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Spotlights [Issue # 23 ]
Paul Stanley: Living To Win

By Dean Truitt

Few recording artists would be able to eke out a living waiting 28 years between releases of his first and second solo albums.


Few recording artists would be able to eke out a living waiting 28 years between releases of his first and second solo albums. However, when your day job is serving as the frontman of KISS, who have sold over 80 million albums, toured the world dozens of times, and licensed enough merchandise to eliminate the national debt in the interim, one can excuse the extended “hiatus.” As a result of KISS’s famously outlandish image, onstage histrionics, and marketing mania, people sadly often overlook the staggering string of hits that continually draws the KISS Army to the stadiums across the globe. The band had massive international success with “I Was Made for Lovin’ You,” “Hard Luck Woman,” “Detroit Rock City,” and “Rock and Roll All Nite,” all of which were written or co-written by Paul Stanley.

For his first solo effort completely removed from the KISS umbrella (which, coincidentally, is probably one of the countless items the band has undoubtedly marketed), the Starchild has delivered a very solid effort. One senses that he relishes working in complete control, rather than sharing the creative decisions with Gene Simmons. He admits, “I just wouldn’t want to do a KISS album that’s full of compromise and dilution because everybody’s got ideas and everybody’s got quotas of songs. One thing that Live to Win firmed up for me is my idea that I’m pretty good in the studio on my own and I’d really rather remain true to that and work around other people. So, I’m not opposed to doing another KISS album, but it would really have to be done my way.”

“Doing things his way” has yielded a focused, yet diverse collection. The opening track, “Live to Win,” which has already supported a hilarious scene on South Park, shows that Stanley has no difficulty writing anthemic material in the modern rock format. With menacing guitars and a plodding groove, “Lift” continues with another nod to current sonic current production aesthetics. With a different artist singing the track, the song would be a hit on KROQ.

However, Stanley’s recent outing is by no means an attempt to mimic any ephemeral trends. Songs such as “Everytime I See You Around,” “Second to None,” and “Loving You Without You” continue the artist’s longstanding tradition of mid-tempo torch songs and balladry. On his ease with revealing his sensitivity in songwriting, Stanley asserts, “I’ve always felt that showing emotion or singing about it is nothing about being wimpy. I think there are enough people who spend too much time flexing their muscle and posing . . . for me, writing a song that shows some vulnerability is actually from a place of strength.”

Regardless of what one’s opinion of the man’s material may be, no one would deny he is the consummate showman in terms of arena rock. Moreover, his powerful singing throughout the wide range of tracks on Live to Win reconfirms that his voice has not diminished over the years. As for how he has managed to maintain vocal excellence throughout decades of grueling touring, Stanley muses, “Something clicked at one point where I found out how to hit those notes night after night without tearing up my throat. I remember going to a voice coach when I was doing Phantom of the Opera. This guy heard me sing and asked, ‘Who taught you to do that?’ I said, ‘I did.’ I never wanted to be a rock singer as much as I wanted to be a singer who sings rock.”
As a celebrated performer, Stanley had his pick of collaborators and musicians eager to work with him. He made wise choices, including reuniting with veteran writer/producer, Desmond Child, with whom he wrote “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” in 1979. He recalls, “Desmond and I hadn’t written together in probably about 15 years. Getting back together with him was really fun because we started writing and five minutes into it he looked across the table and said, ‘We haven’t lost it.’”

Aside from working with old friends, he wanted to explore new avenues. He tapped the talents Marti Frederiksen, who has written hits such as “Jaded” with Aerosmith, and guitarist John 5, who has played for artists ranging from Marilyn Manson, k.d. lang, and David Lee Roth. Stanley is quick to note that he welcomed collaboration because he would ultimately decide every last detail. He notes, “I pretty much knew people that I’d enjoy working with because collaboration sometimes takes establishing a chain of command or an identity. In this case, we were collaborating, but we were clear that we were writing on my album. We were all in the same car, but there’s no question of who gets to drive.”

On the heels of Live to Win’s acclaim, Paul Stanley looks forward to a US club tour. He also notes that it will not take as long for the next solo outing. With a laugh, he remarks, “I’m certainly not going to wait another 28 years to do a solo record. Instead of calling it Live to Win, I’d have to call it Hope to Live!”

Live to Win
New Door

Living To Win Paul Stanley Live to Win

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