Paul Stanley Q&A: Kiss Frontman On 'Destructive' Childhood, New Book and Why the Rock Hall Is Like a 'Distorted Bar Mitzvah'
In April, Stanley embarks on a book tour for his memoir "Face the Music: A Life Exposed"… The rocker talks why he finally put his life on paper, the inaccuracies of Gene Simmons' own book, and what actually went down with the Rock Hall of Fame
Few bands know how to celebrate better than Kiss; it coined the concept "rock and roll all night and party every day," after all. And this is a time of celebration for the group, with this year marking the 40th anniversary of its first two albums, the launch of the Arena Football League's L.A. Kiss and its upcoming Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (though not without drama; read on) on April 10 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Best of all for frontman Paul Stanley is the April 8 publication of his autobiography "Face the Music: A Life Exposed," a revealing memoir in which he writes frankly about the travails of his youth and the triumphs and tribulations of both Kiss and his personal life.
Stanley lights out on a six-city book tour that begins April 7 at the Tribeca Barnes & Noble in New York with subsequent stops at the Barnes & Noble in Staten Island (April 8); Bookends in Ridgewood, N.J. (April 9); Barnes & Noble at The Grove in Los Angeles (April 16); Warwick's in La Jolla, Calif. (April 17); and the San Francisco Jewish Community Center on April 25.
With all that going on, it's not surprising our conversation with the Starman was wide-ranging and characteristically forthright.
You're the last of the original Kiss members with a book of your own. Just a slacker?
It really had nothing to do with the band as far as being first, last, middle. It wasn't with any of that in mind. The truth of the matter is I had sworn for, literally, decades not to write an autobiography. I always go back to George Orwell, who said the autobiography is the most outrageous form of fiction. And I would say 90-plus, 95 percent of the autobiographies by any of my contemporaries would be better suited on a roll of soft paper, so at least you could use it for something, 'cause they're nothing more than self-serving fantasies or delusions or love letters to themselves. They serve no purpose. What I finally came to grips with was the idea that my life could be inspiring to other people... and almost more importantly I wanted something that my children could read when they got older to understand what it took for me to succeed and a better understanding of who I am and perhaps what they need in their lives to move forward. So there was a real purpose to this as opposed to just some sort of bragging rights.
That purpose being...?
I guess my book is about never quitting and about never losing sight of where you're going. Truly, obstacles are what you see when you lose sight of your goals. I've always been driven and, at my core, I've always been about my own survival and, for lack of a better word, how I can make it better. And certainly I couldn't have written this book if it didn't have a happy ending! (laughs)
There is a lot more struggle in your book, especially in your youth, than many would expect -- family dysfunction and especially the misshapen right ear and being deaf on that side. That's something you kept quite for decades. Why?
It was too painful. You can only reveal things and you can only deal with things when you're ready to. My experiences as a child were so debilitating and destructive that the best way for me to deal with my ear was to cover it and to, at least on the surface, ignore what was going on -- although that really wasn't an answer. Luckily, as an adult I found different ways to resolve some of those issues and also to find some surgical relief and modifications.
You go into depth about a lot of relationships, especially within the Kiss camp, but maybe the most fascinating is what you have to say about Gene. It seems very much like brothers -- obviously bonded, but not always happy with each other.
Oh, sure. Over the years that's been an ongoing theme in our relationship. There have been times where I've been very angry and resentful -- and I'm not saying momentarily. I'm saying for long periods of time. But time is the ultimate judge, and the fact that we've been together at this point for, my gosh, 44 years almost says volumes. We ARE brothers, and I know that in a pinch I can count on him and he knows the same, and that doesn't take away from the fact I think he's done some pretty crummy things. But that is because of who he is and his issues.
Did you read Gene's book, and the others'?
No. I read parts of Gene's book and I thought it was told from his point of view, but Gene puts himself in the epicenter of everything, and that might be because he's an only child. But that doesn't mean it's accurate. I want credit where credit is due, but I don't want credit for things I didn't do and I want to share the accolades with the people who make things possible, and I don't think (Simmons') book did that. So after reading some of it and having been present at much of what went on in that book, it just wasn't accurate so I didn't read it. In the case of Peter or Ace, there is a reason that defense attorneys don't put alcoholics or drug addicts on the witness stand; now, I'm not saying that they presently are, but that is a condition that lasts a lifetime. My point is that memories and recollections and the accuracy of people who were in altered states during much of what they purport happened is subject to question. And the small bits that a few people pointed out to me were absolutely outrageous to the point that I wondered if (Frehley and Criss) actually believed them.
