Mitch Weissman (2013)
Background vocalist/original "Beatlemania" cast member recalls his contributions to Gene Simmons' 1978 solo album and his work with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons on albums such as "Animalize" and "Crazy Nights," plus a potpourri of KISS stories and tangents.
David Snowden (2013)
Longtime KISS fan and former head of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion fan club talks "All Systems Go" and various KISS-related topics
John Storyk (2013)
Renowned studio designer recalls his work on Ace Frehley's Ace in the Hole Studios in Wilton, CT
Mark Opitz (2013)
Producer details his work on "KISS Symphony: Alive IV"
Bruce Foster (2012)
Grammy-nominated musician discusses working with KISS and playing piano on "Nothin' To Lose"
David Wolfert (2012)
Grammy- and Emmy-nominated producer recalls working with Peter Criss on his first post-KISS solo album, 1980's "Out Of Control"
Bob Ezrin (2012)
Legendary producer details "Destroyer: Resurrected" and the making of the album
Lydia Criss (2012)
Author discusses the second printing of "Sealed With A KISS" and various Peter Criss- and KISS-related topics
Ron Nevison (2012)
A celebration of the 25th anniversary of "Crazy Nights" featuring an in-depth discussion with renowned producer/engineer
Jean Beauvoir (2010)
Songwriter/recording artist recalls collaborations with KISS on "Animalize," "Asylum" and more
Kenny Kerner (2010)
Recalling KISS' early days with the co-producer of "KISS" and "Hotter Than Hell"
Eric Singer (2010)
Exclusive interview with KISS' current drummer regarding a variety of topics
Ace Frehley (2009)
KISS' original Spaceman details his first studio album in 20 years, "Anomaly"
Bruce Kulick (2009)
Non-makeup-era axeman discusses KISS tenure and latest album, "BK3"
Mike Japp (2005)
A discussion with KISS collaborator on the "Killers" and "Creatures Of The Night" albums
Dick Wagner (2004)
KISS' favorite "ghost" guitarist discusses his guitar playing on "Destroyer" and "Revenge"
Jesse Damon (2003)
Former member of Silent Rage on his collaborations with Gene Simmons
Stan Penridge (2000)
Peter Criss' right-hand man talks Chelsea, Lips and working with the Catman
Bruce Kulick (1999)
Guitarist talks Union project with John Corabi, Eric Carr and ESP
Sean Delaney (1998)
A brief encounter with the "fifth" member of KISS
Bob Ezrin (1998)
Former KOL webmaster Michael Brandvold grills the legendary producer regarding his work with KISS
Non-KISS Band Members
Derrek Hawkins (2011)
KISS fan and former rhythm guitarist in Ace Frehley's band recalls his stint with the Spaceman on tour and recording "Anomaly"
Art Lindauer (2011)
Guitarist/vocalist discusses working with a pre-KISS Eric Carr in the cover band trio Flasher.
Adam Mitchell (2010)
Songwriter/collaborator recalls working with KISS, Vinnie Vincent and writing songs on "Killers," "Creatures Of The Night," "Crazy Nights," and more.
Bobby Rock (2010)
Powerhouse drummer recalls his wild ride with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion.
Rich Circell (2008)
Lead singer discusses working with Ace Frehley in pre-KISS band Honey.
Mike McLaughlin (2006)
Guitarist on his personal musical path and work with Peter Criss, Criss' "One For All" album, and much more
John Henderson (2004)
Musician shares his memories of collaborating with a young Paul Caravellos (Eric Carr) and his memories of Carr's pre-KISS bands
Neal Teeman (2003)
Uncle Joe drummer discusses working with Paul Stanley in pre-KISS band formed in 1966 and assistant engineering "Alive!"
Victor Cohen (2002)
Rhythm guitarist/keyboard player discusses working with Eric Carr in the Cellarmen
David Bartky (2002)
Bassist recalls his musical beginnings and collaborating with Eric Carr in the Cellarmen
Phil Naro (2002)
First lead vocalist of Criss recalls work with Peter Criss and ex-KISS guitarist Mark St. John
Jason Ebs (2002)
Final lead vocalist of Criss discusses his musical background and working with Peter Criss just before KISS' reunion in 1996
Robert "Bob" Pryor (2001)
Guitarist discusses his musical influences and working with Eric Carr in the Cellarmen
Ron Leejack (2000)
Wicked Lester guitarist recalls collaborating with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley prior to KISS
Ross Berg (2012)
A detailed conversation with the author of "Gene Simmons: A Rock 'N Roll Journey In The Shadow Of The Holocaust."
