KISS Tease Future Entertainment Immortality with Digital Avatars

By Todd Russell Jan2,2024

Multiple KISS pinball machines through history, with the first by Bally in 1979

At the start of December 2023, the rock and roll band KISS gave their “final” concert in Madison Square Garden. It wasn’t the end, or so it seems, though …

Well, it was the end of a multi-year farewell tour, clad in their iconic makeup and ridiculously heavy boots and 50% of the original band (no Ace Frehley or Peter Criss, as Gene Simmons and Pauly Stanley had long since fired them).

These days bands don’t die, though, they live on through their name as glorified cover bands, but KISS teased something else at the encore of their last concert. Something, that seems like a sad mix of James Cameron, Ronnie James Dio holograms, that weird Stallone meets DeNiro boxing movie and … well, 2023.

Digital Avatars.

Growing up, KISS has never been a band many of my friends, frenemies or enemies cared much for musically. They weren’t taken seriously musically and they took branding to ludicrous levels, putting their band name on everything from toilet paper to coffins and yes, literally, everything in between. Despite the business side of KISS, which has made Simmons and Stanley mega, mega millionaires, there are legions of very loyal fans in the KISS Army. Many of those folks love all things KISS.

Yes, KISS has a board game being sold for $39.99. Google it! Actually, they have sold many, many games, see this page collecting them at Everything Kiss

That said, I do like a few KISS songs, and their pinball machines have been fun to play.

@playgamesmore

KISS (Bally 1979) pinball. The first KISS pinball machine. #bally #pinball #kiss #music

♬ original sound – playgamesmore

And I did like the Creatures of the Night era KISS lineup musically, so I’ve sort of gotten into them here and there through the years.

But this KISS Avatar thing is … bizarre. From a creative artist standpoint, your art does live on, it is immortal, but having your band, your music live on through concerts using digital avatars?

Now, however, “we can be forever young and forever iconic by taking us to places we’ve never dreamed of before,” says Simmons in the band’s video. “The technology is going to make Paul [Stanley] jump higher than he’s ever done before.”

After Saturday’s surprise, the details of the band’s future remain unclear. While Sundin muses on the possibility of rock operas and musicals, one fact remains certain: Kiss isn’t going anywhere. “If you think you’re going to get rid of us, I’m afraid that’s not going to happen,” Simmons confirms.

In the video, Stanley says he’s sometimes asked when the band will stop. His response? “The band will never stop because we don’t own the band. The fans own the band, the world owns the band.”

Kiss Debuts Digital Avatars That Will Keep the Band ‘Forever Young and Forever Iconic’ | Smart News| Smithsonian Magazine

There’s something strange about “band will never stop” because it’s not crediting the music, but the band, itself. Music does outlive its creator, just like words, great stories, outlive their creators, but “the band” is not the music, but the group that made the music.

Unfortunately, in KISS, other than Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, there have been several other lead guitar players and drummers.

What do the former main members of KISS, Peter Criss (drums) and Ace Frehley think about these digital avatars?

Well, not much, at least Frehley has weighed in.

I don’t get this avatar thing that they’re gonna do,” he continued, referencing KISS‘s announcement that the bandmembers will carry on as digital versions of themselves. “I mean, I saw some of it on a video on YouTube last night. It kind of looked like it was geared towards children. And it’s not rock and roll. I get up on stage without backing tracks, plug my amp into it, plug my guitar into a Marshall and go. That’s it. It’s always been that way and always will be.”

ACE FREHLEY Doesn’t ‘Get’ The KISS ‘Avatar Thing’: It Looks Like It Is ‘Geared Towards Children’ – BLABBERMOUTH.NET

Gotta love Ace going back to the music, because that is rock and roll. This avatar thing is not rock, it’s more like some kind of odd technology experiment that might turn off hardcore music fans.

KISS has sort of jumped in and out of trends through their career. Disco, Music from The Elder, glam rock, unmasking, what have I missed?

So, what does this mean from a gaming perspective? Will we see more KISS games using these digital avatars? Will there be a KISS MMORPG where you can romp through some dungeon with KISS? In a humorous sort of way, I’d kinda be interested in a digital avatar adventure at that laughable amusement park in KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park.

Seriously, for those who partake in 420, and since it’s legal in an increasing number of places in America – no, I haven’t done it in many years, but hey – fire it up and watch this movie, it will make you cry laughing. Really.

Or will these digital avatars only be one-off multi-city concerts with the gang in motion capture suits in some studio? Doubtful I’d pay to see this kind of “live concert” but it is somewhat curious and certainly science fiction.

