Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ken Mills (PodKISSt, KISS Fan Site) interview


PodKISSt, your KISS podcast (natch), ranks a close second on my favorite podcasts list. Really good stuff. What were the circumstances that led you and your PodKISSt co-hosts Gary Shaller and James Hager to create it back in 2007?

I actually had heard from Tony Gamm that James and Gary were thinking about putting together a podcast focusing on KISS. I wasn't really even aware of what a podcast was. Tony had mentioned that they were looking for an artist and they had seen some of my KISS related artwork. Little did the guys realize that I had done radio and interviews in a previous life.

Anyway, I did the graphics for the first episode, which I downloaded and listened to. I thought "oh, I can do this." Then I got in touch with Bob Kulick and we did a fun interview when his We Wish You a Metal X-Mas and a Headbanging New Year album was coming out. So, for the first few episodes, I was more "behind the scenes". Soon after, I became part of the on air staff and I have enjoyed lending my voice to the show as a co-host.

What sort of criteria do you and your co-hosts use in determining the content for each episode of PodKISSt?

Sometimes by what is going on. For example, we HAD to do a KISS Kruise show and we wanted to do one that was fresh. Almost like it happened and so many days later, the show was out. We try to be topical and remain current.

On the other hand, when we can get a guest who has been part of the band or someone that worked with the band, we try to accommodate them in any way that we can.

We really want to be there for the band and the folks who have a part in things. We try to make the show have a "live" feel to it. We really are trying to be an audio fanzine of all things KISS.

What are some of your favorite PodKISSt episodes and why?

There aren't many that are not "my favorite episode." There is something that I love about each one. I am a fan of the show as much as any of our listeners are.

We have been blessed to have Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Bruce Kulick, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer on the show.

Some shows are done to promote new albums, events or causes that the members believe in. I have met Ace many times but when he calls your house on a Friday morning, that is a trip.

The Ace interview was a blast. He was my guitar hero growing up. The episode of PodKISSt with his interview was out when Anomaly was coming out. We were only supposed to have 10 to 15 minutes tops with him but he extended the interview to almost an hour. We were later told by his publicist that Ace was happy because we wanted to talk about his new album and not KISS. I think that is indicative of what we can bring to the table as far as interviews go. Ace had been interviewed all that month about his time with KISS but he had this amazing new album and people only wanted to ask him about 1977. We wanted to talk about the man and his music TODAY. That is really the only kind of thing you can get from something like the PodKISSt or in books that fans have written. Most media are only into what can get a headline - we want to talk about every moment about this band. Every album, every tour, everything.

Shout out to author Julian Gill, who has written some excellent books about KISS from a fan's perspective but also with a critical voice at the same time, along with the folks who wrote KISS Alive Forever: The Complete Touring History, Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs. Fans should check out their books on Amazon (click the links to do so).

You've had several special guests on the PodKISSt. How much of a challenge has it been for you and/or your co-hosts to get people to appear on the show?

Easier than some might think. I believe that we have attained a certain level of respect from people. We have what we call "Friends of the PodKISSt". People like Lydia Criss, Loretta Caravello (Eric Carr's sister) and many others. They have been great and we have always been respectful of everyone that has been on the show.

Many people have opened up their lives to tell us their story. Carrie Stevens talked to us about her time with Eric Carr and she was very pleased with how the show came out. She is a lovely person; she gave me a pair of Eric Carr's used drumsticks and they are beaten to hell and amazing.

Many of the folks that have been on the show give us mementos, Michael Doret (artist of the Sonic Boom and Rock And Roll Over album covers) gave James, Gary and myself proofs from when they were printing the Rock And Roll Over album cover and he signed them. To think that we have something that he and the band passed around and gave their approvals on is amazing.

Our shows about Eric Carr and the late great Bill Aucoin were labors of love. We are going to do another show about Bill with his partner, Roman.

People forget that KISS is not just about those 4 (or 10) band members. KISStory really is a phenomenon that is about everyone that was part of Aucoin Management, the road crew, the friends and the family of the band. So many stories worth telling.

