INTERVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
KISS “ALIVE 35” TOUR
Since there’s no new album to promote, could you tell a little about the theme for this new KISS ALIVE 35 tour?
Well, I mean, obviously “Kiss Alive 35” is the 35th anniversary of the band and that’s really all it is, you know. We’re not at a point where every time we go on tour, we need an album. Especially since it’s really kind of a croc of shit, the idea that when you get down to it, people talk about wanting a new album, but at the end of the day, they don’t really want to hear a new album. Nobody does, nobody wants to hear The [Rolling] Stones’ new album, nobody wants to hear [The] Who’s new album. You don’t go to a concert to hear new music, you want the band to go and do it, but you don’t want to listen to it. I understand it, but why go to the studio and do an album when understandably, people want to hear the classics; those are the songs that mean something because they are connected to a time in somebody’s life. A new song is fresh, but it has no connection, so you listen to it five times, and then you say, “That’s really nice, now play ‘Love Gun.'”!
So this upcoming tour is a celebration of your 35-year career?
Yes, plus when we’re in Europe, we’ll be doing all of “Kiss Alive.” So, you know, here we do it a little different because in Australia we have a different kind of relationship with, we try to include a broader spectrum of music.
As you mentioned earlier, you will bring this “Alive35” tour to Europe next summer, and you are going to play the entire Alive! -album, which sounds like an amazing plan. But you’re going to use the “Destroyer” era costumes on that tour, not the outfits you used on the Alive! Tour back in the day. Why?
Well, because we’re not recreating the past, we’re celebrating it. It’s not about putting on the “Kiss Alive” show; it’s not about dressing, it’s not about making a statement by recreating that moment, the costumes or what we wanted to wear because we’ve worn the other, you know. And we don’t want to come up with new costumes. Again, new costumes are almost like a new album. Somebody may be saying, “When are you gonna have new costumes?” but if we showed up in new costumes, they’d say, “Why aren’t you dressed like Kiss?” So at some point, we have to do what we think makes the most sense.
Besides the ALIVE album, what other songs can the European fans expect to hear on this upcoming tour?
Oh, you know we’ll play all of KISS ALIVE, but then we’ll play the classic songs from different periods of the band too. Rather than just give you a list, it’s pretty much what people have come to expect, which is always a double-edged sword because someone else is going to say, “You’re playing the same songs.” Right, because most people want to hear those songs, the handful of people who get tired of it should probably stay home.
EUROPEAN KISS MANIA
In Australia, you usually play some special songs like “Shandi,” which were hit songs over here. In Europe and the Nordic countries especially, your biggest albums were probably the ones from the ’80s, starting from “Lick it Up” to “Crazy Nights.” Perhaps you could play stuff like “Heaven’s on Fire” over there, for example?
Good, yeah, absolutely. Good to know.
The upcoming shows sold out almost instantly all over Europe. What was your reaction to the fastness of the ticket sales?
Yeah, it’s actually the biggest tour we’ve done of Europe, bigger than the reunion tour. So, it shows again that people love Kiss; it’s that simple, you know. People love what we do and what we represent, and again it’s always interesting when someone says, “Oh, it’s not all the original members.”, but it’s Kiss. And I think anybody’s kidding themselves if they think that we should stop because it’s not the original members or that we should take into account anything other than the fact that we’re Kiss first and foremost. Every time we hit that stage, we live up to everything we’ve done. I know, I was there.
Are you aware that a new “Kiss story” record was set? First, Sweden set a new record, but then a few days later, the show in Finland became the fastest-selling KISS show ever!
Yes, yeah, Helsinki. You know, it’s an honor, it means a lot to me to do something like that, and it means that we have to give back as much as we can, and we will.
There’s practically a whole new generation of Kiss fans, kids under the age of ten even. Have you noticed this phenomenon in your live audiences?
Yeah, and it’s great. I believe that what we do is timeless and ageless, you know, it’s doesn’t have a particular time, it’s forever.
There are a couple of exciting destinations that you’ll be playing on this tour, too, like Russia and Serbia. How does it feel to play in places that you’ve never been to before?
Very exciting, you know. To be doing this as long as we have and then find something that’s new is as much fun as doing what’s familiar. It’s great to go back to places we know and know what to expect, and it’s also great going to someplace where we haven’t been.
Kiss’s latest European tour was in 1999, after the release of PSYCHO CIRCUS. Since the demand, judging by the success of this current tour, has certainly been there, why has it then taken this long for Kiss to return to Europe?
