Posted on February 20th. 2018
Questionnaire by Jason Houston on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM
Hey John thanks so much for agreeing to do a new interview with me. Like we previously discussed I thought we could make this a 2 part interview. Part one we can discuss the fact that 2017 marked the 40th anniversary of both Love Gun and Alive II. Part one we will discuss Love Gun! I’ll send Part II later. Let’s work on part 1 for now. Could you please complete the entire interview rather than send one question/answer at a time? Much easier to post the interview if we do it that way. Thanks again.
Jason: Now John I know what a huge Kiss fan you are so I thought it would be fun to discuss the fact that 2017 marked the 40th anniversary of Kiss’s Classic 1977 album Love Gun. After the success that Kiss had with their 1976 album: Destroyer, how surprised were you when they chose Eddie Krammer who had produced Kiss Alive I to produce both Rock And Roll Over and Love Gun rather than work with Bob Ezrin again?
John Erigo: Well first of all, thanks (again!) for remembering me! Most people I know think of me when the band KISS is mentioned, so it’s cool to do things like this. At the time I didn’t know any better about who produced which album, I was on 12-13 during that time. Looking back on it though, I think it made sense to go back to Kramer. DESTROYER, as great as it was/is, was a big departure for the band sound-wise. I think they were forced to make a quick album with ROCK N ROLL OVER, so they got Krammer to come in and get a real kick ass, more aggressive album. ROCK N ROLL over almost sounds like a live in the studio album. They probably felt comfortable enough with Eddie to bring him back in again for LOVE GUN. When you don’t have a lot of time to do the recording process, it is easier to do when you feel comfortable and just let it rip! Or should I say RIP, RIP, RIP AND DESTROY?! LOL!
Jason: Do you remember John what was your response to Love Gun, the very first time you heard the album?
John: I loved it man! Instantly loved it. It was like they could do no wrong at that point in time. The songs rocked, they were catchy, it had it all going on.
Jason: Where would you rank Love Gun on your list of favorite Kiss albums?
John: I have a difficult time with “lists” because it’s so not fair! LOL! You give me the first 6 studio albums, and the first 2 live albums, by KISS, and it is difficult to “rank” them. It’s right up there with my fave albums of all time, I can tell you that.
Jason: Love Gun was the very, first Kiss album to feature a Lead vocal by Ace Frehley and that was of course on the song “Shock Me”. What did you think of the song and what was your impression of hearing Ace Frehley as a lead singer for the very, first time?
John: It’s weird because as a KISS fan, I went through stages as to who my favorite member was. But in those early years it was Ace, no doubt. So when it came time to finally hear him sing, it was really cool. I didn’t realize at the time, but they were trying to be like a hard rock version of THE BEATLES. Ya know, everybody gets to sing lead vocals. I thought it was a huge breakthrough but eventually would lead to problems within the band – bickering over who’s songs should be used. Ace never had that “amazing” voice, but his vocal styling and phrasing were a lot like his playing, ……cool! Ace always had a certain coolness to him and that’s what made you want to hear more from him.
Jason: What are some of your favorite songs of Love Gun?
John: Wow, again, that is tough – I don’t think there’s a song on there I don’t like. I thought the whole album was solid man, really. Those first 6 studio albums didn’t have one song I disliked. If anything, maybe THEN SHE KISSED ME. I didn’t mind BETH at first, it wasn’t until later on I grew tired of it. But as far as LOVE GUN? Yeah man, gimme all those tunes! Nowadays I gravitate towards the obscure like ALMOST HUMAN and TOMORROW AND TONIGHT, and GOT LOVE FOR SALE.
Jason: How would you say Love Gun as an album has stood the test of time?
John: Oh wow, I think it’s done great! You can pop that album on today and it doesn’t sound like 1977 at all. CHRISTINE SIXTEEN could be a pop hit again if it came out next week!!! That was the crafty effect KISS had, their music on those first 6 studio albums had NO real “genre” and did not sound dated at all. That is the beauty of real good hard rock, it stands the test of time because it is in fact timeless. That’s why pop music artists tend to fade away or only have that one song you know, because it’s geared towards a certain sound & audience & TIME. KISS had a great knack for writing songs that really transcend time stamps. So yeah, I like to re visit LOVE GUN from time to time and I still really enjoy it.
