Richie Wise: The KissFAQ Interview
By Tim McPhate
If you're a big music fan, you are likely aware that April 20 isn't a typical Saturday. It marks the seventh annual Record Store Day, a worldwide celebration of the fraternity of record stores and their standing as an important thread in the fabric of local communities. You know, those cool stores where KISS Army members went to buy "Rock And Roll Over" in 1976.
In conjunction with the music holiday, a series of Record Store Day exclusives -- including limited-edition vinyl, singles, EPs, and CDs -- will be released at participating RSD record stores. One such exclusive this year is a two-LP gatefold edition of New York-based hard rock trio Dust's 1971 self-titled album and 1972's "Hard Attack."
Diehard KISS fans will know Dust as the project that featured future KISS co-producer Richie Wise. Wise sang lead vocals and played guitar in the group, which was rounded out by bassist Kenny Aaronson and drummer Marc Bell (who would later become Marky Ramone).
KissFAQ caught up with Wise to revisit the music of Dust and discuss the newly remastered albums, which are also available on CD and via digital retailers. Of course, we worked in plenty of questions pertaining to Wise's work with the Hottest Band in the World as well.
KissFAQ: Richie, I've read you label Dust the "loudest, fastest band in America" circa 1971-1972. If you had to compare the experience of seeing Dust live to another band, who would it be?
Richie Wise: You know what, it's really interesting. The albums don't really represent the way we were exactly live. You get a little sense of it, in some of the intensity on a few of the tracks, but we mixed it up a lot on the records. But live, we were one thing: we were just incredibly loud, fast and all exhale, no inhale. No brain involved, just playing from the heart. Is there any band I could compare us to, at the time, for volume? Well, I think at the time there were some loud bands. I mean Mountain were pretty loud. The British bands, of course, were really loud. I had seen Black Sabbath [but] Black Sabbath didn't influence us at all due to the fact that they were sort of around the same time as we were as opposed to some of the earlier bands. But bands that played loud and fast in America? At the time, I don't think there were really any. We were chaotic. Some of the stuff on the albums, you get just a little sense of it. A couple of the instrumentals, "Loose Goose" and "Ivory," are pretty fast. But live we were just outrageously intense and insane. It was just amazing. Just the nature of the way Kenny played bass and Marc played drums, it made it just an intense thing. I just loved the Marshalls at full bore so for me I really can't compare -- there were other rock bands of course at the time. But I thought most of the American bands were just not trying to emulate the British thing the way we tried to.
KF: Had you ever played on a bill with them, do you think you guys could have given KISS a run for their money onstage?
RW: Well, not really. We were very different types of bands. Dust was a different type of thing. It was pushing musicianship and solos and [other] things, more than quality songwriting the way they did it. [KISS] were a very different kind of band. Instrument to instrument, we just weren't [in] the same type of genre, even though everybody plays loud and everybody plays rock music, our music was quite different.
KF: Who are some of the British acts that you would cite as influences on Dust?
RW: No question, you always have to mention Cream and Hendrix. Even though Hendrix was American, the Experience was a British band in every way, shape or form. Of course, Zeppelin. Also, I absolutely have to say the Who, Jethro Tull and Procol Harum. I had a lot of influences. I liked Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I loved Yes. Yes is still one of my favorite bands after all these years. Some of the progressive stuff [influenced us]. Tull was a big influence on me and all the guys loved the players in these bands. Marc loved Clive Bunker, the drummer for [Jethro Tull], and Aaronson liked all the British bass players, John Paul Jones, et cetera, et cetera. I have to say all the bands from that time, form the late' '60s into 1970 or thereabouts, were influences. Because people had everything and listened to everything that came down the pike, especially those things coming out of England.
KF: The riff in a song like "Suicide" really grabs hold of the listener and wouldn't be out of place in, say, a song by a current day metal band. What do you remember about the genesis of "Suicide" and how it took shape?
