ARE THE BIONIC BAND
July 19, 2012
By Adrian Thrills

Kiss frontman Paul Stanley has had joint trouble — and not the kind you’d expect in a rock ’n’ roll man. After 40 years teetering around the stage in 8in platform heels, it’s his hips (and knees and shoulders) that have had it.

Stanley and his bandmates have sold 100 million albums since they first daubed their faces with black and white warpaint in 1973, and he has paid the price with two hip replacement ops.

‘I’m a bionic man and I’ve earned every scar,’ the 60-year-old singer and guitarist says proudly. ‘My doctors are sports specialists, as my injuries are the same as those that affect [American] footballers.

'My knees have been surgically reassembled and I’ve had work done on my shoulders.

‘But I’m in better shape than ever. The engine’s been serviced and I’m good for another 50,000 miles.’

Kiss are one of rock’s great survivors, as well known for their comic-book stage personas and garish costumes as their music, while their gigs are renowned for fire-breathing stunts and eye-popping special effects.

But they attribute their staying power to a more old-fashioned virtue: hard graft.

‘Four decades ago, a bunch of knuckleheads from New York got together,’ says bassist Gene Simmons.

‘The four of us had an epiphany: let’s put together the band we’ve never seen on stage. So we did it, and we’re still here.

‘Back then, there were no shortcuts. There was no internet or cable TV. You had to take your case directly to the people by playing live, and we do the same today. We’re the real deal.’

Or as real as anyone sporting face paint, Spandex leggings and glitter wedges for their day job can be.

The bullish 62-year-old adds: ‘If you are a member of U2 or Coldplay, you put on your jeans and T-shirt and play. Those bands are great, but they don’t have to sweat.

‘We spend two hours putting on make-up. Then we run around for two hours in platform shoes. I spit fire and fly up to the rafters.’
Founder members Stanley and Simmons are in London to launch a wave of Kiss activity. First, there is a new single, Hell Or Hallelujah.

On the horizon is a 20th studio album, Monster, plus a ten-hour DVD, Kissology Volume 4. And Stanley is happy to be here. ‘I’m an Anglophile,’ he says. ‘Rock ’n’ roll started in the States, but the Brits turned it into something brilliant.’

There is also the aptly named Kiss Monster Book being released. Limited to 1,000 copies worldwide, the hand-bound tome stands 3ft high and 5ft wide when open, and will set you back £2,500.

But then, Kiss have never been a band for half measures. Simmons, who lives in California with his wife, erotic film star Shannon Tweed and their two children, Nick, 23, and Sophie, 20, once claimed he had slept with 4,600 women since the band began.

‘That figure’s about right,’ he says, face deadpan. I can’t tell if he’s being tongue in cheek — but I hope not, given that he is the proud possessor of the longest tongue in rock (one rumour had it that he had a cow’s tongue surgically grafted on to his own). ‘I’ve behaved like a horny teenage boy all my life, but, at some point, we all grow up. Love wasn’t something I thought seriously about before, but I love my wife.

‘I have a magic woman in Shannon, and she has stuck by me — through all my indiscretions — for 29 years.’

Kiss set their sights on world domination early. In their infancy, they avoided New York’s elitist rock clubs to focus on the music mainstream.

To some, they are the height of rock kitsch, their pyrotechnics a mere marketing trick (Gene once accidently set his hair alight while spitting flammable liquid at a torch).

‘If people say we’re a gimmick, I won’t argue,’ he replies. ‘But then so was Jerry Lee Lewis when he played piano with his feet, and Elvis when he shook his hips.’

Paul begs to differ. ‘If we were just a gimmick, we wouldn’t have lasted 40 years.’

Kiss’s two other founder members, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, have not played with the band since a mid-Nineties reunion, but the group’s current line-up, with drummer Eric Singer and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, has been together for a decade.

So, how long will they keep rocking? Paul says: ‘We’re still in the middle of an amazing ride. But there will come a time when we say enough is enough. Then we’ll throw down the gauntlet, and somebody else will pick it up.’

Hell Or Hallelujah and the Kiss Monster Book are out now.