Tim Grierson of Metal Hammer magazine recently conducted an interview with KISS guitarist/vocalist Paul Stanley. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metal Hammer: It's been 11 years since KISS's last record. Why did you decide that now was the right time for a new album?
Stanley: "Another question would be 'why not?' 'Psycho Circus' was enough of a reason not to do another album for me - it was a really good and heartfelt attempt to try to make a KISS album when there wasn't a whole band. But when you're more in contact with attorneys for band members than the band members, it doesn't really make for a creative process that involves four people."
Metal Hammer: So what changed?
Stanley: "The time since then has been a very, very strong one for the band. The lineup has been stable for a long time, and that's because the band really is at its best, which is four individuals coming together with one focused goal — KISS. I think what people saw in the tour of the last year is a band at its peak. You can't make an album without that. I didn't want to see the KISS name on something that I had to apologise for."
Metal Hammer: What do you say to people who contend that "Sonic Boom" can't be a classic KISS album if it doesn't have the classic KISS lineup with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss?
Stanley: "A classic album would be made by four people with a classic point of view. We weren't trying to make an album that sounded like it was recorded 35 years ago. We weren't trying to make a retro album that somebody could confuse with one that came out before. What was important for me was to capture the spirit that the band has today. That's classic. It's not classic because it's mimicking something else — it's classic because it's vibrant and it's got all the spit, piss and vinegar that a band should have."
Metal Hammer: How did Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer contribute to "Sonic Boom"?
Stanley: "We couldn't have done this without Tommy and Eric. It's always funny to hear people have this idea that the band is [just] Gene and me. 'Sonic Boom' is the four of us — anybody who thinks we could have done this without them is out of their mind. They're as big a part of this album as any of us are. From writing to rehearsing to recording, this was a four-way project. What made it so much fun and so powerful was the fact that four people were all working toward a common goal. People weren't trying to showcase themselves but [rather] make a great album. When you make a great album, everybody gets showcased."
Metal Hammer: You said last year you wouldn't make another KISS album unless you "could do it the way I wanted to do it." How did that play out with "Sonic Boom"?
Stanley: "It really came down to some guidelines of what we should and shouldn't do. And the first [rule] was 'No outside songwriters.' It's very easy to do less work and have somebody write the majority of the songs for you, but what you wind up with is somebody's interpretation of who you are. Also, 'No old material.' The songs had to be for the album. When you start with the premise that band members have entitlement, it kinda precludes songs that may be better from getting on the album."
Metal Hammer: Gene was reluctant about making a new album too, complaining about illegal downloading. How did you deal with that issue?
Stanley: "Well, it's a reality and something that you try to prevent as much as possible, certainly before the album's out. In the grand scheme of things, though, it wasn't as important as [making] this album. We had a great album in us. For the KISS legacy and for the ongoing story of this band, we saw that as taking precedent."
Metal Hammer: This album came together pretty quickly, right?
Stanley: "We literally got together and wrote. Gene initially was a little ambivalent about the idea of he and I writing together, because we've got a long history at this point of writing on our own and doing everything our own way. But it was essential to the album that we do that and that the chemistry be there. And as soon as we sat down and wrote, it was effortless — very cool and a lot of fun. It was uncharted territory for all of us. It was terrific. We did it on days off on tour, or we did it when we were home. But it was everybody sitting around on chairs or on the sofa, the easiest thing we've ever done."
Metal Hammer: A lot of newer bands don't have the showmanship that you guys bring. Why do you think that is?
Stanley: "One of the problems nowadays is that a band can sell a few million albums and then go on tour, but that doesn't prepare them to know what it takes to entertain a large audience. We come from a school where, no matter how successful your albums were, you built a following and built your ability to perform by starting in a club. Then you were third on a bill, and second on a bill. You'd better believe that by the time you headlined, you knew what it was about. The reason classic rock bands sell tickets is because people know that they're going to get something worth going to. You don't learn that craft overnight."
Metal Hammer: Y'know, a lot of people wouldn't want to be labelled "classic rock."
Stanley: "I'm proud to be in the category of classic rock bands — what's better than the word 'classic?' Are you kidding? If you want to call LED ZEPPELIN a classic rock band and then you want to call us a classic rock band, I'm not fighting. If I'm going to be lumped in with anybody, let me be lumped in with my heroes. That doesn't preclude you from being current. It means that you have a solid history and a foundation, which most bands will never achieve because they won't survive that long."
Metal Hammer: What about younger bands? Do you go out on tour thinking that you want to school them on how it's done?
Stanley: "I don't think about that. What I think about is the audience that's coming to see us. Some of them are young enough that maybe they've only heard the legend of the band, or the idea of this band that goes out and gives 100 per cent and tries to give you an amazing show and really dazzle you. I only think about going out and being as good as they expect or better. But it's also about living up to our legacy for those who have seen the band - and to blow it away. Look, there's always going to be a certain amount of doubters who wonder if we can do it again. Whether it's the new stage or 'The band's older,' or 'Can Tommy do what Ace did?', everybody's got some preconceived idea. We try to go out there and smash those preconceived ideas to bits."
Metal Hammer: So you don't feel you have to compete with other groups?
Stanley: "We compete against our legacy. The only shadow that we're in is the KISS shadow and the KISS legacy. It's like an Olympic athlete — every time you go out, you do your best to try to beat your best. You can't always, but our track record's pretty damn good."
Read the entire interview from KissOnline.com.