All Systems Go With David Snowden, The KissFAQ Interview P2

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All Systems Go With David Snowden, The KissFAQ Interview P2

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All Systems Go With David Snowden
David Snowden: The KissFAQ Interview

Continued from Part One

Vinnie Vincent Invasion
Courtesy of David Snowden Promotions

KF: David, how would you describe Vinnie and Dana's collaborative relationship in the studio? It seems Dana was instrumental in helping to capture and arrange Vinnie's solos.

DS: Oh yeah, Dana would sit down with Vinnie and he would be able to vocalize how he wanted it. He'd be like, "Vinnie, when it goes bing a bang a boom, I need you to come in." He would get into it with him. Like I said, it was Vinnie's band and I think that's why they put Vinnie as the producer. But that was all Dana. Dana was the one there. He was there all the time. He was very instrumental in making sure that Bobby Rock was in the band when Bobby drove up and he heard him. He was like, "Vinnie this is the guy." Because prior to that, Vinnie was thinking about Gregg Bissonette, who joined David Lee Roth's band. Which people probably don't even know, but David Lee Roth and Gregg Bissonette showed up at Vinnie's house one day and they gave him a platinum award for "Eat 'Em And Smile." Because at the time Roth had just left Van Halen -- or was thrown out -- whatever you believe there. And he was looking to put together a band. He knew that Vinnie was auditioning all these people. He didn't have time to do a whole lot of auditions. He called up and said, "Hey, do you know anybody?" And Vinnie said, "Yeah, this guy Gregg Bissonette. I was going to hire him but I met Bobby Rock."

KF: So Vinnie and David Lee Roth had a phone conversation?

DS: Yep.

KF: To be able to listen to that call ...

DS: Well, imagine what it was like when David Lee Roth and Gregg Bissonette showed up at his house with the platinum award for "Eat 'Em & Smile." Imagine how I felt when I hung it up in his TV room over the top of his TV for him. (laughs)

KF: Right. (laughs) As you mentioned, it seems Vinnie wasn't convinced Mark was the right choice. Did they get along well?

DS: Oh yeah, they were really good with one another. They worked really well together. They went on the road and I think Vinnie realized just what a joy Mark was because Mark was so upbeat [and] so happy. He was not only glad to be there, but that was his dream. That's what he wanted to do. Mark was just great. I remember Jessica and Elizabeth were like 5 years old and Mark and I were playing with them all the time at [Vinnie's] house. Mark was like -- he was like the rest of us --he was just a big kid.

KF: He really seemed to have an infectious personality.

DS: Yeah. I mean he'd go over to Vinnie's house and he'd come in with roller skates on.

KF: There's a clip of them on "Headbanger's Ball" from 1988 and he's next to Vinnie roller-skating. (laughs)

DS: He was full of energy and he really brought it all together. That was such a good call on Dana's part to bring him in. Fleischman didn't have the look and he didn't want to tour. I know that everybody talks about that he didn't sign a contract and all that sort of stuff. But you can't fault the guy on that, because Vinnie never signed his with KISS.

KF: Fleischman's a whole other conversation ...

DS: Yeah, but he didn't really want to go out on tour. He had a family. And they knew that they had to put this thing on the road in order to get something out of it. That's when Dana came in with Mark and said, "Look, he's the guy." The manager agreed, [the] record company agreed and when Mark joined that band, Chrysalis Records signed Mark at that point. Mark was signed to Chrysalis as well. And that's why when the Invasion fell apart, Chrysalis picked up on Mark's option and they explored that. They dropped Vinnie's option and went with Mark. And as history has proven, it was certainly the right move.

KF: In terms of a shelf-life, "All Systems Go" spent 15 weeks on the Billboard 200. It had a good second week, in jumping 101 positions from No. 181 to No. 80, but it ultimately stalled at No. 64. Do you recall discussing the chart performance with the band and having hopes it was going to take off?

DS: There were a lot of high hopes. But as the band is getting ready to hit the road, and they're breaking up, the record company just let it go. They didn't push it the way that they could have.

KF: So Chrysalis pulled back on their promotional efforts?

DS: Absolutely. Initially when the record was getting ready to come out, Chrysalis was all behind it. They did the big thing down Hollywood Boulevard with the tank and all the guys and some of the record company people riding on it. They had a huge release party. Everybody you can imagine from L.A. was there. Peter Criss was there, which was the first time I got to meet Peter face to face. The guys from Ratt were there, Stryper ... there were so many [bands]. So many of those people also sang that backing backward vocal at the beginning of "Ashes To Ashes," that's got so many different people signing on it. It's not just Mark, Dana and Vinnie. There are guys from Stryper, I think some of the guys from Poison. Anybody who came through that studio, they were willing to put on there.

KF: That'd be at Cherokee Studios, correct?

DS: Cherokee. Yep. If somebody was there or if they came through, they were going ahead and doing that.

KF: I've always thought that the background vocals on "All Systems Go" were well-produced.

