STATIC-X Collaborator EDSEL DOPE Is 'Skeptical' About KISS Avatars: 'I'm Not Sure That The Music Can Speak To A Younger Generation'

January 21, 2024

DOPE leader Edsel Dope, who is widely believed to be Xer0, the masked frontman of STATIC-X, has weighed in on KISS's announcement that the legendary rockers will continue as digital avatars. The technology, originally developed for ABBA's "Voyage" show in London, will allow KISS to stay "on the road" in retirement.

Dope discussed KISS's future plans while talking to the Battleline Podcast about how musicians can go about "retiring" from performing live. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "The American Dream is ultimately to work hard, build a business, and then at some point either sell said business and retire or pass business on to your kids. You can't do that with a band, and that's something that is really hard for people to kind of understand. You've built this pizza shop and you've got this client list of customers that love to come and enjoy your pizza, but if you're not in the kitchen making the pizza, there is no pizza. That's the part of it that I guess you can further understand why… If I had the money THE ROLLING STONES do, I don't know that I'd still be out there playing 'Start Me Up' at 75 years old. But at the same time, I respect why they're doing it, because this is what they do and they're not ready to retire. And THE ROLLING STONES are worth arguably nothing without those guys up there giving you THE ROLLING STONES. It is something that a lot of people probably take for granted. How does a guy in a band retire? You have to figure out how to save your money and invest your money and otherwise you will be doing this shit when you're 65."

When one of the interviewers brought up the KISS avatars and asked Dope how he feels about the idea, Edsel said: "I mean, who knows? Who knows? Let's see if it works. I think one of the reasons that I'm a little bit — what's the word? — skeptical of whether or not it can work is because KISS was a weird band in the sense that they transcended age groups partially because of the live show. You could bring a 13-year-old to a KISS show, and because it's so over the top and so outlandish and the makeup and the sparks and the fire, it's so beyond sensory overload, a 13-year-old kid may not identify with the music at all, but the sensory overload of the show allows him to go, like, 'Wow, that was a really cool experience.'

"My apprehension with thinking that the avatars can work into the future is I'm not sure that the music that accompanies those avatars can speak to a younger generation," he explained. "That's where it's tough, because you go find a 16-year-old kid who's into whatever they're into and just play them a KISS song, and they're probably gonna be, like, 'Eh.' I mean, it's not THE BEATLES, man. You can play THE BEATLES for young people, and THE BEATLES are timeless. KISS is 'butt rock' — it's kinda cheesy lyrics. I love it. But I grew up in the '70s. So, I'm not sure that the avatars are gonna be able to bridge them to a whole new demographic of fans, because I think the music is a bit limiting as far as its reach… I think young people would wanna see those crazy high-definition avatars wrapped in a sound that more represents that crazy avatar, you know what I mean? And the music sounds like it came from the '70s, but the avatars look like they're crazy modern things."

The 49-year-old Dope, who has been long-rumored as Xer0, the anonymous, somewhat ominous, new frontman of STATIC-X, has admitted to helping produce the band's most recent albums and contributing to his peers far beyond what could or could not lie underneath a mask. According to him, STATIC-X's recent live performances have seen him and his collaborators attract a new audience that was too young to see the original band perform live, very similar to what KISS has been able to do over the last couple of decades.

"On a much smaller level, that is one of the unexpected things that we've seen with STATIC-X in the evolution of the Xer0 character to what it is now," Edsel said. "You see fans bringing their kids or their nieces or nephews to the shows, and maybe, again, they get caught up in the spectacle and the lights and all that shit, but they're seeing old dudes on stage, but the mask and Xer0 and the cyborg and how that's evolved, you see younger people responding to that differently than they would be responding to a 55-year-old man up there singing 'Push It'… So that's been really cool. And again, I think KISS gets away with that too — you don't really see the age of those guys because of the makeup. But sonically, I think that they've never… People fall in love with KISS because of what it is. I don't think any of us can say we've heard a modern-sounding KISS song that's gonna attract a 16-year-old kid that's into fucking LAMB OF GOD or whoever."