Bill Starkey is another one. He is a great guy. He took one of my favorite pictures of my fiance and her children. I look at that photo and think, "Bill Starkey, the guy who started the KISS Army, took this picture!". We talk often. He is an amazing resource and someone that I am proud to call a friend in the KISS Army.

Who have been some of your favorite special guests and why?

Some of my favorite guests have not been in the band. Megan McCracken, who was there and lived with Bill Aucoin & Sean Delaney and talked about those early days. She was there at the very beginning and in episode #44: Sweet Pain, she talks about the guys and gives us an insider's point of view that we may not have seen.

Same with Eddie Balandas, who worked with the band in their heyday. He was so great and we became friends. It was cool to get an almost daily call from him. He was always surprised that people wanted to hear about him and his story. He loved expos and meeting people. He had a very sweet heart. Great guy. His episode was PodKISSt #47: The Voice of "Alive II" Speaks! He did that shortly before he passed away. It was great to trap a bit of him and his part of KISStory.

I also have to mention "Dirty Dee"/Lisa Jane Persky. She is a trip, very fun and flirtatious. Love her to pieces. We want to do a KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park commentary with her.

When and how did you become a KISS fan?

It was just before ALIVE! came out. I had washed my neighbor's car in exchange for 8-tracks. I had Dressed To Kill on 8-track. But when I heard ALIVE!, that was it! I never looked back.

What are some of your favorite KISS albums/songs and why?

ALIVE! - nothing beats it. There is something on every album that I love and I am so glad that KISS is still around and doing it. I never would have guessed that I'd be going to see KISS with my stepkids in 2012/2013. It is amazing.

Do you have a favorite KISS member or members? If so, who and why?

I admire Gene and Paul for keeping it together. Ace and Peter will always have a place in my heart as well. Bruce, Tommy and both Erics are cool. I never knew much about Mark St. John or Vinnie (by his choice). I met Vinnie twice; he was friendly. I stood and watched him open up for Alice Cooper. Alice came up to me and said, "Hendrix made love to his guitar, but this guy, he's nuts, he is raping the stage!" Which was a bit of a compliment from the amazing Alice Cooper.

We have been blessed as fans to have had some amazing musicians and entertainers in this band. It makes for a great rock soap opera.

How many times have you seen KISS in concert, what were some of your favorite KISS concerts/tours and why?

I honestly lost count of how many times I have seen the band. The '70s shows felt like you were at something that you could get in trouble for being at.

The '80s shows were so much fun. If you weren't there, you won't get it. I often hear the line from the song "Crazy Crazy Nights":

"And they try to tell us that we don't belong
But that's alright, we're millions strong
You are my people, you are my crowd
This is our music, we love it loud"

That and "Deuce" sum up KISS concerts for me. "Modern Day Delilah" is a great tune as well Loved hearing it live.

What are some of your other favorite bands/artists besides KISS and why?

The Beatles - my favorite band of all time. Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, The Clash, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, The Monkees, Kate Bush, etc. I should really stop there. Otherwise, it could go on forever.

I LOVE music. It is something essential in my life. Like air, I need it. Two things that I need in life are love and music. Everything else will work out if I have those two things.

Feel free to discuss and/or shamelessly plug any of your other endeavors here.

I guess just the show itself.

Some of the "Friends of the PodKISSt": John Humphrey of the band Seether and Joe Casey, one of the creators of "Ben 10", are fans and almost semi-regulars on the show.

The PodKISSt is not just Gary and me, it is a legion of folks who have done stuff behind the scenes or been part of the show. Besides James, there is also Geoff Guthro, Mike Mariacher, Travis Humbert, Roy Myers (our webmaster and friend), Tony Gamm, Julian Gill and the new blood - Matt Porter, Chris Czynszak, Cassius Morris and Matt Walters.

If I forgot anyone, I am sorry. But thanks to anyone who has been part of it. And thanks to the audience - we are so glad you are there. We have the best fans. We get emails all the time. Some of them are very dedicated. You are all amazing.

Thanks to Gary Shaller, who came up with the name PodKISSt and who had the vision to get us to our 6th year. He is a great person to create with.

Thanks for taking the time to listen to me ramble on and thanks for listening to the show. See you all at a show!

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