Thursday, August 30, 2012

STP Disappoints in Hamilton Ontario!


A week ago I had the opportunity to see Stone Temple Pilots perform in near-by Hamilton Ontario.  I was rather excited as I didn't even know they were on tour until a friend alerted me a few days before the show.  I had seen the pilots once before, way back on October 18th, 1993 at the Concert Music Hall in Toronto.  That show was not long after their debut Core album hit stores.  To be honest I didn't really know their music very well, but a buddy had tickets and I love a live show.  Sex Type Thing was a highlight for me that night as STP won me over into fan category with their high energy stage performance and great supporting act in The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones.  While I understand that that was almost twenty years ago and the band and especially front man Scott Weiland have been through some ups and downs, trials and tribulations, many of which have been highly publicised, this was no where near the STP that won me over into their corner as a fan.

The opening band, Crash Kings, took the stage at 8pm and played for 36 minutes only.  They are a three-piece band with the keyboardist handling vocal duties.  While they sounded great and performed well, their lack lustre stage presence certainly did nothing to instil me into album purchase.  There did seem to be some crowd recognition as they rolled into what would be their final song, apparently played on a local radio station according to my concert companion, but they still seemed glued to their spots on the stage.

After what seemed like an eternity of set changing, the Pilots finally took the stage at about 9:40pm, opening the show with the song Sin from the Core CD.

They seemed lifeless and uninterested even, maybe it was catching from Crash Kings.  There was very little crowd interaction, no introduction of band, no "thanks Hamilton" and very little song introduction.

Certainly not what I would call a rocking show from a band that obviously needs to work on their fanbase judging from the smaller venue of Copps Coliseum and only using half of the arena at that, which did not even appear to be sold out.

There were many songs missing from the set, including Sex Type Thing, Wicked Garden, Sour Girl, Creep, Love Pop's Suicide and Lady Picture Show.  I understand that there is not enough time to hear everything with a catalogue of so many great songs, but perhaps if they had played more than an hour and 20 minutes for the $80 ticket price the crowd would have felt a bit better.

Don't get me wrong, the sound was excellent and the DeLeo brothers seemed note perfect with Scott's voice being in top form, but then again, maybe that was just all the beer that I drank!

It did pick up speed eventually with the encore being the best part of the show, but by that point for me it was too little too late.  Then, bang, the lights came on and it was over at not even an hour and a half and so many songs missing, all in all very disappointing.

Sin, Vasoline, Crackerman, Hollywood Bitch, Hickory Dichotomy, Meat Plow, Still Remains, Big Empty, Black Again, Between the Lines, Interstate Love Song, Plush, Tumble in the Rough, Big Bang Baby, Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart, Encores: Unglued, Dead & Bloated

The Meister

The Right to TALK! with Ron Keel.


Keel came into my world when I was fifteen. As a complete Kiss nerd and metalhead I was constantly reading the magazines to hear all about my favourite bands and to learn about any new bands on the horizon. That was when I spotted Keel who were about to release a new album with Gene Simmons in the "production" chair.

Good enough for Gene, good enough for me, and I went right out to buy "The Right to Rock" album. Top to bottom this albums rocks with great songs but what really stood out to me was the vocalist, Mr. Ron Keel. Ron is one of those singers with a truly unique voice, powerful, memorable and honest. In my opinion he holds his own with the metal greats of Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford.
The video for "The Right to Rock" showed a long haired young teenager being chased down and harrassed for listening to ROCK!. Which pretty much, although not to this extreme, was my youth. I remember sitting in the park with my friends and blasting this cassette to  many less than appreciative classmates at lunch. The Right to Rock is a classic metal anthem that still rings true today.

When Keel reformed and I heard they were going to release a new album I was actually a little concerned. Many of the "reunion" albums from various bands of my youth have been filed under the "yeah I might listen to that again" category. Keel's "The Streets of Rock n Roll" is definatly not one of those. This album is rocks with some great new songs and I think it may just be my favourite Keel album ever.

So needless to say, I was thrilled when Ron Keel agreed to let the Decibel Geeks in on what is new and to share some stories of his long and interesting career.

Decibel Geek: Alright then, let's start with Keel as it is now. I know you've been back together for a little while but how exactly did the Keel reunion happen?

RK: Bryan, Marc, Dwain and I have all stayed friends and talked about it for years – our 25th Anniversary was like a now-or-never milestone, so we decided to pull the trigger and I’m so glad we did. It’s been an amazing ride, from our debut reunion show in Hollywood where it all began, to major festivals like Rocklahoma and events like the “Monsters Of Rock Cruise,” our first ever headline tour of Europe last fall, and especially creating a new album which we’re very proud of, “Streets Of Rock & Roll,” released on Frontiers Records.

DBG: So take a moment and introduce us to the current lineup of KEEL.

RK: It bears a striking resemblance to the classic KEEL lineup from the 80’s – Marc Ferrari & Bryan Jay on lead guitar, Dwain Miller on the drums, and we brought my long-time bassist Geno Arce into the band when we put it back together.