Paul Grein (2012)
Yahoo Chart Watch blogger and certified chart expert provides a current breakdown and analysis of KISS' Nielsen SoundScan totals.
Larry Harris (2009)
Former Casablanca executive dishes on his must-read book, "And Party Every Day: The Inside Story Of Casablanca Records."
Todd Schorr (2004)
Artist discusses designing the album cover for Peter Criss' first post-KISS solo effort, 1980's "Out Of Control."
Charles Frehley (2001)
Brother of Ace Frehley discusses his sibling and his own musical career.
A scan through the songwriting credits on KISS studio albums over the years gives way to a colorful cast of names: Peppy Castro, Desmond Child, Stephen Coronel, Sean Delaney, Bob Halligan, Holly Knight, Adam Mitchell, Stan Penridge, Jim Vallance, Diane Warren, Mitch Weissman, and the like. Add Jean Beauvoir to that mix as well. Beauvoir, a multitalented wunderkind musician, came into the KISS fold in 1983 as the band was transitioning into the non-makeup era. Having just come off "Lick It Up" and the departure of Vinnie Vincent -- a strong album featuring all songs written within the band, including a robust eight co-writes from Vincent -- Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons would again look to outside writers to help spur the creative process and songs that would comprise "Animalize" and "Asylum."
Back To The Asylum With Jean Beauvoir
By Tim McPhate
A member of the controversial punk outfit the Plasmatics, Beauvoir grew up a KISS fan and in a twist of fate ended up befriending Stanley on the New York club scene. The friendship would ultimately turn into a collaborative relationship as Beauvoir ended up co-writing three songs with Stanley and contributing bass and background vocals to both of the aforementioned albums. KissFAQ tracked down Beauvoir to talk about his recollections of working within the KISS camp, his time with the Plasmatics, his own career and current projects, and more.
KissFAQ: Jean, thanks for taking time to talk to KISSFAQ today.
Jean Beauvoir: Hi Tim, no problem. Thank you.
KF: We're going to try and turn back the clock today and talk about fun things like the 1980s and non-makeup era KISS. It's hard to believe that 1985 is 25 years ago.
JB: Believe me, I know. (laughs) It's ridiculous, isn't it? It was a long time ago, especially since I am only 26. (laughs)
KF: Starting out, do you recall your first experience with KISS? Were you initially a fan and did the band influence you as a musician?
JB: Always. I was a fan since I was a kid. I was living in Long Island and I started to make music when I was very young. I was in a junior high school rock band when I was 13 and I had KISS posters on my wall, and I had my grandmother coming in and saying, "Take that thing off your wall...it's the devil." (laughs) She always got really hysterical when she walked into the room and saw those posters.
But I was a huge fan because at that time KISS was bigger than life. The makeup, the show, the lifestyle, the whole thing -- it was like, "This is where I want to be. I want to play rock and roll." So that's where it all started for me actually.
I can't remember the exact year but I went to my first KISS show when I was pretty young. It was at Madison Square Garden and I was just, "Forget it, this is it!" And from there, I kind of went into my own thing and found myself playing in bands and all kinds of oldies groups to start with. I was really young -- at 14 I was the musical director for Gary U.S. Bonds and played with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and others.
Then I got into the punk thing. I came to New York City and joined this band and we started rehearsing, and we ended up opening up for the Plasmatics. They were just starting out and, after doing an audition, I then became the bass player in the Plasmatics.
KF: Of course, the Plasmatics opened up some dates for KISS on the Creatures Of The Night Tour in 1983.
JB: Yes. By that time, I had left the group. I had moved on and had played with Little Steven [Steven Van Zandt] & Disciples Of Soul and then Richard Branson signed me to Virgin for my solo records. So I did "New Hope For The Wretched" and "Beyond The Valley Of 1984" with the Plasmatics and and a little bit on the next record ["Coup d'Etat"]. And that was about it and I was off into my own thing.
KF: Can you recount for us how you actually came to start collaborating with KISS? You and Paul Stanley became friends first, correct?
