Years in the Makeup

Kiss' Paul Stanley talks about the music behind the flames, fake blood and greasepaint

Paul Stanley is an old-fashioned guy when it comes to recording.

Sure, people associate Kiss with over-the-top spectacle. In fact, the guitarist and co-frontman boasts that the band's current outing is "the most technologically advanced show" Kiss has ever taken on the road. But when it came to handling producer duties for Kiss' new release, Sonic Boom, Stanley was nothing short of autocratic.

"Democracy is overrated in the studio," the 58-year-old New York City native says. The 11 new songs, he adds, were recorded on analog tape with all of the band members in the same room looking at one another.

"All the great music that I loved when I was younger was not made under a microscope or on a computer," Stanley says. "Whether it was all the great Motown stuff, James Brown, Led Zeppelin or the Beatles — the list goes on and on — that music was made from passion. And that's what I wanted to make sure we captured. That's really what the band's about."

Kiss will mix new songs such as "Modern Day Delilah" with old nuggets like "Deuce" when the quartet plays Blossom Music Center Sept. 12. Stanley says he has many great memories of Cleveland, from picking up FM powerhouse WMMS on his father's car radio to bedding down at Swingos, Euclid Avenue's legendary bastion of rock 'n' roll excess, before it became a plebeian Comfort Inn.

"That was a great place," he says with genuine affection before insisting his stories about the hotel are too X-rated to print. When pressed, he quips, "More cities need places like Swingos, where women who appreciate rock 'n' roll can congregate — and there's an elevator not too far away."

Of course, any talk of Kiss and Cleveland eventually leads to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which has overlooked Kiss save for the band's first-time inclusion on last year's slate of nominees. In the past, Stanley has referred to the institution as "a sham" mainly because industry people instead of fans decide which acts are honored. He bristles at the mere mention of donating personal items to the museum.

"Why would I donate something to someplace that charges money for you to see [it] and doesn't give me any?" he asks sarcastically. However, he would graciously accept an invitation to the induction ceremonies if and when Kiss is voted into the Rock Hall.

"The fans have given me an incredible life, and with the best of intentions, I try to do what makes them happy," Stanley says. "So if they would like for the band that they championed to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, then I'm all for it."

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