KISS Related

Mitch Weissman (2013)
Background vocalist/original "Beatlemania" cast member recalls his contributions to Gene Simmons' 1978 solo album and his work with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons on albums such as "Animalize" and "Crazy Nights," plus a potpourri of KISS stories and tangents.

David Snowden (2013)
Longtime KISS fan and former head of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion fan club talks "All Systems Go" and various KISS-related topics

Mark Opitz (2013)
Producer details his work on "KISS Symphony: Alive IV"

Bruce Foster (2012)
Grammy-nominated musician discusses working with KISS and playing piano on "Nothin' To Lose"

David Wolfert (2012)
Grammy- and Emmy-nominated producer recalls working with Peter Criss on his first post-KISS solo album, 1980's "Out Of Control"

Bob Ezrin (2012)
Legendary producer details "Destroyer: Resurrected" and the making of the album

Lydia Criss (2012)
Author discusses the second printing of "Sealed With A KISS" and various Peter Criss- and KISS-related topics

Jean Beauvoir (2010)
Songwriter/recording artist recalls collaborations with KISS on "Animalize," "Asylum" and more

Kenny Kerner (2010)
Recalling KISS' early days with the co-producer of "KISS" and "Hotter Than Hell"

Eric Singer (2010)
Exclusive interview with KISS' current drummer regarding a variety of topics

Ace Frehley (2009)
KISS' original Spaceman details his first studio album in 20 years, "Anomaly"

Bruce Kulick (2009)
Non-makeup-era axeman discusses KISS tenure and latest album, "BK3"

Mike Japp (2005)
A discussion with KISS collaborator on the "Killers" and "Creatures Of The Night" albums

Dick Wagner (2004)
KISS' favorite "ghost" guitarist discusses his guitar playing on "Destroyer" and "Revenge"

Jesse Damon (2003)
Former member of Silent Rage on his collaborations with Gene Simmons

Stan Penridge (2000)
Peter Criss' right-hand man talks Chelsea, Lips and working with the Catman

Bruce Kulick (1999)
Guitarist talks Union project with John Corabi, Eric Carr and ESP

Sean Delaney (1998)
A brief encounter with the "fifth" member of KISS

Bob Ezrin (1998)
Former KOL webmaster Michael Brandvold grills the legendary producer regarding his work with KISS

All Systems Go With David Snowden

By Tim McPhate

When Vinnie Vincent Invasion's sophomore album, "All Systems Go," was released on May 2, 1988, hopes were sky high. With the Led Zeppelin-inspired "Ashes To Ashes," the crushing "Breakout," the moody "That Time Of Year," and four-on-the-floor stompers such as "Burn," Vincent had arguably uncorked his best and most diverse slate of songs to date. The Invasion -- Vinnie Vincent, Mark Slaughter, Dana Strum, and Bobby Rock -- were ready to take no musical prisoners and the timing seemed perfect, too. In 1988 rock bands such as Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Poison, Guns N' Roses, Van Halen, and Cinderella all inhabited the upper echelon of the Billboard 200.

Unfortunately, within the span of only three months, internal strife and various personal- and business-related issues caused the Invasion to disintegrate. And despite the release of two singles, including "Love Kills," which was featured in "Nightmare On Elm Street 4," and a brief tour, "All Systems Go" was essentially dead in the water. "But by the time 'Love Kills' actually came out as a single, the Invasion was over," says David Snowden, who oversaw the Invasion's fan club. "I mean even when they went and did that video, it was over." Given his unique position and close contact with the band, Snowden had a front-row seat for what was ultimately a tumultuous time for Vincent and the Invasion. Whether it's recalling Strum's important role in the studio, Vincent's inability to put a guitar down, Chrysalis Records' growing affinity for Mark Slaughter, or Vincent's secret role with David Lee Roth's "Eat Em & Smile" band, Snowden recalls the details with an amazing clarity.

Today, the longtime KISS fan runs his Baltimore-based company, David Snowden Promotions, which specializes in marketing strategies and the development of grassroots programs and licensed merchandise to promote entertainment artists. In addition to Vincent and KISS, Snowden has worked with artists such as Cheap Trick, Alias, Joan Jett, Dio, Britny Fox, Thin Lizzy, and Strum and Slaughter's post-Invasion band, Slaughter, among others. With the calendar inching toward May, it is hard to fathom that it will be 25 years since Vincent has released a studio album, far too long a time period considering the depths of his talents. "He was a great songwriter, he was a great guitar player," says Snowden.

So buckle up. All systems are go for part one of KissFAQ's chat with Snowden regarding his wild ride with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion.

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David Snowden
Courtesy of David Snowden Promotions

KissFAQ: David, longtime KISS fans and will surely remember you given your work on "KISS Revolution" and "KISS Force" in the early '80s. But for those who may not be familiar, can you give us an overview of your KISS background?
David Snowden: Well, it started [around] 1983. "Creatures Of The Night" was just getting ready to come out and there was really no KISS Army at that point. It had disbanded, it was done. And I had started to do this newsletter that I called the "KISS Revolution" and I put an advertisement in the back of "Circus" magazine because that was always the way to go. And that's when I got a telephone call one day from Keith Leroux, who was in Worcester, Massachusetts. He told me he really liked what I was doing and he had this big grand idea that we could do the whole KISS fan club thing. And that's when we decided to put it all together and do "KISS Force." And in doing "KISS Force" I was relying on Keith to get together pictures for the fan club package and get some PRICES and in the mean time I was constantly hounding the band, trying to get interviews with them because I thought that was the one thing with all the different fanzines that you'd seen over the years, nobody ever did interviews them. I'll never forget, what was it, back in '85 maybe, Ace was on his seven-city club tour and he played Scranton, Pennsylvania. I wasn't of legal age. He was scheduled to play Baltimore but it was a 21 and over crowd. So I thought, "Well, if I can't go to the show here, I'll go to Scranton." Ironically enough, the Baltimore show ended up getting cancelled. But when I went up to Scranton, I was actually invited by Ken Sharp, who everybody knows. Ken had invited me to the show, he got me on the guest list. And I got there, I met Ken, talked to him and met a really nice guy named Jim Rosensteel. Jim ended up working with me on Lydia's book ["Sealed With A KISS"]. He actually did the KISS Asylum website for years and years and years. When I was doing all the KISS merchandising, he maintained my website. [He's] a really, really good guy. I mean he's so good with his web design, he now works for a huge federal government agency doing website for them.

But at that particular show, when the show ended I saw the backstage door and I had been calling George Sewitt for months at his apartment, trying to get an interview with Ace. So I walked through the backstage door, walked right up to George Sewitt, and he looked at me and he said, "Who the fuck are you? And what the fuck are you doing here?" (laughs) That was introduction to George Sewitt and I looked at him and I said," I'm David Snowden and I've been calling you about doing an interview with Ace and you haven't returned my calls so here I am." He looked at me, and he said, "Wow. You know what? You've got a lot of balls. But don't you go anywhere." And then he turned, he goes "Anton, watch this guy," which was Anton Fig. He says, "Don't let him go anywhere." Well I'm standing there, and I had two Frehley's Comet T-shirts that I had bought and I had Anton and Richie and Jon Regan and Arthur Stead all sign the shirts. And then Jon Regan looked at me and said, "You know Ace hasn't signed this yet." He actually took it and went in the back and he came out and it had Ace's signature on it. And I thought, "Well, this is kind of cool." Then George Sewitt came out and he said, "Come with me." I went in and Ace was sitting in a chair and he said, "Ace, this is David Snowden. He wants to do an interview. He's not doing it today. But I think we should let him do one." And he explained to him what I did and he then George said, "He's just here for an autograph." And I go, "Oh shit." I just got Ace's autograph on one of my shirts but I handed him the other one, and he signed that. And two weeks later I ended up at the Power Station in New York City when Ace was cutting the scratch vocals for "Into The Night" and I did an interview with him then.

KF: I believe this particular interview is on YouTube.
DS: Yeah, a lot of the stuff ... you know, when you kind of get involved with KISS circles you meet a lot of people. And because I had done a lot of those interviews, with Ace, Peter, Eric, Mark, Bruce, Gene, Vinnie, and what not, I had let a lot people borrow them and listen to them and they just started circulating. I went to a convention once and saw an actual CD with the Eric Carr interview I did. And of course, now you go 20, 30 years later and you go back and listen to them and you go, "God, I sounded like an idiot talking to them." But you know it was fun stuff and all a part of growing up.

KF: Absolutely. So how did you exactly come to work with Vinnie?
DS: After doing so many interviews with the guys, I ended up meeting Vinnie and I got a hold of him when he was back in Connecticut and he was cutting a lot of his demos. That was with Hirsh Gardner and the guys that went on to form Alcatrazz. We had kept in touch and then he eventually moved to L.A. and one day as he was getting closer to getting his [first solo] album done -- Keith and I always believed in doing bigger and better advertisements to really expand out what we were doing and we had done a bunch of ones for the KISS Force fan club that were full-page things in "Circus" and "Hit Parader" and "Faces" magazine was like the big thing. We decided one day to do one for Vinnie. And we also did one for KISS for the release of "Asylum" and they ran around the same time and I had gotten a call one day from Chris Lendt who said to me, "David, Paul was looking through a magazine the other day and he was just knocked over." And I was like, "Oh that's great." And I'm thinking he was referring to the full-page ad we did for KISS but he was upset about the ad we did for Vinnie.

