Friday, November 16, 2012

NoveElder The Oath: Christopher K. Lendt Interview

Former vice president of Glickman/Marks Management recalls the state of KISS in 1981 and the band's ambitious bid to redefine their career

From KissFAQ ongoing November "(Music From) The Elder" album feature.

KissFAQ: First, Chris, I've always wanted to share with you how much I enjoyed "KISS And Sell." I know it's been 15 years, but belated congratulations on your book. It is a spectacular read and a "must-have" for the KISS library.
Christopher K. Lendt:
Well, thank you. I can never hear that too much. You're very gracious.

KF: And it is a sentiment shared by many fans in the KISS community. The book is well-written and your attention to detail is meticulous, whether it's recalling the atmosphere of a particular meeting, what somebody wore, a memorable quote, and so forth.
Well, it's really for two reasons. First of all, I have a really good memory. That's always something I've been fortunate to have and it's served me well in school and in business. The other reason, which is a little more colorful, [is that] all of those events that happened in my life with KISS are forever burnished in my brain. It was such an unusual experience that I absorbed a lot of those details and I still remember them today because I felt like I was sort of living in a movie. (laughs)

I did pay attention and I was not, most of the time, inebriated or incapacitated. And my job was to be the "detail man" for KISS. So, I carried through that obligation professionally as well as in my private life.

KF: Getting to "Music From The Elder," which is the topic we're discussing today. Prior to them even starting recording, how would you describe the overall health of KISS in 1981?
CKL: Well, that was coming off of the Australia tour, which was December 1980. That was the most successful tour KISS had done at that time. They were treated like the second coming of the Beatles. And I recounted all of that in the book. It was quite an event. They were really puffed up, and I say that without any sarcasm. Their egos were really boosted by such a successful tour. Their popularity was waning in the U.S., which they were aware of, but a big tour like that, playing stadiums and creating "KISS mania," is a real climate to bolster your spirits and put you back in a different mood.

KF: Certainly. What do you recall about their initial studio album plans?
CKL: When they approached a new album, they had made a number of efforts going into the studio in 1981, recording different tracks [at] different studios. I don't know if there were other producers involved but I know that they tried a number of different types of records. The consensus that they got from the people in Australia at PolyGram at that time was that they should come back in '81 and do another really hard rock album, because that was the essence of what KISS was and they felt that that was something that that would serve KISS well. You know, the last advice offered that you hear from people who are in a position to have their advice listened to is often the advice that you go with. So that was their inclination: to go back into the studio and record a typical hard rock, heavy metal KISS album, which I think they tried to do, but it never coalesced. And the thinking was that they didn't want to come out with another ordinary KISS hard rock album. Maybe it would have been good and accepted by the fans, but they didn't think it was really big enough. So having their egos boosted by the tremendous success of the Australia tour, and with the influence of Bill Aucoin, they decided to go off in a different direction. And eventually emerged the idea of a "concept" album.

KF: Right, which was a deliberate attempt to steer away from recording a typical KISS album.
CKL: Yes, rather than just a recording of 10 or 12 tracks that were all distinct and separate from one another, they decided to do something on a more elevated level creatively. The concept idea became the operating idea.

Now, I can't really give you the day and date when all of this started to gel, but the idea was to do an album where all of the songs would be linked together and there would be a story. So the next element was a story had to be created, and once the story was created, then there would be characters, like a movie. In fact, the original title of the album was "Music From The Elder." And that was intentional because as this concept started to mushroom, the thinking was it's not even going to be just an album anymore, it's going to be a motion picture. And this will be the soundtrack to a motion picture that will come out in the future.

So this really started to move forward by leaps and bounds. This was no longer an album anymore, it was a concept album. And it wasn't just a concept album -- like "Sgt. Pepper's [Lonely Hearts Club Band]" was a concept album -- this would be a concept album that was the precursor to a movie. And the music would tell the story and present the characters who would eventually appear in a movie or an animated movie. That part, to my knowledge, never got any more concrete. The thinking really started to move by leaps and bounds.

Bob Ezrin was tapped because he was a producer who had worked on ["Destroyer"]. He was highly respected by the band. I assume he had a good relationship with Bill Aucoin, otherwise I don't think it would have gone forward. And Bob Ezrin had had enormous worldwide success with Pink Floyd's "The Wall." So here, on paper, this is one of those ideas that just seemed brilliant. KISS would comeback bigger than ever. They would no longer be seen as simply a hard rock, heavy metal band with makeup and costumes. They were going to do something really ambitious and who better to carry it off than Bob Ezrin, who had a legitimate claim to being one of the most successful record producers at that time. He had a great deal of success as the producer, or the co-producer, of "The Wall," which has gone on to sell who knows how many tens of millions of copies.

So everything started to fall into line and the pieces seemed to fall into place. And then as things moved forward, they developed the story, the developed the characters, they fleshed out the characters, [and] the songs and titles would reflect certain episodes or scenes of the movie and the musical script that the record would form the basis to. And one thing led to another and the group was largely isolated. They recorded some of the music at Ace Frehley's studio in Wilton, Connecticut. They used another studio, I don't really remember where that was. And Bob Ezrin kept everything under wraps and really nobody knew much except Bob Ezrin, the band and Bill Aucoin.
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