any business anywhere. It’s funny to hear this stuff, because we didn’t sell any records.”

kerrang coverStrum and vocalist Mark Slaughter have been reluctant to discuss their involvement in VVI since Chrysalis released Stick It To Ya at the beginning of 1990. Their split with Vincent had been acrimonious to say the least but what really happened has never been uncovered.

“The Vinnie Vincent Invasion were damn near ‘f**k you’ed off every stage we ever walked on. And it certainly wasn’t only mine or Mark’s fault. The fans went to see Vinnie and were obviously not pleased with what they saw.”

THE lead-up press to the first Slaughter album painted Vincent as an egotistical maniac. Strum and Slaughter kept promoting this concept until Vincent finally answered his accusers last month in Kerrang!

With the transcript of that interview in front of me, I’ve got a few new questions to ask Dana Strum. But right now, Strum is reciting his Slaughter sales pitch and it would be rather impertinent of me to interupt.

“All the guys in Slaughter are really down-to-earth, real guys,” he says, with not a hunt of a self-deprecating giggle. “They’re not pretentious. We do believe in posing. It’s just a real good honest down-to-earth rock band.

Invasion - Vinnie Vincent invasion“The whole rock star mentality just doesn’t exist with Slaughter because we’ve been fighting for so long just to be musicians. None of us wants to be a rock star. We just want to play music and make people feel good, make a living a go for it.”

I won’t let him continue. You get the picture … There can, of course, be no doubt Slaughter have moved onto a commercial level far above anything Vincent attained.”We tasted a little bit of success but we had no idea what major success like this was,” Strum says enthusiastically. “You lose a great deal of your life. It’s over. They tell you you’re going to have a day at home and it turns into an orchestrated day of: ‘all the pictures are used up and we need a good day for new pictures and we’re going to shoot a new video because we’ve sold over a million records and there’s no video for sale out in the market’.

“I never quite realised it would be like this. If that’s the price you’ve got to play to have success then, you know, that’s what you pay.”

SLAUGHTER’S success in the US has been nothing short of spectacular. A multi-platinum chart hit powered by dumb-rock anthem “Up All Night” and a fruitful tour with KISS have highlighted a very big year for the screeching foursome. I don’t like them but at least a couple of million shopping mall bound American wet dreamers do.

“At least half of the KISS audience is there to see Slaughter,” Strum says of their tour. The reception has been amazing. It’s not uncommon in America for Slaughter to make $30,000 to $40,000 in t-shirt business – a night.

“It’s changed our lives considerably but we’re quite proud of the opportunity to play on that tour and regardless of the amount of people who come to see us, it’s a learning and building experience every night.Slaughter centrespreadBut Slaughter have been even more important to Chrysalis, a label on the brink of bankruptcy when Stick It To Ya was released. Chrysalis picked up Mark Slaughter and Strum’s solo option when the Invasion broke up only a couple of records into its contract. Vincent used an army of lawyers to escape his option but his bassist and singer took what must have been a huge gamble and stayed. Chrysalis was subsequently bought out and its artist roster – including Aussies The Angels and Johnny Diesel – queued up to leave. Still, Slaughter stayed.

“Our record company was damn near out of business,” says Strum. “We’re aware of that. “Quite frankly, originally we were very scared we were on Chrysalis because they had a hard time breaking anything.”

But you didn’t have a choice, did you? They had you under contract… “There was a choice. You have a lawyer and you have the ability to fight contracts. You also have the ability to say ‘look, we’ll buy our way out. We’ll make you the only profit you make this year without selling any records’.

“But in America, this is the strongest year they’ve had for 10 years. They’ve made millions and millions of dollars here. For every million the band makes, they make six million. They’ve got Slaughter, Billy Idol, Sinead O’Connor, all selling like Hell…”

WHILE Slaughter are at pains to separate themselves from their previous project, Stick It To Ya carries a somewhat hypocritical credit, saying ‘Thanks to KISS fans around the world’. Isn’t that just name-dropping?

Slaughter 2Strum sounds annoyed. “No, since the guys in KISS use our names on there videos to say their favourite band is Slaughter! Is name-dropping?

“We played with this ex-KISS guy and we met a lot of great people, great fans who were KISS fans. They were very supportive. They called radio stations and demanded to hear our new record. When they did that, our record just flew.”

So doesn’t that mean you owe KISS – and therefore Vinnie – more than you’re willing to admit? “We didn’t get a fanbase that way,” Strum stresses. “The Vinnie Vincent Invasion were damn near f**k you-ed off every stage we ever walked on. And it certainly wasn’t only mine and Mark’s fault. The fans went to see Vinnie and were obviously not pleased with what they saw!”

Vinnie now says he was badly advised when it came to hiring Slaughter and sacking Robert Fleischman (who is now reunited with Vincent on his upcoming return on Enigma). Who gave him that advice?

“I admit I brought Mark in but my intention was to have a real band and we were all turned into sidemen,” says Strum. “Mark Slaughter was a young, energetic guy who wanted to go on the road so I went and I met Mark. Vinnie was working with a guy in Europe who couldn’t even pronounce Vinnie’s name!”

Strum says Fleischman had to be outed because of his flat refusal to go on tour, “Mark was brought in at that time because we had to go out on the road to try to suppor that record (Invasion) and there was no way Robert was willing to go on the road.

