I went to Paul Stanley’s place high above Beverly Hills on 09-09-09, as the first question indicates, to talk about KISS’ new album, Sonic Boom, the band’s first studio album since 1998’s Psycho-Circus. “The house that bad reviews built,” as he wryly said, was being renovated, so we sat in the pool house that doubles as his art studio. We talked about the philosophy behind the new album, which went on to debut at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, his relationship with Gene Simmons, and his political views.
DID YOU RUSH OUT THIS MORNING AND BUY THE NEW BEATLES REMASTERS?
What did I do this morning? I rushed out and took my son to school, that’s what I did. I got my 3-year-old, put him in the car with my 15-year-old and drove my 15-year-old to school. So that was dad’s morning, and then doing press for the album for Europe.
FOR YEARS AND YEARS, YOU WERE ADAMANT ABOUT NOT DOING A FOLLOW-UP TO “PSYCHO CIRCUS.” WHAT CHANGED?
I think the band has become so, so strong live, with the lineup that’s been stable for quite a while. I thought we had a great album in us. The only road block was my producing it. I wasn’t interested in making another KISS album that was going to be confused, diffused or unfocused. It’s very hard to be in the studio with 4 guys who have their own sense of what we should be doing and oftentimes unfortunately in the past we’ve had situations where people were more concerned with having their songs on the album rather than having the best songs on the album. Or dealing with lawyers when we should have been dealing with band members. It was not productive. There have been times in the past where outside songwriters have been involved, which allows some people to do less work, and perhaps for the band to lose part of its own identity and take on someone else’s interpretation of who you are. First and foremost, I had to produce the album and that was agreed to pretty much immediately. Everyone was very gung-ho for that. It was very smooth sailing from there. I started thinking during the big run we did through Europe — I think we did 30 shows in 7 weeks and played to about 400,000 people — I began thinking we have a great album in us but somebody has to harness it.
ARE THERE DIPLOMATIC SKILLS INVOLVED IN TELLING GENE TO MOVE OVER SO THAT YOU CAN TAKE CONTROL?
No. Gene and I have a terrific relationship and have for 40 years. The length of time speaks for itself. Whenever we’ve disagreed it’s always been with the best interest of the band usually at the center. He certainly went along with it because he saw that I felt strongly about it. As time moved on quite quickly, I think he was a bit surprised at how productive a decision it was. I don’t think we’ve ever had more fun, according to everybody in the band, working together making an album. Everybody was focused on making a great album, and somebody just had to be there to, every once in a while, remind everybody who we are and what we are, and not stray from that. I think in the studio democracy is very over-rated.
I THINK IN A BAND SITUATION DEMOCRACY IS OVER-RATED
It’s certainly over-rated when you’re dealing with people who are delusional in terms of what their contributions or abilities are. Thankfully we have a band where everybody is very focused on what’s best for the band. But somebody needs to have final say, somebody needs to corral everything. It worked terrifically. That’s why there’s 11 songs on the album and there’s no filler. Filler usually means somebody twisted your arm into putting something on the album that didn’t belong there. There were no quotas on this album for songwriting, and it worked terrifically. So far, universally, the critics’ take on the album is pretty spectacular.
THAT THROWS OFF THE WHOLE KISS PARADIGM OF THE BAND VS. THE CRITICS!
Yeah, it’s great to believe in what you’re doing because then no matter what happens you have at least one fan. But it’s terrific when you do something just because you believe in it and then other people agree. It’s like Christmas twice. It’s very, very rewarding. We knew we were doing something very special and great, and it’s great to have the same sentiment echoed by critics. The last thing I wanted to do was make a retro album. I didn’t want to make an album that somebody would mistake for an album from 35 years ago. But we wanted to capture the excitement, the vitality, the commitment to the music that once was there and certainly is there now. It would be insane for anybody to think we could have made this album with any other lineup. This is the band at its best.
Read the rest in the second volume of my gossipy rock ‘n’ roll anthology, due in 2015 (or maybe 2016). The first volume, Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles, is available here. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com
Copyright © 2009, 2014 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING