KISS Alive Forever is still considered one of the greatest books ever created about the band. What made you want to put this book together in the first place?
It goes all the way back to when I was in high school. I started collecting all those dates of concerts. I just started doing it and in 1996 I met Jeff Suhs through one of the old AOL message boards – a mutual friend put us tougher – and he was doing the same thing. He was doing the opposite of what I was doing. I was only taking stuff that was verified. He was taking stuff that he could get from any source. So, we combined forces in February of 1996. Three months later we realized we had more than enough for a really great book.
In April 1996 we realized we had something worthwhile so we kept researching it, and researching it, and researching it. Next thing I knew, seven years had passed and we had put $75,000 into the project. We had this tome that we were ready to produce by the time we got to Billboard.
What was it like when you got that book deal? I imagine after investing so much time and money into a project it was a gratifying experience.
I knew that we’d get a deal but I didn’t realize it would happen so quickly. The first call I made the publisher said, “We’d love to do it but we have a conflict, so we can’t.” The second call I made they said, “Yes, we’d love to do it!” Overnight, I sent them a proposal and within 48 hours we had a proposed book deal in front of us.
Wow! You didn’t have to go through an agent or anything?
No, I called the Editor-in-Chief at Billboard and he took it sight-unseen. It was pretty incredible.
The editing was pretty smooth because Jeff was a professional editor while he was in college. We had a really tight manuscript so Billboard’s editor didn’t have much work to do. Jeff and I were lucky. Most authors submit their work and don’t have much to do with it after that. Him and I had the opportunity to review the book again before it was published and tighten it up even more. We were really happy with the finished product by the time it hit the streets. We did our last round of edits in late July or early August and it was on the streets by October 1.
What made you want to release the book now as an eBook?
We noticed over the past two or three years that people are paying anywhere from $100 to $200 for hard copies of the book on eBay. We felt that wasn’t right. That was never our intention. $200 for a book is ridiculous. It’s not like it was some five-foot by six-foot coffee-table book. There was no reason for that.
We wound up starting on this back in December 2016 and we thought it would be a really easy process. But, as it turned out, it took months and months and months to do it right, mainly because the book had been designed in Quark and now everybody uses InDesign. It was a nightmare because we had to use all the old Quark files.
Books have a shelf-life, especially reference books. In our case, the publisher went out of business. Our little publisher got bought out by Random House. And I think every book except one that was on Billboard Books is no longer in print.
Was that frustrating for you when it went out of print? Was it still selling well at the time?
No. It was about eight years ago. Everything has a lull and we were in that lull. It went into a moratorium and there was no reason it shouldn’t. We were seeing very little sales at that point. But, sure enough, when you take something away the scarcity drives the price up. Between Gene Simmons Family Jewels and KISS continuing, there was a whole new generation of KISS fans coming up that never had a chance to buy the book or were too young to have known about it at the time.
Will there, eventually, be an expanded version of the current book or a continuation of it?
There’s going to be two more books. The first one will be a completely updated version of the book with new set lists and all the information that we’ve discovered since it was originally published. The second book will pick up where the last one left off and come up until the present day. But we’re not going to do that until KISS retires. We’re so close to the mark at this point, it would be senseless to publish it now and then have to add six months or a year or two of additional content that didn’t make it into the book.
Only once. After the book came out, I was so completely burned out on all things KISS. With Ace leaving and Tommy coming in, I felt like that was too much. I took a 15-year hiatus. I didn’t see KISS in concert. I completely stopped going, completely stopped participating. My son, who is four-years-old now, got into KISS when he was two because he saw things I had laying around the house. And he started getting into KISS and listening to their music, so I finally took him to see KISS. Going into that show my thought was, well, this is going to suck but I’m lucky because this could be The Wiggles. When you’re a parent taking your kid to see something, it’s not always going to be as good as KISS. I took him to see KISS in January of 2016 and I actually loved it. I couldn’t believe how tight they were. It was so good we’ve seen them four times since then. Usually, for his birthday or Christmas he winds up getting a KISS concert ticket.