DBG: Keel's latest release "Streets of Rock n Roll" harkens back to a golden age of metal. Quite honestly, I feel it's possibly Keel's best album to date. Please tell us how this record came to light?
RK: Thank you, I agree that it’s our best album ever, and when that happens in an artist’s career, there is always a combination of reasons for it. One thing is, it was a creative adventure that came naturally between the guys in the band – when we decided to reunite in 2009, we had no intention of creating new music or making a new album, we just wanted to play some shows and celebrate our 25th anniversary with each other and the fans. The energy and excitement of being back together gave birth to some new song ideas; Bryan and I had already written “Hit The Ground Running” and “Looking For A Good Time” for TV and film projects before the band got back together, and when we finished them they sounded like KEEL songs. Then Marc and Bryan started throwing more riffs at me, like “Come Hell Or High Water” and “The Devil May Care,” and the process just exploded from there.

One of the biggest compliments we’ve received from both fans and the media is that “Streets Of Rock & Roll” is true to our 80’s roots and style – we didn’t try to modernize our approach in any way. That wasn’t a conscious decision either; we never got together and discussed what direction we would take, we just spit out an album’s worth of classic KEEL songs and followed our hearts and our instincts.

Another big reason this is our best effort ever is that we’ve naturally developed and improved as songwriters and musicians – if you keep working at something, you’re bound to get better at it. We wouldn’t have done it if we weren’t confident we could deliver a killer album full of classic KEEL anthems – it’s not a piece of merchandise to sell at the shows, it’s a statement of what we are all about and something we’re extremely proud of.

DBG: Technology not withstanding, what are the differences in recording a Keel album now versus back in the 80's?

RK: The actual process for us was not different – the years between working together kind of disappeared, and we naturally fell into our standard methods and procedures for making a record. Rehearse, do your homework and prep, show up ready to kick ass…we only know one way to make a KEEL album. For the basic tracks – drums, bass & rhythm guitars – I think it’s essential that the band is together in the studio. Guitar solo overdubs and lead vocals are best done later, alone with the producer, but for the foundation we wanted to capture the vibe and hang together.

DBG: You have been playing some shows in support of the album, what is the plan moving forward for Keel?
RK: We want to play more shows.  We have a lot of unfinished business with the Reunion, a lot of favorite towns we haven’t gotten to play yet, and we want to keep building on the European tours we’ve done the past couple of years, and we’d like to get back to Japan.  We’ve talked about an album that would celebrate our 30th Anniversary as a band in 2014. Just taking it as it comes.

DBG: So I assume Keel is back to being priority number one musically but you spent a number of years recording some great country material. Can you tell me a little about Ironhorse? I stumbled across the video for "Best Move" and fell in love with that song. What happened with the Ironhorse band?
RK: IronHorse was a very special project, and a very special time in my life. It was my first attempt to combine the energy of hard rock with the songwriting approach of country music – it ended up getting pegged as southern rock which is fine by me.

Two great albums and over 700 shows coast to coast, a lot of bike events and concert appearances as a headliner and opening up for 38 Special, ZZ Top, The Outlaws, Marshall Tucker, lots more. Some great music and friendships resulted from that experience. That band was based in Central Ohio, and the fans there are still as passionate as ever- a few months ago we did a reunion show there for charity, and raised $27,000.00 for a young man in need of medical treatment (htto://

DBG: Personal question, Is Ironhorse available for purchase anywhere? I have been looking but so far am empty handed.

RK: Good news, bad news – those albums never got the push or the attention they deserved, but I am now working on my first full-blown solo album which will pick up where IronHorse left off – it’s called “Metal Cowboy: Sex, Guns & Rock & Roll” and it will be a true hybrid of metal and southern rock. Real songs about life, good times and hard times, with blazing guitars, thunderous drums, and screaming vocals.

DBG: Continuing with the country music, you set up shop in Vegas with an incredible tribute to Ronnie Dunn. From the footage I have seen, you captured both the look and the sound to a T. How did you get involved with the show?
RK: I am one of the show’s creators, and one of the primary reasons I relocated to Las Vegas in 2006 was to help bring a world-class country tribute show to Sin City.  I began the Ronnie Dunn tribute in 2004 while still in IronHorse – I saw it as a new challenge, a new mountain to climb, very much like tackling an acting role, and it has been an amazing thrill being able to take that initial inspiration and literally build it into an entire second – or third – career. “Country Superstars Tribute” has been running in Las Vegas for over five years now, currently at the Golden Nugget.

One of the things I enjoy most about it is the contrast between that persona and my rocker persona. Ronnie Dunn is a great singer, in my opinion one of the best tenors in country music history, and a super performer as well, but portraying him is very different from what I do on stage with KEEL. One of my dear friends, Kathy Wolfe, who portrays Wynonna Judd in “Country Superstars,” has known me for six years but hadn’t seen me live with KEEL – she came to a recent KEEL show in Vegas and was literally in shock. She still doesn’t look at me the same way as she used to, she just kind of wrinkles her brow and says “Who ARE you?” The Ronnie Dunn role demands a special kind of controlled intensity, whereas when it’s time to rock, I am out of control!

So I really enjoy it, being part of a major Las Vegas production show and getting to step out of my boots and into his and try to deliver a performance that Ronnie Dunn would approve of  if he ever saw it.

DBG: As a teenager in Canada in the 80's I was about as far from the LA music scene as anyone could be.