Later that week I talked to Vinnie and I was telling him about it and Vinnie says, "You know what, I'd really like you to do my fan club." And he said, "But you've got to understand, [there's a] conflict of interest."

KF: Right.
DS: And I talked to Keith about it. And I told Keith that I thought this was my chance to do what I really loved and to do it in a real official capacity and to really get involved. And I ended up selling everything out to Keith and I moved on with Vinnie. We kind of took it from there. We went through the whole first record, [I] went with them on tour a lot. I know that some people have seen on my Facebook company page, they probably see pictures of Vinnie at my parents' house having dinner.

KF: David, you have to tell us about Vinnie Vincent coming over to your house for dinner.
DS: How that happened was my mom was a little concerned. Here I was, I was going to college, she knew I was getting involved and trying to do this band thing. And she just thought I was going to become a drug addict or an alcoholic. And I kept trying to explain to her, "Mom, look these guys aren't into that." I don't want to tell my mom that these guys are really into sex, that's what they're really into. It's all about women. (laughs) But she really thought it was about drugs and alcohol. I said, "Mom, you really have to meet them." And she said, "Well, maybe they should come over here and talk to me." And I called George and I said, "Hey, here's what's happening. My mom is a little concerned." And he said, "You know what, we're going to be in Baltimore for a couple of days. We've got a layover there with the Alice Cooper tour. Why don't we come over and meet your mom." And my mom made this big dinner and I'll never forget going out to the tour bus, pulled up in front of my house, and I walked out and I got on the tour bus and George Sewitt is standing there and he's looking at each one of the guys and he's like, "Look, this is Mr. and Mrs. Snowden's house. I want you to go in there and I want you to be polite. I want you to watch your language. And by all means, be fucking gracious."

KF: That's great. (laughs)
DS: And they came in and they sat down and my mom served them dinner and she was talking to them. And I'll never forget, I was sitting next to Bobby Rock and he said something, I don't remember exactly what it was, but he used the word fuck. And it took me back to when I was a little kid because as soon as he said that, he was sitting two people over from George Sewitt, but George was able to reach and smack him in the back of the head. Bobby looks at me and he goes, "What the fuck?"

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David Snowden, his sister Terri and Vinnie Vincent
Courtesy of David Snowden Promotions

KF: (laughs)
DS: And then Bobby realized my mom standing behind them. And he says, "I'm really sorry." And my mom said, "That's OK honey. I understand." It was an interesting day because the household I grew up in, it was four of us. My oldest sister was severely retarded but always lived with my parents. And Terri just loved music. And she had a real sense of people. She could communicate with us and we understood what she wanted. But she would know if somebody liked her, was afraid of her, or if she just genuinely really loved somebody. You know, I guess it just gave you a good gauge on when you knew when people were very genuine. And she took to Vinnie. And she sat on his lap and she kept holding on to him and back them everybody had the long hair and everything. Terri used to love to pull on my hair. And she was sitting there on Vinnie's lap and she's pulling on his hair. And I said to her, "Terri, please stop." Vinnie goes, "No, no it's OK." I go, "Vinnie, look, she's going to pull that damn thing off your head."

KF: (laughs)
DS: "You have to tell her no." But she just loved him. And she just had a great time. My sister was always so great about that. The first time I got married back in '93, Joan Jett came to my wedding. And when she came in, it was really funny. Like I said, Terri loved music. The first song that I ever worked for Joan was "I Hate Myself For Loving You." My sister loved that song. And when Joan came in she was talking to me and they started to play that song and my sister Terri walked over, not knowing who she was, but grabbed her hands and made her clap and dance with her.

KF: That's great.
DS: But getting back to the Vinnie thing. What ended up happening was they had dinner, my mom understood and finally got what it I was that I was doing with these guys. After that, we ended up taking Vinnie back to the hotel because they had three or four days off. Vinnie wanted to go back to the hotel and get some sleep. He wanted to call Ann-Marie and Jessica and Elizabeth, his two kids. So we dropped him off at the hotel, so Bobby, Mark, Dana, and myself, we got ready and we went over to Hammerjacks, which was a pretty famous club in Baltimore. So we took those guys over there and they got their first taste of Hammerjacks.

The next day, I ended up picking the guys up and we went over to the local shopping mall and they did a bunch of shopping, which was kind of interesting when you see these guys walk through the ball because you could tell they were in a band. It was really interesting to see people follow us around stores and Mark was just so open and great with people. He'd turn around and he'd be like, "Hey, it's OK. If you want to come over and get an autograph or talk to us, it's OK." And it was a lot of fun. And two days later they played with Alice Cooper in Baltimore and the tour progressed up to Philly and a bunch of other areas. So, that was a fun time.

KF: David, May 2013 marks the the 25th anniversary of "All Systems Go." Out of the two Vinnie Vincent Invasion albums, which do you like best?
DS: Actually, "All Systems Go" and I say that because the first record was more or less a Vinnie Vincent record with a lot of over-the-top guitar solos. Whereas the second album was a more band-unified effort. That's when they were actually pushing to stress all four band members. The record company was really hip on Mark Slaughter. They thought that he was going to be a superstar. They thought he had the voice, the looks and the personality. Even if you went back and looked at the second fan club package that I put together for them, each guy in the band had their own bio and on the cover of the bio had the big Invasion logo. But Vinnie's said Vinnie Vincent on the top. But Dana Strum's said Dana Strum. Mark and Bobby's had their names. Because it was getting to the point where as the album was being recorded the discussion was made with all of them that they were going to eventually, by the third record, drop the name Vinnie Vincent and simply call it Invasion.

KF: Really?
DS: I mean Vinnie was the principal songwriter, he was the guy. He was the guy originally signed to the record contract, it was his band. But by the time you got to the second album, a lot of people don't realize that Vinnie would come in with all of these ideas in one song. And when you'd listen to it sometimes, you'd be like, "OK, well that's too much." And Dana was the guy that sat there and would pull the ideas out and he would arrange them and make them into the songs that they were. I mean Vinnie still got the full credit of being the sole songwriter on it but Dana had so much to do with that and in the meantime you had Mark who was pulling on his influences. I think that album was heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin. And you could certainly here that on the song "Ashes To Ashes."

KF: Yes, between the vocal melody and the octave-based riff, there are definitely touches of "The Immigrant Song" there.
DS: Yeah, and Mark was going for that big Robert Plant kind of sound. Vinnie dug that. Hell, even when they went on tour, Vinnie had pants made that had the dragon down the side like Jimmy Page had. Bobby came in with this unbelievable talent for playing the drums. I mean that guy could play anything.

KF: He's a very talented drummer. I don't know that most fans understand how good he is.
DS: The Japanese version of the CD had the two bonus tracks, "The Meltdown" and "Ya Know I'm Pretty Shot." On that song "The Meltdown," that's Bobby Rock with a big bass drum and two other drums and that's it. He got all of that out of those three drums. I tell you, if that guy comes to town and he does a drum clinic you want to go and ask him to do what he calls "The Octopus." His hands are going so many different places, doing so many things, and you're looking at him and going, "How do you do that?" He's just a really, really talented guy.

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Vinnie Vincent Invasion

KF: Moving deeper into "All Systems Go," there's a wealth of diversity on this album. There's the aforementioned Zeppelin-inspired "Ashes To Ashes," straight-ahead rockers like "Dirty Rhythm," moody mid-tempo tracks like "That Time Of Year," galloping metal like "Breakout," and lush ballads like "Ecstasy." There's also "Love Kills," which is very atmospheric.
DS: Yeah, well if you ever went on tour with Vinnie and you'd stop at an airport or a hotel magazine shop, what was the first thing Vinnie always went for? He went for the "Playboy," "Hustler" and the "Cheri" magazines. Despite that people have all these big ideas about Vinnie with sex changes and being bisexual and all that, I mean he was a really sexual guy who was really into women. And that's where he pulled his inspiration for a lot of his songs. He was just a really, really talented guy who could sit down and do that. I mean the first Invasion record, he had a couple of years to do that. He left after the Lick It Up tour, they kept calling him back, wanting him for "Animalize," to come in and write some more songs, and that's when he said, "You know what, I gave you my first baby. I can't give you another one."

But he had two years to develop those songs, where with "All Systems Go," they came off the road with Iron Maiden and Vinnie started writing and in a period of a couple weeks he had all these songs. Which is just amazing when I would go to L.A. and hang out with those guys you'd go over to his house or you'd go to the recording studio or the rehearsal space, the guy was always playing his guitar. He was always writing down ideas for songs. I was over his house when he recorded a bunch of demos with Jeff Scott Soto. His TV room was set up that it had a big mixing board so he could record stuff. And right next door to his TV room was the bathroom and that's where they used to record all of the vocals. Imagine you're 20 years old, you're in Vinnie Vincent's house, which in itself, you're like, "You know, this is kind of cool." (laughs) And this guy comes over, he jumps in the shower and the guy is literally singing in the shower. And you're like, "This is kind of wild." But Vinnie was also a big fan of the little guitar amp, the Rockman, and he would set that in his tub and Vinnie would set there in his hallway, outside of the bathroom, just playing away, doing his thing, to get the sounds that he wanted.

