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Back In The Solo Album Groove With Stephanie Tudor

Former Aucoin Management director of production recalls working with the "genius" Bill Aucoin and the buzz and excitement surrounding the 1978 KISS solo albums

Interview by Tim McPhate

KissFAQ: Stephanie, you were with Aucoin Management from 1977-1986. Can you outline what your responsibilities entailed?
Stephanie Tudor: Sure. I was actually the director of production from 1980 through '86. When I first started in 1977, I believe I was 23 years old and I was working under the director of production, Ken Anderson, at the time. We were handling everything that had to do with the groups under Aucoin Management [from] a touring aspect. Ken was hiring the set designers and the costume designers and I was working with the road crew, making sure that everything was going according to plan out on the road, meaning travel and equipment getting to all the different points at the right times and the right places. As you can imagine, a huge show involves many aspects. There are pyrotechnics, there's blood, there are costumes, there are huge stage sets. And that company traveling around the world for a good part of the year, it was quite a big endeavor. So we used to handle all of that. After Ken left a few years after that, I then became director of production, although there was a little change in the job. I was not a set designer as Ken was but I still handled all of the day-to-day production for the group, overseeing what was going out on the road as far as working with the road crews, again all the travel, taking on all the liner notes, booking all the studio time, and working with the producers and engineers for all of the Aucoin acts, other than KISS.

KF: When you were first hired, what were your general impressions of Bill Aucoin?
ST: Oh, he was a genius. He was a fireball, full of energy, full of creative ideas, and he loved what he did. He was a great businessman, a master at merchandising and marketing. And he was really just a joy to be around. He wore many, many hats. He was always considered, at the time, the fifth member of KISS. And he truly loved his artists and just did a fabulous job. I've never seen a manager quite like him, then or since then. And he was my mentor. I was a young girl; I had worked at Columbia Records prior to working for Aucoin. I had never worked on a show or touring -- I learned everything I know now basically from the 10 years I spent working under that man.

KF: And do you recall meeting the members of KISS for the first time?
ST: Of course! Aucoin Management and the artists were one big family. The artists -- most of them were from the East Coast -- that [lived there] were up in the office constantly. Everybody knew everyone. I also knew the group prior to working there. They used to play at a club in Queens called Coventry and it was two blocks away from where I grew up. And my parents used to manage a huge restaurant on Queens Boulevard, which was a block away. So they had their own relationships with all those groups that played there because they would come in there to eat. So I knew them from the neighborhood and as we all got older, I went into the music business.

KF: What was the first big project you remembering working on at Aucoin Management?
ST: If I can think clearly all the way back, I believe 1977 was the year that they went to Japan for the first time.

KF: That is correct. They played dates in Japan in late March and into early April.
ST: Yeah. And I think I started in February of '77 and they were gearing up to do this world tour and go to Japan. And if I'm not mistaken, they were working on "Alive II."

KF: That's right.
ST: So that's when I joined, at that point. We were just diving into making Japan work, and it was a huge year. And not only that, but Bill was also managing Toby Beau, Starz and Piper, which was Billy Squier's group. Everybody was out on the road.

KF: That brings us to 1978, which was arguably the apex for KISS. There was not a lot of touring activity, primarily because of the solo albums and the film, "KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park." Did you have any responsibilities with the film?
ST: I wasn't really all that involved with the film at all. Bill Aucoin, the group and the film company handled the film. But I did, of course, work alongside all of the producers and the group members while they were doing the solo albums. For instance, Paul was working with Jeff Glixman and they were in the studio and [I was] making sure the studio time was booked and all the arrangements [were handled], whatever they needed -- paying the bills, booking the time, hiring musicians, putting together the liner notes for them, making sure the records got mastered on time. I handled all of he album production stuff.

KF: Basically, all the important stuff (laughs).
ST: Yes, absolutely (laughs). I mean, everything is important. Everyone has their specific job. Publicity is important. Marketing is important. Wardrobe's important. Production is certainly important.

