INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJALA AND PETTERI LIMNELL
Legendary rock icons KISS are back with their new album MONSTER. The album, the 20th studio release in their long-lasting career, is set for release in the middle of October through Universal Music. The follow up for the 2009 release SONIC BOOM includes 12 straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll tracks, and it features collaborations of all four band members: Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer, and Eric Singer. In early July, the band landed in Europe for a brief promotional tour, which included live shows in Oslo and London. We met a very cheerful Stanley in London before the band’s sold-out performance at the HMV Forum and discussed MONSTER, the Kiss Kruise, and many other exciting topics… Read on!
THE MONSTER IS HERE
First of all, the MONSTER is finished, and it’s ready to roll; it’s ready to go. How do you like the results at this point?
PAUL STANLEY: I think it’s terrific. I mean, I have said it so many times already, you know, the idea wasn’t to make an album that sounded like we once sounded. It was to make an album that sounds like we have never sounded. The idea of making an album that is a retro album… I wasn’t interested in doing that. I wanted to make an album with vitality and passion, and that’s a great rock album. I don’t want to make a great KISS album. I don’t want to be judged by other KISS albums. It’s ok to judge KISS by KISS, but it’s also nice to open up the gates and say not how good is this compared to KISS albums but how good is this compared to the albums that I love.
I got an advance copy of the album a while ago, and now, after several listens, I would say that it’s all fresh, it’s all-new, it rocks, it’s energetic, and kicks major ass.
PAUL STANLEY: I think it’s all we wanted it to be. It’s not a great KISS album. It’s a great rock album. I think this is a great album. I didn’t want us to make an album; some bands remember saying, “Oh, they are making an album that sounds like they did.” I wanted to do an album that sounds like we never did — something that’s new.
I agree with you, but I disagree with Gene, who said that MONSTER is like a “meat and potatoes” type of album because I think this is the most versatile album you have ever done…
PAUL STANLEY: I don’t know. Everybody has an opinion about it. I just know it’s a very, I would say a cohesive album. It feels like an album. It feels like every song that’s on there belongs on there. It got a focus and a point of view. That’s what I wanted for the album… I didn’t want it to be scattered… I wanted something that felt like work, a body of work.
Gene also said (again) that the album does sound like a mix of CREATURES OF THE NIGHT and REVENGE, but I honestly think that the album does sound different from anything you’ve done so far.
PAUL STANLEY: Yeah, I think that’s such a trap when we start going on, “Oh, it’s this one mixed with… it’s not…” that’s crazy. How could it be this mixed with that or whatever album it is? It’s a MONSTER, and it is its own thing. It’s the next step, and it’s a result of everything else we have done, but I’m lost when, you know, someone starts saying it’s REVENGE cross with this or LOVE GUN cross… that’s crazy.
I would say I 100 % agree with that, and I’m pleased about how the new album sounds.
PAUL STANLEY: Good, good, good.
MONSTER is the number twenty in the KISS studio album catalog. At this point in your career, when you’ve already reached almost everything, what kind of goals do you have with that album?
PAUL STANLEY: I would be lying if I say I don’t want it to be successful. But I don’t expect success. I succeeded because of the album I wanted to make. Would I like other people to like it? Sure. Everybody wants validation. But if you try to second guess people, “What kind of album do they want” and then you fail, you kick yourself and say, “I should have done it my way.” I did it my way, and whatever is going to happen will happen, but I stand behind the album.
I bet that it would be a great thing for you to make it number one on Billboard since you got so close with SONIC BOOM three years ago, right?
PAUL STANLEY: That would be terrific. That would make me happy. Absolutely!
What does it need to get it done?
PAUL STANLEY: All it needs is for everybody to buy it at the same time. You know, that’s how you’ll get the number one album.
This is a kind of old question, but since SONIC BOOM was a great success, why did you have a ten-year recording break between that and PSYCHO CIRCUS?
PAUL STANLEY: Because the band wasn’t healthy for a while, and we had to wait for the band to heal and get into good shape.
But you already had Tommy and Eric in the band for years?
PAUL STANLEY: Yeah, we were great, and we got stronger and stronger, and when we felt that it was time, we went back into the studio.
THE DELAY OF THE ALBUM AND COMMENTS ABOUT NEW TRACKS
The album is now coming in October, although it’s been ready for a long time. Originally it was supposed to come out earlier, like in May. What’s the reason for that delay?
