DONATES TO WOUNDED WARRIORS
August 16, 2010
BAND PLAYING MOHEGAN THURSDAY

By ERIC R. DANTON

Photo: Gene Simmons (L) and Paul Stanley of KISS during a Mohegan Sun concert. (MARK MIRKO, HARTFORD COURANT / October 2, 2009)

Altruism is not a concept commonly associated with Kiss, the costumed hard rock band that has proudly marketed everything from Dr. Pepper to caskets.

Turns out, though, that the gods of thunder have a soft spot after all: American troops wounded overseas. For every ticket sold on its "Hottest Show on Earth" tour, a fireworks-filled extravaganza stopping Thursday at Mohegan Sun, the band is donating $1 to the Wounded Warrior Care Project, which assists military personnel who have been severely injured in combat.

"Maybe we can do what the government doesn't seem capable of," Kiss singer and guitarist Paul Stanley says by phone.

Stanley estimates the band has raised $125,000 so far on the tour, which comes in support of Kiss' most recent album, last year's "Sonic Boom."

The record is a return to Kiss' classic late-'70s form for Stanley and bassist Gene Simmons. The Kiss co-founders made the record with lead guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer in place of original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, who were involved with the band's previous record, 1998's "Psycho Circus."

That particular effort wasn't exactly a high point in the Kiss canon, Stanley acknowledges.

"I was adamant that 'Psycho Circus' wouldn't be the last Kiss album," he says. "If there had to be a last album, we should end on a higher note than that. It was difficult to make an album with two band members and two lawyers. Those lawyers didn't play instruments very well, and the guys who could have been in the studio weren't."

This time, all four members were involved in writing songs for the album, which Stanley produced. They recorded quickly, keen on capturing the spark of early takes before the songs got rehearsed to death.

"What you may gain later on in perfection, you lose in feel," Stanley says. "I'm a big believer that all the music I loved growing up was made by people who were trying to document passion, rather than perfection, whether it was the Beatles, or Led Zeppelin or James Brown. All that music was made with mistakes, but with incredible feel."

A lot of artists who have been around as long as Kiss talk about the difficulty in concert of balancing old material with new, but Stanley rejects the premise.

"It's all Kiss," he says. "So what we try to do, particularly in the concerts, is celebrate all the eras of the band. It's no secret that there are certain songs that are must-plays, and funny, over the years, it just becomes more and more. We found ourselves ultimately making the show a little longer and squeezing in as much as we can. We can play 'Delilah' and that'll sound great whether it's next to 'Love Gun' or 'Crazy Nights.'"

That leaves just one item of unfinished business: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Although the band first became eligible a decade ago, Kiss wasn't even nominated for the first time until last year.

"Who cares?" Stanley says. "Honestly, who cares?"

Well, the fans, for one: Kiss aficionados have been lobbying for years for the group's induction.

"I would accept being inducted, or indicted, only on behalf of the fans," Stanley says. "If it means enough to them that they're championing this so vocally, then I would do it, but only for them. I've said it before and I'll say it again: It's a farce. It's a sham. My place in rock 'n' roll history is more firmly planted than the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's."