Adam Mitchell Interview 6/29/99 -- KISS Hell Exclusive
KISS Hell Online

KISS HELL: First off, can you give us a little background info. on how you got involved in the music buisness?

ADAM MITCHELL: Basically like everybody else I started playing guitar and played in some bands. When I was in college I was playing single & doing kind of a folk thing. Right after college I got in a band in Canada in the 60's called the Paupers and it was a great band. We got signed by Albert Grossman, which was Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin's manager. We played the Monterey Pop Festival and Gene & Paul were actually fans of that band. After that I was producing a solo record on Warner Brothers Records. When I was doing my solo record the guy who was in the next studio was Michael James Jackson, who went on to produce KISS and he came in and heard my songs and really liked my songs, so three years after that when he was producing KISS and they wanted to do some co-writing, he suggested me.

KH: What were the first things you worked on for KISS?

AM: The first songs Paul & I wrote were "Partners In Crime" & "I'm A Legend Tonight."

KH: How would you describe the difference between writing with Gene & with Paul? It seems at first it was mainly Paul.

AM: Actually I wrote with Gene first. Gene came over to my house, I had a studio at my house in Hollywood, and Gene came over and we just hit it off right away, same with Paul. Gene and I wrote a couple of songs which didn't make the record cause they were really out there when it comes to something really experimental, but it was fun and they were good songs. Paul then said to Gene, 'well can I write with Adam?' and Gene gave me the passing grade as it were, so Paul came over like a week or so later and he & I started writing. In that time period we wrote "Partners In Crime" and "I'm A Legend Tonight" and immediately we moved on to doing stuff for Creatures.

KH: What was the usual writing process like with Paul or Gene? How would you usually get started?

AM: We'd start from square one always. Usually Paul would have a title or Gene might have a title, and occasionally a riff but it was always right from square one, we'd just build the song from the ground up. All those first songs were demoed in my studio and Paul & I would play all the parts. We'd just use the drum machine and then we'd just come up with all the licks. Like that lick in "Creatures" on the middle and the end, that was me playing that. I ended up playing it on the record.

KH: Who did the solo on "Creatures Of The Night"?

AM: That solo was done by Steve Ferren. He was the guy that was in Mr. Mister. He played on that. Bob Kulick played some guitars on that too & I did the lick.

KH: Were you usually around the studio for the recording of these songs?

AM: Oh yeah, all the time. Certainly the records that I had songs on I was in the studio a good deal of the time, not just for my own songs but for other songs as well.

KH: How would you describe working with KISS in the studio?

AM: It depends on the song and it also depends on the record. For some stuff they really wanted to get the drum sounds right & in a couple of songs we would just have Eric do a drum track along with Gene playing bass or something and then they would go back in and do the bass & guitars again on top of them. Especially on Creatures there were some monstrous drum sounds. Eric was so great, his drum solo was always the best part of the show for me, I just loved him. On a couple of the songs on Creatures he wasn't even in the regular stduio. We recorded his drums out in a big warehouse room to get that huge sound.

KH: How did you feel about writing with KISS prior to doing so? Did you approach this as a fan or not?

AM: No I wasn't even a fan. I knew they were a great band. I had gone to see them around '77 on the Love Gun tour & I just wanted to see what all the noise was about cause they were the biggest band in the world & I got some tickets for the Forum & I went to see them. I wasn't a fan particularly. I was more of a Led Zeppelin, AC/DC guy and I had played and written a lot of other kinds of music. I've everything from Chicago to Merle Haggard and John Waite and Olivia Newton John. I've written all over the place. When I got the call to do it, it was just 'well I'll check this out' I really have more of an appreciation now for those songs that were cut back then than I did then. I went to see them on the last couple of tours and I think a lot of the songs are great songs. 'Strutter' is a great song and 'Rock & Roll All Nite', they really are good songs. But at the time I just thought I'd try it out and then personally we hit it off right away so good that I kind of went from not knowing these guys to sort of instantly being part of their extended family. Paul & I were both single at the time and like right away we just started hanging out all the time. Going to clubs & guitar shows and we were both going out with two models who were roomates. We just became real good friends right away, and Gene & I too, and Eric of course. Bruce wasn't in the band at that time and they really didn't have a regular guitar player until Vinnie came along, and I was the one who introduced Vinnie to the band, cause I had written with Vinnie before. We'd written a couple of songs, one of them was "Tears" that John Waite did and then Peter on his solo album and I knew Vinnie was a great guitar player and I told Gene 'you should at least check this guy out' cause he's a really good guitar player. Vinnie's actually a very musical guy and a good writer so I was the one that brought Vinnie into the mix, but prior to Vinnie there were just the three of them and we just all became really good friends right away and started hanging out all the time.

KH: Was there a conscious thing coming off The Elder to make the songs really heavier?

AM: Totally. It was absolutely conscious. They told me right away 'we think the Elder was a big mistake' and I can tell you that Gene must have said 100 times 'It's gotta be heavy' Gene is the heavy meister, it doesn't matter what the record is. Gene is kind of the watch dog for how heavy it is and they definitely knew right away they had to get back to doing what they did.