RW: Now that I'm doing a lot interviews and I'm focusing a lot, one of the journalists that I spoke to said, "If you guys had eight 'Suicides,' you would have been the biggest band in the world." But the reality was, there was a lot that would not have ever have happened no matter what, not even if we had eight "Suicides." The reality is we were on a pop label, we didn't have a proper management team, we never really had an agent that really saw the potential. "Suicide" was just one of the facets of the band. Live, that was what the band was all about. On the record, we did a lot of different things. I just saw on YouTube a current band covering the song "Suicide," and of course doing it with today's tones and distorted guitars and stuff like that, and you really sense the intensity of that song. I don't know, I really think that riff still holds up and even stands up today, the opening guitar riff [sings riff], and Marc's amazing drumming [mimics drum beat], all that tom-tom stuff. It was just amazing.
I wrote all the songs with my partner Kenny Kerner. Kenny wrote all the lyrics. And the great thing about Kenny's lyrics is he really fit the lyric to the vibe I was giving him. A lot of times, I would come over to his house with the electric not even plugged in and just play him the riff and sing him the melody, and he would immediately catch on to the heaviness of it. I have to say, "Suicide," there is no way I could have played him that one with an electric guitar not plugged in, just jingling and jangling, you know how they sound when they're not plugged in?
RW: So the thing is I must have played that song through an amp. Maybe he came to my house and I just blew it out. I don't remember what influenced me on that song. A lot of the stuff we were doing back then was so real and organic for us. There was really no [thinking] involved. If I wrote a song like that, I wrote a softer song the next day. I was constantly writing stuff. Every three months there was new material. You could have re-invented Dust every three months, there was so much stuff coming out at me at the time. However, on a lot of songs that I wrote that are on those albums, I can certainly hear where they came from, where the influences were [and] what I was trying to accomplish in my mind. With "Suicide" (pauses), I really don't know exactly where that came from. But I have to say it was a combination of the Who and Jethro Tull. (laughs)
KF: Well, that diversity you mentioned is certainly evident when I listen to the two albums. Tracks such as "Learning To Die" and "All In All" have a heavy rock feel. "Ivory" is a jam-worthy instrumental, pre-dating Rush by a few years. In contrast, a track like "Thusly Spoken" features heavy acoustic guitar, hammond organ and lush orchestration and "How Many Horses" is a ballad ...
RW: Well, it's a Stones song, "How Many Horses." "Thusly Spoken" is a Procol Harum tune. I was writing stuff -- I was not saying, "I'm going to write a Procol Harum tune or I'm going to write a Stones song." I would just start playing. I was living music 24/7, and when you just start writing stuff, you just start writing stuff. Those songs certainly have those influences and no one in the band said, and no one around the band said, "No, you can't do that. That's not Dust. Live, all you guys do is play loud and fast. Well, everything on the album has to be loud and the fast." That's not the case.
Dust's two remastered studio albums are now available via Amazon and iTunes
KF: "Goin' Easy" has a nice little country feel.
RW: I know! Well, the interesting thing was Kenny Aaronson would go home -- and he was an amazing bass player -- and play pedal steel guitar. So if I wrote a little tune like that then it was a good vehicle for him. That song, to me, it's just a nice vehicle for him to do that, looking back. It's odd, we were very young. I was 20 or 21. Marc and Kenny were 19 and 20. But we didn't think of ourselves as kids because all we did was emulate all the bands that we loved in England that were obviously in their mid 20s. And it didn't affect us. We didn't say, "One day we'll be as good." We just did our thing. I mean, I was playing in a band when I was 16 so by the time the Dust albums were made I probably did four years, which when you're that young seems like 10 years, of constant music. So it was a constant development. We had a lot of guys in the neighborhood that played really well. There was a guitar player named Robbie Schwartz who died when he was probably 19 years old. He would have been the American Eric Clapton. He was the greatest. He was just the most amazing rock/blues player. He was as good as anybody. I had a friend Mitchell that played guitar and I went over to his house one day and he was playing all these riffs and I'm going, "Holy shit, that's amazing." And that's what the neighborhood was like. And we saw Kenny Aaronson and Marc -- they were developing. Back then, Marc was as good as any drummer out there.
KF: As we've just discussed, Dust had some good, eclectic material. But the band couldn't score that elusive breakthrough to the mainstream. What would you cite as the primary reasons? Was it simply due to a lack of touring or proper label support?