Yeah, we’ve just been busy. And, you know, I like to spend a lot of time at home. I have a family. I also wanted to go out and do my [solo thing], I also wanted to do “Phantom of the Opera.” There are always many things to be done and only so many hours in the day, and at some point, you know, my kids want me home. That’s a good reason to be home; I want to be with them.
After the European leg of the tour, will it get extended to include the USA, Japan, or some other areas as well?
I don’t really know yet. My art has been doing phenomenally well, and I have shows booked, gallery shows for that, and there’s also talk of doing “Phantom of the Opera” again, so there’s a lot of things pulling in different directions. And I don’t ever want to do something that I’m not sure I want to do, you know, so I have to make sure.
One more question about the new tour, word has it Eric McKenna is working on new guitars for you?
Eric’s always working on something; he’s got this great company, “Boogey Street,” and they do different kinds of variations of some of my guitars. They’re also going to do, you know, he’s working on an acoustic version and some other things. Eric’s a good guy.
Do you already know if you’re going to use any of those new models on the European tour?
Probably not. I’ve gone back to some of my older Washburn’s, which we’ll re-release again because they’re just great guitars.
Can the fans expect a release, DVD perhaps, from this “Alive 35” tour?
Good question. No plans right now, we’re certainly not doing anything in Australia, but Europe is the perfect place to do something.
How about the KISSOLOGY DVDs, were you surprised how well those have done?
I think my biggest surprise is that KISSOLOGY III is the biggest, and I thought that KISSOLOGY I would be the biggest because KISSOLOGY one is the beginning. And if you believed the loudest voices, the loudest opinions, you would think that the majority of people wanted the earliest stuff. But as it turns out, the biggest seller by far is KISSOLOGY III, so once again, the people who speak the loudest are not necessarily the majority.
You must feel vindicated seeing how well that era is appreciated now, although it may not have quite seemed that way at the time?
Well, it’s just funny how you have some people who want Kiss to be their private band and to be exactly what they believe Kiss should be. Most of those people are in the minority. You know, fifty thousand people in Melbourne came to see Kiss, the shows in Helsinki sold out because they’re there to see Kiss. The unhappy few will remain few.
Do you still have more unreleased vintage footage stored away for further releases?
Yeah, we’re planning more KISSOLOGIES. You know, KISSOLOGY IV is in… we can see that KISSOLOGY IV is coming very soon.
Will it continue from where the third part left off, or will it focus on something else?
You know, we’re not sure yet because we’ve taken this quite far, but there’s so much in there. We have loads of footage.
Do you have any professionally filmed material from the 1983-1985 years?
Yes, we have; we do have great material from there too.
That material would be great to see someday; there aren’t even any decent quality bootlegs around from that era.
Yeah, we know.
There’s a rumor going about presently that you’ve recently re-recorded some of the old Kiss stuff, is there any truth to that?
Well, it’s a good rumor.
Yeah. If we did re-record it, it would sound amazing. You know, it would sound as good as it sounded, only more sonically powerful. But IF we did re-record it, they would sound identical, only more fidelity.
But you haven’t?
Like I said, if we did… “Laughs”
After the press conference in Melbourne, what has been on many people’s minds is how you said Kiss could carry on without you if necessary. Would you care to elaborate on that statement?
I think Kiss is much more than a band, and I believe that we define ourselves by the rules we break, and I would be flattered if I am right and someone can take my place. Again, someone else’s idea of what Kiss is doesn’t necessarily speak for the majority. So somebody says, “Oh, it has to be the four originals.” and now they go, “Oh, it’s gotta be Gene and Paul.” I don’t necessarily agree. And it would be, as far as I believe, a tribute to everything that Kiss stands for if the band continues without me. It doesn’t mean I won’t be there, it doesn’t mean I won’t control things, but I believe what Kiss stands for, the idea of giving a great show and doing your best and entertaining, it goes far beyond the individuals in the band.
In the past, you’ve stated that once you’re no longer able to give a hundred percent, you will retire from the stage. Do you still feel that way?
I don’t know how to put it. I can always give a 100%. It is still 100% the same as it once was? Of course not, but I can continue as long as I feel good about what I’m doing. So it’s a hard question to answer, you know, but the day will come when that question will get answered.
There’s always speculation among the fans about how the band members are getting along with each other. How would you describe your relationship with Gene Simmons after all these years?
Probably better than for a long, long time because we just give each other a lot of space. You know, 35 years, actually [for Gene and me] it’s longer than that, it’s 38 or 39 years. You know, we were different when we started, we’re even more different now, so we have to give each other enough space to be who we want to be, you know, and not be in the other way. But when it comes to Kiss, we’re very focused, and that’s all we can expect; we get along fine. You don’t have to live with your brother, you love your family, you love your brother, but you don’t want to spend all your time with them.
