Like all great Creatures of the Night-related things (was "I Stole Your Love" really rehearsed for that tour?), The name "Mitchell" was a mystery to me, especially in 1982. As I would watch the album spin around on my turntable, I would resort to making guesses about this new co-writer name that appearing in the credits to my favorite new Kiss songs. Was it Mitch Mitchell (as in, old rock guy?) helping Paul to write Kiss material? Dennis Mitchell (as in "Dennis the Menace")? Sharon Mitchell (as in the late '70s, early '80s porn star)? Gary Mitchell, a one-time nemesis of the original enterprise on Star Trek?
Since the Creatures of the Night era came and went rather quickly, I never did learn much about this particular "Mitchell." Then, I found a copy of Killers and again found the name again among the writing credits. Later on, I would see the name appear more often on Kiss albums -- and on some great songs. Who ever he was, I felt that with this "Mitchell" guy Kiss had found their Sean Delaney for the '80s. As it turns out, that assessment proved to be largely true. Adam is a Scottish guy raised in Canada, who has also called Los Angeles his home, as well as workplace. These days, he calls the ever-growing American heartland of Nashville his home, where he continues to work with a roster of musical talent as varied as Gene's stage hair. In a great twist of fate, the musician/friend of Kiss whose career has been largely been founded on helping others with theirs, is now one of the "custodians" of the late Eric Carr's "Rockheads" animation/music project (along with "Blackjack" Bruce Kulick and the Carr family). With the release of the limited edition "Rockheads" soundtrack, and a strong possibility of more related projects, Mitchell and company have given a new life to the memory of Eric Carr. What better time then, to invite Adam into the Kiss Thought Vault?
Ron Albanese: It's great to finally speak with the "Mitchell" of the "Stanley, Mitchell" writing credit found on "Keep Me Comin'" on the Creatures of the Night album. In my teens, your name was something of a mystery to me -- "who's this Mitchell person?"
Adam Mitchell: (laughs) No one is more surprised than me, but then again, life is full of surprises.
RA: Are referring to talking about Kiss/Eric Carr in 1999?
AM: Well, both that and the just the fact that I ended up working with Kiss in the first place. There are accidents that sometimes happen in life that end up being a major part of your life. It was really just an accident that it happened this way.
RA: Tell me about your musical background.
AM: I originally started off as a drummer. When I was in high school I was a drummer in a couple of bands, and I wanted to play guitar when I was seventeen. I had to sell my drums to get a guitar. I just started playing in folk trios, soul stuff. I was playing in the village in Toronto as sort of a folk artist, and there was a band called the Paupers, and their manager who was a dishwasher in this club I was playing in, had heard me and said "you should hire this guy." I joined the band, and the chemistry was absolutely incredible. I think I joined in September of 1966, and by February of '67 we cut a hit record, and opened up for the Jefferson Airplane on the East coast, blew them away, and all of a sudden, overnight, we were big stars -- sort of the new hot thing. The band broke up not too long after, probably late in '67, because the bass player got into drugs. In the brief time that we were together, we garnered tremendous critical acclaim, and we were in all the fan magazines. And Paul (Stanley) had followed the band closely, and had our record. And Gene (Simmons) was aware of us -- and this was before they were even together.
I went from that into producing and while working with one of the bands I was producing in Canada -- I'll segue this into how I met Gene and Paul -- I met a guy named Michael James Jackson. He was in the manager's office of a band I was producing in the early '70s named Fludd. I met Michael in their office and that was it. Then five, six years later I was Los Angeles doing my solo record, he happened to be in the next room at the same studio, recording another band, and he heard my songs. We sort of reconnected. And then three years after that, he was producing Kiss and they were looking for a co-writer. He suggested me. And that's how we hooked up.
RA: So, there was actually an Adam Mitchell solo album?
AM: Yes. On Warner Brothers. Is it good? No. Was it badly produced? Yes. But the songs are great!
RA: What kind of style was it?
AM: Oh, kind of '70s; James Taylor meets Steely Dan, with a little bit of country thrown in. Sort of all over the map in a way that you could be in the '70s; a way that you can't be anymore. Back then, all you had to be was good.
Mitchell and Carr(toons)
Ron Albanese: Tell me about the first time you met Eric Carr.