KF: Now that you mention it, on some of his demos, his guitar tone does sound like a Rockman.
DS: And that's exactly what it is. I was always amazed and I used to ask him all the time, "Where do you come up with this stuff?" And he would tell me, "Looking through magazines, seeing other experiences other people were having." He would listen to other people about their relationships. He would also draw from his own relationship with Ann-Marie. And he would look at his two children, Jessica and Elizabeth. I mean he loved them. You definitely got a different vibe ... so many people when they think of Vinnie they hear about all the craziness, a lot of it goes back to a lot of business things. But I think everybody knows that. But they don't know what he was as a family man. And as a family man he was really, really great. When he wasn't playing with his kids, when Mark and I were over there we were playing with his kids. He was always trying to write letters to the fans because that was important to him. He was trying to do what he could.

And I would see some of the opposite side of things when we'd go to the studio. One of the funniest things I remember is when we are at the studio when they were recording "All Systems Go," every day around three o'clock Vinnie's wife would call and ask for him. And then he'd get off the phone and say he had to go home. After a couple of days of that, everyone caught on to it. So then when the studio phone would ring, somebody would pick it up and answer in a Hispanic accent and they'd say, "No, there's no Vinnie here and they'd hang up." So Vinnie was staying and he was recording and that's how they were getting a lot of stuff out of him. And it even got to the point where I think Vinnie was catching on to it and then he'd start always asking what time it was. And finally somebody pulled the plug out of the clock, and whenever he'd ask, it was always one o'clock.

KF: (laughs) Playing tricks on Vinnie.
DS: One day Vinnie came in and he said that he thought the studio lights were a little too bright, and that could they turn them down because they were kind of hurting his eyes. Well, I don't want to name names (laughs), but one person turned down the lights and they started to dim them and they turned them up and before you knew it the lights were brighter than what they initially were and Vinnie was doing a couple of his guitar solos wearing sunglasses in this fully lit studio, which was really funny. Again, here you have a guy who was so concentrated on his guitar stuff, I don't think he was realizing a lot of the stuff that went on. And even as the band broke up, one of the things that a lot of people don't know -- and I guess that's where the later interviews in the early 2000s when Vinnie was going around doing the circuit and he was talking about re-recording "All Systems Go" and he was talking about players who could really truly realize his vision. He had that with Mark, Dana and Bobby and he knows that he had it.

But what upset him about it, and rightfully so, after the record was done, Chrysalis Records -- like I said earlier -- really wanted to push Mark Slaughter. And they wanted to try and get that younger market. The hair metal market had exploded. Mark was right up there with the good looks like Bon Jovi and they thought they could really market that. But the record company also wanted a very song-oriented album. They did not want all the over-the-top solos, and if you go back from many years ago, there was an article in "Metal Edge" magazine where Mark and Dana are holding up copies of "All Systems Go" and they did a big giveaway and they talked about how the band were mixing some of their stuff at Electric Ladyland in New York City. What had happened was, the record company called and they basically told Dana, "We need you to bring the tapes to New York. We need to hear this stuff." Mark and Dana came to New York and they cut some guitar solos, and some of the songs. Because they looked at it as they wanted radio stuff that could get out there, they didn't need the over-the-top, self-indulgent guitar solos that were on the first record.

KF: There's a version of "Ashes To Ashes" out there, which has an extended guitar solo.
DS: Yes, and I remember sitting there in the studio there when they cut that one. To this day, if I listen to that song, when it gets to that point of where they cut it, I can tell you exactly where it was. And I still remember watching them do that. But that wasn't to spite Vinnie, it wasn't to be nasty to Vinnie, it was to make his career bigger than what it was.

KF: I really like "Ashes To Ashes" as it appears on the album, and think it's a really cool solo. It has always reminded me of Randy Rhoads' solo in "Over The Mountain." Vinnie starts out very melodically, and then he really goes to town.
DS: Yeah, there were a lot of ones ... you know, I remember saying to Vinnie that the solo to "Love Kills" was a bit much. I mean that was just my personal opinion. And eventually when it did come out and they did the radio cut of it, they did cut the solo out. And if you go back and pick up the remaster they did a couple of years back, the edited version got on the remaster. And that's actually very disappointing because they should have put on the original studio version.

KF: Yeah, I was upset that the original version wasn't on the remaster.
DS: The original version of a song is the one that stays with you. That's the special one. I mean, I understood cutting it for radio because we do that for a lot of songs. And I understood cutting it for a video. But by the time "Love Kills" actually came out as a single, the Invasion was over. I mean even when they went and did that video, it was over. And if you went back and you looked at the maxi-single [or] the cassette single and a lot of them had stickers on it saying "featuring Mark Slaughter."

KF: I remember seeing the video title on MTV saying "featuring Mark Slaughter."
DS: Yep. And the reason for that was is that everybody saw that the band wasn't going to last. And there was a lot of talk with managers that talked to the band members about, "Well, how about the three of you come and you leave Vinnie behind and we could have a real band." And there was a lot of that kind of talk going on. I know at one point I went out to dinner with Vinnie and Ann-Marie and Vinnie asked me about it and I felt bad but I told him, I said, "That's really something that you need to discuss with them, not with me." And even before the tour started I got a call one night from Dana saying that Vinnie's new manager and Vinnie came in to rehearsal and said that I made some statements that I never made and I said to Dana, "Well I never said that." And Dana said, "Well, we don't think that you did. We think he was just trying to play our hand. And because you were here through a lot of it, it was an easy out." And so much of it ended up falling apart during the recording of that second album because Vinnie was thinking about changing management.

KF: When I interviewed Bobby in 2010, he alluded to this. It's an unfortunate situation, David. Here is a band that seems to have a promising collection of songs and for all intents and purposes the project was compromised from the start.
DS: Yeah, and that's really what it was. The change in management -- that all went on during the recording of that record. At one point I know they talked to Bill Aucoin because I was there when Bill Aucoin came in. And he sat down and talked to them. Shep Gordon talked to them, who was Alice Cooper's manager.

KF: Were they just talking to Vinnie?
DS: Well they talked to all the members because they were looking to pick up the band. What happened between Vinnie and George, I mean have my impression of what happened. And I think a lot of that was George wasn't there for the recording of most of the record and I think Vinnie was led to believe that he wasn't that interested. That's just my personal opinion. But George to me, he was the guy who got me started in this business. He was the guy who believed in me. When Vinnie asked me to do his thing, I had to convince George that I was the guy. I love George. I think George is a good guy. But I think what happened was him not always being there is what kinda thew some of the doubt in Vinnie's mind and Vinnie started looking for this new manager. But each time a new manager came in, [they] would meet with all four members but then there were times too when you would see these potential members going off with some of the individuals and talking to them. I think that's where a lot of that stuff came in and where the band started having their doubt was that Vinnie thought that they were all just going to leave him and go on and form their own band. And ultimately when the band broke up, Chrysalis Records decided that they were willing to put their faith into Mark Slaughter and not Vinnie Vincent. But like I said, they were gearing up ["All Systems Go"] to go in that direction and they were looking to push Mark and to try to get it to the younger audience, and broaden it to not just KISS fans, but to general rock music fans. And it actually paid off because Slaughter was a huge, huge success.

KF: Yes, Slaughter's debut came out in 1990 and did very well. I know I bought the album because I was an Invasion fan. It was obviously good fortune for Mark and Dana but part of me has always felt that "All Systems Go" should have been that album to break through.
DS: And I think it could have if George would have stayed on as manager, he could have kept them united and kept them moving forward like the plan was. But it only takes a little bit for people to start casting doubt. It's like in any relationship. Everybody gets in their mind what it is they think it is going on, and before you know it, I don't think anybody knows what's going on. And it leads to so many misunderstandings. Before they went on tour, I think they knew that was going to be their last tour. Vinnie hired a manager, I remember his first name was Nigel. I can't even remember his last name to be honest with you, but he was an English guy. And Nigel, to me, he threw a big dividing line in there with those guys. He was making it out that this was not going to be a unified band effort and I think he was -- and again this is my personal opinion -- I think he blew a lot of smoke up Vinnie's ass, telling him how great he was. And he was. He was a great songwriter, he was a great guitar player. He had some talent there. But that's like telling any band member that they're more important than somebody else. If you've got four people in a band you've got to make it work together with all four of you. And you can't stress the importance of one over the other. Otherwise, it just doesn't work.

KF: That thinking goes back to the Bill Aucoin "equal partnership" philosophy with KISS.
DS: Exactly. And it worked. No matter what anybody did, it worked that way. You know, when you have new managers step in and they want to tell everybody that they're a superstar and other people aren't, you're going to have problems. And I think that was a big part of the problem because when they shot the "That Time Of Year" video, everybody still seemed to be really into each other. Everything seemed to be really good. But it was a couple of days after they shot that video that everything blew up. When Vinnie approached them and started asking them about things that may or may not have been said or done. Again, it's very unfortunate. Hey things worked out for Mark and Dana and I was so happy for them because they deserved that sort of success. And things worked out for Bobby. Bobby went on and worked for the Nelson twins, which was huge.

KF: "After The Rain" was a very big album.
DS: Yeah. The only one that it didn't work for unfortunately was Vinnie.

KF: I want to go back to the album. "Ya Know I'm Pretty Shot" is a classical piece that is included on the CD version of "All Systems Go." Vinnie has cited classical players such as Andres Segovia and Christopher Parkening as influences, but sadly this is a side of his playing that fans did not get to really hear. Do you remember anything about the genesis of it? And is this a musical side of Vinnie you got to experience given your unique vantage point?
DS: To tell you about the genesis about how the song happened, that I don't know. But as far as seeing that side of Vinnie ... God, this is going to sound horrible, but I saw it more than I wanted to. And what I mean by that is no matter what you were doing, if Vinnie had a guitar in his hand -- which was probably 80 percent of the time -- he was always playing something. It might not have been plugged in, but he was still sitting there doing his thing. And there were times where I was having conversations with him and I was like, "Can you please put the fucking thing down?"