How about the other current band members, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer? They both seem to be easy-going guys to work with. It must be less hassle working with them than perhaps some past members of the band?
Oh yeah. It has to be fun, and for me, if it stops being fun and I want to continue, then someone else has to leave, you know. That’s what was wrong with the “Farewell” tour. The “Farewell” tour turned out for me to be about not wanting to end Kiss, but to end playing with a couple of the guys, you know. So, it took me a while to realize that I didn’t want to say goodbye to Kiss; I wanted to say goodbye to some of the members. For better or worse, it just wasn’t working; it wasn’t happy. I didn’t think that everybody was thankful for what they had. It stopped being fun because people stopped realizing how lucky they were. I have to say that every day I’m thankful for everything that happened with Kiss. I’m blessed, and I work hard to maintain that. And when people take it for granted or don’t respect it, then it’s not fun.
Are you still in touch with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss?
Ace I spoke to, but not very recently. I think he’s, you know, feeling very good about playing clubs and that’s good for him. It’s just great that he’s making sobriety a priority for him. Whatever else he thinks, I could care less, you know. I’m happy that he’s alive, I’m happy that he’s healthy, the rest is not important.
At your recent shows, Tommy Thayer has been singing Ace’s signature song, “Shock Me.” How do you feel about some people’s negative reactions to that?
Who cares! I mean, honestly, it’s insane to think that we wouldn’t play a Kiss song. From what I hear, Ace is playing Kiss songs too. He’s doing “Love Gun” and “I Want You,” and it’s fine. I have no problem with that. Again, fifty thousand people were happy to hear “Shock Me” again, you know, five people hated that, but you can’t please everyone.
You put out LIVE TO WIN in 2006, and it was your first solo release in seventeen years. Looking back, how would you now reflect on the whole process; making the album, doing a solo tour, and the feedback you got from the fans, etc.?
Well, I did LIVE TO WIN with the specific idea of not making a one-man Kiss album or a sound-alike to the first solo album; both of those would be very easy. If I want to do a Kiss album by myself, I can do it. I’ve done things like that before, you know. So, I wanted to push myself in a different direction. Some people understood it, some people didn’t, but going out and playing was amazing. You know, playing live is always the greatest, and that band was insanely good.
On your solo tour, you played shows in the USA and Australia. Since there’s a kind of “Kissteria” going on in Europe right now, is there a chance of seeing Paul Stanley solo tour over there someday?
I wanted to [tour Europe], but again there just wasn’t time. I really, really wanted to, and the guys, they never wanted to stop. They still want to continue, and I would love to; it’s just a matter of finding the time.
Is there a chance you might put out more solo records in the future?
You know, sure, there’s a chance, I just don’t know when. If I did another one, it wouldn’t sound like the last one. It would probably sound much more guitar-driven. You know, after I finished the solo tour, I was ready to go back in and do another album. There just wasn’t any time. But what I would want to do if I did another one would be making it much more guitar-driven. But I had a great time doing the album, and I had an amazing time doing the shows.
Incidentally, I met legendary drummer Carmine Appice last summer, and when I asked about his role on your 1978 solo album, he couldn’t recall which songs he played on that record… Can you shed some light on this matter?
He played on [Take Me Away] “Together as One,” that’s all he played on.
In the late ’80s, you recorded an album’s worth of material that never got released. Was it originally supposed to be another Paul Stanley solo album?
No, there was no solo album. I read that, you know. If everything I read was true, I’d be either in a lot of trouble or a lucky guy. There was no solo album. I started doing some writing with the idea of writing for other people and much more for some pop people. It was never going to be my album. I actually did those songs with the idea that these are completely uncharacteristic for me, you know, I mean, I never wrote those with any sense of identifying with them.
That material is quite pop and keyboard oriented, some tracks like “Time Traveller” for example…
Yeah, you know, it was very pop, very melodic, and I would never be comfortable doing those songs. “Time Traveller” was one song there; there was also a song called “Two Hearts Collide” and… there was a bunch of them. They were just good songs, and it was almost like an exercise to write with the idea that I’m not writing for me.
We seem to be running out of time, with so much left to discuss, but still, I must ask, what’s the status of the LIVE TO DREAM DVD?
I think it’s out in June or July, and Universal will release it.
It’s going to be a worldwide release, then?
Thanks. We’ll be seeing you again soon, in Finland (among other places).
Special thanks for THIS IS ROCK magazine and Chrissie Camp from McManus Company.
KISS LIVE PICTURES FROM SYDNEY !!!