Being a Male KISS Groupie: My Life as a KISS Fanzine Publisher (CHAPTER II)

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Our final letterhead.

When I first started my fanzine, I looked forward to the fun part: Writing stories about KISS for KISS fans. I dove into it head first, not thinking about what else might be involved. The Washington State KISS Konnection was published on a quarterly basis and had paid subscribers. I didn’t make any money off the venture (an annual subscription was $10, all of which went to photocopies and postage), but I had a responsibility to make sure issues got mailed out every three months.

Cyrus.Aman.WSKK.4.KISS

Maintaining a subscriber database, writing articles, doing layout, making copies, and mailing out ‘zines were the easiest tasks to complete. Also, time to do them wasn’t an issue. Sure, I was a full-time college student and had a part time job at Wendy’s, but I was also living with my grandparents and single. The real challenge of publishing anything is content. Getting Gene Simmons to tongue-drop with me was a great memory, and a nice accoutrement to a fanzine article, but I knew I’d need more content for future issues. Hounding Brad (the coordinator of KISS Central, the band’s conduit to the ‘zines) for opportunities was how I would fill pages.

Letter.To.Brad.Cyrus.Aman.KISS

How I got results.

At the time KISS was Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer. Gene, being the KISS strategist he’s always been—and will be—saw the fanzines as free marketing. They were the only conduit to the fans post-KISS Army (KISS’ official fan club ceased operations in 1980).

Cyrus.Aman.KISS.Army

The logo for the then-defunct, but now revitalized, KISS Army.

Gene made himself, Bruce and Eric accessible to ‘zine publishers. For reasons unknown to me, Paul wasn’t. In 1993 Brad gave me the opportunity to do a phone interview with Eric Singer to support the release of ALIVE III.  Brad had informed me of the date and time that Eric Singer would call my house (well, my grandparent’s house). I set up a tape recorder and phone line cables to record the interview. I remember anxiously awaiting the call, staring at the beige plastic-desk-phone in my bedroom. The phone rang within a few minutes of the scheduled time, and I nervously answered. Being an interviewing novice (I’d only done one before, with Krist Novosellic of Nirvana), I prepared only a handful of questions for a scheduled 1 hour interview. Within 10 minutes of talking to Eric, I ran through all of them and things got awkward. I tried to come up with questions off the top of my head in uncomfortable silence, and then asked about Eric’s pay (more awkward). I was an 18 year old manic KISS fan who spent hours entombed in his room listening to their records. I was awkward incarnate.

Cyrus Aman Eric Singer Cyrus Aman Eric Singer

Somehow I powered through a nearly hour long interview. From it I transcribed 2 pages to an article (well, 2 pages if you include pictures). The written article probably only equated to a few minutes of the audio, but transcription is tedious. It can take hours to convert just minutes of dialogue. If you want to listen to the 52 minute interview it’s available on my SoundCloud page.

Later that year I had the chance to send in questionnaires to Gene and Bruce. I was limited to submitting a handful of questions on a sheet. I got them mailed back to me, with the answers filled in:

Cyrus Aman Gene Simmons Response Cyrus Aman Bruce Kulick Response

Later that year Gene sent me a letter requesting a copy of a VHS bootleg I was selling from my ‘zine. I actually had the guts to advertise VHS bootlegs of KISS shows on my fanzine, and then send copies of said ‘zine to a representative of KISS. Dumb, but Gene was nice about it:

Cyrus.Aman.Gene.Simmons.Letter

“The least you could do…”

Near the end of 1993 I was getting correspondence from Peter Criss‘ then-publicist, Laura Kaufman. Peter was preparing to release a new CD EP entitled “CRISS” (with the S’s on his name stylized like the S’s in the KISS logo). Laura sent me out a copy of the disc. It was a sad affair. The first track on the disc was called “The Cat”. It was about how Peter wasn’t finished yet, and still had a solo career. The chorus went “The Cat’s got Nine Lives, He Do.” It also had a Jack and Jill nursery rhyme reference, with Gene and Paul replacing Jack and Jill. The guy’s career was down-and-out.

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Letter from Peter Criss’ then-publicist.

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The cover of the CRISS EP.

In 1995 Peter would tour with Ace Frehley in the “Bad Boys of Rock” tour. I would’ve had access to their Seattle show, but–unfortunately–the gig was at a bar and I wasn’t of age to attend the show (I was 19 at the time). A publicity photo went out at the time, showing Peter and Ace posing together. Peter has a black eye and a bandaged-up face because he’d been car-jacked days before the photo was taken. It was almost too sad.

Peter.Criss.Ace.Frehley.Cyrus.Aman

Car-Jacked-Cat-Man and Space-Ace.

1994 would be a highlight for me and my fanzine. This was the year I would attend “Endfest“, a music festival put on by Seattle radio station 107.7 “The End”. Gene would be the emcee of the event and I would have hours to talk to him with no other KISS fans present. Coming up in Part III…

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