Nate Fitzbutler did a remix to Kanye West’s and Kendrick Lamar’s “No More Parties in LA” called “No More Parties in SD”. He said, "we made this track to try to bring some national buzz to our city that’s always been in the shadow of the LA music scene."
Niko Sitaras from the San Diego based dream rock band Paper Days says, "We just released our new EP 'Fun For Family & Friends'. Our release party is on Feb 19th being hosted at the Irenic (with The Bash Dogs & Splavender).
Panic Is Perfect is an indie-pop group from San Fran and they are touring in support of their new album, Cellspace, which drops tomorrow on Strange Loop Records. They'll be playing at The Loft @ UCSD on Feb. 12!
Side A: The Biz
By Jay Allen Sanford 02.17.07
The first song my first band ever played in public was Kiss' "Cold Gin" and I've never been embarrassed to admit that. Even during the years when I frankly wasn't listening to anything old or new by them, just catching a glimpse of the stylized Kiss logo could send my mind spinning back...sixteen years old, drunk for only the second time and peeing into a boot, hiding in my girlfriend's closet and waiting for her dad to go to fucking bed! To drown us out later, we turned up "Destroyer" loud enough so that Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter were winking accomplices in our carnal crime.
That nearly perfect rock 'n' roll high, marred only by the bummer of a ruined boot, was years behind me when I found myself working at Revolutionary on Rock 'N' Roll Comics, published by the late Todd Loren. Kiss was featured in Rock 'N' Roll #9, but the company was going through unexpected growth at the time and some pretty bad work slipped past everyone. Todd mentioned that the new freelance writer, Spike Steffenhagen, a virtual Kiss freak, hated the issue. "He has some big hairy balls. He read me the riot act about how the comic should have been done and then he begged me for his next assignment!"
In 1991, Revolutionary launched new titles like Starjam and Hard Rock Comics, which I was writing and drawing thumbnails for as well as doing the flagship book Rock 'N' Roll. I was also taking on more research and editorial work, so I let Spike, whose big hairy balls had so impressed Todd, take over Hard Rock. Shortly after that, Kiss offered Revolutionary an exclusive interview for an issue of the title. Hard Rock #5, titled "Kiss: Tales From The Tours," came out in June '92, a time when most people would have been hard pressed to name the current members of Kiss - if they even knew the band still existed. Still, the issue sold a little better than the average Hard Rock comic, proving Kiss fans were still out there. Gene Simmons seemed supportive of the book, turning up in videos, magazine photos and on the cover of "Kiss Alive III" wearing our Hard Rock Comics and Rock 'N' Roll Comics T-shirts. Shortly after the issue's release, Todd Loren was found dead in his Hillcrest condo, the victim of a still-unsolved murder.
His father Herb Shapiro hired me to replace Todd and it was a turbulent, emotionally charged time for everyone, to be sure. Focusing on the business of publishing left me little time for creative work so I reluctantly doled out assignments for projects I'd rather have done myself. I'd gotten to know Spike - turns out he grew up just six miles from my own Connecticut hometown - and one of the first things he pitched to me as his new boss was "More Kiss."
From a boss' POV, my own balls didn't feel very big and hairy. All comic publishers were experiencing a precipitous sales slump. Also, Herb and I were still in shock over Todd's death and operating on professional and personal autopilot. We weren't looking for risks and Spike was asking us to commit a lot of time, money and effort to do a lengthy series about a group at the nadir of its reputation and career.
I dug into Todd's Rolodex to find Gene Simmons' fax number and sent a couple of notes asking if the group would participate in such a project, telling Spike that, if Kiss agreed, we'd do three issues and see how they sell. Herb reluctantly went along and Spike made his own calls to the band's label. I was surprised but pleased when Gene agreed to give interview access exclusively for the comics. The sixteen year old fan inside me was pretty jazzed to pencil the project I called "Kiss Pre-History" onto the Spring '93 schedule, even as the businessman I'd become sweated the sales potential since part of my job now involved making sure everyone got paid.
