Alternative Press interview with Weezer - January 1997
|Print interview with Weezer|
|Publication||Alternative Press (Link)|
|Title||Happy [cancelled] Days|
|External link|||
|Associated concert||Weezer concert: 10/11/1996
Weezer concert: 10/12/1996
|References||See where this interview is referenced on Weezerpedia|
Happy [cancelled] Days
Rivers Cuomo should be happy. He’s wanted to be a rock star ever since he was a kid. Then Weezer’s debut sprinted to the top of the pops, going double platinum, spawning three huge singles—"Undone (The Sweater Song)," "Buddy Holly" and "Say It Ain’t So"—and garnering MTV’s best video award for the Happy Days parody in the "Buddy Holly" clip.
This afternoon, more than 300 people, mostly teenagers too young to get into the band’s two sold-out Sydney shows, have crammed themselves into Red Eye, a small record shop below street level, on one of the first sunny days of spring in Australia. Weezer’s acoustic set for the in-store contains only five songs and lasts just 20 minutes[Note 1]. But the band—Cuomo, guitarist Brian Bell, bassist Matt Sharp and drummer Pat Wilson—spend the next 90 minutes signing autographs for a long stream of polite, clean-cut and well-behaved Sydney teens.
The line winds around the store, up and down the aisles and out the door. The kids own both Weezer albums, of course, but they also have Weezer t-shirts and every one of the band’s CD singles. Those that left their albums at home have the band sign sneakers, jeans, hats, water bottles, a plastic dinosaur and even a Rage Against the Machine CD, which elicits a few guffaws. Fans slip the band elaborately decorated and folded notes, one tied together with a string.
So Rivers Cuomo is a rock star. But he’s still far from happy. On Weezer’s new album, Pinkerton, Cuomo’s emotions run from confusion to self-loathing. In the first song, he proclaims he’s tired of meaningless sex. He yearns for commitment but desperately fears it. He seems ready to settle down in "El Scorcho" and "Falling For You," eager to stop being "bitter and alone" in "The Good Life." But "Getchoo" and "Why Bother?" find him closed off again, his fear of being hurt exceeding his fear of loneliness. In "Pink Triangle," the woman of his dreams turns out to be a lesbian.
Cuomo’s dreams have come true, but he’s still deeply disillusioned. Kids flock to his in-stores and try to talk to him after shows, but he has few friends. He has wealth and fame, as well as the same problems with girls he had when he was in high school. Indeed, after Cuomo finished touring in support of Weezer’s first record, he was back in school completing his undergraduate degree at Harvard, but he knew no one in Boston. But the ache in his heart was nothing compared to the pain in his leg. One leg had always been two inches longer than the other, so Cuomo underwent surgery to stretch the bone of the other leg until both were the same size.
"I had rock-star dreams from 8 or 9 almost nonstop. I thought it was going to be like being a god on earth: having as many women as you want whenever you want them, having super powers, being incredibly wealthy, never doing laundry. Instead I found myself in the dead of winter in Boston with a long beard, no friends and a bum leg. It was pretty disillusioning," says Cuomo, over a pasta dinner later that night on Sydney’s Coojey Beach.
Indeed, it’s been a year of considerable frustration and some turmoil inside the band, as well. Cuomo struggled with intense writer’s block before he penned Pinkerton. His bandmates wondered whether a second album would be recorded. Meanwhile, Cuomo watched as his three bandmates embarked on side projects, including Sharp’s high-profile Moog-flavored music with The Rentals. He also dealt with the confusion of whether his songs became popular because of Spike Jonze’s brilliant video for "Buddy Holly" which spliced the band into the ‘70s sitcom Happy Days. Cuomo responded by making the band less of a partnership and more of a "selective democracy," in the words of the somewhat annoyed Sharp and Wilson. His bandmates responded by making this their only interview to publicize Pinkerton.
"I’m a sick bastard," says Cuomo. "If I have no self-confidence by now, I can’t ever imagine having any. I’m sitting there in class, I’ve sold two million records, I’ve toured around the world singing in front of thousands of people. And there’s a girl sitting across the table from me in English 101, and I just kind of look up at her every once in a while and put my head back down. I’m still a pathetic fool. It’s amazing. No matter how many records I sell, I’m never going to be in Kiss."
