ARE STILL ON FIRE!
July 17, 2012
With a new album, book and DVD, KISS are still on fire

By James McNair

Famed for their distinctive stage make-up and pyrotechnics-fuelled concerts, the cartoonish hard rock band KISS formed in New York City in 1973. The founding members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are currently promoting Monster, a ridiculously outsized book of glossy KISS concert photos.

You seem busier than ever

GS: It's a very exciting time for KISS, but then it always is. The 10-hour DVD Kissology Volume 4 is on the way. Not five hours. Not seven. Ten. Then there's Monster the album and Monster the book, which weighs four stone [6.3 kilograms]. People say of great books: "I couldn't put it down" but this one's more "I couldn't pick it up".

You're consummate entertainers, but would you concede there's something inherently silly about KISS?

PS: I don't negate having a sense of humour about what we do, but KISS is far from a joke. We work very hard and if you come to our show it will put a smile on your face. KISS shows are more tribal gathering than rock concert. At most rock concerts, you sure as hell don't want to see your little brother or your mum there, but at KISS shows, it's thumbs up to everybody. We're a different animal and proudly so.

Getting dressed and made-up for the stage - can you do it pretty quickly these days?

GS: It still takes two hours. But it's our time together and it's a ritual of sorts. There's a sense of realignment. I've talked to people who get dressed up for Halloween, and they'll say: "You know, when I put the make-up on I felt different." It's an interesting comment. It's like when those American-Indian tribes put on warpaint - it's self-empowering. We're not wearing make-up onstage; we're wearing warpaint.

How long does it take to take the warpaint off?

GS: About an hour. It gets in your pores. It gets in your hair... It's not a joke, sir. I breathe fire with kerosene and that cooks the make-up on. I spit [fake] blood down my costume and it gets everywhere. You're sticky and you're sweaty and you stink.

You mention the fire breathing. Who taught you?

GS: A guy called Amaze-O the magician who came into our management offices in the early 1970s. I noticed he was bald, but only when I caught fire myself on New Year's Eve 1973 did I realise why.

Paul, a lifetime spent in eight-inch heels has cost you two hip-replacements. Had you known what lay ahead, would you have worn flats?

PS: I've actually only had one hip-replacement op, but every scar on my body was proudly earned. There isn't anything about my life I would have changed. I tell my son there's nothing worse than looking back on your life and wishing you had done certain things. I did 'em all. That's how life is supposed to be lived.

After 40 years of KISS, do the pair of you still find shared interests to talk about?

PS: I don't know how many shared interests we've ever had. We're very different people. The common bond is being committed to making KISS the best it can be. The key to a great relationship is knowing its limitations, then you can go on forever. I'm 60 and Gene's 62. You reach a point where you put the unimportant stuff to one side and just bask in the joy of being KISS.

Monster the album comes out on October 15.