PAUL STANLEY: The reason it didn’t come out, I mean it has been done for a while we wanted to have a different type of set up in terms of distribution. We wanted to go with a label this time. So the legalities of working out a contract take a long time. So, you know, by going back to Universal with a company that has our whole catalog, it made a lot of sense for many reasons. Plus, they were very “Come home,” very committed to the album. So had we wanted to do it a different way, we would have it out in May. But this made more sense and will make more sense. You know, doing the Wal-Mart deal was great in one way, but in another way, if you didn’t have a Wal-Mart near you or if you didn’t have iTunes if you couldn’t get it from iTunes so it was very limited how you could get the album. So, we tried that once, and now we said let’s do it this route. But Universal very much wanted us back. And they have all these other albums, so it’s a good agreement.
I have now picked up a few of my favorite tracks from the album. Would you say a brief comment about those?
PAUL STANLEY: Alright.
The first on my list is… “Take Me Down Below.”
PAUL STANLEY: A good tongue in cheek kind of a tune, you know, I tough that the album could use something of a little bit of humor in it, but I wouldn’t want the whole album of that I think it’s a cool, relentless kind of a fun track.
For me, it kind of reminded me about the SONIC BOOM track “Stand” in a way?
PAUL STANLEY: Yeah, it’s nice sometimes to have a track where Gene and I both sing.
Right, and next to my list is “Shout Mercy.”
PAUL STANLEY: I like “Shout Mercy” a lot. I like a lot of what that song is; I like its passion, the pulse of it, and the relentlessness. For me, there’s like a tribal quality. I like it a lot.
How about “Eat Your Heart Out”? That’s a different KISS song, I would say!
PAUL STANLEY: I think it’s a really good Gene track. You know, it’s got a great chorus and the groove of it, the feel of it is really good.
And then there’s “Freak.” Would you tell the meaning behind those lyrics on it?
PAUL STANLEY: You know, being a freak is like a state of mind, and in some ways, it’s no different than “Stand.” It’s a song about saying I am what I am. And standing up for what you are. Whether you have stripes in your hair or your clothes are different, you know this is all that I am, and I’m proud of it. You know, one way or another, we have always sung about that, believing yourself and being who you are. “Shout Mercy” is just a really relentless, almost tribal sounding song. There are no weak tracks on the album. Somebody might like one track more than the other, but there’s no weak track on the album. When I listen to the album, that shouldn’t be on the album.
Do the songs somehow reflect your own life, your state of mind, mind settings, or alike?
PAUL STANLEY: Well, it’s certainly at the point where I’m very sure where I am and very comfortable where the band is. KISS is like an animal. And at some point, the animal may be sick, and then you realize you must go to the doctor. And the doctor says, “This part needs to come out. This part is sick. If you take this part out, and it gets better.”
WRITING THE NEW ALBUM
Can you tell me something about the creation process of the album? How long did it take this time?
PAUL STANLEY: It really didn’t take that much time at all. The funny thing is that the album has been done for quite a while. It’s just that we decided to go with a major label, and it took a long time to negotiate the contract. The album was done a long time ago, and it didn’t take any longer than SONIC BOOM. So we had the album done for a long time. If you spend too much time on something, it loses its emotion and passion. If it comes out perfect, that’s nice, but Rock n Roll album? I don’t know whether it should be perfect?
So you should not necessarily “overthink” it. If it sounds good, it probably is good?
PAUL STANLEY: Yeah, exactly. It probably is good then.
Like SONIC BOOM, this album is a real team effort from you guys. I learned that even Eric Singer took part in the writing process this time, if he was, then it was his first time writing for the album?
PAUL STANLEY: I don’t know. He had some great ideas, and this was very much a team album, you know, we did very much us rehearsing together, playing together taking each other’s ideas. The band is better because everybody is contributing.
I learned that Tommy was co-writing something like eleven songs or something for this album?
PAUL STANLEY: I would have to look, I have no idea.
During the ’80s and 90’s you did most of the writing with outside people like Desmond Child, Diane Warren, Adam Mitchell, etc. How was it different to work on within the band members only for this album and SONIC BOOM?
