REVITALIZED
November 15, 2009
The Holiday 2009 issue of Guitar Player contains over ten pages of KISS coverage! Here are some excerpts from Guitar Player's interview with KISS:

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Paul Stanley takes KISS back to its roots to unleash a ferocious bombardment of rock and roll thrills

By Michael Molenda

Defensiveness is in the air. Paul Stanley jokes with his crew about how Guitar Player readers have always hated KISS. Gene Simmons dismisses me with "Oh boy, the media is here," and walks into the main studio at Conway Studios in Los Angeles without further comment. I look at Tommy Thayer - who is projecting nothing but good vibes - and still can't help myself from wondering if he thinks I'm going to roast him for daring to be the impostor Spaceman in Ace Frehley's makeup.

I'm further thrown off my game when drummer Eric Singer appears to be the KISS member most excited to talk to Guitar Player. (He doesn't play guitar, but he collects them, and he possesses a truly impressive knowledge of vintage instruments and guitar gear.) All I'm trying to do is listen to the band's first new studio album in more than a decade, and put the guys on the cover of the magazine. Sheesh.

Everyone relaxes a bit (including me) when co-producer Greg Collins spins the first few tracks of Sonic Boom in Conway's control room. Produced by Stanley - who was extremely earnest and focused in his mission to create a monumental, no-B.S. KISS album - the songs rage out of the studio monitors with a rawness and vitality that rivals the energy of any of the 20-something acts on the Warped Tour can deliver. As an added plus, the guitar tones are huge, the riffs striking, and the solos explosive. It's a KISS klassic!

It's also a rather bountiful set of goodies for the KISS faithful. Distributed exclusively by Wal-Mart, Sonic Boom is a three-disc package that also includes a re-recorded selection of classic KISS songs and a live DVD containing six performances from the South American leg of the KISS Alive 35 tour. Happily, by the time the band decamps to a studio lounge to discuss the album, everyone is far more interested in talking music than makeup, preconceptions, misperceptions, or marketing razzle-dazzle.


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I was knocked out at how energized and ballsy the tracks sounded. It's like a raw, brazen record from a band that has something to prove, rather than an act that has been famous for decades.

Simmons: Well, we were truly jazzed. The band has always been big, but it may be bigger now than it has ever been before. We're playing to stadiums full of people, and a lot of young people - a whole new audience - and they kick you in the ass. You have preconceived notions about what KISS means and who we are and if we're playing something from when the band started in 1901. But 15 year olds have never heard that material, and they don't have any preconceptions. So it's a whole new ballgame for us, and we have to deliver.

Stanley: This band is terrific in concert. It deserves to play new material, to record a new KISS album.

As the producer, were you also visualizing how each song would sound on the album?

Stanley: No. The classic rock writers didn't approach things like that. You didn't write a song and say "Wait until you hear the production it's going to have." Where I come from is, if it doesn't sound good on one guitar or one piano, it sucks. Don't tell me how you're going to embellish it - you have to have a great song to begin with.

Thayer: None of us have home studios. We literally record our songs on little tape recorders...

Stanley: That cost $39.

Thayer: And that's how we document the foundation of our songs.

Stanley: Like idiots. And that's what we refer back to when we're deciding whether a song makes it - the music coming out of a tiny, crappy speaker on a cheap cassette deck.

Gene, what informed your bass lines on the record?

Simmons: My style is less of a Motown groove approach - it tends to have its own melodic thing. Players such as Jack Bruce always appealed to me because they approached their parts more the way string quartets do, where the bass isn't necessarily tied to the rhythm. I like to play a melodic riff that works with, or works off of the guitar.

Stanley: That's a signature part of KISS that was gone for a while. When we listened back to our old records, I said "Hey, whatever happened to those great walking bass lines?" Those lines are part of the underpinning that touches an emotional nerve in people who don't even know much about muysic and compels them to say "That's KISS." Whether you can articulate it or not, those elements are part of who you are as a band, and if you veer too far away from them, you only end up confusing yourself and your audience.

Singer: Many times in the past, if someone had an idea for the bass, Gene would go, "Okay, you play it." This time, Paul would say, "No. You're going to play bass because your feel and tone is critically important to the KISS sound." And Gene does possess a lot of the elements that people are used to hearing in classic KISS albums.

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Read the entire interview and related stories in the Holiday 2009 issue of Guitar Player!