Adam Mitchell: I'm not sure I remember the first time, but Eric and I hit it off right away. Eric was hysterically funny. All the guys in the band are funny. All comedians, very smart. Eric was no exception. You couldn't be around Eric for two minutes without cracking up. He was into Monty Python and all that stuff. He was a fabulous guy.
Around the time I met him he said this one thing that I'll never forget. Before they went on stage or before they went in the studio -- It was some situation where he was about to do his thing -- he said "what should I do?" I just said "be amazing." (laughs) Eric was such a great guy. I am so happy that this "Rockheads" thing is happening, because if he's looking down, he's going to be very pleased with the way everybody is reacting to it.
RA: I find it interesting that you made the rounds in terms of writing with various Kiss members. How did you begin your creative relationship with Eric?
AM: Eric and I had been friends like the rest of them. We'd hang out sometimes, and Eric would often call me up for my advice or take on whatever situation he might be involved in. Eric had known I had written and was interested in a lot of kinds of music, as he was. In fact, if people knew the breadth of Kiss' musical interests they would be surprised. We would often spend hours listening to '60s records and stuff. Anyway, when the "Rockheads" came along, he asked me to get involved. I said sure, and we went in and wrote these songs and cut the vocals. Eric and I always sang together well, it was a real natural blend.
RA: So you sang on the "Rockheads" soundtrack?
AM: Eric and I did all of the backgrounds. We went in and recorded, and Bruce played guitar, as only Bruce can do. we put it together. Eric was a very musical guy.
RA: When exactly did recording take place?
AM: By the time we got in the studio it was 1988.
RA: What were Gene and Paul's feelings about this project?
AM: It just something Eric wanted to do; it was kind of a non-response, like "oh, that's nice." It didn't have anything to do with them directly. It certainly wasn't Kiss, it was a side project of Eric's. They didn't mind the fact that he was doing it, and didn't seem to have a strong opinion about it one way or the other.
About those Carr-tunes
Ron Albanese: The four songs on the new "Rockheads" disc were specifically written for its namesake project?
Adam Mitchell: Definitely. Each song represents one of the characters. He had drawn all the characters, and shown me the drawings before we had done this. He had names for them all, and plots sketched out. In fact, he had come very close to getting an animation series. I know Hanna Barbera was very interested at one point.
RA: So to encapsulate, your work began on "The Rockheads" from Eric basically calling you up and pitching the project to you?
RA: Where did the writing take place?
AM: I think we wrote thing in New York, but almost all of it took place in L.A.
RA: And the recording?
AM: At a studio in Culver City (also in California).
RA: And for these songs, a drum machine was employed.
AM: That's a drum machine, but Eric programmed all of the parts and it sounds exactly Eric playing them. The interesting thing was that Bruce and I would program a drum part, and then we'd get Eric to do it. It was like, "oh, so that's what a drummer does."
RA: Stylistically, some of the parts really do sound like Eric's playing. I suppose that for this project the drummer was mainly in singer/song writer mode.
AM: That's exactly right. If the series happens we'll use a real drummer. It was done because of the nature of the project. A drum machine was more appropriate for that; In a way, you want it to be a little smaller.
RA: As far as writing, who did what?
AM: It's probably that Eric wrote most of the music, and I wrote most of the lyrics, but that would vary from song to song.
RA: "Too Cool for School" has that whole '60s girl-group, bubble gum vibe in the beginning.
AM: That's true. Eric really though this through. He had plots, he had all of the character's girlfriends, they all had names -- He had the whole thing planned out. So, that's why there's that kind of attitude ('60s bubble gum). He wanted the girls as characters in it. We were definitely going for a sort of "Rockheads" meets "Betty" and "Veronica" (girl characters form the 1960s "Archies" cartoon).
RA: Wait a minute -- are you an animation fan?
AM: Hmm ... You know, I like "Pinochio" because it's incredible, beyond belief.
RA: I was suspicious, because your publishing name on Creatures of the Night was "Ack Ack Music," and that describes a "Popeye"-type noise.
AM: (surprised) Well, God listen to you! You're the first guy in like so many years to figure that out! In comic books, when guns would fire, it was always "ack ack ack." I won't tell you who I was directing that against, but it was my former publisher! (laughs) When I started doing this Kiss stuff. I knew he'd be pissed off because I (now) owned all this publishing. You're the first guy ever to know what that was since I did that. People always go "what's that?"
