Tim McPhate | KissFAQ
In a NovElder exclusive, uncredited engineer Michael McCarty sheds some light on KISS’ “Elder” sessions at Phase One Studios in Toronto, shares fun recollections of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, and offers a personal snapshot of Bob Ezrin
In conjunction with KissFAQ’s month-long NovElder retrospective, current ole president Michael McCarty discussed his role in working on KISS’ 1981 concept album “Music From The Elder.” An uncredited engineer on the project, McCarty detailed KISS’ sessions at Phase One Studios in Toronto, his personal recollections of working with the members of KISS, and Bob Ezrin’s hectic recording schedule in juggling two projects at the time. This marks the first time McCarty has gone on record regarding his “Elder” experience.
Following are excerpts from McCarty’s interview with KissFAQ’s Tim McPhate:
Fitting into “The Elder” picture:
KissFAQ: Michael, you are not officially credited in “The Elder” liner notes. How do you fit into the album’s picture?
Michael McCarty: Well, I was working for Bob as an engineer and associate producer and started off with the project. He was alternating working on “The Elder” and the second Kings’ album. I was the associate producer on the Kings’ record. Actually, Ringo [Hyrcyna] and I both engineered and co-produced the Kings’ independent record. And when Bob heard that record he got very excited about the band and got them a deal with Elektra and then we redid the record. So Ringo and I were engineers and associate producers.
So then [Bob] took the job of doing the next Kings album and “The Elder” at the same time. I don’t think he consciously did that but that’s just the way it worked out. I mean, it’s hard
enough for a producer and an engineering team to work on one album at a time. Working on two at a time is really, really daunting. (laughs)
Ace Frehley being the “odd-man out”:
KF: It’s interesting to note that Ace really wasn’t creatively invested with “The Elder.” When all was said and done, he was absent for most of the sessions and “flew” in a lot of his guitar work from home, sending the tracks back to Bob. Do you recall this dynamic?
MM: Ace appeared to be the odd-man out. There’s probably other issues [that were] going on there that probably aren’t appropriate for me to comment on. He definitely seemed to be the odd-man out, and seemed to be not very in the loop as to the songs or what the chords were. Our observation was he was sort of disinterested possibly for other reasons, we didn’t pick up any tension that there was creative differences necessarily. The band, particularly Gene, were pretty frustrated with his playing. It could be that they did have some fundamental core creative differences on the project and that caused the sort of emotional disconnect for him. Regardless of what the reason was, he definitely wasn’t up to speed on the songs. Gene was quite frustrated and they ended up letting him go take long breaks and they would record when he was taking a break. It wasn’t particularly clear whether Ace knew they were recording when he was on the break, or cared.
The business acumen of Gene Simmons:
KF: Though Paul and Gene both have distanced themselves form the project, it seems Gene was much more emotionally attached to “The Elder” compared to Paul. But even recently, neither of them have many good things to say about the album. In a way, it’s sort of become the bastard child of KISS albums.
MM: Yeah, you know that’s probably why I remember those of us working in the various roles, I think that we probably had an intuitive feeling that it was a very odd direction for the band. Certainly, I know in my mind, I was having a hard time reconciling what they were doing with what I knew KISS to be. Although, I did leave before it really started to take much shape so I didn’t really have a solid idea of how it was turning out.
I’d say the number one recollection I have of the time I was working on that project, was I came away with an enormous amount of respect for Gene. This may sound disrespectful, but I thought he was the best businessman and worst musician I’d ever worked with. (laughs) And when I say worst musician, I don’t think he was bad. His strength was clearly his — and to say his strength was business is doing a disservice — his strength was he was a visionary media guy, and an expert in human nature and communications and media and how it all worked together. To that degree, Bob is as well. The two of them together were a pretty formidable team when it came to the intellect they brought to those areas.
The talents of Bob Ezrin:
MM: Bob has so much knowledge of every element of making music that it’s really incredible. He has this amazing combination — [he] can go to 30,000 feet and look down on everything and pick out the core intellectual elements of what motivates people to make music, what about music appeals to a listener and the connection between them all. And he’s extremely well-versed in all the technology. And then he can get down and be a great musician himself. And he’s an artist, and he understands it all from so many different angles and [he has an] his ability to analyze a piece of music — he’s also an incredibly astute judge of character and human beings and knows how to motivate them and read them. So it’s the psychological aspect of being a producer, he’s amazing at. And the technology aspect. From writing to everything.
Read the entire interview here:
KissFAQ also published a track-by-track analysis of “Music From The Elder,” a special feature detailing interesting details and tidbits behind each of the album’s songs.
“The Elder”: Track-By-Track
Through a series of brand-new KissFAQ interviews, original features and related special content, NovElder will shine a spotlight on “Music From The Elder” like never before throughout the month of November. More than 10 hours of interviews were conducted with various individuals who either worked on the project or have a connection of sorts, including professionals who have never told their “Elder story.” These interviews will provide interesting insights and unique perspectives regarding the album’s creative process and this fascinating period in KISStory, in addition to fun anecdotes and personal recollections. A series of topical features will shed more light on KISS’ activity in 1981 and early 1982 and dissect the album further with in-depth musical analysis, biographical information on the album’s participants, a revised KissFAQ Album Focus, and much more. NovElder will also take a look at the climate of the rock genre in 1981 and look at the bloodline of rock concept albums.
The odyssey continues this November at http://www.kissfaq.com/novelder/