RW: For sure. We did the second album, "Hard Attack," which we thought was a really good album with "Suicide" and "Learning To Die." We just thought it was a good album. It was less happening after the release of that album than after the first album. After the first album, we did really well in some East Coast cities, in St. Louis and Cleveland and places like that. After the second album, there was like nothing friggin' happening. No more gigs. It was like the management sucked and the guy didn't know what to do with us. And because the second album was well-produced, quote-unquote -- I'm not saying that, they said that -- that allowed me and Kenny to start going into the studio with other acts. What happened was I became a producer. And I also got married at the end of 1972 so being a producer was more of a lifestyle that fit me, but not Marc and Kenny. Marc and Kenny liked the lifestyle of being in a band and on the road. And Kenny went on to play with a million people through the years and Marc went on to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Ramones. So the thing is, for me, the 9 to 5, even if it's 9 to 5 in the morning, it's still more of a set life as a producer than being in a rock band. I loved it, I loved playing live. But with nothing happening. It was, "Hey, I have the opportunity to produce," and so I started producing records. And pretty much out of the gate, we started having a couple of nice chart records. And in 1973, Kenny and I produced a No. 1 record with the group Stories with "Brother Louie." After that, we went on to KISS and stuff like that. We also had big hits with Gladys Knight And The Pips. A real wide range of shit. (laughs)
KF: Bless the music of the '70s.
RW: To me it really wasn't about a particular style of music, it was more I loved being in the studio and being able to fill up a piece of tape. I loved putting stuff down on tape. It was great media, you know? "I've got an idea for this part, let's do something here." It was a lot of fun.
And that's what happened to the band. There was never a phone call, "There's no more Dust." No one called me, I didn't call them. I just started going to the city to produce records and Marc and Kenny started going to the city to start hanging out at clubs at meet other musicians.
KF: With the release of these remastered Dust albums, I'm curious what has risen back up to the surface in revisiting them throughout the process?
RW: When you make records as a kid, if you will -- and I made lots, I produced like 70 albums -- there are years that go by [and] you can't listen to it. I guess it would be same for an actor doing a role. You can't watch that movie that you're in. You could have done this better or that better. You're second guessing every fucking thing. As far the two Dust albums, I went through those periods for years where I just couldn't listen to it at all. But the interesting thing was, through the years, if Marc was on the road, if Kenny was on the road -- and I would read on the Internet this and that -- that there were people that really liked these records all around the world. Somebody here, somebody there. Not a lot of people but there were always people. Marc always told me wherever he went with the Ramones, people would come up with a Dust album, "Could you sign this?" Kenny Aaronson told me the same thing. So it never went away.
I'm listening to [the remastered versions] in my car now. And I'm really saying some of this -- not all of it, I don't even know, 50 percent of it -- but some of this is really fucking great. In it's way, for it's time. A riff in a song like "Suicide" absolutely stands up today. And I feel [that way] with some of the other things too. It's been amazing. The thing just came out, at CD Universe it's the 13th or 15th best-selling CD this week. Out of nowhere. To hear a band on YouTube covering one of my songs, it's an honor. It's like flattering beyond belief. It means so much to me that somebody likes it. I spoke to a journalist in London who grew up in Poland and said his dad had the record in the '80s and played it every single day. And he didn't even speak English. If a couple of new people hear it, if a couple of new people are turned on to it and realize that there was this band that had very, very limited exposure, and there were a couple of good moments there, all I got to say is, "Man, wow. What a treat. What a surprise." It's like I said a couple of times, I mean I'm 63 years old now, a lot of people get cancer. Me? I got the opposite of cancer. It's a good feeling. I'm doing well. I'm healthy. And people are listening to some music I made a long time ago. It's interesting. I read an interview and Kenny Aaronson, somebody asked him, "Is it interesting that you're talking about the thing that was the most unsuccessful thing you did in your career?" That's kind of interesting.
KF: Yes, indeed. Being a KISS fan, lots of us take delights in talking about some of the more obscure or least-successful recordings in the band's catalog.
RW: Right. Exactly.