DS: Yeah, Dana had a way of recording that was fantastic. Even when they did the first tracking of the record, it was before I went out to L.A. and Mark was doing some of his stuff and he called me up and he was like, "David, listen to this. I can't believe it's me."

He was impressed with the way that he sounded. And I tell you, my wife and I, we just celebrated our first year anniversary, which was nice. When we got together a few years back and we were talking one day and I happened to have "All Systems Go" in the car, and I put it on and she said to me, "Who is this?" And I said to her, "You don't recognize the vocalist?" And I know she likes Slaughter. And when I told her what it was, she said, "No." I said, "Yeah." And I said, "Mark's vocals on this are really good. It was before he went into," this sounds horrible, "what I call the whiny high pitch thing." Which just isn't my personal preference. And I know that Mark has a very good, very soulful voice and he can do that Robert Plant type of thing. And I don't think he needed to do all the other stuff that he did. But then again, Slaughter was huge.

But Dana, when they recorded at Cherokee, l was there 24/7. And when I would go to L.A., one of the guys in the band would always pick me up at the airport and I would usually spend a couple of days with Vinnie at his house with the family. But most of the time I spent at the studio with Mark and Dana, who were always there, and Bob was there a lot. I remember walking out to the newsstand outside of Cherokee, Mark and I did, and who pulled up on a Harley-Davidson but Jay Leno? And Jay Leno was showing us how he had done his first interview with "Playboy" magazine. And he was real excited about it, he didn't know who the hell we were. (laughs) There was so much of that when they were doing the record, you know people would come in. Dana would introduce you and you're like, "Yeah, I've heard of them." When they had the first poster that had all four of them on there, it was the actual one that was still sold in stores when they still had the real heavy-duty glam look, Dana took me to a restaurant and he said, "I want you to see this poster." What was the restaurant called? Canter's or something like...

KF: Canter's Deli.

DS: Yep. And the dudes from Guns N' Roses were sitting in the booth underneath the poster of them. And Dana was showing me the poster, and he was like, "Oh, hey guys. How you doing?" And he starts talking to them and he said, "This is David Snowden. He does our fan club." And he said, "David, this is Guns N' Roses. They're going to be a big band one day."

KF: (laughs). Yeah, you think?

DS: And then when we left, I said, "You know, I have their EP." And he goes, "Really?" And I said, "Yeah, it's cool." But Dana knew everybody. And a lot of people also knew Vinnie, obviously from the KISS thing. The guys from Autograph were at the release party because I went a couple of times to Guitar Center with Vinnie and he seemed like he was always running into the guys from Autograph. But L.A., that's what it was back in the mid-'80s. If you were in a band that was worth knowing about, you were in L.A. And they were all there and they were all hanging out and doing their thing. It was a really good scene. Like I said, when they were recording ["All Systems Go"], with "Ashes To Ashes," they put so many of those people in there in a booth. At one point, Dana asked me, "Why don't you jump in the booth? All I need you to sing is ashes to ashes." I was like, "I can't sing." And he goes, "Doesn't matter." (laughs) There are so many people on there, I don't know who is on there.

KF: Yeah, it sounds like a big stacked vocal. David, back to the album's chart performance, I remember reading that "All Systems Go" was approaching gold certification. Was the album anywhere near that mark?

DS: Neither one of the records were. Neither one.

David Snowden and Bobby Rock
Courtesy of David Snowden Promotions

KF: So these albums probably got up in the six figures, but nowhere near gold?

DS: No. And it's like you had said earlier, the charts were a lot different then. When SoundScan came in, it was not about how many you're shipping, it's not about how many were siting in stores, it's about how many are actually physically rung up through a cash register. And back then, like you had touched on with how the record debuted and all of the sudden it shot up, what they could do then was when your record came out, you didn't necessarily put it out as soon as it came out, you didn't let it enter the charts. You would try to save up sales. And then when you wouldn't report to "Billboard," you could say, "OK, look we sold 30,000 this week." And you're already a month into the record, but you already know that you've got 125,000 in sales. Then you could come back and say, "Hey, we just sold 75,000 more." And it made a huge jump, and that's how those charts used to be impacted then, and that made a big difference with radio. That's how they used to get all that stuff. Nowadays, it's like, it comes out, the next week you're on the chart, you might be in the Top 10, Top 20, and before you know it, you're not even in the Top 200.

KF: That's exactly the pattern for heritage acts such as KISS these days: a big debut week and sales drops thereafter.

DS: Exactly. But back then, you could save up sales and you could basically alter that stuff. You know, I worked in music distribution for awhile and some of the people who had been around for years knowing that I was a KISS fan and that sort of stuff, they would always tell me about the big debacle with the solo albums. About how the record company would come and say, "We need you to buy 50,000 of each." And they were like, "We're not going to sell 50,000." And they're like, "It's OK. We'll take them back." They just needed to be able to ship them to get them out there. And that's how so much of that certification used to happen.

Vinnie's first record, it was the fastest-selling debut record of any artist in the history of Chrysalis Records. And it did sell about 125,000 units in the first month. It was really huge but it wasn't able to maintain it.