My introduction to Keel came through the pages of Hit Parader magazine, when I read about this new band being produced by Gene Simmons of Kiss. As a huge Kiss Geek, that was all I needed to hear and I immediately went out to purchase The Right to Rock album.
So how did the whole Kiss connection happen?
RK: The fact that the KISS Army immediately embraced us was a huge factor in our early success – we sold 90,000 albums that first week and I know many of them were bought by KISS. That’s was just one of the many benefits that came from working with Gene – in addition, he was truly a great producer with clear vision for the projects as a whole, incredible appreciation for rock & roll history, song structures, vocal harmonies, just how to make great records and make them sound COOL. The lessons he taught us are still with us today, and his presence was still very much felt when we entered the studio to record “Streets Of Rock & Roll.”

The connection happened because the record company arranged a meeting with Gene at my request, and he instantly believed in the band, my voice, and especially the song “The Right To Rock.” The story has been told many times how I sang along with the track in his hotel room, and he committed to the project right then and there.

DBG: What were the studio sessions really like with the Demon?

RK: There was a great combination of taking care of business, balanced with just having fun recording some rock & roll music. He was always in total control, very dominant and confident, but always willing to try new ideas and different approaches.
He had a lot of famous friends who would stop by and hang out, such as Eddie Van Halen and Ted Nugent, actors and actresses, beautiful women, so it was a very inspiring atmosphere in which to sing and play.

DBG: Any "Gene" memory you'd like to share with the Decibel Geeks?

RK: So many of them – I gotta save some for my upcoming book, but we had a lot of good times just being friends. Hanging at Gene’s place watching movies, going to concerts, or just driving around – I remember cruising through New York in a limo with Gene, and he’d point to a building, and say, “I own that building,” then we’d make a left turn, and he’d point to another building and say, “I own that building.”

DBG: The Right to Rock album is still one of my all time favourite albums top to bottom. Any great tour stories you'd like to share from that time?

RK: After a couple of decades, even the nightmares you experience on a tour become fond memories. We had a great run in the 80’s, opening up for Van Halen and Aerosmith in huge stadiums, touring with icons like Bon Jovi, supporting some of our friends and favorite bands like Quiet Riot, Queensryche, Dokken, Loudness, Accept, Helix and many more. Of course there are the magic nights when it all comes together, and there are hard times on the road too, in in between are a lot of miles, smiles, and some of the other stuff too…

DBG: n my opinion, Tears of Fire is quite possibly one of the greatest power ballads ever written. Lyrically, what was the song about?
RK: It really is an amazing song, one we never get tired of performing. Lyrically, it’s a cheating song, trying to explain to the girl back home what happened and why. Since then, I’ve always had a band rule: if you’re gonna fuck around, you better at least get a hit song out of it.

DBG: Keel went on to tour and record extensively for the next few years. Who were some of your favourite bands to tour with?

RK: The Bon Jovi tour was the most amazing touring experience, because they were on the tail end of the “Slippery When Wet” tour and we were playing sold out arenas on the East Coast, like three nights at Madison Square Garden. And not only were the arenas and shows killer, I really enjoyed the entire experience – hanging backstage with those guys, who were just beat up and burned out from nearly two years on the road, and then watching them gut it out on stage and give it everything they had. And the very last night of the tour, at the Meadowlands in Jersey, Bon Jovi invited us into their dressing room after their show and the two bands – just the ten guys, no chicks, no roadies, just us – had our own little end of tour party, just hugging and high fiving and pouring beer down our throats and all over each other.

Queensryche and Dio were two other bands that we toured extensively with, and I never got tired of going out into the crowd and watching their shows every night, and now I’m really glad I did that.

DBG: I understand that you auditioned for the vocalist spot in Black Sabbath. Any recollections from that event?

RK: That’s pretty well documented in a lot of books and on-line at: - anyone who’s interested in my experience with Sabbath can read the whole story there.

DBG: Your time with Steeler produced some great music and of course is known for introducing Yngwie Malmsteen to America. Now Yngwie certainly has quite the reputation as being somewhat difficult to work with. How do you remember your time in Steeler?

RK: Steeler had a lot of history before Yngwie came along, and kept going for a year after he left, but of course the band will always be remembered for the album we recorded together, which really launched both of our careers. Of course I’m proud of the album and the accomplishments, but my best memories are of the original lineup that relocated to Hollywood from Nashville to make our mark, lived a very tough existence and clawed our way to the upper deck of that amazing early 80’s Hollywood metal scene. THOSE were some magical times.

DBG: My final question, I ask this to anyone I interview...Pick for me the one song you wish you had wrote?

RK: The “Monday Night Football” theme – not only am I an NFL junkie, that song generated millions and millions in revenue. If they need a new tune with some rockin’ twang to it, have their people get in touch with my people.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Episode 48 - Whitfield Crane


It's no secret to fans of the Decibel Geek Podcast that we, especially Aaron Camaro, have a great affinity for Ugly Kid Joe.

Born out of suburbia (ie. Isla Vista, CA) in 1990, Ugly Kid Joe showed up in the middle of a power shift in the rock world with a sound that didn't fit into the glam rock style that was on its way out nor with the dirge-like sound emanating from the grunge underbelly of Seattle that would soon take over the world.

