Songwriter Interviews

Paul Stanley of Kiss

by Roger Catlin

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The LA Kiss finished their first season in the Arena Football League with a 3-15 record, but did so with all the fanfare, explosions and bombast you would expect from a team owned in part by Kiss members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons.

In this conversation with Stanley, he talks about bringing the Kiss approach to football, and explains why the band is so much more than their music.
Roger Catlin (Songfacts): When I first heard of the L.A. Kiss arena football team, I thought: Kiss may not know football, but they certainly know arenas, after four decades of touring.

Paul Stanley: We know arenas and we also know the point of view of trying to give people more for their money, give them an event. The same rules and laws that have made Kiss successful for 40 years apply to pretty much anything else you want to do. I always feel that rather than second guess other people, if I fulfill a need in myself, I will do the same in other people.

I'm not a sports aficionado but the idea of being able to take my kids or go with friends to see an event that not only brings in the gladiator competition but is also spectacle - great women dancers, BMX bike riders, pyro - that's why we came into the AFL.

The AFL, in my way of thinking, is the black sheep of football. LA Kiss is the black sheep of the AFL. But clearly we're doing something right because in spite of whatever our record is to date which gets scrutinized much more as a starting team understandably, we had 8,000 season tickets sold for this past season and we'll hopefully double that for the next.

Songfacts: How does this square with Kiss the band, though?

Stanley: For us, I think that Kiss is much bigger than rock 'n' roll. It's a way of life, it's a way of viewing challenges, so it made perfect sense. It wouldn't to most bands, but let's face it, most bands aren't the sharpest pencils in the box.

Songfacts: Was there skepticism in the league when Kiss came in to buy a team?

Stanley: Sure. Of course. The league, interestingly, for as much as they want to promote themselves, I think there was a certain reluctance that we would overshadow them, which really had to be calmed because anything that's good for LA Kiss is good for AFL.

Songfacts: How do you think Kiss managed to last 40 years?

Stanley: I think that clearly we're a little bit more insightful, a little brighter, a little bit more motivated, and also know how to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves. And somehow, for some people, that's counter the rock mentality, which is somebody else's loss.

I didn't do this either to become a dead legend or to wind up working in a car wash talking about my hit record from 10 years ago.

Songfacts: Does your show change when you go out on tour?

Stanley: Coke ran into a big problem when they came up with New Coke. Why do you need New Coke if Coke is selling? If you want Pepsi, you can buy it.

So I think for our fans, they want something that's identifiable. You could say brand identity, I say band identity. You want something that immediately harkens back to the beginning in some way or fashion. In fact, we're always moving forward. It's 40 years on. But to assume a new identity every time we go on tour would be completely counter to everything we're about. We are as we appear.

Besides being the chief songwriter and lead singer for Kiss, Paul Stanley has shaped the band's visual look, from the logo (adapted to look a little less like the German SS symbol) to album covers to clothing.

For the past 10 years, he's also been a professional artist, creating portraits and abstracts, claiming over $2 million in sales.
Songfacts: Do you change the set?

Stanley: I designed this latest stage set, which is arguably our best. People believe, and I'm in agreement, it's probably the best stage that we've had. We're not going to suddenly come out in red leather this year. We're not going to paint our faces green. We are Kiss. And arguably we're the most readily identifiable band in the world. We can go anywhere in the world and show somebody the photo and they may not know the individual names, but they'll tell you that's Kiss.

Songfacts: I was thinking more of the song list when you're on tour. Does that change?

Stanley: Well, we're in this enviable position that's also our cross to bear. We have so many songs that are considered classics, that it's hard to shift the set very much because people expect to hear certain songs.

Look, we don't come and play every week. So if you come and see us every couple of years, you get to hear a certain stable of songs. Perhaps we'll change up four or five of them, but it's tough when you have that many songs.

Born with a defect known as microtia, a deformity of the outer ear with additional loss of hearing on his right side, Stanley became a spokesman for the Canadian-based About Face organization that deals with children with facial differences and its impact on them.
Songfacts: And people want to hear them all.

Stanley: Yeah.

Songfacts: Who are you seeing in your audiences these days?

Stanley: It's a terrific audience because our audience at this point is almost tribal. It's gone beyond a rock concert. You have fathers bringing their children, you have families coming. Rock tends to be very age-specific, demographic-specific, whereas with us, that doesn't apply.

Most concerts, you don't want to see your little brother there. God forbid you see your dad there. But at Kiss, everybody is part of this huge secret society, so it has a very different feel to it. Some parents bring their kids almost as a right of passage.

This is much bigger than rock 'n' roll. I always say: Kiss is a phenomenon. Rock bands make music, phenomenons impact society.

January 12, 2015
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Comments: 10

  • Jim Beeding from Bellflower Capaul what your doing works thats all that matters
  • Janne Vinko from CaliforniaGreat talent combine with great marketing yields explosive results. They know how to get people to pay attention via their onstage personas. I'm learning how to sing here and so far it's been great. I've improved a lot
  • Bill from Columbus, Indiana Great article! Paul is KISS's biggest fan and they are a better band for it. Had it not been for him the band would have died in the early 80's. I have been a fan for 40 years, there alot of things over the years I have agreed with and disagreed with, but in the end they are MY band. They really don't care if you like it or not, this is what they do and guess what, they still fill up stadiums, arenas, and clubs. I would like the set list to be changed up...not for obscure stuff but different "classics" that get left out. I have taken first timers to many shows and I always get the same reaction....that was Awesome, why did I wait so long to go? It's a KISS world, we are just living in it. Look around the band/brand is EVERYWHERE. KISSRULES!
  • Scott from Los Angeles, CaI think a lot of Paul and do believe KISS has maintained itself because he and Gene are quite smart in addition to talented. I agree that nobody wants to see them come out in red or green. The only thing I question is the set list. It is a tribal atmosphere with all generations but most have seen KISS many, many times over 40 years. I don't agree that we want to see only a few changes to the set each year or 2. The hit list is long and we would like KISS to mix it up. Having everything the same for 40 years doesn't make it interesting. It actually gets boring. The non-maleup period was nice for that reason. The set list wasn't the same list of the 70's songs. Stay KISS but please change the set list up.
  • Rob from Phillipsburg NjI have been a fan since 1980 Eric Carr being my influence to being drummer and with no doubt kiss has risen above any band out there as well as setting that standard you guys are awesome and thank for the 40 years of grea tr music
  • Mike from New Jersey Wow, he certainly thinks the world of himself doesn't he?
  • Sherie Stanley from Texas Paul is always so ahead and says the right things !love you starchild⭐️
  • Cindyl from Spfld,ohI real good about Kiss in general I was afraid of expressing myself about how I feel about a band that I have admired for so long..I am so glad that I can reach out,like I am there.But I'm not.They are fantastic people in the group.They maybe artists but they are people too.
  • Lori Noble from MichiganI think KISS has kept themselves grounded, Gene and Paul don't think they are the best band, but I think they are in the top 5..
  • Vik from CtPaul's starting to approach Gene in general blowhardedness.
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