KF: (laughs)
DS: Because you're like, "Come on now." I can only relate it to, it's like when you talk to a teenager now and they're texting. And you want to say, "Are you listening to me?" It was kinda that way with Vinnie and there were so many times where you'd sit down with him and you'd try to have that conversation, and he would play. But when he and I were alone, you know I'd stay over his house sometimes, and we'd stay up and we'd watch movies all night and things like that. And sometimes he'd pull [his guitar] out, and he'd say, "Hey, check this out." And he would start to play a really nice classical piece. It was kinda cool and I would think, "This really isn't like the sort of thing I would listen to everyday." But I could really appreciate the fact that he could do that. And now when you fast-forward 25, 30 years and you think of it, you know he had so much talent to do so many different things. It's a shame that people didn't get to really hear it because so much of it got lost in a lot of the speed playing that happened, especially on that first record. I think that people knew that he was a really great guitar player, but it's kinda like Eddie Van Halen. Eddie's a great guitar player but you don't have to sit there and you don't have to do the tapping and the hammer-ons on every single song. People are impressed with what you do and you save that for your solos and you do it that way. But I think that's why you have Yngwie Malmsteen -- [he's a] great guitar player but has he ever really had huge commercial success? Steve Vai [had] a lot of success [with] David Lee Roth and Whitesnake. But I know that he had one [solo] record that sold really, really well.

KF: "Passion & Warfare?"
DS: Yep. But how often do you want to sit down -- if you're a guitar player you may want to sit down and listen to it. But I know that I personally like to hear things that have melody and good hooks. I want to hear a good song. I could care less about drum solos, guitar solos, bass solos -- any of that sort of stuff. I want to hear good songs. I want to hear something that makes me remember it. And you listen to "All Systems Go," there are some great songs on there. You know, 25 years later, you can still remember the song "That Time Of Year." That's a great song.

KF: That's probably my favorite Vinnie-penned song. And I believe that song was better than 75 percent of the songs from the genre that were charting in 1988. For the life of me, I can't figure out how that song did not cross over and perform well.
DS: Well I think what happened with that was, if you go back to that time period and you look at the way record companies were releasing stuff -- and all the record companies did it -- they would get together and they would listen to a band and they would have one good rocker come out, the ballad, and then another rocker follow it up. Whereas "That Time Of Year" probably should not have been the kick-off song for that record. I think had they saved that for the second single, they would have had a better chance.

KF: Correct me if I am wrong, wasn't "Ashes To Ashes" serviced as a promotional radio single, backed with a medley of tunes?
DS: Yes, it was. And that was what initially they thought they were going to do as the first video.

KF: And that never was filmed?
DS: No. The only video that they filmed right as the record was coming out was for "That Time Of Year." They did that at a sound studio in L.A. That was a lot of fun. I think that was my first time that I was ever at a place where they shot a video.

KF: I think it's a well-shot video and it really came out well.
DS: Yeah, I remember thinking, "God, this really sucks for the drummer." Because the drummer has to be in every single shot. They're back there playing the whole time. But it was a lot of fun to go there to see that. I was with Mark and Dana when they had the road crew guys build the set as far as the drum riser [and] the little ramps that were supposed to look like little highway type of things.

KF: And there were the little Vs on the floor.
DS: The video company did that. When we went in, they had brought the band's equipment in and they had some extra amplifiers and that sort of stuff that were brought in. But that was the production company, the people who actually did the video. They did that. They put up all the lights. When the band got there, they had an idea of what was going to happen but the only thing I was aware of that was definitely going to definitely be there was the drum riser that the road crew had built and the two little ramps. And all the rest of it was just like, "Wow." And even the stuff that they went ahead and put in later. That was filmed the week later, the scene with the girl and all that.

KF: Do you remember who that girl was and how she got involved?
DS: No. That I don't know. I want to say -- but I can't say for certain -- but I want to say I think that might have been somebody that Deb Rosner brought in. Deb Rosner was the band's publicist at the time. And Deb had huge success doing publicity for Poison. And she was very, very gung-ho into Vinnie's stuff and the band. She was a really nice lady.

KF: So in hindsight, you would have led off with "Ashes To Ashes" as the first video?
DS: Yeah, I would have led off with "Ashes To Ashes." And then I would have went into something like "That Time Of Year." Even the song "Love Kills," that was great. They got the chance to get that into "Nightmare On Elm Street," but that wasn't like that was a special song that was penned for that. It wasn't like what Dokken did with "Dream Warriors."

KF: Right, they chose "Love Kills."
DS: Yep. The movie studio wanted a song and Chrysalis wanted pitched "Love Kills," and it worked.

KF: Do you recall talk about Vinnie writing a new song for the film?
DS: No, not that I'm aware of. I was never told that he was going to do anything special for that. He did a lot of writing for other people that was shopped.

KF: I like the Bangles song he co-wrote, "Make A Play For Her Now."
DS: That was really good.

KF: I remember reading somewhere that he was going to write with Nikki Sixx.
DS: Never happened. The closest that they got to that was when they were rehearsing as they were getting to the tour. And while they were in there rehearsing, Mötley Crüe was in the studio next door and they were rehearsing for a tour. But I never saw -- other than the two girls that were "the Nasty Habits" for Mötley. I saw Mick Mars a couple of times. Vince ran through. But I never saw Vinnie interact with them.

KF: In your opinion, how important was Dana Strum to the Invasion?
DS: Dana was [in the studio] 24/7. Dana was there more than anybody. Dana had more input into the Invasion than people actually realize. You know the big story of how Mark Slaughter came into the band, Vinnie with the lost tape and all that? It never happened.

47666 514661168573670 1132853898 n.jpg
David Snowden and Mark Slaughter
Courtesy of David Snowden Promotions

KF: Just another PR stunt?
DS: I can tell you 100 percent for sure that never happened. How that happened was Mark Slaughter -- I mean I knew him through some other friends that were KISS fans -- but Mark was actually really close to Dana. And when they knew that Robert Fleischman wasn't going to work out, Dana was the one who introduced Mark to Vinnie. He came in and he said, "I have got this guy." And I still remember when it was first introduced, George Sewitt said to me, "Dana thinks that he has a new vocalist for us because Fleischman's not going to work." And he said, "I've seen his picture, I've heard his voice and he looks like a cross between Eddie Van Halen and the Karate Kid." And if you go back and look at a young picture of Mark, he kinda does. And that's how he was described. And I was like, "I know Mark because his best friend, who lives in Las Vegas, he and I, we talk all the time." And that's how I knew Mark, through the Roz Parade and Xcursion and all that sort of stuff. And I still remember having discussions with Vinnie. Vinnie had his doubts. Vinnie wanted to hire a guy from Sweden [Göran Edman] who actually ended up [singing] on John Norum's first solo record ["Total Control"] when they did "Back On The Streets."

Vinnie wanted to hire that guy. And they had to tell him, "Vinnie, look that guy's from another country. He can barely speak English." That's what they told him, "You're going to have problems with work visas, getting him over here, you're going to have problems with him communicating to people." And Vinnie initially was very apprehensive over hiring Mark. I remember talking to him, he was like, "I don't know. Everybody's telling me that Mark's the way to go." But Vinnie's big apprehension was he thought that Mark was too young. He wanted somebody older, more seasoned. At that point, before Mark had actually come into the band, I hadn't met Vinnie face to face. Vinnie was telling me he wanted "somebody older, somebody more seasoned, more mature, you know, somebody like our age." And I said, "Vinnie, how old do you think I am?" And he thought I was around his age. And I said, "No, Mark's actually a year or two older than I am." You know, it gave him something else to think about. But Mark was a good guy. He was the guy. But with any rock band, they always have to have a good story for publicity.

KF: Exactly. It seems especially appropriate since Vinnie was in KISS, the masters of hype. David, how would you describe Vinnie and Dana's collaborative relationship in the studio? It seems Dana was instrumental in helping to capture and arrange Vinnie's solos.
DS: Oh yeah, Dana would sit down with Vinnie and he would be able to vocalize how he wanted it. He'd be like, "Vinnie, when it goes bing a bang a boom, I need you to come in." He would get into it with him. Like I said, it was Vinnie's band and I think that's why they put Vinnie as the producer. But that was all Dana. Dana was the one there. He was there all the time. He was very instrumental in making sure that Bobby Rock was in the band when Bobby drove up and he heard him. He was like, "Vinnie this is the guy." Because prior to that, Vinnie was thinking about Gregg Bissonette, who joined David Lee Roth's band. Which people probably don't even know, but David Lee Roth and Gregg Bissonette showed up at Vinnie's house one day and they gave him a platinum award for "Eat 'Em And Smile." Because at the time Roth had just left Van Halen -- or was thrown out -- whatever you believe there. And he was looking to put together a band. He knew that Vinnie was auditioning all these people. He didn't have time to do a whole lot of auditions. He called up and said, "Hey, do you know anybody?" And Vinnie said, "Yeah, this guy Gregg Bissonette. I was going to hire him but I met Bobby Rock."

KF: So Vinnie and David Lee Roth had a phone conversation?
DS: Yep.

