Recently the Ace Frehley fan club, Rock Soldiers, went through some management changes. David Snowden took charge of the fan club a few month ago and The KISS Asylum had a chance to talk with him about the change in the fan club and what else is going on in David's complex world.
KA: David, thanks for taking time out of your extremely busy schedule for this interview.
DS: My pleasure. Sorry it's taken so long to find the time to do one. My schedule is very tight working a full-time job and having my own company.
KA: Please give me some information about yourself, your current job your hobbies etc.
DS: I work as a digital artist for a service provider in Baltimore, Regester Photo Services. They have a full service photograph lab and a digital studio. I work on the digital side creating a variety of graphics combining photography, illustrations and type. It's a lot of fun and a great learning experience working on both IBM and Mac platforms. Although, I prefer the IBM PC over Mac. As far as hobbies, I don't have time for any except for the fan club and merchandise stuff that I do in my spare time. When I finally have time, I like to spend it with my wife or maybe go out with a friend and shoot a game of pool.
KA: When did you become a KISS fan and how did this happen?
DS: I became a fan the night I saw them on the Paul Lynde Halloween Special in 1976. They were different and I've always been one to like different things. I started a collection and watched it grow from the basic releases to the dolls, make-up kit, remote control van, bed sheets, curtains, costumes, pinball machine my collection peaked with over 350 different vinyl LPs by 1984! This included bootlegs, Japanese & German releases, different album covers from various countries and things like that. The music has and always will be first and foremost to me. Around 1986, I sold my collection to various collectors. As far as how many times have I seen KISS 100 + times! I've been to 9 shows on the reunion tour and I've been fortune enough met all 9 members of the band.
KA: When was the first time you met KISS?
DS: Gene was the first one I met. That was on the Lick It Up Tour, February 28, 1984 in Baltimore, Maryland. I had camped out all night and scored front row seats to the show. On the day of the concert, I went with two other fans to all the local hotels looking for the band with the hopes of meeting them. Finally I called the hotel where they were staying and asked for Chris Lendt, who was their financial advisor on the tour. I told him I was a big fan I was and that I wanted to meet the band. He put me on the guest list and gave me two backstage passes. It was great, I still have a photo of Gene and I from that day. He and I both have these huge stupid smiles on our faces!!!
KA: What made you want to start your own KISS fanzine, "KISS Revolution" (which later became "The KISS Force")? Tell me a bit about that fanzine, when it started, and what happened to it.
DS: The KISS FORCE started in 1984 with Keith Leroux and myself. I was doing a fanzine with another fan called The KISS Revolution in 1983. KISS' management at the time, Howard/Marks sent us a check for $5.00 for a subscription when we started The KISS Revolution. That amazed us and we returned the check, but kept a copy of it as a keepsake. I sent a copy of The Revolution to an organization that I believe was called "KISS Off," they were selling KISS memorabilia, which turned out to be Keith Leroux. We talked, hit it off and decided to combine our talents and run with it. (I got the name, The KISS FORCE, from the notes inside the Creatures Of The Night tourbook) The Force really exploded beyond our wildest imagination. I believe our newsletter was one of the first to have an interview with one of the current band members, which was Eric Carr. After the interview was printed, he sent me a thank you note. It said that everyone in the band had seen it and loved it. He also said he would be glad to do another one, just to call the office and make the arrangements. That's the kind of person Eric was, God rest his soul I really miss him and I still have that letter. The KISS Force was huge! We did several, and I do mean several full page ads in a lot of the big rock magazines during the 80s including Circus, Faces, Metal Madness, etc... I've never been one to talk about numbers, but I do believe the Force was the biggest fan club/fanzine ever run by fans. That's not to take anything away from what people did prior to The Force or since, because I still get some of the fanzines and I love them! Keith and I were really aggressive, we had a unique relationship in the respect that we were both very young at the time we started it and we basically grew up together through that experience.
