UNLEASHING THE FORMIDABLE SONIC BOOM
October 07, 2009
By Martin Howell

It's been a long time since KISS last released an album, the somewhat patchy "Psycho Circus," but they're finally ready to unleash the formidable "Sonic Boom" on the world. Martin Howell had a chat with the Starchild himself, Paul Stanley, to get the lowdown on the album.

I have to admit that I was a little unsure whether or not KISS would be able to return to their former glories. Their last album was a decade ago and whilst it had its moments, it certainly didn't recall their glory years. Then after a "farewell" tour that saw the end of the original line-up, two new guys were drafted in to wear the costumes and make-up. But a few years on the road and the new line-up was settled enough to hit the studio. The resulting "Sonic Boom" will hit an unsuspecting public shortly, and truth be told, it's a bit of a monster, a real return to the glory days of the late 70s.

Paul Stanley, not surprisingly, agrees wholeheartedly. "This was something we felt we had to do; we were on a mission to state who this band is and remove any doubts about what we're capable of. We didn't want to make a retro album, something that would be confused with the 70s albums, but we wanted to capture the essence, the piss 'n' vinegar at the core of KISS. Over the last few years we've toured America, Europe, we've just come back from South America, and we've shown a lot of people what this band is capable of; we're like a finely sharpened knife.

"Initially I wasn't interested in making a new album, not unless I could do it on my own terms. I wanted to produce it, and there were to be no outside writers. In the past we've used people outside of the band and you end up with their interpretation of what KISS is, not your own. Also this needed to be everyone's priority, if not their sole work. And I have to say that being in the studio has never been more fun; we had a great time, we were clear and focused on what we were doing, and there were no egos. In fact there was a real sense of selflessness.

"Even Gene, I mean, if you see something about Gene being selfless, it's probably in Ripley's Believe it or Not. But we all pulled together and when we wrote together, the magic was there. In the past Gene and myself have written songs on our own or with outside writers, and really that was just ego, so this time we collaborated with each other, so some were written by Gene and me, or Gene, Tommy and me. It was a lot of fun, the healthiest time I've ever spent in a studio. And it all seemed so effortless; in fact Eric [Singer - drums and cat costume] got worried on one or two songs because we needed as many as 3 takes!"

It sounds like the band had a great time. Given the advances in technology over the last few years, I asked Paul if KISS had changed the way they recorded.

"No, we were more worried about capturing a feel. We recorded as a band, looking at each other, vintage amps, great guitars and no click track, but then who needs a click track when you have Eric?"

The lead track from the album, "Modern Day Delilah," has been out on the Web for some time. I asked Paul what the reaction had been so far.

"The reviews have been overwhelmingly good; everyone has been blown away. When we put the album together, we had a six-track teaser for it and we played it to people and they all thought that we'd cherry picked the best tracks, but they were just the first six. The others are just as good; there is no filler on this album."

One of my personal favourites is "Never Enough," an upbeat rocker about seizing the day and basically enjoying life. I wondered if this was a personal philosophy.

"Absolutely. I love life; I want to live everyday to the full. It's also kind of a statement against all the naysayers; here we are still kicking ass and loving it."

While we were on the subject of personal favourites, I had to mention "Stand."

"That's about camaraderie, the idea that unity and working together can get through anything. Some people might think that's corny, but I think that there might be a certain bitterness there. We're very proud of what we've done with this record; there was an opportunity to be seized and we did it, but it needed all four members to do it. On 'Psycho Circus' and some other records, they were gallant attempts to keep the band going, but not everyone in the band was on the same page."

As usual with a KISS album, the vocals are shared by Gene and Paul, but one song, "All For the Glory," features a vocal by Eric.

"Eric is someone I've known for a long time. When I did a solo tour back in 1988, he played drums for me, and then he joined KISS in 1992 and all that time I had no idea he could sing. We were doing the 'Revenge' album and he said to us 'what part do you want me to sing' and we all thought he was joking. But he has a great voice and 'All For the Glory" was written for him to sing. We didn't want to do the 'obligatory drummer' song you know? That's a great song and he sings it well."