PARTY ON DUDES
Having just notched up another most excellent hit with God Gave Rock N'Roll To You II, the Kiss men prepare to unleash their most definitive work since Destroyer. Paul Stanley tell Joe Mackett why "Revenge" is anything but sweet.
If Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure was your idea of perfect cinema (what could be better than two lunatic Metalheads cavorting through time!), you'll no doubt have been looking forward to the 'most triumphant' sequel - Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey, not least because of its impressive soundtrack. KINGS X, SLAUGHTER, PRIMUS, and FAITH NO MORE appear amongst others, alongside 'the hottest band in the world' KISS. The first single form the flick is the stackheeled one's cover of ARGENT's God Gave Rock N'Roll To You. Down the wire from LA, Paul Stanley tells how they became involved in the project.
"We were asked if we would be interested in doing something and we agreed. At that point we were thinking about a new tune, but they suggested God Gave Rock N'Roll To You."
To be honest, I venture that the original doesn't really set the night on fire, Paul agrees.
"The trouble was, it was pretty dated sounding, though it had a great chorus. To put it mildly though, the rest of the song is a bit of a drug-induced '60s song. So we decided to keep the chorus and re-work whatever needed changing. It was also a great opportunity to warm up Bob Ezrin for the next album, and to gauge whether there was anything happening between us again."
Hold on a minute, before we get on the new album. During ...Bogus Journey, both FAITH NO MORE's Jim Martin and PRIMUS have cameo appearances, were KISS offered a role?
"We're not really interested in that stuff," answers Stanley. "We approached it as 'let's do a track for a soundtrack album.' It was good for many reasons. Besides thinking we could do a great job with the song, it was a chance to roll up our sleeves and gauge what the next year had in store for us, in terms of the next album."
Which leads us nicely on to the album. Paul Stanley sounds so excited at the prospect you'd think it was his first record record, not his twenty-forth!
"We've been working on it a year and it's called Revenge," he begins. "We've never before given ourselves the luxury to write songs and give ourselves the time to rehearse and throw a song out if one of us doesn't like it. We had to do an album that justified and stood up to our finest hour and Revenge really is it."
By what standards do you make this assessment?
"We stood back and asked what LP stood the test of time songwise and in concert and that album is Destroyer. When we got back together with Bob (Ezrin - producer) the chemistry was so strong we knew we were on the right track. It was really a case of being tougher on ourselves than we've ever been and we've wound up with a killer guitar Rock N'Rock album which..." - he pauses to emphasise the next statement - "surpasses anything we've ever done."
Paul then tells me that the album will be eleven or twelve tracks in total. Hot In The Shade, Revenge's predecessor boasted fifteen tracks, does Stanley think its length hampered its sales?
"It's interesting," he admits. "Though it's strange being disappointed when you sell a million albums. We thought Hot In The Shade was a great album as it reaffirmed for us who we are and what we're about. It also led to a tour which I feel is the best we've ever done, and it recommitted us to what we started out as, and that's a Rock N'Roll band."
Stanley also admits that the band were not altogether happy with the way the album was promoted, citing the fans' anger at the lack of promotion to back up his claims. Once again however he furrows the subject matter around to the latest project.
"We were pleased with the momentum Hot In The Shade started but Revenge is far beyond Hot In The Shade. Revenge is a no compromise, no bullshit," and I can almost see that finger stabbing the point home. "It's a great piece of work. In using Destroyer as a standard, we're trying to do Destroyer Jnr or Destroyer II.
And as if to pre-empt my next question...
"Why we liked that so much was it pushed our abilities to the full."
When Revenge hits the stores in May, what can we expect song-wise?
"Gene's got some great tunes, really great. This is the best stuff he's done in a decade - easily. There's some really classic stuff, like Unholy, Spit, and Thou Shalt Not. I've got Heart of Chrome and Tough Love.
All in the old style. Not one to enthuse, Paul's off again.
"These are guitar-riff, balls-to-the-wall, guitar-from-hell songs. We recorded without digital effects, the classic way."
Mention was given to the above songs by Gene and yourself, but did you have any outside writers for this album?
"We all had a hand in them even if we're not credited. Cold Gin for instance had one person's name on it even though Gene and I had as much of a hand in it as Ace did. Black Diamond is mine whereas Gene had a hand in it. There were co-writers involved. I wrote with Snake from SKID ROW, I wrote with VINNIE VINCENT, which was a trip. I hadn't done that since Lick It Up."
You mentioned ACE FREHLEY earlier. Is there any desire to write with him again?
"I see Ace very rarely," answers Paul. Do I detect a hint of caution? "When I was in New York, I'd run into him, but we're at opposite ends of the country and he's involved in his own thing so we didn't really think about writing with him."
While on the subject of the 'make-up members' what of erstwhile 'Cat' Peter Criss?
"Peter is very elusive. He tends to pop up every so often with a new band and then disappear. I even saw an ad recently that said he was going to do a club out here, but he's here and gone again."
Ideal SPINAL TAP candidate? I offer. Paul laughs.
"He's supposed to be putting out some book but it never comes out."
Talking of drummers, I breach the subject of Eric Carr, whose real name was Paul Caravello, and who died of complications from cancer. He joined KISS in 1980, replacing Peter Criss. The 'Fox' had replaced the the 'Cat,' as make-up would have it.
Carr too over in time to participate on the 'Unmasked World Tour.' His first recorded work with the band came with the concept album The Elder. Carr's powerful drumming style and charismatic nature earned him the respect of the KISS Army - almost immediately. No mean feat considering Peter Criss's empathy with the fan base.
