A major influence on members of Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, Pantera, Marilyn Manson, Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam alike, KISS not only changed rock music but all guitar-related music for that matter. As one of the singers and songwriters behind KISS, Paul Stanley played a role in the creation of plenty of long-standing rock anthems, including “Rock And Roll All Night,” “Detroit Rock City,” “Shout It Out Loud,” “Lick It Up,” and “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”. However, Stanley’s music-related success has gone well beyond KISS, as he has not only released a pair of a solo albums and written and produced for other artists, but also the New York native starred in the Toronto production of Phantom Of The Opera.
2018 is proving to be yet another banner year for Stanley. Not only is he playing shows with KISS and his Motown-influenced Soul Station band, but Stanley is showcasing his painting with four gallery shows, his first of which will be at the Wentworth Gallery Short Hills in New Jersey on April 28th; RSVPs for the Short Hills gallery event can be called in to 973-564-9776. Further Wentworth exhibitions will be taking place in Georgia, Maryland and Virginia in the months following. More information on those showings and Stanley’s other projects — including the successful chain of Rock & Brews restaurants and the upcoming KISS Kruise on the Norwegian Jade cruise ship — can be found online at www.paulstanley.com.
Here’s a video with more info on Paul Stanley’s appearance in New Jersey.
Earlier in our chat you had mentioned Soul Station within the context of your practice space. Is there any upcoming Soul Station activity planned for?
Paul Stanley: We’re working on putting together a TV special that would air, and recording. We would love to be in the studio recording, taking it to the next level. It’s such an amazing band, and it’s so valid in terms of playing these classic Motown and Philly songs the way they originally were played, and playing them with respect and reverence. It’s just a phenomenal show and a phenomenal evening when you have a band made up of a who’s who of people who have played with everyone from Smokey Robinson to Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole, The Temptations, John Mayer, Christina Aguilera… When you have people who have this feeling of a crusade to pay homage to a music that unfortunately seems to be relegated to samples on a rap song. There’s so much great music to be played, between this massive band that we have, it’s pure joy.
Beyond the soul genre, you showed prowess with country on the song “Hard Luck Woman”. Did you ever think of getting into the Nashville scene as a co-writer?
Stanley: I don’t want to say it’s a very closed-off… It’s a community-based music and they tend to be quite self-contained, and understandably so. There’s enough things out there for me that I don’t need permission to do, in the sense that I don’t need someone to open the door for. So I tend to do the things where I make the choices.
Check out a sampling of Paul’s impressive artwork here.
Another end of that spectrum. I remember 12 years or so ago, I remember you had a co-written a song for the pop-rock band The Click Five. Was that part of a plan at the time to do more co-writing for other artists?
Stanley: I’m always open to writing if someone comes and it seems fun for me. It’s not a monumental undertaking. It’s not something that I have to prepare for, it’s pretty spur of the moment. If something were to come along and it made sense… I wrote and co-produced a huge hit song in Japan for a group called Momoiro Clover Z. I heard their music and I was asked and I thought, “sure, I can do that,” and I did. Very much in the same way that when I heard Rod Stewart, when I heard “Mandolin Wind” and “Maggie May” and those songs, I went “I bet I can do that” and I wrote “Hard Luck Woman.” Dance music was at its initial peak, I was at Studio 54 and I listened to a bunch of songs and I wrote “I Was Made For Lovin’ You.” It doesn’t take a lot of preparation. Instead of preparation, I like to go on inspiration.
Where does all of this positivity come from, you think? From reading your book and hearing a lot of interviews with you, you did not have an easy childhood, yet the work ethic has always been there.
Stanley: Right. The positivity comes from results. The more positive results you have from your positivity, the more positive you become. It’s affirming of your belief system when you find out you’re right. So if there’s a naysayer, or someone who would say that my philosophy is corny, well, it got me here. Not only did it get me here in a business sense, but it’s made a life for me that’s far beyond anything I had contemplated or knew had existed. It’s all based on positivity, upon a positive outlook, which doesn’t mean that things are easy. It means that hard work can pay off. The only way to find out how important something is to you is to find out how hard you are willing to work to achieve it.
