KISS Fires Up Marketing Guns For New Album, Tour

By Dean Goodman

HOLLYWOOD (Reuters) - Vowing to "challenge every band that's been coasting for years and years," Kiss unveiled its new album, 3-D music video and world tour before hundreds of excited fans Monday night. Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley turned up at historic Mann's Chinese Theatre in full stage regalia to pose for photos and take questions from the press and fans. They were accompanied by the "Kissettes," four bikini-clad women in Kiss makeup.

The event took place the day before the release of "Psycho Circus" (Mercury), the first new studio album by the group's four original members in nearly 20 years. Drummer Criss, who left the group in 1980, and guitarist Frehley, who departed in 1982, rejoined the band for its 1996-97 reunion tour as employees.

The new 10-month world tour kicks off Oct. 31 with a special Halloween show at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Fox will broadcast the performance for 30 minutes at midnight (ET/PT), live for East Coast viewers.

Immediately beforehand, Kiss also will guest star on Fox's ''Mad TV" sketch comedy series. The Smashing Pumpkins will be the opening act for this first concert. "The most important thing that we're doing right here, right now is we're throwing down the gauntlet,'' Simmons said, in between checking his makeup in a vanity mirror. "We're issuing a challenge to every band that's been coasting for years and years. "We wanna raise the stakes yet again, we wanna give you what you deserve, which is no more bands whining about how miserable their lives are. We're gonna bring fun back to rock 'n' roll! You deserve it!"

No Kiss event would be complete without a merchandising windfall. Kiss has launched a 1-900 number ($1.99 per call) where fans can register to win a custom $75,000 car, which will be given away on New Year's Eve during the band's Detroit concert. In addition to the usual tour souvenirs, fans can fork out for new Kiss action figures, comics, magazine and credit card. The foursome also is starring in a New Line Cinema feature called "Detroit Rock City," which revolves around fans' attempts to meet the band.

Another constant is Simmons' thinly veiled animosity towards journalists, and his knack for populist statements. Since bassist Simmons and vocalist Stanley founded the band in 1973 and went on to become fabulously rich as Kiss sold 80 million records, the band has drawn critical scorn for its over-the-top stage antics and limited musical acumen. "We started this with you, we started this with the fans,'' Simmons said to loud cheers. "If we have anything to say, it's to you -- of the people, for the people, by the people. All the rest of the people are welcome for the ride, but our communication is with you.'' Frehley added, "Gene will be running for office after the tour.''

In response to one fan's question, Stanley doused any hopes of a Kiss boxed set being released in the near future, even though the band has a lot of unreleased demos and outtakes in the vaults. "A lot of bands do that when it's over or when they're feeling like they're on their last legs. There was a time, to be honest, where we thought about putting out the boxed set, but this point is a long way off."