KF: You were essentially one year on, and the solo albums were KISS' biggest project to that point. Did it feel like an immense undertaking at the time?
ST: Oh absolutely. It was the most important thing that we were doing. It was extremely exciting because no other group in their genre had done this before. And you know, it was also an emotional thing because they were very much a group, and here they were spreading apart, being creative on their own. And I'm sure that they felt, at times, torn. Like, "Oh, this is exciting and great. But at the same time, will it help the group or will it hurt the group?" You never really know what the outcome's going to be. It was an extremely exciting time, they all supported each other immensely during that time. And I don't really know anyone that doesn't remember when those albums came out and what a big deal it was.

KF: Artist Eraldo Carugati was contracted to paint portraits of the band members for the solo albums. It was an interesting direction to go with portraits, but they have emerged as iconic pieces of art for KISS.
ST: Yes they have. They are so beautiful and they were tastefully done. They were separate works, but one cohesive work when they were all put together. It was very impressive.

KF: Getting into the albums, you mentioned Paul and Jeff Glixman. Paul is credited as co-producer on the album and Jeff only worked on four of the songs. From what I understand, they didn't really hit it off. Does anything ring a bell with you?
ST: I honestly don't recall. I don't remember anything negative happening. I don't remember them not hitting it off. It could very well be but I just don't recall that.

KF: If you look at Gene's album, he secured a big group of guest stars. Donna Summer, Joe Perry, Rick Nielsen, Janis Ian, Helen Reddy. It seems like that would have been a logistical nightmare.
ST: You know, he pursued all of those artists on his own, to his credit. And he personally went out and spoke to everyone and gathered everyone. Michele Slater at the time was assisting Sean Delaney. And she probably was the one, because it was not me, who handled the coordinating all of those celebrity schedules and the studio time.

KF: Meanwhile, Ace Frehley secured the services of Eddie Kramer to produce his album.
ST: They quietly worked together. I think they worked most of the time in Connecticut on that. They were used to working together so it was a very easy fit. And they quietly just did their thing.

KF: And Ace took people by surprise in scoring the lone hit out of the four solo albums.
ST: Yeah, he did. "New York Groove." That was such a great song.

KF: Peter Criss worked with Sean Delaney initially and later Vini Poncia came onboard to produce. Rumor has it that Peter was hoping to work with Tom Dowd. Does that sound familiar?
ST: Well, the name rings a bell. I certainly know Tom Dowd. But I honestly do not remember the details leading up to Vini being hired. You know, if you hadn't brought that up, I probably wouldn't have even remembered that (laughs). I remember Vini being onboard, working with [Peter] on his record. And that's all I really remember. And Vini also worked on [KISS] records.

KF: That's an interesting tidbit, I think. Paul and Gene have been very forthcoming regarding their feelings about Peter's solo album but yet they chose to work on two subsequent KISS albums with the man who produced Peter's album.
ST: That's right.

KF: In terms of results, Stephanie, do you quantify the KISS solo albums as a success?
ST: Oh, absolutely. I think the project was received very well. I think there was such a buzz about it, and everyone was so excited. And I don't think there was ever a moment when anyone thought, "Oh, this could really not work." I think everybody was extremely positive about it. The group was psyched about it. You know, as a project moves along, of course the manager hears bits and pieces of it and Bill was always super positive about what the outcome was going to be. And he was right. And I don't think it ever took away any of the mystery of the group at all. It stayed intact. KISS went on after the solo albums as a unit and it was just a creative outlet. I mean, there was a huge buzz back then.

KF: From some of the people I've talked to in the industry, when you say the KISS solo albums, they joke that those are the albums that "shipped platinum and came back double platinum." This of course speaks to the fact that Neil Bogart shipped more than 5 million of the KISS solo albums to record stores. Do you think there is an unfair stigma attached to the albums?
ST: I think so. To be honest, I remember a little bit about that but that doesn't stick out in my mind. Again, I was very involved in it and I was all caught up in the excitement of it all, [but] not so much on the business and financial end of it. So I think that those albums, whether they sold the exact numbers that everyone predicted isn't really the importance of them. I think it's the stamp that they made at the time, for the group and the fans. I think it made a significant stamp and I don't think anything negative sticks out or is attached to it, at least not on my level, knowing that group during that time and being involved in the industry during that time. I don't know, to me it isn't relevant how many records were sold.

