Kiss is a band that appreciates dramatics – but even for them, things can get out of hand. Minutes before unveiling their massive new 45-pound photography book, Monster, onstage yesterday at the Viper Room in West Hollywood, California, the band gave Rolling Stone a preview backstage. As bassist Gene Simmons and drummer Eric Singer cracked open a copy and slowly began turning the pages, the easel holding it up started to creak. Singer shouted "Whoa!" as the duo struggled to keep the book from falling to the floor. Watching nearby with a grin, singer Paul Stanley joked, "And for comedy relief, ladies and gentlemen: Singer and Simmons!"
As Monster was rested safely on a nearby couch, Simmons composed himself and straightened his shades. He explained proudly, "It's five feet wide, weighs close to 50 pounds. It's spectacular." At well over $4,000, the book is also a pricey, limited edition item, much closer in luxury to the infamous Kiss Kasket than the band's other book retrospective from the Nineties, the two-volume KISStory. It is a prority for the band; their press appearance at the Viper Room came midway into their 40-date North American tour with Mötley Crüe.
Stanley told Rolling Stone that a more affordable "Mini-Monster" may become available at some later date but, for now, he maintained that the deluxe version was necessary. "[Not releasing it] wouldn’t be fair to the people who can afford it and will appreciate it... If we didn’t make it high-end, it would be compromised," he said. "Part of what makes it special is the quality and the size. There was no way to do that without excluding some people. We’re putting something out that celebrates 40 years of victories. This is a celebration and a victory lap. It means a lot to us.”
A project spearheaded by guitarist Tommy Thayer, the book collects live photographs of Kiss performing in makeup and body armor amid their onstage pyrotechnics, going back through their four-decade career. Each volume of Monster is autographed by all the band's current members and is limited to 1,000 copies in each of 10 countries. It was partially inspired by the original 1999 edition of SUMO, the massive career retrospective of photographer Helmut Newton that came with its own metal display table. (Simmons owns a copy.)
The book shares its title with Kiss' upcoming album, which is set for release on October 18th and is their first since 2009's Sonic Boom. While the last album was released in an exclusive deal with Walmart, Kiss is now back with Universal Records, which owns the band's catalog back to its first round of stardom on Casablanca Records in the Seventies. "They made it very clear they wanted us to be back in the fold and made their intentions known," said Stanley, "not only with goodwill but good money, and the two go hand-in-hand. We're very happy to be back there. We will be shooting from all cylinders."
Added Thayer, "It's a real band album, too. No outside writers, no agenda with power ballads or radio songs. Just rock & roll, pure and simple, from start to finish."
Hours after their Viper Room appearance, Simmons and Stanley stopped by Universal in Santa Monica to share four songs in a private meeting with the label's movie and TV music supervisors. In a downstairs lounge, the rock icons sat on a small stage and introduced each of the songs, beginning with the driving Sixties-style grind of "Long Way Down" and continuing into "Wall of Sound," which rocked with a grinding boogie rhythm. Still wearing what he called his "asshole glasses," Simmons joked with Stanley between tracks and offered to personally close the deal with any filmmaker considering use of a new Kiss song. Both also complained about the room's sound system, which gave the songs a muddier sound than intended; Stanley joked about buying the label a new one.
Tellingly, the new cut "Freak" banged with classic-rock riffs and a searing Thayer guitar lead. "It doesn't matter how rich you are, how successful; we proudly wave that flag," Stanley told his audience of the song. "We are freaks, remain freaks, and hopefully you do, too."