“He still isn’t willing to go on the road. I’ve heard that Robert sang on this Vinnie Vincent record that’s gonna come out but no-one in this country much cares and Fleischman’s not going to perform again.

“Robert Flesichman’s about 38 years old and looks like an insurance broker.”
IT seems that Strum won’t stop talking about this once he’s started. “I think Vincent wanted total control over his records and he should not have told people he wanted a band situation when in fact he wanted complete control. That’s really what it comes to.

Vinnie Vincent Invasion“But more than that, even if he had the control, he should have worked on his performing ability a bit more and worried about soloing in the studio less because … we were booed off almost every stage we played on.”

What about Vinnie’s accusations about Chrysalis cutting solos out of the record without his permission? “Quite frankly, the record company was very lenient wit hi over his solos. That second Vinnie Vincent record had a great amount of guitar soloing in it, in fact. More soloing than the craziest guitar record available in your market, other the Yngwie.

“It’s been a long time now since he performed live and he probably can’t remember the disappointment we all experienced, including me. The band was just not good live and he was a big part of that.”

THERE are rumours that financial matters also drove a wedge between Vincent ands band, rumours which Strum is naturally unable to comment on for legal reasons. He answers in a flash, though, when I ask if he and the ex-KISS man are still on speaking terms.

“No and I have no desire to be. For the record, I hope that the guy does whatever he sets out to do and that there’s a market out there for people who like to listen to nothing else but guitar solos.”

This story originally appeared in Kerrang! magazine on January 12, 1991

This story originally appeared in Kerrang! magazine on January 12, 1991

Ouch! The bitch…

Slaighter, meanwhile, are touring Britain this month with Cinderella as part of Strum’s grand play to be the ‘rock band of the decade’.

“We want the world markets,” he explains. “The record company was quite happy with us doing the business we were doing in America and Canada. We reminded them there was a whole world out there and North America doesn’t mean Jack Shit if you can’t make an impact on the rest of the world.”

For now, Dana Strum seems to have had the last laugh on Vincent. “In this country, a few hunded Vinnie Vincent albums sold,” he says, “and there’s been over a million of Slaughter records. “You tell me the reason for that!”


ROCK CRUISING: Going Overboard (2012)

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ON the final night of Vince Neil’s Motley Cruise in 2008, shortly before the aforementioned peroxide imp was about to go on in front of a raucous crowd of heartland head-bangers, a representative of Carnival Cruise lines approached the stage manager.
“I’d like to make an announcement,” said the uniformed official, smiling. “Sure,” he was told.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” several-hundred tipsy-to-slaughtered fans in the Carnival Fantasy‘s ornate ballroom were told, “We would like to thank you for coming along tonight and coming on the cruise.
“We hope you’ve had a great time and have enjoyed yourselves.
“In closing, I would like to assure you this will be the last Motley Cruise. So if they’ve started asking you for deposits for next year, you should think about getting that money back off them tomorrow morning.
“Thank you.”
Backstage, according to Larry Morand, who helped organise the cruise, “everyone’s jaw dropped – including Vince’s and (guitarist) Jeff Blando’s. We couldn’t believe someone would get up there and say that.”
While eighties hair metal and AOR may have become – as the name of this magazine suggests – “Classic Rock“, with all the soccer mom connotations that term carries – there was still a major cultural gulf between the genre’s beer-chugging constituents and the ultra-conservative world of cruise ships.
Too big a gulf for Carnival.
“They didn’t tell the other people who booked their honeymoons and retirement parties and things like that,’’ Neil later said in a TV interview.
“Because, my room overlooked the swimming pool and I could see all these people, just drinking and women with their tops off.
“And this is, like, eight o’clock in the morning!
“Then, on the other side, you’d see the little old ladies with the cruise director, getting told where the shuffleboard was, what time that’s going to start. They’re looking over the other side, saying ‘who are these people and are they going with us?’’’
But Carnival’s greivances were more precise, Classic Rock presents: AOR can reveal. Like the couple caught having sex in the pool and kicked off the boat at the next port. Or the man locked in the brig for smashing a glass window (“and that’s sea glass – not something that you can do by accident,” Morand admits).
Almost before it got started, Cock Rock Cruising had no future. This story was almost over before it began.
INDUSTRY veteran Morand, an experienced tour and production manager, didn’t give up so easily. He and his partners just had to find another cruiseline. They also had to find another name, since Motley Crue were reportedly not all that impressed with their clever pun. Read: possible legal action.
Italian cruiseline MSC, whose first ship burned in port at St Thomas in the 1960s and whose second was hijacked, had a brand new commission in the Poesia. It has a capacity of 3605 passengers and on the first Shiprocked cruise, they included the likes of Queensryche, Tesla, Ratt, Skid Row, Broken Teeth, StoneRider, Endeverafter and Lynam.
The sight of Geoff Tate and wife Susan waltzing during the fancy dress eighties school disco was the highlight. The following year, Vince Neil, who shared his stateroom with four strippers, leaving the stage for the bulk of his own show while his band played Led Zeppelin covers was unarguably the low light.
But slowly, Shiprocked was moving away from the original premise of the Motley Cruise by including modern rock acts such as Drowning Pool and SevenDust. Over the course of three years, other things changed too.
The Poesia learned not to close the bar at 2 am – and that drunk people wanted pizza at 1am when the ship cafeteria would normally be closed  and ‘normal’ passengers tucked up in bed for the night.
While this writer was offered drugs more than once on the Motley Cruise (one passenger even asked if I knew his Melbourne-based dealer), there was a zero tolerance rule on Shiprocked. Nevertheless, sobriety was not exactly a popular pursuit and it became apparent that there was a core group of fun-loving fans who attended each of
these cruises, along with the M3 Festival in Maryland.
“There is no Metal Edge magazine anymore,” says Morand. “There’s no Headbangers Ball. How do these bands reach their fans? That’s what we tell them. This is where you come to find out who your fans are.
“And for the fans, this is their chance to go on vacation with their favourite band. The interaction is a big thing.”
While mostly positive, this aspect of the cruise also has a dark side. Normally, you can have a beer after a gig and whinge about how the band sucked.
On Shiprocked/Motley Cruise/Monsters Of Rock, chances are the band are behind you in the drinks line. When Ratt drummer Bobby Blotzer overheard a damning assessment of his outfit’s performance and was later asked by the critic for an autograph, he replied: “yeah, I’ll sign with with this” and offered his middle finger.
At least, that’s how the story was recounted to me – five minutes after it happened.
MORAND worked with Ronnie James Dio at the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donnington in 1987.
“The best thing about it was the vibe backstage with all the bands that was great,” he said. “I mean, Download is a little like that – but not so much.
“I’m not as big a fan of Download but maybe that’s because I’m older and codgier.”
But it was an American DJ, Harlen Hendrickson, who re-animated the Monsters Of Rock brand name. The promoters of Donnington let it lapse and official records show Henrickson – who runs a syndicated metal radio programme – registered it on February 11, 2002.
“He called me saying he’d like to put a concert together,” recalls Morand. “I already had contacts through the cruises and I said ‘nah, let’s make it a cruise!’ He said really?'”
Instead of selling out half a ship – creating the sitation described above by Vince Neil – the new partners decided to take over a whole thing. To pull that off, they needed bands – a lot of bands.
If you are fans of a certain period of time, a certain boulevard in Los Angeles and a certain brand of hairspray, then there is no festival on dry land like this one.
In March this year, the Monsters Of Rock Cruise boasted: UFO, Tesla, Cinderella, Night Ranger, Kix, Stryper, Firehouse, Y&T, Lynch Mob, Helix, Eric Martin of Mr. Big, Ted Poley of Danger Danger, Keel, Black N’ Blue, Faster Pussycat, John Corabi, Bang Tango, Rhino Bucket, XYZ, Odin and DC4.
All on a ship, in three days – seriously.
Whereas previous cruises allowed guests to sleep in or lounge around until the music started at sundown, MOR was more like a three day festival with music kicking off early afternoon and most acts playing twice. For aficionados, there was almost no time for getting drunk.
Here at Classic Rock presents AOR, we are nothing if not aficionados but somehow we still managed to miss one of two of these storied hair metal icons.
And we still managed to get drunk.

