KISS frontman Paul Stanley says that the band's tumultuous "Farewell Tour" in 2000 was nothing more than an attempt by the group to "put KISS out of its misery" after years of ego clashes and disagreements over songwriting credits between the band's original members.
In 1996, the original KISS foursome regrouped and embarked on a massively successful world tour, which lasted a little over a year. Less than two years later, Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley made plans to the studio to record "Psycho Circus", their first full studio album together since 1977's "Love Gun". (Peter was replaced by "ghost" drummer Anton Fig on all but one track on 1979's "Dynasty".) The results, however, fell far short of expectations, with Criss only playing drums on one song and Frehley appearing on two tracks.
"'Psycho Circus' was such a nightmare to make that it kind of turned me off to the whole idea of making another album," Stanley said during a recent appearance on "Talk Is Jericho", the podcast of Chris Jericho, the world champion pro wrestler, actor, New York Times best-selling author and lead vocalist of the metal band FOZZY. "But then at some point I thought, I don't want that to be our last album. It's not a good memory. Although 'Psycho Circus' has turned out to be a great song; it's terrific.
"Everything was wrong [during the making of 'Psycho Circus']."
He continued: "The problem that I have is that people say, 'Why don't you stop bashing Ace?' or 'Why don't you stop bashing Peter?' And I go, 'Well, if you ask the same questions, I have to give you the same answer.' The answer's not gonna change. Don't ask the question, because the truth is the truth. It's not a matter of wanting to bash somebody. I have to tell it the way it is.
"'Psycho Circus' was kind of like the result of a cancer that was building. We had gotten back together — we brought those guys [Ace and Peter] back — and they were just completely apologetic and remorseful and thankful to be back. And we never said they were gonna be equal partners. Why would they be equal partners? The band had existed [for many years without them]. So, that being said, nobody should start a collection, although they might need it now. But those guys won the lottery twice. And when they came back, they were pretty broke. And we could take 'pretty' out of that. And yet it wasn't too long after things started to happen again that they started doing the same stuff. And it just became ugly and no fun."
Stanley added: "The 'farewell' tour was us wanting to put KISS out of its misery. And for a while, honestly, we lost sight that we didn't have to stop; we had to get rid of them [Ace and Peter]. So the 'farewell' tour was really because it was unbearable to be with those guys — not just on a personal level. The playing was…. 'erratic' is a nice way of putting it. You just never knew what was gonna happen day to day on stage, and it was a challenge getting somebody to leave their room to come to the lobby. Forget about the show.
"So, anyway, the idea of doing 'Psycho Circus', the idea behind doing it was much greater than the reality of doing it. [We were, like], 'Let's do an album together.' [And then it was, like], 'Well, wait a minute…' You've got guys who are trying to renegotiate deals, and we're talking to lawyers more than we're talking to them, and this idea of, 'I should have this many songs [on an album].' And honestly, I've been writing songs for fifty years, and I've gotten pretty good at what I do. So it just became ugly and sad.
"By the 'farewell' tour, I thought we were disappointing people. People may have loved the excitement and the novelty of seeing us again, but many nights we weren't very good.
"My hope was when we got back together with the original lineup that everybody would have learned from the past and we would go forward — pick up where we left off and move forward. Instead we were virtually prisoners to doing the same songs every tour. You think I wanted to play 'em? The idea that I had to do interviews and come up with some nonsense when people would say, 'Why are you playing basically the same set?' Well, we didn't have much choice. So I thought that by the farewell tour, it was time to shoot the dog. To me, it was sad on so many fronts. And musically, I thought it… It comes down to this: if you read a review, or if somebody says you suck and you think you're great, that's all that counts. But when you agree, then you've got a problem. When you read something that's scathing, or you read something, and you go, 'That's right on the money.' That's when, hopefully, your pride kicks in and you go, 'They're right.'"
Frehley left KISS after the band's 2002 "Farewell Tour" dates, saying afterwards that he took the word "farewell" seriously. Criss has claimed that his contract with KISS wasn't renewed in March 2004. Both charges have been disputed by Stanley and Simmons.
Simmons and Stanley have chosen to have the rest of the current KISS lineup — guitarist Tommy Thayer and longtime drummer Eric Singer — dress up as Criss' and Frehley's respective "Spaceman" and "Catman" personas.