Kiss guitarist/vocalist Paul Stanley released his first solo album 28 years ago, about the time Kiss last produced a song that people still scream for in concert. Stanley's second solo effort, Live To Win, isn't bad: Imagine an Andrew W.K. record without the ironic aroma. Recently, Stanley spoke with The A.V. Club about the gap between solo records, living up to Kiss' live reputation, and why he's as much an athlete as a musician.
The A.V. Club: Why such a long break between solo albums?
Paul Stanley: When someone first told me it had been 28 years, I thought they did the math wrong, but that's what it's been. It's staggering, when you think about it. What it comes down to is, Kiss has always been a beast that has this tendency to run wild, and it needs attention and nurturing. If people are always running off and doing other projects, which has been the case, somebody has to be there for stability. And I opted to do it.
AVC: Your first solo album was released simultaneously with solo albums by the other members of Kiss. Do you regret that?
PS: I didn't have a choice. The idea was to present group unity, which is kind of interesting, because the solo albums came out of the band being on the verge of splitting up. In the long run, it was putting a Band-Aid on a serious wound.
AVC: Do you feel any pressure to match Kiss' stage show?
PS: This show is in some ways more powerful than a Kiss show, because it has nothing. To get up there with a great band and just play like your life depends upon it is as powerful as it gets. I never heard so many people rave about something I have done.
AVC: You're known as a really energetic frontman, jumping around and dancing and getting the crowd into it. How much of your performance is planned out ahead of time?
PS: I don't plan anything. I go up there to figure out who I am. Every night, I like to see what I'm capable of. There are no rules.
AVC: What do you think when you see footage of yourself?
PS: I've seen myself do stuff on stage that was pretty amazing. I think that would be true for any athlete. Any top athlete will see something that they are very proud of. All my injuries will attest to the fact that besides being a musician, it comes down to being an athlete. I've torn both my knees. I've torn my rotator cuff. I've had my hip replaced. I've torn my left shoulder. Everybody will tell you these are just common sports injuries.
AVC: Kiss put out its own fragrance this year. Where did that idea come from?
PS: It was offered to us. It was something so unique that it was right up our alley. The naysayers and critics don't get it, because the fact is, we would be idiots to put out merchandise that the people don't want. Who are we to decide whether or not people should have what they want? Credibility is someone else's idea of what I should be doing, not mine.
AVC: What distinguishes Live To Win from a Kiss record?
PS: The fact that it's cohesive, because it's all mine. And the other thing is that if I write for Kiss, I'm writing for their limitations, their assets, the things that make the band what it is. If I write for myself, I write a song and I bring in the musicians that are best suited to play it. There's a freedom there. Everything I write is from my point of view. But when you have a whole body of songs together, it becomes obvious that you are writing from personal experience. The whole idea of Live To Win, the whole philosophy that permeates all the songs, is that you set your goals, you set your challenges, and you go for them without allowing anyone to get in your way. The people who try to stop you or get in your way are always the people who fail. If you live to win, you win even if you don't succeed, because you fail on your own terms.
AVC: What's it like touring as Paul Stanley as opposed to Kiss?
PS: I'll put what we're doing onstage up against anything that's out there. There's nothing out there that's better than what we're doing. The band is phenomenal; it's the band from the show Rock Star. We're doing a little under two hours. It's like walking in the ring every night knowing that you're going to do a first-round knockout. We go out there every night with big smiles on our faces and slay 'em. The nice thing is that we're getting off on it as much as they are.
AVC: There's a memorable scene in the 1988 documentary The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years where you're laying on a bed with half a dozen half-naked girls and talking about being a rock star. How close to reality is that scene to your daily life?
PS: The funny thing is, I did that as a joke. It was a parody of everything that people envision rock life to be. Some people thought, "What an idiot! What a jerk!" As though I could actually live like that—well, I could—but as though I would want to live like that and flaunt it. I found it very funny, because I thought people would see it more as a skit. But clearly because of some of the company I was surrounded by in some of those other segments, where they weren't kidding, it maybe got taken more as documentary material.
AVC: You turn 55 in January. Do you ever see yourself retiring?
PS: From what? What is there to retire from? I'm a musician. I write about my life, and I love what I do, and nobody wants me to retire except the people who hate what I do. Guess what? They don't get their way. Nobody at a party ever asks when it's going to end. It's only the neighbors who ask.