TESLA have a loyal following, charge promoters a little more than many of their contemporaries and with good reason. Singer Jeff Keith’s voice is strong, he is more than willing to spend time with fans between shows and the band is as tight as a drum.
CINDERELLA are also reliable – as long as Tom Keifer’s voice holds out and the right piano is wheeled out (he tipped one over in disgust during one cruise). NIGHT RANGER included Damn Yankees and Ozzy Osbourne covers. “I
asked my friend Ted Nugent if he wanted to come,” Jack Blades – who was in the super group – told the crowd. “He said ‘can I bring my gun’. I said ‘nope’ so he isn’t here but the next best thing is a Damn Yankees song, right?”.
Morand thought of KIX as a “cult band” and wasn’t disappointed. Singer Steve Whiteman told a delightful story during the outdoor deck show about how he once jumped in the air at the start of a gig and shat his pants – a situation he had to battle through for the remainder of the gig.
Y&T seem to play in Europe more than the US these days but Dave Meniketti was up against driving rain and wind at one stage during their set. It’s sad not to see the late Phil Kennemore anymore but the California act has lost little musically.
HELIX delighted the Canadians aboard with a full tilt, deafening set in the tiny indoor lounge (although the appeal was somewhat lost on the reviewer), FASTER PUSSYCAT continue to impress with their updated sleaze sound –
now tinged with industrial leanings – while BANG TANGO have a great current album to work off (something Cinderella haven’t had in decades) and RHINO BUCKET’s rifferama was reminiscent of Broken Teeth on previous cruises.
Each night, after midnight, punters would stagger out of the bigger shows held in multi-storey ballrooms and find the likes of ERIC MARTIN or JOHN CORABI performing in a bar or lounge. The hirsuite Corabi played acoustic versions of Motley Crue’s “Hooligan’s Holiday” and The Scream’s “Man In The Moon” along with classic rock material, while Mr Big’s Martin fronted a full band including his wife Denise on drums.
To hear Mr Big’s “To Be With You” belted out by the ageless and eminently capable singer who made it hit must have beggared belief for some fans who had already seen four or five acts that day and would normally maybe only witness one of these bands live every six months.
After being snowed in following a casino show in Michigan, STRYPER and LYNCH MOB literally missed the boat. They raced the Poesia and each other down the Florida coast in rented vans to join the cruise when it stopped in Key West.
“One minute Lynch Mob was in front, then George saw water and wanted to get out for a swim,” Morand recalled.
When the ship set sail that night, Lynch joined Tesla’s Frank Hannon and Corabi for an all-star jam in a lounge. “My name’s been associated with this but don’t blame this shit on me,” the former Dokken axeman told revelers. “We’ve never met each other and we don’t know any songs.”
Starting with Free’s “All Right Now”, the jam was fantastic.
Fellow absentees Stryper were close to being the band of the weekend. They’ve toned down the bumble-bee look somewhat but still cut a striking figure in their black and yellow accoutrements (and still throw our bibles) and Robert Sweet, with his kit positioned side-on in centrestage, is a mesmerising skinsman.
DJ Luc Carl conducted morning “gym sessions” in support of his book “The Drunk Diet” which tells readers how to lose weight and get wasted at the same time.
There were occasions things did get a little cheesy – as you would expect from one of rock’s most commercial genres. Night Ranger appeared to spend plenty of time striking rawk poses and KEEL frontman Ron Keel’s favourite subjects seemed to be himself and the “rock history” he was making on the deck stage.
UFO were one of the few bands who only played once on this cruise and US DJ and television host Eddie Trunk was slavish in his praise of the veteran blues rockers when he introduced them. The US metal crowd’s reverence towards UFO knows no bounds and they were greeted in deafening fashion.
At one stage in a flawless set, vocalist Phil Mogg paused to watch a video on the big screen – opposite the stage – promoting sales for next year’s MOR. In it, a David Lee Roth lookalike posed on his bed surrounded by scantily-clad nymphs and empty whiskey bottles.
“Who’s That fellow?” said Mogg. “My cabin’s not like that at all. There’s a lamp and a couple of books.”
Mogg and bandmates, apparently, had taken the “fan interaction” aspect of MOR to new heights, opening and closing the main bar on the pool deck some days.
Pointing out fellow drinkers from the stage before “Lights Out”, Mogg said: “Just to show that I’m not completely gone … Lulu, Collette and Leabond.
“I’m not doing too bad. Blokes’ names, you can make up as you go along – ‘hi John, awright Fred’, drinks on you, drinks on him’.”
BUT do most bands enjoy, or merely tolerate, living at such close quarters to their fans?
