My Journey of “Pride”
The Gene Simmons Collaboration- “Pride”
Around a decade ago I remember coming home from a Bob Dylan show in Austin, TX, stumbling through the kitchen. I sat down at the computer, checked email and went to my childhood heroes website …GeneSimmons.com. I noticed he was taking submissions from bands to sign to his new venture Simmons Records.
I grabbed my latest CD I had just finished and wrote a short note about my music and how KISS had inspired me to become a songwriter. I remember writing — I sound nothing like KISS. I expressed my appreciation for his craft and hoped he would enjoy mine.
I licked the envelope, wrote the PO Box address and had a drunken heart-to-heart talk with the inner voice in my head. Actually … if the truth be known, I was staying at my moms house at the time. Fate had led to her to be in possession of a locket of Mother Teresa’s hair — it was on a traveling shrine tour of homes across the US. When I saw that on the kitchen table, I took the liberty to do my own ritual on the CD package and I asked Mother Teresa to get my album to the God Of Thunder! You see, I had been drinking that night, Bob Dylan show, friends and everybody must get sto… well you get the picture.
I sent the package in the mail and about a week later received a call from the man himself — Gene Simmons of KISS. Every fans dream come true. I embraced my destiny and buckled my seat belt in what has since been an amazing roller coaster ride of “life lessons” — but that’s a whole other story.
On the initial call, Gene asked me pretty quickly who my songwriting influences were. Without hesitation I said McCartney, Mick and Keith, Chuck Berry and Jeff Tweedy. Gene coughed and asked me who my favorite entertainers werr. Being a former Memphian, of course I said “Elvis Presley” and then followed with “Simmons/Stanley, Axl Rose, Todd Snider, Prince, Stevie Won…..” Gene interrupted, “Where do you live again?” “Austin, TX” I said proudly. “You know the live music capital of the world.”
There was several seconds of silence.
The next words I heard coming across the line were,”Bullshit. They cut checks in three cities — New York, Nashville and LA. I suggest you go there if you want to make a living.”
Gene instructed me that a soon to follow email would have his travel arrangements, contacts etc. Not one person believed my story about Gene calling me, but I knew what was happening. I picked him up from the airport with my friend Monica and the adventure began.
(Month’s down the road, I took Genes advice and moved to Studio City, Ca) Austin is a great place to hone your craft, there is always a place to play. The great thing about Austin is there is no industry, and I guess that is the worst thing about it, too.Two days after moving to California, a random meeting at bar occurred with a film guy. I had a song of mine in a Lionsgate Movie the next week. It was not the first time Gene would be right and give me killer advice.
The song Gene gravitated to was called “Pride”. I do know this sentiment is held tightly to his heart. His personal story from birth is a tale of survival. Gene’s Mother is living proof of strength and resilience. There was a time when all Gene Simmons had was pride.
“Pride” was an idea my guitar player Stax and I had for our college band in Memphis. Downhearted , slower and very Mississippi Delta blues meets Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes. Stax loves the Crowes and his writing emulated the Robinson brothers and the Stones.
Stax later let me run with it and told me good luck with that. He hated the music business and was going to be a rich lawyer. And he did just that. Stax is the man.
My vision of “Pride” shifted into an upbeat Al Green-type vibe with a church choir chorus . I envisioned a Lou Reed “Walk on the Wild Side” bass line. Hand claps, fuzz guitar, A.M. Static radio backdrop, piano punches and lyrics that were dark but sang with an uplifting sentiment.
“Lonely, lonely, lonely I’ve been so lonely waiting for this day to come around. How many days can you stay awake? Until you find that precious place and come down. Wash The dirt from around my face and get myself back in the race. Tell the world it’s a celebration. My souls coming home from a long vacation. I’ve got my pride, pride yeah”
Gene changed some lyrics and chorus lines, and ultimately did his version of the song — sculpting behind the soundboard. He was always open-minded, very much involved in the creation process and was fascinated with the two-inch tape machine that we recorded on at studio owner, Mark Addison’s home.
Gene would remind Mark during the session, “I really respect your talent. This is the way KISS used to do it, but you gotta go digital. Time is money.” It seemed though Addison’s soundboard and old school technique brought back memories for the demon. I caught him playing with vintage equipment a few times with a childish grin.
When it came time to lay Gene’s vocal down he always asked my opinion on the take. “Matt, is that how it goes? Less … more … what’s the vibe?” To actually hear him transition from the KISS character signature voice to an actual melodic voice like he does on “See You Tonite” from his solo record in ’78 was pretty surreal. From my childhood stereo, countless Sony Walkman listens in grade school,to my car speakers in high school, to scratched records and bootleg VHS Kissvision tapes to my studio headphone cans — recording together, it was priceless.
Our down time was filled with classic rock stories and Beatles trivia. I remember passing the acoustics around and playing “Rain”, “Here Comes The Sun”, and “A day in the life”.
During this, I spent three full days with Gene Simmons. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. There was no fan fare, just two totally different people, rock legend hero and a lifelong fan turned singer songwriter. We shared a commonality of inspiration from our same song writing heroes. To me, it kinda felt like the talk teenage kids have after their first successful band practice — euphoric, spirited and life changing. I could write a book on those three days alone as they were filled with classic moments, stories, advice, quick witted jokes and one-liners.
Ultimately, contracts and timing prevented the song from being released, forcing a shelving of my record. I was bitter for awhile because Gene told me in confidence that it was coming out on his solo record.
What I didn’t realize until many years later was that Gene gave me a calling card. Our co-write gave me cred and opened doors for me. Instead of being a hurt fan because I didn’t get an album cut, I should have said, “Thank you, sir. You gave me a golden ticket. That ticket is a rare commodity. So, thank you kindly, sir.”
Gene never cut ties with me. As a matter of fact, he did an interview with me five years later when I had a segment on the San Antonio Fox morning show, Sounds Of The Town, where I did music and my brother was house chef. KISS was playing in San Antonio with Motley Crue opening. KISS management sent me a private link to the new CD in advance for a review. Gene always returned emails when I pitched an idea or creative project. I never brought up the song “Pride” to him for years.
Four years agao, I lost my recordings in a horrendous flood that nearly took the lives of me and my family. A few months back, in my moms attic, some of my life work magically appeared. I have no clue how. I emailed Gene for permission to release “Pride” with my vocal. I was happy to get his approval.
I do know it’s time to release this collection of songs. I am very fortunate to regain something believed to be lost forever.
Dr. Love and I worked on another song during that session Gene named “Lost In Time”. It will be heard in the near future. It feels like being in a time capsule from 1977 — with ELO being fronted by Robin Zander of Cheap Trick and Bob Mayo on the keyboards.
My new album Life In Stereo is exactly what it says. I look at those moments and songs much differently now. I don’t take them for granted. There are new tracks mixed with old, and yes, for the ones in “the know” a few Rock Bottom Choir tracks. It’s a retrospective I am very proud of.
~ Matt McCormack
Listen to “Pride”:
Matt McCormack’s Life in Stereo will be released on August 11th. For more information visit MattMcCormackMusic.com.
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In collaboration with/produced/interview conducted by Jeff Gorra