Kiss, the band, garners fanatical, obsessive devotion more than almost any other musical act, maybe ever. Despite countless attempts to ruin the fun with bad glam albums, dramatic reality television, and the replacement of two original members with impostors wearing the same makeup, Kiss manages to maintain a fan base large enough to be called an army without even a hint of irony.
To better understand the Kult of Kiss, we asked bona fide Kiss superfan, Miami ex-pat and former Torche and current MonstrO guitarist Juan Montoya to describe his fixation. A high-ranking member of the Kiss Army, Montoya offers us his Kisstory.
New Times: How did you get into Kiss initially?
Juan Montoya: I actually saw a poster of them when I was living in Venezuela. We were in the downtown area shopping, and I walked by a store, and they had a giant Kiss poster, and it's funny because I remember the image vividly. I usually don't remember, like, two days back in my adult life, and I don't even remember most of the '90s, but I do remember this actual picture from when I was a kid!
So, I saw Kiss back then, but I didn't hear them until I got back up to the United States. My mom had a friend with a 16-year-old son, and I was 7 years old. And I went through his record collection. Of course, the minute I saw a Kiss record, I was like, "Holy shit! Those are the people that I saw in that picture! Those are the freaks that I saw in that picture!"
So he played the Kiss for me, and I fell in love. I thought it was the fucking coolest shit, especially to a 7-year-old. And you know, some people dog on Kiss because their sound is very primitive and all that, but when you're 7 years old and you hear guitars blazing like that... Well, he saw how much I enjoyed the records that he actually gave me two of my first Kiss records, which were Dressed to Kill and Love Gun.
I took those records home, and I listened to those albums all day long, and I kept flipping them over and over, like flapjacks. I was hypnotized, you know?
When you die, will you be buried in a Kiss Koffin?
I'll be cremated, and my ashes would be in the Kiss lunch box — the original one from '77. Either the lunch box or the thermos. Like The Big Lebowski. You could spread my ashes over Miami Beach. Luckily, I have a good collection.
An ex-girlfriend of mine had friends that would clean up abandoned houses, and they found a large Kiss collection with a ton of original '70s stuff, and I've traded for years.
If your house was on fire, which piece would you rescue?
My 1976 Kiss tour book. It's the one that has the logo and the whole stage covered in smoke. It still has the original iron-on inside, and it's signed by Gene Simmons on the front. I'm going to try and get it signed by Ace because a friend of mine just started working for him.
How many times have you seen Kiss play?
Countless! First time was when they came to the Hollywood, to the Sportatorium, also known as the Snortatorium, on the "Lick It Up Tour," the first tour they did without their makeup. It was cool, but I always wanted to see the original Kiss. I was 12 at that time. My mom actually took me to the concert. We had like 23rd-row seats, but my mom was so excited for me that she grabbed me and we jumped every single row until we made it to the front row. I actually caught a Gene Simmons guitar pick!
When did you get to see Kiss with makeup?
I finally got to see them with the makeup and the original lineup in '96/'97. Me and my two friends from junior high, we always talked about seeing Kiss together, and we finally did it.
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I had seen Nirvana and Melvins, Sonic Youth... I had seen shows that most people would die to see at that point. So I went to the Kiss concert, and I was all too cool for school, but the minute the curtains came down and the fuckin' smoke came out, I was transformed into that little kid again. I'm getting chills just talking about it right now. Nothing can touch that feeling of euphoria going through you. It was great, and I wasn't even on drugs or anything like that; it was just an amazing, natural thing.
There's been times when Kiss has gone bad. They had their shitty period in the '80s, and they lost their focus and tried to follow the trends, but even during that period, I stuck with Kiss. I even got in a fight in sixth grade when my friend Francisco — he loved Iron Maiden, and I loved Kiss, and this was '83, and Kiss had already started taking their downfall — but I still argued that Kiss was the best band. And we got in a fight over this, and he broke my nose. His parents paid for karate lessons, and I got my nose broken for Kiss.
Would you rather see mini-Kiss featuring full-sized Ace on guitar or the current Kiss incarnation?
Ahhh, that's a trap! I'd rather see the hologram version of Kiss from the '70s!