KF: Yeah, I am surprised there wasn't another video to follow "Boyz Are Gonna Rock."

DS: There was going to be.

KF "No Substitute"?

DS: Yes it was. The reason for that was you had a record out there that had Robert Fleischman on it. When "Boyz Are Gonna Rock" came out, Fleischman saw that it was his voice without him. He was able to sue the record company. They ended up settling for about $50,000. And then when it came time for "No Substitute," rather than go through all that, they thought about re-recording it. But then they thought, "It's not going to be the same version that's on the record." And the whole heavy-duty glam thing, even as you look at the beginning of the tour where there were a bunch of guys that looked like they were in drag, by the end of the tour the image had really toughened up quite a bit.

KF: You know, I had the poster you were referring to on my wall growing up. The one with the band all glammed out, Vinnie doing his hand gesture, in front of that silver background. My dad used to come in and say, "Who in the fuck are these fruitcakes?"

DS: Yeah, well imagine my dad, who was a military man his whole life, when they all came into his house. (laughs)

KF: (laughs)

DS: Well, you know my dad's comment when they all left, the next morning, he was like, "Well, at least they washed their hair." (laughs) My dad was a huge, huge supporter of what I did. It's your family that always sticks behind you. One of the funniest people I met, talking about family, was Mark Slaughter's father. His father was so funny. You would drive with him around Vegas, he would sit there and tell you, "I could have bought that. I could have bought that. I thought about buying that." He gave you the whole history of Vegas. That guy knew it all. The first time I went to Vegas, I went with Dana Strum, he was moving from Sherman Oaks, California, to Las Vegas. He bought a condo. He had a girl who was traveling with him, one of the girls he was dating at the time. And he wanted to be alone so Mark and I actually slept in the back. And that was the day, if you went back in history and looked, that's when a fuel pump blew up in Henderson, NV. [Ed: May 4, 1988] Mark and I were walking across the street, he was taking me to Vesely Music where he used to teach guitar lessons, because he wanted to introduce me to Jerry Vesely, who owned the place. When they had that explosion, it was felt in Las Vegas so much we thought it was an earthquake. It actually knocked us to the ground in the middle of the street. Dana had just moved into the house, it actually cracked his front door. Thankfully, it didn't break any of his record awards because Dana had some really cool stuff. Because, to this day, I've never seen a record award like the one he has for the "Blizzard Of Ozz" record. It has the certification on it, but the plaque, instead of having the traditional "to commemorate the sales," it actually said, "presented to Dana Strum for ghostly inspired material."

KF: Right.

DS: Because Dana was behind putting Randy Rhoads in that band. Dana had, literally, a closet full of tapes of Randy. At one point, he gave me a publicity shot of Jake E. Lee that he took in a bathroom, where he's standing up against the tiled wall and it said on it "Management: Dana Strum." And at the time, it still had his current telephone number on it. Dana did so much and he knew everybody, which is what made him so valuable to Vinnie. Dana had spent so much time with Ozzy and he really should have been in Ozzy's band, but again that goes to show you the influence record companies have. The record company told Ozzy, "You can't be up on the stage looking like an old fart with these three young guys."

KF: I recently read a great feature in "Guitar World" magazine and Dana recalled his experience with Ozzy and how he was close to being in the band.

DS: I think that, based on what Dana actually told me, he was in the band, but it was the record company told him no. For Ozzy to give you a gold record for "ghostly inspired material" and the fact that Dana owned a lot of those Randy Rhoads tapes. There was a King Biscuit Flower Hour that happened when Ozzy was on the Bark At The Moon tour, and if you listen to that, Dana was the one that produced it. And the show ended up coming up short for what they wanted, and Dana pulled one of the old Randy Rhoads tape and inserted one of the songs to make it longer. That's actually what aired. So the King Biscuit Flower Hour has one track with Randy Rhoads on it, that's not all Jake E. Lee.

KF: I'll have to look that up.

DS: Yeah, well that was something they never publicized. I remember Dana telling me and that came to be when they were recording "All Systems Go" and I was hanging out with them. Dana went over and picked up his girlfriend and he was really good with cars so he changed the oil in the car and we were hanging out at his house. And he pulled out all of his bass guitars and I wanted to take some pictures. And when he opened his closet, I saw all of these tapes. I said, "What are all the tapes?" And that's when he started telling me about it. He had said that when Ozzy finally did the "Tribute" record and Ozzy said that's all they had, well that was literally all that he had. Because Dana had a lot of that stuff. And that's why Dana got thanked on so many things because that's what he did.

He was really good at putting people together and listening to what they had. And that's what made him such a perfect complement for Vinnie. After the Invasion split up, all I could think was, "I can never imagine Vinnie meeting somebody like Dana." Mind you, we could get into all the personality things and I could tell you a million Dana Strum stories, and you'd be like, "Really?" People have heard a lot of it. People go on about Dana the businessman, the shyster ...


KF: I am definitely aware of his reputation.

