The following are excerpts from the Bill Aucoin Q&A session at the 1997 Atlanta KISS Expo.
(This article first appeared in KISSaholics # 20)
Q- What is your response to the Reunion Tour?
Bill- "I tried for many years to get Gene and Paul to get everyone back together. But there was still an awful lot of animosity between (them)…but it was great them see them. I saw a few of the shows at the beginning. It was good to see the show again. The show was basically, other than a couple of things, the show that my people put together back in'78…I thought the beginning of the show was a little lackluster…and I missed the thing that we almost always used on all of the major shows which was the staircase around the amps. "
Q- What are you doing now?
Bill- "I just got a new company. I got out of the business for awhile after we had a success with Billy Idol. We're starting a new company called "Dreamscape" one in New York, one in south Miami."
Q- Recently there have been several books on KISS…have you had a chance to read KISS AND SELL?
Bill- "I've only read a couple of chapters. Chris was the tour accountant and he started when he was pretty young and he took a lot of notes…but he was with them a lot of the time and of course he was holding the money so he was a pretty popular guy on tour…"
Q- What was it like on tour in the early days?
Bill- "The road crew, as I recall, got $50 bucks a week plus expenses, but everyone loved the group…we played wherever we could. I remember once getting a call from Canada and the guy said, 'There's no stage'. And I said well what have we got? He said well were playing in a cafeteria and they want to put cafeteria tables together…Fortunately I had a crew that loved them so much that whatever it took they did it. It was scary, Peter was always scared of the drum riser because it was a chain link drum riser and it was developed by a magician and there was nothing underneath it. There was 2 steel bars that went back into these fake speaker cabinets and inside was a chain link lift thing. Well every once and awhile we would drop a link and Peter would go, "wump"…the original idea is that it would levitate (appear to rise without assistance)."
Q- What was it like during the period of the first 3 albums?
Bill- "The first album sold 60-70,000, I don't think we ever got real accounting on that one. Thew next one was about 80,000. At that point everyone ran out of money. As you know, "Dressed To Kill" was produced by Neil (Bogart) because we really couldn't afford to hire a producer. All those suits…Peter had a suit but no one else did so I went to my closet and got the suits…I think the most expensive thing about that album was the initial album covers - we had them embossed. And then came almost the breakup of us and Neil. I don't think we never really thought we were going to leave Casablanca (Records) but I realized that I was going to be in trouble so the whole thing might go up in smoke because Neil had never given us any kind of royalty checks…Neil never wanted to admit that he couldn't pay even though we all kinda knew we were doing this together except I really needed to know where I stood, where the band stood…and we got into an argument over it and Neil felt a little threatened by it because on the one hand Neil was the type of guy if you had a handshake - it was good, it really was good…so he kinda felt that hey, I told the guys I would take care of this. And I said, that's not the point. The point is we all (need to) have contracts. If something happened its gonna all fall apart…Anyway we all to went to court on it and at that point Neil already had "Alive" and he knew something was happening. We all knew we were doing great on the road…In the middle of that I got a call from Atlantic Records and saying, Hey listen we know you can leave Bogart, come with us. In any case, we all settled (with Casablanca) and we got our first check…for $2 million dollars and I can remember just staring at it, counting the zeros. I had never seen so many zeros."
Q- When you move into the late 70's…
Bill- In '78, we did $119 million dollars in one year - about $55 million dollars in merchandising alone. If, in fact, you translated that into now, you're be talking about probably $300 million dollars…(After that) we went through…Ace being very unhappy and also (the band) kinda burning themselves out…the burnout really came around "The Elder". "The Elder wasn't really a KISS album, it was a Bob Ezrin album and the reason why is that no one wanted to do an album…The other side of it was every time we turned in a tape we got $2 million dollars…the psychological as well as the financial side pushed us a little over the brink…
Q- Tell us about the Shreveport show mentioned in "KISS AND SELL". Didn't Peter just stop playing?
Bill- "Yeah, he did. He started slowing down and stopped. Peter was always very emotional, very sensitive…Gene had said something to him…"
Q- Is it true that Gene and Paul are perfectionists?
