Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Interview With Jesse Leadbetter
From: Diamant Noir

Among the dozens of products stamped by the KISS logo flooding the market, there is one whose success with the fans has never failed: the trading card. 2009 promises to be an exceptional vintage with the release of a new and beautiful series from Press Pass, "KISS Ikons!" And since good news never comes alone, the U.S. company promises a second series for the month of August! I'm not going to tell you more and I'm going to leave you with Jesse Leadbetter, Associate Product Manager for Press Pass, who was kind enough to answer some questions for DN's readers...

- First, could you please introduce yourself and tell our readers about your company?

My name is Jesse, and I'm 27 years old. I've worked for Press Pass since I graduated college in 2005. My first product release was our Elvis Lives set in 2006. Although KISS became famous before my time, I'm fascinated by their ability to market the KISS brand. Very few bands have remained relevant as these guys have throughout their career. It is an honor to be able to work with the band to market products for one of the most respected and recognizable brands in the entertainment industry. KISS is a great fit for Press Pass. Our company was founded in 1992 and much like KISS, we were quick to shake up the industry and make our presence known. We staked our claim as a trendsetter by incorporating the first athlete-worn memorabilia in our products, a practice that other card companies were quick to follow. Our core business is NASCAR trading cards. However, our entertainment trading card releases are widely popular, especially KISS!

- Who got the idea of the new KISS Ikons Trading Cards?

The Vice President of our company, DJ Kazmierczak, is a huge KISS fan, and he has followed the band since he was a kid. Several others in the office, including the designer for the KISS set, are fans of KISS. However, one of the biggest reasons we decided to produce KISS trading cards is their resurgence in 2009 with their tour and upcoming album. KISS is everywhere now ? online, TV commercials, radio interviews, their tour, their album, etc. The band is rockin' just as loud as they were 35 years ago, and the fans love it.

- The KISS franchise lent itself to many successful trading card series in the past, with companies like Donruss or Cornerstone. Is it something you had in mind when you threw yourselves into this venture and did it make your task harder?

The KISS Army has had a few trading card sets to collect throughout the years, and some of them were good. However, we felt that there were a few things missing from these sets, and we wanted to help the fans get to know KISS even better than they already do while also delivering good value to collectors. Any KISS fan can tell you Gene's real name or what Peter Criss' Rolling Stone advertisement said, so we wanted to dig a little deeper and offer fans some behind-the-scenes insight from the band members themselves that fans may not already know. Each card in KISS Ikons has a direct quote from someone in the band or close to the band which reveals some fascinating information. This kind of info gives KISS Ikons some real value and truly sets our product apart from the others that have been done.

Another aspect of our product that makes it unique is the inclusion of authentic memorabilia. Where else can the KISS Army obtain a piece of authentic memorabilia worn by the Demon himself?! The signed 8x10 photographs are also unique to this product and give fans and collectors the chance to own an authentic signature from Gene and Paul. Overall, KISS Ikons offers incredible content and value that surpasses any other set that's been on the market.

- At which level were KISS involved in the KISS Ikons Trading Card making process?

Despite being in the midst of a very busy year, the band is still very proactive with their licensees. They approve the cards and correct any inaccuracies, and once the set was finished they were extremely impressed with the end result, and they were very anxious to receive their samples. KISS has been great to work with because although their focus is promoting and protecting the KISS brand, they still allow their licensees to get creative with their products, which results in some really awesome collectibles.

- I myself am an avid KISS card collector and I must admit the KISS Ikons Trading Cards are unique because of their artistic touches, something the previous KISS card series lacked. Who was in charge of the design?

Press Pass has an amazingly creative in-house design team, and the individual that designed this set, Eric Peterson, also happens to be a huge KISS fan. Working on this set was a dream come true for Eric, and he's definitely enjoying all of the rave reviews the product is receiving. A few of the tattoos were also done by an in-house artist and tattoo enthusiast, Tonya Clarkston. Tonya did an amazing job blending classic tattoo artwork with each band member's ikonic image.

- Do you think the KISS Ikons Trading Cards could be followed by a new series in a near future?

Definitely! The second set, KISS 360, will release in August 2009, and I think it might actually top what we've done with the first set. Stay tuned for updates on our second KISS trading card release.

- Any possibility of a distribution in Europe?

KISS Ikons is currently sold in the UK, and we're working to expand our European distribution with our next release, KISS 360.

Thanks a lot for your time, Jesse!