BILLBOARD INTERVIEW WITH PAUL STANLEY AND GENE SIMMONS
For 40 years, Kiss has built a legacy on being a must-see live spectacle, with elaborate makeup, costumes and pyro that can still pack arenas and stadiums around the globe. And indeed, the bandís founding members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons had finished a sold-out South American stadium tour just hours prior to returning to Los Angeles.
The occasion? The ASCAP Pop Music Awards, where Simmons and Stanley accepted the ASCAP Founders Award, an annual honor given to a music pioneer. Though Kiss will continue to tour throughout the year, with treks that are about to take them into Germany, the Czech Republic and Australia, ďit was always about the songs,Ē Stanley said in his acceptance speech. ďFor bands that last 40 years, itís not about the smoke, itís not about the makeup, itís about the songs."
Stanley, 62, and Simmons, 65, are the only founding members who still tour as Kiss, though they did reunite with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss for the bandís 2014 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But in an interview with Billboard, the seemingly ageless rockers didnít spend much time dwelling on the importance of certain trophies. Instead, they seemed genuinely grateful to be in the position of being a still-vital draw on the road that, Stanley says, can crank out some solid new tunes when the inspiration strikes.
Billboard: Congrats on receiving the ASCAP Founders Award. Given all the attention paid to your live show, what does winning a songwriting-based award mean to you?
Paul Stanley: I believe we come from a philosophy that really covets and looks up the source, whether it was the Brill Building and Goffin and King or Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, or the Gershwin Brothers or Lennon-McCartney, it really comes down to a great song. For us to be feted this way, join the company that have come before, it doesnít suck.
How did Dave Grohl come to be selected for your introduction tonight?
Stanley: Iím friends with Dave, and really when I said would you come and do this he jumped at it. Look Dave is arguably the last major rock star of the last three decades. Heís filling stadiums worldwide because he understands his roots and thatís what weíre about. Some people have forgotten where we started and who inspired us.
Itís been just over a year since you received another distinct honor, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A year out, what does that recognition mean to you now?
Gene Simmons: Iím not sure. When youíre busy doing your own stuff itís like running a race. You try not to look over your shoulder to see who else is in the race, you do the best you can. I think thereís a decided difference between the pop songwriters who are magnificent in their own way. I could never do what they do, which is to sit down and write a song and figure out which artist is gonna sing the song. I canít do that. I think what weíre best at is writing songs for who we are. Itís an individual sort of approach, itís defined, itís for the fans. I donít know that you can be all things to everybody, which is why there are different kinds of music. There are balladeers and guitar slingers and so forth. If your songs connect with the fans and they pump their fists in the air and go, ďYeah!!Ē thatís when a song really works. Thatís the electric church of it. The glory hallelujah of it.
How much time do you still spend these days writing new music? And has that process changed from when you first started out?
Stanley: I think at this point I write when thereís a reason to write. To sit down, there are so many outlets to be creative and certainly the recording industry or whatís left of it is really in shambles. The only reason to record at this point or write songs is to make a statement about the current band, and that we donít only rely on our old catalog. I think weíre very fortunate to have come out when we did, and to not be relying upon an industry that has basically committed suicide.
Simmons: Weíve been around for 41 years, but you know what Paul just said is actually true. Donít misunderstand, weíre not complaining. We have very good lives, the arenas and stadiums fill up, we can go anywhere in the world and we have a ball. It is really -- maybe profoundly is the right word -- but itís really sad for the new artists. Whereís the next Elvis, whereís the next Beatles, where's the Zeppelin? Theyíre out there but they donít have a chance. They donít have a chance because once upon a time we had record companies, and they would support you and have point of purchase material and they would give you advances. In other words, they gave you the air to breathe to find yourself and spend the time to learn how to run.
Stanley: Well they championed you and nurtured you.
Simmons: And thatís whatís missing. So the next big band, the next Zeppelin, what are they gonna do? Give away their music for free? Theyíre gonna be living in their momís basement, unfortunately, and theyíre never gonna get the chance that we did which is the saddest part of all for the new bands because there should always be a new generation of bands.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of KISS as a band. Will you be celebrating that milestone?
Stanley: Itís interesting because for us, everyday is a celebration, everyday is a milestone. The idea that 40 years is more significant than 39 was? It doesnít affect us. We literally got off a plane yesterday morning from Sao Paolo, 70,000 people were at the show. And all the other shows were comparable to that. So the idea of going out and making some sort of extra celebration? Every night we hit the stage is a celebration. Itís a victory dance, itís a victory lap. Against all the people who said it would never work, against all the people who said it was ridiculous. We won.