KF: You know, I chatted with Kenny in 2010 and he mentioned these remasters were in the works at that time. How long have the Dust remasters actually been in the works?
RW: In 2010?
KF: Yes. I revisited my interview with him and he definitely referenced it.
RW: Unbeknownst to me. I only heard about it in 2012. Mark Newman came to my house a couple of years ago to interview me about the Ramones and Marc and our origins and stuff like that. And then when he started working at Sony/Legacy ... let's face it, if Marc wasn't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this wouldn't have happened. And if Mark Newman wasn't at Legacy, a guy that was a big fan of all of this, it wouldn't have happened. And I don't think in 2010 that was a reality. But maybe there was something I didn't know. I mean, I had spoken to Kenny Aaronson and Marc Bell recently, quite a bit more than I had in years. Me and Kenny always stayed in touch. Marc, I didn't stay in touch with a lot. He had his own thing going on. But now we've talked a few times recently. And Marc has a lot of responsibility for this for sure.
KF: Being that we are a KISS site, Richie, I was hoping I could move into some KISS topics.
RW: Oh, absolutely. I talk about KISS with everybody, by the way. You're going to probably know more than me. (laughs) We had a demo that was made. Everybody knows about that demo, the Eddie Kramer demo. And we heard the demo. Me, Kenny Kerner, my partner, Neil Bogart, and a couple of other guys from the label went to LeTang rehearsal studios, a room as big as the room you're in if you're in a small room right now. They were on a stage that was a foot high, but they were with their turtlenecks on, wearing black with what looked like studs that they put on that said KISS on their shirts, with the primitive makeup that you see on the first album. And they did a set with a lot of those songs -- "Strutter," "Deuce, "Cold Gin," et cetera. And it was kind of in your face, bombastic -- and [Gene] used his tongue. He might have breathed fire for a second. I don't remember if he did or not. But I certainly know he did his tongue [thing]. And it was very crazy because there was nothing like it. And it was in that little room that was loud and very solid sounding. I remember they were very solid sounding.
KF: Richie, is it true Gene saw a picture of you doing the tongue bit in "Creem" magazine?
KF: So can we give you credit for Gene's patented move?
RW: No, I will not take credit. But Gene told me that he did see that picture of me in "Creem" magazine with my tongue out. But I think his gimmick, or whatever you call it, was not based on that. It was based on something greater and bigger than that. I mean, he had a lot of pussy on his mind all the time.
RW: The thing I like to say about KISS, and I've said it to everybody, KISS were the most focused band that I ever met. Ever. To this day. There was never a doubt from moment one in Gene and Paul, in their minds, that they were going to do this, they were going to do it this way and they were going to be KISS. I like to say they had blinders on, like a horse. "This is the direction you can only see in front of you, man." And what they saw in front of them was always the biggest band in the world and the spectacle. From day one, that's what they were all about. And when people ask me, "Are you surprised at how big they got?" And I say, "No." Because their focus was massively in place.
KF: In this initial period, I am curious if you noticed a divide in terms of focus with Gene and Paul versus Ace and Peter?
RW: Ace and Peter had no focus. They were hired hands as far as I was concerned. I knew they auditioned for the band and the band was Gene and Paul. Period. Gene and Paul were the guys. Ace was a guitarist who I understood exactly what he was doing. And he listened to Page and Clapton and all those guitarists that I listened to, so I understood him well.
Peter was, at best, a poppy adequate drummer. But he was solid. And he really didn't get in the way and laid down the proper fundamental beat that [was needed]. I thought Gene was a really good bass player. I know he wasn't a traditional bass player playing with his fingers, he was more of a "guitar player bass player." But he played with a lot of melodic sense, like McCartney in a way.
KF: I'm glad you mentioned that Richie. I think Gene's musicianship gets overlooked given he is in KISS. And on those early KISS albums, he came up with some inventive melodic bass lines that complemented KISS' songs perfectly.