The Rivers Cuomo story begins with Kiss. An outsider and a loner, Cuomo joined the Kiss Army early, and the band fueled his first suburban rock star dreams. After he learned to play the drums (age 11) and the guitar (age 13), Cuomo started a metal band of his own called Fury. They debuted as a Kiss cover band. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss would later make a cameo in the Weezer song "In the Garage." Earlier this year, Weezer turned down an opportunity to open for Kiss when the aging rockers reunited and donned make-up yet again. "Some dreams just shouldn’t come true," Cuomo says.
Metal’s primal scream helped ease the pain of a difficult adolescence. Cuomo’s family moved nearly every year while he grew up, bouncing from one pastoral Connecticut town to another. That meant Rivers never kept friends very long.
"I know I was a very somber child," remembers Cuomo. "I would never smile. In the second grade my teacher asked my mother what was wrong with me because I never looked happy. So my mother advised her to say, ‘Let me see the smile,’ and then I would smile." Almost 20 years later, his voice still shakes at the memory. "So she did that – in front of the whole class. She got the whole class to turn around, look at me and say, ‘Let me see the smile.’"
Cuomo still doesn’t smile much. Fans approach him after Weezer shows and ask whether he enjoys performing because he seems so solemn onstage. But in-between bites of dinner, Cuomo grins and glows talking about his early metal bands. Fury played just three songs at their debut, he recalls, all straight from Kiss Alive: "Cold Gin," "Rock and Roll All Night" and "Strutter."
"Those were the three songs we learned in the months we had our guitars," he says. "We were 14, we had black streaks under our eyes and probably parachute pants or something. My hair was just starting to grow out. It was great."
"Looking back now it all sounds so weak. But at the time it sounded so heavy and powerful and wild. I suppose somebody should have turned me on to punk or music that actually has some of those qualities. But at the time—eighth grade in Storrs [Connecticut]—metal served that purpose perfectly well for me."
Another metal band, called Avant Garde, followed. ("It was anything but," quips Rivers.) Kenneth Holton, who taught Cuomo’s music classes at E.O. Smith High School in Mansfield, Connecticut, and led him in the chorus and 16th-century Madrigal singing groups, remembers Cuomo as one of his favorite students.
"He was fascinated by heavy metal, but that didn’t seem to affect him when it came to my groups," says Holton. "He didn’t blow me off because I was a classical theorist. He had very teased long hair all around his head. He was a very noticeable kid because of his appearance. I guess he thought he was playing the part of a rock star. My chorus got a reputation for having the kid with the long hair."
When Cuomo gave him a copy of Weezer’s first record, Holton says he was surprised that his former student had blossomed into such a clever wordsmith—and that it didn’t sound like Kiss.
"It’s been really interesting for me," says Holton. "I hear a lot of harmonies and the chord changes of pop tunes. I was really surprised to hear that coming through. He rejected all that entirely in high school."
"We just kind of sucked," admits Avant Garde guitarist Kevin Ridel. "We were trying to be the kings of our instruments and just disregarded the idea of writing good songs. We were striving for technical prowess, but we still couldn’t really play."
In 1988, Cuomo and Ridel brought Avant Garde to Los Angeles, where Cuomo moved after he graduated from high school, after his parents divorced, and after his girlfriend dumped him. But LA was changing, and so was Rivers. Jane’s Addiction and Rage Against the Machine were the city’s new standard-bearers, replacing Guns N’ Roses. And after Cuomo got hired at Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard, co-workers introduced him to the Velvet Underground and the Beatles. That was it for Avant Garde. Even Ridel discovered Tom Waits and formed a pop band of his own, Ridel High.
"I just realized that metal wasn’t going to be a sufficient form of expression for me," says Cuomo. "When I wrote songs, it didn’t sound like Judas Priest. It sounded like Weezer. But I think you can kind of hear some of the metal in Weezer. I think of myself as far too wimpy to ever pull of any real metal, and Weezer is kind of like a failed attempt at being super-rock."
Weezer’s first guitarist, Jason Cropper, remembers Cuomo as a big heavy metal fan who somehow knew that alternative music was about to explode. He remembers working with Cuomo at an Italian restaurant in LA (Rivers washed dishes) and hearing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on the radio for the first time. They both stood there in amazement, before Rivers got angry that he hadn’t written that riff—so catchy, so perfect, so simple.