JB: Yes. Probably around 1983, Paul and I met in a club. It was a club called Heartbreak. At the time it was the downtown place where everyone hung out. That was the happening place. And he actually came over to me -- he didn't have any makeup on and I didn't recognize him. And he said, "Hey, you're Jean Beauvoir and you play in the Plasmatics. I'm Paul Stanley from KISS." I said, "Woah, okay." (laughs) And we started talking and hanging out a little bit. And then he basically said, "We should just get together. No work for start." So we would go out to clubs, we'd go to movies and restaurants, and we became just friends.
KF: So how did it end up that you and Paul started writing?
JB: We hung out probably for a year before we wrote anything. Then one day, we were just at his house and he had his little four-track on the table and we pulled out a guitar and we said, "Let's try something." And that's where it started.
KF: Going into the album "Animalize," having been around the studio, how would you describe those sessions and Paul's production style?
JB: Well, from what I can remember, he was very meticulous. Gene and Paul used to kind of split those records -- Gene would co-write with who he wanted to and put together his team for his thing and Paul would do the same thing for his songs. So we'd spend time on songs. I'd have a riff or something and start messing around with it and we would mess around with melodies. And I can remember, we would spend long tedious nights, sometimes hours and hours on the phone trying to find the right lyric. (laughs) Literally, it would be 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and we'd be on the phone going, "Hmm, let me think. Let's see."
KF: Writing lyrics on the phone must have been an interesting process.
JB: Yeah, we'd do both. Sometimes if it got late and we wanted to get into it we'd call each other, each of us would be at our house eating Chinese food and just trying to finish up lyrics. Or we would get together. Once anything was done we'd put down the demo together on a four-track. [It was] real casual, and it was actually interesting how songwriting happened in those days. It was a little four-track sitting there on a little table with a couple of instruments and us just singing and having a good time in writing a song.
Once it was demoed and the songs were together, they'd start pre-production. They'd go to SIR and start working with the band. And I would be around for the songs I was involved in because when you played on the demo, Paul kind of wanted everybody in the room. And I was also there just as a friend, and it was just cool to be there and hang out. I knew the guys and it was just comfortable. From there he'd go through the parts and make sure that it was exactly how he wanted it recorded in the studio.
KF: On "Animalize" you co-wrote "Thrills In The Night." In the book "KISS Behind The Mask" you describe how the song was written spontaneously at Paul's apartment and over the phone, a process we just talked about. Do you remember the breakdown of the creative process for this song and what do you recall about writing it?
JB: (pauses) I'm trying to remember...I can remember vaguely that Paul said they were going to start writing and we first got together...I think I had a girlfriend at the time and it was late at night and the idea came so I went into like the bathroom of my apartment (laughs) and started working on the riff (sings the main riff). I can't remember exactly how it went down. I am pretty sure it was collaborative on the riff -- Paul came up with part of it and I added to it when I was home. And then I came back and said, "I think I've got a good thing over here." I think Paul came up with the verse and I came up with the chorus.
We would then mess around with different melodies. That we would do together. We'd just starting humming different melodies and as soon as something resonated, we'd stick to that. And we'd go, "That's cool. Let's lay that down." We would make sure we could hum the whole melody of the song and make sure that our verses worked and that it made sense, and we'd do the same thing with the chorus. And then we'd think, "Now we've got a solid song. Now we've got to make the lyric make the song great."
KF: "Animalize" is a favorite non-makeup era album of mine. The interesting thing is that there was supposed to be a concept video shot for "Thrills In The Night," but it didn't happen.
JB: There was a video. That didn't go to MTV?
KF: There was a live video with footage from the "Animalize Live Uncensored" concert, but there were also portions for a "concept" video that were shot and scrapped for whatever reason. That's one of the lost videos in the KISS vault.
JB: Right (laughs).
KF: For fans, the interesting thing about certain KISS albums is the "who played on what" carousel. And there is a quote in "KISS Behind The Mask" where Gene Simmons said you had a better feel to play bass on some of the tracks for "Animalize." Do you recall which songs you played bass on? Or a better question, do you recall if Gene played bass on any songs at all?
JB: (pauses) Oh, no he did. Actually I believe I played on "Thrills In The Night," for sure "Under The Gun," and I think "Get All You Can Take." I would have to go back and really listen -- I can tell my playing because I have a certain feel with how I play. You know, to be honest, it's something you put out of your mind. Because back in the day a band was a band. So somebody playing on a record wasn't something you advertised or even discussed.
JB: At the time, it just was what it was. It's not something you expected would even come out. So you'd kind of just forget about it -- you're in the studio and you do your thing. You have to hide the information in a safe some place because it wasn't like you were credited on the record. Just like I did background vocals on I don't know how many songs...
KF: So you also sang some background vocals on the album?
JB: I did. I don't remember how many tracks I sang backgrounds on because it was really casual. It wasn't documented like, "Jean, we're doing a union gig. You're coming in to sing on 'blah blah blah.' We need to get the paper work done." It wasn't that kind of a thing, it was more, "Jean, we're cutting tomorrow. You gonna come by the studio?" I'd come by the studio, we'd hang out and Paul and I would go out to dinner afterward. I'd be in the control room and they'd go, "Well, maybe Jean can play on this one." So I'd just walk in and sing, and Gene's on the phone. I'd grab the bass and play bass -- it was that kind of thing. It was really loose.
KF: It's interesting because when we look back on this era there is the stereotype that Gene was off trying to make his foray into the Hollywood acting thing, and wasn't as involved...
JB: Oh, Gene was involved. Gene was always involved with KISS as far as I am concerned. It's not like he didn't care. From having an opportunity to work with him, Gene does what's best for the whole. He just wants what is best for the end result. And to make the most money... (laughs)
KF: The most money, Gene? You're joking? (laughs) "Animalize" featured KISS' third guitar player in three years, Mark St. John, who unfortunately passed away in 2007. Being around the studio, what do you recall regarding Mark and do you think his guitar playing fit the material on "Animalize"?
JB: I think it did.
KF: I agree.
JB: I thought Mark was a great guitar player. I can remember him coming in and whipping out his leads. Gene and Paul, as producers and as leaders of the group, had very fixed ideas on how they wanted things. I'm not talking about note for note telling you what to play in your solo. But they knew what they wanted the end result to sound like. So until it clicked that meter in their mind, they weren't going to be happy, even if they had to do it 100 times.
KF: In 1984 the shred style of guitar was very much en vogue. In that way, Mark fit the bill perfectly since he had a full bag at his disposal -- hammer-ons, pull-offs, tapping, whammy tricks, unpredictable phrasing, etc. In my view, the material kind of lent itself to that style of guitar playing.
JB: I think Mark fit. I never heard Paul complain.
KF: Any thoughts on the late Eric Carr?
JB: I got along with Eric really well. I liked him a lot and he was a great drummer. Everybody was really good at what they did. It was like a machine. Everything was well-rehearsed and like I said Paul was very meticulous, Gene as well. They had a very interesting partnership the way it worked. They are both business guys. Gene was more focused mentally on the business stuff, and Paul more on the other stuff. But I think that is what makes their partnership what it is. Paul is, I don't want to say more creative, but he was a more emotional guy, and Gene was more the pure business guy, but at the same time he gets the whole thing. And somehow they complement each other.
When it got to being in the studio everything was like, "This is when we're doing this. The song is written. We're going to rehearse it and this is what you guys are playing...it's not right." You know, Paul was difficult in rehearsals. I remember some times, I was like, "Woah!" (laughs)
KF: Paul was the taskmaster?
JB: He was. He was like, "This isn't right and I'm not taking any shit." (laughs) He was pretty tough. He cracked the whip.
KF: Going back to Gene and Paul, it has been said that it was Paul who was clearly steering the KISS ship at this juncture. Is that an accurate assessment in your eyes?
JB: I don't think so. I really don't. All the time I spent with them, Gene was always there. Not personal time that Paul and I spent together, because Paul was living in New York and Gene was, I believe at the time, in Los Angeles. Pretty much, when it came to KISS business, and all the stuff that needed to happen, Gene was always very involved. Paul was maybe more into focusing on what the look would be, and so forth. But business-wise, they made all these decisions together. It was a real team. So I don't think Gene was out of the mix at all.
KF: You obviously have an interesting perspective since you were on the inside at the time. Again, the standard story during this time is that Gene was off doing the Hollywood thing and Paul was left to do things himself.