RW: Absolutely correct. And that came right out of him. He was very good. I thought he was a very musical bass player [and] an excellent singer. Paul was excellent behind the mic. They had, right out of the box, good technique. They worked well together. I worked well with them. The first album was six days, and then some mixing, I think a total of 13 days. It went very well. I worked with Ace to make sure the guitar solos were right. I worked with the guys on the arrangements to make sure that the arrangements went down in a tight fashion so that there wouldn't be too much excess on the record.
KF: Yes, on the demo, you can hear some different twists and turns in a few of the songs that were ultimately discarded. So you played a big part in that?
RW: I think I did it all. I was big on arrangements. I helped them in that regard. Their performances were real and organic. They did a very good job singing. We just approached the album with a lot of fun. They would draw pictures during the making of the album, what they wanted their clothes to look like -- seriously -- [and] what they wanted the makeup to look like. They were very artistic. They were focused on what it was going to be like from the early days. I remember Gene saying, when we were walking on the street one day, "It's not enough to own this building. You've got to own the whole block." Gene was focused on success and wanting to be big and wanting to have all that. And they had a management team with Bill Aucoin and was it Sean Delaney?
KF: Sean Delaney, correct.
RW: [He was a] big, big part of what they were doing. He was a big part in putting them on stage and giving them their KISS vibe.
KF: Compared to live recordings at the time, some of the songs on the first album seem to have less of an urgency. Was there a conscious decision to slow down tempos?
RW: I would have to say that I didn't listen to the demos much, maybe one or two times. I went into the studio with the band and as we were working on the tunes and laying them down, I would probably make a conscious effort to slow down, speed them up, or by that time the group already decided they wanted to slow them down or speed them up. So I think the tempos on the songs were a combination of what I wanted and what they already had settled on.
KF: For my next question, I have just have two words: "Kissin' Time."
RW: It was forced. I remember trying to get it done and, I don't know, I don't have fond memories of that, or of course "Hotter Than Hell." "Hotter Than Hell" was a nightmare in a lot of ways. I feel very bad about that record. It was very dark and echoey, and stupid-sounding in an attempt to not be "clean," to be more gritty. But it didn't work. Also, we were moving to California. It was done in a number of different studios, a little here, a little there. It didn't have a cohesiveness or a gel. The guys were in and out a lot. I remember Gene wasn't even there when Paul was doing parts or Ace was doing parts. You know what I'm saying? It was disjointed. I think some of the material on that record is good but I don't feel good about that record, and I sort of apologize for that. But I don't need to apologize. They went on to some good things, didn't they? (laughs) Who knows, without that record, they might have not done better stuff?
KF: Well, I think the prevailing opinion is that the material is quite good. Songs like "Parasite," the title track, "Got To Choose," and "Let Me Go Rock And Roll" have all been staples in the KISS live set. But yes, the album's sonics have been criticized, both by fans and the band members themselves. Warren Dewey was the engineer and mixer on the first two albums. Did "Hotter Than Hell" suffer from poor recording techniques?
RW: I don't know, I don't know. Warren went on to be one of the great albums of all time. I mean, he engineered the first Boston album.
KF: That's right. That's a pretty good sounding record too.
RW: That record sold a couple of copies if I remember correctly. ["Hotter Than Hell"] was just disjointed. I remember we fucked around in mastering a lot with that. I think everything we did in mastering made it worse and worse and worse.
KF: Is the album salvageable, in your opinion? With the aid of modern technology, could "Hotter Than Hell" be cleaned up and made to sound more powerful?
RW: Yeah. If somebody got a hold of the tapes, I think they could be. Because usually the shit we laid down on the tape was good. I think a lot of it went sour in the mixing and mastering. I think if anybody got a hold of the tapes and wanted to spend the time and money redoing it, I think there's probably some stuff that could be enhanced a great deal.
KF: I think that would make a lot of KISS fans' wish lists. Similar to what we discussed with you earlier, around this time Paul Stanley was channeling his favorite artists for inspiration. For example, Paul has cited Wilson Pickett's "Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won't Do)" and Free's "All Right Now" as the seeds for "Got To Choose" and "Hotter Than Hell," specifically. Do you recall chatting with Paul about his influences?