Besides the interview with Eric Carr, I did ones with Bruce, Vinnie, Mark St. John, Peter and Ace all 8 members (past and present this was before Singer joined the band) wrote letters that appeared in each and every issue. It was really great. Gene once wrote a letter that said "Why settle for seconds, when you can have the best!" I can't stress how much fun it was and I got to met some really great people besides the band, like George Sewitt. He was managing Ace and Vinnie at the time and arranged for me to do an interview with Ace when he was recording his first demos at the Power Station in 1985. To this day, I've stayed in contact with George and I have the utmost of respect for him, on both a business and personal level. I'm very proud to call him my friend. He was also KISS' road manager from 1979 to 1983. Currently, George is managing both Ace and Peter.
KA: Tell us about how Vinnie Vincent came to talk to you about running his fan club.
DS: Back in late 1984, early 1985, Vinnie Vincent called me one day. It was wild! I had been trying to contact him for an interview and one day he just called me! As time progressed my relationship with Vinnie was starting to grow closer and he asked me if Keith and I would like to do his fan club. This was in early 1986. At first we thought about it but realized that it would be a conflict of interest. It was at that point, that I decided to leave The KISS Force and devote my energy to doing the official VVI fan club for the band. I chose to leave because of the opportunity of running an official fan club for an artist. The KISS Force was great, but it was really hard at the same time, because you had so many fanzines at the time all trying to compete and I never wanted to lose the love I had for the band or the fans. As I said earlier, Keith and I had a unique relationship in that we were able to separate our business and friendship. Even though I left The Force, we parted on good terms and remained friends. A lot of years have passed since then, and now Keith is a part of Creative Communications doing the KISS telephone cards and here I am selling those along with a lot of other licensed merchandise. Getting back to VVI, in early 1986, I sold my interest in The Force to Keith, sold my KISS collection to various people and started my business, David Snowden Promotions, Inc. on July 13, 1986. Selling my KISS collection was one of the hardest things I've ever done! I took such great pride in it and had people from all over the country plus fans from England, Germany and Canada who traveled just to see it. I really had a huge collection, but it was important to me to work toward my future and that meant raising some capital to start my company. I worked with Vinnie and the guys for the 3 years the band was together. During that time I learned a lot about the music business and dealing with people. I became very close to Vinnie, Mark, Dana and Bobby. I still have a two page letter of recommendation that Vinnie wrote for me when I wanted to pursue running official fan clubs for other artists.
KA: How would you describe Vinnie Vincent as a person?
DS: He was one of the nicest people I'd ever met. My parents were a little concerned about my interests and wanting to pursue a career in the music industry, so my mom invited the band over for dinner and they CAME! Imagine four guys (this is when Vinnie had the big Cher-like' hairdo) and their manager, George Sewitt at your house for dinner! My parents were impressed with them and that they weren't a bunch of drug-crazed musicians. I have a lot of fond memories of my time with VVI including staying at Vinnie's house, having him throw dinner parties when I was in Los Angeles. His first wife was a great cook and Mark and I used to love to play with his two twin daughters they were so cute! I was out in LA when "All Systems Go" was released and got to meet Peter Criss for the first time face to face at the album release party for the record. I had interviewed Peter prior during my work with The KISS Force. I haven't seen or talked to Vinnie since the Invasion split up. I've heard a lot of rumors and read a lot of posts about him recently, and all I can say, is that when I worked with him, he was a really great person and I consider myself very lucky to have had him a part of my life. Would I want to relive the experience NO, but it was an incredible time and learning experience.
KA: Can you describe your working relationship with Vinnie and the band at that time? Before the Invasion disbanded...could you sense some tension in the band? In your opinion, why did the band break up?
