Chatting on the phone, Stanley sounded supremely relaxed and ready to power up the amps again, for what would be more than a hundred shows this year across the US, Europe and Asia. And if it’s truly the end of the road for Kiss, he was determined “to make sure the road we leave behind is hard for anyone else to navigate” once they’ve put away the guitars and make-up.
I’m definitely on a break from my school duties and out there preaching rock’n’roll.
Kiss started their journey in New York City in 1973, when lead singer and guitarist Stanley, Simmons on bass guitar and former members Ace Frehley (lead guitar) and drummer Peter Criss first painted their faces and donned elaborate stage costumes. They released their debut, self-titled album in 1974 quickly followed by Hotter Than Hell and Dressed To Kill in ’75, before Alive! The following year they released Destroyer and Rock and Roll Over before a second live album Alive II in 1977.
Looking back, Stanley says Humble Pie’s Steve Marriott was “a huge influence” on him and “was the template for a lot of what I wound up doing” on stage, albeit surrounded by bandmates in face paint, pyrotechnics and a fire-breathing Simmons spitting fake blood in between pounding bass lines. “The idea of being on stage and preaching the gospel of rock’n’roll, which is basically what he (Marriott) was doing … that was something I aspired to,” Stanley says.
“As a child, a young child, I saw a lot of the early rock’n’roll and I was fascinated by rock’n’roll, so it started quite early. I was hugely influenced by the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. I was fortunate enough to grow up in New York, where on any given weekend in the late ’60s or early ’70s you could see The Who, you could see Humble Pie, Zeppelin or Jimi Hendrix and that really, really inspired me; these bands who took pride in what they were doing, they left it all on the stage, so to speak.”
There’s been several line-up changes and another dozen Kiss albums since the release of Unmasked in the 1980s, which coincided with the first of several Kiss tours of Australia. Stanley still recalls the overwhelming response from fans, both at shows and in between performances in Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane.
“When we first came to Aussie land in 1980 we had no idea what to expect and we were absolutely blown away by the people, by the reception and the country,” he said. “My memories have always been incredible and from Melbourne to the Barossa and across Australia, nobody knows how to make a bad Shiraz. Really, what you have their is so special and the people are just stellar.
“My life here is what I consider a fairly normal life. I drive my kids to school or pick them up, I go to the market or the hardware store, but I also get to have an extraordinary life. It was Mark Twain who said ‘If you find something you love doing, you’ll never work a day in your life’ and along the way, I try to have a laugh as much as possible.”
Four months later, Stanley is on the phone again but this time from Atlanta, where Kiss had just played their 40th show on the End of the Road tour. After months of rehearsals, long-time members Tommy Thayer on guitar, Eric Singer on drums, Stanley and Simmons have been playing to packed stadiums across North America.
“I’m definitely on a break from my school duties and out there preaching rock’n’roll and causing mayhem,” he says. “We’re just having a ball, the chemistry on stage is incredible, we’re having a ball off stage too; we’ve never had more fun and there’s so much to celebrate. The band is on a high because we’re just doing the ultimate Kiss show and that in itself is a cause of incredible pride.”
They’ve since blasted through Europe and soon they’ll be headed back this way. A third and final show in Melbourne, billed as the band’s last Australian performance, will take place almost exactly four decades since they played at the now defunct Waverley Park. And Stanley, who played no small part in ensuring the Kiss logo was emblazoned on everything from T-shirts to pencil cases, school bags and hats in the late 1970s and ’80s, is pumping his band as hard as ever. “I have to say we’ve raised the bar. This is absolutely, by far the greatest show we’ve ever done,” the 67-year-old said.
“This is our victory lap, it’s us celebrating everything we created with our audience and with our fans. It’s that time for people who’ve been with us over the years to come and celebrate all that we’ve had together. There’s people who’ve never seen us before and they’re leaving the show and thinking ‘why didn’t I come to this earlier’. It’s terrific.”
Why then, does Stanley think Kiss has endured this long, while others have fallen by the wayside?
“People who experience Kiss really are effected by it in a way that goes beyond it being a rock band. It’s fascinating and amazing to be at these shows nightly and see parents and grandparents who want their offspring to experience what they experienced, it’s far beyond typical rock bands, where you hate the idea of your little brother being there, or your neighbour; Kiss is an amazing tribe and it’s incredibly gratifying.”
Kiss bring their End of the Road tour to Perth on November 15; Adelaide on November 19; Melbourne on November 21, 22 (sold out) and 30; Newcastle on November 23; Sydney on November 26; and Brisbane on November 28. For more information go to kissonline.com
Saturday November 16 RAC ARENA, PERTH WA
www.ticketek.com.au & 132 849
Tuesday November 19 ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE, ADELAIDE SA
www.ticketek.com.au & 132 849
Martin Boulton is EG Editor at The Age and Shortlist Editor at the Sydney Morning Herald