Bill- "I wouldn't say perfectionists, Gene is more money-oriented…Gene was never a great musician, but had the stamina. But certainly knew how to put things together…also he would go for things quicker. I'll give you an example, you've seen fly up to the top of the lighting grid. Initially I came up with that idea for Paul because Gene was spitting fire, Gene had the blood…so I came up with the idea for Paul…and Paul wouldn't do it. That's how Gene got that. That's how Gene got the fire. Ironically, in my office when we had a fire-eater come in and explode the flames. Although it certainly made sense for Gene to do it I said, well who'd like to give it a try? Of course Gene said, Oh, that's me…"
Q- What about the story about Peter and the burned-out Porsche?
Bill- "We had an accident while we shooting the movie…the guys had a real rough time with that, especially again Peter and Ace. If any of you have ever been around movie sets it's really, "Hurry up and wait. Hurry up and wait." Peter was going through some problems with drugs and drinking at that point and after the final shot of the movie, he had a 928 Porsche and he went out to party. Well they went through one light pole, one stop light and they came to wherever it stopped, and I never got the final story. Supposedly he and the road manager were thrown out of the car…they get out with a few burns, fortunately they weren't life-threatening…I go to the hospital…He said, would you go and see if my drugs are still in the car? Fortunately (now) Peter has cleaned up his act and is good health and everything else. I said, I can't believe you're asking me this…So I went to the lot where the car was towed in and it had completely melted down…Peter had his little "drug case" is what he called it. I don't think he ever took out the stuff but it looked good for all of the other Rock and Roll stars…the only thing that didn't melt was the case. He had it under the chair…"
Q- What was it like with Vinnie in the band?
Bill-"Vinnie is really emotional. After he left the band…Vinnie asked me to manage him independently and it lasted one week. I mean Vinnie drove me nuts, really bad…Vinnie is a little paranoid…He called me every 15 minutes for a week…"
Q- Tell us about the "Dynasty" tour.
Bill- "Ironically, the Dynasty tour didn't sell as well as we all thought…I think we only made a few hundred thousand (dollars). The album didn't do as well as we thought. Everything goes through cycles…Unfortunately we had a huge show during a down cycle."
Q- With the Reunion tour happening, where do you see the band heading? Do you think these problems will come up again?
Bill- "I think the cycle will happen again. I hate to say that but already it's starting to creep into situations. And initially the reason they got back together again, although I really enjoy the fact that they did - as I said I pushed Gene for years, but it really came down to someone offering enough money. But in truth the dynamics that were there years ago…are still there…"
Q- What is your opinion of KISS playing the Columbus, Georgia show in April without Peter?
Bill- "If you really wanna be a purist at it, and I have a tendency to do that, I probably would have cancelled the show…Would they do the same with Gene? I don't think so. And I think a couple of reasons: 1. You're paying to see a Reunion show…
Q- "Is it true that Lennon and McCartney were going to play on Gene's solo album but Neil Bogart couldn't keep it a secret?
Bill- "Lennon and McCartney never agreed to do it."
Q- Do you know what happened to the talismans from 'KISS Meets the Phantom"?
Bill- "If Gene doesn't have it, Gene hordes everything, I think it might have fallen by the wayside.
Q- Is it true that before Eric Carr died that he was treated poorly by the band?
Bill-"That's basically true and it's probably one of the saddest stories. While I wasn't there at the time, I know because Eric was calling and talking to me…You have to understand he was always the forth man out…He was never considered by Gene and Paul, in particular, as a member of KISS because he was a hired hand and that was it…He never really had a say in anything. So over the years he knew some things were right and some things weren't and he also knew that he wasn't being treated well…Sadly, when he had the heart condition, and this is something that I don't think was Gene's fault per se, but what happened at the end was rather cruel and think that his family always thought that maybe his last stroke when he died happened because of a conversation with Gene. The sad part was that Gene and Paul had called to let him know that he absolutely was not going to be in KISS anymore. In amongst they were canceling everything to do with KISS, which meant that his medical insurance was going to be canceled. Well unfortunately, whether or not this had any…I know he was very upset over the whole thing anyway and had called me several times in the weeks prior. But that was the night he had the stroke and died…You will never meet a sweeter guy than Eric."
Q- Are you employed by the band in any way?
Bill- "No, although Gene took me to lunch a couple of weeks ago. His comment was, You know we're gonna have to do some business together, which I immediately translated that to mean Gene needs something (laughs) which finally came down to, 'We would really like to have the puppets back'…and I also have the original oil painting of the "Destroyer" (album cover) at least I think I still have it. In one case they gave it to me as a present and in the other I had the puppets made for the office…"
(Reprinted from KISSaholics Issue #20)
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