Named on the spot as a spoof of California hair-farmers Pretty Boy Floyd, Whitfield Crane and best friend Klaus Eichstadt formed the initial lineup of the band and released the breakthrough EP, 'As Ugly As They Wanna Be.' The album broke through to mass audiences with the success of the track 'Everything About You' and would go on to become the first EP to be certified multi-platinum by the RIAA. In this long-form discussion, Whit Crane shares the stories of how the band was formed, what the musical climate was like at the time, and his opinion of Pretty Boy Floyd.

Ugly Kid Joe would climb the rock ladder in 1992 with the follow-up album 'America's Least Wanted' which featured the considered-by-WalMart-offensive cover depicting Lady Liberty giving the finger. Featuring a guest vocal from Judas Priest's Rob Halford on the track 'God Damn Devil,' the album solidified Ugly Kid Joe in the public consciousness with the release of their cover of Harry Chapin's 'Cat's in the Cradle' and, to a lesser degree, the opening track 'Neighbor.'

A long period of touring the globe would ensue throughout the following years including opening slots for Ozzy Osbourne and Def Leppard as well as headliner status of their own. Along with lots of touring, Ugly Kid Joe was on a non-stop treadmill of appearances, interviews, award shows, and other assorted promotional activities (also LOTS of partying with such legends as Eddie Van Halen and Lemmy). Crane reflects on how crazy the lifestyle was and what memories remain with him to this day.

1995 saw the release of 'Menace to Sobriety' which featured the lineup of Crane, Eichstadt, guitarist Dave Fortman, bassist Cordell Crockett, and drummer Shannon Larkin. Featuring a tighter, heavier sound, the album received rave reviews.

After disappointing sales for the 1996 release 'Motel California,' Ugly Kid Joe disbanded the following year. The members went on to other projects and bands with Larkin becoming the drummer in Godsmack and Crane doing a stint with Life of Agony as well as work with Medication and reuniting with Larkin for Another Animal. In this conversation, Crane reveals the emotions and motivations behind these projects and reflects on what he takes away from those experiences.

After 15 years apart, the 1995 lineup of Ugly Kid Joe have released their new EP, 'Stairway to Hell.' Featuring a bold production from guitarist/production genius Dave Fortman, the album has all that one would expect from Ugly Kid Joe and more. We get Whit's thoughts on our impressions of the album and if he agrees or not.

Aaron also gives a heartfelt testimonial to Whit on behalf of all Ugly Kid Joe fans before we wrap things up with a special preview of the upcoming single from 'Stairway to Hell.' We thank Whitfield Crane for giving us his time, attention, and reflections on a career that has rocked and shows no sign of stopping.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Henry Rollins spoken word albums where he discusses rock/metal bands

"Van Halen"

"It's KISS!" Pt. 1 & 2
"The Wisdom of Gene and Paul"

"I Smell a Ratt" I-V
CD / digital / iTunes

"The Ramones"

You're in the Jungle Baby! 1987


Every once in a while an album is released that simply taps the collective unconscious. An album that seems to be released by the right band, at exactly the right time and the world sits up and takes notice. Micheal Jackson's Thriller, Fleetwood Mac's Rumors, AC/DC's Back in Black come to mind as just such albums.

In 1987 this alignment of the universe took place for "five street urchins living under the street". Guns and Roses released their debut album to an unsuspecting world on July 21st of that year.

As a seventeen year old metal geek at the time, I had heard all about the band, had heard the lead off single "Welcome to the Jungle" and was more than willing to lay down my cash for this new group of sleaze rockers from LA. Little did I realize, I was holding what would become one of the most influential pieces of hard rock music of all time.

The video for "Welcome to the Jungle" was periodically being played on the Canadian video shows, and the hard rock stations were playing the single. This was nothing unusual as Hard Rock and Heavy Metal was all over mainstream radio at the time. The years 1985-1990 was what I like to remember as the golden age of metal. Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Motley Crue and Poison were all over the airwaves.

Appetite, however was a little bit different than the glossed up production that most of the "radio friendly" hard rock bands were releasing at the time. Guns and Roses were just a little dirtier, just a little sleazier and certainly a little more "on the edge" than any of their contemporaries. This was certainly part of their appeal.
Producer Mike Clink captured the Gunners with a sound so cut you to the bone raw yet flawless in sound quality.  Sonically, this album still stands up as one of the best heavy metal albums of all time. Axl's unique and powerful voice could peel paint from the walls as he tore through each song like a crazed animal.

Production aside, there were other reasons that this album achieved what it did. Every single song was a knock down, drag you through the dirt thrill ride. There is not a "filler" song on the entire album, even the ballad "Sweet Child of Mine" seemed tough and real compared to the usual fluff on the radio. Guns and Roses seemed to capture the seedy underbelly of Hollywood California and poured all those emotions into their debut album. The songs definitely told "their" story, they resonated with teenagers all over the world.

The explosion of Appetite for Destruction had a long wick, it wasn't an overnight sensation. I can remember the Cult coming to Toronto with this unknown opening band and at the time I was unable to attend the show. One friend of mine was a big Cult fan and I gave him some money to grab me a t-shirt, a Guns and Roses t-shirt. I would wear this proudly for the next few months before anyone at my high school took any notice.