DS: My relationship with the band was great. I used to spend a lot of time in LA with Mark and Dana. The first time I went to Las Vegas was in the back of a moving truck with Mark and I sleeping on Dana's sofa when he was moving to Vegas. Dana was driving his truck with his girlfriend. I loved the band, I was not only a fan, but a friend. I was there during the recording of "All Systems Go." I had a lot of emotional ties to each band member. Our relationship went beyond the professional level to that of very good friends. Mark, Dana and Bobby gave me the longest and best special thanks on the "All Systems Go" album and I think that really says a lot about the relationship I had with them at that time. Toward the end of the band, could I sense some tension. . .sure, I think everyone could. As far as my opinion as to why the band broke up. . .I was there and every story has three sides yours, mine and the truth. I don't think it's something that I should discuss. That was a long time ago and everyone, except for Vinnie, has moved on to bigger and better things in their life. I still talk to and do some work with Bobby Rock. He has a new instrument album out that rocks!
KA: After Vinnie's band broke up, what else did you do? Did you start any other fan clubs? KISS related or not.
DS: Yeah, the first band that called me was Britny Fox from Philadelphia. I got to know them through Alex Richter. I met Alex outside the Tower Theatre in Philly when Vinnie's band played there in 1986. Alex was standing there holding up a sign that said, "Vinnie is GOD!" Vinnie was floored and he invited the guy backstage and signed the poster. Alex and I shared a lot of things in common VVI, KISS as well as a lot of other bands. He and I used to do quite a few road trips together to see VVI, KISS and other bands. Alex told me about this new band from Philly that sounded like a cross between KISS and AC/DC, he gave me their manager's address and I sent them one of the VVI fan club packages. Their manager, Brian Kushner, called me a few days later and told me that his band wanted the same kind of fan club package. He said it was the best fan package they've seen and wouldn't settle for anything less. So I signed up with them and six months later, I earned my first real gold record award. Once you have one successful band, things tend to snowball and that's how it went. Along with Britny Fox, I worked with White Lion, Vixen, Tuff, Linear, Icehouse, Diesel, Joan Jett, Dio, Y&T, Every Mother's Nightmare, Bang Tango, Alias, L.A. Guns, and a lot of other bands. It's been quite a roller coaster ride, but again, I've had a lot of fun doing it. Around 1990, I opened a retail store called, OVER THE EDGE. It was a very cool store, kind of like a "70s head shop" type of place where I sold wild jewelry, t-shirts, sweatpants, spandex, statues, and a ton of other items.
KA: Can you tell me a bit about the Joan Jett fan club you currently run? How did you get started in that?
DS: Ironically enough, I got the job through a "KISS association." One day I was talking to George Sewitt and he told me that he had been speaking to Kenny Laguna, Joan's manager, about doing some work with them. He suggested that I send a package to Kenny and Joan. I did and Kenny called me. We spoke for about two hours. He totally convinced me that Joan Jett was an artist that I wanted to get involved with. That was back in 1988, and here we are nine years later and I'm still working with Joan. She has to be, hands down, the best artist I've ever been associated with. She truly cares about her fans and every aspect of her career. She's a very dedicated and hardworking lady. When I got married four years ago, Joan was playing in southern Virginia the night before my wedding and had her road manager drove her after the show, which ended at 2:00 AM, all night to make my wedding reception. I got married at 9:00 AM on Saturday June 12th. Joan and Kenny stayed until about 3:00 PM when she told me that they had to drive to Wildwood, NJ to play a show that night! Kenny and Joan will always have a very special place in my heart. They are like family to me.
KA: Talk a little bit about how you came to maintain Jackie "The JokeMan" Martling's (of Howard Stern's NY radio show) mailing list and newsletter?
DS: I got involved with Jackie through Stuttering John. Stuttering John was being managed by Brian Kushner of Power Star Management. He had managed Britny Fox, Tuff and a few other bands. Brian and I had a great working relationship and asked me to do some work for John. While I was working with John we needed to establish a fan base, so Jackie stepped in and offered his mailing list of 6,000 people. Jackie and I hit it off and started talking and one thing lead to the other and now I maintain his list of over 38,000 fans!! Plus I do a semi-annual newsletter for Jackie. He's a very down to earth, nice guy. I enjoy working with him. It helps that I have a pretty warped sense of humor and that works well with Jackie.
KA: Tell us more about your extensive KISS merchandise catalog! Please detail your website for us.
(KISS Asylum Editors Note: I have dealt with David Snowden before in ordering merchandise...and let me say he is extremely reputable!!!! You won't be disappointed!!)
DS: The website is stored under the KISS Otaku site at www.otaku.net/snowden/ Mike Brandvold has been very good allowing me the space to publish the website. Mike is responsible for all the coding. I scan the images and create the art for the page, but Mike is the person who puts it all together. He's a very talented programer and definitely a dedicated KISS fan! Douglas Snazel from acefrehley.com also helps out with the catalog request form. As far as the merchandise goes, I carry all the licensed merchandise I can find. I don't do bootlegs or any unlicensed merchandise. Official merchandise will appraise in value, but unofficial merchandise is really only worth what you paid for it. I hope that makes sense for everyone. Take for instance the original KISS dolls, initally they sold for around $10.00 each, now if you're lucky enough to find a mint condition set in the boxes, it can cost up to $400.00! I'm a big fan of the band as well and I try to offer the merchandise at affordable prices because it's hard enough making ends meet in daily life, let alone keep up with all the merchandise that's becoming available. One thing I would like to make everyone aware of is that I do work a full-time job and spend my spare time doing the KISS merchandising. My company is pretty much a one-man show. I arrange the deals with all the merchandise companies, order the product, design the catalogs, fill the orders, answer all email, etc... I will say, I certainly couldn't do all this without the help of my family. My wife is very supportive and helps whenever she can doing whatever it takes to help relieve some of the stress. During the week, my mother does all leg work going to the post office, bank, UPS, and anywhere else I need her to go. My mom is a real blessing. Plus my parents allow me to use their home address for all my deliveries and pickups. My in-laws always come through for me when the newsletters and catalogs come in. Printing and postage can really get out of hand and one way I try to save some money is by collating and stapling all the catalogs and newsletters ourselves. So my in-laws will come over and help when we need them.
KA: Just recently you have taken over the Rock Soldiers fan club from Gilda. Before you took over the supervisory role, what did you do in the fan club?
DS: I was a member of Rock Soldiers. Obviously, I've had a long time relationship with George Sewitt. In 1993, while I had my retail store, OVER THE EDGE, George had just started managing Ace again. Ace did an instore appearance there and it turned out great. From there Ace and I started to get to know each other. That was when Rock Soldiers had first started out. Then Rock Soldiers went through it's first change and Gilda took over. I've known Gilda for a long time and one day while we were talking about fan clubs, I mentioned how much I paid for printing. It's considerably less than what they were paying in New York. I believe this was around Issue 5. So I volunteered to have the printing done here in Baltimore. They way it worked was, Gilda would finish the newsletters with Ace and send the boards to me and I would have them printed here in Baltimore, then collate, staple and ship the boxes off to Gilda who would take care of the mailing. My role in the organization was very minimal and we kept it to ourselves. I didn't think it was important to list who the printer was, were they were, or that I was doing the collating and stapling. KA: Obviously there have been many problems with the fan club for a number of reasons. How are you going to rectify those past problems to get it back on its feet? What do you see this fan club doing in the future?
DS: Gilda did a wonderful job. I've heard some people have had problems and I've been getting a lot of email lately from members wanting to know when their membership expires, or if they are on the mailing list. Right now, George, Ace and I are talking this one step at a time. I have updated all the membership files on my computer system and just recently completed and submitted the first issue I've worked on which is Issue #10. Do I forsee a future for the fan club? Sure, it's hard right now because Rock Soldiers is the official ACE FREHLEY fan club, it's not a KISS fan club. Obviously, we're all fans of his because he was in KISS, then had did some great solo records, but now he's back in KISS. It's difficult because I don't want to make the fan club into a KISS fan club because this is about Ace, but it's hard not printing articles about his involvement with KISS. Do you understand what I mean? Again, we're taking this one step at a time. I believe we have a great future with the fan club. I've been doing fan clubs now for almost 15 years, with that experience, my knowledge of computers and publishing along with Ace's fascination with computers and his digital art, I know that things are only going to get better.