Carr steered KISS through the stormy waters surrounding their decision to Lick It Up, though it's probably the Crazy Nights that most will remember Carr's stint for.
His final album turned out to be Hot In The Shade. Ill health prevented him participating on Revenge. Obviously it's a topic Paul doesn't want to elaborate on too much.
"It's a tough situation for us," he reasons, "as we don't want to invade anyone's privacy. What's been issued in the press releases was very much the case."
Paul pauses again. On his return he's on a much more optimistic note with regard to the new record.
"Eric Singer has done the entire LP. He's done my solo tour and some demos for Hot In the Shade. He's done a phenomenal job on the LP. The chemistry was magical. I think we were stunned that, in the situation that we found ourselves in, to have someone who not only did the job, but who could take us to another place. There's a lot of magic there and we're very lucky to have him involved."
With a May release pencilled in for Revenge when can us Brits expect to experience the KISS live phenomenon?
"We didn't come over with Hot In the Shade," explains Stanley, "because we were doing such a large show and the sales didn't warrant us coming with something so big. The way it's looking is that we'll be coming over with that show in either May or June. The Hot In The Shade stage is still in storage so we're planning to bring the whole thing."
While on the topic of 'live' shows, would KISS consider a Donington headline after their appearance at the tragic 1988 event. On the subject of 1988 Stanley would have liked to have been allowed more room to manoeuvre.
"We were pleased with what we were able to do but disappointed and frustrated with the fact that we couldn't give everybody everything."
And of a possible headline at the venue.
"I think it's safe to say we'd love to see Revenge do what we think it deserves to do. We would love to do Donington but only if we headlined."
If that's the case then could we expect the full US show? Surely that's something the European KISS Army have been waiting to see for far too long. Paul's answer will warm the cockles of their hearts.
"If we did headline Donington, we would do a show that would not fit in a US Arena." And as if to emphasise the point, "Obviously if you get a congregation of believers that big, you make sure that when they go home they know why they came in the first place."
Which leads nicely on to the question of when or even if another live album is in the pipeline. With two seminal efforts in the Seventies, surely there must be an Alive III in the offing?
"It's so interesting cos it would be so easy to set up a mobile truck to do it. It's been fifteen albums since Alive II." Doesn't time fly when you're having fun!
Stanley continues, "We want it to be very, very special and great. The thing that keeps happening is that we keep looking forward. So now, with the songs on Revenge being so kick ass and cool they'll definitely be on Alive III. I want to know that a year after it's been bought, that the people who bought it are still satisfied with it. That's what's important. The business people say we should do it and sell X amount of LPs, but who gives a shit? That's not what it's about. We want to make sure that Alive III is not a bad sequel to Alive II. But it's gonna happen and I guarantee it'll be worth the wait"
So how do you anticipate selecting what goes on the record? There's fifteen albums of worth of material after all.
"There's stuff we wouldn't think of including and some we'll definitely include that some might be surprised at," he answers somewhat vaguely.
Before we wrap up, I mention the solo albums. Each of the four has been re-released by Polygram on CD. The 'Starchild' answers somewhat humorously that he's just been sent his copy! Could this prompt a solo tour perchance, the likes only witnessed by the American club circuit?
"I just wanted to flex my muscles and do something a bit different. I played the songs I wrote, Detroit Rock City for instance. I wasn't going out to do an acoustic set. It was just a bit of fun at the time. Besides," he adds, "I have no desire to tour or record with a different band. I'm in a band I always wanted to be in."
I noted with interest the drop of the acoustic tag there. Have KISS ever been approached to do 'Unplugged' or felt the need to play the whole set acoustically?
"We were approached when 'Unplugged' was just coming together, and again when Hot In The Shade came out but they just weren't the right times for us. Besides," he laughs, "I'm not so sure people want to hear God Of Thunder on a twelve string acoustic guitar."
Twenty-four albums under their belt and still counting. How long can KISS Rock N'Roll all nite?
"I think that as long as we can continue to dig deep and grab something special. We were slapping each other on the back at teh end of the last tour 'cos we achieved our levels. We feel the same about Revenge. It's the toughest, hardest. And it's been a real labour. We started as a band with a huge image; with more than just music going on. But we are a Rock N'Roll band first and foremost. I don't give a shit about the size of the show if the music doesn't match its magnitude."
So how's about putting a figure on it Paul?
"I'm certain we'll be remembered for twenty-nine, thirty album; a chapter where we wore make-up and blew things up and one where we discarded the make-up, but the thing that continued through it all was that we wore guitars around our necks."
Is there anything left for KISS to achieve? They've seemingly done it all. Stanley is very deliberate in his answer.
"I just wanna keep goin'. At this point it's important that we don't take as many steps as quickly, but make sure every step is worth the effort."
And there you have it. Well, almost. For a band the sixe of KISS, influence over a younger generation is inevitable. But how does the original feel about the clones, the bands that take it one step beyond and base their whole being on KISS's make-up period?
"I think tribute bands are fabulous," comes the somewhat startling reply. "The truth is it's only one step beyond seeing bands doing covers. if you go and see a covers band you want to see those songs done faithfully. And obviously, if the band sucks, no one's gonna go see 'em, right?"
Right. So there you have it dudes. For the next dose of KISS get down to the unprecedented ...Bogus Journey for the most atypical God Gave Rock N'Roll To You. But doesn't May seem an awfully long way away all of a sudden? Still, Revenge is sweet, and I managed to get through the whole article without mentioning the 'floppy-eared, egg-dropping, hippitty-hoppy behemoth' (that's the Easter Bunny to you!). Damn!