KISS’s Paul Stanley Opens Up About Overcoming Partial Deafness, Prepares for 40-Year Celebration
By Jon Wiederhorn
Dealing with the TV and film dalliances of Gene Simmons, the multiple fragmentation of the original KISS lineup, and conflicts with everyone from former managers to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is nothing compared to the traumas and trials Paul Stanley faced in childhood — the most daunting of which was growing up with a rare condition, Level 3 Microtia, that caused most of the cartilage on his right ear to be missing.
Largely because of his physical appearance he was bullied and ostracized, and survived by withdrawing and living much of his life inside his head, all of which he documents in vivid detail in his new memoir, Face the Music: A Life Exposed.
"Many people in the same position will end up with either a shotgun in their mouth or a needle in their arm," Stanley told Yahoo Music. "Really, it comes down a simple choice. Do you live as a victim, or roll up your sleeves and make a life for yourself?"
Even those who can't name the original members of KISS know the answer to the rhetorical question. Paul Stanley is one of the biggest success stories in rock music. As the band's main songwriter and vocalist for more than 40 years — not counting the time he, Simmons, ex-guitarist Ace Frehley, and former drummer Peter Criss spent in KISS predecessors Wicked Lester — Stanley helped pioneer the evolution of arena rock and, along with his bandmates, became icons of pop culture.
KISS has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, and along the way Stanley has indulged in every whim and rock 'n' roll fantasy — which for him, has not included drugs and alcohol, something he has spoken a great deal about in the past.
Incredibly, Stanley rose to the top and crafted some of the greatest rock anthems and ballads while half-deaf. In 1982 he underwent reconstructive surgery and had a piece of his rib cage molded into a makeshift ear. Even so, he still can’t hear normally. "As far as the music went, I never missed anything because you don’t miss what you've never had," he insisted. "I hear music the way I hear it. It's normal to me, but it's not the way you hear music. And one of the key issues is if there’s a lot of noise I can’t hear people talking in front of me because only one ear is taking all the sound in. And I also can’t tell direction of sound. So if I’m driving and a fire engine is coming I could just as easily drive into the path of it as away from it because I don’t know where it is. But that hasn't hurt me at all when it's come to writing songs for KISS."