February 25, 2010
Here's an excerpt from a recent article in Britain's Loaded Magazine on spending a night on the road with KISS:

Loaded Joins KISS
By Matt Allen
Photos by Picture Bat

Loaded is sitting comfortably backstage at the American Airlines EnormoDome in downtown Dallas, with more slop on our face than Amy Winehouse preparing for a night on the pop. We look bloody stupid. But we don't care, because tonight we've been invited on tour with legendary US rockers, KISS -- the fire-breathing, firework-exploding, leather-clad, heavy metal four piece with more hits than Holly Sampson's homepage, post-Tiger Woods.

Heavy Metal Firegods

The reason for our arrival on the band's stadium-packed Texan party tonight is to revel in their longevity as metal's craziest animals. Formed in New York City in the early 70s, KISS are an unbelievable 35 years old. Their career has straddled hard rock, metal and disco, and they've flogged over 100 million records -- including hit singles "Crazy, Crazy Nights," "I Was Made for Lovin' You." Even their song "Love Gun" went on to provide the name for another inspirational British group, the Sex Pistols.

This heavyweight chart success is only half the story, however. For over three decades, KISS have been metal's premier live band with a stage show that comprises pyrotechnics, blood bags and ludicrous, high-wire acrobatics -- it's estimated their tour overheads come in at a whopping $1m dollars a week.

The crashes, bangs and wallops have also been offset with some pretty crackpot costumes: onstage the band sport Farrah Fawcett haircuts, face paint, medieval armor and foot-high platform boots. In his leather chaps, bat wings and studded gloves, bassist Gene Simmons -- one of the most legendary names in rock and roll ever.

"We're superheroes with guitars and drums," says lead singer, Paul Stanley. "I don't want to see someone onstage who looks like my neighbour, and I really don't want to pay $50 to watch somebody play an acoustic guitar while sitting on a stool and a Chinese rug. I want to see explosions and bangs, as well as getting some great rock n' roll songs!"

"When I was a kid I saw everybody from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin. We've always wanted to be a band that combined all of that."

Tonight is special because Loaded is joining KISS to get a taste of their high life. Paul is applying makeup to our faces. A base layer of white foundation has been decorated with a black star over my right eye and some blood red lippy. This has been the image of Paul for much of his career. It's even got a name: the Starchild; but on my chops it's not as impressive. I look like a crap mime artist outside a French public toilet, but this look has helped the band pull thousands of women and make millions of dollars.

Ready for Take-Off

"It's important to get this stuff on for the show," says Stanley. "When I put the make-up on, I feel like a boxer getting ready for a fight; it puts me in the right state of mind."

He's not kidding. Moments before showtime, Loaded have been invited to walk with the band from the dressing room to the stage. The idea: to witness the chaos of a globe-straddling band making their entrance in front of 15,000 metal crazies. Seeing that mass of humanity screaming is one real buzz, too.

Led Zeppelin blasts through the speakers at jet plane volumes and KISS, standing at over 7ft. tall in heels, climb the stairs to the stage. Dallas goes crackers as the first firework explodes with a bang. This is rock n' roll as God intended.

Fire and Glory

If you want an idea of what a KISS show sounds like, imagine guitar riffs heavy enough to turn Stereophonics and a host of Britrockers green with envy; hear anthems designed for a foot-to-the-floor motorway drive; and imagine a heady mix of Led Zep, Lennon and McCartney, AC/DC, Slash and Donna Summer. If you want to know what a KISS show looks like, then look towards Cirque du Soleil, the Blue Man Group, or a US-led invasion on a rogue state in the Middle East.

It's loud, crazy, and the best live show you'll see all year. For each anthem, and there are plenty -- "Lick it Up," "Rock and Roll all Nite," "Detroit Rock City," -- Dallas is shaken by Catherine wheels, 20ft. flames, and a guitar solo in which Paul Stanley is fired to the other end of the arena on a trapeze.

Guitarist Tommy Thayer fires small rockets from the end of his guitar into the air. During "Hotter Than Hell," Gene Simmons breathes fire, spits fake blood, and levitates 40ft. on a winch. And the man's 60.

"People think it's the best thing they've ever seen," says Simmons. "Every time we get onstage we make a holy vow: you wanted the best, you got the best house band in the world. People think we're kidding, but we actually mean those words... I would throw my own mother out of the band if she didn't live up to our expectations."

Have you ever had any accidents onstage?

Gene: Sure, I set my hair on fire. In the early days we used to do a trick where I'd put lemon juice in the roots of my hair so it would stand up. I'd hairspray the end so it stayed there. On the side of the can it should have read 'Gene, you're a moron. Once you spit fire you're going to light up like a matchstick.' So, the first show we did with it was on New Year's Eve, 1973 with Iggy Pop, and we were fourth on the bill. It was before our first album came out, but by the third song, I was on fire. People had to come put me out. The fans went nuts and we stole the show. Sure, I almost died, but people told their friends 'Wow, what a band! They set themselves on fire like Buddhists. You gotta go see them.'

You're all approaching pensionable age now. How long can you see KISS, as a group, going on for?

Paul: Forever. I think that as each person leaves, we'll replace them with another. That way, the line-up we have now could all die, but the band could go on forever. Wouldn't that be a great idea?

KISS tour the country in May. Beg, steal or borrow to get a ticket.