Georg Dolivo, of Rhino Bucket: “There were certain people, who shall remain nameless, who had rockstaritis going on and were thinking that they didn’t want to be over-run by their over-zealous millions of fans.
“Everybody was respectful. Every now and then they’d come up and want to take your picture but, that’s fine. Plus, we were blind drunk the whole time so I don’t think anyone wanted to come near us.”
A strong indication that rock cruising has moved into the mainstream – after the tetchy start in ’08 – comes with the news that KISS have now done two ‘KISS Kruises’. After all, there’s nothing more mainstream than KISS.
Starting with an unmasked accoustic set outdoors, with a stage built over the pool, the KISS Kruise also features two full shows which must be performed at anchor because the painted ones’ platform boots are so high they make playing at sea dangerous.
The band answered pre-subitted questions after the acoustic show. One youngster said his dad, a veteran, did not want to come because “he thought he wouldn’t get on with people from other countries”. Paul Stanley said those who criticise the continuing use of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss’ makeup “can go fuck themselves”. The band also undertook to send one fan’s entire family on vacation.
When KISS play, the entire deck between their dressingroom and the stage is closed off. Gene Simmons and Stanley were rarely sighted between shows (Eric Singer carries hundreds of guitar picks everywhere, handing them out) but one
kruiser told me he was able to get 20 minutes with the demon – by spending $4000 on a Punisher bass.
Simmons’ business partner had set up a shop in one cabin. You negotiated your price for the instrument, and if you bought it, you were taken to a cabin to see Simmons.
Bear in mind the former reality TV star had just been married at the time and was no doubt being paid a fortune to take part in the cruise. But an extra few grand was clearly worth him investing some of his valuable time.
But KISS fans are a different breed (if you were from the same town or country as a fellow cruiser and they didn’t know you, you seemed to be considered nothing more than an insignificant infantryman in the KISS Army).
Generally speaking, says Bang Tango drummer Trent Anderson, fans no longer tolerate such aloofness.
“It’s changed from even five years ago,” he says. “People no longer want the rock star to go hide in the dressingroom or in their cabin on the boat. They want you to be personable, they want you to be real.
“These people have supported this music … for thirty-something years. They’re no longer intrigued by the guy who’s a jerk and goes and hides. They want recognition that they’ve been loving that music for 30 years. If you’re not giving that to people, they’re not going to stick around.
“Our theory in Bang Tango is we no longer have fans, we have family and friends.
“We’re not curing cancer. We’re not feeding the poor. We’re just a bunch of monkeys at the zoo, trying to be entertaining.
“Today’s rock star is the guy who sits there and hangs out with you and has a beer.’
Dolivo did admit that by the end of the second day, things had started to become a little “tedious”. “You’re on a floating hotel with the people,” he said. “You start to think …. OK, can we move on now?”
KISS sold out their second KISS Kruise. The second Monsters Of Rock, setting off on March 16, features many of this year’s acts – along with a reformed Arcade, Queensryche, Lita Ford, Saxon, Loudness, Great White, Dangerous Toys, Nelson, the Quireboys, LA Guns, Enuff Z’Nuff, Femme Fatale, Alcatraz and Russ Dwarf.
Shiprocked continues independently. In December, it included Godsmack, Korn, Five Fingered Death Punch, Sevendust, POD, Fuel, Filter, Helmet, Lit, Geoff Tate, Gilby Clarke and The Letter Black.
The KISS Kruise is run by Sixthman, who specialise in this sort of thing. They’ve done similar events for Kid Rock and Weezer.
Morand’s little business is booming, too, a DJ with a keen eye for a trademark has a profitable stake and everyone is getting royally drunk.
“The first Monsters Of Rock, we got beers from around the world and around different parts of the United States to recognise where people had come from,” says Morand.
“But the staff on the Poesia were a bit … European. They hid the beers where no-one could see them and sold what they normally sell. We can still improve them, make them think in a more American way.”
Not that getting wasted is a peculiarly American passtime – as evidenced when Morand received a phone call from security as the first Monsters Of Rock cruise was disembarking in March this year; a phone call that put the smarmy Carnival announcement of four years before very much in perspective.
“This guy says to me ‘we have a problem’,” Morand recalls. “He said ‘I’ve got the singer from UFO here, passed out in a deckchair’. I said ‘well, wake him up. We’re all getting off the boat’. He said ‘he’s unresponsive’.”
Morand responded with horrified silence.
Eventually, Phil Mogg game around. But not before the promoter of Monsters Of Rock had recalled several important plot devices from the movie “Weekend At Bernie’s”.

