KISS is an American rock band formed in New York City in January 1973 by Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley. Well known for its members’ face paint and stage outfits, the group rose to prominence in the mid-to-late 1970s with their elaborate live performances that featured fire breathing, blood-spitting, smoking guitars, shooting rockets, levitating drum kits, and pyrotechnics.
The band has been criticised for having the KISS logo bear a resemblance to the SS of the Nazi Schutzstaffel, and Ace Frehley was asked about it by Eric Spitznagel in a 2011 MTV interview.
Eric: Of all the bad behavior documented in No Regrets [Frehley’s memoir, 2011], you didn’t really dig too deep into the Nazi controversies. Like the KISS logo, which you designed, with the two lightning bolt S’s reminiscent of the Schutzstaffel.
Ace: There were so many crazy rumors about us in the early days. Like that KISS stood for Knights in Satan’s Service, or that we were Satan worshippers or Nazis. And it all turns out to be completely false. Paul and Gene were Jewish, I was brought up a Lutheran, and Peter Criss was a Roman Catholic.
Eric: Even if it was an accident, when it was pointed out to you that the KISS logo had some unintentional Nazi symbolism, did you or anybody else in the band ever think, “Maybe we should come up with something else?”
Ace: Nope, not at all.
Eric: You couldn’t spell KISS without the Nazi-looking lightning bolts?
Ace: I’m glad we didn’t, because it’s probably one of the most recognizable rock logos in the world. I think it’s probably number three. There’s a website that rates all the rock logos, and we’re definitely in the top ten.
Eric: Yeah, but the swastika is also recognizable and that doesn’t mean Coldplay should use it in their name.
Ace: I’m still glad we didn’t change it. And I’ll go on record saying it wasn’t modeled after Hitler or Nazis. It was just cool lightning bolts.
Eric: What about that time when you purportedly burst into Gene’s hotel room while wearing a full Nazi uniform and started shouting “Sieg Heil” at him?
Ace: Well for one thing, it wasn’t just me. Paul and Peter were there too. They were all dressed as Nazis.
Eric: Okay, I didn’t know that, but I’m not sure if that makes it less creepy or weird.
Ace: We had gone to a toy store in Japan and there was all these old Nazi uniforms. We ended up buying a bunch of them as a joke. We had a few drinks and we dressed up in the uniforms, and we were taking a few pictures, admiring them, and somebody said, “Hey, let’s knock on Gene’s room and surprise him.” In retrospect it was really not a cool thing to do. I think he was caught off guard.
Eric: I’m sure anybody visited by three Nazi officers in the middle of the night would be a little confused and freaked out.
Ace: Yeah, but Gene’s mom was in a concentration camp. In hindsight, I feel bad about it. It probably brought back some negative memories for him. But when you’re in the heat of the moment sometimes, you don’t realize that you’re doing something that could hurt somebody. I want to go on record saying I don’t believe in Hitler or his ideology or anything he stood for.
Read the full interview on MTV.
In a 2014 interview for the NY Post, KISS’ Paul Stanley referred to Ace Frehley and fellow band member Peter Criss as anti-semitic.
Less controversially, here’s Paul Stanley talking about using a ruler to sharpen the lines of Ace’s logo design.
As an aside, it was after seeing the KISS logo at the age of seven when the previously featured Lord of the Logos, Christophe Szpajdel began his interest in design.