Tim McPhate | KissFAQ
In conjunction with KissFAQ’s month-long NovElder retrospective, “Music For The Elder” associate producer Brian Christian has gone on record about not only his experience, but how KISS fans were ultimately not ready for the album, the music industry and his good fortune in working alongside Bob Ezrin. This marks the first time Christian has discussed his involvement on the project.
The following are excerpts from Christian’s interview with KissFAQ’s Tim McPhate:
His role on “Music From The Elder”:
KF: Brian, when fans think of “Music From The Elder,” Bob Ezrin immediately comes to mind since he was the album’s producer. But you are credited as associate producer. Can you summarize your role?
BC: Well, I worked really close with the guys. Sometimes Bob was there, sometimes he was not. But I had a chance to work really close with the band. And that was a lot of fun for me, working with Gene and Ace. I had quite a bit of freedom on that album, working with the band. And I think the album turned out really good. Obviously, Bob Ezrin always has the last say in these things. But we did a lot of good stuff and he liked it. And we did some things that he didn’t like.
On the American Symphony Orchestra and St. Robert’s Choir:
KF: The American Symphony Orchestra was contracted to help add some sweetening to songs such as “Odyssey,” “A World Without Heroes” and “fanfare.” Do you recall the charts being written?
BC: Bob probably wrote them. He was very good at that. I am pretty sure we recorded the orchestra in New York.
KF: It would seem to have been a large orchestra, I’ve heard upward of 60 pieces…
BC: Right. And I think that it was recorded at the old church. I think it was a CBS studio, and it was a church if I’m not mistaken.
KF: Hmmm, interesting.
BC: You know, there was also Michael…Michael Kamen. It wasn’t Bob [who wrote the charts], it was Michael. But he always collaborated with Michael. Michael was an extremely talented guy who went on to do some big movies. Unfortunately he passed away at a very young age. And I think if you look further at the studios, [the orchestra was recorded at a] church. I think it was CBS that owned the church on Broadway down…I don’t know 32nd.
KF: I don’t believe a church is listed on the album, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Brian, what about St. Robert’s Choir? What do you remember about this choir?
BC: (pauses) I think that it wasn’t … you know, it’s been a long time. My recollection is that it was just a bunch of people and they came in and did one or two songs. But it was very, very big and boisterous. I think [they are on] “I”.
KF: During the chorus, there sounds like a big group singing the refrain.
BC: Right. So I think that’s what it was. I’m not sure it was a formal choir or if they just called it that.
KF: Christopher Lendt intimated something along these lines, that it was just a name placed on a group of singers.
BC: Yes. I’m pretty sure that’s the case.
On KISS fans not being “ready” for the album:
KF: In terms of the album’s concept, did you have any input?
BC: No, that was more Gene and Bob. I think they were looking for a departure. The idea was to change what they did and take the makeup off … and all that. I think the album is great, but I don’t think their fans were ready for that kind of change. It was a huge departure from what they had done. I think it was very, very good stuff but people, they just weren’t ready for KISS to be that band.
KF: Some fans see the album as a direct attempt to be more Pink Floyd, rather than KISS.
BC: Well, I don’t think there’s a comparison between “The Wall” and “The Elder.” I do, however, think that it was something that the band wanted to do. They felt like it was time for them to do that kind of thing. And like I said, I think it was really good. If fans are comparing it to “The Wall” and saying, “Well, Ezrin, Christian did that…” that means they didn’t like KISS to do it. If it was another band, they probably would have bought into it because it’s very good.
KF: I think that’s a valid point. I think if another band releases this album, it would have been better received. People had a pre-conceived notion about KISS and what their music sounds like, and “The Elder” wasn’t it.
BC: Yeah, I mean people go to see them because, obviously, they make great music, but they put a show on. They have the costumes, the masks, the pyrotechnics — all that stuff. It reflects in the albums they put out and “The Elder” didn’t have that urgency to it.
How the album’s packaging may have deterred sales:
KF: The album’s packaging is very much an anomaly by KISS’ standards. Do you have a comment on the packaging and whether that had some sort of effect?
BC: You know what, KISS albums had a very certain look to them with the band always prominent. And I think that’s one of the things that might have hurt the album. It was too obscure. You know, it was this mystical thing and it [hardly] said KISS anywhere. I think that could have hurt the sales as well. It’s kind of like any other band, people will buy everything [released] from a band. But I think that album was very hard to find. It didn’t have the same PR push that their other albums had. I mean, that’s my feeling. But again, I was busy doing other things, moving onto the next project. You know, KISS albums have KISS all over it and the band all over it, and that didn’t. It did, however, suit the album’s concept, but it didn’t suit the band’s image.
Full Brian Christian interview:
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/