KISS' Paul Stanley: The Cream Interview



  • Photo: Ivor Karabatkovic
As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, legendary KISS co-frontman Paul Stanley will appear tomorrow, May 16, at the West End Barnes and Noble, where he'll sign copies of his book, Face the Music: A Life Exposed. In advance of Stanley's appearance, friend of the Scene, longtime local metalhead and KISS fan Omid Torn spoke with Stanley about success, failure, his band's legacy, The Runaways, Brussels sprouts and more. Have a look below.

I have not had a chance to read your book yet. If you had to describe it in three words to somebody who hadn’t read it, what would those be?

I’ll have to use other people’s word’s: Inspirational [long pause]. ... How about four more words?

Four more?

How about “not a KISS book”?

That actually makes a lot of sense, that’s great. I think there’s definitely a lot of information out there already, and my next question is, as a longtime fan of the band, I remember how controlled the press and information about KISS was for the first 25 or 30 years. We really had to dig, and there were only a couple books out there. With the magazines, it seemed the management gave what information they wanted. But at some point the doors blew open, and now it’s all out there. How do you feel about that?

I think it’s terrific, but the creating of an image and keeping it consistent was I think imperative to creating the KISS legacy, certainly for the first few decades if not more. KISS can continue because the foundation was so clearly defined. At this point, it’s much more important to, just in this present day, to identify more the individuals and who they are. There was a time where it would only muddy the four personas, whereas now I think it enhances them.

My story, the story of the music, is one of struggle and transcendence and overcoming obstacles. KISS has always been about self-empowerment and self-belief, and I think it enhances that whole point of view to see that I, for one, have lived it. You know, to be born deaf on one side without a right ear and to grow up under the circumstances and family life that I did, and then to fight for success only to find it an incredible gift but hollow in terms of making my feelings of self-worth or my questions of inadequacy, it did nothing for them, so at that point it became a challenge of either being a victim and compromising my life and using other things as an excuse, or deciding to fight back and make a great life, and that’s what I did. And in some ways that mirrors KISS.

I would agree. And that leads perfectly into my next question. I love your mantra of, “Anything is possible with hard work.” That’s a recurring theme I’ve noticed in interviews with you. But aren’t there other factors at play? There are a lot of other bands that worked hard and never achieved KISS-like success. Does that necessarily make them failures? How do you see that?

That’s tough. I would have to say that because as far as I know, we don’t get a second chance, and this is our only trip through this world; we all need to do a brutal self-assessment, and it’s never only about hard work. If I were delusional, I would have said I’m going to work real hard and become a rocket scientist, but I didn’t have the capacity for that. No matter how hard you work, you can’t achieve what you’re not capable of. So hard work is what stands between you and success once you identify what you’re capable of doing, and if you’re fooling yourself, you’re the only one who pays the price.

This is true. I heard you address that a little bit in the interview at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center. But I was just curious if there might be other factors, like a great management team or label, or other things that fell into place and worked in your favor.

But that’s all part of hard work. Those things didn’t fall into our laps. We fought them out.


People who are foolish enough to believe that talent is the sole end-all-be-all are the ones who are in for the shock of their lives when somebody who they think isn’t as talented as they are surpasses them. Really, ultimately, all the situations around us were because we were taking control of situations and steering them. People like to talk about luck — I think luck is seeing an opportunity where somebody else doesn’t. There’s opportunities all around everybody. When you grab one, or see something that somebody doesn’t see in the same room, they say you were lucky, I just say you were blind.

That’s a good way of putting it. My next question is about another band from the era who definitely did not achieve any level of success like you, but I was always curious about your knowledge of them. Did you know about the all-girl band The Runaways back in the '70s?

Absolutely. I was close with Lita during that early time. I knew The Runaways way back then, in the '77 time.

Once they were legal.

Yes [laughs].

I was surprised that KISS never had them open a show or a tour. It seemed like it would have made so much sense.

Well we knew them, and I don’t know that that would have served us well … offstage. In any case, we knew them, and they were terrific. I will measure my words, but they were terrific.

One of the most interesting things I came across doing some online research was about your love of cooking. And more specifically, you had a recipe for Brussels sprouts à la Stanley, which I’m definitely looking to try soon, as I love dried cherries. Do you use fresh or dried cherries? It’s dried cherries right?


So is there any chance of a Paul Stanley cookbook at some point?

Everything is possible. What life is supposed to do is open doors, not close them. So did I think I would have a No. 2 New York Times bestseller? It wasn’t on my list — it’s now an international bestseller. Did I think I would star in Phantom of the Opera? It was something that I thought about. We either create opportunities for ourselves or avail ourselves of opportunities, and it’s a matter of what we do with them. Painting, theater, best-selling books — it’s all terrific, and I can’t imagine not pursuing every avenue of interest. I don’t want to live by anybody else’s limitations.

That’s a good philosophy. One last question, from a friend of mine who has read the book. Why was there no mention in your book of Live to Win and that period where you did a second solo album?

Well, because if I wrote about everything, then the book would have been 10 times as long. It wasn’t pivotal, although it was a great experience. You have to draw the line somewhere, because writing an autobiography is very much like turning a book into a movie. You have to paint the picture without telling every page.

I guess we’ll have to wait for the next volume. And I saw on the JCC interview that there’s a possibility of another Paul Stanley solo album. Is that true?

Sure, absolutely. I’m not done, so sure. The next one I guarantee will be much more guitar-driven. Live to Win was really me wanting to push the envelope of what people wouldn’t expect from me. But my next one would hearken back way more to the first, I’m sure.

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