Gary James Interview With Rich Kosak Of
The Kiss Tribute Band
Out of the Midwest comes the hard rockin' quartet known as Mr. Speed. Rich Kosak, who portrays Paul Stanley in Mr. Speed, spoke with us about his group.
Q - I have to tell you, you're a dead-ringer for Paul Stanley.
A - (laughs) Oh, except for the chest hair and everybody reminds me about that when they have a chance. I guess if that's the only thing I'm not doing well enough, then I guess I'm OK.
Q - Well now, couldn't you buy fake chest hair?
A - (laughs) Sure I could. I guess that's how I like to separate the fantasy from reality. I like to keep in touch with who Rich really is. I don't really want to take it to that extreme. I don't think it's that necessary, but the guys kid me about it all the time. My drummer kids me about it all the time. He says "I got a hairier chest than you do." Good for you! You can't sing as well as I can, so there. Shut up!
Q - You're saying just your fellow band members will kid you about it. But how about the fans? Will they remark about it?
A - I haven't had a fan comment on it in quite awhile. A few years ago it seemed to be the subject of conversation quite a bit. I always used to tell 'em "If that's the worst thing I'm doing, then I guess I'm doing pretty well."
Q - Kiss fans are really something aren't they, that they would hone in on that little thing? They're incredible.
A - Kiss fans are pretty brutal to be honest with you. They feel like you're dressed up as Kiss, so you are Kiss, so they can do or say anything they want to. They don't realize you're a real person. You have problems and bills and idiosyncrasies and insecurities. They don't think about that stuff.
Q - By now, you must've developed a thick skin to that kind of thing.
A - Sure I have.
Q - You four guys have been together since 1996?
A - No. The four guys in this band have been together since maybe January of last year (2009), when Andrew came onboard. He moved up here from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and joined our band. I'm the only original member since 1994. I've had Joe, our "Ace", since pretty much 2000, 2001. Rob has been with us for a little over four years, I think.
Q - Were you in other bands before you put Mr. Speed together?
A - I was in a high school band back in 1981, 1982. Then I was in a band one year out of high school for maybe six months. And that's it. This is the only band that I've ever really been in that I can call a band.
Q - Why did your drummer move from Myrtle Beach? Did he answer an ad you put in a paper?
A - No. I actually saw him on My Space and I thought about contacting him because he had a really good look. At the time we were considering replacing or drummer. For whatever reason, I didn't contact him and then the second anniversary of the Kiss Coffee House came up and we were asked to perform at it. As it turned out, the same kid who I saw on My Space was working. He had moved from New Jersey down to Myrtle Beach and was working at the Kiss Coffee House. He was responsible for organizing our performance for that Anniversary party. So he and I got to talking about it and once he saw our stage show and the way that we performed, he came up to me afterwards and said "Look, if you guys ever need a fill in, I'd like you to consider me." Actually, to be honest with you, we were driving out of Myrtle Beach after that performance and I had gotten an offer to play a Kiss Expo and our drummer wasn't able to make it at the time. I called Andrew up and I said "Hey, were you serious about wanting to play in my band, 'cause I've got an opportunity for you." That was pretty much how we got him. It was kind of weird how it all worked out.
Q - Is it expensive to replicate the Kiss costumes and equipment you use in your act?
A - Yes.
Q - How did you ever finance that? Do you have some kind of a backer?
A - Nope. We've never had sponsorship. We've never had anybody who's put any money into this band. We've done it all out of pocket from day one. Every time we've got to get imprinted guitar picks, there's another $1,000. Every time we have to create dummy cabinets, there's $2,000. The band still owes my wife and myself a good chunk of money. And my guitar player and his wife, they're still owed a good chunk of money. Every time we need to do tee-shirts, it comes out of our own pocket. We just don't make enough at doing what we do to subsidize having a band fund that is that lucrative. We all work forty hours a week. We do this on the weekends. We've got to pick and choose. Sometimes we have to put ideas on the backburner that maybe we would really like to see happen, but financially we just can't afford it.
Q - I believe there are some groups that do this full-time.
A - Yeah, there are.
Q - I saw one group's contract and they get thousands of dollars a night for a performance.
A - Good for them if that's what they're able to get on a consistent basis. I don't know if it's necessarily true. What I've come to find out is there's a lot of hot air being blown around the Kiss tribute circuit too. If they are getting it, great. I'm happy for them. That's not to say we don't have moments where we benefit from our hard work either. Not every show is Madison Square Garden, I'll tell you that.
