Paul Stanley It Makes Perfect Sense That So Many Rock Bands Are Calling It Quits
The operating principle for Kiss right now is that it’s better to burn out — or at least burn up all the pyro — than to fade away.
In a farewell outing that guitarist-vocalist Paul Stanley calls “a victory lap” — with the most over-the-top Kiss stage production to date — the band has embarked on its End of the Road World Tour, a year-long run that kicked off in January and is currently scheduled through December in New Zealand.
We’ve kind of been here before, of course. In 2000, the band embarked on a lengthy jaunt called the Kiss Farewell Tour, but by 2003 was performing in earnest again. Stanley and Gene Simmons went on to explain the reversal by saying it merely had been a final outing for the band’s full original lineup, including Ace Frehley and Peter Criss.
But unlike the tour 19 years ago, there’s a genuine air of finality this time: Simmons is 69, Stanley is 67, and the band specifically cites those advancing years as the reason to call it quits.
The foursome that will hit Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday is the unit that’s been donning the costumes and makeup for well more than a decade now, with Tommy Thayer on lead guitar and Eric Singer on drums.
Interview With Detroit Free Press
Stanley talked with the Free Press about the final Kiss tour, the stage production and the band’s long, rich relationship with Detroit.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the production on the tour, all the bells and whistles?
ANSWER: Have you seen all the photos?
Q: I have. It’s pretty insane.
A: Good word. It’s insane. It really takes what we’ve done, and what we believe in, to another level. This being the end of the road, I thought that more than in recent times, we needed to raise the bar once again.
I think we initially saw ourselves as becoming the band we never (got to see in concert), in terms of our staging. We always wanted to be a band that gave the audience the respect and appreciation that it deserved. We came at a time when most bands thought they were doing the audience a favor by being there. We said: “No, no — the audience is doing the band a favor.” So there’s a lot to live up to and a lot to take into consideration.
We were kind of a wake-up call to audiences. And on this tour, more than ever, we needed to make that statement once again. Certainly there are people out there doing shows that are terrific, but most are generic. You could put any performer on any of those stages and it would work. This stage is purely our stage. It incorporates so much state-of-the-art lighting, pyro, (hydraulic) lift. It really is the ultimate Kiss show, and the response has been massive. The turnouts have been enormous.
Q: Why now? What drove the decision to call it quits?
A: I think we all were aware that everything has a lifespan. And particularly in our case, we can’t do this forever. If we were wearing T-shirts and jeans, or the latest hip rock ‘n’ roll clothes, we could do this into our 90s. But we’re not. We’re Superman with a Marshall amplifier. We’re wearing 30 to 40 pounds of gear, running around and making it look easy. It’s fun, but we also realize we can’t do it forever.
While the band is really at its peak is the right time to plan, as opposed to fizzling out. A passive decision is still a decision: If we were to end a tour, then the next year decide not to go out, and the year after not to go out — you’re basically doing the same thing. But that would be very unlike us. If we’re going to call it quits, we want to have a victory lap, go out there and celebrate everything we’ve accomplished, our relationship with our audience, and make it an event. It was a very conscious decision, and a smart one.
Q: What are the emotions that are going into it for you, as you look out at these crowds for a final time?
A: There’s a huge sense of gratitude to the audience, and really taking in the enormity of what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished. To be able to share that consciously — knowing that this is the last night in this venue — is something really deep and poignant.
There’s nothing bittersweet about it because there’s nothing bitter about it. It’s all sweet. I’m not one who pines for the past. I don’t yearn for yesterday. I’m incredibly thankful for what I have, and I want to celebrate the past rather than immerse myself in it.
Q: Let’s go back to your writing of “Detroit Rock City” and what you recall about the creation of the song.
A: I had heard songs about other cities that bands sang about, and I had to chuckle, because I thought: “What about Detroit? Detroit is the rock city.” So I sat down with the idea of writing a song that would celebrate not only us but celebrate the city.
It took an interesting turn when the lyric became a combination of two stories. There was an unfortunate death in Charlotte, North Carolina, on our tour back then, where somebody coming to the show was killed by a car. There was that contrast, or juxtaposition, of going to something life-affirming, which celebrates vitality, being marred by a death while trying to get there.
The story line is really about somebody trying to get to a concert and not making it. But the battle cry certainly is: “You’ve gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City.” That seems to eclipse anything else in the song. You almost lose the fact of the story in the song because it’s such a phrase of … exultation. What a word!
Q: That song led the album (“Destroyer”). It’s always been a staple in your sets. Was that one of those cases where you immediately saw you had a hit on your hands?
A: Sure. I’ve always approached albums with idea of having a first song that kind of encapsulates the spirit and and intensity of the album. And it certainly filled that role. “Destroyer” was a very cinematic album — beyond the sonics of it. So it was the perfect way to start.
Q: The bond with Detroit is deep.
A: It’s incredible, from the first time we played at the Michigan Palace (in 1974). That connection with Detroit and the audiences has been what I had hoped for, but certainly could never have foreseen.
Detroit and Michigan have been the spawning ground for so much great music — whether it’s Bob Seger, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels. Stooges. MC5. Out of Flint, you had Grand Funk Railroad. And let’s not forget Motown, the Temptations, Smokey (Robinson). For us to be embraced the way we were, from the very beginning, was a badge of honor because it’s a blue-collar nation that embraced us. Detroit made us headliners when we were still a support band in many parts of the country.
Q: In terms of the End of the Road tour set list, will the song selection change as the tour goes on?
A: The set list may change. Honestly, though, we spent a long, long time putting this set list together. Not really in terms of the music, but in how it works in its entirety as a show, as an evening. To have it change just for the sake of change doesn’t make any sense, because 99.9% of the people coming to see the show six months from now didn’t see it last night.
Q: There are a lot of farewell tours and retirements afoot, involving a lot of big names. How does that register with you as a rock ‘n’ roll fan, as a guy who grew up in that era of so much great, important, culture-moving stuff?
A: It actually makes logical sense. It’s not a coincidence. Because many of these acts, artists and entertainers are from the same general time frame or generation. So it makes perfect sense. There are some who are drawing a purely nostalgic audience of older people. I’m incredibly gratified to see that our audience spans three generations. I always like to know, during a show, how many people are seeing us for the first time. That’s important. There is a legend, if you will, of this band Kiss, and there are still people coming for the first time, to see if it’s worthy of that legend. And by end of the show, if not sooner, it’s really clear to everybody that most don’t want to see this end.