"He was in a kind of transition, from Kiss and Judas Priest to the Velvets, the Beach Boys and the Beatles," says Cropper of Cuomo. "Our demos then would make the best lo-fi record you’ve ever heard. It’s as good as anything Guided By Voices have done."
Brian Bell, who would replace Cropper just as Weezer started recording their first album, remembers growing up in Tennessee and liking both Iron Maiden and the Circle Jerks. He didn’t know whether to grow his hair long or to shave his head. Cropper had a Kiss phase of his own before he discovered the Velvets.
"[That shared background] made us feel we could get out there and make this band successful, whereas at that time a lot of alternative bands just wanted to have fun," says Bell. "Coming from liking Kiss, half the fun was being successful."
If Kiss made success cool for Weezer, then Spike Jonze’s video for "Buddy Holly" made it possible. Not since Bruce Springsteen plucked Courtney Cox from the crowd to dance with him in "Dancing in the Dark" has a video done more to launch a career.
But it almost didn’t happen. The Happy Days concept—with the band performing at Al’s Diner with footage from the show spliced in to portray the band playing for Richie Cunningham and Fonzie—was one of three concepts presented by Jonze.
"When I walked onto the set that day, I knew it was going to be a smash," says Bell. "I literally almost fell over when I saw the set. All the extras were already there in costume. Al Molinaro [the original Al] was there. The whole day was really one of the most surreal days ever."
The "Buddy Holly" video still splits the members of Weezer. The debate over the video and what future clips should look like is a fierce divide that highlights how different Cuomo’s vision is from Sharp and Wilson’s.
Just as Cuomo is writing serious, irony-free songs now, he wants the videos to be serious and free from gimmicks. He also wants to be the focus of attention and told his bandmates that videos should be a 70-30 split between shots of him and shots of the band.
But Sharp, Wilson and Bell believe that the "Buddy Holly" video is largely responsible for the band’s popularity. They think videos should be fun, not somber, and that entertaining videos have better chance of getting played on MTV –and therefore selling more records.
"At once I didn’t like it, and at the same time I knew it was an amazing idea and it had to be done," says Cuomo. "It’s strange that me and my music got caught up in this. But our music got to a lot of people as a result of that video. It’s my least favorite of all the videos we’ve done. I think I’d like it more if it weren’t me and it weren’t my song. I think it’s truly amazing. I’m extremely grateful to it. But it has nothing to do with me."
Sharp and Wilson understand Cuomo’s point of view, but disagree with him completely.
"I don’t think we can have the success we did in the past because we can’t make another video like ‘Buddy Holly,’ even though I want to dearly," says Wilson. "I think it’s the best thing Weezer’s ever done. And it wasn’t even us, it was Spike Jonze."
"I know [Cuomo] has a little bit of a complex about that," adds Sharp. "Did we sell two million records because of that video? Are we a flash in the pan? If I were him, I would probably have a complex about that too. I just think we were lucky we made this video and people got to hear all the other songs. Maybe he thinks of that as trickery, but if we made a good record, and we’re proud of the record, we should get people to hear it. To me, videos are not a serious art form."
The tension spilled over during the filming for the "El Scorcho" video (Pinkerton’s first single), which is essentially a straight performance clip. Sharp and Wilson look disgusted onscreen, and the editor quit after fighting with Cuomo, who ended up editing the clip himself. Sharp and Wilson have vowed not to do another video in which all they do is play their instruments.
"Right now we’re at an impasse because I don’t want to do another performance video," says Wilson. "If I do, I’m afraid I’ll do something Rivers won’t like. I told him I’ll do one, but I’m going to wear a bear suit. And Matt will wear a big bunny rabbit suit. Now that to me would be funny. The less I’m in a video, the more outrageous I’ll have to be. If it means looking like that guy…" He points to CNN, which is showing an outrageous aboriginal Tiki-god costume that could be in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. "So be it. I’m not going to be just the drummer anymore."
"Before Rivers could sing about Buddy Holly, and we could just play," he continues. "But now I think we’ve become a little more sensitive to the lyrics and how we are going to be associated with the lyrics while we’re in this band. It’s one thing to go onstage and play. It’s another to sit still and be serious about something you could care less about… well… something not connected to your experience."
