Kiss’ Stage Manager to Share Backstage Stories at Benefit Stream

Kiss‘ longtime stage manager is getting ready to share his best backstage stories for a good cause.

Steve Roman – who has overseen the band’s flame-, blood- and stunt-filled concerts for more than a decade – will take part in the Six String Salute online benefit Thursday at 8PM ET on Live Nation’s “Live From Home” YouTube channel. (An encore screening will take place at the same time the next day on the Six String Salute Facebook page.)

The event will also feature live performances by Steve Vai, Tommy Shaw of Styx, the Black CrowesRich Robinson, Joe Satriani and former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, among others.

Roman tells UCR that Kiss are a “great bunch of guys” who hold themselves and their crew to a high standard. “They are the consummate professionals,” he says. “They’ve been doing it so long. Basically, when you’re working with Kiss, you’ve got to be on top of your game because they’re on top of their game. If there’s a mistake, they wanna know what’s going on and why it happened. Doing a show as big as Kiss, there’s a lot of gags – people flying across the stage in the air, pyrotechnics going off, they’re spitting up blood, they’re shooting up rockets in the air at things. There’s a lot of stuff to do during the show.”

Watch Kiss Perform ‘God of Thunder’ in Concert

At a February 2019 show in Sacramento, a member of the lighting crew temporarily ran afoul of Gene Simmons‘ perfectionist streak, which resulted in an onstage “Give me a white spotlight, motherfucker” rant that went viral.

“That’s typical Gene,” Roman laughs. “When he goes into a show, he wants to be seen. And, of course, they know what’s up. They’ve been doing it for so long, they can tell when a spotlight’s not where it’s supposed to be. He’s quite a character, that’s for sure.”

Roman notes that Simmons is always quick to forgive and forget once a show is over. “I’ve had my fair share of Gene yelling at me,” he recalls. “One night, the pod he uses to fly over the crowd at the end of the show didn’t take off on time. He’s yelling at me, asking, ‘What’s going on?’ [and] flipping me off, all this stuff. The whole thing’s run by computer, so I tell him I don’t know what’s going on. ‘What do you mean you don’t know?’ he says. During the show, he’s into it, he wants to know what’s going on. Then, after the show, we’re going back to the dressing room, and he says, ‘Look, I get it.’ Once the show’s done, he’s fine. He’ll give you the thumbs up, say, ‘It was still a good show.'”

Even though Roman and his crew had been keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 shutdowns taking place across the country, they were still surprised when the tour was suddenly postponed in March. “We were in Tulsa that night, eating dinner,” he recalls. “We got the call from [manager] Doc McGhee. He basically said they’re shutting it down. We had just three shows left on that leg. I thought we would, at least finish them out.”

Roman is now eager to get back on the road. “I am going nuts,” he says. “I’ve done as much as I can around the house. I’ve done all the honey-dos I can, stuff that’s needed to be done for forever. But I’m going stir crazy. This is the longest I’ve ever been home in the 30-plus years I’ve done this job. As of right now, we’re a go for 2021, looking to start back up in April, so I’m just keeping my fingers crossed until further notice.”

In the meantime, he’s hopeful that the Six String Salute benefit does some good for his peers. “It’s helping out a lot of us,” he notes. “There are 40 million people around the world right now who aren’t really working. Starting from the touring crews, that includes building staff, merchandise people, hotel, restaurants, drivers. The live music industry, it helps out a bunch of people in whatever cities we’re going to: flights, bars, restaurants. It’s concerning to me.”

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Robert Duncan Recalls an Early Career Low Point in ‘Loudmouth’

After a decades-long music-writing career that included an early stint as the managing editor of Creem magazine, Robert Duncan has crafted his first novel, Loudmouth.

In an exclusive excerpt from the book, Duncan recalls a real-life career low point: getting spotted and pitied by the Clash while peddling an unauthorized Kiss biography at a collector’s convention in a rundown New York City hotel.

Duncan began a career in his early 20s as “an accidental journalist” for Creem, going on to write for Rolling Stone, Circus, Life and dozens of other publications. His friendship and working relationship with Lester Bangs, and an ill-fated attempt to find a piano player for a Clash recording session, provide fuel for some of the book’s stories.

“I’ve called it a veiled memoir,” Duncan tells UCR. “It’s at least an accidental telling. I thought, Hey, they have that thing in the movies, where they say ‘based on a true story,’ so why can’t I use that for a novel? I wanted to remember it the way I wanted to remember it. I didn’t want to fact-check myself; I wanted to let it flow. It’s definitely based on my life, such as it has been.”