Despite his reservations about the KISS avatars, Dope said that he "it's cool that KISS is trying to push into the digital space, and I think that as they tweak those avatars, they're gonna get cooler and cooler, and there's gonna be something there. It's just I don't see it speaking to new generations of young people sonically," he repeated. "Maybe they just turn them into comic book characters and their storylines are as important as the music. I can see that. Video games and that kind of shit."

When one of the interviewers commented that KISS is "waiting until 2027 to unveil" the avatars, Edsel said: "I don't think they're waiting until 2027 to unveil it. It's gonna take three years of 40-hour work weeks for a team of 10 people to build that show into what ABBA has built. Have you seen the ABBA show? So that's what KISS is gonna try to do, at least that's what it appears, and it's gonna take them three years behind the scenes to build that and I think that just teasing the avatars was just their way of saying, 'This is what's coming. Don't judge us on this end product. Give us three years to build this and then come see a ridiculous spectacle live event.' And I think that will be great, just like it's been great for ABBA. I think if you are able to physically go to that building and witness the KISS experience as avatars, it probably will be fucking awesome. But watching the KISS avatars on your laptop? I don't know how engaging that's gonna be."

The four members of KISS played their final show as humans at Madison Square Garden in New York City on December 2 and revealed they would be continuing as avatars — to be deployed in ways yet to be revealed.

In a new interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Paul Stanley commented on the skepticism from some of the fans with regard to KISS digital avatars, saying: "One thing that's interesting is people, I think, perhaps even understandably, got the wrong impression initially of the avatars," Paul told Ultimate Classic Rock. "Because at the Garden shows, we wanted to give people a glimpse of some of the things, or one of the things, that's to come. But the avatars are really in their infancy. They're far from where they'll end up in terms of look and purpose. The purpose, ultimately, is not that we're being replaced by flying avatars. It's just another way of diversifying what KISS is."

He continued: "Quite honestly, many times in the last 50 years, people have scratched their heads about what our plans were. And nine out of 10 times they've been successful, and other people have followed. So that's nothing really new.

"We're in a fortunate position and a unique position of being a band that can do things that other bands can't do," Stanley added. "So to not explore and take advantage of many of them would be, I don't know, ridiculous, and also, really, at this point, mystifying. We've worked this hard to create four icons, and a band that's iconic in so many different ways, and to not diversify and maximize what we've created, we'd be crazy."

Earlier in the month, KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer told Guitar World magazine about the avatars: "It'll take some time to get the imagery where we want it to be. I haven't really thought about what it all means in the big picture, but with technology evolving as quickly as it is, there's no doubt that this is the direction a lot of entertainment is going."

Last month, KISS revealed that fans will apparently have to wait more than three years to see the band's first avatar performance. On December 22, KISS released a short video announcing that "a show" featuring the KISS avatars "is coming" in "2027". The band captioned the clip: "50 years is a long time, and what the future holds is in the making."

The KISS avatars were created by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and were financed and produced by the Swedish company Pophouse Entertainment, which is behind "ABBA Voyage".

Earlier last month, KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons said that "about 200 million" dollars is being invested into the KISS avatar show.

Unlike the "ABBA Voyage" show, which recreates a 1970s-era ABBA concert in a custom-built London arena, KISS's avatars that appeared at the band's final concert in New York in early December will not be as grounded in reality as ABBA's digital replicas. According to BBC News, the KISS avatars will see the band appear as fantasy-based superheroes who are eight feet tall, breathing fire and shooting electricity from their fingers, while floating above the audience.

No further details have been announced yet for KISS's plan with the band's avatars. "We're going to figure it out after the tour," Pophouse CEO Per Sundin said prior to the final show at Madison Square Garden. "Is it a KISS concert in the future? Is it a rock opera? Is it a musical? A story, an adventure? These four individuals already have superpowers. We want to be as open as possible."

The avatars will now be available for live shows around the world and in digital online settings, which some people collectively refer to as the metaverse.

KISS will reportedly become the first American band to go fully virtual and stage its own avatar show.

JOCOUP Creative, an experiential design firm co-founded by former Universal Creative director Thierry Coup and BRC and Universal Creative alumni Johanna "Jojo" Atilano, is also involved in the project. Coup has been announced as creative director of the KISS avatar show.

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