By Ronnie

SSG is a band with a plan. They have an unconventional way to get their music to the people. Instead of playing bars to crowds of 20 or so, they play as a KISS tribute band at the various KISS expos and conventions. While they are considered a KISS tribute band, they don’t wear KISS make-up and they play only the obscure KISS songs that all the other tribute bands don’t play. But…the big difference is that they also play their originals at these KISS shows.

I talked to the band prior to their taking the stage at the Atlanta KISS EXPO. I was interested in what made SSG different from the various KISS tribute bands. However, I wasn’t prepared for a band that had such a definite marketing plan in regards to getting their own music heard!

While all the members of SSG were present at the interview, I have credited all their answers to “SSG”…

E.C.: First, what inspired you to start a KISS tribute band?

SSG: As far as inspired we started the KAOL – a series of tribute albums that was done over the internet and its all based on charity and there were 3 or 4 different volumes and the last one was a tribute to the solo albums. We recorded 2 songs for that, and that’s what got us into the conventions and got us into the KISS thing.

E.C.: I know that one of the differences that that your group does not do the make-up, right?

SSG: Right, and we also do the obscure KISS tunes, that really none of the other bands have been covering. We actually do some of the songs that KISS never played live. Another thing that differs us from the other tribute bands is we also push our originals along with the KISS covers at the conventions. We’ve been getting really good response and are getting quite a few requests for the originals along with the KISS tunes.

E.C.: That’s a good marketing tool, when you have an original band to get your foot in the door…

SSG: Excellent marketing tool!

E.C.: You have a ready-made audience?

SSG: We’ve got a captive audience. They’re [KISS fans] probably the hardest core rock fans that are out there.

E.C.: Instead of playing in a club to like 20 people…

SSG: Absolutely, you took the words right out of my mouth…

E.C.: Do you do any Wicked Lester songs?

SSG: We do the KISS versions…

E.C.: Like “She” ? [She” originally being a Wicked Lester song]

SSG: Yeah…

E.C.: What is the competition like between KISS tribute bands? Is it friendly? Do you study the other KISS tribute bands for ideas?

SSG: From the start we kinda did our own thing and said, “this is what we wanna do and these are the songs that we wanted to hear that we never heard from anybody else”. To get out of the mainstream KISS songs – it’s wide open. Plus, us and other tribute bands are like apples and oranges…two different things. They do the make-up and stuff and usually they stick to the show and the characters. As far as us, we do different parts…one person doesn’t sing only the ‘Paul’ songs, ‘Ace’ songs or ‘Gene’ songs, whatever…

E.C.: So you concentrate mainly on recreating the music accurately? Do you take any liberties with the songs?

SSG: We try to get the ‘vibe’…we definitely give it our own sound. And it depends on the song, too. Some songs need to be done really, really close to the original to have it come across. And especially the obscure stuff, it’s wide open, you don’t have to play exactly what KISS did.

We just go out there as ourselves. Back in the ‘70s, the music kinda got clouded with all the ‘bells and whistles’ that went along with the bands. The music was great! So we try to base the tribute that we do on the music and then the visual presence you get is us.

E.C.: What was the feedback been so far? Have people asked why you don’t wear the make-up?

SSG: Yeah, we get that…we’ll get like, “which one are you?” And we also get, “well, I was kinda bummed out when we saw that you were not a make-up band.” But, after they saw the show it didn’t matter.

E.C.: My next question you already kind of answered…how do you pick the songs? Do you pick the obscure songs because you are NOT in make-up and want to put a different twist on it?

SSG: That, too…and (all laugh) we like em! [obscure KISS songs] There’s a lot of stuff that just never got out there. And there’s a lot of stuff that was done maybe because of the vocals…and we’ve got 4-part harmony that we can pull off on stage.

And a lot of people on that last KISS tour – they were begging KISS to play other songs. We didn’t want to be an addition to the EXPO shows and just repeat songs, just another band playing the same old songs. So, we thought we would leave the “Duece”, “Detroit Rock City” and the “Rock and Roll All Nite” to the regular bands.

E.C.: The tribute band field is very lucrative, whether it be Elvis, Beatles, Kiss or Led Zep. Do you guys do this full time and how long do you see yourself doing this?

SSG: As much as possible…

E.C.: I mean, if your original music starts to take off…

SSG: Yeah, and we’re really trying to use this as a marketing tool to help push the originals. As a way of getting it out to the people, and we’ve got a really good response.

When that takes off, when we get the CD out…that will really tell the story and see what happens.

E.C.: Is it going to be an indie release, or do you have any label interest?

SSG: Not currently…but, we wanna keep our options open. We still think that there’s a market for this kind of music to actually get a deal.

E.C.: So, would you say that your original music is mainly influenced by KISS?

SSG: KISS, the Beatles…the main thing that we wanna get across with the music is that you get that ‘vibe’ or ‘feeling’ from back in the ‘70s when you pulled that album out and you stared at it for hours while you were listening to it. You just sat there, engulfed in that… just amazed going, “I can’t do anything else but just listen.” And that’s what we’re trying to get out…and it’s so hard to come by these days.

We figured, too that these KISS fans are such hardcore fans and dedicated to a band like KISS that if we can win over some of these fan’s support, they’re likely to be fans of ours for life. Just like they are for KISS. So, they are probably a good target audience for us. It’s just a good deal all the way around for us.

Click here to visit the official SSG website