KF: To be able to listen to that call ...
DS: Well, imagine what it was like when David Lee Roth and Gregg Bissonette showed up at his house with the platinum award for "Eat 'Em & Smile." Imagine how I felt when I hung it up in his TV room over the top of his TV for him. (laughs)

KF: Right. (laughs) As you mentioned, it seems Vinnie wasn't convinced Mark was the right choice. Did they get along well?
DS: Oh yeah, they were really good with one another. They worked really well together. They went on the road and I think Vinnie realized just what a joy Mark was because Mark was so upbeat [and] so happy. He was not only glad to be there, but that was his dream. That's what he wanted to do. Mark was just great. I remember Jessica and Elizabeth were like 5 years old and Mark and I were playing with them all the time at [Vinnie's] house. Mark was like -- he was like the rest of us --he was just a big kid.

KF: He really seemed to have an infectious personality.
DS: Yeah. I mean he'd go over to Vinnie's house and he'd come in with roller skates on.

KF: There's a clip of them on "Headbanger's Ball" from 1988 and he's next to Vinnie roller-skating. (laughs)
DS: He was full of energy and he really brought it all together. That was such a good call on Dana's part to bring him in. Fleischman didn't have the look and he didn't want to tour. I know that everybody talks about that he didn't sign a contract and all that sort of stuff. But you can't fault the guy on that, because Vinnie never signed his with KISS.

KF: Fleischman's a whole other conversation ...
DS: Yeah, but he didn't really want to go out on tour. He had a family. And they knew that they had to put this thing on the road in order to get something out of it. That's when Dana came in with Mark and said, "Look, he's the guy." The manager agreed, [the] record company agreed and when Mark joined that band, Chrysalis Records signed Mark at that point. Mark was signed to Chrysalis as well. And that's why when the Invasion fell apart, Chrysalis picked up on Mark's option and they explored that. They dropped Vinnie's option and went with Mark. And as history has proven, it was certainly the right move.

KF: In terms of a shelf-life, "All Systems Go" spent 15 weeks on the Billboard 200. It had a good second week, in jumping 101 positions from No. 181 to No. 80, but it ultimately stalled at No. 64. Do you recall discussing the chart performance with the band and having hopes it was going to take off?
DS: There were a lot of high hopes. But as the band is getting ready to hit the road, and they're breaking up, the record company just let it go. They didn't push it the way that they could have.

KF: So Chrysalis pulled back on their promotional efforts?
DS: Absolutely. Initially when the record was getting ready to come out, Chrysalis was all behind it. They did the big thing down Hollywood Boulevard with the tank and all the guys and some of the record company people riding on it. They had a huge release party. Everybody you can imagine from L.A. was there. Peter Criss was there, which was the first time I got to meet Peter face to face. The guys from Ratt were there, Stryper ... there were so many [bands]. So many of those people also sang that backing backward vocal at the beginning of "Ashes To Ashes," that's got so many different people signing on it. It's not just Mark, Dana and Vinnie. There are guys from Stryper, I think some of the guys from Poison. Anybody who came through that studio, they were willing to put on there.

KF: That'd be at Cherokee Studios, correct?
DS: Cherokee. Yep. If somebody was there or if they came through, they were going ahead and doing that.

KF: I've always thought that the background vocals on "All Systems Go" were well-produced.
DS: Yeah, Dana had a way of recording that was fantastic. Even when they did the first tracking of the record, it was before I went out to L.A. and Mark was doing some of his stuff and he called me up and he was like, "David, listen to this. I can't believe it's me." He was impressed with the way that he sounded. And I tell you, my wife and I, we just celebrated our first year anniversary, which was nice. When we got together a few years back and we were talking one day and I happened to have "All Systems Go" in the car, and I put it on and she said to me, "Who is this?" And I said to her, "You don't recognize the vocalist?" And I know she likes Slaughter. And when I told her what it was, she said, "No." I said, "Yeah." And I said, "Mark's vocals on this are really good. It was before he went into," this sounds horrible, "what I call the whiny high pitch thing." Which just isn't my personal preference. And I know that Mark has a very good, very soulful voice and he can do that Robert Plant type of thing. And I don't think he needed to do all the other stuff that he did. But then again, Slaughter was huge.

But Dana, when they recorded at Cherokee, l was there 24/7. And when I would go to L.A., one of the guys in the band would always pick me up at the airport and I would usually spend a couple of days with Vinnie at his house with the family. But most of the time I spent at the studio with Mark and Dana, who were always there, and Bob was there a lot. I remember walking out to the newsstand outside of Cherokee, Mark and I did, and who pulled up on a Harley-Davidson but Jay Leno? And Jay Leno was showing us how he had done his first interview with "Playboy" magazine. And he was real excited about it, he didn't know who the hell we were. (laughs) There was so much of that when they were doing the record, you know people would come in. Dana would introduce you and you're like, "Yeah, I've heard of them." When they had the first poster that had all four of them on there, it was the actual one that was still sold in stores when they still had the real heavy-duty glam look, Dana took me to a restaurant and he said, "I want you to see this poster." What was the restaurant called? Canter's or something like...

KF: Canter's Deli.
DS: Yep. And the dudes from Guns N' Roses were sitting in the booth underneath the poster of them. And Dana was showing me the poster, and he was like, "Oh, hey guys. How you doing?" And he starts talking to them and he said, "This is David Snowden. He does our fan club." And he said, "David, this is Guns N' Roses. They're going to be a big band one day."

KF: (laughs). Yeah, you think?
DS: And then when we left, I said, "You know, I have their EP." And he goes, "Really?" And I said, "Yeah, it's cool." But Dana knew everybody. And a lot of people also knew Vinnie, obviously from the KISS thing. The guys from Autograph were at the release party because I went a couple of times to Guitar Center with Vinnie and he seemed like he was always running into the guys from Autograph. But L.A., that's what it was back in the mid-'80s. If you were in a band that was worth knowing about, you were in L.A. And they were all there and they were all hanging out and doing their thing. It was a really good scene. Like I said, when they were recording ["All Systems Go"], with "Ashes To Ashes," they put so many of those people in there in a booth. At one point, Dana asked me, "Why don't you jump in the booth? All I need you to sing is ashes to ashes." I was like, "I can't sing." And he goes, "Doesn't matter." (laughs) There are so many people on there, I don't know who is on there.

KF: Yeah, it sounds like a big stacked vocal. David, back to the album's chart performance, I remember reading that "All Systems Go" was approaching gold certification. Was the album anywhere near that mark?
DS: Neither one of the records were. Neither one.

David Snowden and Bobby Rock
Courtesy of David Snowden Promotions

KF: So these albums probably got up in the six figures, but nowhere near gold?
DS: No. And it's like you had said earlier, the charts were a lot different then. When SoundScan came in, it was not about how many you're shipping, it's not about how many were siting in stores, it's about how many are actually physically rung up through a cash register. And back then, like you had touched on with how the record debuted and all of the sudden it shot up, what they could do then was when your record came out, you didn't necessarily put it out as soon as it came out, you didn't let it enter the charts. You would try to save up sales. And then when you wouldn't report to "Billboard," you could say, "OK, look we sold 30,000 this week." And you're already a month into the record, but you already know that you've got 125,000 in sales. Then you could come back and say, "Hey, we just sold 75,000 more." And it made a huge jump, and that's how those charts used to be impacted then, and that made a big difference with radio. That's how they used to get all that stuff. Nowadays, it's like, it comes out, the next week you're on the chart, you might be in the Top 10, Top 20, and before you know it, you're not even in the Top 200.

KF: That's exactly the pattern for heritage acts such as KISS these days: a big debut week and sales drops thereafter.
DS: Exactly. But back then, you could save up sales and you could basically alter that stuff. You know, I worked in music distribution for awhile and some of the people who had been around for years knowing that I was a KISS fan and that sort of stuff, they would always tell me about the big debacle with the solo albums. About how the record company would come and say, "We need you to buy 50,000 of each." And they were like, "We're not going to sell 50,000." And they're like, "It's OK. We'll take them back." They just needed to be able to ship them to get them out there. And that's how so much of that certification used to happen. Vinnie's first record, it was the fastest-selling debut record of any artist in the history of Chrysalis Records. And it did sell about 125,000 units in the first month. It was really huge but it wasn't able to maintain it.

KF: Yeah, I am surprised there wasn't another video to follow "Boyz Are Gonna Rock."
DS: There was going to be.

KF "No Substitute"?
DS: Yes it was. The reason for that was you had a record out there that had Robert Fleischman on it. When "Boyz Are Gonna Rock" came out, Fleischman saw that it was his voice without him. He was able to sue the record company. They ended up settling for about $50,000. And then when it came time for "No Substitute," rather than go through all that, they thought about re-recording it. But then they thought, "It's not going to be the same version that's on the record." And the whole heavy-duty glam thing, even as you look at the beginning of the tour where there were a bunch of guys that looked like they were in drag, by the end of the tour the image had really toughened up quite a bit.

KF: You know, I had the poster you were referring to on my wall growing up. The one with the band all glammed out, Vinnie doing his hand gesture, in front of that silver background. My dad used to come in and say, "Who in the fuck are these fruitcakes?"
DS: Yeah, well imagine my dad, who was a military man his whole life, when they all came into his house. (laughs)

KF: (laughs)
DS: Well, you know my dad's comment when they all left, the next morning, he was like, "Well, at least they washed their hair." (laughs) My dad was a huge, huge supporter of what I did. It's your family that always sticks behind you. One of the funniest people I met, talking about family, was Mark Slaughter's father. His father was so funny. You would drive with him around Vegas, he would sit there and tell you, "I could have bought that. I could have bought that. I thought about buying that." He gave you the whole history of Vegas. That guy knew it all. The first time I went to Vegas, I went with Dana Strum, he was moving from Sherman Oaks, California, to Las Vegas. He bought a condo. He had a girl who was traveling with him, one of the girls he was dating at the time. And he wanted to be alone so Mark and I actually slept in the back. And that was the day, if you went back in history and looked, that's when a fuel pump blew up in Henderson, NV. [Ed: May 4, 1988] Mark and I were walking across the street, he was taking me to Vesely Music where he used to teach guitar lessons, because he wanted to introduce me to Jerry Vesely, who owned the place. When they had that explosion, it was felt in Las Vegas so much we thought it was an earthquake. It actually knocked us to the ground in the middle of the street. Dana had just moved into the house, it actually cracked his front door. Thankfully, it didn't break any of his record awards because Dana had some really cool stuff. Because, to this day, I've never seen a record award like the one he has for the "Blizzard Of Ozz" record. It has the certification on it, but the plaque, instead of having the traditional "to commemorate the sales," it actually said, "presented to Dana Strum for ghostly inspired material."

KF: Right.
DS: Because Dana was behind putting Randy Rhoads in that band. Dana had, literally, a closet full of tapes of Randy. At one point, he gave me a publicity shot of Jake E. Lee that he took in a bathroom, where he's standing up against the tiled wall and it said on it "Management: Dana Strum." And at the time, it still had his current telephone number on it. Dana did so much and he knew everybody, which is what made him so valuable to Vinnie. Dana had spent so much time with Ozzy and he really should have been in Ozzy's band, but again that goes to show you the influence record companies have. The record company told Ozzy, "You can't be up on the stage looking like an old fart with these three young guys."

KF: I recently read a great feature in "Guitar World" magazine and Dana recalled his experience with Ozzy and how he was close to being in the band.
DS: I think that, based on what Dana actually told me, he was in the band, but it was the record company told him no. For Ozzy to give you a gold record for "ghostly inspired material" and the fact that Dana owned a lot of those Randy Rhoads tapes. There was a King Biscuit Flower Hour that happened when Ozzy was on the Bark At The Moon tour, and if you listen to that, Dana was the one that produced it. And the show ended up coming up short for what they wanted, and Dana pulled one of the old Randy Rhoads tape and inserted one of the songs to make it longer. That's actually what aired. So the King Biscuit Flower Hour has one track with Randy Rhoads on it, that's not all Jake E. Lee.

KF: I'll have to look that up.
DS: Yeah, well that was something they never publicized. I remember Dana telling me and that came to be when they were recording "All Systems Go" and I was hanging out with them. Dana went over and picked up his girlfriend and he was really good with cars so he changed the oil in the car and we were hanging out at his house. And he pulled out all of his bass guitars and I wanted to take some pictures. And when he opened his closet, I saw all of these tapes. I said, "What are all the tapes?" And that's when he started telling me about it. He had said that when Ozzy finally did the "Tribute" record and Ozzy said that's all they had, well that was literally all that he had. Because Dana had a lot of that stuff. And that's why Dana got thanked on so many things because that's what he did.

He was really good at putting people together and listening to what they had. And that's what made him such a perfect complement for Vinnie. After the Invasion split up, all I could think was, "I can never imagine Vinnie meeting somebody like Dana." Mind you, we could get into all the personality things and I could tell you a million Dana Strum stories, and you'd be like, "Really?" People have heard a lot of it. People go on about Dana the businessman, the shyster ...

KF: I am definitely aware of his reputation.
DS: Despite all of that, he knows how to identify people, he knows how to identify talent. And he could do that with Vinnie, he could take all of these ideas that he had, and he could make them come out sounding like a million dollars. Even the stuff that Vinnie wrote for KISS, I heard a lot of those original demos that he did, for "Lick It Up" and things like that. I heard them at Vinnie's house because I was asking about them. When you listen to them, you're like, "Well, it sounds like the song." But you could also hear and understand what Gene and Paul did with those things. They came in and they took the genesis of that song and they made it the hit that it was. And Vinnie, when he used to do his demos, all of that stuff would be Vinnie singing. And Vinnie actually had a really good rock kind of voice.

KF: I've always liked his voice.
DS: I used to always tell Vinnie, I mean to this day, out of all the versions of the song "Tears" that I've heard, his version was always my favorite.

KF: I love his version too. It's fantastic.
DS: Yeah. Dana was the kind of guy that could take these tapes that sounded so crude and he could put them [together] to know exactly what fit where. Dana's got a really good ear for that, and he's got a really good talent for that. He knows how to piece things together. He's kind of got his ears to the street, well at least back then, he knew what people wanted to hear and how they wanted to hear it. And that was great. Even when I listen to "All Systems Go" to this day, I laugh at some of the stuff. Like in the beginning of "Let Freedom Rock," when you've got Dana walking around saying, "What's going on in here? You guys are looking at all these car magazines."

KF: I could never make out the dialog in that intro.
DS: It's Dana and Mikey Davis, the engineer. That's the two of them going back and forth and what it is, it starts off with [Mikey] saying to Dana, "Hey Dana, did you know that Dokken is number 58 on the charts." Then Dana says, "What's going on in here? All you guys do is look at car magazines." He's imitating George Sewitt.

KF: (laughs) Got it.
DS: That's exactly what he's doing. Because George Sewitt, when he'd go to L.A., and he'd try to figure out what was going on, he'd walk in and Dana would always have car magazines out, because he was a big car guy. And that's what he's always say to them. (laughs) Even at the end of the record when they wanted to something funny at the end of it.

KF: That's Mark.
DS: Yep. Because Mark used to do all his imitations all the time in the studio. He'd do his Donald Duck and I think there's even something at the end of "Let Freedom Rock."

KF: Something like, "Very good boys." (laughs)
DS: Yeah. And at the end of the album, he says, "Hey, tell your friends about us." I wasn't a big fan of that, but that was something George Sewitt had suggested that they do to try and let people know that any way we could push this. And that was the beauty about what was great about what we were doing with the fan club -- George Sewitt recognized it, the record company recognized it [and] Mark, Dana and Bobby recognized it, and to a certain point Vinnie did. But Vinnie would always say to me, "You know, David, if I had the money or if I could get the record company to get behind this," because I kept saying it to him, "What you need to do is, we need to sit down, we need to send out mailers to people. We need to get people involved. We need to get things on MTV. We need to get people requesting this stuff, not only at radio, but with magazines." And we touched on a little bit, but we had no budget whatsoever. And I wrote down a whole marketing plan, and after that split up, I worked with the band Britny Fox, and their manager, he believed in it. And we went and we did it and we got a gold record out of it. I turned the same thing over to the Slaughter guys, and you know I have a gold, platinum and a double-platinum [album] from that record.

KF: "Stick It To Ya."
DS: So many people don't realize just how important the fans are and how much that they make this happen. Nowadays, if I tell people, "You know, I used to run fan clubs." They say, "Really? What the hell?" They don't realize how important that was to the artists.

KF: Especially before the days of the Internet.
DS: That's right. I mean now, it goes on the Internet, and you hope people put it on their Facebook page. That's not the way it was. We didn't communicate like that, at the speed of light. We'd have to send out mailers and give people incentives to do things. Somebody wrote in and said, "I want an autographed 8x10." You got them an autographed 8x10. I used to drive them nuts, taking them stacks and stacks of pictures that I always wanted them to sign, because to me that was really important that if somebody wrote in and wanted an autographed 8x10, maybe it wasn't personalized, but you still got one. And when I traveled with the band, to this day one of my closest friends in the world, I met him outside the Tower Theater in Philadelphia when Vinnie's band was playing with Alice Cooper. I went with them and I was on the tour bus. We pulled up, and there was this really big fat kid holding a sign that said, "Vinnie Vincent is God." And I looked at Vinnie, Vinnie look, "There's a kid holding a sign that says, 'Vinnie Vincent is God.' You have to get out and meet him." Well, it was December. And Vinnie was like, "It's cold outside." I said, "Well, I'm brining him backstage." I went out and introduced himself and he said, "My name's Alan. I'm a member of the fan club. Number 184." I was like, "Oh my God, how do you know that?" It was a big deal to him and I took him back and I said, "The band is going to come out. Let 'em go in, but then I'm taking you in and you'll get to meet them." And he did.

The band realized that that sort of stuff was important. It was unfortunate that as we went into "All Systems Go," everything just seemed like doom and gloom all the time. It was, "Vinnie this is what we need to do." "Oh, I wish I had the money." It was like, "Well, we do. We just have to do it. We can't worry about, let's go out to dinner and put things on the record company tab. Or let's go something extravagant because the record company is going to pay for it. Let's get them to pay for something that's going to make a difference in a band's career."

KF: This sounds eerily reminiscent of the breakdown in Slaughter's "Burnin' Bridges."
DS: Yeah, well I tell you, when I first heard that, I remember hearing the demo of it. And at the time, the record company wanted to call them Slaughterhouse. And I still has a cassette tape around here that says Slaughterhouse on it. And it had that on there. And the first time I heard it, I laughed my ass of because I was like, "God, how could it be any more obvious who they are talking about?" And it would happen a lot where, like when I told you the story about Vinnie's wife always calling him and telling him to come home. You know, and it's sad that for a guy who was so so talented and I thought a very genuine nice guy, he just ... for someone who should have had that drive and that energy to do it, it was something that was lacking there. I think that when Gene Simmons talks about it and he says that, "[Vinnie's] probably the most destructive person I've ever met," it's actually very true. I mean, Vinnie once told me that he was so touched and so honored when he had joined KISS, Gene had actually said to him, "Vinnie, you're a musician's musician." And Gene told him, "Vinnie, all I do is I emulate what people want to see and what they expect." He says, "But you genuinely have a talent." And he really does. It's just trying to get somebody to do something and to do it for their own good, it just doesn't always work. And unfortunately, I think Vinnie wasn't that kind of person.

