October 02, 2009
'Gene Simmons Family Jewels," the A&E reality show starring the spidery, fire-breathing, tongue-dangling KISS bassist as a family man, is stuffed with slumber parties, home movies, teen girls saying, "Whatever," and (somewhat randomly) a depressed comedian Carrot Top at a bar. But it doesn't have Paul Stanley. "God knows, he's asked me enough times," says singer and guitarist Stanley, who co-founded the band with Simmons in 1972. "There's nothing that appeals to me less than creating a TV life, as opposed to living my private life. It's just not for me. I also don't like the idea of confusing what Gene does with what KISS does. It's better to keep 'em separate."

For a man who has spent the past 37 years wearing demonic black-and-white makeup and singing "Love Gun" wearing leather pants and no shirt, Stanley, 57, is pointedly serious on the phone. Asked about Casablanca Records, the '70s disco label that broke KISS and was known for its executives' copious cocaine use and excessive behavior, Stanley says he spent little time there. Asked about Ace Frehley, the fellow band founder who spends much of his newfound solo career bashing KISS as sellouts in the press, Stanley says he's just glad the guitarist is clean and sober. Asked what he wants for Christmas, Stanley delivers a mini-lecture about supporting the American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Stanley is especially serious about the band's first album in 11 years, "Sonic Boom," which he produced. Leaked tracks such as "Modern Day Delilah" don't have quite the same winking debauchery of such KISS classics as "Rock and Roll All Nite," "Black Diamond" or "Strutter," but the guitars are loud, the vocals are operatic and the backbeat is booming. "This couldn't be more KISS. It catches the fire, the urgency, the adrenaline and the firepower," Stanley says, from Detroit (Rock City), where he and Simmons just began a tour with guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer in lieu of founders Frehley and Peter Criss.

"The idea that perhaps 'Sonic Boom' could have been made by any other lineup is somebody's personal insanity, but it's not true. The first person I usually go to for feedback is Tommy, and Eric has been in and out of the band for 14 years."

Beginning in the early '80s, KISS tried to move beyond its trademark showmanship and toured for more than a decade without makeup or tall black space boots. They returned to the shtick in 1996, and have been making the big reunion-tour money with costumes and pyrotechnics ever since. Even the worldwide economic crisis hasn't dented the band's stage production, which hits Nassau Coliseum Friday and Madison Square Garden Saturday. "The last thing we've done is cut back," Stanley says. "You know, in a time of recession and a time where money is so tight, it's all the more reason for us to pack more in. People need to get more bang for the buck. Who better than us to do it?"