KA: If people have any problems with the Rock Soldiers fan club, is there an address in which they can send their questions to address their concerns?
DS: Sure, they can send it to:
KA: Does this Rock Soldiers fan club have a companion web site?
DS: I'm working on that right now with Douglas Snazel. The website address will be www.acefrehley.com/rocksoldiers The site will be up after Issue 10 of the newsletter is sent out. It will include some of the articles from the Rock Soldiers newsletters as well as official merchandise. It won't include everything that is in the newsletters, but it will be a site worth visiting.
KA: Did you have any kind of working relationship with Gordon Gebert?
KA: I recently did an interview with Gordon Gebert on The KISS Asylum. Did you get a chance to read it? If you did, is there anything you want to respond to concerning that interview?
DS: I read the interview, but have no interest in reading his book.
KA: What are your thoughts on the KISS reunion tour?
DS: I think it's the best thing they could have ever done. Don't get me wrong, I loved the band through the 80s and followed their career closely, but the band with Ace, Peter, Gene and Paul IS THE BAND! This band lineup has the chemistry and magic that makes KISS special.
KA: In a few sentences, give me your thoughts on Gene, Paul, Ace, Peter and Eric Carr
DS: Gene was the first person I met in KISS. He's got a great memory and a good sense about himself. Paul is one of the best frontman in rock. Peter Criss is perhaps the most down-to-earth individual in the band. I know he feels very lucky to have been given a second chance. Eric Carr was just a great human being. I really liked Eric. I had my doubts about KISS when Peter left, but Eric was just incredible. I enjoyed the interviews I did and the time I spent with him. I have several pictures of us together, a lot of them signed, I will always have special memories of him. And finally Ace. . .what can I say? He's a very genuine and down to earth guy. I honestly believe that he is the unsung hero of KISS. Nothing against Vinnie, Mark or Bruce, but KISS just wasn't KISS without Ace.
KA: What do you think of the online explosion of KISS Web sites? Do you go online at all to check out the web sites? What do you think of The KISS Asylum. =)?
DS: I love going online when I have the time. I've checked out most of the KISS websites. I love it, but I certainly don't believe everything I read on the web. There's some great sites out there, with information traveling almost as fast as it happens, but I have seen a lot of fiction and fantasy on some sites. My three favorite sites that I always check when I go online are KISS Otaku, AceFrehley.com and KISS Asylum.
KA: What are your thoughts on the other KISS Fanzines in the world?
DS: Again, there's a lot of great fanzines out. I don't get too many of them because I can't afford to subscribe to them all. The ones I do get are KISS The Originals, Firehouse from Canada and Oh Yeah! from Australia. Because I come from a heavy publication design background, I really enjoy reading and checking out the layout on the printed pieces.
KA: Is there anything else you would like to say on behalf of yourself or the Rock Soldiers fan club?
DS: I don't want to speak on behalf of Rock Soldiers, because that's Ace's thing. I don't consider myself the president of the fan club, because I'm not. I don't like to think in terms of president, first officer, second officer. I'm just a fan. I love KISS and Ace has always been my favorite member of the band. I've been very fortune in having met all the band members, having VVI over for dinner, Ace at my store, doing interviews with the band and having my photo taken with them. But again, I'm no different that anyone else out there, I'm just a fan. Just because I'm handling the KISS merchandise and Ace's fan club, doesn't give me anymore privileges or make me special. I get a big kick out of going to the shows, conventions or just over someone else's house to check out their collection.
KA: Thanks again for agreeing to do this interview. I appreciate you taking time to inform the fans more about yourself and the Rock Soldiers fan club!!
DS: It was my pleasure, again, I'm sorry it's taken so long to find the time to finally do it.