Maintaining a sense of humor about himself and the artists he covered was an important part of Duncan’s success. “I think that’s the way I approach life,” he explains. “I try not to take myself seriously, number one. I try not to take people who are supposed to be stars seriously. I try not to take music that takes itself seriously very seriously. And I like to have fun and laugh at stuff. I’m always running up against somebody who doesn’t get the joke. I like to deliver the jokes as deadpan as I can, which makes it even more dangerous. I’ve been thrown out of a dressing room, and I’ve been threatened with fists. That stuff happens every once in a while.”

That attitude came in handy during the pride-swallowing incident depicted in the below excerpt, which finds an unhappy Duncan forced to try and sell his newly published Kiss book.

“It was in this big old grand hotel that now stunk, it was all moldy and mildew-y. They gave me a bunch of books and said, ‘Okay, go sell these things, sign them and promote the book.’ So I’m alone and I’m embarrassed to be there. You know, it was collecting nerds, and that’s not me. There’s a lot of that. They wanted to talk about collector-y stuff. Then, as I describe in the book, and it truly happened, Mick and Joe from the Clash just walked up. I had been with them in the studio a couple of months before, when they were recording Give ‘Em Enough Rope. So, they were the righteous revolutionaries, and here I was exploiting a band that was not considered by them or probably by me a revolutionary band. [Kiss] definitely weren’t punk!”

***

At a press party in the Time-Life building for Ozzy Osbourne – where the guest of honor could be found, with difficulty (even if you were his publicist), chin to chest, in a dark, back corner – a producer acquaintance, yet another of that hard-hustling breed, palmed me the number of an editor looking for an unauthorized biography of Kiss. And the next day I called that number. For a few zloyts down and a pitiful percent down the road, I readily agreed to prostitute what I viewed as my considerable, yet virginal, talents. And if writing a Kiss book might seem far from the most dishonorable thing, for me trying to be a real writer – in order to be a rock star – it wasn’t far from shitting yourself in a St. Olaf’s classroom. It exponentially compounded the agony when the first printing arrived and the publisher’s marketing department booked me as an exhibitor at the First Annual Rock Flea Market and Collectors Fair in the ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel.

Directly opposite Penn Station, the Roosevelt had once teemed with real armies in transit home from real war, the ballroom floor pulsing into dawn with straight whiskey, syncopated horns, hair-flying Lindy Hoppers and undiagnosed post-traumatic stress. Now those hallowed cedar planks were swirled in must and crawling with the Kiss Army – allied forces of the round-shouldered, the inhaler-dependent and the prepubescent, a white-faced band’s even paler disciples and not coincidentally my best shot at a dime of royalties. It was exactly the kind of place a rock snob would not be caught dead. For my sins, the publisher had shipped in a dozen cartons of product and commanded me to get out and sell. Wedged between the Satanist belt-buckle kiosk and a stoney scammer’s-apprentice peddling crates of illicit promo records – possibly the selfsame crap I was peddling to this guy Benny (“No last names!”), the illicit record-buyer who, twice a month, lumbered up to the fifth floor with cash – I sat at a card table, counting the minutes till closing and doing my damndest to hide behind an improvised duck blind of my own disgraceful books. Which is why it took a minute for me to note the arrival of the new scourge of the bourgeoisie, torch-bearer of the rebel spirit, savior-in-waiting of modern youth and leader of the Only Band that Matters.

It had been two months since I had slunk from Athena studios with a dazed and confused Eddie. Terry called a week later to let me know they’d got the Blue Oyster Cult’s keyboardist to bang out the piano part in less than 20 minutes, and, since the ever gracious Allen Lanier had also agreed to forego credit, the Village Legend would n ever have to know.

“Eddie,” Terry said with a snort, “can go on dreaming.”

It was kind and cruel at the same time. I decided the kind part was Joe’s idea. The cruel part – making sure I knew they’d formally nuked my “protege” and effectively putting the fiasco on me – was just what you’d expect from a guy in indoor shades.

In the meantime, our friend Lasker had tagged the Clash the Only Band that Matters, and the record company had airlifted Lester into the middle of the U.K. tour, enabling a week-long bender and slobbering mutli-park hagiography, and a legion of premature ejaculators were stroking their Selectrics over the impending disk.

In the U.S., in other words, the Clash had advanced beyond buzz.

“Oh, hey,” I said to Strummer, as I raised my head above the paperbacks.

He nodded and fingered the volume.

Then along came Jones.

“Oh, hey,” I repeated.

Mick nodded and turned the book over and back, and over again, like he wasn’t quite sure where to begin. I hemmed and hawed. “Yeah, well, kind of a joke, you know … “

But I was too hot-faced to pull it off. And once more Joe stared. This time it wasn’t wariness. Worse, it wasn’t judgement. This time at the Rock Flea Market in the smelly belly of the Roosevelt Hotel, Joe Strummer looked at me with pity. As if to confirm, he shrugged and said, “We’ve all got to make a living … “

Agonizing later, I told myself that, rather than a whore and a rock Judas, I had been joined, in Strummer’s mind, with the lumpen youth he was bent on redeeming, that the pity I had read in his black gaze was actually sympathy – “We’ve all got to make a living” – and brotherly commiseration on the state of the Clampdown.