DS: Despite all of that, he knows how to identify people, he knows how to identify talent. And he could do that with Vinnie, he could take all of these ideas that he had, and he could make them come out sounding like a million dollars. Even the stuff that Vinnie wrote for KISS, I heard a lot of those original demos that he did, for "Lick It Up" and things like that. I heard them at Vinnie's house because I was asking about them. When you listen to them, you're like, "Well, it sounds like the song." But you could also hear and understand what Gene and Paul did with those things. They came in and they took the genesis of that song and they made it the hit that it was. And Vinnie, when he used to do his demos, all of that stuff would be Vinnie singing. And Vinnie actually had a really good rock kind of voice.

KF: I've always liked his voice.

DS: I used to always tell Vinnie, I mean to this day, out of all the versions of the song "Tears" that I've heard, his version was always my favorite.

KF: I love his version too. It's fantastic.

DS: Yeah. Dana was the kind of guy that could take these tapes that sounded so crude and he could put them [together] to know exactly what fit where. Dana's got a really good ear for that, and he's got a really good talent for that. He knows how to piece things together. He's kind of got his ears to the street, well at least back then, he knew what people wanted to hear and how they wanted to hear it. And that was great. Even when I listen to "All Systems Go" to this day, I laugh at some of the stuff. Like in the beginning of "Let Freedom Rock," when you've got Dana walking around saying, "What's going on in here? You guys are looking at all these car magazines."

KF: I could never make out the dialog in that intro.

DS: It's Dana and Mikey Davis, the engineer. That's the two of them going back and forth and what it is, it starts off with [Mikey] saying to Dana, "Hey Dana, did you know that Dokken is number 58 on the charts." Then Dana says, "What's going on in here? All you guys do is look at car magazines." He's imitating George Sewitt.

KF: (laughs) Got it.

DS: That's exactly what he's doing. Because George Sewitt, when he'd go to L.A., and he'd try to figure out what was going on, he'd walk in and Dana would always have car magazines out, because he was a big car guy. And that's what he's always say to them. (laughs) Even at the end of the record when they wanted to something funny at the end of it.

KF: That's Mark.

DS: Yep. Because Mark used to do all his imitations all the time in the studio. He'd do his Donald Duck and I think there's even something at the end of "Let Freedom Rock."

KF: Something like, "Very good boys." (laughs)

DS: Yeah. And at the end of the album, he says, "Hey, tell your friends about us." I wasn't a big fan of that, but that was something George Sewitt had suggested that they do to try and let people know that any way we could push this. And that was the beauty about what was great about what we were doing with the fan club -- George Sewitt recognized it, the record company recognized it [and] Mark, Dana and Bobby recognized it, and to a certain point Vinnie did. But Vinnie would always say to me, "You know, David, if I had the money or if I could get the record company to get behind this," because I kept saying it to him, "What you need to do is, we need to sit down, we need to send out mailers to people. We need to get people involved. We need to get things on MTV. We need to get people requesting this stuff, not only at radio, but with magazines." And we touched on a little bit, but we had no budget whatsoever. And I wrote down a whole marketing plan, and after that split up, I worked with the band Britny Fox, and their manager, he believed in it. And we went and we did it and we got a gold record out of it. I turned the same thing over to the Slaughter guys, and you know I have a gold, platinum and a double-platinum [album] from that record.


KF: "Stick It To Ya."

DS: So many people don't realize just how important the fans are and how much that they make this happen. Nowadays, if I tell people, "You know, I used to run fan clubs." They say, "Really? What the hell?" They don't realize how important that was to the artists.

KF: Especially before the days of the Internet.

DS: That's right. I mean now, it goes on the Internet, and you hope people put it on their Facebook page. That's not the way it was. We didn't communicate like that, at the speed of light. We'd have to send out mailers and give people incentives to do things. Somebody wrote in and said, "I want an autographed 8x10." You got them an autographed 8x10. I used to drive them nuts, taking them stacks and stacks of pictures that I always wanted them to sign, because to me that was really important that if somebody wrote in and wanted an autographed 8x10, maybe it wasn't personalized, but you still got one. And when I traveled with the band, to this day one of my closest friends in the world, I met him outside the Tower Theater in Philadelphia when Vinnie's band was playing with Alice Cooper. I went with them and I was on the tour bus. We pulled up, and there was this really big fat kid holding a sign that said, "Vinnie Vincent is God." And I looked at Vinnie, Vinnie look, "There's a kid holding a sign that says, 'Vinnie Vincent is God.' You have to get out and meet him." Well, it was December. And Vinnie was like, "It's cold outside." I said, "Well, I'm brining him backstage." I went out and introduced himself and he said, "My name's Alan. I'm a member of the fan club. Number 184." I was like, "Oh my God, how do you know that?" It was a big deal to him and I took him back and I said, "The band is going to come out. Let 'em go in, but then I'm taking you in and you'll get to meet them." And he did.