We re-hired the artist from Hard Rock #5, Scott Pentzer, who was supernaturally skilled at capturing Kiss' likenesses down to the last stroke of eyeliner. As Spike and I rewrote each other's script drafts, we discovered that we both liked Kiss' obscure sword and sorcery concept album Music From The Elder, and agreed it'd make a great comic story. During one research interview with Gene, done on a speaker phone with Spike, Herb and myself on our end, Spike asked Gene how he'd feel about letting him write an Elder comic script. Gene's casual "Sure, go for it" reply didn't constitute a legal licensing agreement but he seemed to be inviting Revolutionary to at least pitch ideas and a business plan to him. A project such as this was close to my own goal for the company, to get more bands to work with us and share the marketing and profits, so I wrote a few more informal letters to Gene pitching a cooperative publishing effort.
I'd heard that Gene is a hands-on guy when it comes to Kiss business but I was startled when the secretary buzzed to say he was on the line. Herb joined in and I took notes: "You know I could sue your company over the comics but I haven't," Gene said, "they're not really authorized like a license. And I've really had to hold the lawyers back, they're sure we could own you. We're suing some other comic companies. When you drew us in makeup, we own the trademarks on the makeup." Herb pointed out that Kiss had not only approved of "Pre-History" but had participated in its creation, with the comic clearly mentioned in all the taped interviews. "That doesn't alter my point," Gene said. " However, I like you guys, I like what you do and maybe we can talk about something we can all work together on." He didn't have to open with a (highly improbable) lawsuit threat to get us interested in talking more.
What evolved over several discussions was an outline for production of an oversized hardcover book tentatively called "Kiss 20th Anniversary Book" and then simply "KISStory." Gene and Paul had already given a lot of thought to what they wanted included in such a book and Kiss lawyer Jess Hilsen firmed up the subsequent plans with reams of memos and contract drafts. What they seemed to want from us was production guidance, to help them with what technically and graphically could be achieved, and a creative team to help put it all together into a comic-heavy package. It also quickly became clear that they wanted someone to foot the bill for the elaborate production.
One of their early written offers stated "Kiss will agree to the concept of an equal division of profits, although consideration must be given to a minimum guarantee to Kiss by Revolutionary," but nothing specific was ever confirmed about what our profit share would be or where it would come from. Memos dated November 1993 from Kiss' lawyers estimate "contemplated production costs of approximately $300,000" which Revolutionary was expected to cover, though we wouldn't retain any copyrights or ownership connected to the book we'd be publishing, marketing and co-creating. Nobody at Revolutionary would get paid until - and unless - the proposed four pound, 300 page book made a profit. We were interested, yes, but mighty wary.
We scheduled a meeting with Gene and Paul, who wanted us to send details in advance of all participants including job descriptions and home phone numbers. Our list included myself, Herb, Spike and a potential investor we'll call Paulie, whose promised capital never came through and who never actually became a company partner. His soon-to-be-bankrupt company did help us produce a stunning 3-D mockup of the KISStory book, with its die-cut leather cover and raised embossed Kiss logo.
We met over breakfast in L.A. and Gene and Paul told us about then-secret plans they had, like the "Kiss My Ass" tribute CD and upcoming TV appearances. They were confident they'd be able to secure the rights to have a CD of rare songs included with the book. When we showed them art samples, Gene, a comic book scholar, compared rendering techniques to those of other creators, both famous and obscure. As we wrapped up, I gave Gene a video of rare cartoons by Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising. He recognized their names and mentioned a few of their other shorts and we stood around talking about cartoons for another ten minutes, long after Paul Stanley picked up the tab on his credit card.
They clearly wanted us to feel we were being welcomed to a team as sure to win as the Harlem Globetrotters. Gene invited several of us to his birthday party, to mingle with a-list (Roseanne and Tom) to z-list (porn star Ron Jeremy) celebs. Paul Stanley seemed to go out of his way to make us feel welcome, waving and calling us over to introduce us around while Gene prowled from photo op to photo op. We were treated like VIPs behind the velvet ropes when Kiss put their handprints in cement on the Rock Walk Of Fame. Their fans rushed the barricade when we tossed comics into the crowd and, for a moment, some of Kiss' considerable fame actually seemed to rub off on us. Which I suspect was the purpose of inviting us.
Back at the office, the KISStory book deal was in the lawyers' hands. Spike pitched a comic project to Revolutionary, Kiss: The Elder, as if he somehow owned the official license for the property. I wasn't particularly offended by this, even though Kiss had called Revolutionary, not Spike, and he'd only been afforded the opportunity to ask Gene about an Elder comic while on paid assignment for Revolutionary. I told Spike to write a preliminary draft which I then rewrote, and we gave the finished script and art designs (again by Scott Pentzer) to Gene while Kiss was in San Diego to sign at Tower Records near SDSU. He called the office about a week later to say "Everything looks great but let's just sit on this because there are big things happening," hinting none too subtly about the impending reunion of the original four Kiss members.
One afternoon, Herb came into my office to tell me "Gene called and said Goldmine magazine is doing an all-Kiss issue. He said the ad deadline is in two days and we'll be missing the boat if we don't get something in there to create a buzz about the KISStory book." Paulie offered to rush out a full page ad, which promoted our Pre-History comics and included a small drawing of the KISStory cover and a blurb saying the book was "coming soon" and would include a CD of rare songs, with our 800 phone number in the ad as well. The day the issue came out, Gene called my direct line. "What the Hell is this, I can't believe you put this out without showing us! We own that 800 number as of now, everybody who calls it, your mailing list, it's ours now, those are our customers!"
He accused me of covering for Herb and Paulie when I honestly said neither were in the office and seemed enraged that I had no answer to his frequent shouts of "How did this happen?" I got Paulie on another line for a phone conference, with both Gene and Paul Stanley on their end accusing us of taking their 20 years' hard labor and ripping them off by prematurely announcing the book. Gene insisted that Herb had misinterpreted what he'd said about the Goldmine special (obviously) and that somebody in our "amateur hour organization" should have thought to run the ad by them (not so obvious with the tight deadline and Herb's assumption that Gene's instruction and consent is always the final word from Kiss).
That ended Revolutionary's involvement in publishing KISStory, though Kiss hired the Pre-History creative team to do a comic section for the book which finally came out two years later. Gene and I occasionally talked and bumped into each other (at comic conventions, parties, backstage, clubs, etc.) and he mentioned that he could get me a job working directly for Kiss. The casual carrot-on-a-stick "offer" was preceded by a "friendly warning - if you ever reprint your Kiss comics, we'll sue you for everything you own down to your underpants." I said I was doing fine with the publishing company I'd come to own, Re-Visionary Press. Herb retired in 1994, selling all the Kiss artwork and reprint rights to Gene (the purchase seemed to belie Gene's original claim that Kiss automatically owned our comics by virtue of their trademarks on the makeup).
In late 1999, I was working on a lengthy book called "Rock 'N' Roll: A Cartoon History - The 70s." I faxed Gene a note asking for permission to show Kiss, in makeup, in a section about theatrical rock. Only a couple of hours passed before my answer machine picked up and Gene's voice was saying "Jay, we have a problem here, I don't think this is something you want to do and I'll tell you why." I still marvel that Gene Simmons had nothing better to do in the middle of the Second Coming Of Kiss than to call me at home to say "I can't tell you what to do but Todd [McFarlane, "Psycho Circus" publisher] will probably sue the pants off you if you show Kiss in your book." I was relieved to hear that at least this potential lawsuit would leave me with my underpants.
"Do what you want though and good luck," he finished, and Kiss ended up not being mentioned or shown. In a book about 70s rock. When I think about Kiss now, my old pee-stained boot isn't the only bummer that comes to mind.
Side B: The Buzz
By Spike Steffenhagen 02.17.07
I became a Kiss fan in 1976 when I saw them on The Paul Lynde Halloween special. They lip-synched "King Of The Night Time World" and "Beth." I watched because Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch from "The Wizard Of Oz") was on the show, but when Kiss came on my stepfather called them fags, making them seem even cooler to me. Kiss became an obsession for me, the reference point to everything in my life from my sexual awakening (when the lyrics to "Take Me" made sense, I knew I'd hit puberty), through high school, my marriage, etc. Kiss was the one thing that could be counted on - that, and getting shit for being a Kiss fan. I didn't see them in concert until 1983, their last tour with make-up before the reunion. They weren't allowed to use fire, but they were still the greatest band in the world.