RA: "Tiara" is uniquely different from any other Eric material fans have ever heard. You mentioned Mr. Mister earlier -- this song reminds me of them.
AM: Eric did listen to and was influenced by a lot of music. For example he was a big folk fan. He listened to a lot of traditional stuff like the Chieftains -- Mick Jagger came up to me dead drunk once and said (imitates the singer's British accent) "you know who the best band in the world is? The f*cking Chieftains!"
RA: How did you regard Eric as a vocalist? "Tiara" contains some interesting singing twists and turns.
AM: I thought Eric was a great singer. Personally, if Kiss were my band, I would have had Eric sing more. I understand why Gene and Paul didn't, because they feel the fans just want to hear them sing. I understand that, but I loved singing with him; we had a great blend, and he was always a blast to be around.
RA: "Can You Feel It" is another great vocal showcase, and a well-crafted commercial rock song.
AM: The whole musical outlet in "The Rockheads" was great for Eric. If your writing songs for Kiss, or playing for Kiss, it's always a consideration, is this a) heavy enough, and b) Kiss-like enough. Not that Kiss didn't veer too far one way or the other at times; There's a lot of things from the mid-'80s that I think were not necessarily Kiss. everybody's got an opinion on that. But, regardless of what stage they were at in their musical development, it was always a consideration: "is this Kiss-like enough?" When Eric was doing his own thing, we never had to worry about that.; we just had to like the way it sounded.
RA: Who's Jonathan Daniels? (listed as a co-writer of "Bad Boys")
AM: He was a friend of Eric's; I never met him.
RA: Was "Little Caesar" borne out of the "Rockheads" sessions?
AM: It was written around the same time, but it's not as though "Little Caesar" was ever intended to be a "Rockheads" song. Eric would play me different pieces of music from time to time that he had going, because he'd write all these different kinds of things.
RA: I understand that Eric was an active songwriter.
AM: Yeah, he wrote a lot, and it wasn't always Kiss stuff by any means. "Little Caesar" is certainly not a traditional song; it's more of a Marvin Gaye thing. Eric was often interested in a lot of black music.
RA: What did Gene do to receive a co-writing credit on that song?
AM: I can't remember exactly what he did, but he had to do something -- Gene would never take part of a song that he had nothing to do with.
RA: How many songs in total were written for the "Rockheads" soundtrack?
AM: There's four, and we have other ideas that Eric hadn't finished. Plus we got other tracks, different things, some of the ideas he had. We got another killer ballad that is real drums, real everything, called "Somebody's Waiting."
RA: And that song was another Carr/Mitchell production?
AM: Yeah, and Bruce Kulick too. That's going to be out later this Summer, when we release a full-length disc. You know how good the ballad "Tiara" is? Well, "Somebody's Waiting" is absolutely killer.
RA: When "Rockheads" was being shopped it was being done by Street Gang Productions. Do you remember what exactly was in the press kit? A cassette and pictures?
AM: Yeah. He actually had larger drawings, three feet by two feet. Various animation companies were interested in doing this, but for one reason or another it just fell apart. It kind of wasn't meant to be at that time. Whereas now ... you know, you get these periods in your life where you can't do anything right -- and you're doing the same thing. This year, it seems like everything is going right.
RA: Was any test animation ever made?
AM: No, not that I know of. But I know he had complete drawings and cels of the characters. Nothing that moved, although the Web site (http://hudson.idt.net/~snoopy9) now moves (think animated gifs, tech-savvy readers).
There's a good chance we'll get that happening, because we have a lot of people interested now. And sometimes, it's like many things in life; the world just has to turn a few more times, and then all of a sudden the timing is right, and things just have to fall into place and take off.
RA: I personally feel that now is a better time than ever for something like the "Rockheads," because it's more like a retro thing, lampooning the rocker stereotypes of the '80s.
AM: Well, as I told you, Eric was a funny guy, and you hit the nail right on the head.
RA: Are any of the "Rockheads" characters based on Kiss members?
AM: (emphatically) No.
RA: Are any of them based on Adam Mitchell?
AM: No. (laughing) Believe me, I'd tell you if they were.
RA: Did Eric play up the Kiss angle when shopping the "Rockheads?"
