Producer TOBY WRIGHT Talks KISS' Controversial Carnival Of Souls Album - "Without BRUCE KULICK This Record Wouldn't Exist"
March 17, 2015, 3 years ago
Famed producer Toby Wright recently guested on the Decibel Geek Podcast for a special installment of Albums Unleashed, covering KISS' controversial Carnival of Souls album from 1997.
Recommended by producer Bob Ezrin, Wright remembers his initial meeting with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, which took place at A&M; Studios:"They kinda put it in my ear why I was there. They wanted to follow a little hip trend going on at the time called Grunge music. The bottom line was, like all artists, they wanted to sell records. Y’know, they want to be on top of the pile. Gene has a big competitive personality so he’s all about being on the top of the pile and whatever it takes to get there."
Then-guitarist Bruce Kulick was a large creative force during the making of the album. Wright shares his memories of Kulick’s importance as well as a directive from him during pre-production meetings about how to get the most out of Simmons and Stanley for this very different album for KISS."Bruce and I got really close during that whole record because he played most of the record. Without Bruce, this record wouldn’t exist, ever. During those initial 'nobody’s around' conversations, I got inspiration from Bruce and instructions from Bruce that were like 'You are gonna have to push the fuck out of these guys (Simmons and Stanley). Don’t be afraid.'"
While loved by a core group of KISS fans, the album overall was not embraced by the KISS Army stylistically.
Wright: "To be brought into a situation where I’m trying to make someone sound unlike themselves is difficult. I would have rather had this KISS album be entirely them and just do what you do; because that’s what you do. I think a larger number of their fans would have embraced it instead of fighting about 'that sucks' or 'that’s good.'"
While in production, the band were very excited about the prospects of this change in sound and, according Wright, putting a lot of eggs into the grunge basket.
As many now know, everything came to a halt one day in the studio when Simmons and Stanley called a meeting with Wright and the rest of the band to make an announcement that would have a major impact on the album as well as two of the band members."We were about done with the record. Gene got the call. Somebody offered him 100 million to put back on the makeup with all the original members. And that announcement in that room; holy shit. We all knew right as the words came out of his mouth that we were done. Paul didn’t really look around much. Gene, he was Paul Revere. He was the messenger that should’ve gotten shot (laughs)."
Carnival of Souls would soon thereafter leak on the internet and become a widely distributed bootleg album, with KISS fans snatching it up online as well as at KISS conventions. Rumors swirled that a member of the band may have been responsible for leaking the album. In Part 2, Wright reflects, “I do remember getting questioned, big time. Who knows who did it? I have great ideas on who did it. If it was a band member, I’d just say it was for his personal gain and I’m sure he made a lot of fucking money.”
The album would finally get a proper release in October of 1997 when it was issued by Mercury Records with very little fanfare. Wright remembers the experience being very bittersweet."I was thinking that I’m working on another multi-platinum album, and it should’ve been, and then all of a sudden they shelve it. Two years later, now they’re releasing it and didn’t put any marketing push behind it and it’s like 'Why did you bother?'"
Parts 1 and 2 of Albums Unleashed Carnival of Souls with Toby Wright can be heard using the links below: