Long Island, NY horror-metal band, Kissing Candice, will be releasing their first recording, ‘Blind Until We Burn,’ on Victory Records today. This intense and brutal 13-track tour de force will certainly appease any fan of nu-metal or hard rock. This Slipknot-influenced, mask-wearing band consists of Joey Simpson (Vocals), Tommy Sciro (guitar), Walter Dicristina (guitar), Mike Grippo (bass), and Tommy Vinton (drums). This group is currently winning over legions of fans on this year’s “RockStar Mayhem” tour.
What follows is an exclusive RMS interview with one of Metal’s future stars, Joey Simpson.
RMS: Joey, Kissing Candice’s new CD, ‘Blind Until We Burn,’ which comes out on June 29th, is very intense, brutal; and very heavy. What was the writing process like for composing the songs on ‘Blind Until We Burn?”
JS: The writing process for the new album was actually really quite easy. It just all came together. Tommy, our guitarist, writes (songs, all the time). He’s a beast. He writes and writes and writes and he never stops. So, he had a lot of ideas. I always have ideas (as well). I’m always cooking up different things, regardless if we’re in the writing process or not. So, it’s kind of like, we came together – we got our bass player, Grippo, and our other guitar player, Walt; everybody just really had their hands in on this album. We didn’t shoot down anybody’s idea. Everybody’s idea made it onto the album one way or the other. It was a lot different from writing ‘Murder,’ which was just me and a producer, Jeremy (Comitas). And then, ‘Conjured;’ it was mostly just Tommy that wrote that, with a lot of our ideas. Tommy just kind of took it into his own hands. But, for the full length, we really just wanted everyone to be involved. We really wanted to kind of, step out of the zone of what we’d come from; the sound that we’d come from. We’re just extremely, extremely happy with what the end result is. We tried to go with more of a bigger sound with the actual recording. We tried to stay away from that typical metal-kind of sound. We went for more of a big rock ‘n’ roll kind of sound. It had a different feel to it. We’re extremely happy with the turn out.
RMS: Kissing Candice is a real band effort now, unlike what you said before, when it was just you working on the project.
JS: Yeah, exactly. When I left Dr. Acula, I went into the studio with the producer that actually did ‘Slander,’ the Dr. Acula record. At first, it was just going to be me with a MacBook; you know, backtracks and a small stage production. Once we started writing these songs, and really letting my ideas spill out, he was like, ”You know, you need a band to really back this. Full band, full production. If you’re gonna go with this, you might as well go big.” The music was already written when I released ‘Murder.’ And then, I started gathering a band slowly. Then, we came out with ‘Conjured,’ and it was still like- you know, like I said, Tommy writes a lot- so it was like he came up with the ideas, and we put our heads together. But, for this, these guys bust their ass just as much as me, now. They put in the money, the time, the tour. Dealing with the breakdowns of the van. So, they deserve to be a part of it and really have their hands in on it and make it their own, just like me. So, it has definitely grown and molded into something that I never thought would really go this far, you know?
RMS: The band’s image has really evolved over the last few years. Can you tell me how much time you guys spent, working on your image, and how you finally came to where it is right now?
JS: My love for anything horror and bloody – that’s always been around. I even tried to incorporate a little of that into Dr. Acula, with a more uniform look. It took for a little bit, but nobody was really on the same page with it. So, when I split, I knew whatever I did next, I would want to do it very theatrically. I want to incorporate everything that I love, music-wise, look-wise. So, when we started covering ourselves with blood, and a lot of stage makeup and stuff, we noticed that by like, the second or third song, we would sweat everything off. By the end of it, we would just look like a couple of guys with like, the red residue from the blood on our faces and just like, black makeup around our eyes. So, one day at practice, Tommy brought these clear impersonator masks to rehearsal. We put them on; between me and Tommy, I do the screaming, he does the back up vocals. We cut the mouths out and were kind of just messing around with it, and it stuck. We played our first show with it, and kids were just like, really taken aback by it. Like, “Wow, this is pretty cool. These guys are playing heavy music, but they’re wearing masks.” So then, it was kind of like, “Ok, we’re going to stick with the masks, and we’re going to kind of ease up on doing the blood.” We’ll put blood on our clothes, but we don’t have to cake our faces with makeup anymore. For this album, we really upped our game, and we did custom masks. I have an $800 CFX mask, which is a company that makes custom silicon masks. It’s like, stuck to my face. I put that thing on, and it’s hot and it’s tight and it smells really bad. Actually, the last couple days of this tour we’ve been on, I got a really bad rash and hives on my forehead and my chin. That’s how dirty it was and how gross it was. I love it. I mean, it’s like, I put that mask on, and I know it’s go time. Everybody kind of designed their own masks, from different companies, to fit their personality or what they want. So, we really just stepped our game up with it, and couldn’t be happier with the result. It’s only an evolution – we’re going to keep getting more badass masks as time progresses.
