Meet the woman who's been making Gene Simmons' codpieces for 20 years
Iconic band Kiss will wrap its farewell tour on Dec. 2 in New York City
Over her 20 years of making codpieces for Gene Simmons, Rebecca Sevrin says that some of the band's garments have gotten longer, but not much else about the world of Kiss has changed.
The Montreal woman says the band has always given "200 per cent" on stage, the fans have always turned up in elaborate costumes, and Sevrin has never gotten tired of seeing them perform.
As a member of Kiss' costume team, Sevrin — who jokingly describes her title as "wardrobe wench" or "glorified scrubwoman" — has been helping make and maintain iconic studded leather looks for the band for almost two decades.
Now, after 50 years together, the band says they're circling the globe for the last time with their End Of The Road tour. The farewell tour's stops in Toronto and Ottawa were cancelled earlier this week due to illness. But the band is set to play what they say is their last ever show on Dec. 2 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Sevrin told Day 6 host Brent Bambury that it'll be a tough — and likely a tearful — goodbye for the whole crew.
Here is part of their conversation.
How did you come to start working with Kiss and bring your craft to the way they look on stage?
One of my friends had a friend who was working for Kiss, and I said, "Oh, I would kill for that job. That sounds awesome." It's leather, it's shiny, it's spikes, it's studs.
And the next day, I get a call. "Hey, Rebecca, I broke my hand. Can you finish building the Kiss costumes?" So I said, sure, I'll do it.
I went to meet Gene to fit him in the costume, and I had a T-shirt on that had the Hulk on it because I like comics. Gene's also a huge comic book collector, I found out that day. He said, "Who drew that?" and he started quizzing me on comic books. And a fitting turned into a discussion about comic books and our favourite Silver Age artists for comics.
Two weeks later, I got a call. "We're doing a show in Chicago. Would you like to come and work in the makeup room and set up our costumes?" And I was kind of hooked. I always wanted to go on the road with the band because it just seemed more glamourous than staying home and sewing.
It's all going to end in December, so what has the energy been like at these Canadian shows over the past few weeks?
It's been insane. Probably the loudest audience I witnessed was in Quebec City. People were screaming. The songs weren't even playing you just hear like this massive "Yeah!"
Even up in the nosebleed areas, I see people screaming and standing up and waving. It's high energy.
How much of the show do you actually get to see?
I see all of it. From the beginning of the show, I take [vocalist and guitarist Paul Stanley's] vest when he throws it off stage. I make sure it's hung.
And then after that, I race to Gene's side of the stage and I work on his side. So if he needs something, if his costume hurts, if something breaks, I need to be present to run up the stairs and fix it in quick change. And usually everything fits, and I just sit and I watch.
There's a lot of leather, metal and mirrors on these costumes. How much does a typical Kiss costume weigh?
Gene's is about 30 pounds. I think the boots weighed 8 pounds apiece when I weighed them last. [Guitarist Tommy Thayer's] boots are very heavy — they're probably about 15 pounds total.
I think the lightest costume is Eric [Singer], the drummer. He wears a T-shirt and fancy pants, and that's just like streetwear.
These are four very active older guys on stage. When they get off stage at the end of a night, how sweaty are the costumes that they give you?
They are soggy and they steam.
So what do you do then?
I take them all and I separate them. I spray them with vodka [and] tea tree oil and put them in bags and wash them the next day. I'm washing the costumes right now as we speak. Then I hang them to dry and they have to be dry before the show.
You think these costumes are heading for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the end of December?
They better be. I don't think, I just know they have to be — or something's really wrong because they're like the first killer costume band.
This is an historic tour. It's a massive farewell and this is an iconic band. What has it been like to be part of all that?
Pretty awesome. I really like it because I like the music. I never get tired of watching them.
They're very hard working, so that inspires me. Like even if they don't feel 100 per cent, they'll give 200 per cent. So I never have an excuse to say, "Oh, I got a sore throat, I don't feel good," because they feel the same way and then they never stop playing.
They're going to have their last show at Madison Square Gardens on Dec. 2. They're going to stream it online. When it's over, do you think that these hardened, veteran road warriors will be shedding tears?
Yeah, I think so. I would. I'm sure the crew will be crying. We're all friends, so it's going to be hard to say goodbye.
- A previous version of this article referred to Rebecca Sevrin as Kiss's costume designer. While Sevrin is a member of the band's costume team, the title of costume designer for Kiss is held by Wendy Benbrook.Dec 07, 2023 4:23 PM ET
Radio segment produced by Annie Bender. Q&A edited for length and clarity