June 26, 2011
Frontman, 59, delights in entertaining fans that now span generations

By Glen Schaefer, The Province

He likes it loud onstage, but KISS lead singer Paul Stanley is soft-spoken over the phone as he prepares to go on the road again with the band he has fronted since 1974 -a tour that brings them to Abbotsford Monday night.

"We'll be ready with guns blazing when we hit Abbotsford," Stanley said in an interview before a show Thursday in Everett, Wash.

He says the band -Stanley, original bassist-singer Gene Simmons, drummer (on and off for 20 years) Eric Singer and guitarist (for the past 10 years) Tommy Thayer -doesn't do the punishing 200-show-a-year schedule anymore.

"We might go out for two or three months at a time and average about four shows a week," he says.

"We can do 70, 80 shows a year . . . Quite honestly, as much as I love doing this, I don't understand the people who forget that they have a home. It works terrifically, because it means that every time we do go out, we want to be there and we're ready to do it."

The 59-year-old Stanley has kept his voice and his lean physique as other rockers -including former KISS bandmates Peter Criss and Ace Frehley -fell prey to the backstage temptations of the road.

No "Cold Gin" for Stanley, despite the title of one of their more famous songs.

"Well you know, everything is available and then it's a matter of what you want to do," he says.

"Backstage is a buffet and you don't have to indulge, or you certainly can. For me to do what I do at this point, it's important that I'm ready to go out there and give people what they're expecting, or more. That's a big responsibility, and the longer the band's been around the bigger the reputation is."

Or, to put it bluntly: "Nobody wants to see a fat guy in tights. At least not in this band, or at least not me. There's a certain discipline involved, and I'm as vain as the next guy."

He laughs over the phone. "When you're going to get up onstage and have spotlights on you, and you're going to be wearing something that shows what you ate for dinner, you better make sure that the dinner they see was yesterday's."

Which means that the Beverly Hills house he shares with wife Erin and a brood of three children -a teenage son from a previous marriage, a younger boy and a girl, with a fourth child due this August -has one room full of gym equipment.

No need for the exercise gear on the road, Stanley says.

"The show is the ultimate workout, I can't even replicate that in a regular workout," he adds.

"What I do onstage is fuelled by adrenalin, you'll do things in front of an audience you'd find impossible to do on your own or with a trainer."

All that while strutting in five-inch platforms, a trick he's mastered over the decades. "Once you get used to the thin air up where we are, it's what I've done my whole life, it really is second nature."

A KISS show involves loud, simple songs, big pyrotechnics and Simmons spewing blood and flying over the stage, ingredients that KISS crowds have come to expect over the years. If the show has changed, says Stanley, it's in the craft applied to everything, particularly the pyro, which seems hot enough to roast marshmallows in the front row.

"We have the best people working with us," Stanley says. "When we first started doing it, it was crude to say the least. There were no licensed pyrotechnicians, you had some guy who liked to blow stuff up and you put him on salary. It's come a long way since then."

Stanley says the band draws an allages crowd these days. Even entire families come to hear "Love Gun" and "Lick It Up."

"The great thing about a KISS audience is it's really more of a tribal thing than a rock concert. You have people of all ages. Most rock concerts are very age-specific, where you don't want to see your little brother or your father there.

"I think it's great. People want to share it with their children -it's a rite of passage that they went through."

The band is still coming up with new material, with the album Sonic Boom released in 2009 and another collection of songs ready for release in 2012. Some new songs make it into the show, but Stanley says it's heavy on the crowd favourites.

"To a degree, we want to play things from the most recent album, but our show tends to be a consensus of what our audience wants to hear. It's not self-indulgence that brings us to an arena."

Outside of KISS, Stanley has starred in a Toronto stage production of The Phantom of the Opera, which doesn't seem that far from a KISS show with the amps turned down.

He and longtime collaborator Simmons live near each other, although Stanley's offstage life happens out of camera range.

"He literally lives down the street from me, but we give each other a lot of space," Stanley says of Simmons, who stars in his own reality TV show. "We see each other and we have a great partnership and we don't take it further than is realistic."

And KISS fans can rest easy -Stanley says there's no end in sight.

"When it's no longer fun or I can't do it, I won't," he says. "I don't want to say the show evolves or progresses, it just mutates -it's the same thing but bigger and better.

"Do we blow stuff up? Hell yeah. Do we play real loud? Hell yeah. That's what we do, we entertain. We're a killer rock band that prides itself on being entertainers."