KF: And in the music business, talent just isn't is enough, is it?
DS: No it isn't. I used to say that years ago, I was working with a very big management company and I kept telling them that I thought that they should sign the band Tuff because I was like, "Look at them. There's four guys in that band that I'd want to fuck."

KF: (laughs)
DS: Because they looked that good. It wasn't a gay thing, that was the '80s. That's what it was. The better-looking the band, the more it sold. Which is why Chrysalis put Mark Slaughter out front, because he was a good-looking guy. Like I said, I was working with this management company, I thought they should sign Tuff and they wouldn't do it. And they told me that they had another band -- that nobody would ever remember -- they had a band called Shark Island.

KF: I remember them. The singer, Richard Black, was in the Contraband project.
DS: Yep. And that was the whole reason why Contraband happened, was because they were trying to make Shark Island happen. Their manager said to me at the time, "You know what, when Shark Island sells a million records, I'll sign Tuff." And I was like, "Shark Island isn't going to sell shit." You had four guys in the band that just didn't have the look. I mean they were a talented band, a good band. Some of the guys went on to be in the band Alias.

KF: I liked Alias' debut album. Freddy Curci, what a voice.
DS: Oh yeah. I worked that record. Freddy told me, when "More Than Words Can Say" came out and we were working that, he said to me, "If this record goes to number one I will sing at your wedding if you ever get married." That song went to number two, and I was like, "You son of a bitch."

KF: (laughs) That song was a big hit.
DS: It really was. There again, that was a huge radio hit but it didn't translate into sales.

KF: Yes, I don't believe that album attained any certification.
DS: No, it didn't. To actually go back and try to get some records now -- especially with reissues and things like that -- to go back and get recertification, there are so many things that companies have to go through. But what it ends up costing them, it's not worth saying, "OK, we have another gold record to put up on the wall."

KF: A lot of KISS fans wonder why KISS's classic albums have not been re-certified.
DS: Yeah, they would have to go back to all the Casablanca paperwork and prove that it sold that many copies and they'd still have to pay the people that were doing it, plus a fee to get it re-certified. It's not really worth it. It's great the way SoundScan works now, because you know every single thing that happens.

KF: David, if -- and this is a big if -- there is harmony with the Invasion and there is a proper tour and proper record company marketing campaign, would "All Systems Go" had been a successful album in 1988?
DS: Oh, absolutely. I think just looking at the success Slaughter had, that should have been "All Systems Go." That really should have been. And I'll be the first to admit, I told you before, I didn't really care for the high whiny vocal type thing that was happening with the Slaughter records. But "All Systems Go," you look at it, every song on that record is only credited to Vinnie. And it's unfortunate because he should have worked with somebody like Mark and developed him as a songwriter, because Mark was writing some really, really good songs. If Mark would have said, "Hey look, you have to record 'Up All Night." That could have been huge.

KF: Did Mark have that song around at that time?
DS: Actually, I think he wrote it right after. But Vinnie wasn't open to it. It's a shame because if you look at his first record, he was trying to tap the resource of Robert Fleischman. He was trying to get Robert Fleischman to be a songwriter. Had Vinnie used that same effort with Mark Slaughter, it would have been huge. But that's a whole other debate. Getting back to your original question, I think had that band been unified, if they would have had a manager who would have pulled them all together and if they would have used Mark as that sales pull because ... he was absolutely perfect for that time period to sell music. He had the talent, he had a good look, he had a great voice. And that record company, if they would have pushed that record -- and if the band had not exploded internally like they did -- it could have really been a huge record because there was a lot of tours that were coming on the table. People wanted to take them out. There was even talk at one point about the possibility of a KISS tour.

KF: Really?
DS: Would that have happened? Who knows. And a lot of times too, as with any business, when you're there and you're talking about different things, and you're listening, there are so any things that are brought up that are possibilities that just never happen. Vinnie always had so many different guitar companies coming after him.

KF: I always liked Vinnie's double V guitar. But there was an Ibanez, a Carvin, a Washburn, a Jackson. I actually know the luthier who built the Ibanez guitar, John Carruthers.
DS: Back in the day, prior to the first Invasion record, Vinnie actually gave me the very first prototype to the Randy Rhoads Jackson guitar. It had a fretboard on it and the body, but there was no hardware.

KF: Do you still have that?
DS: No. It wasn't painted, but Vinnie had autographed it and signed it as the first one. When he gave it to me, it was something that was sitting in his closet and collecting dust. And he said, "Do you want this?" I asked what it was. He said, "Well, when I joined KISS, I was hanging out with Grover and I told him I need a really cool guitar." And [Grover] said, "Well Randy and I never quite got to finishing this." And he gave it Vinnie, and said, "Why don't you take it to the guys and show them what it looks like and see if they are cool with you playing it." So he took it to Gene and Paul and showed it to them, and they said they were OK with it. And that's when he had Grover actually build one. I ended up, the person that I gave it to was in New Jersey. I'll have to ask him if he still has it, because he's a friend of mine on Facebook. (laughs)

KF: This reminds me of the rumor that floats out there that while he was in KISS, Vinnie had an offer to do a Vinnie Vincent signature guitar with Jackson and Gene and Paul vetoed it. Is there any truth to this?
DS: You know, Vinnie had told me that. And I don't want to say that there is none whatsoever to it. Then again, you hear so many things, and even a lot of the stuff that Vinnie would tell me I think that, as time goes on, you start remembering things a little differently. If you and I would have had this same conversation 25 years ago about the "All Systems Go" record ... the record came out, the band was breaking up, the tour was falling apart, I went to New York to see the band. I got there, I was literally pulled aside by the band's publicist, and she said to me, "You were on the guest list. But Vinnie took you off." And I was like, "But he knew I was coming." And then she said, "I don't know what's going on." Then the band's manager came to me and he tried to strong arm me to give him all the fan club listings and all that sort of stuff, and I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. What's going on?" And when they played Baltimore a couple of days later, I went to the show and I literally got all the way up front. I tapped on Vinnie's shoe. He looked down, he saw me and he turned away and walked back toward the amps. I was like, "I don't even know what's going on?" And later that night, a friend of mine, he went backstage and he walked up to Vinnie, and he said, "Vinnie, David Snowden sends his love." And Vinnie walked away and walked out. And a couple of weeks later I got a termination letter from him, and it was like, "What the fuck happened here?" Had you talked to me then, yeah, I was upset, I was a little bitter.

KF: I bet.
DS: And now I look back on it and I think, "You know what?" I had some great times then. I was really close to all four of those guys in that band. I loved them like brothers. To this day, it touches me when I look at an "All Systems Go" CD and you see in that special thanks that it actually says, "We're lucky to have you, our bro to the end." Because that's how we felt about each other. We cared about each other. I had an incident that happened at L'Amour in Brooklyn, New York, and I saw those guys do something that will always be very, very special to me. They were just really good, very genuine people and it's a shame that it didn't happen because the time was right for them then. When that record came out, it was the hype of hair metal. It was the "in" thing. They had better songs than 90 percent of those bands out there.

KF: I wholeheartedly agree. David, I have to ask: Was that concert in Baltimore the last time you came into contact with Vinnie? Did you come into contact with him after that?
DS: No, I never did after that. I had some people through different channels call me and tell me that he wanted to speak with me, and I just thought I didn't have anything really to say. Even after the Invasion split up, I had this whole marketing thing that I had talked to Mark and Dana about so much. I gave them that, I gave them the fan club list, and I wished them the best of luck and told them that I think I needed to go let them go do what they needed to do and I needed to go do what I needed to. I didn't see those guys again ... I saw them on the Hot in the Shade tour.

KF: That's a special tour for me. My first KISS show was KISS, Winger and Slaughter at Long Beach Arena on September 14, 1990.
DS: Wow. I was backstage and was actually talking to Eric Carr when Dana walked in.

KF: I remember the Nelson twins being in attendance and hearing a rumor Mark St. John was in the building.
DS: My first show, I'm kind of lucky, it's the video from the Capitol Centre that circulates from the Dynasty tour.

KF: Awesome.
DS: It's kinda cool, you know the first show you go to, and you can watch it on DVD all the time. When your that big of a fan ... and you know, I still go out and I get the records and I still talk to Keith Leroux sometimes.

KF: There just isn't any feeling like your first KISS concert. I thought the HITS bill was fantastic and KISS' set list was a dream come true.
DS: Oh yeah. They were all great. When I saw Mark and Dana that night, we hugged each other and talked to each other a little bit. And then we didn't see each other for --oh my God -- probably 12-15 years. And how that happened was they were coming to town to do a one-off gig, kind of like how you hear about the big M3 Festival that happens now here in Maryland ever year. It was something like that, but it was in an arena and there were a lot of bands on [the bill], Enuff Z'Nuff, Vixen, L.A. Guns, Slaughter ... it was a lot of bands I had worked with. Out of the blue Mark called me and asked me how I was doing, asked me how I'd been, and asked me if I wanted to come to the show. And I said, "That'd be great." I called Mark and went down to the show. Mark actually came out of the arena, he walked outside through the parking lot, came over and give me a big hug and walked us backstage. And it was really funny because I saw all of them and we talked for awhile. And when they played I stood on the side of the stage like I used to do in the Invasion days. And in the middle of the song, Dana walked over to me and he yells in my ear, because it was so loud, and he said, "As I stand here, David Snowden. I can't fucking believe it." And he stopped playing, gave me a quick hug and then when right back to it.