RMS: I’ll admit, that was the one thing that really caught my attention. I thought the band looked great. The publicity photos that you have for the new record really stand out and look awesome. You just finished touring a few months with Twiztid. What was it like, playing in front of their audience? They’re not really a metal audience. How did the band go over with their audience?
JS: Well, Juggalos. That’s all I have to say about that tour. Their crowd, for us, was very accepting. I mean, we’ve had our shows where we came out, and the crowd kind of stood there and was very puzzled about what we’re doing, like the makeup, the masks, the music, the heaviness of it. They’re like, Juggalo hip-hop; they’re a breed within themselves. But, their fans are some of the most loyal people that I’ve ever met. If they like your music and they like you, you’re welcomed into what they call the “Family,” and it’s like they adopt you, and you’ll be friends for life. They’ll buy your merch, they’ll buy your music. We took the tour because we like the play with anything. Like, we played with bands from Emmure, to Dance Gavin Dance. We’re very open to music. We feel like we can fit in with just about anything. Our fan base is kind of all blended together. With Twiztid, those Juggalos – which is what they call themselves – they’re metal heads. At heart, they might be Juggalos, but they like that metal. Those kids – you can find those Juggalo kids that like ICP and Twiztid – but then they like Slipknot and Five Finger Death Punch, and they like Mushroomhead too. They like all bands like that. So, at the end of the day, it kind of funnels into one stream of music, even though Twiztid is hip-hop and we’re metal. You know, there’s a band, Davey Suicide, on the tour, where they’re like, industrial rock. They were getting just as good of a feedback as us. So, you really can’t look at it like, “Oh, Twiztid’s a hip-hop band, and we’re a metal band.” You gotta find where everything kind of fuses together and flows. They were great. We had some killer shows where we walked off stage, and these kids are chanting, “Fam-i-ly, fam-i-ly!” It’s such a great feeling, because we’re winning over that fan base, and those kids will forever be our fans. We’re so grateful for it.
RMS: Wow, that’s incredible. Now, you’re going out on the Rockstar Mayhem Tour, which starts next week, I think, right?
JS: Yes sir, next week.
RMS: You must be pretty excited about that. It’s a pretty decent, heavy bill this time around. What are you looking forward to, the most, on this tour?
JS: We’re really looking to just, again, reach a higher audience – bigger crowds – play with some really big names. Everybody’s saying the lineup for this year, and the way the festival played out, is very different from other years. It’s been said by people who are running it, that it will be different this year. But, it’s Rockstar Mayhem Fest. It’s always going to be good. It’s always going to be killer. Me, personally – I’m really looking forward to Devil Wears Prada, Whitechapel, Sworn In. Pretty much everybody, we are looking forward to spending the summer with. For us, personally, we’re at a timeslot where it is later on at night, the way that they have the stages running. So, we’re just looking to come out every night, set the bar high, make sure people know who we are, and what we’re doing there, which is really just to kick ass, and make you leave talking about that band that was wearing the masks. “They played for 20 minutes, and they had such high energy. They were jumping around stage.” That’s really what we’re all about; leaving our mark. Two hours later, we want you to be sitting at a Denny’s with your friends saying, “Remember that band,”- you don’t even have to remember our names – (just) “Remember that band with the blood and the masks.” That’s what it’s all about. I feel like, for Mayhem, it’s such a good place for us to be, and I’m super excited. I know the guys are super excited. So, we’re ready to roll.
RMS: With only playing 20 minutes, how do you even come up with a set list for something like that?
