Q&A: Paul Stanley

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Kiss guitarist/frontman Paul Stanley has sold 100 million records in a recording career of more than 30 years. He recently announced some US tour dates to promote his long-awaited second solo album, Live To Win, and also became a dad for the second time.

Although easily identifiable as Paul Stanley, collaborators like Andreas Carlsson of Britney Spears/Backstreet Boys fame help to ensure that Live To Win is a contemporary-sounding record.

I wanted collaborators who think as I do: that a song is only as good as its melody and chorus. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing pop, rock or for Kiss, there are only two types of music: good and bad. Despite the above, we can all be driving in the car but someone’s got to be in the front seat.

If Live To Win was so important to get off your chest, why has it come almost three decades after your self-titled solo debut?

See how badly I had to get it out? It was like not going to the loo for 28 years. It’s no great secret that I see myself as the keeper of Kiss. While everyone was running off and doing other things, I felt like the band was in jeopardy. We’ve sprung some big leaks, and somebody had to be there to bail water.

Bassist Gene Simmons admitted that he made an “H-bomb sized mistake” in distracting himself from Kiss with films and outside projects during the 1990s. What are your thoughts on him having become a reality TV star?

You mean do I question some of Gene’s decisions? Constantly. But that’s his right and his privilege. I’m often baffled by what he does and says, but that’s part of what makes him who he is.

**Is Live To Win more geared towards the expectations of Kiss fans than Gene’s Asshole album was? **

I heard a bit of it, and it made me not want to hear the rest. But to answer your question, my album isn’t geared towards anyone but me.

The last time you gigged as a solo artist, in 1989, you didn’t play the UK

I missed Europe out because it wasn’t practical, but I do want to make it over with this album if possible. At the moment we’re doing 18 shows in major American cities and we’ll see what happens from there.

**Despite a farewell world tour at the turn of the millennium, Kiss still continue to tour. What about some shows in Britain? **

The same thing applies. I’d love to. I was a bit melancholy when it all ended. A fan came to me at a car wash and asked: “The farewell tour was so great. When are you doing the 30th anniversary tour?” A light went on in my head. It was only the farewell tour if we decided it, or if nobody wanted to see us anymore. I didn’t wanna stop playing with Kiss, just the guys I was with at the time.

Those guys – guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss – are no longer in the band, of course. Two years ago Gene told Classic Rock it was “quite possible” that Kiss could continue without him or yourself, through wearing the make-up and perpetuating the ‘brand name’

I wouldn’t like to see Kiss continue simply as some kind of memorial. But could they carry on without me? Absolutely. It would just take someone with a vision and some creativity to move the band forward. I figure I’ve done my share for this band, but we’ve also created something that could have a life of its own.

As an energetic performer, how’s the hip replacement standing up to all that on-stage wriggling and posturing?

I’m doing stuff again that was too painful on the last tour. Even getting onto the stage I had to hop up the stairs. I feel great now – and I set off the metal detectors at every airport.

You must have been proud when 200 fans stormed the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s museum to protest at Kiss’s exclusion?

Totally. When you consider some of the bands they’ve overlooked, it’s laughable. It’s not a hall of fame of the people, but critics and industry types who champion bands, some of whom haven’t sold in their careers what Kiss sells in a week. It’s outrageous. At this point I honestly don’t know if I would consider it being inducted or indicted.

Do you have any thoughts on Lordi, the Finnish monster-rockers who won the Eurovision Song Contest?

I’ve heard of them, but don’t know their music.

**You might be amused to learn that elsewhere in this issue they claim to be “better than Alice Cooper or Kiss” **

Well, good. When they’re working in the shoe store next year they can tell everybody that. Bravado’s great, but what separates the champs from the chumps is what you achieve, not what you believe.

The last Kiss album proper, 1998’s Psycho Circus, was poorly received. In future do you envisage all the material you write being released in a solo capacity?

That’s very possible. I’m not opposed to doing another Kiss album, but I would have to lower the bar in terms of my expectations. By that I mean I could write _Hey Jude and people _would say: “That’s great, but please play Love Gun instead.” And I understand the fact that people have grown up with those songs. If I could do it my way, perhaps I’d do another Kiss album, but I’ve grown tired of too many people with too many opinions, and too many people bringing in mediocre material.

As well as Kiss pinball machines and coffins, there’s now a Kiss fragrance, cycling shorts and even a barbecue apron. How do you reconcile such commercial-mindedness with the basic premise of being a rock’n’roll band?

I just don’t abide by the idea of being a basic rock’n’roll band – it’s boring. If you want to do that, then go ahead, but don’t limit me. I don’t think that Kiss fragrances have any impact on the credibility of the band, because the band remains the band; business is separate. Credibility is irrelevant anyway. It’s based on what someone else thinks I should be, and it really doesn’t interest me.

Congratulations on the birth of your son, Colin, by the way. It’s not exactly a rock’n’roll name, though, is it?

Really? It’s soon going to be.

This was published in Classic Rock issue 99.