Then suddenly it was as if the light switch was turned on and Guns and Roses was EVERYWHERE! The album went crazy and Guns and Roses went from underground "metal' to mainstream and accepted by the masses in the blink of an eye. Appetite for Destruction wasn't just for breakfast anymore! I remember one day at school at lunchtime, standing in line at the cafeteria. As we shuffled through the line with our food trays a "jock" friend of mine turned and said to me "hey Wally, I have to admit you were on to these guys almost a year ago, nice!"
Appetite for Destruction went on to sell over 28 million copies to become one of the most influential hard rock albums in history. Unfortunately it would be the only full length release with the five original members, Axl, Steven, Duff, Izzy and Slash. The band would never again be able to produce such a powerful and cohesive piece of work. Before long ego, drugs, ego, booze, ego, MORE drugs and even more ego would cloud the judgement and eventually rip the band apart. In 1987, however Guns and Roses were a lean, mean hungry machine leaving a trail of "destruction" in their path and leaving an album that was damn near perfect.

Monday, August 27, 2012

C.K. Lendt (author of KISS And Sell: The Making of a Supergroup) interview


Prior to working for KISS in the mid 1970s, were you a fan of them? Why or why not?

I had heard of the band. I was in college and graduate school in the early to mid 1970s and I don't recall that KISS was popular among the campus crowd. At the time, my musical tastes leaned more toward artists like Johnny Winter, Lee Michaels, Leon Russell, The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.

Throughout Eric Carr's and Bruce Kulick's tenures in KISS, were their salaries roughly $2000/week ($100,000 annually) as has been rumored?

More or less. I think that Eric's was at one point higher but he had to take a pay cut because of KISS's financial woes.

Did Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick receive any publishing royalties for the songs that they co-wrote or were their salaries their only compensation?

I believe that they received writer's royalties for their share of any songwriting that they did. KISS owned the publishing rights. Their salaries were not inclusive of compensation for songwriting duties. Neither Bruce nor Eric were songwriters for hire as the term is defined in the music industry.

Do you recall if the Animalize, Asylum and Crazy Nights tours were profitable? In your book, you seemed to imply that they were all break even propositions.

My recollection is that during that period, the tours broke even, at best, from concert fees (monies earned through ticket sales). Profits were generated from the sale of merchandise at the concert venues.

At the time that you left the KISS organization, were Gene and Paul both millionaires?

They each would have had personal assets, mostly the value of their homes, in the million-dollar-range. Their business was in a precarious state, however. Monies coming in were being chewed up by expenses that enabled them to continue operating as a business. And they had a huge tax liability on the horizon stemming from a tax shelter that the government decided would be disallowed, retroactively.

In the early 1990s, Gene was quite critical of KISS's latter 1970s makeup years by saying that they over-merchandised, marketed too heavily to the child demographic and generally lost touch with the fact that first and foremost, they were a hard rock band. However, looking at KISS since they put the makeup back on in 1996, it seems as though all of those latter 1970s makeup years elements are firmly back in place. Does this surprise you at all or do you think that in the end, Gene was and is only in it for the money?

Times change. In the 1980s, the costumed KISS was seen as outdated and kiddie. By the mid 1990s, there apparently had developed a groundswell of interest in the band and its original line-up. I'm sure that a lot of it had to do with the band's fan base never having lost their love of the original KISS, particularly if it was one of their favorite bands in childhood. No other band came along to replace that feeling, which is the norm. Musical tastes develop at an early age and are typically the deepest emotionally and the most long-lasting.

As for whether Gene was only in it for the money, I'm sure that making money was always a paramount concern. At the same time, he must enjoy being a performer. Why else would he devote his entire life to pursuing that career, putting himself at physical risk with the trademark fire-breathing he's performed at every show, for decades?

Was there any kind of an effort made to try to halt the publication of your KISS And Sell: The Making of a Supergroup book by anybody affiliated or associated with KISS? If so, please discuss.

No. I believe my publisher received some sort of routine cease-and-desist letter from an attorney for KISS shortly before publication, but this is very typical for any publisher of an unauthorized biography. Nothing further happened.

Have any of the current or former members of KISS or any of the current or former people who work/worked for KISS given you any feedback on KISS and Sell: The Making of a Supergoup? If so, who and what did they say?

I was pleased to get feedback from many former colleagues who were mentioned in the book. All of it was favorable. I did not receive any complaints, criticisms, corrections or objections from any people who were part of the story that I told, including any past or present members of KISS or their representatives.

Discuss your current relationship with Gene and Paul.

I have none.  My last encounter with Gene and Paul was chronicled in the book. We were at a meeting in Cleveland.

In the mid 1990s, I did receive a phone call from Gene. We chatted briefly. He had heard that I was writing a book and was interested in knowing more about it. I simply told him that it was about "the music business".  He asked if it was going to be along the lines of This Business of Music, a reference book about music industry business practices. I said "not exactly" and left it at that.

From a purely business standpoint, what do you think it is about KISS that, 40 years since their inception, continues to resonate so strongly with so many people?

It's still unique. The garish make-up, the flamboyant costumes, the spectacular stage theatrics and the hard-driving, hook-laden rock 'n' roll combine to create irresistible live entertainment. It's riveting, to this day. Even KISS's detractors will admit that the band stands out as being one-of-a-kind. They have many imitiators but none as compelling. And it seems to strike a chord with fans in countries around the world - entertainment that's loud, aggressive and rooted in fantasy and spectacle.

What are you up to nowadays?