RW: I remember Paul saying that he wasn't a lead player. And he said he was fine with that and that he wanted to be the greatest rhythm guitar player, like Pete Townshend. So I remember him mentioning Pete Townshend to me. And what I liked about that is that he wasn't in competition with other guitar players. He just wanted to lay down the most solid, perfect rhythm.
KF: The last track on "Hotter Than Hell" is "Strange Ways." KISS lore has it that this song originally included a seven-minute Peter Criss drum solo, but it was ultimately cut from the finished version on the album? Richie, does this ring the proverbial bell?
RW: From what I recall, the answer to that would be no. No, I don't recall that.
KF: Another rumor that floats around is -- and you just mentioned Gene was in and out of the studio -- that Ace played bass on some of the recordings on "Hotter Than Hell," specifically the tracks he wrote.
KF: Of course, later on the band did switch instruments.
RW: I mean I've talked to a lot of interviewers that said that eventually Ace wasn't playing on the records and that Peter didn't even play on some of the records.
KF: So they didn't switch instruments as early as "Hotter Than Hell"?
RW: No, they didn't switch instruments.
KF: You've mentioned that you worked closely with Ace on his solos. Ace seemed to have an uncanny knack for playing perfect melodic solos that fit like a glove for KISS songs.
KF: Can you talk a little bit about your general process in working with Ace?
RW: I worked closely with Ace on all the solos. I would really work on what he was doing, listening and trying to say, "This riff is good. That riff is good. Try to do something here. Try something there. Work it a little bit. Try this. Try that." But his vocabulary was limited. I mean he only really did Ace. Ace played Ace, you know what I mean?
RW: He did that well. So I didn't try to change that. All I tried to do was just get the most Ace that I could out of that. But it wasn't pulling teeth at all. It was all pretty easy. And also the songs, he didn't really have to stretch a whole lot to do what he had to do to just fit in the songs.
KF: After "Hotter Than Hell," what are your recollections, if any, of the near decision to take KISS to Atlantic Records prior to the third album? I believe a meeting took place and there was a potential offer from Atlantic on the table?
RW: I think it's probably true. Neil Bogart was a real bubble-gum kind of guy. And though he loved KISS I guess, all rock bands wanted to be on Atlantic, on Warner Bros., on A&M, you know? So I definitely think that it was possible that they would be ... I wouldn't remember that because I didn't deal with the business side so much. I was in the studio with he music. But I think it's probably very, very true that they would try to make a move to get to what they felt was the "rock" label that would do the best for them.
KF: Of course, the band ended up staying on Casablanca and Neil Bogart ended up producing the "Dressed To Kill" album? Were you and Kenny disappointed that you were unable to continue working with KISS?
RW: No, we didn't want to. I think me and Kenny made a decision to move on and start producing for some other people. And I think we were doing an act for Clive Davis or something back then. Or just some other thing. We started producing a lot of different things. The second album, I don't know if it left a good taste in anybody's mouth, but I know we made ourselves sort of unavailable for the third album. Or maybe we felt that the second album was a disaster, in a way, and therefore why should we even pursue a third album? I'm surprised that they didn't work with Eddie Kramer for the third album. But they really didn't use any producer. Neil just helped them through it. I never really listened to the third album except of course the song that became their anthem.
KF: Ultimately, KISS broke through with a "live" album, 1975's "Alive!" which drew heavily on the first two albums. Do you think those recordings captured the spirit of the early KISS material better than their studio counterparts?
RW: Well, I knew the band live. I saw the band live quite a few times back in those days. And I knew that there'd be a better future for them and eventually they'd hook on and capture a sound on record. And I thought they did a great job when they finally got together with Ezrin.
RW: Bob Ezrin is one of the greatest producers there ever was in rock music.
KF: Completely agree. Richie, you and Kenny played a big role in KISS' formative years. Are you comfortable with your standing in KISStory?
RW: Am I comfortable? Well you know what, I was there in the beginning and wherever they went after that, the beginning was always the building block. Even if you have a bad influence, it's still a building block. Right? You learn from your mistakes. You learn from the good stuff, you learn from your mistakes. Maybe you learn more from your mistakes. And so the building block is there so I'm real proud of my association with this band. And you know, [people] use the term "discovered" KISS, [as in] who "discovered" KISS? But I was there at the beginning so I'm very proud of that.
