KISS to Go Fully Virtual with Avatars from ILM and Pophouse

Rock group KISS concluded the last show of its “End of the Road” farewell tour as digital avatars who performed the encore tune “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” to mark the “withdrawal of the flesh and blood group” and usher the band into an era of virtual touring. The KISS avatars were created by Industrial Light & Magic and facilitated through a partnership with Pophouse Entertainment, a Swedish company known for music and entertainment brand extensions as well as a lead investor and production partner for the ABBA Voyage virtual concert residency. Pophouse says the KISS avatars will perform for fans “for decades to come.”

ILM used its technology “to capture the band’s face and body performance,” Pophouse says in a news announcement, using machine learning to allow the digital incarnations of KISS band members to continue to evolve using the group’s signature special effects, elaborate costumes and staging as the basis for its public persona.

Fast Company calls Sweden’s Pophouse Entertainment, the venture’s financier and producer, the firm behind “the wildly successful ABBA Voyage show in London, another avatar collaboration with ILM, that has been watched by 1.9 million visitors since its debut in 2022 and reportedly grosses $2 million every week.”

Fast Company calls KISS’s virtual future “the holographic rapture,” explaining that “the earthly forms known as Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and the ‘newbies’ Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer” may have left the building, but thanks to modern technology have not vanished for good.

“This is the sneak peek as the band crosses over from the physical world to the digital,” Grady Cofer, visual effects supervisor at ILM told Fast Company, adding that “we want to give fans a sense of the many forms this band could take in the future.”

Engadget writes that the KISS avatars aren’t “just straight replicas of the current band members,” but rather “interpretations of them ‘as fantasy-based superheroes,’” according to Pophouse. While “no specific plans for the virtual band have been announced … it wouldn’t be surprising to see similar KISS experiences pop up in the near future.”

KISS Says Farewell at Madison Square Garden, Before Passing the Torch to Band’s Avatar Successors, Variety, 12/3/23

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