Paul Stanley: Boom Times
Originally published in Guitar World, Holiday 2009
Paul Stanley talks about Kiss’ success as a live act and how he and Gene Simmons once again found their old chemistry and made Sonic Boom pure dynamite.
On a recent autumn afternoon, Paul Stanley was relaxing at his L.A. home prior to hitting the road for another leg of Kiss’ Alive 35 tour. He took the occasion to talk with Guitar World about the long and winding road that has brought him and the band from Alive! to Sonic Boom, Kiss’ latest album.
GUITAR WORLD Is it significant that Kiss were propelled to the top of the charts in 1975 by a live album?
PAUL STANLEY Definitely. I think we’ve always been a live animal. What we found back then was that our first three studio albums weren’t selling particularly well, yet we were quickly becoming a band that was selling out live venues everywhere. There was no correlation between our ticket sales and our album sales. It became clear that what was needed was an audio souvenir of the Kiss experience. But I don’t think we could ever have predicted that Alive! would become as big or as important as it did. As soon as it came out, they couldn’t keep it in the stores, because it was the album that everybody who loved the band had been waiting for.
GW Why did you decide to release Sonic Boom as a package with a live DVD and a bonus album of rerecorded Kiss hits [titled Kiss Klassics]?
STANLEY With all the classic Kiss albums, you always got more than just an album. We put in tattoos or posters, or love guns [Love Gun came with a cardboard “love gun” (assembly required)]. Working with Wal-Mart as the exclusive distributor of Sonic Boom put us in a position where we could do more than just put out an album. Wal-Mart made it possible for us to include the disc of 15 classic tracks and the DVD of performances from one of our stadium shows in Buenos Aires.
GW The songs on Sonic Boom seem custom made for big stadiums. “Stand,” in particular is quite anthemic. It’s even got the “Hey Jude,” crowd sing-along ending!
STANLEY At our best, that’s what we do when we write. Actually, I think my style of songwriting comes more from the [late Fifties/early Sixties] days of pop than from heavy metal. I think a song needs a verse, a prechorus and a chorus. These are things that a five-minute guitar solo is never going to take the place of.
GW Your stuff is always pretty classically structured: a good bridge and, as you say, three good verses and a killer chorus.
STANLEY Yes. I like to think that a song comes full circle. It leaves you satisfied at the end because it takes you back to where you started, only at a higher level of emotion. Dynamics and the way you build a song’s arrangement are important, but you have to build on a foundation.
GW In the early days, you and Gene shared writing credit on some of the band’s best-known songs, including “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Strutter.”
STANLEY Yeah. It’s interesting. Gene and I often put both our names on them. And there are other songs that we didn’t put both our names on, but where we also had a big hand in each other’s writing. And on Sonic Boom we wrote together. I was very adamant that we write together. I think there was a little hesitation about it at first, but it was effortless. At first Gene said, “Well, we write differently now, and our styles have changed.” I said, “No. It’s essential to the chemistry of the band to have us write together.” Both our names are on a lot of the new songs.
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