There is a lot of speculation and mystery surrounding just what any of this means? And it doesn’t sound like the wizards behind creating these digital avatars for KISS, Pophouse Entertainment, know what’s happening.

The company helping transform the Kiss band from living humans to digital intellectual property is Sweden-based Pophouse Entertainment, which is also responsible for the successful ABBA Voyage show in London which uses similar digital avatars to put on live stage shows with hologram-like projections. Pophouse is led by Swedish music executive Per Sundin, who also doesn’t really seem to know what digital Kiss is going to be doing in the future.

“We’re going to figure it out after the tour,” Sundin told Fast Company. “Is it a Kiss concert in the future? Is it a rock opera? Is it a musical? A story, an adventure? These four individuals already have superpowers. We want to be as open as possible.” Pophouse reps also name dropped the metaverses of Roblox or Fortnite as possible places these immortal rock gods could land.

This wouldn’t be the band’s first video game appearance as they were already in Tony Hawk’s Underground on the PS2.

Kiss Is Retiring And Being Replaced With Metaverse Avatars (kotaku.com)

Forgot about KISS in Tony Hawk’s Underground, but do remember seeing lots of KISS with the old Scooby Doo cartoons. KISS in Fortnite and/or Roblox? Hmm…

Maybe the deeper question here is: should bands be doing this? Or just fall to the grim reaper like we all will and let their music live on? That’s how it’s always been, but is that how it should always be?

One of our PGM members, Raskull, co-hosts a “let’s have fun” live YouTube show on Tuesdays at 6pm PST (GMT-8) called, That Gaming Show (subscribe here: Raskull’s Basement Arcade – YouTube) and is a huge KISS fan.

Raskull also has some interesting KISS stuff and posts videos on his YouTube channel

Pause for full disclosure: just to be crystal clear, nothing in this article should be seen or taken as disrespectful to KISS fans. God bless all of you. If you love KISS, if it’s your favorite band, that’s great. We celebrate and welcome you.

So, I asked Raskull – he has also been on The KISS Kruise – in the PGM Discord what he thought about all of this KISS digital avatar stuff? Since he’s somebody I’ve known online for a while and knew he’d give a sobering, real fan perspective take.

On Tuesday 12/12/2023 I joined Raskull and co-host ShotgunSean on their show live and we chatted for 30 minutes or so on the subject. The video below starts at the interview which is around 20 minutes into their show.

Here is some of the chatroom commentary as the discussion progressed.

It didn’t seem from what I observed from the commentary that the chat was that interested in KISS virtual avatars in a music concert context but was open a bit more to seeing how KISS avatars would be used in gaming. Raskull was a little more guarded with his commentary, taking more of a “let’s wait and see” approach.

This reaction from their chat has matched what various news articles about Kiss fans reacting to these Kiss Avatars. Gene Simmons said they are sinking $200 million to make these Kiss Avatars cool, but fans don’t seem that interested in some kind of high tech cartoon-like concert experience.

This author is hoping they dip more into the gaming side with these avatars vs. virtual concerts, but it sounds like we’ll need to wait until 2027 to see what Kiss have come up with specifically.

Guns N Roses vocalist Axl Rose holds no false illusions about 2023 KISS:

“I like Kiss in their early days. I think the only thing that we have in common with Kiss now is that they like to make money, and they like girls. But as far as their music goes, basically, their music is like second fiddle to their other desires while our music comes first”.

Axl Rose’s damning view of Kiss: “Their music is second fiddle” (faroutmagazine.co.uk)

Maybe Axl is driving a stake in the heart of these digital avatars, similar to what original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley said in an earlier quote. These Avatars are a departure from the music, the thing that matters. The soul, the creative art.

Whatever the case, in the meantime, the fan reaction to the concept of these digital avatars seems muted at best, and non-fan reaction, worse. Non-fans, though, in defense of KISS have written them off for years and they are still a big time financial success.

What are your thoughts on these KISS Avatars? Like them? Don’t like? Waiting to see how, when, where they are used?

UPDATE 3/7/2024 @ 4:25am PST: Gene Simmons saying, once again, that he’s seen these new $200 million avatars and they’re giving him butterflies, literally.

[Simmons]: “There’s so much hard work being done behind the scenes, and what I’ve seen will blow your mind. So in a very real way, our end is really like the caterpillar becoming the butterfly. The end is the beginning.”

GENE SIMMONS On KISS Avatars: ‘What I’ve Seen Will Blow Your Mind’ – BLABBERMOUTH.NET

For those that remember and have read Ray Bradbury’s famous short story “A Sound of Thunder” time travel and butterflies were involved. Hope the butterfly reference is more spring-time and fresh than Bradbury-esq, but we’ll see.

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