JB: Well, Gene's a workaholic so he'll do it all. (laughs) He can find time to go do movies and then still be in the studio. He's a very focused guy. The KISS work ethic was like out of control and he wanted to do all these other things. But he was always there, every conference call, everything. He was always there.
KF: That segues us into "Asylum." You co-wrote two songs, "Who Wants To Be Lonely" and "Uh! All Night." The former has been described by co-writer Desmond Child as being "R&Bish." What can you remember about the writing of these songs?
JB: It was the groove in a lot of ways [sings the main riffs to "Who Wants To Be Lonely" and "Uh! All Night"]. Which to me, I thought was always interesting. Because let's face it, what makes a cool song is it has to have different elements. It has to have good melodies, good lyrics, but at the same time you want people to move. That's what it's about. And rock and roll in those days was, in a way, dance music. You'd go to rock clubs and people were dancing. Whether you listened to Aerosmith's "Walk This Way," which turned in to a huge hit for them because it had a great groove or "Sweet Emotion" and all that kind of stuff. "Uh! All Night" kind of had a little bit of the same thing [sings main riff again].
If you took the vocals and took the heavy guitars out, you could have had the Four Tops singing it. (laughs)
KF: You guys could have rearranged it and sent it to Duke Fakir.
JB: (laughs) It was interesting, Paul and Gene were a bit experimental as well, and I think that's why they enjoyed co-writing and getting involved with other people. They always tried to keep the identity, but at the same time you like to go a little bit to the left and a little bit to the right and see how far you can stretch it without going too far.
KF: I believe you played bass on "Uh! All Night"?
KF: An interesting coincidence is that the three songs you ended up co-writing were all KISS videos.
JB: I like that. (laughs) I've always had a commercial way of thinking -- so whether it be KISS or whether it be the Ramones, for example, it would be a similar type of thing where I co-wrote things with them and all the songs were singles. I try to focus on that. It's not a money thing. It's just that I have a commercial way of thinking -- I like big choruses so whenever I write anything I kind of steer in that direction.
KF: Mark St. John ended up having to give way on the Animalize tour due to a hand injury and "Asylum" is the first official album for Bruce Kulick. What do you recall going on with KISS' revolving guitarists at the time?
JB: I remember they held pretty extensive rehearsals when they were looking for guitar players. This was the 1980s -- there were a lot of great guitar players out there. And everyone wanted to be in a band like this. So when they did auditions for guitar players, there would be hundreds of people. They had their pick of the crop and they always chose the one that they felt was the best. So these were top-notch guys. And I think Bruce was great also. A bit different from Mark, but a great guitar player who nailed the material. I had a good relationship with Bruce, cool guy.
KF: There is a song on "Asylum" I wanted to ask about specifically -- "Love's A Deadly Weapon" -- which is sung by Gene. The riffs and main rhythmic structure of the song bear much resemblance to "Party" by the Plasmatics, which was co-written by Wes Beech and Rod Swenson. This duo was credited on the song with Gene and Paul. Do you have any recollection about what transpired with this song, and was it a situation where Gene and Paul used the music and rewrote the lyrics?
JB: (pauses) Now I am remembering, that's probably what happened. They wanted to use the "essence" of the song and they wanted to make sure there were no problems, so that sounds about right.
KF: Another tie between the Plasmatics and KISS.
JB: Right. Well Paul and Gene both kind of had a Plasmatics thing. They liked the Plasmatics. A lot of groups -- like Motley Crue, KISS, Guns N' Roses -- were really into the Plasmatics in the beginning because the Plasmatics were just so over the top. When we came to Los Angeles we kind of took over that town (laughs), and we all liked "shock rock." That's what it was all about -- bigger than life rock and roll, taking it over the top, no limit. I miss it now actually.
KF: How do you view your time with the Plasmatics? And what are your thoughts on Wendy O. Williams, who also is unfortunately no longer with us.
JB: I am not sure what happened with Wendy. I mean, I know what happened as far as her taking her own life, but I don't know what happened in her head, if you know what I mean. Whether it was that she was no longer involved in rock and roll... It's a tough thing to all of the sudden have that and have people digging you all the time and chasing you around and thinking you are the greatest thing, and what you actually give off -- that energy that you get from being on that stage and satisfying people on a daily basis. And all of the sudden it goes away.