John Corabi, Frank Hannon & George Lynch – “All Right Now (live)” from Steve Mascord on Vimeo.


LOUDMOUTH: August 2012


* IT seems the illness which placed Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen in hospital is not as recent as the band has made out.

Reports emerged on August that Van Halen had undergone “emergency surgery” for diverticulitis, an inflammation and infection of the intestines. That statement gave the distinct impression this was a breaking story.

But the latest news indicates that EVH was in hospital for three weeks recovering from the surgery and is already home. The band has indefinitely postponed its November Japanese dates and Edward has to spend six months recovering.

* KINGS Of The Sun drummer Clifford Hoad has announced he will be the band’s new singer.

Hoad has been searching for around two months for a vox to replace that of his brother Jeffrey, who is no longer interested in show business. He announced on the band’s Facebook page he would be assuming the duties himself.

The band is to be relaunched shortly.

* MOTLEY Crue drummer Tommy Lee is being sued over his rollercoaster drum kit.

Lee invites fans onstage to ride the kit, which performs a 360 degree  manouvre on a rollercoaster-like circular track. But engineer Scott King says Lee stole the idea, which he first pitched to him in 1991.

King says Lee turned down the idea 21 years ago and then used it in 2012 without any recognition or payment. He’s threatening to sue.

* ROSE Tattoo have been confirmed as support for Slash on his Australian tour this month.

Evidently, Angry Anderson is going to take a break from his burgeoning political career to renew an alliance with the former Guns N’Roses guitarist.

read on

KISS: Out Of The Shade (1989)


