All images courtesy of Elise Krentzel
By Dylan Peggin
Recently, I had the chance to dig into her latest book, the first in a trilogy of memoirs written by Elise Krentzel. Under My Skin: Drama, Trauma & Rock ‘n’ Roll chronicles her troubled upbringing, her travels around Europe, her beginnings in the male-dominated field of rock music journalism, and traveling as a 19-year-old journalist on KISS’ Japanese tour in 1977, which led to her securing a job at Shinko Music in Japan.
While the KISS fan in me got the utmost gratification hearing about the tour that was essentially KISS at their peak, hearing about this woman’s drive to pursue her dreams and how one opportunity led to the basis of her career opened my eyes entirely.
Coming from a soon-to-be twenty-five-year-old, who just started to embrace the idea of traveling and pursuing various multimedia avenues (YouTube, journalism, band roadie), this book was a refresher for me and it’s one that I wholeheartedly recommend reading.
Given the circumstances of your upbringing, would you still give full credit to your parents for subjecting you to the world of music and the arts in general?
Absolutely. When a child grows up they have no choice but to be influenced by the guardians who spend the most time with them, and also by those who make an impression on their psyche, good, bad, or otherwise.
Having taken trips to Europe during your formative years, do you feel that European music artists inhabit certain facets that give them a bit more leverage compared to their contemporaries based in America?
Leverage? In what sense do you mean? The fashion certainly had a major impact on me and I ate it up, literally shopping as much as I could afford while on tour. If you mean U.K. Brit-pop and glam rock. then I wouldn’t lump that into one category called “European,” because French punk in 1973 was much more like today’s pop mixed with EDM, while the German scene was a bit like electronic, computer-generated sounds, especially if you think of Kraftwerk. American music, meaning west coast music, was not my scene, then or now, with very few exceptions like the Jefferson Airplane. But even they were way more popular in the 60s and I was a teenager in the 70s. I was not a fan of The Beach Boys. or the L.A. music scene.
Having grown up during the glitter scene where androgyne ruled in the 70s, which albums were spinning in heavy rotation on your turntable back then?
Love this question. Here’s my Top of the Pops, although not in top ten order:
- Electric Warrior – T. Rex
- Ziggy Stardust and all of his LPs – David Bowie
- Tarkus – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
- Transformer – Lou Reed
- Mott – Mott the Hoople
- All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople
- Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
- Tommy – The Who
- Here Come the Warm Jets – Brian Eno
- Talking Heads ‘77 – Talking Heads
- Roxy Music – Roxy Music
- Too Much Too Soon – New York Dolls
- Moontan – Golden Earring
- Love Gun – KISS
When you first began to pursue rock journalism in the mid-1970s, it was a male-dominated field. In the present day, do you feel that there is still room for improvement?
Room for improvement is a total understatement and thank you for asking the question. I feel America has gone backward not forwards, especially in states where the politics are red and the religion is hatred under the banner of an American flag. Women are treated like second-class citizens in the 18th century in these states but we’re fighting back.
I’m a feminist and not the man-hating kind of yesteryear. Hardcore in my values in that women of whatever shape, sexual preference, color, religion, or age are equal to men in every single way. There is only one area where we have been given a sacred difference, and that is in the area of creativity. I mean, because if you have a womb and choose to birth a child, the act of birthing is sacred. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally pro-choice. I don’t want to be misunderstood here. I am not telling any woman to go and have a child, just because she has a womb. Are we clear, Houston?
When you were approached to travel with KISS as a journalist, you were a bit resistant to the idea, right? What did KISS lack compared to their contemporaries?
I felt at the time the make-up was all gimmicky, and not authentic say compared to Bowie, who had a stage persona. Although KISS’ makeup and characters were more Kabuki-like as I wrote in the book, perhaps it was the music that I felt was simplistic, or a little too much leaning toward hard rock, not quite metal. I also was turned off by Gene [Simmons] and the whole tongue thing. I thought it was gross.
Would you say that the ’77 Japanese tour allowed you to fully understand the hype?
I could appreciate them while on tour and did my level best to be unbiased, which is why I wrote a positive review, based on what I saw happening around me. Imagine witnessing one of the most successful promotional/marketing campaigns in music history unfurled before your eyes. I guess if I were behind the scenes with the Col. for Elvis’ massive debut it would have been a bit of a similar experience.
One of the biggest bombshells you had mentioned in the book was that Bill Aucoin stated that the ‘77 Japanese tour was a final hurrah, one more album would be done and that was the end. Do you feel that would’ve been a fitting finale if that had proven to be the case?
It would have been a very fitting finale or rather a fitting beginning of the end in Japan. As to how that would’ve felt in the USA, I guess KISSArmy fans would’ve been gutted.
Was there a vibe in the air from the band and crew that the end was near?
There was no clue that the end was near, but then again, my access to interviews was limited. Remember, there were many other journalists, photographers, the media in Japan, and all the roadies, and crew on both sides – the Aucoin side and the Japanese side – besides rehearsals and travel time each day. So, given the fact I interviewed all the band members and management, I felt I had a good lay of the land.
In your cover story for Record Week, you compared KISS to the Beatles. Have you ever encountered another musical act that had the same amount of pandemonium surrounding KISS in Japan around that time, which ultimately drew the Fab Four comparison?
No. There is no comparison except maybe when I met John Lennon and Yoko in 1980 in Japan. Double Fantasy was soon to be released. The couple did not do any Stateside interviews and only allowed the Japanese press to ask questions. With one exception. Me. It was in a room in a hotel in Tokyo. It wasn’t the pandemonium and fandom since the entire affair was hush-hush. But it was John F&*king Lennon!
Traveling with KISS to Japan resulted in you eventually landing with Shinko Music as a talent scout. What were some of the notable acts that you brought to the table?
I started scouting for Shinko and then opened my own talent and booking agency after I left Shinko. (This is all in book two Men Moving Me, which I am currently working on).
- Elvis Costello and the Attractions
- Graham Parker and the Rumour
- The Stranglers
- Lena Lovitch
- Ian Dury and the Blockheads
- Nick Lowe
- Cheap Trick
- Leif Garrett
- Stuff (jazz)
- Donald (Duck) Dunn & Howard Johnson of the SNL band fame
Under My Skin is being marketed as the first of a trilogy of books you’ll be writing. Are you able to share anything regarding the following two installments?
A wee bit. I’m currently working on book two, entitled Men Moving Me, which covers the period of time from 1977, when I moved to Japan, after the KISS tour through the mid-90s in Europe. The themes covered are love, divorce, treachery, ambition, alienation, betrayal, female entrepreneurship in the music and publishing industries, and loss.
Book three doesn’t yet have a title. It takes place from 1998 through the present and will show how I achieved emotional independence, and harmony in my life after raising a son on my own, experiencing financial destitution, and losing my mother, brother, and third wasband.