Jason: The album ends with the track “Then She Kissed Me” which of course not a Kiss original and probably most Kiss fans would say was the least Kiss like song. I’ll say it’s not a bad song but I have to ask you what was your initial reaction to this song the very, first time you heard it?
John: When I first heard it, again I was only 13 years old, it didn’t sound like a KISS song to me. When I read the liner notes I noticed they didn’t write it. In 1977 we didn’t have Wikipedia! LOL! I didn’t hear the original version until many years later. Once I did, I thought “Wow, KISS actually did do a really good version of this!” If I had to pick one song off of LOVE GUN to replace, this is the only one I would pick!
Jason: I think very much like the DESTROYER album cover that The Love Gun album cover is a very iconic photo. Do you remember what your thought was the very first time you saw that iconic photo?
John: Yep…….when my Mom sees this she’s gonna kill me! LOL! I mean, those painted women were pretty risque for 1977. But when I saw it I was trying to envision those outfits for real. I was really enamored with it. Those wound up being my favorite KISS costumes, the LOVE GUN ones, hands down. I liked everything, from the way they were posed, to the way they looked like Gods, or not human – it was just so damn cool!
Jason: Back in 1977 Kiss’s image was just as big and bombastic as the music they played. I mean most people had no idea back then what the members of Kiss looked like under their makeup. How big of an impact did the Kiss look/image have on you becoming a Kiss fan?
John: I think I mentioned this in a previous interview, but I was into comic books before I was into KISS. When I was a kid I wasn’t really into music, it was just something on the radio to fill the quietness in the background. Slowly, as I got older, I got more into it but always leaned towards the more rocking, uptempo songs. When I first heard KISS it was like “FINALLY!!! THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR!!!!”. Then when I really got to see them —- wow, are you kidding me?! They looked like real life comic book heroes. So the music had to grab me first because if it didn’t, they would’ve looked cool but wouldn’t have my full attention. It was the marriage of sight AND sound that made me become a die hard member of the KISS ARMY!!!!! Like Paul Stanley & Gene Simmons always say, “The make up never wrote a song”!
Jason: Love Gun also featured one of my all-time favorite Gene Simmons songs which was “Christine Sixteen”. Great example of Gene’s tongue in cheek lyrics if you will. At the time did you have any idea what the song was about?
John: I wasn’t even 16!!!! LOL! I was John at 13 -so no, no idea. Even though it had a piano in it, which at the time I found a little weird/different, it didn’t matter. That was one of Gene’s best written songs, great stuff going on in that tune!
Jason: I remember some Kiss fans being turned off by the fact that “Christine Sixteen” featured Piano playing on the track. Did that bother you at all?
John: See my answer to #10! LOL! At first it did throw me off but I was blinded my passion for the band. It didn’t matter, and when the song was played live it was amazing! So at first, yeah it was curve ball but it was awesome!
Jason: Hey John I have to ask in regards to the song “Plaster Caster” Any idea who Cynthia Plaster Caster was who the song is based on?
John: Not when I was 13!!!!! LOL! When I got older and the stories came out – yeah – a groupie who used to make plaster “creations” out of rock stars Love Gun’s! LOL! Kind of like a plaster holster ! LOL!
Jason: Being that Love Gun would be the last Kiss studio album to feature all 4 original Kiss members does the album hold a special place in your heart now in retrospect?
John: Well, I mean DYNASTY had all 4 of them, just not at the same time! Peter didn’t do drums but he did sing one song. Same with PSYCHO CIRCUS, they were all on it just not together. But it was the end run of magic man. Short lived but from 1974-1978 they ruled the World and basically could do no wrong.
Who knows who really played on what during that time. What matters is though that it was the 4 of them that played the songs live and delivered them with ferocious energy and conviction. I think that is why fans today yearn for the old days. because it was the 4 originals that played so many great concerts when the band was young, hungry and out to rule the World.
Jason: Love Gun featured just one track each from peter and Ace on lead vocals. Would you liked to have seen them do lead vocals or do you think that there was just simply more lead vocal tracks from gene and Paul simply because they had more material and were better song writers?