Q - You stay pretty much in the Ohio / Indiana area, don't you?
A - Yeah. We'll go to wherever someone wants to hire the band, it's just that seems to be our stomping ground because this is where we live.
Q - But I see you've been as far East as New York.
A - Yeah.
Q - How much competition do you have in the mid-west? Are there other Kiss tribute bands?
A - Sure. There's one in Kentucky. I guess the Kentucky band is probably the one we butt heads the most with. But they do it on a regular basis. That's what they do for a living. They don't do anything else. This is a pretty big world, so I think there's opportunities for every Kiss tribute band out there. I don't think any one Kiss tribute band should play every single event. However, I feel that some feel they should. I just think if it's meant to be, that's where we show up and if it's not, we move on to the very next thing. We always believe if one door closes, another one opens.
Q - You have a very positive attitude.
A - You have to.
Q - Have any of the members of Kiss seen your act?
A - Yes. When we first started out in 1994, we played a Kiss convention in Chicago and Ace Frehley was the guest. So he sat there and listened. He didn't sit there and watch in another room, and listened to us and made some comments. But then when we performed for the first anniversary of the Kiss Coffee House in Myrtle Beach three years ago, Ace was the guest at that event too and he actually came up onstage and performed "Shock Me" with us, which was un-rehearsed. We were told it was a possibility it might happen, but we were also told not to get our hopes up. So, when it did happen, you can imagine I pretty much crawled out of my skin 'cause that was a pretty amazing moment.
Q - That must've been an incredible moment! That's something that Kiss tribute guys dream about.
A - Sure. (laughs) I still dream about it. I dream about the chance when I can actually get onstage with Kiss someday and play. I don't care where it is. I don't care how much it costs me to get there. If they say "Rich, we want you to come and do sound check", I'd be there in a heartbeat.
Q - Do you ever get bored putting on that same make-up and playing the same songs?
A - No. I can honestly tell you I don't. There are times when, if we really put our hard work into a show and the show doesn't pay off, there isn't a big crowd or the club didn't do enough advertising or they blamed us for the lack of a turn out, there's nothing worse than doing a glorified dress rehearsal, and we've done our fair share of doing those. It is a task to go through from setting up the stage, 'cause we do all the work ourselves. We don't have a road crew. There's the four band members, my wife and there's Joe's wife and that's it.
Q - What do the wives do?
A - My wife is responsible for running the beacon lights, the siren, the fog machines and the Kiss sign. Joe's wife is responsible for making sure that everybody's got drinks during the show, that if Rob needs wiped down after his blood spitting routine, he gets wiped down. Anything incidental, all the small, little things that most band members probably take for granted. That's what they do. And they help us to load in and load out every show. They're at every single show. My wife hasn't missed a show in twelve years. But it makes it fun for us, because she pushes me to be better at what I do and we can do this together. When I met her, she was a Kiss fan. That was the cool part because I was married at the time and my ex-wife didn't get the whole Kiss thing. She actually kind of despised it. So, I met Tina, it was like "Wow! You're somebody who's pretty cool!" She's a chick and she can talk to me about Kiss. So that was attractive to me. So I ended up divorcing my first wife and married Tina. Ever since then it's been so much better.
Q - How long do you think you can maintain your enthusiasm for Mr. Speed?
A - Well, I've kind of given it another five years. At that point I'll be 50 and I think when I turn 50 that'll probably be a good time to call it quits and say that I've done it for twenty years and be pretty happy with what I've done in that time. I don't know if there's anymore that I could do. Who knows? That could change. Somebody could come onboard and say "Rich, we want to sponsor your band. We want to put X amount of money into it. We want you to really take this thing to the next level." That might change my mind. Right now, in the state that is Mr. Speed, I think five more years, I'll have accomplished and satisfied my quench to be a Rock star kind of thing.
Q - And I believe you're the only Kiss tribute band with the name Mr. Speed.
A - I did that for a reason. When I was coming up with a name, I was sitting with my original "Ace" in the band. At that time there were only a handful of Kiss tribute bands. There weren't as many as there are now. I said "What about Mr. Speed?" We both really loved the song. We looked at each other and said "Yeah, let's call it that." We knew when you heard that, there would only be one Mr. Speed. To this day it's proven to be true. And I had the chance to meet Paul on the Farewell Tour in Chicago and when Tommy Thayer introduced me to him, he said "This is Rich from Mr. Speed." Paul looked at me and "Cool song to name your band after." So I figured that's all the validation that I needed.