A Few Minutes With… Paul Stanley of KISS

By Don Wilcock

“We in many ways are so much bigger now because now we’re Superman, and don’t have to hide behind Clark Kent,” says Paul Stanley of Kiss. A few months ago, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and are currently on their 40th anniversary tour that has them sharing the stage with Def Leppard at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Tuesday night (August 5).

Stanley’s Superman comment came during a recent conference call with music journalists from around the country. Kiss has had a confrontational relationship with the press from the beginning, with most rock critics dismissing their hard-rock anthems as secondary to the youthful appeal of their freaky make-up. To that end, there were strict rules for this round robin call-in. Each journalist was to get one question, and all questions were to be confined to the current tour. That said and the opening quote aside, I have to admit I was shocked with the sincerity and maturity of both the questions and Stnaley’s well thought-out answers. Yes, he defended the band’s relevance in today’s music world, but with 100 million albums sold, why shouldn’t he?

“I’m not here to defend what we’ve done or what we’ve accomplished, but it is unanimous and resounding from countless acts – be it rock, be it country, be it rap – that countless
artists were influenced by us musically, not just in terms of a stage show. We are a rock band and have always been a rock band, and our roots are in bands that we loved and certainly saw growing up.

“We enhanced it with a great show, but nobody will ultimately buy four decades of music that isn’t good. With the amount of albums we sold, there were no smoke bombs or lasers inside those albums. The songs have stood the test of time.”

The world has changed dramatically in the 40 years Kiss has been performing. Stanley addressed those changes, specifically in how the media has ripped away the mystique that once surrounded their hidden identities, secondly in how they behave as rock stars then and now, and finally in a genuine sense of patriotism in their support of our men and women in uniform.

“I think in all walks of life, in terms of public figures, there’s a certain mystique that is gone (today) because everything is known,” said Stanley. “I think mystique is healthy, and I think to glamorize and fantasize is a good thing. I’m not sure Kiss could have accomplished what we did initially, at this time, because (back then) we could make sure photos weren’t available and that paparazzi didn’t have photos of us out of make-up.

“We could create this mystique which was not unlike the mystique of Hollywood of the ’30s and ’40s, which really was a romanticized version of reality. I’m a fan of it. We’ve progressed and evolved over time into something much bigger in scope, but our roots are clearly in the mystical and once-upon-a-time aspect of what we once were portrayed and portrayed ourselves as.”

Somehow throughout all the trappings of being a rock star, Stanley says he’s built a family. “Clearly there was a time when backstage was hedonism at its finest. When you’re given the keys to the candy store, you tend to eat a lot of candy. I certainly had a sugar high,” he admits. “So, over the years that obviously changed, but hopefully, what floats your boat and what gets you off, so to speak, the core of it stays the same.

“The core of why I got into this and the reason the band got together in the first place was to make music. So, to be able to have the privilege of going out on stage and be able to do this 40 years on is incredible. So that’s what’s been the constant. Now I look over to the other side of the stage certain nights and see my little ones in their pajamas waiting for the show to be over to go to bed, or family, which is something which at one point had no place in my life or in rock and roll in general, has become commonplace because we’ve been lucky enough to see rock and roll become more like blues. In other words, as long as you’re writing about things that are relevant, you have a fan base that will go with you and make fans that will join you.”

Yeah, I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting Stnaley to come across as that mature. But it was his support of our soldiers and fans of all ages who have been vilified for their beliefs that really impressed me, whether those beliefs concern patriotism or a real affection for a band of crazy rockers like Kiss.

“Over time the people on the street outlived the critics. Part of any victory celebration is the fact that we have outlived and have, in essence, taken over. And that’s what you’ve done (as a Vietnam veteran). And that’s what your son has done (as a Kiss fan). As far as Wounded Warriors and USO, we have been very vocal over the past years about our obligation to our troops and the people who serve voluntarily and put themselves in harm’s way so that we can live in a free society.

“Sadly, at some point it seems some of us take it for granted, but these freedoms we have come at a huge price to people who go unrewarded and unheralded for what they do. So over the years on various tours we have given a dollar from each ticket, and that’s what we’re doing once again. I can’t say enough about the people who serve on our behalf. What we do wouldn’t be possible without what they do, what you’ve done. So, if anything, I love being on stage and letting people know there’s nothing corny about patriotism. There’s nothing corny about celebrating this great country. You don’t see anybody – you only see people going under the borders or over the borders to come into this country. You don’t see ’em over or under the borders to get out.”

Stanley believes it’s time we all kiss and make up. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one. “There
are more people than I can count that have Kiss tattoos,” he says. “That’s like being a lifer in the Army. Anybody can put on a uniform and then take it off, but when you tattoo yourself, you’re in it for the long haul. That’s an unbelievable sign of dedication, but I could say nothing compares with three words – the Kiss Army.

“The Kiss Army started on the street. It started in Terra Haute, Indiana when a radio station wouldn’t play Kiss, and the fans demanded it and said, ‘If you don’t play Kiss, we will surround the radio station.’ It wasn’t taken with any sense of urgency, and yet when the time came, and they didn’t play Kiss, the building was surrounded. So this was all from a ground swell. The Kiss Army started on the street, and there is no Army like a volunteer Army. I see these people every day, and the beauty of a Kiss fan now is that it’s so multi-generational that everybody who comes to a show is proud to see the other people there. You’re proud to see your younger brother. You’re proud to see your grandfather. You’re proud to see anybody who shows up ’cause you’re all proud of the tribe.”

WHO: Kiss
WITH: Def Leppard and the Dead Daisies
WHEN: Tuesday (August 5), 7:30pm
WHERE: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs
HOW MUCH: $52.50, $89.50 & $149.50 for reserved amphitheater seats; $29.50 for lawn general admission

Paul Stanley, What Was the First Album You Ever Bought?
LIVE: Kiss @ SPAC, 8/17/10

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