JS: Oh, man. It’s actually been a nightmare. It’s been changing, and it actually just changed last night. We have a band group text going, and we’re like, “Well, what if we close with an older song?” We really want to play mostly new songs from ‘Blind Until We Burn.’ We’re promoting it; we hadn’t played any new stuff on the Twiztid tour. We had still been playing our older stuff. So, at first, we had everything new, one old. Now it’s like, “Well, maybe we should add a really old song from ‘Murder,’ which is the first EP. And then something else from ‘Conjured.’” And then we were like, “We should play ‘Ghosted,’” which is just a single we released when we were in limbo. We were going to release it on our own, and when we were releasing it we signed with Victory, so they released it just as like, a freebie, like, “Welcome to the family, here’s some new music for the fans.” So, they ended up releasing it, but that’s still like, a brand new song. So, we came up with a set list that balances brand new stuff, and some old stuff for the kids who already know. We’re super excited, but it really hasn’t been easy. For a 20 minute set, there’s really not much. You have to factor in an intro, you have to factor in talking between sets. So, it’s been rough.
RMS: Yeah. One of the benefits, I guess, is that you can really put a lot of energy into the 20 minutes. But also, it’s going to be really hot, especially with those masks that you wear. There’s going to be some brutal days for you. That’s going to be a real endurance test for you.
JS: Yeah. Our PR girl actually called me on one of our last days of tour, because she saw that I was posting that I had a rash on my face. She’s like, “Are we going to be ‘ok’ on Mayhem? Are you not going to be passing out? Maybe we should cut some holes in your mask.” She was like, freaking out like my mom. She’s great. She’s like, “Make sure you stay hydrated.” I’m just like, “Yeah, don’t worry about it.” But, yeah. It’s going to be really hot. Like I said, our set – from beginning to end – we keep that energy up. That’s our big thing. Anybody can go to a show. Anybody can see five or six guys standing there in a t-shirt and jeans. They’re playing their favorite songs, but you can go home and listen to their music on iTunes or on a CD. Kids come to a show because they want to see a show. They want to see energy. They want to see moving around. That’s what I feel that they pay for. So, from start to finish – the second that mask goes on – it’s go time for me, and it doesn’t stop until we’re done and I walk off that stage to take five minutes and then go talk to everybody. It’s go time, and that’s a big requirement for the members of the band, also. Your endurance has gotta be up. You gotta be ready to roll the entire 20 minutes, half hour, hour that we play. Everybody’s on the same page with that. It’s crazy. I lucked out with members. They’re energetic, and it works with the masks, and it works with the music. It’s a perfect recipe for a disaster, as I call it.
RMS: Now, your new CD, ‘Blind Until We Burn,’ is being released on Victory Records. How did you get involved with Victory? Were there other labels that were interested in your band? Ultimately, how did you end up where you are now?
JS: Well, since the beginning of KC, I had a connections made in the past with Dr. Acula with promoters. Dr. Acula was also a part of Victory Records, so I already kind of had that “in” with Victory. I knew everybody down there. I actually had a great relationship with the owner, Tony. So, it helped when I started KC. We were going for a year and a half – two years strong. We were doing everything ourselves as far as promotion, booking, and tours. We reached out to a couple of labels; I’m not really going to say any names. We did get rejected; whether it was people being afraid to take the risks with the masks, or they didn’t take us seriously. We did get the cold shoulder, or we just didn’t get responses sometimes – same thing with management, same thing with agents. Some people really didn’t believe in what we were doing, or understand it. They just figured, “Oh, you guys are bloody and covered with masks. That’s not going to sell.” So, one night, I just randomly sent Tony an email, just seeing how he was doing, and kind of keeping him updated on what I was doing. He actually got right back to me, and he was super stoked on the music. I sent him all these tracks. We had a contract within a week from him. He really did good. He cut out all the bullshit stuff that a normal contract should have. He stripped it down, and it was very straightforward- really good deal. The numbers were awesome. Like I said, in the past, I worked for Victory, and I love them. Some of my favorite bands are on Victory and were on Victory. So, it just made sense. Tony and the staff down there believe in us so much, and that’s really what we needed. Not a label with a lot of money, not a big name label. We just needed the people running the label to see what we see, and really believe what we believe. Since we signed, they’ve backed us 110%, if not more. So, it’s a great feeling. We couldn’t have been happier to sign with them. I have zero complaints about them; they’re just amazing. I just have a feeling that, with their staff and us the way that they’re going, things are just going to go super smooth for us, and we’re very excited about the future.
