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Larger than Life Book for KISS –Cagle

November 2012
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For anyone who grew up during the 1970s, it was impossible to avoid the rock music group KISS. Love them or hate them, they were everywhere—on t-shirts, lunch boxes, pinball machines, hats, posters, action figures, key chains—you name it. The dearly departed can even do one last rocking encore courtesy of a KISS casket or urn.

It was almost easy to forget that music was KISS' line of work, as it seemed to take a back seat to the grandiose, the bombast, the theatrics and spectacle that accompanied the quartet's brand. And what a brand it was and remains; bassist/demon egoist Gene Simmons—whose marketing savvy may stretch farther that his legendary tongue—assigned the KISS logo to damn near anything imaginable, as long as it promised profits. More often than not, he was right.

As a group of performing artists, KISS has undergone some major overhauls during its tenure, which kicked off in 1972. Inspired by the glam influence provided by the New York Dolls and the pounding, hard-driving rock insanity offered by bands like The Who, KISS used Kabuki-style makeup, pyrotechnics and a high level of energy to pull in fans, but disenfranchise critics.

Naturally, the band found many bumps in the road to success. Original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley left the group in the late 1970s/early 1980s and the makeup came off a few years later. After a slew of hits throughout the '80s, a procession of guitarists came and went, and drummer Eric Carr died of cancer. Criss and Frehley returned for a reunion in the 1990s, only to be reminded of why they skedaddled in the first place. The band endures to this day, however; its 20th studio album, "Monster," was released last month.

But while the face of KISS has changed throughout its 40 years, the marketing express train has roared incessantly. And, now the larger-than-life band that brought us anthem hits "Rock and Roll All Nite," "Beth," "I Was Made For Lovin' You" and "Detroit Rock City"—not to mention used the blood of band members in its iconic 1970s comic books—has raised the bar for marketing excellence. The "KISS Monster Book" (First Light Publishing) eclipses all coffee-table publications.

Measuring three feet in height and two-and-a-half feet in width, the "largest rock book ever published" covers the band's complete history in photos, with the works of noted rock concert lensemen that include the likes of Fin Costello, Ross Halfin, Bob Gruen and Richard Aaron, among other prominent photographers.

Verona, Italy-based printer EBS Editoriale Bortolazzi Stei churned out the pages on two KBA Rapida 162 sheetfed offset presses. It took 14 days of 14-hour production to complete the printing phase alone. An unnamed Italian bindery, which is credited with serving the Vatican's binding needs, provided hand sewing for the entire run of 1,000 copies. The sewing of each copy took two weeks and required roughly 66 feet of thread. The covers for each copy used 17.2 square feet of cloth.

The exhaustive production doesn't include the 627 hours spent on the images, which collectively use more than one terrabyte of space. Proofs were generated by an Epson Stylus Pro 9900; at an average of four proofs per page, the proofing phase alone took 408 hours.

A total of 51 slides (35mm) were scanned to the maximum size possible, then enlarged 4,700 percent.

All 1,000 copies were signed by members of the current KISS lineup. And, if the run wasn't short enough, 10 variable covers will bear the flag of a specific country—United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Brazil and Russia—along with the "KISS Monster" title.

In all, the job consumed a reported 52,250 pounds of paper. The sheer enormity of the project prompted founding member Paul Stanley to observe, "This book is way beyond my expectations. The photos are incredible at this size. It's not a coffee-table book, it's a coffee table!"

While the "KISS Monster Book" may be a dream bedside companion (or even a makeshift boxspring for a twin bed), its exclusivity is surpassed only by its price. The "Monster" will set you back US$4,250 a shot. If it's any consolation, shipping is included in the price. PI



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