PAUL STANLEY: I think it’s important that the band stay within the band to write. And one of my rules, when I said I would produce the album and everybody went along with the idea, no outside writers. It’s very easy to, in some cases, to have somebody write a song for you, and you put your name on it, and you have very little to do with it, or maybe you’re doing something else instead of writing songs. And, you know, you come up with the songs that really are not yours. I wanted to make sure that the band worked on every song. I have always included the band. I love Desmond; I love writing with him. I love Diane; I love all those people. But the band is also different now the band has the ability to be completely self-contained. Maybe that’s why it’s important that we do it like that.
You don’t rule it out … to work with outside people in the future?
PAUL STANLEY: I think I do rule it out.
You have produced the latest KISS albums and your solo album by yourself. Is it easier to work when you have full control of everything?
PAUL STANLEY: Yes. I didn’t take that role lightly. I did it because I knew I could do it and because I didn’t think anybody else could do it as well. I knew that the answer wasn’t for the band to do it because there is no focus. Then everybody is doing it the way they think it should be. And then you have people getting songs on albums that may not belong on the album but just because they like them. So there is a responsibility, but it makes it easier for the band. The band will tell you that the last two albums were just fun to make. It’s not a matter of being a dictator in a studio. It’s a matter of being a coach, a captain, the leader, not telling everybody what to do but being the person that keeps an eye on the ball and the vision.
This current situation within the band must be very different from the ’80s when you were producing a couple of KISS albums as well?
PAUL STANLEY: Yeah, those albums were… That wasn’t fun because I was making KISS albums without KISS. That’s not fun, it’s not fair, and I certainly would not do it again. That’s why one of the rules was we will write as a band, we will rehear as a band, and we will record as a band.
Is all of the material on MONSTER brand new, or is there some old material used as well?
PAUL STANLEY: It’s all-new. I’m a big believer that leftovers are leftovers for a reason. If it wasn’t good enough for the last album, why would it be good enough for this album?
I totally agree with you. However, it seems that there are bands that do use the old stuff on their new albums, like Van Halen?
PAUL STANLEY: Well, what other bands are doing, I can’t say, but for me, I want to know who you are today. I want you to write something today, from your experiences today.
I would like to ask about your writing methods. When you’re going to start working on a new album, do you need some sort of special mental mode, mindset, or something like that, or how you work it out?
PAUL STANLEY: No. It’s a project. It’s a task, so you do it. People who wait for inspiration can wait a long time. The trick is to create inspiration. You know, I have a job to do, it should inspire me.
Creativity is overrated, in a certain sense?
PAUL STANLEY: Oh, I’m not going to wait to get inspired. I’m inspired every day.
So probably you are living the right kind of life?
PAUL STANLEY: Absolutely, yeah. I think so.
THE ALBUM TITLE AND COVER
What’s the idea behind the album title, MONSTER?
PAUL STANLEY: The album is powerful, it’s monstrous, it’s big, and it’s relentless. It’s a Monster in terms of its power and size.
I just found out that you’re going to use a band photo on the album cover. I heard that you originally had an artist painting the cover. Was it Ken Kelly? Whatever happened to that project?
PAUL STANLEY: No. I didn’t want the cover that looks like a cover from 30 years ago. This isn’t 30 years ago. I didn’t want somebody to think that we are re-creating the past. And to make a cover like that is to make that kind of a statement. You know, we are not superheroes, we’re not fantasy, we are flesh and blood. We wear war paint, and we wear makeup. That is part of our identity, but to have us with swords or something crazy on the cover it’s not us now. It’s not (us) today.
Perhaps it goes well with the new album because it’s all new and fresh?
PAUL STANLEY: Yes, I believe so.
PROMOTION, MONSTER BOOK, AND MORE
You have now started the promotion of the album. There’s a “Hell or Hallelujah” single out, comic books, the MONSTER book, this promotional show, and tons of interviews to do here in the U.K. Do you have plans to do some more promotional activities for the album?
PAUL STANLEY: I don’t think so. We will do “The Tour” that starts in two weeks, I think, with Motley Crue on board, but there is really not much more promotion that I know of?
What is the current state of KISSOLOGY 4? Is it coming out this year?
PAUL STANLEY: Yeah, yeah.
Do you have plans to shoot a promotional video for “Hell or Hallelujah”?
PAUL STANLEY: Yeah, there is. There’s been a talk about it, but… there will be a video. Although I don’t know when or what the approach will be, there will be a video.