When I started writing about bands for Revolutionary Comics, working with publisher Todd Loren was an adversarial existence. He would match me up against the company's main writer, Jay Allen Sanford, playing us against each other. He gave me a series on Pink Floyd, which Jay had wanted, and he gave Jay the Black Sabbath project that I'd been begging for. He would call and tell me that I sucked and Jay was great. I told him to have Jay write the fucking books then and hung up on him. He called back and apologized and I got a raise. Todd offered Jay the Hard Rock Comics series even though I was more of a metal fan but Jay turned it down. My agreement to do it hinged on doing a Kiss book. Todd said yes and while I was doing the research, Kiss' manager called Todd to invite both of us to the recording studio for a one-on-one with Gene and Paul.
Todd held the Kiss meeting over my head until I told him to go fuck himself again. When we got to the studio he told me that he may not even be able to go in. Apparently they only wanted to talk to the comic's writer. We both ended up going in to meet with Gene and Paul. When I gave Gene the Alice Cooper comic I'd done, I was floored when he told me that he already had a copy! They'd read a lot of Revolutionary's stuff. They were legends and they knew it so they didn't have to act like dicks to prove it. The interview went great and, on the way back to San Diego , we stopped at a comic book shop and told the owner who we were and that we'd just met with Kiss. He didn't care. We also went to a Dennys where we told a waitress the same thing and she was much more impressed. Shortly after that everything hit the fan when Todd was murdered. I still miss him as a friend, and as the guy who gave me my first professional break.
When Jay took over Todd's job, I was going to quit. Todd had always pitted Jay and I against each other and now my rival was my boss. It turned out that everything Todd had said to me, he'd said to Jay using me against him! Jay told me that he wanted me to keep writing Hard Rock Comics and we discussed what bands we could cover. I suggested Pantera, because they were ready to break and had a loyal following, and to my amazement he agreed! When he greenlighted an issue about the birth of punk rock that named the Ramones, MC5 and Iggy Pop as forefathers, I knew it was going to be different from working with Todd, who'd watched the charts to decide which bands to cover. I suggested a 6 issue series detailing Kiss' career which Todd's father Herb Shapiro (then the publisher) nixed, saying they were has-beens and not worth the paper. Jay intervened and I got a contract to write a 3 issue series which would cover about half of their career.
The comic's artist Scott Pentzer and I approached the project like a holy war. We wanted to create the comic book we'd always wanted to see, acknowledging Kiss as the greatest band while giving the finger to the critics who hated them, splicing together the legend with the reality without compromising either. I did lengthy interviews with people like Kenny Kerner, who produced the first Kiss album, went through hundreds of published interviews and I got a hold of a ton of bootleg CDs, tapes and videos. A lot of the work was done before I even talked to Gene because I knew he was busy and that my access to him would be limited. During one of these interviews I asked him for permission to adapt Kiss' album The Elder into a comic script. Gene said "Go for it," and that was that. Or so I thought. Herb had decided that, even though I had negotiated quite a bit, even though I was the main contact with the band, I might fuck it up. This guy who constantly bagged on Kiss was suddenly concerned that I might ruin his golden opportunity.
When the Pre-History comics came out, Revolutionary was entering its schizo period. Jay confided to me that someone named Paulie wanted to invest in the company, but that he didn't trust the guy. At the time, Kiss were really plugging our comics, and this is part of what attracted Paulie's interest. All through the new Kiss tour, Gene wore the Hard Rock Comics T-shirt I'd given him. The first time I saw him with it was when I caught a new Kiss video at 2 AM. I ran through the house screaming "My shirt! He's wearing my fucking shirt!", waking my soon-to-be wife and roommates, none of whom cared enough to get up and watch the video with me.
Jay told me one day that Kiss was interested in working with us on something. It was a warning as much as an invitation. Herb and Paulie didn't seem to understand that the comics Pentzer and I had done were what got us noticed by Kiss to begin with. Jay explained this to them at least twice in front of me, and who knows how many times behind closed doors. I was less than impressed by Paulie and my mood was not improved when Herb told me to stay out of the situation I'd had a big part in creating. I told Jay that I could take The Elder project elsewhere as well and we had a rare heated discussion.
