In Might, I wrote a story concerning the crooked traces in arguably probably the most recognizable brand in music: the all-caps “KISS.”
The story targeted on a typographical mistake ― Paul Stanley, aka Starchild, advised me the 2 S’s within the brand weren’t completely parallel as a result of he drew them by eye. What the piece didn’t point out, nevertheless, was a long-held principle that the 2 S’s in what’s arguably the preferred band brand in historical past are an homage to the World Struggle II Nazi troop Schutzstaffel, or “The SS.”
Inarguably, the repeating S’s within the The SS brand resemble these in KISS’s, as they look like two lightning bolts aspect by aspect. Between 1979 and 1980, the similarities grew to become an excessive amount of for the German authorities, which started confiscating albums and banned the KISS brand totally. (The band ultimately needed to create a separate Germany-specific brand that options two backward Z’s.)
Much less consideration has been paid to the logos’ likenesses in america. A cursory Google search surfaces little further info on the subject. When famed music journalist Chuck Klosterman wrote a 10,000-plus-word characteristic for ESPN’s Grantland concerning the band, titled “The Definitive, One-Measurement-Matches-All, Settle for-No Substitutes, Massively Complete Information To The Life And Instances Of Kiss,” he didn’t use the phrase “Nazi” as soon as.
The resemblances could be simpler to brush apart as mere coincidence, if not for the band’s seemingly difficult relationship with Nazism. Stanley and lead vocalist Gene Simmons are each Jewish, and Simmons’ mom is a Holocaust survivor. However Stanley has mentioned outright that the band’s different two unique members, guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss ― who’ve beforehand been fired from the band ― displayed anti-Semitic tendencies in the course of the group’s earlier days.
Frehley, particularly, has had a questionable reported relationship with Nazism up to now. Stanley and Simmons have each mentioned Frehley not solely owned Nazi memorabilia throughout that early time, however used it to play merciless jokes.
“Ace had a fascination with Nazi memorabilia, and in his drunken stupors he and his finest buddy would make videotapes of themselves dressed up as Nazis,” Simmons wrote in his 2002 autobiography, Kiss and Make-up.
Within the autobiography, Simmons went on to element a very darkish prank Frehley pulled the place he burst into his resort room in a Nazi uniform, saluted Simmons and yelled “Heil Hitler!” into his face. Frehley has claimed that each Criss and Stanley wore Nazi uniforms with him and joined in on this prank. Unconfirmed photographic evidence appears to help the declare. (The Huffington Submit has reached out to Gene Simmons for a remark.)
Frehley’s obvious previous curiosity in Nazism, per his bandmates’ accounts, is related for one purpose: He was the one who created the unique thought for the KISS brand. “I designed the emblem,” Frehley advised Guitar World in 2014, when he expressed frustration that Stanley was making an attempt to take credit score for it. “All [Stanley] did was draw straighter traces,” Frehley added.
In my dialog with Stanley earlier this yr, he confirmed this account, saying, “The preliminary idea of the emblem was Ace’s.”
Frehley has mentioned little concerning the potential Nazi connection through the years, however in 2011, Eric Spitznagel of MTV managed to ask about it. Frehley claimed then that the connection was “completely false.”
“I’ll go on document saying it wasn’t modeled after Hitler or Nazis,” Frehley mentioned of the emblem, including, “I need to go on document saying I don’t consider in Hitler or his ideology or something he stood for.”
Later within the interview, although, Frehley mentioned, “No matter whether or not or not you agree with Hitler’s ideology, there was nonetheless one thing fascinating about his costumes. I at all times thought they’d the best costumes. It was very modern.”
The interview acquired little consideration on the time. So once I received the chance to interview Frehley myself, I requested for clarification about his inspiration for the emblem, and whether or not it was a refined reference to the Schutzstaffel.
Like he did with Spitznagel, Frehley insisted to me the emblem is meant to be lightning bolts as a result of he preferred lightning bolts, nothing extra.
“Properly, you understand, for those who have a look at my early costume, every little thing was lightning bolts and [the S’s are] two lightning bolts,” Frehley mentioned. “It’s simply coincidental that The SS has lightning bolts, too. My complete profession and my complete costume has had lightning bolts on it. From day one.”
Concerning the ban in Germany, Frehley defined, “It’s the legislation, what’re you going to do?”
“They took it very critically, however I feel within the U.S. all people realized it was simply an aesthetic design.”
So, right here’s what we all know: The S’s within the KISS and The SS logos are so close to equivalent that Germany pressured the band to make a change; nearly all of the founding members of the band probably donned Nazi insignia at the least as soon as; the creator of the emblem, Frehley, had a go-to Nazi impersonation; and he additionally deeply admired Nazi trend.
And right here’s what we don’t know: What Frehley was pondering when he drew these S’s.
As an entry level into the dialog with Frehley, I introduced up the chat I had earlier this yr with Stanley concerning the origin of the emblem. Stanley and Frehley had fought within the yr because the KISS farewell tour in 2011. They have been have been solely a pair years faraway from Stanley calling him an anti-Semite in 2014. However simply earlier this yr, the 2 collaborated on Frehley’s new album “Origins Vol. 1” and appeared to be getting alongside once more.
“I did the emblem with a felt tip pen for a few KISS adverts,” Frehley advised me. “After which when it got here time to do our document, since Paul is artistically educated, he took my design and simply cleaned it up with a rapidograph pen.”
The musician paused for second, then added with fun, “Why? What did he say?”
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