Unsolicited Marketing Advice: KISS

One thing Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley probably do not need from me is marketing advice. Still, I’m a huge fan, have years of marketing and promotional experience, and have a few marketing/creative thoughts I’d like to throw their way. I’m sure they won’t see this, but maybe someone who digs what I’m saying might forward it to Doc McGee and the rest of their management. Who knows?

Name the album something cool and have amazing artwork for the cover. Sonic Boom worked (sorta) as an album title. However, the cover I hated with the heat of a thousand suns. Garish and wrong. It was not a reworking of the Rock and Roll Over concept, it looked like a purple and yellow turd. Hey, I might be in the minority. If you liked it… good for you. I thought it was terrible.

For the new album title, single titles work  –  Destroyer, Revenge. A turn of a phrase also works well, but more so in reference to the band –  Creatures of the Night, Dressed to Kill. My recommendation is to name this album after the strongest song on the record or name it something strong and decidedly KISS. Not, for instance, Revolution (is it the new KISS or Journey?) or Whiplash (way too Judas Priest). My suggestions: Monsters, Inferno, Ignite, Devil May Care, The Devil You Know, A Perfect Storm, Dirty Little Secret, Fire in the Hole, and my favorite, The Last Seduction.

Recently, the band has said they are going to try and reproduce the feeling of Love Gun or Destroyer for the album cover artwork. A darker palette will help, but I’d like to see a cover with a hot girl on it. There is a great unused cover design in the KISSTORY book of an exposed neck of a girl with a lipstick kiss mark on her neck evocative of a vampire bite. That cover design with The Last Seduction as a title works wonders for me. I’d lose the blue tone and maybe have photography instead of the painted look.

Song choices. I think Sonic Boom was a fantastic first step sonically and tonally, but I’m really hoping this new record is an explosion of hit material. The guys really need to listen to their classic line-up material and work off that template with a modern sensibility. Also, would it hurt to have a song with “Love” in the name?

Gene has not written a decent song since “Unholy,” and before that not since “I Love it Loud.” Frankly, he needs help. Paul’s cuts are almost always better than Gene’s, but he hasn’t written a breakthrough or crossover song since “Forever.” They need to write together. Hearing a vocal trade off song like “C’Mon and Love Me” feels like classic KISS to me. Go in that direction in your songwriting.

My crazy recommendation is for the band to re-record “Nowhere to Run” from the Killers inport for the new album. It’s a gem of a song that I think has potential. It needs a rewrite to fix the odd opening (keep the acoustic guitar part to the crunchy guitar and drum fill), but I think it’s a hit. New Paul vocals and full band background vocals with Tommy on lead guitar will sound amazing. The solo, a likely Bob Kulick number, needs more flourish, but the bridge breakdown will sound amazing with Eric’s drum fills.

New outfits. I’m positive the band will create new outfits for the album and subsequent tour and they will likely be showcased on the new album cover (back cover, if I have my way). My thoughts on outfits are probably going to be different than most – I want a more minimalist/biker gang approach with no spandex. I’m thinking a cross between Revenge-era leather, Judas Priest without looking like the gay biker from the Village People and their earliest outfits.

Everyone should be wearing black leather pants and thick soled biker boots. Yes, I’m advocating getting rid of the platforms. Gene should wear a blood red leather jacket with spikes and studs all over. I’d feature a large skull and crossbones on the back as a nod to his1972 look or maybe a dragon. His undershirt should be a white “wife beater” that will look like a butcher’s front after he spits blood. Perhaps a large cod piece belt combo because that’s his trademark. Paul should wear a black leather long coat with stud shaped stars all over it and black tassels. Paul’s undershirt is a deep purple button-down that he will take off during stage banter. Tommy should be in a black and white, head to toe, street cycle outfit featuring lightning or seismic graphics. His jacket, there would be no undershirt, will likely be thinner and look like leather, but breathe better. Eric will be shirtless and wear a leather vest with a cat graphic on the back.

I’d love to see the make-up icons used on the lapels of the jackets and on the album cover art while we’re at it.

These simpler designs mean less money being spent on multiple custom outfits. Plus, they offer an easier high-end reproduction to have for sale.

New stageshow. A new stageshow is also a given. Please ditch the pre-show video footage as it has become stale. The walking like giants through a city, like the Rolling Stones “Love is Strong” video it’s ripped off from, is fun, but boring. The “heading to the stage scenes” just seem silly. Record something new.

What I’d really like to see is a new way for the band to come on stage.  The evolution of the “up and over the drums” riser is needed and my suggestion is to have Gene, Paul and Tommy appear from under Eric’s drums. As the opening song starts, Eric’s drum riser raises higher until the rest of the band appears from below the platform. It should look otherworldly with smoke billowing out from the stage and colored lights making it creepy and cool. The band exits and the drums come back down. On either side of Eric are the stacks of Marshall amps and smaller video screens, but above Eric and the Marshalls is a video screen the length of the stage. This screen would be framed in rotating lights. This one big screen can be set up to show live video, the logo in various stages and created video for the stage show. I’d like it proportionally high so the KISS logo could be the length of the stage and not be stretched or shrunk, although that might not be possible.

New set list. My biggest change I wish the band would implement is some edits to the set list and add songs. I understand they have to play the hits, but there are a few songs which need to be replaced that I think would really please long time fans and new fans as well. Personally, I think only playing 16 songs on the current tour is too short. Add songs.

“A Million to One” is the best KISS song nobody knows. “Ladies Room” is just a fantastic rocker and representative of early KISS as is “C’Mon and Love Me.” “I Pledge Alliegience…” is an underrated stadium rocker which could be made into a monster live.

I’m no fan of Tommy singing “Shock Me” as I think it sounds terrible. Just have him sing “When Lightning Strikes.” It’s his song. Make it his “Shock Me.”

The most radical idea I have is for the band to create a medley of acoustic KISS songs. After the stage goes dark and Gene comes down from the lighting rig during “I Love it Loud,” we can have Paul come out with an acoustic guitar and play “I Still Love You” until the big crescendo. Tommy comes in and starts the “Hard Luck Woman” riff and the rest of the band joins in. Eric is playing a tambourine. They flow from that song into “Forever” and finally “Beth.”

My suggested set list:
1.     Modern Day Delilah
2.     Deuce
4.     Calling Dr. Love
5.     Heaven’s on Fire
6.     Firehouse – Gene Spitting Fire
7.     Strutter
8.     C’Mon and Love Me
9.     When Lightning Strikes
10.  A Million to One
12.  God of Thunder
13.  I Love it Loud – Gene flies to lighting rig
14.  I Still Love You/Hard Luck Woman/Forever/Beth Acoustic Medley
15.  Christine Sixteen
16.  Love Gun  – Paul flies to audience platform
17.  Ladies Room
18.  Gene spits blood – Unholy
19.  Lick It Up
20.  I Pledge Allegiance to the State of Rock and Roll
21.  Shout it out Loud
22.  Black Diamond
23.  Detroit Rock City
24.  God Gave Rock and Roll to You
25.  Rock and Roll All Nite

There you have it. My hopes and dreams for KISS come 2012 when the new album and tour begins. I wonder if any of these ideas get used?