Paul Stanley Interview

Aquarian Weekly 10/18/06 BUZZ

Paul Stanley on Life After Kiss & His Solo Album “Live To Win”

Paul Stanley is to forty-somethings what Paul McCartney is to fifty-somethings. Laugh if you must, because Stanley and his bandmates from a little distortion combo called KISS have likely heard all the derision any mega band could possibly endure despite dominating record sales and sold-out concert tours for three-decades. With or without the infamous make-up, Paul is something of an icon to us children of the 1970s’, where hype and glamour and cocaine disco dreams meet somewhere on the rock and roll crossroads to form a generational coagulation worthy of Fitzgerald’s’ best roaring-20’s nightmare.

But here he is fans, with countless miles of big road behind him, and fifty-or-so KISS reunions winding down, and his partner in crime, Gene Simmons, continuing to make a spectacle of himself in Realty TV hell: Paul Stanley, once the star child, and the co-founder of a monstrous pop culture machine, segueing nicely into a matured but still feisty solo artist, staking claim to nostalgia and prescience all at once by crafting a new record, Live To Win as his sonic manifesto.

James Campion: First off, thanks for getting me through middle school. It was a great time to be a kid and be pummeled by rock music, so thanks for all your efforts to that end.

Paul Stanley: Well, that’s what I’m here for.

So, tell me what it’s like to go from where you were for 30-plus years of being the heart and soul of KISS, and now to turn the page as a solo artist.

Well, turning the page doesn’t mean throwing away the book. You know, KISS is a huge part of my life, and it will be and has been, but there’s always room for another chapter.

I’ve been waiting a long time to do this. And I’ve always felt that in some ways it was really my responsibility to make sure that KISS was always solid and in good shape, and while everyone else was running off doing other things, I usually had this feeling that somebody had to be there to bail water when the Good Ship KISS might spring a leak. I tended to believe that was my role, other than writing a good deal of the songs and doing the other things I did within the band. So, I really waited until I felt the band was in tip-top shape, and I also felt that I reached a point where I had to move on and do this album of my own.

It was exciting to go off and write for myself as opposed to writing for KISS. You know, when I write for the band, I write for the musicians – for their strengths and weaknesses – and for a narrower scope in terms of the identity of the band. So, to go do my own thing means that, in a sense, like a film, you have a script and you get to cast your film. So, I get to write the songs and then pick the musicians who best suit the songs rather than writing the songs that best suit the musicians.

I always found it interesting that in the case of a solo musician like Bob Dylan, he creates the character for his musical and lyrical voice, but with bands there is a collective voice created, and especially within KISS, where you guys actually, physically created characters, and in most cases, wrote songs that reflected those personalities. So, how does Paul Stanley morph from his Star Child persona into the one that wrote, produced, and performed these songs for Live To Win? Assuming there is a distinction to be made.

“I usually had this feeling that somebody had to be there to bail water when the Good Ship Kiss might spring a leak. I tended to believe that was my role, other than writing a good deal of the songs and doing the other things I did within the band. “

Well, you know, again, I can’t really separate myself that much from KISS. I mean, that’s not a charade. Being in the band is not portraying a character that isn’t part of me. But again, the key word there is “part”. I think that the character, the embodiment of who I am in KISS is narrower than who I am outside of KISS. So, it’s not as though I would do something unrecognizable, but I would certainly feel that the boundaries were limitless, or they would only be ones I set on myself.

Having said that, are the songs on Live To Win a reflection of your experiences over the past 30-plus years on the high wire of rock fame within KISS or are they expressions of brand new experiences outside of that?

I don’t hoard songs. I don’t believe in keeping songs from the band, because I write for the band. But this is me writing for my solo album, so these are the most recent songs I’ve written and they were written specifically for me. An album should be like fresh newspaper, where you get the ink on your hands, ’cause you get the latest news. I wanted an album that was about me now. Not something that was trying to replicate what I had done before or digging up something that, although might be good, wouldn’t be reflective of now. To try to copy the past is only that, it’s a copy, as opposed to something that you’re doing instinctively. So, I wasn’t interested in anything except rolling the dice today and letting the chips fall where they may.

The live show: You’ll obviously be playing the new stuff, but what about some older things and some stuff from the KISS catalog?

It’s a great night of me! And you can put an exclamation point after that. I’m doing songs from my first solo album, songs from Live To Win, and KISS songs. You know, songs that are obviously the classics, and songs that I think never really got the chance they should have, or perhaps have never gotten to be played live. So, it’s really going to be as much fun for me as anyone there. It’s really a chance for me to indulge myself and the fans, and cover all bases.

Does a tour like this allow you to realize, on a more intimate level, what you have meant to your fans, and what KISS and these songs, beyond all the hype and showmanship, have meant to your audience.

Well, I appreciate the impact I’ve had on the fans, and that’s never lost on me, although I’m always humbled by it, and very, very respectful of that bond that we have. So, to do this tour I’m doing now is awesome because most of these shows have sold out as soon as they went on sale. And it was really just a chance for me to go out and get to play for a small group of devoted, die-hard fans, and it’s an honor to know that they’re buying up the tickets the way they are, and I’m going to make sure I give them something they won’t forget.

Last one: And it’s a two-part question. Is there a song on this record that defines you now more than the others, and is there one from your past work, with KISS or otherwise, that defines what you were at that point in the journey?

Well, the title track Live To Win is really my philosophy. It’s my mantra of sorts that I’ve lived by, that we’d all do better to follow: The idea of setting your goals and setting your aspirations and not letting anything get in the way of attaining them. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re always going to get them, but it means that you always win by either succeeding or failing on your own terms. If you fail, but do it your own way, you’re a winner anyway. So, the idea is to listen to your gut, your soul, your heart, and charge forward and not stop until you either fall or get what you’re after.

And in KISS, you know, it’s funny to have written the song that most embodies Gene, and the song most people associate with his character, which is “God Of Thunder”. So there’s an irony and a pride in that, but really “Love Gun” or “Detroit Rock City” are two songs I think embodies my work within KISS, and those songs still go over like a storm, because they’re great songs. And I still look forward, even today, to playing them because of that.

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