Kiss singer and guitarist Paul Stanley is a rock star unlike any other.
In his recently released memoir, the musician reveals he was born without a right ear, leaving him unable to triangulate sound and open to humiliation.
“Growing up, I spent a lot of time being scrutinized and taunted, and had a lot of self-image and self-worth issues,” Stanley said in an exclusive interview with Scripps.
“Being famous didn’t change anything. As anyone who is famous knows, you have to contend with ‘what do I do now?’ You can wind up blowing your brains out, burning your nose out with cocaine, or you can roll up your sleeves and carry on.”
Stanley hid the emotional pain his birth defect caused for years, and always felt that something was missing.
In “Face the Music: A Life Exposed” (HarperOne), Stanley reveals his past inner struggles, his journey to current happiness and a plethora of details about Kiss, as well as the inspiration behind hit songs such as “Detroit Rock City,” “Lick it up” and “Lovegun.”
Who knew that Gene Simmons used to look like an overweight character from the television show “Hee Haw,” sporting sandals and overalls in the 1970s?
This characterization, and also less-than-flattering descriptions of original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss in the book, Stanley stands by.
“Gene and I have never been closer, ” Stanley said. “He would agree with that description at the time, I think.”
Stanley emphasizes he didn’t write the book to throw anyone under the bus, or with any malicious intent.
“The truth is the truth, and I think that speaks for itself,” he said. “What’s gratifying to me is that people who have no interest in the band, no connection, are connecting with the book. One thing that I’ve heard over and over from people who’ve read the book is they find it inspiring.”
“I hope readers walk away knowing that they are the masters of their own destiny,” Stanley said. “Where you come from is no excuse for where you wind up.”
Kiss, the band Stanley co-founded with Gene Simmons in 1973, will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 10 alongside Cat Stevens, Daryl Hall and John Oates, Nirvana, Linda Ronstadt, Peter Gabriel, Andrew Loog Oldham, Brian Epstein and The E Street Band. The 29th annual ceremony will be at Barclay’s Center in New York City at 7p.m. EST. It will premiere May 31 on HBO.
Regarding Kiss’ induction to the rock hall, there has been friction.
Fifteen years of eligibility passed before the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation nominated Kiss for the 2014 class. Many fans and some in the music industry saw this as a clear snub by the Foundation.
When it was announced original guitarist Ace Frehley and original drummer Peter Criss would be inducted alongside founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, and current guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer would not be, nor would the many other players in the band’s rotating lineup through the past four decades, Kiss announced it would not perform at the ceremony.
As far as the induction itself, “it means nothing,” Stanley said. “It’s quickly becoming much clearer to the public that the real Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are the people who walk the streets and buy concert tickets.”
“The real Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is not the Jann Wenner (co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine)/ Dave Marsh (music critic, author and editor)/Jon Landau (music critic, producer, and artist manager) club. But I will absolutely be there because it validates our fans who have pushed for this.”
Stanley spoke to Scripps about his new book and the state of the music industry today.
Why did you finally decide a book was worth doing?
Because it has a happy ending.
I felt that I wanted my kids to have their dad’s story and understand what I went though and what it took to become successful. I also wanted to have other people see what I went through to get to where I am. I would also like to burst through some misconceptions and give people something they could be inspired by.
By helping other people and opening myself up to other people and working with different organizations, in my life in general, I found a great place with a spectacular wife and four great kids.
Problems can be covered with long hair and makeup for only so long. Secrets are never secret to you.
One message that really resonates throughout the book is that you have to love yourself first.
Self belief is where it all starts. You have to root for you. It’s hollow unless you are the motivating force.
It’s hard to imagine the pain you went through growing up, being taunted for something that you couldn’t do anything about. What would you say to someone who is getting bullied today?
I’ve worked with children who are born different. It may be refreshing for kids to hear it acknowledged that they are different, and it helps them to hear the truth.
I like to let them know that you aren’t like everybody else, and neither am I, but you can make something spectacular out of life. Life’s not always fair, but we can all do great things.
Are there any new artists that you think have staying power?
New, no. Gaga is the closest to a real artist and she’s always interesting and exciting. There are people who have potential, but nothing that bowls me over. No Led Zeppelin, no Beatles, no Gershwin, no Cole Porter. The bar has not been raised or even maintained.
Who do you admire among your musical peers?
Endurance has put us in some pretty hefty competition. Zeppelin, Jimmy Page, The Beatles. The greats are great because they’ve endured and influenced so many people over time.
Classic rock is not a graveyard, it’s where the gods live. To stand the test of time, and to be mentioned with all the bands that inspired me, is the ultimate.
What do you think of the way music is distributed now?
Unfortunately technology has slit the throat of artists. The lack of revenue going fairly to artists has been proven to stifle creativity. If you can’t pay the rent how are you going to make music?
The idea that the limitations of how you can restrict theft is now what artists have to settle for, in terms of compensation, is ass-backwards. That people can decide if or how much to pay is absurd. Try that with the guy that comes to paint your house.