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Gene Simmons, Former Casablanca Exec Disagree on Kiss’ Early Years

Casablanca Records' Larry HarrisIn the last two decades or so, the Kiss co-founder has been heavily promoting the band’s name and image through a series of off-the-wall products. Did anyone in the Noisecreep Nation purchase a Kiss Kasket? So saying that the band has put a huge importance on the marketing of their brand would be a gross understatement.

When it comes to Kiss’ early days, Larry Harris, a former Casablanca Records executive, doesn’t seem to agree with Gene Simmons’s sense of history. In his brand new book, ‘And Party Every Day: The Inside Story of Casablanca Records,’ the old-school record promotion man talks about his and the label’s role in the creation of Kiss’ imagery and stage show.

If you’ve seen Simmons in interviews in the last few years, you are already familiar with his stadium-sized ego. In this Noisecreep exclusive, Harris talks to us about Kiss’ early days and how their infamous stage shows were originally formulated.

In the book you talk about going to a magic shop with Neil (Bogart, head of Casablanca Records) to try and find some stuff for Kiss’ stage show. Reading interviews with Gene Simmons through the years, one would think that he and the band came up with all of the imagery.

That would be complete bulls—! Their image and stage show was a collaborative effort. There were things that I certainly came up with alone. For one, I was the one that suggested they put their logo on the bass drum. I’ve always been a big believer of having that to help push the marketing of a group’s name. I also went to Gibson Guitars and made a deal with them to get Kiss guitars. All they had to do was throw the company’s name on the album’s liner notes. After we got those guitars, the guys could smash them on stage and add to their stage show. But yeah, Gene talks a lot, but we all pitched in ideas for the band back then.

Didn’t Sean Delaney (former Kiss co-writer and solo musician) also help shape their stage show and moves?

He totally did. Sean came up with a lot of the stage moves and antics people associate with the band. He doesn’t get enough credit for that stuff. He passed away a few years ago.

In 1978, Casablanca Records released a solo album for each member of the band. The sales weren’t great, and the label lost a lot of money on the promotional costs. Looking back, do you think if one of the solo albums would have been a runaway smash, the band would have splintered off?

You know, I have always thought that if Ace Frehley’s would have sold millions, he would have left the band for a solo career much earlier. As I explain in the book, everyone expected Paul Stanley or Gene Simmons’s solo records to sell the best out of the four guys, but Ace won that one. He had a huge single with ‘New York Groove’ and that helped him sell more copies. I also think if Peter Criss’s sold more, he would have left too. Both of those guys had been discouraged from contributing to the songwriting and singing at that point so they were frustrated.

When you go back and listen to the Kiss albums you were part of, which one is your favorite?

I think I will say the self-titled debut album. It was the first album we released as Casablanca Records, and we were all so young and optimistic about the future. The band put together a great record and everyone at the label was excited to be working it.

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