Tobias Nathaniel,
The TVD First Date

“As a wee youngin’ of around seven, I was obsessed with a particular vinyl record that happened to be lying around my aunt’s place.”

“This album evoked all manner of mystery and excitement in me: four demonic figures straight out of a twisted game of Dungeons and Dragons perched upon a dais while an assemblage of similarly bedecked succubi wrothe in rapt anticipation below. Who the fuck were these guys? What was the story behind this hellish scene? As it turns out, those guys were Kiss, and the album was 1978’s Love Gun. As for the story—that’s a bit more complicated. And though I couldn’t fully comprehend it at the time, there was quite a lot wrong with the picture I’d ended up painting for myself (and that Kiss had helped paint for me). Let’s have a little look.

First, I could never have predicted what I’d ultimately experience once finally listening to the record. Yep, that’s right. I hadn’t even heard the album. My parents deemed the music inappropriate for one of such a tender young age. Consequently, I conjured up auditory images which I perceived to match the album’s visuals. I figured Love Gun would sound something like Metallica’s “The Thing That Should Not Be” or perhaps Meshuggah’s “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion.” How could it be anything other than the fiercest, heaviest, most relentless assault the album cover visually suggested?

A couple years later (evidently nine is the magical Kiss-listening age), with suspense thoroughly built, the needle finally made contact with Love Gun. My jaw dropped, but not in the way I’d hoped. What was this? Where was the vicious onslaught I’d been waiting for all these years? This wasn’t anything I hadn’t already heard on the radio (and very likely had, without realizing what it was). Staring back and forth from album cover to turntable, I just couldn’t get to grips with this stark juxtaposition. Thoroughly dejected, I headed out to the local comic book shop. Man, I should’ve seen this all coming.

Upon stepping into Kralnor’s Comics—our beloved neighborhood geek-haven—I was hit with yet another belated realization: these Kiss scoundrels had already been inhabiting my immediate realm for quite some time. Perhaps due to my own inability to reconcile the thing that I’d built with what they actually were, I just somehow hadn’t seen it. But sure enough, sandwiched right between Superman and Captain America sat the very objects of my recently-acquired dilemma. And they were there in profusion.

Dolls (yeah, I know what an action figure is), lunchboxes, board games, trading cards, you name it—if their likenesses could be plastered upon something, that something appeared to be fair game. But what in the fuck could these fiendish archvillains—what with their love-destroying gun and all—possibly have in common with the morally-upstanding, crime-fighting superheroes they were surrounded by? The answer was right in front of my face. Well, it actually was my face, since the nine-year-old me was in fact the intended marketing-scheme target of both. At any rate, the arcane portrait of Kiss I’d created was crumbling fast. Back to my aunt’s and the Love Gun record I went, to see if there was something I’d happened to miss.

Love Gun once again in hand (yeah, yeah, laugh it up), I sought to make sense of it all. Demons of the netherworld making cutesy party-rock music as they conspired with Superman to separate a kid from his cash. This couldn’t be right, could it? Something didn’t add up here—because if pre-adolescent kids (and their parents’ dough) were the primary concern, why were full-grown women attending the show? I mean, they were right there on the album cover—clearly engaged, enrapt and bedraped in the Kiss experience.

A wild thought occurred to me then—there was a similarity between this image and another I’d seen. The latter was something dubbed Golden Girl by an artist my aunt liked to call “Uncle Frank.” But that painting wasn’t real. It was a work of fantasy. Still, an uncanny sense of lackadaisical objectification lingered. I couldn’t articulate it at the time; it simply felt creepy and wrong, just as the Love Gun cover did. All these contrived Kiss-sycophants were nothing like my aunt, whom I loved and respected. An actual human, an actual woman. Then it hit home. Love Gun was fantasy too. None of it was ever real, at least not in the way I’d imagined it. Well now, there it finally was. The illusion fully shattered.

If all the above simply sounds like a scathing rant concerning Kiss and their junk-music peddling, money-grabbing, female-objectifying shenanigans, you’d be only partially right. Did I intend to roast ‘em a little? Sure. But this is really secondary to the main point: I actually learned a lot from my early interaction with Kiss and Love Gun. Those guys helped turn me into a critical thinker at a pretty young age.

Things aren’t always what they seem: a cover doesn’t always represent the contents within; Superman and his fellow purchasable cohorts aren’t always morally-aligned; women on the album or magazine cover don’t always represent reality. And to this day, I rarely take things at face value without digging a little deeper first.

Because from what I’ve learned, a Kiss isn’t always just a Kiss.”
Tobias Nathaniel, The Red Step

The eponymous debut from The Red Step arrives in stores on February 26, 20120 via Pravda Records—on colored marbled vinyl.

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PHOTO: BOJAN DJURISIC

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