When that's gone, a lot of people can't handle that. It's like, "What do I do know? My whole reason for existence, my reason for living is this. What am I going to do, plant flowers in the yard in Connecticut?" So I have a feeling that might have had something to do with it. But being a part of that band was a great experience. As a little kid, I was into bigger than life and fantasy and all of that and that's why I was attracted to KISS, and the Plasmatics was a great opportunity for that. It was a tough band to be in because we had a very difficult manager and I was really young. And I don't think that things worked out quite as they should have or we were handled as we should have been. But it is what it is. We all have to kind of pay our dues, you know what I mean?
It was actually David Lee Roth who told me to leave the group.
JB: Yeah, he came to a show, I think it was the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. All of the sudden my bodyguard comes back and says listen, "There are some guys from a band called Van Halen in the parking lot and they don't have tickets to the show. Can we do something?" And I'm like, "Yeah, why don't you let those guys in." (laughs)
I was really into them at that time, I think "You Really Got Me" had just come out and it was like, "These guys are happening." So Dave came back and we became friends. We went out that night and he asked me about all the money I should be making. I was like, "What money?" (laughs)
KF: Back to KISS. The band obviously put the makeup back on and reunited with the original lineup in 1996. As a result, material from the band's non-makeup era has taken a back seat in some ways. However, there are fans who grew up with the non-makeup era and hold these albums in high regard. When is the last time you listened to "Animalize" and "Asylum" and how do you feel the songs hold up?
JB: The last time I listened? Actually it wasn't too long ago. I was in Norway, this is probably about three weeks ago, with one of the bands that we're working with with Steven Van Zandt and the company [Renegade Nation]. And we were just hanging out in my room, me and some friends and some of the people in this band, and kind of going through YouTube and looking at different videos. We pulled it up then and it was great. We watched all the videos -- some of my stuff and the KISS stuff.
I mean, it was different. Listen, look at some of those shoulder pads we used to wear and it's a miracle we could make it through a door. We were completely out of control. (laughs) But at the same time, the music was cool. And the funny thing, in some ways I think it's coming back. You know, great rock and roll that moves you and is powerful and I think some of these things are really coming back.
KF: We talked about Paul the producer, but how would you assess Paul as a musician and songwriter?
JB: I think Paul is a good songwriter. He was creative. First of all, to know who you want to work with and to be able to work with people like Desmond, myself -- the people that he brought in. You have to have a pretty good feel for songwriting, first of all, to even know that you like what these other people are going to bring to the table.
Paul was what he is. He's a rhythm guitarist and he sticks to that. He could play some solos, here or there, but rhythm guitar is what his thing is. And I think in a lot of ways...when you have a bunch of people in a band and everybody can do everything, I don't know if that's a good thing, you know what I mean? The point being, Paul had a specific role: writing songs that are for KISS that are KISS songs that represent the KISS audience and represent what KISS is trying to get across. And at the same time, as a player his role was the same thing. He's a rhythm guitarist, but he can only do what he can do to be able to perform the way he performs. You know what I mean? You can't do both.
KF: He's a helluva frontman and entertainer too.
JB: Yeah. Somebody's got to be covering the screaming solos and stuff like that, or else Paul would be standing in front of the drum riser doing solos. To be able to create that show that makes people go, "Wow, I just saw KISS!" -- he does specific things.
But as a songwriter, I think he's a good songwriter. And that's why we would spend as much time on things because he was meticulous. He wanted to make sure the song made his needle move. He was the guy. No matter who he was writing with, it's gotta move for him. And sometimes you were like, "God are we going to be done with this song already? That word is good enough." (laughs)
KF: Going into your solo career, you worked on a couple of projects with Paul, including Crown Of Thorns, which featured songwriting contributions from Paul. What can you tell us about these projects and Paul's participation?
JB: Well, we had a couple of things. Actually, Voodoo X was the first record ["The Awakening"] that Paul was involved in. It was a band that I had that was signed to Columbia Records. Basically, we wrote a song called "A Lover Like You" on that record. Then we did the Crown Of Thorns debut album, which came out in 1994. It was supposed to come out on Interscope Records, and it actually didn't. It was a really good record. Paul and Gene were co-managers of that project, to be honest. It was a collaborative project signed to Interscope that had myself, Micki Free, Tony Thompson, who actually played with David Bowie and all the Chic stuff -- a great rock and roll drummer. The band was really good and I think Paul was involved in a song called "Winterland."