Pinkerton is nothing if not directly related to Rivers Cuomo’s experiences. It’s a great album, and not just because Cuomo lays himself so emotionally bare as he struggles to come to terms with sex, relationships, and masculinity. The band also added extra heft to the songs since their undeniable catchy and tuneful, but undeniably light-weight, debut two years ago. Wilson is a dynamic, propulsive drummer. Sharp’s Rentals side project has given him confidence and helped his bass lines become more complex. Bell has considerably toughened the guitar sound.
The irony is that Weezer achieved success with an album of pop songs, but followed it up with a serious, introspective rock album. That’s the only irony, insists Cuomo.
"The songs on the first record were meant for a much smaller audience," he says. "I think pop songs like that mean something different when they’re played for a smaller, hipper audience because they understand some of the irony. But when it’s on MTV and it’s just being shoved down your throat, some of the irony is lost. It just becomes obnoxious.
"For the second album, I was aware that there would probably be a much larger audience that I anticipated. There’s a lot less irony. We’re playing and saying what we feel more directly. We were sarcastic bastards afraid to be sincere. I’m just learning that that’s cowardice. I really have a lot that I want to say and express."
The success of Weezer—Cuomo thought it would sell 15,000 copies, Sharp hoped for 50,000, which he thought would be enough not to get dropped from Geffen—didn’t add extra pressure when Cuomo tried to write Pinkerton.
"I’m always at maximum pressure," says Cuomo. "I always feel incredibly stressed out and pressured to write songs. I always feel like I’ve written my last song, that I’m burned out, dried up, there’s nothing left. The fact that we were following up a hit album couldn’t have made it any worse."
Nevertheless, Cuomo struggled. He had four songs already done—"Tired of Sex," "Getchoo," "No Other One," and "Why Bother?"—the first four on Pinkerton. But those songs had been written just after the band recorded Weezer. ("Tired of Sex" has been banned in Singapore, much to Rivers’ amazement, since he considers it one of the most Puritanical rock songs ever.) He’d gone about eighteen months without writing much of anything. Sharp offered to collaborate on some songs, but when he and Cuomo tried, they just ended up sitting around with their guitars and talking about old times.
Finally, in Boston, Cuomo had two important breakthroughs. The drugs he was taking for his leg dulled that pain but opened him up to write about heartbreak. And he received a touching fan letter from an 18-year-old girl in Japan who wanted to know all about him: his hobbies, his favorite foods, his birthday.
"Sometime this spring, I was taking some pretty serious narcotics for my leg," says Cuomo. "At this point I’d been living by myself for about seven months. I had an enormous beard, long hair, and I hadn’t really talked to anyone in seven months. I didn’t have any friends. I was taking these percocets, and I felt like I had really tapped into something. These songs came out. Now I’ve got to have some other operation so I can get more of those percocets," he laughs.
Then came the letter from Japan, which Cuomo turned almost verbatim into the first verse of "Across the Sea" (he’s sharing royalties with the fan)[Note 2]. The song bristles with the frustration of having someone he likes so far away, ending with this clever restatement of the relationship between rock star and fan: "I’ve got your letter, you’ve got my song." Cuomo had his first new song in months. Pinkerton, which presents ten songs in chronological order as written, has a 20-second instrumental bridge before "Across the Sea" to symbolize Cuomo’s period of depression.
"I had fantasies over this letter," he admits. "I realized that I’d completely shut myself off from life, but I was still aware of Eros inside me. I hadn’t eliminated that part of me at all. I wasn’t a monk. I was just a perverted hermit."
Cuomo, however, had the inspiration for the record. Taking the theme from Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly [sic], Cuomo turned Pinkerton, a Navy sailor in the opera, into a rock star who sleeps with women from port to port.
"El Scorcho" soon followed. The song stemmed from a similar sense of frustration. Despite his success in a pop group, Cuomo couldn’t talk to a woman in his English class. The song’s key line sums up Cuomo’s emotional state: "How stupid is it/I can’t talk about it/I gotta sing about it/and make a record of my heart."
"I saw this girl every day, and I just liked her so much. But I couldn’t say a thing to her, and I’ll never be able to, and I never have been able to…" his voice trails off. His anonymity at Harvard was comforting, but also difficult.