KF: Richie, do you have a favorite KISS song?
RW: (pauses) No. Can't answer that. There were quite a few songs that I liked a lot. Obviously the ones that they kept performing through the years. Those would be the ones. I always loved "Strutter." I always thought "Strutter" was really cool.
KF: KISS fans like to play the "what if" game a lot. Do you think Gene and Paul would have made KISS work from the outset with another drummer or another guitar player?
RW: Yes. However, Peter and Ace absolutely bought into this in an amazing way. I mean I don't know if you could find a lot of drummers or a lot of guitar players that are willing to put on makeup. (laughs) Seriously, at that time. So even though the band to me was Gene and Paul, the cohesiveness and the glue that Ace and Peter had for the whole thing -- not just the music -- but for the vibe and the characters that were created -- their characters -- was a very big part of it. Could those characters have been created with another drummer and guitar player? Yes, if you got another guitarist and drummer that bought into what KISS was selling -- the makeup, the stage show, the whole thing. But those guys were perfect for it.
KF: Richie, can you update the fans regarding your professional status nowadays?
RW: I'm retired. I left the music business about 2000 or 2001. I'm out of it. When the passion to make music left me -- my passion to listen to music is as big as its ever been -- but my passion to make music and to be involved ... when that left me, it was fine. I was fine. I did 30 years. I produced 70 albums. I hear my records on the radio now and again. The most important thing in my life is my family. I've been married for 40 years. I have two incredible kids. My son is married. I have an incredible daughter-in-law. My daughter is getting married June 1. I'm going to have an incredible son-in-law there. They are gong to be having children soon. I'm going to be a grandfather. I wished they started earlier, but so be it. They weren't ready to have kids that, now they are. I live in a beautiful neighborhood in a nice house. I have friends. I have the greatest relationship with my wife. What I did in music, I got out of it what I put in. I put in some talent, some ability, a lot of love and a lot of passion. A lot more love and passion maybe than ability and talent. (laughs) But I made some good records; I made some crummy records. But you know what, it was an incredible ride. And when I left -- I like to say the roller-coster of the record business, which it is -- [it] threw me off the roller-coaster the same moment that I was jumping off. So what we did was mutual, between me and the business I was in for 30 years. It was over and I have no problem with that. The fact that this is all coming back now 12 or 13 years after I left the business is astounding, is gratifying, is flattering, and just absolutely wonderful.
Dust's Richie Wise, Kenny Aaronson and Marc Bell
KF: I can certainly sense the passion in your voice today, whether it's talking about the Dust recordings or the craft of recording. Is there a part of you that misses the creative process and being in the studio?
RW: No. However, if you asked the question a different way, "Is there a part of me that's sorry that I stopped playing in a band at 21 years old?" The answer to that is yes. Yeah, I would have loved to have done that.
KF: So you regret that decision?
RW: (pauses) Well, my life went great. It is what it is. Would you do things differently? I mean, you've got 20/20 hindsight, you know that now. But looking back at the ridiculousness -- and that's the word I have to use -- of stopping playing in a band at 21 because nothing was happening after the second album? It was like fucked up, man. I should have certainly said, "Let's do that, let's ..." But we never did. You have to understand, it was all so from the heart and not from the head. My head never spoke to me. Somebody asked me, "Did you ever think that when you were in the studio with KISS or in the studio with anybody else, that'd you'd like to be back in the studio doing that with Dust?" Somebody asked me that, and I said, "No. Dust was over." It was over for me in the same way that the music business ended for me 30 years after that, when I stopped producing records in the year 2000. So yeah, it was over. And you look back and you say, "Woulda, shoulda, coulda." (laughs) You can't live that way. But it was ridiculous to leave playing at 21 years old. But I understand why. I picked up another instrument. The recording studio was my instrument.
(KissFAQ thanks Richie Wise for taking time out to discuss the Dust remasters and his work with KISS. You can listen to samples of the remastered Dust recordings at Amazon and iTunes. And make sure to go out and support your local record store on Record Store Day.)