The very event which many thought would signal the end of KISS has, ironically, breathed life into the 15-year-old bonk-rocking beast.
As we speak, the Paul Stanley-Desmond Child (yeah, HIM again) composition “Hide Your Heart” is cutting a trail of destruction across US radio and must be on the verge of being added to playlists here. It’s a two-year-old song, a discard that KISS were never going to release from the poppy 1987 Crazy Nights album.
Stanley, however, loved it and included it in his controversial solo club tour of the US earlier this year, a tour which many interpreted as signifying a rift between him and definitive sleazoid bassist Gene Simmons. Simmons, however, went to see the Stanley show in Los Angeles, his jaw dropped when he heard the song and the rest may very well become history (instead of the band).
“’Hide Your Heart’ was the song,” says Simmons from PolyGram New York. “Seeing it live I thought the song was so good. It really belonged on that record, it had that feel.”
What did Gene think of seeing his longtime partner in crime on stage without him?
“I thought it was good. I thought he was terrific, I thought the band was OK. He was the star of the band.”
The tongue-flicking one, talkative on most subjects, isn’t saying much. Paul, however, says the solo tour’s benefits to KISS will eventually go way beyond one single.
“Well, doing the solo tour was great because.. . any time I become stronger the band becomes stronger,” the star-child says.
“Doing a solo tour gave me a chance to listen to what the fans want and what they wanted to hear. ..I wasn’t in a position where there were any songs I had to do. I could do whatever I wanted to.”
The fans clearly liked “Hide Your Heart”, a tale of a rather messy urban love triangle involving two blokes from rival gangs. Its omission from Crazy Nights, which thrust KISS back into the Australian top 25 albums chart, meant it was recorded instead by Bonnie Tyler, Molly Hatchet, Robin Beck and now former KISSer Ace Frehley.
“We let (producer) Ron Nevison pick the songs for the (Crazy Nights) album,” said a hyperactive Stanley. “So he didn’t pick that one. Last month I ran into Ron and he said ‘is the album coming out?’ and I said ‘Yeah, it should be out shortly.’ He said ‘what’s the first single?’ and I said ‘The song you didn’t use from Crazy Nights!’
Paul and Gene have resumed production duties on 15-track Hot In The Shade (H.I.T.S.?), the band’s 23rd album since their debut on Casablanca in 1974. The result is a far more typical KISS record, with Stanley blasting away with seven 8Os stadium rockers, Simmons chipping in with seven sleazy sonic slammers and drummer Eric Carr trying his hand at his first vinyl vocal assignment, aside from last year’s remake of Beth.
Highlights include the tremendous anthemic Rise To It, Simmons twin street songs BetrOyed and The Street Giveth, The Street Taketh Away and Stanley’s scythingly emotive vocals on Silver Spoon and King of Hearts.
According to Simmons, Hot In The Shade is about “the New York Experience”.
“I have no problem singing about fucking, which is one of my favourite activities, but sooner or later you’ve got to pick a different point of view about that stuff,” he says unabashed.
“So, emphasising that, I wrote songs that I thought were almost story songs… that talked about… growing up in New York and Cadillac Dreams, you know, ‘when I was 17 I was an angry young man’. That kind of stuff. Autobiographical story songs.”
When the phone is handed over to Paul for a few minutes, he insists Gene is just a little bit wrong on this point. “It’s really not about memories and growing up as a kid as much as it’s about life in the city right now.
“I mean, it’s what we see around us now. It’s not about recalling our pasts as children. Hot In The Shade’s about New York right now…”
Refusing to lay down and die, KISS re-signed for another ten years with PolyGram in a huge deal which includes seven albums, Alive Ill, a greatest hits package (oh dear, not another one!) and solo albums. Simmons Records is clawing its way upward and Gene is now living with former centrefold Shannon Tweed and their eight month old son. His life, he says, is going well.
“The record’s really just flying out the windows in America,” he says. “You know, it was just released here, we’re approaching platinum even as we speak. Which, if you’re still counting, means 21 gold and 18 platinum. I can’t believe it myself.
OTS: There were plans for you to play in World Park ‘89 and quite some controversy over its postponement. What did you know about the whole thing?
GS: “
We have to set the record straight. We know nothing about what’s going on in Australia. All we knew was that there was a promoter who wanted to bring the band there, we were willing to go, and then all we knew was the promoter disappeared. And the rest is guesswork. I can’t tell you what happened after that, except this guy, the promoter — we never heard from him again.
OTS: There is a theory at the moment that a band needs to sell about three million of a current album to do an arena in the States. Do you agree with that?
GS: “No. Hold on a second, a pretty grl just walked in.
“I’m back. There are just no rules. There are bands in America like the Grateful Dead, which is not one of my favourite bands, but they can play a big place and they sell no records. There’s another group called the Beach Boys, who can play any large venue and sell it out but there are no record sales there either. On the other hand, you can be Richard Marx, who has the number one record in America, who can’t sell any tickets at all. So there really just aren’t any rules. “Tone Loc, who had the nurnber one single in America and the album went very well too, it did double platinum, and he was doing clubs. On the other hand the Stones, who do not really sell a lot of records, never did and still don’t, can fill up a stadium anywhere in the world.”
OTS: The song you wrote with Ace doesn’t appear to have made if onto his album. Does that bother you?
GS: “
No, not really. That’s the lesser of all evils. The great thing about it is I’m just glad I can write songs, y’know? And that some of them are good enough to appear on records. You can’t hit the mark every time and that’s the way it goes.” OTS: It appears that Paul is the one probing for the hit single and your approach seems to be more constant. Is that a fair comment?
“Yeah, that’s OK. But within the context of a band you’ve got that kind of flexibility. Everybody reaches for different things and that makes for a nice little album.”
OTS: Does that mean you’re more secure than Paul? Does Paul need to keep proving himself?
GS: “I don’t know that that can ever be verbalized as simply as that. I think it probably comes down to more that we both have slightly different points of view on music and the kinds of stuff we like but any one of us going off on his own and doing something is probably not as satisfying as both of us doing the same thing together. The only analogy I can make is within the confines of the Beatles. McCartney always wrote sweeter stuff and Lennon always wrote darker stuff. Each of them on their own just didn’t seem to have the goods. Together, they were the Beatles. With Harrison doing his thing and Ringo doing his thing, you can see a part of the Beatles in each one of them. But together, they are the Beatles. And no matter how many hits each one of them has, you can never eclipse the Beatles. Neither one of us, or anybody in the band, is ever going to eclipse KISS because it’s the chemistry. It’s that thing, it’s the combination of spices that makes something taste good or make something half taste good. “
OTS: There’s a rumour that you haven’t played bass on the last three KISS albums, that in fact Jean Beauvoir has done it instead.
GS: “Well I wish I could tell you that’s true, but.. . the truth is that on “Little Caesar” Ace played bass, I’m sorry, not Ace, Eric played bass, I played guitar on “Love’s A Slap In The Face” and “Somewhere Between (Heaven and Hell)”. Bruce played bass on something else and Paul played slide solo and not Bruce. All those considerations of who plays an instrument and all of that sort of stuff, it’s just not as important to us as keeping the personality of the band.”
0TS: Have you been changed by monogamy or not?
GS: “The questions is, am I monogamous?”
OTS: But you are a family man now, aren’t you?
GS: “I wonder what that means.”
OTS: What does it mean?
GS: “I think to most people it would mean marriage, in which case in this case it just doesn’t apply. I’m not married, never have been and never will be. But do I have a boy? Oh yeah”

Filed for ON THE STREET November 15, 1989

KISS: Sphinx Ain’t All They Should Be (1990)


GENE SIMMONS swivels his demonic head and directs a deathly, horror movie glare towards the sound-desk.

“Slow black—out!” he barks into the microphone at a hapless lighting roadie. “Yes sir,” comes the meek, intimidated response. “I understand what you’re saying.” “No,” Simmons retorts solemnly. “This is ‘what I’m saying…”

The multi-millionaire bassist mimics the cocking of a gun and sends a deafening “KA-POW!” shuddering through the obscenely loud PA.