AM: No. I'm sure he used the fact that he was the drummer in Kiss to get in the door, but this was clearly stipulated as a non-Kiss project. He didn't try to imply that there was a Kiss connection.
RA: Let's talk property rights, then: How did Gene end up with the rights to the "Rockheads?"
AM: Well, when Eric died he left the rights to the "Rockheads" stuff To Gene, Paul, Bruce and myself. Since it was Bruce and I who had done the work with Eric, Gene and Paul generously signed off on it. It's really just us now who are the custodians of Eric's music, and that's why we're trying so hard to get it out to people.
RA: Gene and Paul simply signed over the rights? There was no money involved?
AM: No. They are still putting an enormous amount of time and energy into Kiss; it's not something that's high on their agenda. They have Kiss to look after. Bruce and I want people to hear it because it matter to us, we know how much it mattered to Eric at the time. If he could see what's happening now, he'd be just thrilled to bits.
RA: I heard that the limited edition disc "The Rockheads" is almost sold out.
AM: Yeah, and that's just really to introduce the idea of "The Rockheads." Those songs will be on a full-length CD with six or seven others we're going to release in the Summer. This is just a limited edition thing; we wanted to get it "out there." The response has surprised us; I'm reminded again how much the fans loved Eric and what a connection they had with him. That really has impressed me.
RA: Eric added a human element to Kiss in the '80s, a stark contrast to the "larger than Life" image-building efforts on the part of Gene and Paul, who had a hard time coming down from their '70s apex.
AM: It's very difficult. Eric in a way was more free than Gene and Paul; he wasn't there since the beginning.
RA: What other Eric Carr-related projects are on the horizon?
AM: What we're planning to do is, after we've dealt with these two CDs, we're going to try to get the animation series off the ground. Both Bruce and I are so busy doing other things, but this is so important to me. Eric was a great, great guy, one of the best I ever knew. I just want do my best for him, and let the fans know about him, and how for me personally how great this whole Kiss experience had been; they've become part of my life.
The Eric Carr Tragedy
(Note: This section contains Adam's Mitchell's personal reflections, from his perspective, about Kiss' handling of affairs related to Eric's illness.)
Ron Albanese: Speaking of tough decisions and times, describe from your perspective your take on how Kiss dealt with Eric's illness and subsequent passing in November of 1991.
Adam Mitchell: Recently, we haven't talked about him, or about how any perspectives may have changed. But, I can tell you at the time they got a lot of shit for it, fans imagined this, that and the next thing, But the truth of the matter is Gene and Paul -- like the rest of us -- were not prepared for this to happen. Eric wasn't, nobody was. You just don't expect that somebody who is in the prime of his life all of a sudden is going to have this catastrophic illness. At the time he had his first operation, they (Gene and Paul) had no idea whether or not he was going to recover. The prognosis wasn't good. They were right in the middle of doing all this Kiss business. It's not just simply their whim. They literally have millions and millions of fans who expect them to continue to be Kiss. With that amount of pressure, even with their experience, who among us would make the perfect decision in that situation?
RA: Hindsight is always 20/20.
AM: Totally. Do I think they handled it perfectly in every way? No, but I think they absolutely did the best they could, and I wouldn't want to be in that position. And I can tell you -- because I was there -- that it was very tough all around. having to make decisions about a band's career -- who is going to play in the band? Is Eric going to get better? What do we do about this gig we have? What do we do about this record? The record company is all over you, because they don't give a shit. It was tough on them, and I think they did the best they could, and that's really all you can say.
RA: I don't even know if you would want to qualify this statement, but is there any truth to the rumor that Eric was fired while ill?
AM: Saying that Eric was fired is implying that he was doing something that the band didn't like, or he wasn't playing up to performance. Eric was no longer able to play -- and again, this is from my perspective -- I don't know everything that went on in their minds. Gene and Paul make the business decisions in the band. Whenever we talk about things it's strictly as friends. So, I don't really know; I can't give you the Gospel on what actually happened, but I do know that nobody had any idea of whether or not he was going to get better, and Gene and Paul were in a position with millions of fans and the record company on them, where they had to make a decision on who was going to play drums in the band. What do you in that situation? You either tell everybody to go to hell and then wait, and you talk to the doctors -- they didn't know. But, it wouldn't be an accurate statement at all to say that Eric was fired. That wouldn't be to Paul, Gene ... or Eric, for that matter.