KF: That's cool.
DS: I turned and looked at my friend and said, "I don't know where he's been lately, I"m probably going to have to get this washed and go take a shower." (laughs)

KF: (laughs)
DS: And when I left that night Dana hugged me again and I actually made the joke to him to his face. He laughed and then he said to me, "Do you have to always be an asshole?" And I looked at him and I said, "Dana, I learned from the best."

KF: (laughs)
DS: I've run into him a couple of times ... about two years after that I ran into him at a Mötley Crüe show and when I ran into him, that was during my first marriage, and Dana asked where she was and I explained that the marriage had ended and she passed away. And we talked about that for a while and he was like, "We really need to stay in touch and do stuff." I haven't really seen the guy since. Your life kind of goes on and it's kind of like an old girlfriend or just an old relationship that you've had that [has] had it's time and you kind of remember the good.

And so much of that was my relationship with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion was so different than my relationship with any band that I have ever worked with since. I actually had a personal relationship with each one of those guys. We loved each other like brothers, we would do anything for each other. I know I have recordings here from my answering machine of Vinnie calling and singing "Happy Birthday" on my answering machine. I'd get cards from them all the time, postcards from them from the road. We'd always hang out, we'd go out and do things together. And after that stopped, when I got involved with bands after that, it became purely business. I could listen to their stuff, and I could go, "You know what, I think that song fucking sucks but it will probably sell a million."

KF: On that note, what is your least favorite track on "All Systems Go"?
DS: "Let Freedom Rock." Only because ... there was a song [that was] very very similar.

KF: I've heard the track by the group Sin, and that Vinnie may have been "inspired" by it.
DS: Yeah. It was Rik Fox's band, he was in Steeler. I just -- I don't know -- when I first heard that song, regardless of the similarities and the legalities that actually ended up coming out of all of that -- I thought the intro was funny.

KF: With Vinnie playing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
DS: Yeah, and you gotta love the fact that when KISS went out and did the "Revenge" tour, and they started doing it too.

KF: (laughs) An interesting coincidence?
DS: Let's face it. Like I said, I'm a graphic artist nowadays and a photographer but I always tell people that art and photography is so subjective. It's like music. There's nothing really original out there anymore. During the '80s, KISS were real big ones to follow and Vinnie did it too. Because when Vinnie came out, I think he was about six months too late for that serious glam look that he had. It threw me for a loop the first time I saw it because I didn't know what he was trying to do. The music did not represent that look. But by the times they got to "All Systems Go," they went for more the look that every band at the time was going for. They were going for the regular jeans and T-shirt almost type of look. KISS did the exact same thing. They went out and they followed everybody. If Bon Jovi had somebody take a picture for their album cover, KISS wanted it. When Motley Crue went heavy glam, KISS went heavy glam. Then Mötley Crüe said, "Fuck that, we're bikers now." And KISS decided to look like bikers.

KF: Yes, indeed. David, you said something earlier that I want to go back to. Even though Vinnie was out of the band, did he ever get involved with the album that would eventually become "Animalize"?
DS: Well, what happened was, when the tour ended, he was still in KISS. As they got ready for the next [album], that's when he had told them he was done. They still kept calling him saying, "We're getting ready to go into the studio so we need to get together and come up with the material." And he wasn't returning their calls, instead of telling them, "Hey, I've had enough," he wasn't returning the calls. Eventually, Diana Ross called Vinnie and she called under the premise of, "Hey, I want you to play on my next record. I want you to write some songs for me."

KF: Diana Ross called Vinnie?
DS: Diana Ross. Because, you know, at one point [she was] involved with Gene. But Vinnie also knew that, so he never returned those calls. They just loved Vinnie. They loved the songwriting that they did. The guys in Iron Maiden, they couldn't believe the stuff that the guy was doing. One of the first times I called Vinnie at Baby-O Recorders when they did the first record, Nicko McBrain answered the telephone. And he goes, "Man, this guy is playing backwards and forwards and upside-down! God, we're hoping to get a few scraps of tapes underneath the door once in a while. We love this stuff!" And that was before I heard any of it, and I'm thinking, "Wow, if a dude from Iron Maiden is digging this, this is going to be some heavy-duty, in-your-face kind of stuff!"

KF: No kidding.
DS: All I kept thinking was "Creatures Of The Night"-era KISS meets Iron Maiden. And it's kind of like what you got, except you got the over-the-top guitar playing, which was unfortunate because I think that hurt the album more than it helped. And even by the time "All Systems Go" happened, Vinnie was starting to realize that. That's why they were trying to make it more of a band- and a song-oriented kind of thing. It was still trying to get him to calm down on some of that stuff. Because "Back On The Streets," KISS recorded that with Gene singing it, Paul singing it, Eric singing it ...

KF: Can you verify that David? I believe Michael James Jackson liked the song and it was demoed, but I haven't heard about Paul, Gene and Eric singing it.
DS: Yep. They recorded it with all four of them, including Vinnie singing it.

KF: I've often thought about Paul singing that song and how it could have been a KISS classic.
DS: And the reason why it didn't go on there was everybody tried singing that song -- and this is where I give Paul Stanley a lot of credit -- Paul's got a really good ear for knowing good music. And his thought was, "Nobody can get this song to have the heart and the soul the way that it does when Vinnie sang it." There was something about the way that Vinnie would sing that song that was just incredible. But you can't bring a new band member and let them sing on their first record.

KF: Well, Tommy Thayer did. You know, when I hear you say that, I think Tommy abut how Tommy got to sing a song on his first KISS studio album. Why couldn't Eric and Vinnie been given those same opportunities? I understand the circumstances of the band may have been different but ...
DS: You know, when you actually look at it, it wasn't really Tommy's first KISS record, was it? (laughs)

KF: (laughs) You have a point there.
DS: A lot of people really, really loved ["Back On The Streets"] and wanted to do that song. Ace recorded it with Richie Scarlett singing it.

KF: That's right.
DS: The John Norum [version], that came out and they tried to put it out there. Everybody thought that was going to be a great, great song, and it could have been a good song for the Invasion, but on that first record, quite honestly the guitar solo ruined it.

KF: For a mid-tempo song, Vinnie didn't hold anything back, did he?
DS: Exactly. The solo totally ruined it. That's putting it very harshly but Vinnie realized that when they were doing the second record and the record company and management they were all telling him the same thing. Like I said before, they wanted a very unified band effort and they wanted good songs. They weren't looking for the over-the-top thing. They told him, "You got that on your first record."

KF: See, that's when I hear "That Time Of Year," listen to the song-appropriate guitar solo Vinnie plays. You can hum those melodies and his use of the harmonizer perfectly augments the passages. Same thing with "Ecstasy," Vinnie plays some nice lines there too. Vinnie had that talent to compose a melodically rich guitar solo for those type of songs.
DS: Yeah. Vinnie, when he was playing a guitar, he could make it sing.

KF: Yes, exactly.
DS: I mean, he really, really could. Even a song like, was it "Naughty, Naughty," [the part when] Mark sings, "You know when I saw you backstage..." and you're listening to him play that guitar in that background. He's talking to Mark with it! It's the same sort of thing Steve Vai did in "Yankee Rose."

KF: Very much so.
DS: Vinnie was so good at that sort of stuff. That even goes back to what I said before, you'd have a conversation with him and half the time you felt like he was mimicking you when you were talking to him. He was just such a good talented guy. It's just a shame that ... I think management and his own personality kind of got in the way.

KF: And I think that can segue into my final questions. It's been 25 years since your days with the Invasion. And the events that have transpired -- or lack of events -- are common knowledge. But David, would you be open to talking to Vinnie? And what would you say to him if you had the opportunity?
DS: Oh, I'd be open to talking to anybody. At this stage of my life, for as many things as I've been through, even in ... I guess this puts a different perspective on it ... in the last five years, i lost my sister, my godmother, my grandmother, my ex-wife, [and] my mother. You start losing people in life and you start realizing whatever happened in the past, happened in the past. And none of that matters. What matters are people. People come over to my house and they see things and they look around and I have all these gold and platinum awards, and I tell them, "It's really great and I'm really proud of it. But that was then, this is now."

If I talked to Vinnie, my biggest thing would be to ask him how he was doing because to me, that's what is important. You know, how he's doing these days. I know he had some problems between him and his current wife. And you know, he went through a divorce and then he lost his ex-wife. I'd be more concerned about how he's doing these days. As far as the business stuff, what happened, doesn't matter. None of that's important. I just learned over time that, you have to be the person that you are now. What happened to you in the past makes you who you are now. But, would I want to go back into business with him again? No. Absolutely not. But I would be very concerned to know, "How are you doing?" and "Are you OK?"

(KissFAQ thanks David Snowden for his time, insight and candor, and for taking us down memory lane with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. Meanwhile, for more information on David Snowden, visit David Snowden Promotions at www.davidsnowden.com or on Facebook).

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