Interview: Paul Stanley
November 30, 2006 03:24 PM
by Paul Gargano
In the world of KISS, there's no such thing as too much. While that line of thinking has served the band well for more than three decades, frontman Paul Stanley isn't afraid to admit that sometimes, less can be more.
Such is the case with his latest release, "Live to Win," his first solo album since the eponymous KISS solo efforts were issued in 1978. Absent is the bombast, pomp and pageantry that marks his full-time band. Present are the sweeping choruses and lavish songwriting that marked the band's more memorable late-'80s and early-'90s moments, as well as Stanley's signature vocal tone and unmistakable style.
Why "Live to Win," and why now? Paul Stanley sat down with LiveDaily to delve deeper into the new release.
LiveDaily: This is your first solo record in nearly three decades. Does the material span that time period?
Paul Stanley: Everything I wrote on this album was written for the album. I've never believed in recording old material, it's kind of like giving people old news, you know? I've always believed that, when you give somebody an album, it should be like a fresh newspaper, where you get ink on your fingers. It's today's news. So, for me, it's where I'm at now, things in my life, my perspective on my music as an individual.
Paul Stanley Live To Win - TheVideoSense.com
You've got a core base of musicians on the album, but the lineup changes slightly, from song-to-song.
When I thought about doing the album, I wanted to approach it, partially, as the director of a film. Producing an album, for me, meant casting each song. As opposed to writing songs for a specific group of musicians, it was bringing in the right musicians to play on the songs. I had a core group that was really awesome and connected really well with me, and there was no reason to change the menu on every song. So the core remained the same, but it's a lot easier to stay true to form when you don't have to consider anyone else's opinion. I was very interested in what everybody had to say but, quickly and ultimately, it was about what I wanted to do, and my vision. What was really cool for me was that everybody who worked on the album not only understood the vision, but was fired up by the songs and what was coming out of the speakers. It was a labor of passion, and something where I was only concerned with turning out the album I heard in my head, without regard for having glitz and star power from other sources. It was purely about making the album I wanted to make. This was purely a labor of love.
Judging from a lot of the songs, it sounds like it was literally a labor of love, as well.
Well, you know, live and learn! [Laughing] I sing about what I know, what I experience. I try not to get too introspective and deep, but I think most of the things I sing about have always been fairly universal. Without making any effort, what I wanted to do on this album was purely sing about my life. My life is not that different than anybody else's. When you cut away all the trappings on the outside, life is life and it's ultimately what you make of it.
There seems to come a point in everyone's life where they strive to get back to the basics. Does this album reflect that?
Of course. In spite of all the folly of fashion, we ultimately find ourselves wearing our old blue jeans. What is there in life, and what is the core of life? It's relationships. Whether they're sexual, emotional, whatever the category, relationships are what make this world go 'round, and it's also what I think is most rewarding in life, the product of relationships.
With the overblown largeness of KISS, and the "Star Child" character, does it feel good to be able to express yourself outside those parameters?
Well, KISS is a facet of who I am, but it's not all of it. There is undoubtedly more freedom in doing something under my name and without either the politics or the dynamics and personalities of a band.
After decades of compromise in the band setting, did this album become a necessity?
Nobody should confuse being in KISS with compromise. It's a different format and calls for a different type of participation. It's not compromise at all. I wanted the freedom to explore my own abilities and boundaries, or break any boundaries I had and basically do what I wanted without any of the advantages or burdens of the history of the band. This was about me being free to not consider other people, not consider a balance of material from a band, not consider any type of equality, not to consider feelings of other people, just to make music. That's something you can only do under your own banner. This isn't about taking KISS fans someplace they haven't been, although everyone's invited along. This is really about me doing an album for me. First and foremost I had to please myself. I'd like to believe that, if I please myself, I'm going to please some other people. If you try and second guess the public or your fans, and you fail, you're filled with the sense of, "Why didn't I follow my heart?" I'd rather do things without any compromise, and if I fail, I still have that comfort.
A lot of the songs on "Live to Win" sound like they could have been on "Crazy Nights." There's a lush, melodic tone throughout the album.