The band realized that that sort of stuff was important. It was unfortunate that as we went into "All Systems Go," everything just seemed like doom and gloom all the time. It was, "Vinnie this is what we need to do." "Oh, I wish I had the money." It was like, "Well, we do. We just have to do it. We can't worry about, let's go out to dinner and put things on the record company tab. Or let's go something extravagant because the record company is going to pay for it. Let's get them to pay for something that's going to make a difference in a band's career."

KF: This sounds eerily reminiscent of the breakdown in Slaughter's "Burnin' Bridges."

DS: Yeah, well I tell you, when I first heard that, I remember hearing the demo of it. And at the time, the record company wanted to call them Slaughterhouse. And I still has a cassette tape around here that says Slaughterhouse on it. And it had that on there. And the first time I heard it, I laughed my ass of because I was like, "God, how could it be any more obvious who they are talking about?" And it would happen a lot where, like when I told you the story about Vinnie's wife always calling him and telling him to come home. You know, and it's sad that for a guy who was so so talented and I thought a very genuine nice guy, he just ... for someone who should have had that drive and that energy to do it, it was something that was lacking there. I think that when Gene Simmons talks about it and he says that, "[Vinnie's] probably the most destructive person I've ever met," it's actually very true. I mean, Vinnie once told me that he was so touched and so honored when he had joined KISS, Gene had actually said to him, "Vinnie, you're a musician's musician." And Gene told him, "Vinnie, all I do is I emulate what people want to see and what they expect." He says, "But you genuinely have a talent." And he really does. It's just trying to get somebody to do something and to do it for their own good, it just doesn't always work. And unfortunately, I think Vinnie wasn't that kind of person.

KF: And in the music business, talent just isn't is enough, is it?

DS: No it isn't. I used to say that years ago, I was working with a very big management company and I kept telling them that I thought that they should sign the band Tuff because I was like, "Look at them. There's four guys in that band that I'd want to fuck."

KF: (laughs)

DS: Because they looked that good. It wasn't a gay thing, that was the '80s. That's what it was. The better-looking the band, the more it sold. Which is why Chrysalis put Mark Slaughter out front, because he was a good-looking guy. Like I said, I was working with this management company, I thought they should sign Tuff and they wouldn't do it. And they told me that they had another band -- that nobody would ever remember -- they had a band called Shark Island.

KF: I remember them. The singer, Richard Black, was in the Contraband project. 

DS: Yep. And that was the whole reason why Contraband happened, was because they were trying to make Shark Island happen. Their manager said to me at the time, "You know what, when Shark Island sells a million records, I'll sign Tuff." And I was like, "Shark Island isn't going to sell shit." You had four guys in the band that just didn't have the look. I mean they were a talented band, a good band. Some of the guys went on to be in the band Alias.

KF: I liked Alias' debut album. Freddy Curci, what a voice.

DS: Oh yeah. I worked that record. Freddy told me, when "More Than Words Can Say" came out and we were working that, he said to me, "If this record goes to number one I will sing at your wedding if you ever get married." That song went to number two, and I was like, "You son of a bitch."

KF: (laughs) That song was a big hit.

DS: It really was. There again, that was a huge radio hit but it didn't translate into sales.

KF: Yes, I don't believe that album attained any certification.

DS: No, it didn't. To actually go back and try to get some records now -- especially with reissues and things like that -- to go back and get recertification, there are so many things that companies have to go through. But what it ends up costing them, it's not worth saying, "OK, we have another gold record to put up on the wall."

KF: A lot of KISS fans wonder why KISS's classic albums have not been re-certified.

DS: Yeah, they would have to go back to all the Casablanca paperwork and prove that it sold that many copies and they'd still have to pay the people that were doing it, plus a fee to get it re-certified. It's not really worth it. It's great the way SoundScan works now, because you know every single thing that happens.


KF: David, if -- and this is a big if -- there is harmony with the Invasion and there is a proper tour and proper record company marketing campaign, would "All Systems Go" had been a successful album in 1988?

DS: Oh, absolutely. I think just looking at the success Slaughter had, that should have been "All Systems Go." That really should have been. And I'll be the first to admit, I told you before, I didn't really care for the high whiny vocal type thing that was happening with the Slaughter records. But "All Systems Go," you look at it, every song on that record is only credited to Vinnie. And it's unfortunate because he should have worked with somebody like Mark and developed him as a songwriter, because Mark was writing some really, really good songs. If Mark would have said, "Hey look, you have to record 'Up All Night." That could have been huge.

KF: Did Mark have that song around at that time?

DS: Actually, I think he wrote it right after. But Vinnie wasn't open to it. It's a shame because if you look at his first record, he was trying to tap the resource of Robert Fleischman. He was trying to get Robert Fleischman to be a songwriter. Had Vinnie used that same effort with Mark Slaughter, it would have been huge. But that's a whole other debate. Getting back to your original question, I think had that band been unified, if they would have had a manager who would have pulled them all together and if they would have used Mark as that sales pull because ... he was absolutely perfect for that time period to sell music. He had the talent, he had a good look, he had a great voice. And that record company, if they would have pushed that record -- and if the band had not exploded internally like they did -- it could have really been a huge record because there was a lot of tours that were coming on the table. People wanted to take them out. There was even talk at one point about the possibility of a KISS tour.