It wasn’t like the Clash hadn’t compromised. The debate about whether or not you could be beholden to a media conglomerate and still be revolutionary – the Only Band that Matters – fueled half their publicity.

We … Strummer had said. All .. he’d appended.

I had to write shitty Kiss books, and he had to suck up to the suits at Athena. Same prison, different cells.

***

Loudmouth will be published on Oct. 6. Details and pre-order information are available on Duncan’s website.

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Ace Frehley Confused by People Who Call Him an Influence

Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley says he finds it “confusing” when other musicians cite him as an influence. He also recalls his doubts as he geared up to cover the Beatles classic “I’m Down,” which was released last week.

The track includes guitar work by John 5 and features the pair trading off against each other toward the end. “I met John 5 when Kiss was rehearsing for the reunion tour,” Frehley tells UCR. “He came to the rehearsal studio, and I met him there. We’ve been close friends ever since. He’s played on several of my albums. and he always does a great job. He’s really, really fast in the studio. Usually, most of his solos are first or second take.”

Frehley notes that John 5 “can play all sorts of music, [like] country – he can fingerpick and stuff. I never really got the hang of that. But I think I do what I do good, supposedly, considering so many guitar players cite me as the reason why they play guitar. Never taking a guitar lesson, it’s kind of confusing to me when I think about it, how I’ve pulled that one off.”

A Beatles fan since he first heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Frehley says “I’m Down” was another favorite, but he was doubtful how to approach it at first. “I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to sing a Paul McCartney song, but somehow, I pulled it off,” he explains.

Watch Ace Frehley’s ‘I’m Down’ Video

Now that his new album of cover songs, Origins, Vol. 2,  is all set for release on Sept. 18, Frehley is turning his thoughts to writing new music as well as building a studio at his new home in New Jersey. “The Origins records are a lot of fun, but the songs are written by other people,” he notes. “When you write your own songs, it’s more gratifying when people appreciate them.”

Still, Frehley says he “never [has] a plan – I just write. I sit here and I see where it goes. There’s no concept, there’s no rhyme or reason. I just start writing songs that come into my mind and develop it into a studio record.

“I don’t believe in forcing things. I think things should just happen naturally. To me, the most important thing when I record is having spontaneity and just going for it. If you don’t get it in two or three takes, take a break and go back to it later. If you try to do something too many times, over and over again, it loses that spontaneity.”

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Dee Snider Criticizes Kiss Over Replacement Members’ Makeup

Twisted Sister‘s Dee Snider once again criticized Kiss for letting replacement members use the signature stage makeup worn by original guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss.

“I hate what Kiss is doing,” the singer told the Appetite for Distortion podcast (via Ultimate Guitar). “I hate what Kiss is doing with the guys with Ace and Peter’s makeup on —  I’m not a fan.”

You can listen to the podcast below.

Guitarist Tommy Thayer joined the band in 2002, and drummer Eric Singer first came on board in 1991, taking over after the death of Eric Carr. Thayer and Singer currently wear the makeup designs of Frehley and Criss, respectively.

Snider previously blasted Kiss’ makeup move in 2015. “I don’t see how people could accept this,” he told Eddie Trunk. “Tommy Thayer? I’m sorry. It’s insulting. Not only did he play with a tribute band of Kiss, he’s imitating Ace in his entire act!”

Responding to Snider’s 2015 comments, Kiss’ Paul Stanley told the Talk Is Jericho podcast, “Let me put it in the simplest terms. In this case, this guy is a wannabe, has always been a wannabe and desperately wants attention and to be taken seriously, and that will never happen because he’s obviously clueless to the fact that he and his whole band are a bunch of buffoons.”

Snider’s most recent quote came in response to a question about band reunions, including Guns N’ Roses.

“When I left Twisted and I went out at some point and I was doing Twisted music, I never even thought of calling it Twisted Sister without the other four guys,” he said. “Everyone is saying, ‘But you’re Twisted Sister; you wrote the songs.’ … I said, ‘That’s not Twisted Sister.’ And I won’t do that out of respect for the other members of the band. I could’ve made a lot more money doing that, but I would not do that.”

While he emphasized his “love” of Guns N’ Roses, Snider said he’s “disappointed” they couldn’t assemble the full classic lineup — including drummer Steven Adler and guitarist Izzy Stradlin — for their highly profitable reunion tour.

“I’ve seen footage of [Adler] joining the band, and that’s so awesome,” he said. “I know he’s had some physical problems — he’s a lovely person, maybe that was the problem. And he gets up there and he plays these couple of songs, he’s got that shitty grin on his face. It’s great, so why isn’t he there? It makes no sense to me.”

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