They had to make a decision. Is Eric going to get better? If he is not going to get better and -- we think he isn't -- do we have to in effect let him go now and start trying to find a replacement. One thing fans never think about -- I guarantee you -- is how difficult it is to find a replacement for somebody in a band. Somebody who can not only play well, but who is good for the band chemistry. And Gene and Paul had been burned many times before -- I'm not mentioning any names, mind you! It's also no secret that Ace and Peter were very difficult.
So, when you're faced with all these things, you're like oh my God. They knew how long it took them to find a guitar player. What do you do? Do you just hang on forever, and watch Eric die? Maybe you do, but maybe you say that you have to start looking for another drummer. We're doing a record, we got a tour coming up, people want to know if it's going to happen; "Is this tour going to Happen?" "Is this record going to happen? Because we need to know."
RA: It's just an awful situation to go through, and then you have ...
AM: On top of which, everybody was so sad about what was going on with Eric. On one hand they were having to make these decisions, and on the other hand it was terrible because this friend of ours is dying. Believe me, it was very tough for Gene and Paul.
RA: Did Eric ever express a concern to you that his talents were underutilized in Kiss?
AM: Everybody in every band is like that. Name me a band where the bass player isn't unhappy, apart from Gene. Who are the two biggest troublemakers in any band? The drummer and the bass player! (laughter) They're not in front, and they don't get to play lead!
Sure, he was unhappy sometimes. I can tell you plenty of stories about when Eric was bitching about one thing or another, and just as many about when he was happy as a clam, the luckiest guy in the world. One day he was fixing stoves, the next he was in Kiss. My favorite part of any Kiss show ever was Eric's drum solo. It was a huge fight one year over whether or not he was going to do it.
RA: The Hot in the Shade tour.
AM: Yeah. There was a huge fight about that. They decided the show was too long, they were going to cut the solo. Everybody -- me included -- said you're crazy, that's the best part of the show. So, by the time they relented and said they would put it back in, Eric had his nose out of joint and said "the hell with them, I'm not going to do it."
RA: But the solo did return during the second leg, and became of a high point of that tour.
AM: It's just like any other band; they're people.
Drafted into the army
Ron Albanese: Can you recall specific events directly leading up to your entering the "Kiss world?" Was it during pre-production for Creatures of the Night?
Adam Mitchell: I think we had written the songs for Kiss Killers before that. After the near-disaster of The Elder, they wanted to sort of find their bearing again. Why he (producer Michael James Jackson) suggested me I have no idea, I really don't. All he knew was I could write songs, and my words were pretty good, so maybe I could help them. Gene came over to my house first. I had a studio in my house, and we wrote a couple of songs. I guess Paul asked him how it went, and I guess he gave me a passing grade. So Paul came over. All of us just hit it off right away -- musically and personally -- and they're still among my closest friends to this day. Paul and I became close right away. Not only in writing, but we were both single at the time, so we'd hang out and go to movies, clubs, guitar factories, whatever. In fact, at one point we were going out with roommates!
RA: I can only imagine some of the stories you must have.
AM: We'd go bowling all the time. Gene would rent a bowling alley. We just spent a lot of time together. I just sort of became a part of the extended Kiss family. If we weren't writing or playing, or doing records, we were doing something social. We kind clicked, right away.
RA: Your first published Kiss works were the Killers tracks.
AM: Yes. "Partners in Crime" and "I'm a Legend Tonight."
RA: Okay, here's a chance to prove me wrong. For some reason, I have always felt that the drum tracks on a couple of the four "new songs" on that album were supplied courtesy of a drum machine. Is this true?
AM: No, they were cut by Eric. I'd have to go back and listen to them. I have a much clearer memory of where and how we cut the drum tracks for Creatures. But no, they were definitely cut by Eric.
RA: So, just to clarify, the drum tracks on the four 1982 tracks on Killers were performed by Eric Carr, and not a drum machine?
AM: He may have used samples ... I honestly can't remember that. I'm not sure that I was there for the recording.
RA: "I'm a Legend Tonight" is a great song, full of Paul's stage personality.
AM: Yeah, I'll have to go back and listen. It's been so long since I listened to them.