KF: Really?

DS: Would that have happened? Who knows. And a lot of times too, as with any business, when you're there and you're talking about different things, and you're listening, there are so any things that are brought up that are possibilities that just never happen. Vinnie always had so many different guitar companies coming after him.

KF: I always liked Vinnie's double V guitar. But there was an Ibanez, a Carvin, a Washburn, a Jackson. I actually know the luthier who built the Ibanez guitar, John Carruthers.

DS: Back in the day, prior to the first Invasion record, Vinnie actually gave me the very first prototype to the Randy Rhoads Jackson guitar. It had a fretboard on it and the body, but there was no hardware.

KF: Do you still have that?

DS: No. It wasn't painted, but Vinnie had autographed it and signed it as the first one. When he gave it to me, it was something that was sitting in his closet and collecting dust. And he said, "Do you want this?" I asked what it was. He said, "Well, when I joined KISS, I was hanging out with Grover and I told him I need a really cool guitar." And [Grover] said, "Well Randy and I never quite got to finishing this." And he gave it Vinnie, and said, "Why don't you take it to the guys and show them what it looks like and see if they are cool with you playing it." So he took it to Gene and Paul and showed it to them, and they said they were OK with it. And that's when he had Grover actually build one. I ended up, the person that I gave it to was in New Jersey. I'll have to ask him if he still has it, because he's a friend of mine on Facebook. (laughs)

KF: This reminds me of the rumor that floats out there that while he was in KISS, Vinnie had an offer to do a Vinnie Vincent signature guitar with Jackson and Gene and Paul vetoed it. Is there any truth to this?

DS: You know, Vinnie had told me that. And I don't want to say that there is none whatsoever to it. Then again, you hear so many things, and even a lot of the stuff that Vinnie would tell me I think that, as time goes on, you start remembering things a little differently. If you and I would have had this same conversation 25 years ago about the "All Systems Go" record ... the record came out, the band was breaking up, the tour was falling apart, I went to New York to see the band. I got there, I was literally pulled aside by the band's publicist, and she said to me, "You were on the guest list. But Vinnie took you off." And I was like, "But he knew I was coming." And then she said, "I don't know what's going on." Then the band's manager came to me and he tried to strong arm me to give him all the fan club listings and all that sort of stuff, and I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. What's going on?"

And when they played Baltimore a couple of days later, I went to the show and I literally got all the way up front. I tapped on Vinnie's shoe. He looked down, he saw me and he turned away and walked back toward the amps. I was like, "I don't even know what's going on?" And later that night, a friend of mine, he went backstage and he walked up to Vinnie, and he said, "Vinnie, David Snowden sends his love." And Vinnie walked away and walked out. And a couple of weeks later I got a termination letter from him, and it was like, "What the fuck happened here?" Had you talked to me then, yeah, I was upset, I was a little bitter.

KF: I bet.

DS: And now I look back on it and I think, "You know what?" I had some great times then. I was really close to all four of those guys in that band. I loved them like brothers. To this day, it touches me when I look at an "All Systems Go" CD and you see in that special thanks that it actually says, "We're lucky to have you, our bro to the end." Because that's how we felt about each other. We cared about each other. I had an incident that happened at L'Amour in Brooklyn, New York, and I saw those guys do something that will always be very, very special to me. They were just really good, very genuine people and it's a shame that it didn't happen because the time was right for them then. When that record came out, it was the hype of hair metal. It was the "in" thing. They had better songs than 90 percent of those bands out there.

KF: I wholeheartedly agree. David, I have to ask: Was that concert in Baltimore the last time you came into contact with Vinnie? Did you come into contact with him after that?

DS: No, I never did after that. I had some people through different channels call me and tell me that he wanted to speak with me, and I just thought I didn't have anything really to say. Even after the Invasion split up, I had this whole marketing thing that I had talked to Mark and Dana about so much. I gave them that, I gave them the fan club list, and I wished them the best of luck and told them that I think I needed to go let them go do what they needed to do and I needed to go do what I needed to. I didn't see those guys again ... I saw them on the Hot in the Shade tour.

KF: That's a special tour for me. My first KISS show was KISS, Winger and Slaughter at Long Beach Arena on September 14, 1990.

DS: Wow. I was backstage and was actually talking to Eric Carr when Dana walked in.

KF: I remember the Nelson twins being in attendance and hearing a rumor Mark St. John was in the building.

DS: My first show, I'm kind of lucky, it's the video from the Capitol Centre that circulates from the Dynasty tour.

KF: Awesome.

DS: It's kinda cool, you know the first show you go to, and you can watch it on DVD all the time. When your that big of a fan ... and you know, I still go out and I get the records and I still talk to Keith Leroux sometimes.

KF: There just isn't any feeling like your first KISS concert. I thought the HITS bill was fantastic and KISS' set list was a dream come true.