I teach at New York University where I am an adjunct professor. I do consulting for artists and entertainment companies. For a few years in the mid 2000's, I managed a female artist in Florida with a business partner who lives there but we ended our involvement. I also manage a family investment portfolio.

1987, a memory of mass "Hysteria"


For anyone out there who might actually be reading the tales of my heavy metal youth, you probably know that I consider Kiss and Motley Crue to be my all time favourite bands. That said, it was another band that takes the main "responsibility" for me becoming the metalhead that I am.

Def Leppard and their 1983 album Pyromania introduced me to guitar driven rock and opened the floodgates to my music obsession. I still consider Def Lep's first three albums as some of my all time favourites, and they provided the music to many air guitar concerts in my friend's kitchen.

Unfortunately I was too young to go and see Def Leppard in concert when they came around my neck of the woods on the Pyromania tour. That was ok because we would be able to see them touring the next album in the next year or two when they released the follow up to Pyromania.

Good thing I wasn't holding my breath for that show because it would be a long time before anyone heard any new material from the Leppard camp.
It would be four long years, 1987 to be exact before Hysteria would finally see the light of day. To be fair to the band, Def Leppard had an enormous number of "issues" that contributed to such a long delay. The biggest obstacle of course was Rick Allen's horrific car crash that resulted in the loss of his arm.
Now you really have to give the rest of the band credit. The band had finally hit the big time and the hard rock music that they played was finally becoming mainstream and their drummer loses his arm! I truly believe that most bands facing the same situation would not have had the patience to stand by the healing, rehab and the time it took for Rick to relearn to play the drums without his arm. Rick's courage is nothing short of legendary, but Def Leppard deserves serious kudos for standing behind their drummer at such a crucial time.

I do remember joking with my friends about how long Def Leppard were taking with this record, this of course would be overshadowed when we started waiting for new Guns and Roses, (or is that Axl and his buddies?). I truly thought that the incredibly long span of time was going to ruin Def Leppard. I truly thought the fans would have moved on to the Motley Crues and the Poisons and such. I also thought they couldn't follow up the masterpiece that was Pyromania.

Boy was I wrong! Hysteria hit the stores on August 3rd, 1987 and made its way to the top of the Billboard 100 charts. The album spawned 7 hit singles and MTV welcomed Def Leppard back with. open arms.

The slicker than glass production from Mutt Lange will forever be the bane of debate between hard rock/heavy metal fans around the world.

Was Hysteria too clean for its own good? Def Leppard came from the NWOBHM and I am sure the metal "purists" were rolling their eyes screaming "posers!" That said, Mutt and the band created an album of sugary, radio friendly hard rock that was sonically out of this world and like it or not it took off like a Rocket (pun intended) to the top of the billboard charts.
Hysteria, to date has sold more than 20 million copies and although not nearly as edgy as their first three albums, I can't deny that Hysteria was a pretty special album. Be sure to check out the VH1 Classic Album dvd on the making of this album. They did an amazing job dissecting the tracks, isolating certain parts and you will truly see just how well constructed and melodic these songs really are.

I can clearly remember my buddies and I all but writing Def Leppard off. In an age before internet the band seemed all but forgotten after four long years. I am glad they proved me wrong all those years ago because Hysteria still holds a special place in my collection, standing the test of time quite nicely. A must own album from 1987. A must own album period!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Few of My Guilty Pleasures and Forgotten Treasures of 1987


There are a lot of forgotten and over looked releases from the 80’s and 1987 is no exception.  While they may not be everyone's taste or preference, here are a few of my “overlooked” or “secret treasures” from that year.

Hailing from Droitwich, England during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal era, Grim Reaper finally let loose their swan song recording.  After almost two years of legal battles with Ebony Records their third release Rock You To Hell saw the light of day on September 5th, 1987.  This third and final offering, like its predecessors is filled with demonic imagery and just like those before it, managed to chart in the U.S.  Nick Bowcott handles the finger-smouldering guitar on the record while the screeching vocals are belted out by Steve Grimmett and newcomer Lee Harris takes a seat behind the kit.  The video for Rock You To Hell received airplay on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball.  Some may remember Grim Reaper for appearing on a Beavis & Buthead episode as the cartoon metal heads bashed the band and their video for the song See You in Hell.

E-Z-O is the self titled debut from the Japanese metal band of the same name.  The album was produced by Gene Simmons of KISS and featured song writing credits from Jamie St. James of Black N’ Blue and Adam Mitchell, collaborator with KISS, among others.  Originally hailing from SapporoJapan under the moniker of Flatbacker, , the band released two albums before moving to New York.  The quartet changed their name from Flatbacker to EZO for the American debut, which is rumoured to have been at Gene’s urging.  EZO came from the Japanese word Eizo, an ancient name for Hokkaido, the island on which they grew up.  They further simplified things by using only their given names in the liner notes, naming Masaki on vocals, Taro plucking the bass, Shoyo wailing the guitars and Hiro beating the skins.  With the inner cassette sleeve picturing the band sporting kabuki/KISS style face paint; this was their first English sung release.  The opening track, House of 1,000 Pleasures, was basically a reworked English remake of the song Deathwish from the Flatbacker output Accident (Senzo in Japanese from 1985).  The debut rose to #150 on the Bilboard 200 Chart, but 1989’s Fire, Fire would not fare so well and Geffen dropped them from the label.  In 1993 vocalist Masaki Yamada went on to join fellow Japanese metal outfit Loudness, followed by drummer Hiro Honma two years later.

