KISS guitarist/vocalist Paul Stanley and bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons appeared on a recent edition of CNN's "Connie Chung Tonight" in which they discussed their use of pyrotechnics and the aftermath of the GREAT WHITE concert tragedy that claimed the lives of nearly 100 people.
The following is a transcript of Stanley and Simmons' appearance on the show:
Chung: Gene, I know GREAT WHITE had toured with KISS. You know these guys. What went through your mind when you saw that video?
Simmons: You know, tragedy is something that just grabs hold of all of us in the same way. This is one of the most unfortunate things that I've ever seen. In tragedy, unfortunately, people will tend to look for just a target to blame. There are probably a myriad of reasons why this tragedy happened.
And I would imagine the legal system is going to take its time and they should, to find out what went wrong. Any tragedy deserves due diligence, and I hope everybody takes care.
People want to talk to us a lot about pyrotechnics and stuff because we've been doing it for 30 years, safely, in the largest arenas in the world.
Chung: Have you ever had any kind of accident? Have you caught on fire? Any band member? Or anyone in the audience?
Stanley: We've really had no problems, so to speak. It's important for people to remember that pyrotechnics by their nature are combustible and volatile. They should only be in the hands of licensed pyro technicians.
That being said, if you follow the letter of the law, even more importantly, you must use common sense. And common sense should dictate, even with being within the realm of the law, does what you're doing make sense? Is it prudent? When you have lives at stake, just because something works a hundred times in a club, doesn't mean it's going to happen 101 successfully.
Pyrotechnics have been used in Disneyland, Las Vegas, THE STONES have used them, we've used them. It really is not something to be taken lightly. These are dangerous, dangerous chemicals. And we urge everybody to leave those to people who know what they're doing. This is not for the weekend hobbyist.
Simmons: This is professional stuff for professionals. Everybody on our crew, especially our pyro people, are licensed. That's No. 1.
No. 2 is, we always make sure that we talk with the fire marshals and fire department of every local town that we play in. That's very important. They're not adversarial in tone. They're always about making sure that first and foremost, the people are safe, and of course the band is safe.
Chung: Paul, when you have performed with the group, have you ever performed in a small club and used pyrotechnics?
Stanley: In the early days, the infancy of pyrotechnics, certainly there were times when we did things that thankfully we got away with. But since then, there's been laws and legislation and there were requirements that really helped to ensure the safety of both the band and all the people who come into a club.
Chung: Weren't there a few times that your hair caught on fire?
Simmons: I have a point in the show where I foolishly go up on stage and try to get the excitement level to go up a new notches by going out there and spitting fire. Now this has been done for centuries and I learned it from a magician. Again, a professional.
But foolishly, because I also wanted to look grand, I used to spray a lot of hair spray so to get that big hair look in the early days. So on occasion, my hair would catch fire. But it was my fault. It had nothing to do with the safety precautions we had.
We had a professional staff who would immediately run out on that stage with CO2 and cover me and it was out in a few second. Again, even though we put on spectacle and bombast, at the center of it is safety first and foremost, every time.
Stanley: See, we can afford, Connie, to have a large enough staff where we have people on stage with fire extinguishers. We're well supplied in any emergency.
You know, the problem and the sadness that comes with a tragedy is, we tend to learn more from things that go wrong than the things that go right. And it's unfortunate so that many lives have to be lost to really give people a wakeup call that fireworks must be done under supervision of people who are licensed and qualified. And any time you take them indoors, it's suspect. And if you don't know the materials that a building is made out of, you're really playing Russian roulette.
Chung: Both of you had mentioned that there will be and was a lot of finger-pointing: Was it the band's responsibility? Was it the club owner's responsibility?
Whose responsibility was it for your band to make sure that everything was safe? Perhaps we can learn from you.
Stanley: We certainly do everything possible to make sure that the people most qualified are in charge. We are not the people who are most qualified. But we certainly have enough money to make sure that we can ensure, or as much as possible, the safety of people at the show and ourselves. You have a case here where the guitarist in a band couldn't even make it out. It's a horrific, horrific tragedy.