KF: I'd like to play a word association game with the KISS members. I'll say their names and anything you say the first words that come to mind. Let's start with Paul Stanley.
ST: Affectionate, intelligent and creative.

KF: Gene Simmons.
ST: Confident, loyal and creative.

KF: An interesting aside, you are actually credited in the "thank you" list on Gene's album.
ST: Yep, I do remember that.

KF: Peter Criss.
ST: Peter Criss. Peter was a fireball. He was sensitive. And creative.

KF: And that leaves us with the Spaceman, Ace Frehley.
ST: OK, Ace Frehley. (pauses) Self-assured, creative, and ... flamboyant.

KF: And perhaps one who liked to have a good time back in the day?
ST: He was definitely the life of the party. No doubt about it.

KF: Moving ahead just a bit, Bill and KISS ultimately severed ties in 1982. Do you recall that being a difficult situation?
ST: Extremely. It was extremely difficult for everyone. It was difficult for me to watch them because they were all kind of suffering through it, like a divorce. As I said earlier, I came in in 1977 and they were pretty much peaking then. It was a difficult time. And they held it together as best they could and they tried to keep the separation as private as they possibly could. And I respected them for that -- all five of them.

KF: And KISS moved into new territory in taking off the makeup for a 13-year period. And they reunited the original band in 1996, and have been going since.
ST: Right.

KF: Unfortunately, Bill passed away in 2010. Did you stay in touch with Bill at all through the years?
ST: I did. I did. I still worked with Aucoin Management after KISS left and I was there until 1986 and it was well after the success of Billy Idol. And then I moved on to other things and Aucoin Management dissolved. And I did stay in touch with Bill. We would try and speak a few times a year. And unfortunately the last few years of his life, I hadn't spoken to him. He was living down in Florida, and he was running his new company, Aucoin Global, from the East Coast, in Florida and in New York. And I really wasn't in touch with him at that time, the last few years. You know, you just drift apart [and] years go by. But he was always in my mind; he'll always be my mentor. I learned so much from that man. He was just a terrific person.

KF: Do you think Bill gets enough credit when it comes to his contributions to KISS?
ST: You know, I think the group does give him a lot of credit. I've read many, many articles over the years and whenever they mention Bill they always mention how important he was in their career. He signed them, he got them their first record deal, he worked with them and nurtured them for years. They have a whole life after Bill as well, and that needs to be respected absolutely. But I really don't feel he isn't given the credit that is due.

KF: Stephanie, can you update fans about what you are up to nowadays, professionally?
ST: More recently, I spent 18 years as the VP of A&R and administration for Jive Records. And as you may know, Jive Records was dissolved in the last few years into RCA. And now I've reinvented myself. I'm a personal manager; I manage Grammy mixer Stephen George. He is mostly known as the mixer for the R. Kelly hit "I Believe I Can Fly." And he's worked on many genres of music. And I am also a realtor and I specialize in artist and executive relocation. So I took my skills from touring and working with artists all over the country and reinvented myself and am using that in my real estate career.

(KissFAQ thanks Stephanie Tudor for her time and contribution to Back In The Solo Album Groove, our 35th anniversary retrospective dedicated to the 1978 KISS solo albums.)



About Stephanie Tudor
Stephanie Tudor began her tenure at Aucoin Management in 1977, working with Aucoin acts such as KISS, Piper, Starz, Toby Beau, and Billy Idol, among others. Tudor was director of production from 1980-1986. She subsequently spent nearly two decades as the vice president of A&R and administration for Jive Records. Today, Tudor is an artist manager and specializes in artist and executive relocation in the real estate field.