DS: Oh yeah. They were all great. When I saw Mark and Dana that night, we hugged each other and talked to each other a little bit. And then we didn't see each other for --oh my God -- probably 12-15 years. And how that happened was they were coming to town to do a one-off gig, kind of like how you hear about the big M3 Festival that happens now here in Maryland ever year. It was something like that, but it was in an arena and there were a lot of bands on [the bill], Enuff Z'Nuff, Vixen, L.A. Guns, Slaughter ... it was a lot of bands I had worked with. Out of the blue Mark called me and asked me how I was doing, asked me how I'd been, and asked me if I wanted to come to the show. And I said, "That'd be great." I called Mark and went down to the show. Mark actually came out of the arena, he walked outside through the parking lot, came over and give me a big hug and walked us backstage. And it was really funny because I saw all of them and we talked for awhile. And when they played I stood on the side of the stage like I used to do in the Invasion days. And in the middle of the song, Dana walked over to me and he yells in my ear, because it was so loud, and he said, "As I stand here, David Snowden. I can't fucking believe it." And he stopped playing, gave me a quick hug and then when right back to it.

KF: That's cool.

DS: I turned and looked at my friend and said, "I don't know where he's been lately, I"m probably going to have to get this washed and go take a shower." (laughs)

KF: (laughs)

DS: And when I left that night Dana hugged me again and I actually made the joke to him to his face. He laughed and then he said to me, "Do you have to always be an asshole?" And I looked at him and I said, "Dana, I learned from the best."

KF: (laughs)

DS: I've run into him a couple of times ... about two years after that I ran into him at a Motley Crue show and when I ran into him, that was during my first marriage, and Dana asked where she was and I explained that the marriage had ended and she passed away. And we talked about that for a while and he was like, "We really need to stay in touch and do stuff." I haven't really seen the guy since. Your life kind of goes on and it's kind of like an old girlfriend or just an old relationship that you've had that [has] had it's time and you kind of remember the good.

And so much of that was my relationship with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion was so different than my relationship with any band that I have ever worked with since. I actually had a personal relationship with each one of those guys. We loved each other like brothers, we would do anything for each other. I know I have recordings here from my answering machine of Vinnie calling and singing "Happy Birthday" on my answering machine. I'd get cards from them all the time, postcards from them from the road. We'd always hang out, we'd go out and do things together. And after that stopped, when I got involved with bands after that, it became purely business. I could listen to their stuff, and I could go, "You know what, I think that song fucking sucks but it will probably sell a million."

KF: On that note, what is your least favorite track on "All Systems Go"?

DS: "Let Freedom Rock." Only because ... there was a song [that was] very very similar.

KF: I've heard the track by the group Sin, and that Vinnie may have been "inspired" by it.

DS: Yeah. It was Rik Fox's band, he was in Steeler. I just -- I don't know -- when I first heard that song, regardless of the similarities and the legalities that actually ended up coming out of all of that -- I thought the intro was funny.

KF: With Vinnie playing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

DS: Yeah, and you gotta love the fact that when KISS went out and did the "Revenge" tour, and they started doing it too.

KF: (laughs) An interesting coincidence?

DS: Let's face it. Like I said, Im a graphic artist nowadays and a photographer but I always tell people that art and photography is so subjective. It's like music. There's nothing really original out there anymore. During the '80s, KISS were real big ones to follow and Vinnie did it too. Because when Vinnie came out, I think he was about six months too late for that serious glam look that he had. It threw me for a loop the first time I saw it because I didn't know what he was trying to do. The music did not represent that look.

But by the times they got to "All Systems Go," they went for more the look that every band at the time was going for. They were going for the regular jeans and T-shirt almost type of look. KISS did the exact same thing. They went out and they followed everybody. If Bon Jovi had somebody take a picture for their album cover, KISS wanted it. When Motley Crue went heavy glam, KISS went heavy glam. Then Motley Crue said, "Fuck that, we're bikers now." And KISS decided to look like bikers.


KF: Yes, indeed. David, you said something earlier that I want to go back to. Even though Vinnie was out of the band, did he ever get involved with the album that would eventually become "Animalize"?

DS: Well, what happened was, when the tour ended, he was still in KISS. As they got ready for the next [album], that's when he had told them he was done. They still kept calling him saying, "We're getting ready to go into the studio so we need to get together and come up with the material." And he wasn't returning their calls, instead of telling them, "Hey, I've had enough," he wasn't returning the calls. Eventually, Diana Ross called Vinnie and she called under the premise of, "Hey, I want you to play on my next record. I want you to write some songs for me."

KF: Diana Ross called Vinnie?

DS: Diana Ross. Because, you know, at one point [she was] involved with Gene. But Vinnie also knew that, so he never returned those calls. They just loved Vinnie. They loved the songwriting that they did. The guys in Iron Maiden, they couldn't believe the stuff that the guy was doing. One of the first times I called Vinnie at Baby-O Recorders when they did the first record, Nicko McBrain answered the telephone. And he goes, "Man, this guy is playing backwards and forwards and upside-down! God, we're hoping to get a few scraps of tapes underneath the door once in a while. We love this stuff!" And that was before I heard any of it, and I'm thinking, "Wow, if a dude from Iron Maiden is digging this, this is going to be some heavy-duty, in-your-face kind of stuff!"