How about making a conceptual video this time? It’s been a long time since you last time did something like that?
PAUL STANLEY: I don’t know, but hopefully you don’t see us in fireman outfits or spacesuits, you know! “Laughs”
Don’t say that, it would be a lot of fun. Well, I can’t hesitate to ask about the MONSTER book. Why on Earth did you decide to release a “larger than life” size book, which is too expensive for regular fans to get?
PAUL STANLEY: Because it’s not for everybody. It’s not for all the regular people, and I know that. I know Rolls Royce’s are not for everybody. It’s strange if the idea is that we can only put out of things that everybody can have. That reduces our ability to explore and do things we feel like doing. This book, this book couldn’t be for everybody. It’s hand-bounded, it’s 30 pounds, you know, you not going to go to a local book store and pick it up. It’s a specialty item. It’s a collector’s item, and those who can afford it and want it will buy it. Some people who cannot afford it won’t buy it. But that’s just the nature of things. At some other point of things, could there be another version of it? Sure, but it would be unfair for us to say, oh no, if everybody can’t afford it, you shouldn’t do it.
You did release the book with ten different covers with selected country flags on it. How did you actually decide which flags to use and which were left off?
PAUL STANLEY: Actually I think that the company that we work with suggested these. So it wasn’t anything from us. These are the ones that they suggested.
Right, I actually thought that maybe you just would choose the top 10 countries which had the greatest number of people in KISS KRUISE… “Laughs.”
PAUL STANLEY: Oh my gosh… That would’ve been an interesting way to do it.
NEW TOUR AND SETLIST
The new single has been doing extremely well on iTunes, and it was the most downloaded song in the latest Amazon. I heard that you’re going to play it tonight at the Forum?
PAUL STANLEY: Aha, yes.
Once “The Tour” starts in two weeks, do you have plans to add some more MONSTER tracks on the set then?
PAUL STANLEY: No, because the album won’t be out. We have been in enough trouble to figure out what to play, you know, from our old tunes, so if we were to add something, we would have to take something out. How come we could add something people don’t know?
With Mötley Crue, are you going to do a full set or a shortened one since it’s a co-headline tour?
PAUL STANLEY: It will be the same thing we did with KISS/Aerosmith. It will be a full show like we did with Aerosmith.
So you both are doing something like 75-minute shows?
PAUL STANLEY: Yeah
When will the actual “Monster” tour start?
PAUL STANLEY: Well, the “Monster” tour will not happen for a while. First, we will do our 40 plus shows in America. We’ll have Motley Crue with us, and we have a whole new stage, you know, we have been using the same stage for a while, although it has been modified and updated for quite a while, so it’s a brand new stage.
Would you tell me something about the new stage?
PAUL STANLEY: It’s pretty cool. It’s just a pretty cool stage and doesn’t look like the one we have had for quite some time. And you know, lots of new technology, but you know it’s KISS, it’s our point of view, it’s how we do things.
Will you use that new one on “The Tour” already?
PAUL STANLEY: In some form, yeah.
But there be further modifications when the actual “Monster” tour starts?
PAUL STANLEY: Yeah.
Back in the day, when, e.g., CREATURES OF THE NIGHT and LICK IT UP came out, you played like 4-5 songs out of them. Do you already know how many MONSTER songs you are going to play at this stage?
PAUL STANLEY: I don’t know. We haven’t even started to think about it, and the album is not going to be out for a while. Let us see? It’s challenging because people also want to hear the songs they love. You can only play for so long. It’s always a challenge to figure out what to play. And also, the bigger the album is, the more you play from it.
But nowadays, when records do not really sell as they sold back in the good old days, how can you tell whether the album is great or not? I mean, if the numbers are the only thing that matters… it’s just not fair, I think?
PAUL STANLEY: Ok, that’s a good point, and that’s I guess where we get feedback from the fans.
When you did the “Alive 35” tour, were you sure that the majority of the fans were familiar with the songs that you played, like “She,” “Watching You,” and “Rock Bottom”? Some might consider songs like these obscure?
PAUL STANLEY: But those are not obscure songs. Those are from KISS ALIVE! and KISS ALIVE! is the biggest album of ours.
So you were happy to go out with this whole theme?
PAUL STANLEY: Sure.