For our meeting with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, Paulie helped put together a mock-up based on my suggestions about what a KISS book should look like. Big, intimidating, leather and steel. When we got there, I introduced myself to Paul Stanley and he told me to stop that, he knew who I was, and bought me a cappuccino. He wasn't being rude, it was funny actually. Gene threw my cigarettes on the ground - he hates smoking. Paul opened a package from the Australian Kiss fan club and there was a Pre-History comic inside with an autograph request. This was right after Herb had just been saying that we didn't sell as many comic books as Kiss had assumed. Fucking priceless. Paulie and Herb acted as if they were the masterminds behind Pre-History. Paulie was coming off like the big money man, Herb was practically pleading poverty, Jay was holding things together and I was wishing someone would sign something so I could get to work. I never liked business meetings.
No one at Revolutionary asked me what I needed to start the book, which ended up being called KISStory. I thought this was odd since I was told that I'd be the main writer. Jay assured me that, once contracts were done, I would get whatever I needed for the project, not to stress, so I thought things were fine. Then Herb told me one day that the writer didn't matter, saying "I could write this thing myself. You should be paying us for the privilege of having your name attached!" I was fucking furious! I told Pentzer about this and he told me there was no way he'd work on anything Kiss-related without me. Jay told me again not to worry, that if there was a book to be written, I would be the writer. I was tempted to call the band to tell them that Herb and Paulie were both dickheads, but I didn't. I was prepared to do this if I thought Kiss might get screwed, though.
Jay called to say we were invited to a party Gene was throwing and, when I checked the date, I almost shit. It was his birthday party! We went up to a bowling alley in Topanga Canyon and gave our names to the security guy, who let us in with a smile even! I told Gene "happy birthday", talked to him a bit and hung out. I remember Jay asking what I thought and I said "This is fucking cool!" There were all kinds of journalists I'd grown up reading, guys whose work I'd admired in magazines like Kerrang and Rip, and this was a major rush for me too.
The hard reality of what was happening behind the scenes hit me for the first time at the San Diego Comic Convention in 1993. Paulie was still in the picture and he told Pentzer that he should be kissing ass if he wanted to be on the Kiss project. Herb had been doing the same thing with me. Jay told Paulie never to even talk to any of his artists again and it was a mess. We finally did an autograph signing and people were spilling out into the aisles, all telling us what a great job we'd done and wanting their comics signed. It was the best signing we ever did, the strongest response we ever had, even as everything else was turning to shit.
Around the same time, I was figuring out what to do with The Elder comic when Jay and I got into it again. He felt that, if it was approved by Kiss, it was a Revolutionary property because I'd gotten permission during a Revolutionary interview. I wanted to be able to work without Herb constantly threatening to take it away from me. We agreed that Herb would stay out of it and that Jay and I would work on it together.
I did an outline for The Elder which Jay kicked back with his notes, and we invited ideas from other contributors like writer Cherie Bucheim - all of which were out of whack with what I wanted. I wanted the script to embody what Kiss meant to me. Belief in self, reaching for the stars, all that. Jay wanted a Princess Bride-type spoof. Cherie wanted something else altogether. The Elder got as far as a second draft when we found out the KISStory book was off. I didn't know who to blame, but I called Herb and Paulie a couple of dicks anyway.
I wish Revolutionary would have gone out with some grace. Our last issues were shitty reprints. Jay was paying the creators out of his own pocket while Herb was going to Florida once a month and claiming poverty. After Herb closed down Revolutionary, Pentzer and I were contracted to do a thirty page comic for the KISStory book. The Elder, in a different form than the project begun at Revolutionary, saw publication a few years later in a Kiss tour magazine. My mom bought hers in a grocery store in Maryland , so I thought that was pretty awesome! I've seen Kiss four times since they reunited and I plan to see them at least once more. They deliver the goods like no other band.
I've never asked for anything from Kiss except the pay we agreed on. No free tix, no CDs. They never asked me to write for free, so why should I ask them to do their job for free? I paid 90 something clams to see Kiss when they played San Diego in March and it was worth it. I'm grateful for the opportunity Kiss gave me, but I never wanted to ride their coattails. I have my own career and if it intertwines with theirs again, great! Till then, I still wake up at night, heart pounding a mile a minute, and I look at my Kiss posters and think "Damn! I worked with those guys!"