RA: While "I'm a Legend..." and the other three Killers-specific cuts generally faded into obscurity, a guitar figure from that album's opener survived in the Kiss canon, adapted to fit the live version of "Lick it Up."
AM: Yeah, that's right!
RA: Did you make a lot of money from the Killers cuts?
AM: Oh, I can't tell you how much I made off those. I don't know how big a seller it was. Certainly, I have done very well with Kiss over the years. When I get a statement in I just cash the check; I don't really look to see how much of it is from what song. Certainly "Creatures of the Night" itself has done very well over the years, and I get licenses to reissue it for one thing or another, whether it's a video, or somebody else -- I get licenses all the time.
RA: What did you think of Kiss before meeting them?
AM: I knew very little about them. It was not as though I was a Kiss fan. The music I was into was more like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin. The first time I heard about them, I was up in Canada doing something and I happened to put the TV on in the hotel room, and I saw that they were donating a pint of their blood for a comic book! I thought "wow!" What a brilliant idea. Now, that's clever!
Not too long after that I was living in L.A., and I used to get free tickets for everything, Somebody gave me tickets to see Kiss at the Forum, and I just went to see what it was all about. I went, and it wasn't as though I came away as a rabid Kiss fan -- first of all, the seats were lousy! I really didn't get into the whole Kiss thing until I started writing with them, and then when we became friends. Even though I've been to countless shows for twenty years, I really appreciate them now more than I ever did. For some reason, last year after they played in Nashville, I really began to appreciate them more, and how great some of the songs are, like "Strutter," "Rock and Roll All Night." They really, really had some great songs.
RA: There's beauty in simplicity.
AM: Oh yeah. It worked great. And of course I now have been a first-hand witness to the devotion of the Kiss Army, and I'm always impressed. And also, Gene and I were talking backstage here after the show in Nashville, eating and so on, and he was asking me if the show was good. He was really concerned. They still care so much about putting on a good show. And (this is) after all they've done -- you can't get any more any famous -- they still care about putting on a great show, and that's pretty impressive.
RA: You mentioned your having met Gene first; does this mean your wrote with him first? Did you work on anything with him intended for Killers?
AM: They probably were. I can't remember, but the songs Gene and I wrote ... but Gene had known that I had written a lot of other styles of music. A lot of other artists have done my songs, from Merle Haggard (note: This is a first time for this name in the Vault) to Chicago to Olivia Newton-John. So, Gene knew that I wrote other stuff, and he's always got these idea that he's trying to make fly in Kiss, like weird stuff. And the first song that Gene and I wrote was called "Chrome Goes Into Motion." It was this kind of weird, almost Steely Dan ... just out there. It was not anything Kiss was ever going to do, but it was fun, and we just had a good time. He knew I knew what I was doing, and I could tell he knew what he was doing; you know, they're smart guys.
Gene and I have written many songs over the years, but for one reason or another they haven't ended up on Kiss records, but we did a lot of songs for others. We did E-Z-O; five songs. We wrote for Black and Blue. The Kiss chemistry is better between Paul and I. For whatever reason, I can't even tell you why.
RA: Moving along the Kiss timeline, you were present for the Creatures recording sessions, correct?
AM: Oh yeah. I even played on some of it.
RA: What was the prevailing mentality of the band what that point in time? Some, such as C.K. Lendt, have depicted Kiss as being a little uncertain of themselves, if not scared. Is that an accurate assessment of the band's collective feelings at the time?
AM: I know Chris; he was always around at that time. To some degree that's accurate. I don't think they would dispute that. They were certainly concerned with what happened because of the (Music from) The Elder fiasco. The Elder is a good record; it's just not a Kiss record.
RA: Agreed, but I think it was poorly produced.
AM: It was just a serious mistake for them. I think it's fair to characterize their state of mind as being that they realized at the time of Creatures that they had to make a good record, one that would really make Kiss fans sit up and pay attention again. The Elder was uncomfortably close to total disaster.
RA: Can you recall how Kiss recorded basic tracks for the songs on the albums? Would Paul play along with Eric, laying down a scratch guitar track at the same time?
AM: They often did that. Certainly on Creatures, and most of the records. They would work out the basic arrangement in rehearsal, and they'd go in and he would lay down a drum track with someone else playing.
