By Daniel D'Addario
KISS — somehow — isn’t done.
The foursome of makeup-loving heavy metal rockers, whose last album, “Monster,” came out last year, have released a book, “Nothin’ to Lose,” on the occasion of their 40th year. Written by music journalist Ken Sharp with band members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, the book chronicles the band’s formation and rise to prominence; what it does not contain at any length is a list of critical hosannas and Grammys the band’s received. Though their fortunes have evolved over time (the band ultimately received a special “Heroes” award from the recording academy), Kiss has always been the bastard child of the recording industry — able to sell out arenas and produce hit records on the strength of a sound and a look (black-and-white face paint, tongues fully extended as often as possible), but far from the sort of acclaim that its contemporaries enjoyed.
Not that the band members are troubled. In separate conversations, Stanley and Simmons — who’s carved out a second career for himself as a reality TV personality on shows including “The Celebrity Apprentice” and “Gene Simmons Family Jewels” — expressed general disregard for the critical establishment and a belief in their continued ability to draw young fans. In particular, Simmons sees some of a new, rebel spirit in Miley Cyrus, the star best known for sticking out her tongue at the current moment. “Self-empowerment,” he says. “Fashion be damned, just wear what you want.”
Tell me a little bit about what it means to you to “sell out.” Kiss — and Simmons in particular — has done any number of commercials, reality shows, sports investment projects that don’t necessarily fit a rebellious message. Or do they?
Stanley: The premise of Kiss has always been to not live within the confinements and boundaries other people set for themselves. We set our own limitations, and those are no limitations. To be shackled by other bands’ and other artists’ sense of what they can and usually cannot do — no, that philosophy has never changed. At this point, we can be involved with taking on an arena football league franchise. The idea is always to branch out with what we’ve done before. At the heart of it, we remain a rock ‘n’ roll band. We have no apologies — people who think we shouldn’t are people who can’t.