John: Well we have to remember that KISS was Gene and Paul’s band, still is. So of course they will have a bigger say in what songs make an album. Also, looking back to the time that album came out, a vinyl record can only hold about 25-30 minutes per side, that is stretching it – the longer and album is, the lower the sound quality. So basically you get 35-45 minutes of time. KISS was so under the gun(get it? LOL!)with their schedule – write, record, tour, repeat. There wasn’t a lot of down time. So the decision making had to be quick. So I would imagine Gene and Paul would rule the room so to say, when it came to songs for any album. I also kind of remember them saying that Ace never really had finished songs, more like ideas and parts. Gene and Paul would piece the parts together to complete the song, but not take writing credit for it. I also agree with what you said, I think Gene and Paul were just better writers and had a vision for the band’s sound.
Jason: I have to ask John in recent years Kiss has performed “Shock Me” in concert with Tommy Thayer playing the role of Ace Frehley and doing the lead Vocal. How do you feel about Tommy in the role of Ace?
John: I don’t see it that way, Tommy is not Ace, nobody is, except Ace! LOL! ACK! Tommy Thayer is the current “Spaceman”, not the current “Ace Frehley”. Yeah, I know, for a LOT of older fans it is a tough pill to swallow seeing Tommy do Ace’s songs, leads, shooting rockets out of his guitar. But if we’re not going to see Ace in KISS, wouldn’t you want something similar? Sometimes I don’t get KISS fans!!! LOL! For example – people destroy Tommy & Eric because they’re not original members, but they all loved Eric Carr. Also, when Vinnie Vincent was in KISS, all I heard was “OMG he is butchering the songs” Why doesn’t he play them like Ace?!”. The when Bruce Kulick joined the band, all I heard was “well, he almost plays the solos like Ace, but then he does his own shit….why?!”. Then Tommy Thayer joins and plays Ace’s solos basically note for note, and all I hear is “Oh why is wearing Ace’s make up? He’s not the Spaceman!”. Thayer is the closest thing to Ace you will get. If you listen to his old band BLACK N BLUE he sounded like Ace back then! He even played a Black Gibson Les Paul with THREE pick ups!!! So KISS finally gets a guy who plays Ace’s solos as good as Ace ever did, and they’re still not satisfied! Grrrrrr! LOL! I have no problem with Tommy Thayer or Eric Singer because without them there’d be no KISS the last 15 years!
Jason: I have to ask John in regards to the original Kiss lineup who would you say is your favorite member of the band or the one member that you feel you relate the most to?
John: Like I said earlier I always changed who my fave was. Started out with Ace, then switched to Paul, and more recently it’s been Gene(sorry Peter! LOL!). I think I can relate to Gene and Paul the most. Picked on when they were young, I was too. I admire their work ethic and the way the built up the KISS Empire.
Jason: Tell me John 40 years later what does Love Gun means to you?
John: It’s a landmark album and, I think it was the album that solidified them as THE band forever in my eyes. I remember the week the album came out— I used to ride my bike to a local amusement park in Baldwin, NY called NUNLEY’S and they had a cool mini golf course. At the end of each hole was a stand that you could lean on to write down your score for the hole you just finished. It was like a semi cut out huge plastic gold ball. On each hole, I used the pencil they give you to write on your scorecard, and drew a KISS logo on it and under it wrote “LOVE GUN RULES!!”. That was 1977 and I remember it like it was yesterday so yeah, LOVE GUN meant and still does, mean a lot to me!
Jason: So John is there anything else you’d like to say to all The Metal To Infinity Readers, and all the loyal John Ergo fans out there?
John: Is there such a thing as a “John Erigo “fan” “? That’s pretty cool if it’s true! LOL! yes, there is — as far as KISS and LOVE GUN – it was part of my youth and a huge part of my path to being a life long KISS fan, and a fan of hard rocking and heavy metal music. KISS is THE reason to this day I still listen to and love loud music. Being given the chance to share memories of that time and music, which was all so important to me, is a blessing. So my thanks to you Jason, and the staff at METAL TO INFINITY, and your readers. I do not take these things lightly, it is very serious to me (despite the sprinkled in jokes ) – so thank you for taking the time to find me, dust me off, and give me a forum to talk about what I love! Keep rocking and rolling my friends, and most importantly, keep KICKING ASS……………..FOREVER
Thanks again John you Rock my Friend!