by Richard Bienstock
Maybe it’s the makeup. Maybe it’s the merchandising. Maybe, at the end of the day, it’s just the music itself.
Whatever the source, it is safe to say that few bands have inspired as much fervent devotion—and also rabid derision—as the self-proclaimed “Hottest Band in the World,” Kiss.
But love them or hate them (and really, is there any area in between?), Kiss—and in particular its stalwart co-founders, visionaries and greatest proponents and protectors, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons—continue to not only exist but also scale greater heights.
Here we are in 2014, and the band, now roughly 10 lineups in with current guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer, are experiencing yet another renaissance.
Their most recent (and 20th) studio album, Monster, was an unusually strong effort, more energetic and enjoyable than should reasonably be expected from any band at this stage of its career. Meanwhile, on the live front, Kiss continue to push the limits of just how much of an over-the-top spectacle a rock and roll show can truly be (for evidence, check out videos of recent performances that feature their newly designed Spider stage).
But 2014 is also offering up another nice pair of victories for the band. This year marks Kiss’ 40th anniversary (their self-titled debut was released in February 1974), and in April, Stanley and Simmons, along with former, and now estranged, original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
To celebrate these dual milestones, Guitar World met separately with Stanley and Simmons at their Los Angeles homes to discuss just a few of the many triumphs and tribulations that led the band here.
Additionally, they were asked to examine the inner workings of their unique partnership as well as to offer a few candid thoughts on the many guitarists that have passed through Kiss’ ranks, from Frehley to Thayer and everyone in between. (As for the ones that almost made it? That list includes Eddie Van Halen…depending on who you ask.)