It’s the day before the kick-off of KISS’ back-to-bombs-’n ‘-pyro world tour and Gene is seething at a lighting cock-up. The next night, a stage roadie is out of a job and most of the lighting crew are on a warning after the 35-foot talking Sphinx uttered nothing but gibberish and some of Gene’s worst production fears came true.

Half of the giant KISS sign spluttered and died, there was none of the green sludge that was supposed to spew from stage-front pipes, and lighting during Eric Carr’s drum solo was obviously out of synch.

The Greatest Show On Earth was off to a shaky, although undeniably spectacular, start. 


KISS HAVE been holed up in the sleepy Texan ‘ burg of Lubbock — birthplace of Buddy Holly — for nine days, putting the finishing touches to a tour that almost never was. But now Paul Stanley is sitting beside me in a Holiday Inn hotel room, insisting: “I can safely say we’re ready.”

The Stanley/Michael Bolton-penned power ballad ‘Forever’ had dropped out of the US top 10 two weeks before, after after becoming the having becoming the band’s first bona fide Stateside hit in a decade. Back in February, the tour was postponed because of a lack of interest. Are KISS, I wonder, touring on the back of one single? Was this whole massive jaunt – with Slaughter and Faster Pussycaty in support – conceived as a reaction to just one song?

Paul struggles to overcome the local Lions convention singing ‘Give Me A Home Where The Buffalo Roam’ in the enclosed courtyard outside.

“I’m not one for bullshitting and I’m not one for lying,” he says. “When you’re going to undertake a tour of this size you’re not going to do it for your health. To go out and launch a massive tour makes no sense unless there’s a reason to do it.”

So are you, as you told Kerrang! back in ish 286, putting your ‘ass on time line’ with this tour?

“That makes things sound too much like a do-or-die mission, and nothing is a do-or-die mission. We wanted to do something massive — in terms of the range of songs as well as staging.”

FOR KISS fans who have remained loyal and  believing, there is something rather contradictory about Slaughter’s inclusion on the bill. Slaughter are a band containing two ex-members Vinnie Vincent Invasion, Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum. Vincent was, of course, once KISS’ guitarist. First, we hear that Vinnie Vincent was the bad guy, that he was (and I quote Paul) “riding on KISS’ coat-tails”. Now we buy an album by Slaughter, the band whose name in itself takes advantage of Vinnie’s success, and read the liner notes which proclaim, ‘Thanks to KISS fan dubs around time world’. Are they not claiming fame for being in band for five minutes with a guy who was in KISS for 10 minutes?

“They’re not riding on his coat-tails because in a matter of weeks they’ve got further than he ever got,” Paul observes coldly. “So, if anything, I think you’d have to believe he was holding them back.

“I’d dare say … Vinnie would like to ride on their coat-tails…”

JOINING UP with the KISS caravan for three days is an intriguing experience. Half of America’s media was invited to Lubbock, but only Spin magazine, MTV’s ‘Headbangers’ Ball’, local scribes, some radio stations and of course Kerrang! bothered to show up. Meanwhile, kindred ‘70s demi-gods Aerosmith are sitting pretty on the cover of Rolling Stone. If was Paul Stanley, it would annoy me.
Paul seems, at least, to be annoyed at the question.
“I don’t give a fuck,” he says. “The truth of it is that we’ve secured our place, and what people choose to write will be unbiased – which I prefer – or based on their own insecurities.”
Paul doesn’t like these questions and I really wish I didn’t feel compelled to ask them. But here KISS are. 17 years on, and everybody who’s not wearing a KISS T-shirt is sniggering at their overblown theatrics and school toilet lyrics just as they did all that time ago. Only now, KISS are old as well as overblown and juvenile. That’s what ‘they’ say.

When I enquire if KISS really arc still sufficiently hungry, the words play on Stanley’s mind enough for him to bring it up out of the blue in an interview later that afternoon, saying it had pissed him off.
“This whole nonsense about being hungry is a way of glamorizing something for critics that is totally irrelevant for the fans or the band,” he informs me, peering out from under neatly curled hair.
“If you want to starve, you go do it.
“Maybe some of the critics, their writing would improve if they went hungry for a while. Quite frankly, I don’t sec enough starving critics.”
As one punter remarked at the gig, KISS have never received serious press and it’s a sore point. For me, it’s a sore point that such influential figures should even care by now. Asked how aware he is of criticism, the Starchild pauses:
“That’s an interesting question…”
Paul reacts carefully when I tell him Axl Rose has described his music as sludge rock. Paul, conversely, rates Axi as one of the few true rock stars of the ‘90s.
“I didn’t know about that. Do I follow him? I’m certainly not an aficionado of what AxI Rose has to say. I don’t know him any more than I know anyone else.
“If you’re an interesting personality in rock ‘n’ roll, then that’s great, but respect to me is something that comes with time. As far as I’m concerned, you’re just an interesting personality until – with time – you prove yourself to be something more.
“If somebody takes swipes – which is sometimes natural – well the truth is you sometimes get attention by doing that. Whether  you have something valid or not to say will on1y play ’ itself out in five or 10 years, because by then people might be saying, ‘Who said that?’ “

PAUL DOESN’T turn when I say goodbye for the last time. An answer to whether he thinks KISS (generally) get the respect they deserve is cleverly avoided, but I think I have the anser anyway.
There’s an  ominous rumble swelling from 10,500 Texans by the time the ‘Hot In The Shade’ World Tour is ready to be unveiled. Slaughter got the girlies interested, Faster Pussycat entranced the punters with no taste, and there are fights, chants and can throwers.

