'Being a rebel doesn't mean you have to fight anything. You just live your own
October 9, 2012 11:20 AM ET
Nearly four decades on, Kiss remain an ongoing and unlikely rock & roll success story, standing high on platform heels and painted in kabuki black-and-white, unloading fireballs and grinding hard-rock hooks around the world. Led by founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, Kiss has been back touring arenas and stadiums since the mid-Nineties, but the onetime platinum-selling quartet finally returned to the studio as a fully functioning recording unit with 2009's Sonic Boom.
The band has a new album, Monster, released today by Universal, and produced by singer-guitarist Stanley. He's taken the leadership role in the studio, and he wouldn't have it any other way, guiding Simmons, guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer to a sound that's loud and swaggering. It's given Kiss some new material to chew on for their ongoing road show, which just ended a successful tour across North America with Mötley Crüe.
"We're best off prowling the stage," Stanley tells Rolling Stone, during an interview about the new album, the current state of Kiss and the music that first inspired him. The makeup hasn't changed much since the Seventies, and neither has the attitude: "It's the embodiment of everything I am and have nurtured and created. I look in the mirror and go, 'Hey, there's Paul Stanley – he's so fuckin' cool!'"
You took the producer's role beginning with the last record, Sonic Boom. What did that mean for Kiss?
Democracy in the studio is overrated. What you wind up getting is compromise on everybody's part, which means that nobody has their way, and that means nobody wins, including the fans. I thought it was really important, and in my mind it was a deal-breaker – if I wasn't going to produce the albums, we weren't going to do albums at this point. Somebody had to set parameters and boundaries and voice expectations. To make sure everybody was committed, some things had to be spelled out.
It didn't change anything. I think we had more fun. All the cards were on the table and everybody knew what the game plan was. We're more productive. I never thought being the producer was being the dictator. It means being the director and being the coach. It's a way of keeping everybody focused on the goal, and also having final say. Everybody can be in the same car, but somebody has to drive.
You must have thought something was missing from Kiss albums.
It's important to make sure [Kiss] is everyone's primary focus. One way of doing that was to say "no outside writers." We recorded everything facing each other in a room. There's no substitute for collaboration within a band. We all like each other and enjoy each other's company and respect what each other is capable of doing.
I didn't get the producer role by default. I read some comment from Gene that he doesn't have the patience anymore, so he was happy to have me do it. The truth of the matter is, there wouldn't have been any albums if it had been any other way.
It isn't as if Kiss never wrote any hits on your own. How did you get into the habit of having outsiders contribute?
There were times where we weren't quite as focused. It's great to have talented people come in and ignite a spark and perhaps point you in a direction you might not normally go. That's great in its time. Look, Desmond [Child] and Diane [Warren], off the top of my head, are incredible talents and good friends of mine. But at this point, it was more important for us to dig deep and define who we are as an entity.
What was your plan for Monster?
I wanted to make an album that really harkened back to why I got into this in the first place. I was lucky enough as a kid to spend most of my weekends at the Fillmore East. On a great night, that was like a Holy Roller evangelical church. When rock & roll is done with that fervor, it's close to gospel. That's what I wanted to go for with this album – passion as opposed to perfection. James Brown wasn't perfect. Motown, the Beatles, the Stones, Zeppelin, early Elvis – I wanted to maintain the essence of it, getting a first, second or, if you really had to push it, a third take and record on analog tape and capture the intensity of what you're doing, and not compromise it.
Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/q-a-kiss-paul-stanley-on-new-album-monster-and-defining-rock-roll-20121009#ixzz28oiF2jke