Helloween's Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I started a melodic metal machine in motion and the band became a founding force in European power metal when eighteen year old singer Michael Kiske from Hamburg joined them in 1987.  Helloween wanted to release a double album in celebration of their new sound and direction, but the record label turned down such a proposition. They put forth Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I on May 23rd, 1987 and it’s sequel a year later in 1988.  Although this was the first appearance of Michael Kiske, it was Helloween’s second full-length album, (Walls of Jericho being ahead of it by two years), and is widely considered the album that launched Helloween to fame.  Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I’s blistering, but melodic heavy metal charted at 104 on the Bilboard 200. Influenced by Iron Maiden and Judas Priest much of the writing credits go to guitarist Kai Hansen (who formerly handled vocal duties until Kiske’s arrival).  With strong gothic orientations throughout, the band’s warning printed inside the sleeve states “WARNING: Everybody who will be spelling the song “Halloween” from “Helloween” with an “E” and the group with an “A” will immediately be turned into a big ugly half-price-selling pumpkin!” leaves you wondering how many record stores committed this offence to the band.

Raspy vocalist, Udo Dirkschneider left his Accept band mates in 1987 under amicable circumstances to pursue a solo career.  The Accept song writing team supported Udo’s move and wrote the entirety of his 1987 outing Animal House, which would explain how it comes off sounding just like the next Accept release.  The cover of the record depicts Udo and the band behind bars and the titling does not have the periods or hash marks in his name yet which are present on most other releases.  Eight of the 11 tracks on the record clock in at over four minutes, and with a total run time of 46minutes, this straight ahead collection of tracks maintains the tempo from beginning to end.  Just like the chorus of the rocking title track proclaims “I’m a madman living in an animal house” and that animal house has treated Udo well with thirteen full length CD’s, the latest being the double disc Celebrator, which hit stores on May 4th of this year.

While there were many great albums of the 80's and 1987 in particular, these four seem to find their way quite often into my listening rotation.  I hope that you will seek them out and/or dust them off, give them a listen and let me know your thoughts.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lydia Criss calls THE KISS ROOM


1987 In The Great White North


1987 in the Great White North
As my friend and esteemed colleague here at Decibel Geek, Wallygator, has featured in his “Hoser Heavy Metal” articles, there are a lot of great musicians, bands and albums that have been exported from our Canadian homeland, The Great White North.

1987 in Canada saw the introduction of the one dollar coin, commonly referred to as the “loonie”.  The loon, which is a bird common to Canada, is on one side of the gold coloured coin and Queen Elizabeth II on the reverse.  And so in our younger days we would save up our loonies from part-time jobs such as grass cutting and rush down to the record store to secure the new releases.

The following are just a few of the great releases from Canadian artists that helped us part company with our hard earned “loonies” that year.

Helix, known as the hardest working band in Canada, released Wild in the Streets on June 21st.  The album presented such classic tunes as Dream On (a cover of the Nazareth song), Shot Full of Love and the title track, Wild in the Streets, all of which are still played live today.  The first edition cassettes that were produced were sought after items, with the cool feature of the actual cassette shell being glow-in-the-dark!  The track She’s Too Tough was penned by Def Leppard lead singer Joe Elliot and also appeared as a b-side for them and on their Retro-Active disc as well.  Both Wild in the Streets and Dream On were released as singles and helped the record to chart well in Canada, pushing the album to #27.  Alas this solid release from the hard working Canadians would be the last to feature original guitarist Brent “The Doctor” Doerner as he had grown tired of the hardships of the road and touring.  Fellow Decibel Geek Wallygator and I had the opportunity to see Helix perform in April with original members Brian Vollmer, Daryl Gray, Fritz Hinz and Brent Doerner as well as newcomer Kaleb Duck and we were excited to hear the three classic songs that this record spawned.  Check out Wally’s review of the show here: and if you’re in the area go see them on September 28th at The Rockpile in Etobicoke Ontario, once again The Doctor’s last show. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

The same year also saw The Tragically Hip, often referred to simply as The Hip, put forth their self titled debut EP containing eight songs, some of which are still concert favourites today and can generally be heard at house parties and cottages all across the Great White North.  The album spawned two singles, Small Town Bringdown and Last American Exit, along with a live version of Highway Girl during which lead vocalist Gord Downie goes into a rant, telling the fictional story of a suicide.  This rant became a sort of trademark of their live performances with “Killer Whale Tank” during New Orleans is Sinking (a track from their first full length release in 1989) being the most popular.  Although the songs on this EP are a bit more simplistic and straight ahead lyrically than later works, it’s a good start to a Canadian tradition that are still playing and recording together today with all original members.  While nine of their twelve albums have reached number one on Canadian Charts and the band have been awarded 14 Junos, they have known little or no success south of the border, but remain icons in Canadian pop culture.

On July 27th, Canadian prog rock trio, Triumph put out their ninth and last work with original guitarist and founding member Rik Emmett, who decided to leave in 1988 and pursue a solo career.  Widely considered one of the weakest Triumph albums, Surveillance produced three singles, Long Time Gone, Let the Light (Shine on Me) and Never Say Never, but it did not reach the desired commercial success, even with guest Steve Morse on a couple tracks.  Triumph formed in Toronto in 1975 with Rik Emmett on guitar, Mike Levine handling bass and Gil Moore behind the kit.  With eight of the bands nine original line-up albums going gold or higher (The only miss being 1979’s self titled debut), the band has been nominated for multiple Juno awards, including “group of the year” on four separate occasions including 1987 where they were bested by Tom Cochrane and Red Rider.  Deciding to carry on Triumph replaced Emmett with Phil X of Aldo Nova/Frozen Ghost (the first choice of John Sykes was too busy forming Blue Murder) and released their final effort Edge of Excess.  Around this same time they built Metalworks Studios in Mississauga, Ontario which has become a première recording studio and has been voted number one twelve years in a row (1998-2009) at the Canadian Music Industry Awards.  The original line-up reunited for a few select shows in 2007 in preparation for their induction into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame at 2008’s Juno Awards.  While their classic albums of the late 70’s and early 80’s contain their best known work, I prefer this as their finest hour, citing Carry on the Flame as one of my favourite tunes of all time.  Read fellow Decibel Geek, Wallygator’s thoughts on Triumph in his article:

1987 saw Lee Aaron put out her fourth and self titled record on February 17th spawning two charting singles, Only Human (her first top 40 hit) and Going off the Deep End.  The album reached #39 on the RPM Canadian Albums Chart and had been recorded at Triumph’s Metalworks Studios in Mississauga, Ontario.  Lee Aaron and long time song writing partner/guitarist John Albani enlisted the talents of Joe Lynn Turner (of Rainbow fame among others) and he collaborated on the tracks Powerline, Number One and Hands Are Tied.  Even though the CD has a bit of a softer side compared to earlier releases there are a few rockers to be found here amongst the keyboards.  In the liner notes of the 1992 released compilation CD of the same name, the song Powerline is described as “This title appeared as “Powerdick” on my set list for months courtesy of my charming road crew.  I attribute all my bad habits to them!”  Karen Lynn Greening began singing in school musicals at age five and at age seventeen was asked to join the group Lee Aaron.  Well known, heavily stereotyped and haunted throughout her career for her 1984 hit Metal Queen (the song is actually about female empowerment), her biggest commercial success would come with her next release in 1989’s Bodyrock.  She has been nominated for many Juno Awards including Female Vocalist of the Year in 1987 and winning Best Female Vocalist at the inaugural Toronto Music Awards in 1987.  Due to poor management and marketing strategies on behalf of the record company, Lee Aaron’s records were never released in the U.S. and with the Attic label re-titling of her first release, The Lee Aaron Project as simply Lee Aaron this 1987 release often gets lost in the shuffle.

Canadian progressive rock Icons Rush released their commercially disappointing twelfth album Hold Your Fire on September 8th 1987.  Even though it peaked at #13, the first Rush album to fail in cracking the top ten since 1978’s Hemispheres, on the Bilboard 200 chart, it only reached gold sales status whereas the previous five Rush albums had achieved platinum status or better.  Employing more of Geddy Lee’s multi-layered synthesiser on this record, Lifeson’s guitar was diminished and the trio experimented with new song writing territory such as the classical Chinese music influenced Tai Shan.  The album spawned four single releases with Time Stand Still and Force Ten being the most memorable hits.  The trio are well decorated in the music community with Neil Peart receiving many, many awards including Drummer of the Year from Drum Magazine and Best Rock Drummer from Modern Drummer.  Alex Lifeson appears in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time while the vocals of Geddy Lee rank at #13 on Hit Parader’s 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Vocalists of all Time.  The three were also made Officers of the Order of Canada on May 9th, 1996, and were the first rock band to be honoured as a group.  See how fellow Decibel Geek Wallygator was kidnapped by rush fans:

Sven Gali formed in 1987 as a cover band, but their eponymous debut of original material would not see daylight in record stores until 5 years later.

Skid Row got together featuring Canadian front man Sebastian Bach and readied their debut CD for its release in 1989.

The Headstones organised in 1987 in Kingston Ontario, with their first album following in 1993.  They remained active, performing and recording until 2003 and then re-forming for a short tour in 2011.

Edgefest had its inaugural year on Wednesday July 1st, 1987.  Toronto Radio station 102.1 "The Edge" wanted to celebrate their tenth birthday and also Canada Day.  So they decided to put on a large one day rock festival featuring mainly Canadian acts, even though at the time this kind of thing was considered a great financial risk.  Some of the performers included Blue Rodeo, Teenage Head, Northern Pikes, Breeding Ground and The Pursuit of Happiness.  The show was a great success, with tickets being sold at $1.02 each, 25000 people made the drive from Toronto to Barrie (around 90km) where the concert was held.  This festival concert has become a Canadian staple and still goes on today.

On November 2nd, 1987 Lee Aaron was nominated for a Juno award for Female Vocalist of the Year, Male Vocalist went to Bryan Adams as he won over Kim Mitchell.  Kim Mitchell came back and took Album of the Year for Shakin’ like a Human Being while Tom Cochrane & Red Rider took Group of the Year away from the nominated Triumph among others.  The Canadian Music Hall of Fame which honours Canadian musicians for lifetime achievements and is also known as the Juno Hall of Fame inducted The Guess Who in 1987.

A fine year for Canadian music indeed and a lot of loonies well spent!!
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