So what actually went down with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and your decision not to play at the ceremony?
Oh, it starts decades go. That it's 14 years on (of eligibility) and we're getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a clear indication that the people who hide behind that moniker don't like us, but it reached a point where it was so absurd and ludicrous (to exclude Kiss) that they caved. But they're only going to induct the original four (members), and bringing up the idea of inducting members other than the original four...was shut down as a non-starter. It's a very valid argument considering that there are people who played on multi-platinum albums and played for millions of people and were very important for the continuation of the band. And clearly when you've got a busload of Gratefful Dead (members) who have been inducted and guys in the Chili Peppers who nobody knows who they are because they played on the very earliest albums are inducted, and when the original drummer of Rush, John Rutsey, who played on a classic album, isn't inducted. The list goes on and on of the inconsistencies. Now, I'm not pointing fingers at any of those people, but I'm certainly pointing a finger at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The only consistencies are inconsistencies and the rules clearly are there are no rules because the criteria for how and who gets in is purely based upon a personal like or dislike. And when I feel we're being treated unfairly, I have issues with that.
Any idea of why they're drawing such a hard line with Kiss?
Well, it's like them swallowing a teaspoon of medicine they don't want. It's a bitter pill for them to swallow, so they're making it as small as possible. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is kind of like a distortion of a bar mitzvah. Just 'cause I'm getting inducted doesn't mean this has turned into a love fest.
You could just play with the original four of you, of course.
They wanted the original four guys to play, in makeup. But, honestly, I don't want to roll the dice and possibly negatively impact on what I personally have been involved in building for 40 years. I have too much invested at this point. It really is a can of worms that I feel is better off left closed. So there's been a lot of issues, and perhaps the best way to deal with them is to celebrate the four original guys and go there and get our award and to look past the differences that will always be there. It doesn't change the big picture; we have differences and we will continue to have differences. It doesn't change who i want to play with and who represents Kiss. There are a lot of people who are great inspirations to me, and still are, who are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and for that reason and the fact that fans want us in there, I graciously and vigorously will be there to accept the award. We should salute and enjoy an evening that celebrates what the four of us started. But there's always a lot of cloak and dagger stuff and a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes.
After that, we'll see Kiss on the road this year?
Yes, in June. We'll go on tour and do what we do, and that is do great shows. Arguably this is the best stage show we've ever done; the Spider stage just takes everything to another level. So we're just gonna get out there and do what we do.
Do you see another album on the horizon?
Not at the moment. I can't rule it out. The other ones came about very naturally and seemed like the right time. I certainly thought that we needed to claim our ground and put our stamp on the present and the future with our feet still planted in the past. They felt great to do because the band has been that great. Where we go from here as far as recording, I don't know. There are no plans at the moment -- and that could change tomorrow.
You end "Face The Music" with the notion that Kiss can continue without you, and Gene. Do you really mean that?
One hundred percent! Why wouldn't I? It's absurd for me to think that this incredible band, brand, point of view, lifestyle, philosophy shouldn't exist without me. I'm not essential to it. I've laid the groundwork and written the bible, so to speak, but I'm not big-headed or delusional enough to believe that there isn't somebody out there, and more than one person, who could do this every bit as well and better than I do and bring something else to it, based on what I've done. The people who believed the band can't exist or continue without me or Gene, well, a lot of those people in the late 70s believed the band couldn't continue without the original four -- at this point they're 50 percent wrong.
This is not something the Beatles could have spoken about doing, though, or the Rolling Stones.
Of course they couldn't -- because they're not Kiss! We've broken the rules from day one. We were never supposed to succeed in a lot of people's eyes. We've never been defined by the limitations of other people's bands, so why would we lower the bar based on what other bands can or can't do. We've moved forward and not only survived but thrived based on a philosophy and point of view and a certain music. It's really about that way more than it is about the individuals. I mean, I'm a big fan of mine, but I didn't invent the wheel.