August 06, 2010
For Paul Stanley, success is not a dirty word

By Jed Gottlieb

KISS is the greatest rock band! Ever!

Who says? KISS singer/guitarist Paul Stanley of course.

Stanley, Gene Simmons and the other two masked men (longtime supporting players guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer) are back for their second Boston-area date in less than a year Saturday at the Comcast Center. Stanley dialed the Herald to talk about a possible KISS fridge, a probable new album and finally getting great reviews.

You guys were just here. What is this, a victory lap?

The last 35 years have been a victory lap for us. No one other than our fans thought we were going to win, but we've spent the last two years playing to 10,000 at the smallest show and 90,000 at the biggest around the world. We just wanted to bring the hottest show on Earth, the best show we've ever done, back to the States. Once again, we are the winners.

You have so many albums and songs. How do you balance playing the hits and obscure songs your cult loves?

I'm one of those people who believes that songs are obscure for a reason. Hold on a second. (The chattering of a child can be heard in the background.) Sorry, my kids rule my house. Where were we?

Hits vs. cult classics.

Right. KISS has built its name on pleasing the masses. I won't play a song to make 25 people happy and have 25,000 scratching their heads. I once saw the Stones in a theater doing their obscure songs, and by the third song it was boring. People pay for the hits, so we give them the hits.

I just read there'll be a KISS refrigerator. Is that true?

I didn't authorize a KISS fridge. But if somebody wants a KISS fridge, let them have a KISS fridge. We're not marketing geniuses. We listen very carefully to what our fans want and we give it to them. It's only after we listen and put the product out that we're called marketing geniuses.

I'm thinking about the Dr. Pepper commercial that's everywhere. Many bands in the so-called indie community think it's abhorrent to sell songs to advertisers, what do you say to those bands?

Wake up and smell the coffee. If those indie bands keep that philosophy they'll be flipping burgers soon enough. There's a reason that it's called the music business. Putting your song in a commercial doesn't negate your creativity.

The concept of selling out is meaningless to KISS, right?

Success isn't selling out. We've never had to sell out because we've always done things on our terms. I didn't get into this to have a fan base of 100. I will gladly fly in the private jet to the show and make no apologies for being loved worldwide. Hold on a second. Listen to this from Rolling Stone: "KISS proved why they are the reigning kings of theater rock, delivering an electric two-hour, 21-song set of glam-rock smashes, newer tunes, over-the-top pyrotechnics." Regardless of what the naysayers say, I didn't have to sell out to get these kind of reviews.

Is it nice to have the critics finally loving what you do?

I didn't get into this for validation, but I'll take it as long as it's on my terms.

How did KISS survive so many changes in the music industry?

There's always going to be a flavor of the week. And every year has not been the pinnacle of our career. Ali didn't win every fight, but he's still called the greatest.

Gene's been doing reality TV for a decade. Why aren't you pushing to raise your profile?

I've steered the ship the way I've wanted it to go. I'm too busy living a real life to live a scripted one. There's no appeal in that for me. Which isn't to knock it. The great thing about success is the ability to do whatever you want.

So you and Gene aren't competitive?

No, we're very different people. He'd make a horrible me. We're family in the best of ways. You don't want to spend all your time with your brother, but he's still your brother.

Will we get another album soon?

Yes. "Sonic Boom" wasn't the last album but the first of the next phase of KISS. We had to do that album. We were getting along too well, sounding too good, not to put our boot down, so to speak. It's the beginning of something new.

You're donating a dollar of every ticket to veterans charities. Whose idea?

We went to a rehab center in Augusta, Ga., one that really should be a model for the rest of the country. Meeting these men and women and having them screwed out of what they're entitled to is unconscionable. We've raised $77,000 in five shows, so it's only the beginning.