July 23, 2010
Kiss' Paul Stanley: The smell of greasepaint and the roar of the rodeo

Photo: From left, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley of Kiss perform in Germany earlier this year. The hard-rock band will kick off its latest tour today at Cheyenne Frontier Days. (Sebastian Willnow, AFP/Getty Images )

By John Wenzel

"Our current stage show is the greatest one we've done - and that's not just coming from the fans, it's coming from the critics," bragged co-founder Paul Stanley. "Which is surprising to us, because we've certainly never been a band like that or built our following on that."

The theatrical, '70s-bred hard-rock band has found new life with the well-reviewed 2009 album "Sonic Boom," its first in 11 years, and the 32- date Hottest Show on Earth tour, which kicks off today at Cheyenne Frontier Days.

We talked to Stanley about the band's legacy, its broad appeal and, of course, the face paint.

Q: You're starting your national tour in Cheyenne at Frontier Days. Have you ever played a rodeo before?

A: We've done Sturgis, the big biker rally. If it's communal and tribal we're in. And honestly, Kiss is more of a tribal gathering in terms of concerts than it is a rock show. Everybody who comes shares this feeling of being part of a nation of black sheep, or being part of this massive secret society.

Q: The band's been around for 37 years now. How do you think the face paint and this idea of hidden identities and alternate personas has influenced newer, darker rock acts?

A: You could also ask the same question of Garth Brooks or Lenny Kravitz. The influence that the band has had - it's almost viral in the sense that it permeates and affects different people different ways.

Q: Right, but I was just asking about the face paint.

A: It's a bigger world than that. Whether you decide to put on a mask or you decide that you want to try to touch that same nerve that Kiss does, the influence is incredibly widespread. I mean, I'm just talking about people who make it known in interviews way beyond the idea that we've influenced a bunch of guys with makeup or hockey masks.

Q: Fair enough. Your press materials mention you'll be playing songs on this tour that you haven't in years, like "Detroit Rock City" and "Rock and Roll All Nite." Why did you decide to do that?

A: We had this amazing tour, the "Alive 35 Tour," where we did Europe and stadiums in South America, and that led into doing the album "Sonic Boom," and the "Sonic Boom Over Europe" tour, which we just finished. And we've got this amazing history that we get to celebrate. Now we get to incorporate not only what we've done in the past but also what we're doing in the present, which gives a glimpse of the future.

Q: I'm sure your stage show is still pretty over-the- top as well.

A: Anybody can try to do a Kiss show. It only takes money, bombs and all the rest of those things that are available to anybody who can write a check. But you can never beat Kiss.