RA: How do you rate Paul as a guitar player?
AM: He knows what he likes sound wise. He's not a lead player like Vinnie ... Paul and Gene produce themselves, and they know what's appropriate for them to play. I never really thought about this before, but out of all the bands I worked with, there are fewer arguments about what to do (in Kiss). They both have a strong sense of where it ought to be going. I don't ever recall a screaming fight. Never once did that happen. They're methodical, they have their opinions. Once people get money in their pocket, their opinions get self important, but I've never seen that in Kiss. Not at all. They go in there, they talk about the songs. They're very workman-like about how they put them together, and they have a lot of fun. I think that shows.
Something about Japanese Creatures of the Night
Ron Albanese: Which non-Kiss Adam Mitchell project would you recommend to Kiss fans? Something different from the "Mitchell canon," if you will.
Adam Mitchell: Well, I have so little interest in the "Mitchell canon" as it were. Once I finish a project I kind of move on. I'm not sure ... I know I've written some good songs, but ... Hey, here's something you can check out: If Kiss fans want to go get a record (if they can still get it) they should get the first E-Z-O record Gene and I did, because there's some incredible stuff on there.
RA: I think one of the guys from that band lives here in Hoboken. There's a picture of him in a local pizzeria.
AM: The problem with them was that they were Japanese, and they insisted on doing all that Kabuki makeup on the cover. Gene and I both argued with them and told them not to do it. They wouldn't listen, went ahead and did it, and it cost them.
It's a great record. Speaking of the '80s, right around the time that came out, I was at a party and that was on. The bass player from the Bangles came up to me and said "Man, that E-Z-O record is really cool."
RA: Regarding you Creatures collaborations with Paul (the title track, "Keep Me Comin'," and "Danger"), who came up with the kernel of each song?
AM: I think it would be safe to say that for all of them Paul had the ideas, titles or the idea of what he wanted the song to be about.
RA: The main vision?
AM: Yeah, a vision. And what I would do was help him flesh out that vision. Or, he might have a guitar riff, and we'd start spinning a lyric together. For example, on "Creatures of the Night" that lick that goes in halfway through and then ends the song (note: this signature first appears at the end of the first chorus) was mine. In fact, I even played it on the record.
RA: Did you also play the solo?
AM: No, that was Steve Farris, the guy from Mr. Mister.
RA: Who had the idea for the instrumental middle section of "Creatures ...?"
AM: (sings the heroic mid section that is so good, it caused Eddie Kramer to crank the audience tracks to embarrassing levels on Alive III) I Don't remember.
RA: It's memorable.
AM: It is. It's great. It was probably Paul, or I might have thought that we needed a breakdown.
A Crazy Nights Sidetrack
Ron Albanese: Did you perform on any other Kiss songs?
Adam Mitchell: Uh, the answer is yes, but do I remember what it is? No. We did so many ... it's difficult for me to sort the demos we did from the songs we did in the studio. For example, when we did "I'd Fight Hell To Hold You" -- Am I singing in the backgrounds? I think so!
RA: "I'd Fight Hell To Hold You" is one of those great lost Kiss tracks, and contains one of Paul's best recorded lead vocal parts.
AM: Oh my God -- Can't he sing higher than anybody you've ever heard. I mean, for two hundred dates, and not blow out his voice?
RA: Yeah, his singing on that song is --
AM: Unbelievable. I'll tell you a funny story: The night we were doing that, that's exactly what I said to him: I remember saying (to Paul) "I can't believe how you're singing." So after we did that we went to this Italian restaurant, and we're sitting there talking about the tracks, and we ordered a salad. I thought I was eating these mushroom caps -- they turned out to be garlic buds! I had garlic breath for like three days. Every time I think of "I'd Fight Hell to Hold You" I think of that. I also co-wrote "When Your Walls Come Down" and "Crazy, Crazy, Nights."
RA: Kiss tried performing "When Your Walls ... " live, but it didn't work out.
AM: It's one of the better-sounding tracks on the album.
RA: People tend to dismiss the Crazy Nights album as being too poppy.
AM: It was a huge hit everywhere else in the world (except America), and "Crazy, Crazy Nights" was a huge single everywhere else in the world.
