KISS — Interviews, concert reviews and commentaries
by Alan K. Stout
KISS Promises In-Your-Face Action With Eye-Popping, 3-D Tour
(Interview, November 1998)
The Times Leader
By Alan K. Stout
Out of all the members of KISS who may have had the biggest apprehension about the band's 1996 reunion tour with its original members, you'd think it would have been Paul Stanley.
The charismatic singer and guitarist seemed to be doing just fine during KISS' quite successful non-makeup run from 1983 to 1995. It was Stanley - not bassist Gene Simmons - that took on the most central role in the band during a time when it sold 10 million records. It was Stanley who was most involved with the production of albums, led the band's spirited live shows and - even without his starry-eyed, ruby lipped pout - maintained his status as a rock 'n' roll sex symbol throughout the'80s and early '90s.
Still, Stanley says the prospect of re-forming the original group - billed from 1974 through 1980 as "The Hottest Band in The World" - was more than appealing. With old wounds healed and a clearer heads prevailing, he says he was quite happy to slap on the greasepaint and reunite with guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss.
"I was really excited about it," says Stanley, 46, calling from Los Angeles for an interview with The Times Leader. "It was one of those big challenges. All we ever wanted to do without Ace and Peter was continue the path that we set with the original lineup, so to wind up back home with the original lineup is a great thing. Nobody can be KISS better than the original members."
Stanley does, however, admit to some early reservations about the tour.
"I certainly said to everybody in the band all along that I would rather stay home than not do it right," he says. "Even during rehearsals, I said 'Listen, if we don't want to do this properly, I'm certainly fine going home.' The thing that's always been most important to me is making sure the history of the band and the legacy and the legend that we created during the '70s - and the '80s - stayed intact. To tarnish that with a half-hearted, disastrous reunion would have really been a mark that would be unerasable ...
"I took it very seriously."
KISS' widely successful 1996-97 "Alive/Worldwide" reunion tour became the top-grossing concert event of the year. Stanley says that as the tour began to wind down, the group's thoughts turned toward a new album. The result is "Psycho Circus," KISS' first LP in nearly 20 years featuring all four original members. The album - released in September - debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard chart and has already been certified gold.
"To be viable and to consider ourselves a real band and not a band that was relying upon nostalgia, we felt if we were going to continue, we very much wanted to go in do an album," says Stanley. "What we had to do was continue the chemistry and the magic that was on the tour. That was the challenge ... to get that into the studio."
Produced by hard-rock guru Bruce Fairbairn, whose credits include recordings with Aerosmith, AC/DC and Bon Jovi, "Psycho Circus" offers lead vocals from all four members. Like KISS' classic work from the '70s.
Still, don't expect "Love Gun II."
"The idea wasn't to go in and replicate or create a retro album," says Stanley. "What we very much wanted to do was go forward, but still capture the magic of who KISS is. We didn't make a conscious effort to be anything we once were, but realized - without trying - that's who we are."
Stanley says he isn't bothered that the mainstream rock press has never fully recognized KISS for its songs. The band is, in a sense, the most successful American rock group of all-time - second only in gold records to the Beatles. There have been tribute albums, tribute bands, accolades from countless young musicians and an army of loyal fans, who maintain that makeup and flash-pods can't make great records.
"Seventy million people can't be wrong," says Stanley with an easy confidence. "For those who don't get it or don't understand it - they're in the vast minority. Who in their right mind would spend their time trying to convert the few when the masses are behind us?"
"Welcome to the show," shouts Stanley repeatedly on the chorus to "Psycho Circus." The song, obviously written with the stage in mind, invites the listener into the wild concert world of KISS. And as should be expected from the band that helped redefine the modern stage show, Stanley says the latest tour will be just that - a show.
"The idea of the 'Psycho Circus' tour is once again to build on our history," he says. "It's to build on the momentum and build on the standards we've set for ourselves. We're musicians, and we're a rock band, but when you hit the stage, you up the ante. We're very proud to be entertainers.
"I remember too often being in the audience at a show and paying money that was hard to come by and often feeling disappointed or disrespected by a band that seemed to forget that I put them on stage, and I was paying for their car and their house. "
KISS' latest tour will be the first live concerts offering a full 3-D effects. Concert-goers will receive special glasses upon entry that, when used with the mammoth video screens around the stage, will give new meaning to the words "in your face." Simmons' trademark fire-breathing may have people ducking for cover.
"We have all the things that make a KISS show," says Stanley. "We have more bombs and more pyro. Peter's drums not only go up, but they go forward. Ace obviously will be shooting rockets; Gene will be flying up into the lights."
It appears you'll need no special effects to get a close look at him. During one number, he swings off to a smaller stage near the sound board.
"I'll be flying out to the middle of the arena," he says. "The 3-D is a way to try and get everybody a front row seat. If that's not good enough, I'm coming out to see ya."
KISS IN CONCERT
* Bryce Jordan Center, Penn State University Campus, University Park. Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. $42.40, $28.50. Tickets available only through the Bryce Jordan Center. Call (814) 863-1571 or 1-800-863-3336.
* First Union Center, Philadelphia. Saturday, 8 p.m. $50 and $35. Tickets available at Ticketmaster outlets or through Tickemaster Charge-By-Phone at 693-4100.
* Continental Arena at The Meadowlands, East Rutherord, N.J. Sunday, Nov. 22, 8 p.m. $30-$85. Tickets available through New Jersey Ticketmaster at (202) 507-8900.
* Madison Square Garden, New York City. Monday, Nov. 23. 8 p.m. $30-$85. Tickets available through New York Ticketmaster at (212) 307-7171
* Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale N.Y. Friday, Nov. 27. 8 p.m. $30-$85. Tickets available through Long Island Ticketmaster at (516) 888-9000.
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