"I can be a normal person (in college), which is nice. But I was lonely, and everyone thought I was just this bearded, crippled freak. Which I was. I think if I had spent the year in Hollywood hanging out with rock stars, I probably wouldn’t have been able to make this record. Maybe I would have been able to write some songs, but I don’t think they would have had this type of feeling."
"I’m afraid I might have to continue living these periods of being a miserable hermit in order to keep writing."
There must be another way.
"I sure hope so. But I think the only way for me to write songs is to be unhappy, which is kind of a bummer."
More irony: Rivers Cuomo loves Pinkerton, but isn’t happy. His bandmates are happy, but have some doubts about the band’s direction.
Brian Bell, after several years in Carnival Art, whose records were released direct to the discount bin, is thrilled to be in a band people like. He’s ecstatic and also seems to play a conciliatory role inside the band. Matt Sharp and Pat Wilson both love playing the bass and drums, respectively, and insist they’re both happy simply to get better as musicians and help improve Cuomo’s songs.
At the same time, Sharp and Wilson believe that by focusing solely on Cuomo and his songs, the band aren’t as good as they might be if everyone contributed equally to songwriting. But they’ve accepted their roles and simply keep their own songs for side projects The Rentals and Special Goodness. That both are financially secure thanks to Weezer helps.
"My only real job is to play the bass as best I can and hopefully sing so it’s not out of tune," says Sharp in a late-night, alcohol-fueled interview in his Auckland, New Zealand hotel room, the day after the Sydney show. "I think we’re settling into something now that’s much different from what we started. In that period, I felt a bit more involved with what we were doing."
"Rivers would totally disagree with me—and it’s something I wouldn’t want to come across as negative—but in most cases with most bands, you see that the whole is better than the sum of its parts. I’m not sure if this is the case with us. We’re getting more towards supporting a single vision that incorporating the wide rang of personalities.
"I don’t think that we’re not important," he says, "but the name of the band is Weezer. It’s [Cuomo’s] name, you know."
The next afternoon, over coffee, Wilson is even more direct about his situation. He doesn’t want to sound bitter or whiny. In fact, he’s the bands funniest and most happy-go-lucky member. But when he speaks, it’s clear that relations between him and Rivers have been strained for some time, dating back to the way Rivers divided mechanical royalties for songs to which Wilson contributed music. Cuomo divided the royalties into three parts—music, lyrics and melody—giving himself two-thirds of the money. Wilson simply calls that "fucked." He almost quit several times.
"I was sour, but here’s the bitter irony," says Wilson. "Every time it came to a point where I had had enough, where I thought nothing would be worth this, we became more successful. I had to sit back and think, ‘Okay, as pissed as I am, I know I would regret this.’ That’s how Weezer developed."
At this point, Sharp walks into Wilson’s room and joins us.
"It’s a trade-off between being more honest in our approach and being less compelling," says Sharp. "If I had my way, the four of us would have been on the cover of this record, as well. Spike gave us a gift by making those first two videos of us as a band. Now we’re going against that. That’s something so few bands have a chance to have. Why give it away purposely?"
"But even though we’re not bringing out all these different personalities we have in the band, we are happy being the bass player, the drummer, and the guitarist. Us being able to fall into some kind of role has made it easier for all three of us and probably easier for Rivers. He has guys who want to play his songs and play them well."
Wilson just wants to be sure that everyone knows the lyrical sentiments expressed by Cuomo have nothing to do with him. "This way, I don’t have to take responsibility for liking it or not liking it…" says Wilson.
Sharp interrupts. "To say we’re four people focused on the same thing, that would be absolutely wrong. It would be silly to think of us as being unified in thought and going, ‘We all really believe in this Japanese idea. And we’re all really tired of sex.’ Whatever."
Wilson laughs. "I know. We don’t feel any of those things."
Neither one knows what will happen next for Weezer. Both see the band becoming more of a studio project and less of a touring band. And since it takes Cuomo so long to write, Sharp and Wilson don’t expect to be asked to go into the studio again for at least a year. During that time, Wilson and Sharp will likely have albums of their own out. The debut from Wilson’s Special Goodness is slated for a September 1997 release on Geffen, and Sharp’s second album—which may be something other than a second Rentals record—should be out by then as well.
Cuomo, says Wilson, runs the band like a "selective-democracy."
"He just wants to feel good," says Wilson. "How he does that is by having ultimate veto and control with some semblance of a democratic framework that’s infinitely adjustable to suit whatever he needs."