I'm a product of a school of crafting songs. What's made KISS last, beyond the bombast and the iconic imagery, is songs that you can sing; that's what I'm comfortable doing, crafting a song. There's a certain comfort in hearing a chorus and knowing that the next time it comes around, you'll be able to sing it. Anybody can write a song, but that doesn't make you a songwriter. I know people that think because they've written a song, they're actually songwriters. Hate to break that disillusionment, but this is something I've worked my [entire] life on. I wasn't aiming for any kind of balance of material or type of material, but when I would write, I knew what I didn't want to hear.
"Live to Win," the song, has a "Rocky" or "Visionquest" soundtrack feel to it.
That's what I hear, that's what people are saying, we'll see .... Why's that the title of the album? My philosophy has always been to live with the philosophy that no one can get in the way or stop you from succeeding. You are either your best friend or your greatest obstacle. I'm living proof of living to win. One might say I'm lucky, but I tell you, the harder you work, the luckier you get. In life, you can either be a victim and bitch about the adverse experiences in your life, or you can take a deep breath and charge forward. If I had knuckled under to people telling me what was impossible and what I was capable of and incapable of, we wouldn't be having this conversation, there wouldn't be a KISS, and there wouldn't be a "Live to Win." Again, it's about believing in yourself, deciding what boundaries you have, and what life and goals you're going to strive for. My life has always been about, "You can go with me, or you can go behind me, but if you stand in front of me, you're going to be pretty sore." Obstacles are what you see when you lose sight of your goals.
Are the obstacles less, with the level of success you've achieved?
People ask me what I get from success and fame--I get freedom. I get freedom to do things my way. I've always done it my way, and that's what led to my success. At this point, my freedom is that much greater because what I have access to is that much greater. The ability to be able to go into a studio and go in and record without anybody telling you what you should do, or any direction or any feedback, man, that was worth the price of admission. And that's all it's about. In that way, that's what we all owe ourselves, to take care of ourselves. Be good to yourself, do what you can, do everything you want to do, because we don't get a second chance. This is the only life I think I'm going to know.
Live to Win is new the solo release from iconic KISS frontman Paul Stanley. The voice and songwriting force behind such KISS classics as "Detroit Rock City," "Black Diamond," Hard Luck Woman" and "Tears Are Fallin'," Stanley's career with KISS spans more than three decades and in excess of 100 million records sold worldwide.
Stripping all the legendary bombast away, what becomes starkly clear is that besides rocking relentlessly, the power of human emotion and conviction on Live to Win can rattle not only the walls, but also touch the heart and soul of the listener. "What I wanted to do on this album was sing about my life because my life is not that different than anybody else's," he continues. "The truth is, what we all deal with in life is pretty similar. You change the names and the story's the same."
"This album is purely a labor of love," says Stanley. "It is a labor of passion, and something where I was concerned with turning out the album I heard in my head, without regard for having glitz and star power from other sources. It was purely about making the album I wanted to make." While the heartfelt "Loving You Without You Now" was written without any outside collaboration, the remainder of the album reunites him with former KISS songwriting partners Desmond Child [Aerosmith, LeeAnn Rimes] and Holly Knight [Tina Turner, Pat Benatar], and introduces new collaborators including Andreas Carlsson [Bon Jovi, Britney Spears], John 5 [Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson] and Marti Frederiksen [Aerosmith, Faith Hill]. Seven of the ten tracks were co-written with Child and/or Carlsson, with Stanley and Child joined by John 5 on "Where Angels Dare" and Frederiksen on "Lift," and Knight teaming with the frontman on "It's Not Me."
Live to Win is self-produced by Stanley, who provides lead vocals, guitar and percussion alongside a studio core of guitarist Corky James, drummer Victor Indrizzo and keyboardist Harry Sommerdahl. Also performing on the album are former KISS bandmate Bruce Kulick and guitarist John 5.
"I've always believed that when you give somebody an album, it should be like a fresh newspaper, where you get ink on your fingers and it's today's news," says Stanley, who wrote and co-wrote the ten tracks on Live to Win specifically for the new release. "For me, this album is where I'm at now - This is where things are in my life, and my perspective on my music."