RMS: Yeah, even from the press end, I’ve been getting a ton of emails about your band- about your CD, about the tour, about the Twiztid tour. They’ve really done an awesome job at least keeping the metal press in the loop about what your band is doing.
JS: Yeah, they’re on top of their game, man. They’re great. The PR department is wonderful. The staff is just really nice, very accommodating. Like, we’ll stop through there and they’ll have lunch for us, and whatever we need. So, like I said, Victory has been nothing but great. But, the main part is that they get what we’re trying to do. They didn’t just sign us because we could be a big thing, you know what I’m saying? We’re trying to carry that torch for bands like Slipknot, we’re trying to carry the torch for Mushroomhead and Rob Zombie – those big theatrical names. Most people think that we’re trying to rip them off. No, we’re just trying to bring this generation – even though Slipknot’s still the hottest thing – we’re just trying to bring them something on a smaller scale so we can get to that size.
RMS: I can definitely see that. With the new CD, I think this is really going to blow up. I think that, after playing at Mayhem in front of all of these thousands of people, that this is going to be huge for you.
JS: Yeah. We have ideas for our stage shows, we want to pretty much get to a point where we look out at the crowd, and everybody’s wearing their own mask. Like, one big Halloween party, where everybody’s enjoying themselves; they’re singing along and there’s no judging going on. Kids can really be themselves. And also, they’re watching a show, like a play, or a theatrical event where there’s lights, smoke and stage props. Think of like, a GWAR, a Rob Zombie or a Slipkno t- like those scale productions, where we have so much going on, but you never lose sight of us. I’ll say this – I’ve been a Slipknot fan since day one. They’re an inspiration for everything I’ve done. Through the years, they started off playing bullshit clubs, and now they’re one of the biggest bands around. The thing about them is that, they never lost their energy. They have pyrotechnics. They’ve got huge backdrops and video. They, themselves, have never lost their energy, and that’s what kids want. They want to see everybody jump around. They don’t want to see them just standing there with flames behind them. You can’t lose that energy. That’s something that I’ll never lose, and I’ll never stop performing. Just because you get big, you can’t be like, “Ok, I can relax now. I’m playing a huge stadium.” It’s like, “No, you gotta go out there, and you gotta kick everyone’s ass.” That’s just me, personally, how I feel.
RMS: Absolutely. I agree with you 100%. What plans, if any, do you have for after the Mayhem tour?
JS: We’ve been talking with Victory about plans after. There’s nothing, right now, set in stone. I just know that there is a lot of touring coming up. Like, from Mayhem, I think there’s going to be a small, little break for us. But, other than that, they want to keep moving forward to promote the album, to promote us. I know they wanted to send us out with a couple more bands, as openers or support. And then, I know before the new year, they want us to do a small headliner. So, that’ll be in the works. There might be one or two more tours where we’re supporting, and then a headliner, and then whatever the future brings. There’s a couple of things that are in the works; some nice things that, hopefully, fingers crossed, goes through.
RMS: Absolutely, very cool. Where would you like to see the band in two years down the road from now?
JS: Two years down the road, I would like to see the band still going strong with the same lineup as what I got now, because these dudes are amazing. I would love to see kids knowing who we are. Again, like Slipknot, where they see our symbol, and they’ll know, “Oh, the lips. That’s Kissing Candice.” Playing all those huge rock ‘n’ roll festivals. Perhaps, one day, doing a tour with Slipknot. Like, a mass Mayhem tour, where it’s like Slipknot, Mushroomhead; you know, bring back the original Mudvayne with the makeup. Have us on it. Just something so big, that the kids that see it will just go crazy. We’re not trying to label ourselves as “Metalcore,” or “New Metal,” or “Industrial.” We’re Kissing Candice; that’s what it is. You can expect everything and anything from our music and our show. In two years, I just hope to be rock ‘n’ rolling.
For more on Kissing Candice, please visit www.kissingcandice.com
Special thanks to Tom from Victory Records for setting up this interview. Also, a big THANK YOU to Dana Kaiser for transcribing it.