So why stay in the band? Why accept that?
"I make a shitload of money. Which is going to look terrible in the interview," Wilson acknowledges. "But I have a blast playing the drums. It helps not to let your own opinion of the Weezer experience get in the way. Just focus on your instrument, and have fun playing."
"If you’re asking the $64,000 question—would I be doing this if it didn’t make me any money?—I don’t think I would. I have my own deal. I guess my experience in this band can be best summed up as good thing happens, turns into bad thing, becomes successful, perpetuates."
When Weezer go onstage that night, before more than 1600 in Auckland, the personal animosities seem to vanish. It’s an energetic and restless crowd. They boo loudly when Coolio is played over the sound system before Weezer’s set, and respond to "Gangsta’s Paradise" with a loud, accented chant that sounds like "Whee-zah! Whee-zah!"
Live, Weezer are a whirlwind of tunes and pent-up angst. Everyone in the house is pogoing madly from the opening notes of "Tired of Sex," then "Getchoo." When the band hit "The Good Life" –a song to which Wilson and Sharp said they couldn’t relate –Sharp is madly careening around the stage with his bass, and Wilson is merrily singing along. Cuomo doesn’t like to talk to the crowd, but his bandmates compensate for whatever he lacks in gregariousness. Tonight Cuomo seems especially loose, perhaps because he was drinking straight vodka, a beer chaser and Jagermeister backstage before the show.
Bell has the style and flavor—he’s Weezer’s equivalent of the Foo Fighters’ Pat Smear—while he adds a powerful guitar presence that grounds Weezer in rock, not in pop. Wilson wears a toga onstage during one show, and adds personality to the drums, as well, a cascading crunch that propels "Pink Triangle" and "Why Bother?" Sharp adds endless energy and essential harmonies. Weezer romp through a celebratory "Buddy Holly," bound through "Surfwax" and attack "My Name is Jonas," while playing b-sides "Jamie" and "You Gave Your Love To Me Softly" for trainspotters.
Back at the hotel after midnight following a stop at the Jesus Lizard show across town, Cuomo is in a reflective mood. He always has trouble sleeping and will be up most of the night practicing the piano. Over Mahler’s Ninth, then the new Cardigans record, he admits that he’s uneasy spending so much time talking about himself and divulging as much as he has. "I already regret 90 percent of what I said," he tells me. "The songs are meaningful to people. When I just sit here and blab about myself I’m not doing anyone good. I’m just stroking my own ego. I can’t communicate the full weight of the experience. I just sound like a whiner."
But do you see Weezer as a "selective-democracy"?
"A small part of me is jealous and wishes I was in complete control of the universe," he admits. "A greater part of me realizes that’s totally unrealistic. The other guys are songwriters. Good songwriters. They have to do that. I can totally relate to that. I’m completely at peace with that. And I see how it really improves this band."
At the same time, he says he wouldn’t want to play a Rentals, Space Twins, or Special Goodness song live, even if one of those bands had a hit song as big as "Buddy Holly" or "Say It Ain’t So" and the audience requested it.
"I don’t like doing cover songs at all," he says. "But that would be a band decision. I’m not the dictator in this band. The way it has evolved now has gone naturally. Everyone’s happy with it. I know it seems strange, but it’s healthy to us. We may very well evolve to the point where we have more than one songwriter."
"This album evolved as a whole. I wrote it as a whole. It’s supposed to be the story of my life. I couldn’t very well have other people writing it with me. The way I’ve developed as a songwriter, I’m getting further inside myself and farther away from other people. I would lose whatever it is that makes me special."
So is this a band, or the Rivers Cuomo Experience? There is a long pause before Cuomo answers.
"I feel we’re about as much as a band as you can possibly be, but at the same time [we have] just one songwriter. When I listen to this second record especially, I just hear so much creative input from the other guys. I hear four distinct personalities."
A longer pause.
"I really have no idea about the future, except that I want to keep writing songs and I love playing with these guys. I think we work really well together. But I never know what’s going to happen in my life."
Weezer or not, Rivers seems likely to carry on for a long time to come.
"Music is all I’ve ever really done since I was 12," he says. "It’s not transcendent, it’s not heaven on earth. It’s not what I thought being in Kiss would be like. But it is what I’m meant to do."