KF: Yes, I've seen him credited as a writer on that track.
JB: I haven't looked at that record in a long time. You know, it was 15 years ago. (laughs) But he was involved in a few tracks on that, either as a co-producer with me or as a songwriter. You know, it's really a shame that the record never came out.
KF: It was slated to go out on Interscope? Did it get lost in the proverbial shuffle?
JB: It was one of those, "Biggest new deal ever in the history of music..." You know, one of those kind of things. Those things all sound great at the time but they usually lead to not coming out. (laughs)
It was one of those things where Gene was involved, Paul was involved, [producer] Beau Hill and Interscope were involved. There were so many chefs involved in this record and it was going to be something. Gene and Paul were big fans of me and also Micki Free, who was a great guitar player. And Tony Thompson...it was a powerful band. But somehow the politics got in the way. By the time everybody got their two cents in and we got things to where we wanted, the next thing you know grunge came into the mix. And we're watching it going, "Shit guys, we just missed the boat." (laughs)
KF: The mid-'90s were a tough time?
JB: Yeah, it was tough times. But we continued, and it opened a lot of doors. Even though it didn't come out in America, the record came out in the rest of the world and did well. So we ended up selling lots of records in Japan, and the UK and Germany. Crown Of Thorns went on with a different lineup. I replaced Micki Free with Tommy Lafferty and Tony Thompson, who passed away, we replaced him with Hawk Lopez. And we went and toured with Bon Jovi and Van Halen all through Europe. And the band is still alive today, we just released another album called "Faith."
As a matter of fact, we just made a deal today where they are going to use one of our songs in a video for a new pro audio campaign, coupled with "Rock Band" and a bunch of other things.
KF: In addition to music, you're also quite busy on the business side as well. You work with Steven Van Zandt as the CEO/managing director of Renegade Nation. Can you shed some light on your relationship with Steven and this endeavor?
JB: Steven has also been a integral part of my life, going way back actually to my pre-KISS days. In between the Plasmatics and my solo records and what I did with KISS, I worked with Steven in Little Steven & Disciples Of Soul. So when I was trying to get a record deal after leaving the Plasmatics, every label told me when I was ready to blow up cars, they'd talk to me. (laughs)
Then Steven came into the mix and it was a weird thing that happened. But it turns out that my manager who I had when I was 14/15 playing with Gary U.S. Bonds ended up making a deal with Steven and Bruce Springsteen to produce a new comeback Gary U.S. Bonds record ["Dedication"], which became a hit by the way.
So after leaving the Plasmatics I was looking for a deal. And this same manager tried to get back in touch with me and said, "Why don't you start working with Steven Van Zandt? Maybe if you guys work together something might come out of it." So we did that. I had a loft in New York and they started rehearsing for that record in my loft, doing pre-production, and Steven and I became friends.
From there, he said, "Instead of trying to get a record deal right now, why don't you do this Disciples Of Soul thing with me? Let's do a couple of albums and I'll work out material with you." And I was against working with anybody, because at the time I had an offer from Prince and I had an offer from Billy Idol. And I was like, "Nah, nah. I want to do solo records. I don't want to play with anybody." (laughs) You know how it is, I was a stubborn little kid.
KF: Tell me about the Prince offer.
JB: The funny thing is that Prince was a Plasmatics fan. I didn't know that. When I actually left the Plasmatics his manager at the time, Bob Cavallo, called me and said, "Listen, Prince would like to talk to you about playing with him. He's making a new record." He made me a solid offer, he offered a certain amount of money per year, that Prince would produce an album for me and have me play in the group. He said, "He's a big fan. Every time you've played Minneapolis, he was there." I was like, "Yeah okay." (laughs) I wouldn't have even thought that he would have any interest in the Plasmatics whatsoever.
But I didn't do it because I didn't want to get pigeonholed into any one thing and I really wanted to do my solo thing. And I thought that if I played with anybody that people would look at me as that and it would ruin any chances of having any other image in the future. As a matter of fact, we kept in touch. When we did Crown Of Thorns' first record, Interscope won out. The truth is Prince offered more than Interscope for Crown Of Thorns. We didn't take it because he had one stipulation: he wanted the guitar player changed.
