KISS star Paul Stanley on the band's legacy, possible biopic and former group members
Days before their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Kiss founding member Paul Stanley has ripped the organization as an elitist and clueless club. (April 10) Video provided by AP
The iconic rock band KISS returns to Des Moines on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Arena for its End of the Road World Tour.
As the KISS army prepares for the performance, Paul Stanley, the rhythm guitarist and co-lead vocalist of the group spoke candidly to the Des Moines Register about the legacy of the band, former bandmates guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss and more.
End of the Road
KISS formed Jan. 4, 1973, in New York City. After 46 years, Stanley said the band is ready to celebrate.
"If we were any other band that plays in T-shirts and sneakers, we could do this into our 90s, but we're KISS, and we live to a much higher level and standard," Stanley said in a phone interview Friday. "Each one of us can be carrying up to 40 or 50 pounds of gear and running around on stage and making it look easy. At some point that won't be possible to do so at the level that we do it."
They didn't want to wait that long: "Let's do a victory lap around the world. Celebrate. So that's what we're doing."
Almost 20 years ago, KISS was supposed to be on its last tour (Farewell Tour) with its original four members, Stanley, Gene Simmons, Frehley and Criss. Stanley said he and Simmons were miserable, performing standard shows and not having fun.
"At that point, I think Gene and I believed that the only solution was to call it to quits —when we didn't want to say farewell to KISS; we wanted to say farewell to two of the members," he said.
He praised the current roster, with drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer: "KISS has evolved into something ferocious and worthy of legend."
While this is the End of the Road World Tour for KISS, it's not the end for Stanley. The 67-year-old still plans to perform even after the conclusion of the tour Dec. 19 in Nagoya, Japan.
"Music is in my blood. So the idea that I would stop isn't very possible. I'm a musician," Stanley said. "I love music, and I will continue to make it, although the idea of ever reaching the level of KISS would be fantasy."
What can fans expect?
Stanley wouldn't divulge the Tuesday show opener: "You have to be there," he answered. All eras of the band will be featured. The KISS army could prepare to hear a wide range of hits, including "Heaven's On Fire," "Lick It Up," "I Love It Loud," "Forever," and so much more.
The last time KISS was in Iowa's capital was in 2016 at the Iowa State Fair, but the group's history in Des Moines dates back to the '70s. "It's the passion and the ferocity of our audience, and Des Moines has never let us down," Stanley said.
Fans may be able to catch Stanley at Zombie Burger, or another hot spot in Des Moines that he hasn't visited in the past.
KISS's legacy and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
With the band having sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, Stanley describes the act's legacy and impact with two words: "independence" and "self-empowerment."
In 2014, KISS was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Through the years, the band has experienced critics from the Hall, who didn't respect the groups theatrical taste in makeup, giant boots, unique outfits, wild hair and more.
Stanley said the public's love for the group won out over time.
He also had some words for the people who were in charge of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, especially co-founder Jann Wenner.
The "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame became almost a joke over time because every year people would wonder who these people were that were inducting. It became a fan club for a bunch of old-time record presidents and people like Jann Wenner … who were living with his nose in the air and their lives in the past," he said. "For us to be rejected for 17 years, I believe it was absurd."
Stanley said he isn't concerned about what any other critic has to say about KISS. He believes that the "people" have deemed the group "the hottest band in the land." However, he does wish that other members of KISS had been inducted along with him, Simmons, Frehley and Criss. Stanley said that Bruce Kulick, a guitarist, should have been inducted along with fallen band member and drummer Eric Carr, who died in 1991.
"It was the politics of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that would allow bands that they like to choose among themselves, who they wanted to have inducted. Whereas with us, they told us who they would induct, and there was no room for discussion," Stanley said. "Sadly, some people who have been and continue to be cornerstones of this band were ignored."
Biopic in the works?
Rock 'n' roll biopics aren't hard to find. Stanley said that there have been proposals of KISS biopics in the past 15 to 20 years. Most presentations weren't great — until now, he said: "There is a script right now being worked on that finally has a lot going for it. So that's certainly in the foreseeable future."
Who should play Stanley?
The multi-platinum musician wants someone who's going to win an Academy Award. And to play Simmons, that actor "should be the runner-up."
Battles with Frehley and Criss
In 2014, Stanley penned his memoir "Face The Music: A Life Exposed." In the book, Stanley describes his battles with the original members of the band. But he doesn't diminish what they've helped build for KISS. "The band wouldn't have existed without the original members, Peter and Ace. There would be no band without them, but there would be no band today with them," he said.
Over the years, Stanley dealt with his former bandmates' bouts with substance abuse. He describes the emotional and mental toll it took on him while Criss and Frehley were still a part of the band. "Well, it's sad because when you're dealing with somebody with substance abuse, they're not talking or thinking clearly," he said. "Even though they will be adamant in telling you they know what they're doing and saying, neither is true."
Stanley said that, for him, if he sees somebody drowning, he will try to help, but "as soon as they start drowning me, I have to let them go." For Stanley, his relationship with Criss and Frehley are strained, especially when the group was on their Farewell Tour.
KISS fans rocked and rolled all night at KISS Farewell Tour in Corpus Christi Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Wochit
While Stanley and Simmons were doing 100 or more shows a year, he said that there was a lot of catching up to do for some of the original members. "There was a lack of wanting to put in the effort."
"It just didn't, in the long run, work out, and there was a bad feeling," he said. While Frehley and Criss reuniting with Stanley and Simmons is slim, Stanley said he is happy to say that he can barely touch base with issues from the past. Instead, he dotes on Thayer and Singer.
"Tommy and Eric have been a life force that has taken the band to a completely different level, and they are as dedicated as we are to making the band more famous, very different philosophy than some people," Stanley said.
KISS in concert
Where: Wells Fargo Arena, 730 Third St., Des Moines.
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: Still available at Ticketmaster.com.
Paul Stanley: He calls the show the "biggest thing we've ever done, between computerization and synchronization of different aspects from pyro to lights to hydraulics."