End of Crazy Nights Sidetrack
RA: And then the next piece of Mitchell-related music on Creatures of the Night is "Keep Me Comin'." You mentioned that you are a Zep fan, and upon hearing this it's pretty obvious.
AM: Well, totally. For me, my favorite parts of "Keep Me Comin'" were two things. The other songs for Creatures we had pretty much written and recorded in L.A. This one we wrote at Paul's apartment in New York, and we recorded it there (N.Y.). I also remember the drum sound was so great; Eric was just wailing away on those parts. All of the drum sounds on Creatures were great, and Eric was totally into it.
RA: Then there's "Danger," where Eric's drums are louder than canons.
AM: Here's the story on "Danger:" We had wrote at my house in Hollywood, and Paul and I cut a demo in the studio. We used a drum machine when we cut the demo. We knew when we had finished "Danger" that it was totally rockin'. We knew it. I remember when we drove over Gene's to play it, and how excited we were in the car. We thought that song was smokin', and knew it was going to make the record.
Another thing I remember about "Danger" is that our demo was absolutely killer. And then when Eric got into the studio ... that drum part is very hard to play because of the tempo and the whole thing -- it'll wear you out. Eric pulled it off great, but it was very tough for him. That's a hard part to play.
Vinnie's car horn must go "ankh ankh"
Ron Albanese: Did you ever met Ace Frehley or Vinnie Vincent?
Adam Mitchell: (in a matter-of-fact tone) I got Vinnie the job in the band ...
RA: Oh, really?
AM: (savoring his punch line) ... So you can blame it on me!
RA: You were a linchpin in Kiss' going Egyptian in 1982?
AM: I introduced them. Vinnie and I had written a big hit for John Waite called "Tears."
RA: Great song, by the way.
AM: Thank you. I hated the way John Waite did it, but that's another story.
RA: Of course, you had the honor of seeing that song performed by Peter Criss on Let Me Rock You.
AM: Yeah, I heard that, and also Patti Smyth of Scandal had done it. That was much, much better. I can't remember who I met Vinnie through, but I had been working with him right around the time they were looking for another guitar player, and I said to Gene (adopts reluctant tone) "well, I know this guy, and he's a great player." I got them together, and that's how Vinnie got the job.
RA: Well, he certainly helped Kiss out. He co-wrote some songs for Creatures of the Night and a bulk of Lick it Up.
AM: Vinnie is a great writer. In fact, other than on his solo albums, which I think are terrible, he's an absolutely fabulous guitar player. A great musical mind.
RA: You mean, when he's not trying to break the sound barrier with his fret board?
AM: (sings your basic garden variety Vinnie guitar solo) Every time Robert Fleischman would stop for a breath, he'd be in there (does imitation again)!
I met Ace at Gene's a long time ago. That's the only time. Even though his picture is on the cover of Creatures, he was nowhere near it. He played no part in it whatsoever, as far as I know.
RA: Do you think Vinnie Vincent will ever make a positive impact on the music world ever again?
AM: Who knows?
RA: Why doesn't that guy get it together and do some session work?
AM: I do not know. This does not necessarily apply to Vinnie, but I have said many times that if there is only one thing I know to be true, it's that personality will defeat talent every time.
RA: Do you own a Creatures of the Night tour book?
AM: No. I've seen one. Bruce, I'm almost certain, has one.
RA: I had to ask, because they're rare as heck, and I want one.
AM: At the time, I had all that stuff; It just never crossed my mind that the stuff would be important to anybody.
RA: Did you get a gold album for Creatures of the Night?
AM: Gene -- who is scrupulous in his attention to detail -- sent me one. And Gene is one of the most ego-less, and most generous persons I have ever known.
Kiss are People Too
Ron Albanese: It's first-hand reports like yours that make me take umbrage with all of the negative tales about Simmons and Stanley. People call them cheap and money hungry -- Well, it takes a lot of money to be Kiss.
Adam Mitchell: (agreeing) And there's also tremendous amounts of pressure. Look, I know a lot of famous people -- and I was famous enough in the Paupers to get a little taste of it -- It's very difficult. There's your public persona, and your private one. I've seen both with these guys, mostly their private persona. They're both very decent human beings, and sometimes they are no easy decisions to make in business. A lot of the times you have to make decisions that you know are going to appear a certain way. Sometimes, you have to make the tough decisions.
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