A grandiose fanfare, the sort of stuff you hear in ‘Curse of Tutankhamen’, rises above the buzz. The lights are killed – on time! – the smoke billows and the curtain drops to reveal the (unbespectacled) monolithic Sphinx.
The Sphinx appears on the cover of the ‘Hot In The Shade’ opus wearing giant sunglasses. But backstage, there’s a 25-foot pair of dark sunglasses left surplus to requirements, victim of a last minute Simmons-Stanley creative decision. The rest of the stage is a chaotic concoction of pipes and girders, presumably a re-creation of the New York rooftop in the ‘Hide Your Heart’ video.
The Sphinx’s mouth opens slowly and a line of pin-like lasers fire outward, hitting the back of the ageing. spherical  arena. Between the beams of_light stand Gene, Paul, Bruce Kulick and Eric ‘Sign My Tits, Please’ Carr.
Fireworks explode, the boys take their places and a concussion bomb bloody-near deafens us as they launch into ‘I Stole Your Love’. from the ‘Love Gun’ opus.
Yeah, pretty damn heart-warning. Excavated artefact ‘Deuce’ sounds  positively filthy and yeah, even HUNGRY.  That riff sends a 100-below chill down my spine and to every extremity as Paul rocks from side to side with his hair in the wind like it’s 1975.

NOW, GIVEN this is a  two-and-a-half hour, I25 song set, I’ll spare you the minute details. Things went wrong, sure; but a lot of other things went awfully right. Gene’s stalking, kicking and jumping. Paul’s strutting along the catwalks and grimacing at the power of the stuff as much as he’s pouting.
Eric bang-s away reliably, Bruce concentrates on his playing and ambles around unassumingly. The set list boasts ‘C’mon And Love Me’, ‘Detroit Rock City’ and the sleaziest reworking of ‘Fits Like A Glove’ imaginable.
Four tracks, yep, four, from the 1974 debut album, three each from ‘Hot In The Shade’ and ‘Destroyer’ and double servings frona ‘Love Gun’, ‘Lick It Up’ and ‘Animalize’.
Paul’s raps, adorable as they are, were kept to a minimum by the sheer amount of material. His intro to ‘Strutter’, in which he reveals it could have been written about any girl because “they’re all the same”, could do with a bit of’90s enlightenment, however…
‘Heaven’s On Fire’ looms predictably but seductively and flame-throwers spit fireballs on cue. ‘Hide Your Heart’ confirms itself as one of their greatest hits-that-never-were, with lasers making undulating patterns on the back wall
before dying chillingly as Carr beats out the gunshot at the songs climax.
It turns out that the lasers are quite capable of doing more than patterns but Simmons has ruled that writing ‘Kiss’ on the back wall is not cool.
On the last day of rehearsals, he had ordered a change to the voice synthesizer – the wiggly lines you see on cardiac machines. Simmons wanted the laser synthesizer to appear IN the Sphinx’s mouth, not be projected from the mouth onto the back wall.
When the time came around for it all to happen on opening night, the synthesizer did appear in the Sphinx’s mouth, but started talking one riff too early, stuttered, and when it was supposed to say, ‘I am the lord of the wastelands’… mumbled nothing but rubbish.
The lights during Carr’s gadgetry-aided solo were also less than spot-on, and there was no sign of the water that was supposed to fall from the Sphinx’s nostrils. Stage-front, instead of green sludge from the pipes, there was only trickling water. (Maybe they should have tried it the other way around — Ed.).
But the show went on. ‘Detroit Rock’ City’ was as devastating as you’d hope, the Sphinx sunk and disappeared, the extinguishers fired and the concussion bombs went off.
The special FX verdict…? Impossible to compare to the ‘70s extravaganzas simply because even if there are as many bombs and lights this time around, they are now spread over a much longer show. By necessity, some songs in the current show are completely pyro-less (!).
But they came back after a break, they played ‘I Want You’, and the familiar moniker rose from behind and at least began to flash before faltering. And with ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll All Nite’ cut ‘n’ thrusting, the pyro exploding overhead and the flashpots going off, it could have been 1983, 1977 or 1974.

EARLIER – SOMEWHERE mid-set – sheer exhaustion had created something of a lull among the mere mortals in the stalls.
Stanley had paused and announced: “People have been asking us why we started the tour in Lubbock. When we couldn’t even fill clubs in the rest of the country, we came to Lubbock and you treated us like kings. We’re never going to forget that”.

Showmanship maybe, but a close look at the kids who are roaring overwhelming approval shows them to be just that — kids. Here, in the American heartland, KISS aren’t old and they’re not even survivors, they just ARE.
“We defied all the laws, we defied the critics, we defied the norm, we set the standard for what a show should be… we showed an audience what they should expect and not accept less from anybody,” Paul had gushed the day before. “I think we showed there’s no reason for an audience to accept complacency or lack of respect from a band.”
Clearly, it is the unfashionable nature of KISS that is the very key to their popularity. If the whole game is about rebellion, KISS need only stay afloat and unpopular with critics to win every time.
But what more can they possibly hope to achieve in the ‘90s?
“That’s an interesting question, but one that is probably more important to you than me,” Paul answers delicately.

“What’s left is to continue.”

Filed for: KERRANG!