Here is a live video of the Paul Stanley solo single “Live To Win”.
Something that’s come up a lot on your social media lately is a trip you recently took to New York with your children, where you took them to your childhood home in New York. As someone who has been California-based for decades, do you still identify as a New Yorker?
Stanley: I identify as a New Yorker in the sense that my roots and my formative years are in New York. I drove a cab in New York. Am I a New Yorker? I wouldn’t exist without New York. I wouldn’t be who I am without New York. No matter where I live, that was my springboard. That was formative years for me. To be able to take my children to the building I grew up in, which was a one-bedroom apartment, where my parents slept on a fold-out sofa. For us to get to the kitchen while they were sleeping, we had to crawl under the sofa. (laughs) For me to be able to share that with my kids is a blessing for all of us. For me to be able to go back and revisit my past, and also show my children the difference in where we live and how we live versus where I lived and how I lived.
Having done Broadway in Canada, is Broadway in New York something that’s still on your to-do list?
Stanley: There’s only so much time. The other thing for me has always been that if you’re going to do something, you owe it to yourself and ultimately others to do it properly. When I did Phantom, I came to New York to audition and get signed off, then went up to Canada where the show had been running 10 years. It was daunting, but it was something I could do if I was willing to do the work. That being said, it turned out amazingly-well, eight shows a week, standing ovations. When I finished Phantom, I was offered to go to Broadway to do a different musical and I just didn’t think it was worth the amount of effort I would have to put in to do it the way I would want to. In other words, to get involved with something that doesn’t meet your standards or requirements takes as much time. You don’t skimp based upon how you feel about something. If you commit to something, you give it 100 percent. I found myself not wanting to commit that amount of time.
On this last trip to New York, going to Phantom and having the cast and production people push for me to do it is an amazing and wonderful feeling. I don’t know if and when I could, but the experience of live theater is staggering. It’s unlike anything else. It’s unlike film in that you shoot a scene 50 times, someone chooses which take they’re going to use, and then they edit it, so you have no immediate connection and the finished production is only part you. Whereas when you do live theater, you’re virtually on a tightrope without a net, and if you make it across, you get appropriately-rewarded by the audience. That’s something that is certainly a draw for me in terms of wanting to do it, but I’m also aware that there’s so many hours in a day and so many years in your life.
Check out Paul Stanley’s 2016 Pollstar Keynote Speech.
When I had the pleasure of interviewing Gene a few months ago, he had mentioned the idea of a KISS-themed Broadway musical. Has there been any progress on that in recent months?
Stanley: It’s been discussed, literally, for decades. Certainly now is a more appropriate time. But from my point of view, you only get one chance to do something right. Although there have been numerous offers, I would rather do nothing than do something I would regret. There’s been some initial great starts that turned out to come to a halt. As of now there’s nothing planned, but that could change on a day’s notice.
That’s interesting to me that it wouldn’t bother you if it never happened, but is there anything you are still hoping will happen within the KISS legacy?
Stanley: No, because it’s all happening and it all has happened. I see the indelible bootprint that we’ve made and KISS DNA is in every live band’s show out there. We’ve also raised the standard of what audiences expect and will tolerate from performers. That’s incredibly-rewarding, and to have other bands and musicians say “Gee, without you there’d be no me” is great. I think that that’s validation to a point that says that this band should continue with or without me. When a band or anything, a team, lasts 40 years, 50 years, the only way for it to continue is to evolve. That means in terms of personnel, otherwise it’s impossible. There are bands touring at this point with one or no original members and I have no problem with that because it didn’t happen overnight. It was a series of changes over years or decades. If someone were to say, “well there’s no original members in one of the versions of Yes,” I’d say “who cares?” It sounds like Yes and the pedigree is Yes, so is it Yes? Yes! (laughs)
In closing, Paul, any last words for the kids?
Stanley: Growing older doesn’t mean that you have to grow up.