Paul Stanley enters our Zoom meeting from his phone. The Kiss guitarist’s shoulder-length hair blows in the wind from underneath a bicycle helmet. It’s 10am, and the 68-year-old hard rocker is on the beach on a beautiful, sunny day in Los Angeles.
“I try to do about 30 kilometres every three days or so on my bike, so nobody can say we’re not ready for Dubai,” he says, grinning.
Known for their larger than life concerts, stage make-up and elaborate outfits, Kiss are ready to say goodbye to 2020 in eight-inch heels at Dubai’s Atlantis on New Year’s Eve. The 70s rock group out of New York will storm a custom-built stage on December 31, blowing up a million dollars worth of pyrotechnics. The show will also be live-streamed as a ticketed online event.
“We literally fly over your head and we descend from the ceiling. You got to see it to believe it,” says Gene Simmons, 71, in a separate Zoom call.
The show comes 296 days after the Kiss stage went dark due to COVID-19. The band was on their End of the World tour previously, and plan to continue it after.
“If we were playing in T-shirts and jeans, like some other bands, sure, we could do this when we’re 90. But to be carrying around 40 pounds of gear and running around and doing what we do, it’s a good time to go on a tour where everybody knows in the audience that this is the last one,” Stanley says. “There are bands around who constantly need attention, adulation, people who are on their payroll to tell them how great they are. So they will never quit.”
“Kiss is an important part of my life, but it’s not my life,” explains Stanley. “I’ve had a very, very successful career as a painter, and my paintings have done far beyond what I ever expected. If credibility comes from being a starving artist, I will never have credibility.”
Read our interviews with Stanley and Simmons below, consolidated, condensed and edited for clarity.
It’s been nearly a year since you last performed. Are you itching to get back on stage?
Paul Stanley:  has been devastating for a lot of people. So, to be able to go out there and give it a good kick in the pants — and we’ll be doing it with eight-inch heels. What could be better than spending an evening with us, watching us blow up a million dollars worth of pyro, playing all the songs that everybody loves, and just having a great night of entertainment, escapism and celebration?
Gene Simmons: There’s a light at the end of the window. The vaccine is coming. I don’t want anybody going out of their homes New Year’s Eve, don’t be stupid … You’re going to be bringing back a disease at home and infecting your loved ones. Stay at home, go to kiss2020goodbye.com and have the best party on planet Earth … Not since the Big Bang has there been so much firepower.
Will it be the full Kiss show, or has it been downsized in any way?
Simmons: We’re flying over, literally, a [Boeing] 747 full of equipment. The full show, you got to see it to believe it. I know lots of folks out there listen to pop divas and rap and stuff like that. You got to see how the big boys do it. You know, there’s one thing watching monster movies and it’s another thing watching Godzilla, 52 stories tall, coming into your town and just stomping on it and destroying it. See, you can talk about big but until you see Godzilla, it ain’t big. We’re like that.
Stanley: If anybody went by the Atlantis [and thinks] they’re putting up another building, they’re not. That’s our stage. And it’s our intention to break a lot of Guinness World Records with this show… from the stage size to the amount of pyro being used.
Do you have a favourite song to perform live?
Simmons: I may be sick and tired of playing ‘Rock and Roll All Night’ or ‘I Was Made for Loving You’. But to hear 100,000 people jumping up and down, singing to those songs, it gets you off, right? So it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what we like, it only matters what our fans like.
What do you think about the state of rock ‘n roll today, and people who say, “Rock ’n roll is dead”?
Stanley: Well, it’s very interesting that the only music that consistently sells out concerts on a large scale is rock and roll. And, quite honestly, if you go to see any of the more current acts, I would say, they’re doing Kiss shows. Kiss DNA is in every entertainment venue that you see. We wrote the book on presentation, and there’s not a band or entertainer out there that I don’t go see and have a little chuckle, and not for any other reason except [realising] we’ve left our mark. I think it was a wake up call to audiences of what’s possible, and that they shouldn’t accept less. So as far as rock and roll being dead, I would bet the farm, so to speak, that Led Zeppelin will outlast anything that has the number one record today.
Simmons: Rock is dead. And that’s because new bands haven’t taken the time to create glamour, excitement and epic stuff. I mean, Foo Fighters is a terrific band, but that’s a 20-year-old band. So you can go back to 1958 until 1988. That’s 30 years. During that time, we had Elvis, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, on and on. In disco, you had Madonna, and then you had your hard rock, you had AC/DC, maybe us, a few others. Motown, all that great music. From 1988, until today, that’s more than 30 years. Tell me who the new Beatles is. You can’t. There are popular bands. BTS is very popular. All kinds of bands are very popular. That doesn’t mean iconic and legacy and for all time. It’s different.
Do you think time will tell if some acts are going to be iconic in another 30 years?
Simmons: I doubt it. Because the singularity that was the Beatles is a band that wrote their own songs, arranged it themselves, produced it themselves, mostly played all their own instruments. No backing tracks. No digital enhancement. No vocal correctness. Yeah, not gonna happen again. You know, the modern artists rely so much on technology. You may not be able to recognise the artist if they record themselves singing in the shower. You’d be shocked. And none of the rappers play instruments. Don’t write songs. They write words. But chords, melodies, harmonies and stuff. It doesn’t mean that rap isn’t important. It’s very important. But it ain’t the Beatles.
In terms of contemporary artists today, is there anyone you listen to? Anyone who’s caught your attention?
Stanley: I think Ariana Grande’s got killer chops and sings great. Post Malone is really great. I think there’s a lot of stuff out there I can do without. But there are some people out there making really good music. Gaga is always doing something great. She’s a true artist. As far as bands, you know, if I think of a new band, very funny, I think of Foo Fighters and I go, well, that’s 30 years old.
Simmons: I love all the pop artists. I think Billie Eilish is fantastic. She’s interesting because she and her brother actually write the material and are unique to themselves. Lady Gaga is fantastic in the female category. She writes her own material, she can sing like nobody’s business. But she actually is a musician, writes her own songs, plays piano, she can actually do that. The rest of the world reacts to a lot of the pop divas, although mostly they don’t write their own songs and can’t play an instrument. And by the way, that’s okay, too. It doesn’t matter what you like. But it ain’t the Beatles.
How come you say the Beatles, not Kiss?
Simmons: We don’t take ourselves too seriously, it’s not for us. We’re approaching 47 years and being out there … I think the great thing about us, and I don’t mince words, is that our job is to bring some light into the world. As soon as you see Kiss, your life will change.
In the early days, did you always know Kiss was going to become what it is?
Stanley: Whether it’s naivety or not, my thought was always that we were going to become the biggest band around.
Simmons: When we first started, this is before digital, before MTV, before cell phones. We didn’t even have voicemail. Phones were rotary. It was in another century — the 20th century. So we didn’t care about ruling the world or anything. We were just thrilled we didn’t have to work nine to five. You get a chance to be in a band and see the world. It doesn’t happen with dentists or plumbers.
What’s the significance of the Kiss stage make-up?
Simmons: We were four knuckleheads off the streets of New York, in the early 70s. And we just wanted to put together the band we never saw on stage. I won’t forget those early years, when I was much, much younger, I’d go to see all my favourite bands that I heard on the radio. And often I was disappointed. The imagery and the live shows just did not live up to the music. And the idea behind Kiss was … let’s put together the band we never saw on stage.
Stanley: It’s a symbol to people that you can go against the grain and win.
Was there a time in the beginning when you had to fight for a space where you did your own thing, with the heels, with the make-up? Were people pushing against that in rock ’n roll?
Stanley: It was laughed at. People, if they were being polite, they snickered. If they weren’t, they just out and out laughed. I can remember supporting other bands, and the first night that we would come out of the dressing room, other bands would just be hysterically laughing. After we finished our set, nobody was laughing. It really was a crusade. It was us believing in what we were doing, and we were on a mission to make converts of everybody.
Finally, going into 2021 — any New Year’s Resolutions? Hopes for next year?
Simmons: How about we start showing kindness to each other and forget about what my New Year’s resolution [is]? ‘I got to lose a few pounds, I this and I that’, it’s like, get over yourself. You’re not all that important. The people around you are more important. Stretch out your hand and help other people.
Stanley: I think that all year, you should be looking to improve yourself, the world and the people around you. That may sound corny, but it got me where I am. You know, there’s a little Yoda in me. New Year’s resolution, to me, kind of sounds like you’ve been doing it wrong. And I’m always trying to do it right.
Don’t miss it!
The ‘Kiss 2020 Goodbye’ concert will be streamed live online from 9pm and streaming packages start from $39.99.