KF: He wanted a new player brought in?
JB: Yeah, he wanted a new player. He had something against our guitar player at the time.
KF: Speaking of guitar, Prince can play just a little bit.
JB: Oh, he can play.
KF: But back to Steven Van Zandt.
JB: Steven talked me into it. I went and worked with him, and I did two albums and it was great. He became a great friend and mentor. I finally still left and went and did my whole solo thing and KISS, and everything else. But we kept in touch and about six years ago he basically called me and said, "Listen, I've got this great thing. We want to try and keep rock and roll alive. I've got a syndicated radio show ["Little Steven's Underground Garage"] that goes all over America on Sirius. Why don't you come help me run this? You've been in the business so long, take a break from making records and let's try and go keep rock and roll on the airwaves and try to keep bands going."
So that's what we've been doing. And we have a label, a syndicated radio show, a couple of channels on Sirius, but the main thing we're doing right now is that we're building a really cool Web site: Fuzztopia. With the way things are in the business now with record labels, there's so many bands like you said earlier, and there's different ways to get bands out there. So this Web site is going to be a site where bands can go upload their music, sell it, stream it, sell merchandise -- anything you'd possibly want to do. It's going to be for all genres of music. You can sell your music right from the site -- it's going to be a subscription site but the artist keeps 80 percent of everything that they make. We're going to have high-level producer and songwriter seminars on there.
The main thing is there is going to be dozens of real opportunities. For example, I just made a deal with ESPN where they are going to pick four songs every month for NASCAR off of the site, and then we're doing something with Microsoft and Sirius. So we are creating this whole thing where bands don't have to wait to go get a record deal to have a chance to get noticed.
KF: The traditional model you grew up a part of where the artist gets a record deal and does three albums has really gone by the way side in the last few years. It's just not like that anymore.
JB: Nah, it's over. (laughs)
KF: Bands can only sell records through Walmart now Jean.
JB: That's right. (laughs)
KF: When is your site launching?
JB: Right now it's in beta. There are changes being made as we speak, but bands can go on there while it's in beta and upload stuff, and see what they like and make any comments. We launch May 26.
KF: In looking at your resume you've collaborated with a diverse stable of artists. You have Steven Van Zandt, Wendy O. Williams, John Waite, Nile Rodgers, Lionel Richie, and the Ramones. Where do you rank your collaborations with KISS and Paul in terms of your career?
JB: It's fit perfectly. I've always been somebody who is into breaking barriers. I always wanted to try and have a real rounded career that I could look at when I'm old and sitting on a porch and say, "I had the opportunity to really be in music."
To me, KISS is the greatest rock and roll band of all-time. Period. So the fact that I had the opportunity to work with them, it's legendary. It will last forever. KISS will go down in history as pretty much the greatest rock and roll band in their era. Meanwhile, the Ramones, I think, are the greatest punk band of their era. And Lionel Richie, he's one of the greatest R&B singers of all-time.
KF: What a great songwriter he is too.
JB: Fantastic songwriter. And if I think of John Waite, he was a great singer. Nile Rodgers was legendary, the guy made more hits than God. Even with the boy band thing, I worked with 'N Sync. When you think about it, 'N Sync, during that era and time, is one of the three biggest boy groups in the world. To me, it's a fantastic thing working with Steven Van Zandt. That's Bruce Springsteen. You know, I'd just like to keep adding to it.
KF: KISS is still going today in 2010 and they just released a new album...
JB: "Sonic Boom."
KF: So, my final question: Do you still keep up with the band and have you spoken to Paul fairly recently?
JB: Well not recently. It's been a minute since I've spoken to him. I've got to catch up with him at some point. It's been a moment. Somehow, a lot of my friends, I've kind of lost touch. I find myself working and traveling, and not getting out as much as I should. I've been keeping tabs on it, I know what's going on. I know they are doing this fantastic tour and I definitely want to try and get to one of the shows. The new album is getting good reviews.
It's no wonder to me that they are going to continue doing it. Like I said, they are meticulous about what they do. I watched the Super Bowl and saw that commercial and it was so tight and so together. (laughs) You know what I mean? It's just like the outfits, the whole thing. They have that so down. It's open highway for them. There's no competition.
KF: Jean, thank you so much for your time.
JB: You're very welcome. Take care, Tim.
March 11, 2010