KH: Can you give some background on some of these songs & how they came together?

AM: "Partners In Crime" might have been the first one we wrote, Paul just came over and said listen, I got this idea, let's see what we can do with this. We sat down and started flushing it out in my studio. Same thing with "I'm A Legend Tonight." We demoed "Danger" and oh man, we had such a killer demo of "Danger", better than the record even. I remember we took "Danger" over to play for Gene we were so excited cause we just knew it was killer and Creatures was a whole lot of fun. One of my strongest memories of Creatures was after we finished the record and it was out & I was channel surfing one day & I fly past one of these religious shows and I see some guy waving the Creatures album cover, and here's this guy, like a burn victim or something saying 'this song was written by the devil!' and I'm thinking, no dude Paul & I wrote that song in my kitchen.

KH: KISS seems to always write very structured, can you remember any song ideas that came from any improvised jams?

AM: No they didn't. In fact, Eric was more likely to write songs that way & Bruce usually starts, he'll just come up with some great licks. I know a lot of the songs that Bruce & Paul wrote usually started when Bruce would come up with one of those killer riffs.

KH: How much re-writing could be involved in some of these songs?

AM: Quite a bit. I mean, re-writing in the sense that everybody puts their two cents worth in until everybody's happy and if it's not right it just doesn't go until it's fixed. Nobody ever says well, I guess that's okay, let's do it, everybody keeps on working. With some of the songs there's a tremendous amount of work that goes into it and there's a lot of songs that we wrote for that one reason or another didn't end up on the records.

KH: Are there any examples of songs that were harder to get recorded than others?

AM: No, we didn't have any that were really tough, not Paul and I. I know there's been some other songs where they actually took two separate songs and took a riff from one and then stitched them together. Paul & I would usually sit down and just hammer away. We'd get it done pretty quickly. I remember when we did 'Crazy Nights', I was in the car a day or so after we had written most of the songs, but we would occasionally get em done, if not in one session, usually around two.

KH: How did you get involved with working on Eric Carr's music for the 'Rockheads'?

AM: Well, Eric and I again, were just really good friends. When he'd come out to LA, in fact, we had two houses in Santa Monica and we would let Eric stay in one of them. Eric was interested in a lot of different kinds of music too, not just heavy stuff, and because I had written a lot of other kinds of music for other artists. Naturally he'd come up with stuff, he'd play it for me, he'd get my input and he showed me these cartoon characters that he'd drawn and I just thought they were so right on, just really great and he told me he wanted to write some songs for it, so Bruce & I of course said yeah, absolutely. Eric was always so much fun to work with, so we wrote a bunch of songs and went into the studio and recorded, and Eric and I sang all of the backgrounds and we had a great blend when we sang. They're just great songs. I'm so pleased that this CD (Rockheads) came out.

KH: Can you tell us about any other unreleased Eric Carr material that may come out in the future?

AM: There's a killer ballad called 'Somebody's Waiting' that is absolutely a smash. Plus we just discovered a whole bunch of Eric doing drum sounds and a lot of him joking around. We may do a video with unreleased vintage stuff. I mean Eric was absolutely the greatest guy. He was just a prince and so much fun to be around.

KH: Out of all the bands you've worked with, what songs or albums are you most proud of?

AM: Well they're all different. I think in many ways writing with KISS was, in many ways - not just the most fun, but because they all sort of became part of my family. Because we all became close and and in a lot of ways that was the most rewarding experience. Cause a lot of other times, I didn't write with people too much. A lot of other people do my songs. Writing with KISS was just really rewarding in so many ways and Gene and I still do buisness in other ways, plus when Gene was producing other bands like EZO or Black&Blue, we'd get together and write songs for that. We wrote "Legends Never Die" that Wendy O Williams did. There's a lot of other artists who have done my songs that I really like, like Merle Haggard who is just so incredibly great. He's just like Mozart, it's not possible to be that good.

KH: How is your relationship with KISS now? Do you still keep in touch?

AM: Oh yeah, absolutely. Gene & I have other buisness we do & I talk to Paul. In fact, Bruce & I talked almost every day last summer. We're all very close. We always will be.

KH: Do you see any chance of writing again with KISS in the future? Or with Bruce?

AM: Bruce & I will definitely do stuff, if the ROCKHEADS cartoon show goes, which we hope it will. Gene & Paul and I may write again, I've just been doing other things, but maybe on the next record.

KH: That's about all, do you have any last comments for our readers?

AM: Yeah, one thing I'd like them to know is that when KISS played Nashville here, we were back in the dressing room afterwards just talking (1/2/99) and the fans should know how much these guys still care about putting on a great show. Because as soon as I walked into the room all Gene wanted to know was; 'Was it good?', 'do you think the fans liked it?', 'did it really work out there?' These guys absolutely still care so much about putting on the best show they can, and after doing this for 20 odd years, it really struck me at the time about how great it is that they still felt that way.

(Copyright 1999 KISS HELL INTERNATIONAL EXCLUSIVE-By Joe Degraffenreid)