PICKS UP ITS GAME FOR TOUR WITH CRUE
August 18, 2012
Singer Paul Stanley promises spectacular stage show at amphitheater

By Alan Sculley for The Columbian

KISS has never worried about being upstaged by an opening act.

"We've always believed in letting the best bands available go out there and do what they do, because it only fires us up that much more," singer/guitarist Paul Stanley said in a mid-July phone interview. "Our track record is pretty stellar, whether it's, my gosh, Bob Seger, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi, early (Mötley) Crüe, John Cougar Mellencamp, AC/DC. The list just goes on and on."

On one of this summer's biggest tours, KISS will close out an evening that also includes a 90-minute set from co-headliner Mötley Crüe, a band known for making its own show a visual spectacle and nonstop party.

But Stanley knows his band will deliver as well, if for no other reason than the enthusiasm he sees in the band 40 years into its career.

"KISS today is KISS as I've always wanted it — four guys who get along great, who play fiercely and are proud of who we are, proud of our fans and celebrate what we do from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed," Stanley said.

Of course, KISS also knows a thing or two about putting together a spectacular live show. And the band has reloaded for the tour with Mötley Crüe.

"It's a whole new show, a whole new stage," Stanley said. "We will have a brand new show and a brand new stage and just some pretty amazing visuals. This whole summer is giving new meaning to bang for the buck.

"If anybody's expecting high-tech subtlety, forget about it," he said. "What we're trying to do is build a bigger bomb."

As is evident by Stanley's enthusiasm for this summer's tour — as well as KISS' recently completed new CD, "Monster," which will be released in October -- KISS is experiencing a rebirth that few would have predicted when the new century rolled around

At that point, the band seemed to be trying to recapture past glories for one last time.

In 1996, Stanley and bassist Gene Simmons had reunited with the two other original members of KISS — guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss -- for what became a blockbuster reunion tour. This was followed by the release in 1998 of "Psycho Circus," a reunion album that was a reunion in name only.

Criss and Frehley made only minimal contributions to "Psycho Circus," although the CD was billed as being made by the original KISS lineup. In reality, guitarists Tommy Thayer and Bruce Kulick and drummer Kevin Valentine played on the vast majority of the material.

Today, Stanley is open in admitting the shortcomings of "Psycho Circus" and the tensions that existed with Frehley and Criss during the reunion years.

"'Psycho Circus,' as I've said before, was such a debacle and such a distortion of what making an album should be," Stanley said. "You can't make a KISS album without a band, and we didn't have one. We did as gallantly as we could, but if people had any inkling of what was going on behind the scenes, it's a miracle that we even got an album done."

When Criss and Frehley departed the lineup for the final time, the replacements — Thayer and drummer Eric Singer (who had been in the band in the late '90s, prior to Criss' return) — injected new life into the band.

And in 2008, work began on a new KISS album. The band decided it would either succeed or fail on its own terms, as Stanley served as producer and the group kept all key aspects of the project in-house.

"To go back into the studio after not having done an album in probably 10 years is a risky move," Stanley said. "The band was just so strong live, just so potent, that I thought we have to make an album.

"But I didn't want any of the pitfalls that had happened in the past," he said. "I needed some ground rules just to make sure that everybody stayed focused and committed. And the key one was all writing had to be within the band. No outside writers, no phoning in your parts, and the band was going to play live and the band was going to record on tape. And whatever songs went on the album would be my choice. That's a producer's job,"

The 2009 album the group made, "Sonic Boom," was hailed as the best KISS CD in years and a return to form for the group.

Now KISS has "Monster" ready for its October release. Once again, Stanley was the producer, and it was written and recorded entirely by the current lineup of KISS.

Stanley isn't shy in expressing his excitement about the CD.

"'Monster' is exactly what the name implies. It's just a ferociously good album," Stanley said. "'Monster' is far, far, far beyond 'Sonic Boom.' It's a much more focused, a much bigger sounding album. The songs are better. And everybody's playing more assuredly. We clearly established on 'Sonic Boom' who we are now. And 'Monster' just reinforces that like a sledgehammer."