KF: No kidding.

DS: All I kept thinking was "Creatures Of The Night"-era KISS meets Iron Maiden. And it's kind of like what you got, except you got the over-the-top guitar playing, which was unfortunate because I think that hurt the album more than it helped. And even by the time "All Systems Go" happened, Vinnie was starting to realize that. That's why they were trying to make it more of a band- and a song-oriented kind of thing. It was still trying to get him to calm down on some of that stuff. Because "Back On The Streets," KISS recorded that with Gene singing it, Paul singing it, Eric singing it ...

KF: Can you verify that David? I believe Michael James Jackson liked the song and it was demoed, but I haven't heard about Paul, Gene and Eric singing it.

DS: Yep. They recorded it with all four of them, including Vinnie singing it.

KF: I've often thought about Paul singing that song and how it could have been a KISS classic.

DS: And the reason why it didn't go on there was everybody tried singing that song -- and this is where I give Paul Stanley a lot of credit -- Paul's got a really good ear for knowing good music. And his thought was, "Nobody can get this song to have the heart and the soul the way that it does when Vinnie sang it." There was something about the way that Vinnie would sing that song that was just incredible. But you can't bring a new band member and let them sing on their first record.

KF: Well, Tommy Thayer did. You know, when I hear you say that, I think about how Tommy got to sing a song on his first KISS studio album. Why couldn't Eric and Vinnie have been given those same opportunities? I understand the circumstances of the band may have been different but ...

DS: You know, when you actually look at it, it wasn't really Tommy's first KISS record, was it? (laughs)

KF: (laughs) You have a point there.

DS: A lot of people really, really loved ["Back On The Streets"] and wanted to do that song. Ace recorded it with Richie Scarlett singing it.

KF: That's right.

DS: The John Norum [version], that came out and they tried to put it out there. Everybody thought that was going to be a great, great song, and it could have been a good song for the Invasion, but on that first record, quite honestly the guitar solo ruined it.

KF: For a mid-tempo song, Vinnie didn't hold anything back, did he?

DS: Exactly. The solo totally ruined it. That's putting it very harshly but Vinnie realized that when they were doing the second record and the record company and management they were all telling him the same thing. Like I said before, they wanted a very unified band effort and they wanted good songs. They weren't looking for the over-the-top thing. They told him, "You got that on your first record."

Vinnie Vincent at the video shoot for "That Time Of Year"
Courtesy of David Snowden Promotions

KF: See, that's when I hear "That Time Of Year," listen to the song-appropriate guitar solo Vinnie plays. You can hum those melodies and his use of the harmonizer perfectly augments the passages. Same thing with "Ecstasy," Vinnie plays some nice lines there too. Vinnie had that talent to compose a melodically rich guitar solo for those type of songs.

DS: Yeah. Vinnie, when he was playing a guitar, he could make it sing.

KF: Yes, exactly.

DS: I mean, he really, really could. Even a song like, was it "Naughty, Naughty," [the part when] Mark sings, "You know when I saw you backstage..." and you're listening to him play that guitar in that background. He's talking to Mark with it! It's the same sort of thing Steve Vai did in "Yankee Rose."

KF: Very much so.

DS: Vinnie was so good at that sort of stuff. That even goes back to what I said before, you'd have a conversation with him and half the time you felt like he was mimicking you when you were talking to him. He was just such a good talented guy. It's just a shame that ... I think management and his own personality kind of got in the way.

KF: And I think that can segue into my final questions. It's been 25 years since your days with the Invasion. And the events that have transpired -- or lack of events -- are common knowledge. But David, would you be open to talking to Vinnie? And what would you say to him if you had the opportunity?

DS: Oh, I'd be open to talking to anybody. At this stage of my life, for as many things as I've been through, even in ... I guess this puts a different perspective on it ... in the last five years, i lost my sister, my godmother, my grandmother, my ex-wife, [and] my mother. You start losing people in life and you start realizing whatever happened in the past, happened in the past. And none of that matters. What matters are people. People come over to my house and they see things and they look around and I have all these gold and platinum awards, and I tell them, "It's really great and I'm really proud of it. But that was then, this is now."

If I talked to Vinnie, my biggest thing would be to ask him how he was doing because to me, that's what is important. You know, how he's doing these days. I know he had some problems between him and his current wife. And you know, he went through a divorce and then he lost his ex-wife. I'd be more concerned about how he's doing these days. As far as the business stuff, what happened, doesn't matter. None of that's important. I just learned over time that, you have to be the person that you are now. What happened to you in the past makes you who you are now. But, would I want to go back into business with him again? No. Absolutely not. But I would be very concerned to know, "How are you doing?" and "Are you OK?"

(KissFAQ thanks David Snowden for his time, insight and candor, and for taking us down memory lane with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. Once again, learn more about David's work at his company's website or drop him a line on Facebook, where he has some great KISS-related photos.)