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

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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.

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