Well, are we going to hear more of the 80’s songs in the Monster tour? I’m asking this because last time, you added “Crazy, Crazy Nights” and “God Gave Rock ’n Roll to You” to the setlist, and people went nuts.
PAUL STANLEY: I don’t know. It’s hard to talk about it yet. You know, tell me about the tour after this tour, we are two tours away… But, yeah, I’m not quite sure what. But we will figure it out.
KISS was extremely popular in Europe in the ’80s and especially in Scandinavia, say, between 1984 and 1988. How well were you aware of your popularity in here back then?
PAUL STANLEY: Sure, I was aware. And I love Scandinavia. I love Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen. Scandinavia is terrific.
Scandinavia has always been a very good place for KISS.
PAUL STANLEY: Yes, that’s true.
THE 40th ANNIVERSARY OF KISS
In the January of 2013, which is like six months away, the band will celebrate its 40th anniversary. What are you going to do then?
PAUL STANLEY: Wow. We will do what we do; play. “Laughs”
Do you have any special things or shows etc., planned to celebrate the anniversary?
PAUL STANLEY: I don’t believe so, although… As a matter of fact, there is some talk about some special shows for the 40th anniversary.
But there’s nothing in the paper yet?
PAUL STANLEY: Well, it would involve Tommy, Eric, me, and Gene, and it will be the celebration of the band, our survival, and our history. That’s all. We will be celebrating the 40th year of the band.
Well… That was the answer to the question…
PAUL STANLEY: Absolutely, yeah. We would be celebrating 40 years of KISS, not 40 years of any particular people. The band is the celebration.
So at this stage, there’s nothing more to tell about it yet?
PAUL STANLEY: I can’t say more yet.
In late October, there’s going to be the second KISS KRUISE. How did you like the first KRUISE, and what can fans expect from this one?
PAUL STANLEY: It was great. This year it’s going to be more fun. There will be more things going on. Last year was the first one, so we didn’t know quite what to expect, but it was terrific. This time it will be so much better.
The first KISS CRUISE, which was, by the way, amazing. The fans loved that you shook up the setlist the way you did!
PAUL STANLEY: Yeah, but you have to remember that when we play for a bigger place, we play for the bigger crowds, and the people on the Kruise are die-hards. You can do something special for the die-hards that would not be appreciated by the masses. You can do things in a KISS Kruise we can’t do in an arena because those people wouldn’t appreciate what we are doing.
So there be more surprises on the setlist to come on next KRUISE?
PAUL STANLEY: I’m sure, yes, but I can’t tell you what.
THE END OF STORY
Paul, it has been 40 years of KISS soon. You’ve done 20 studio albums, and you have been doing pretty much everything there is to do in the music business. You have seen it all, “been there” and “done that.” You have done some acting, you’ve done opera, you do paint, you are a father of four kids and so on… so what makes Paul Stanley going on?
PAUL STANLEY: I love life. Every day is an adventure. We don’t know what life holds for us, and we don’t know what the future is, and as much as we may like to plan, life happens. And while we are making plans, life is happening. So I’m just waking up every day to my plans, but I’m also open to see what the other day holds for me.
It’s been a great life so far.
PAUL STANLEY: It has been amazing.
Have you ever been considered writing a book about your life?
PAUL STANLEY: Yes, there will be an autobiography out next year.
Wow! That’s big news, and the fans are looking forward to it. This is a bit personal question, but if someone would say that you are a very private person. How would you comment?
PAUL STANLEY: I have always been a very private person and haven’t changed in that sense.
Many good things are coming from KISS camp, but there’s different news since Gene last week announced that this album and the upcoming tour would definitely be the last ones by the band…
PAUL STANLEY: Who said that?
Gene did say that.
PAUL STANLEY: If Gene told you your skin is green, it’s up to you… I never heard that?
That was in the newspapers in Norway last week, I think?
PAUL STANLEY: Really? That’s news to me.
Maybe it was just a rumor, or then something had been taken out of context?
PAUL STANLEY: Yeah.
But it’s still great to hear that it’s not true?
PAUL STANLEY: No.
It’s the time of the last question, here and it goes… how about the KISS version number 2? Will there ever be such a thing, or have you given up on that idea?
PAUL STANLEY: There won’t be KISS number 2. There will just be a continuation of KISS, and it should. KISS will continue forever.
PICTURES FROM LONDON SHOW !!