With the exception of The Beatles, there isn’t a rock ’n’ roll band in history that has gotten as much ink as Kiss. Scrutinized, dissected, analyzed, investigated, examined and uncovered — every album, every career move and every step has been written about, commented on and discussed. Quite surprisingly, however, one era of Kiss that remains the favorite of this writer (and is also the favorite era of the namesake of this website), the non-makeup years, never got the full-on treatment and examination as other periods of Kiss. Until now.
Author Greg Prato has penned a new tome, “Take It Off: Kiss Truly Unmasked,” that focuses almost solely on Kiss circa 1983 to 1996. Featuring all-new interviews with non-makeup years guitarist Bruce Kulick, Kiss producers, videographers, experts and associates, “Take It Off” zeroes in on the 11 albums, tours and escapades released sans war paint.
“Take It Off: Kiss Truly Unmasked” by author Greg Prato is available now via Jawbone Press on Amazon.com
“The majority of Kiss books out there so far, at least the ones that have been released with Gene and Paul’s permission, they’re largely from their perspective,” Prato said. “You don’t really hear much from the other players that are part of the picture. People like Bruce Kulick, as well as producers like Ron Nevison and Toby Wright, and songwriters like Mitch Weissman, Jean Beauvoir and several others, as well as people that toured with Kiss during that era. To get a full picture, I thought it would be interesting to speak to these other folks.”
Chris Jericho penned the foreward, and “Take It Off” also features interviews with Charlie Benante (Anthrax), K.K. Downing (Judas Priest), Derek Sherinan (Dream Theatre), Eddie Trunk, Lonn Friend and many more.
The book marks the second time Prato has visited the non-makeup era. He also penned “The Eric Carr Story” in 2011.
Recently, Prato talked all things “Take It Off” and all things Kiss in their non-makeup years for Web Is Jericho.
Here’s Prato on …
What surprised him during his research:
“One thing we discussed, was supposedly in the late ’80s and into 1990, I heard that there was a proposed Kiss tour that wouldn’t have been the original lineup, but it would have been Gene, Paul, Ace and Eric Carr. They would’ve also put back on the makeup and the costumes. I asked a bunch of people about that, and some of the responses I got back were very interesting, including what Bruce Kulick had to say. I hadn’t really heard that discussed before. Also, speaking to Mitch Weissman, who was very good friends with Gene and Paul for a long time and co-wrote several classics from that era, it was very interesting to hear what he had to say about his experiences.”
Why Kiss is such a polarizing and discussed band:
“It’s probably in large part to just how successful they’ve been through several different eras. They started as more of a straight ahead rock band, then they turned into an arena rock band, then they went through a disco phase, a pop phase, a concept album phase, back to metal, then they took off the make-up and then put it back on. There’s all these different eras you can talk about, and they’ve also had several different people come and go through the band who have pretty interesting stories. Plus, they’re just so popular throughout the world.”
What Vinnie Vincent, Bruce Kulick, Eric Carr and Mark St John brought to the band:
“Vinnie, you could make a valid argument that he was key in rekindling Kiss, because they were definitely floundering at that point when he joined. No matter what you want to say about Vinnie, he is definitely a talented songwriter that helped out Kiss. For me, ‘Creatures of the Night’ is in my top 5 Kiss albums, and ‘Lick it Up’ is my favorite of the non-makeup era. Vinnie has a lot to do with that.
“Bruce Kulick is a vastly underrated guitarist and vasty underrated songwriter. For some reason he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. In that era of the ’80s when a lot of guitarists were just trying to show off how fast they could play, he could do that — like on the intro to ’No, No, No’ — but he also came up with some great, tasteful leads that stick in your mind, like the lead to ‘Tears Are Falling.’ The solo also on the song ‘Unholy’ was great. He’s a fantastic guitarist.
“Eric Carr, the reason why ‘Creatures of the Night’ is so great — which I know is from the non-makeup era, but his style carried over — is because of his Jon Bonhamesque drum sound. He is a huge part of why that record and other songs after were so special.
“Mark St. John, even though he didn’t write anything, you can’t discredit that ‘Animalize’ put them back over the top in reestablishing Kiss as an arena headliner. That’s what Kiss was looking for at the time, a shredder, and he fit the bill.”
Why he didn’t reach out to Gene or Paul for ‘Take It Off’:
“The main reason is when I did ‘The Eric Carr Story,’ I never heard back from them. And like I said before, they’ve already told their side of the story. Their book, which is very good — ‘Behind the Mask: The Official Authorized Biography’ — in that book they go through the non-makeup era, and we hear what Gene and Paul had to say about those albums. But we don’t really hear a lot of what Bruce had to say or the producers. We hear a little bit, but it’s primarily Gene and Paul, which is understandable since they wrote most of those songs. With ‘Take It Off,’ I wanted to focus on people who didn’t get to tell their side of the story at length to get a more complete picture.”
Kiss videos in the ’80s:
“Watching those videos back in 1985 or ’86 or ’87, they didn’t seem at all strange at the time. They fit in with Janet Jackson’s videos and Madonna’s videos and Huey Lewis and the News’ videos. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh my God, look at what Paul Stanley is wearing.’ As much as I love early Van Halen and David Lee Roth’s first solo album, you could say Roth was the ultimate in over-the-top wardrobe at that point. What Paul was wearing wasn’t that removed from that or even with what Bon Jovi was wearing. Now looking back, it’s absolutely funny. But to give Paul credit, he also pokes fun at that, too. But it is what it is. At the time, everyone was doing that. Kiss was trying to keep up with the times, and Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and Poison were doing it, so why shouldn’t they?”
Recollections of Kiss taking off the makeup and releasing ‘Lick It Up’:
“I became a huge fan when I discovered Kiss in 1978, and then I kind of lost interest around 1981, ’82. It just so happened in the summer of 1983 I re-discovered a lot of my Kiss albums, because that’s when I was listening to a lot of Iron Maiden and Ozzy. I was pretty impressed with how well albums like ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Over’ and ‘Love Gun’ sounded compared to a lot of the modern metal albums of the time. So I was really hoping that whatever the next Kiss album would be, it would be a return back to form.
“At that point, I was not that familiar with ‘Creatures of the Night,’ which obviously was a return to form. But waiting for this next Kiss album, which was of course, ‘Lick It Up,’ I was very pleased with it. I was also happy their popularity had returned, and they were being played on TV and radio. They were definitely clawing their way back.
“Something else I talk about in the book, is that the makeup era was completely blasted by the critics, whereas in the non-makeup era, the critics were taking Kiss a lot more seriously. I remember going to school back when Kiss had makeup, and there was definitely a line drawn where people either loved Kiss or hated Kiss. If I wore a Kiss shirt to school, people would tell me to my face how much they hated Kiss or that Kiss sucked. Whereas once they took off the makeup, it wasn’t that way anymore. No one would confront you about that. It seemed like Kiss was taken a lot more seriously by people who liked rock music.
“I have to admit, I definitely do prefer the classic era of Kiss over any other, but you can’t deny that the non-makeup era of Kiss established them as an arena headliner again. They accomplished what they set out to do.”
“Take If Off: Kiss Truly Unmasked” is available now via Jawbone Press and is available wherever books are sold.