For several years, KISS singer-guitarist Paul Stanley has been moonlighting as the frontman for Soul Station — a musical collective that focuses on covers of vintage soul and R&B classics of the ‘60s and ‘70s (as well as some originals that sound as if they were cut from the same musical cloth). But it was not until this month that the band finally issued their debut album, Now and Then.
And it turns out the wait was certainly worth it — Stanley’s voice is in fine form throughout, especially on covers of the Five Stairsteps’ “O-O-H Child” and Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”, among others.
The singer, who forgoes rhythm guitar when fronting Soul Station, spoke with Consequence of Sound shortly before the arrival of Now and Then, which you can pick up here. Not only did he discuss Soul Station, he also talked about some of his favorite singers, when he sees KISS resuming their “End of the Road” farewell tour, and more.
Read our interview with Paul Stanley below:
On having KISS drummer Eric Singer also serve as a member of Soul Station
A “hard rock drummer” in this music would have been a disaster. It would have been a bull in a china shop. Eric is so much more than what he does in the confines of KISS or other bands that he’s played with. He grew up playing big band music with his dad. And his musical vocabulary — what he can draw from — is so vast. That, as soon as I started to put this band together, immediately I thought, “Well … I know who the drummer is.” Eric is amazing. I can’t tell you how many people had heard the album and tracks before they saw the video and said, “Who’s drumming?” It’s right there in that pocket.
On his favorite soul singers
Sam Cooke is one of the ultimates — phenomenal. David Ruffin, phenomenal. Al Green. Otis Redding. Smokey [Robinson]. I love everything that Stevie Wonder’s done, but I vastly prefer the earlier stuff — whether it’s “Uptight” or “I Was Made to Love Her” or “Fingertips.” Those are certainly some of them. Which leads you to, you go, “Rod Stewart, if you take Sam Cooke and David Ruffin, you’ve kind of got Rod!” But as far as the originals, the first one that comes to mind has to be Sam Cooke. “A Change Is Gonna Come”, “Chain Gang”, “Cupid” – that’s the book. Laura Nyro is everybody’s best-kept and loved secret. Laura went to my high school — she graduated I think the year before I came in. And Laura Nyro is in the Top 10 of pretty much anybody who knows her music. She’s it. She did an amazing album with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff — a covers album of all old tunes [1971’s Gonna Take a Miracle]. But her writing is ridiculous. As a matter of fact, in Soul Station when we were in Japan, we would listen to that album. Laura Nyro is a game-changer.
On which rock singers have soul in their vocals
Paul Rodgers. Rod Stewart. [Late Small Faces singer] Steve Marriott. Steve Perry – again, there’s so much Sam Cooke in what he’s doing. The Weeknd has got a great voice. I think Chris Cornell for me more so [in response to the suggestion that grunge singers such as Cornell, Eddie Vedder, and Layne Staley were also soulful]. Certainly, those were soul singers in the context of they were baring their souls – but I don’t necessarily think of those in the same category.
On which soul albums he would suggest KISS fans start with, if they’re unfamiliar with the soul/R&B genre
Tough question. I have to preface it by saying it can be difficult, because if somebody isn’t open to different kinds of music, it’s like not being open to different kinds of food. If you taste it with a closed mind, you’re not going to get it. And for me, I think that people sell themselves short by limiting their musical taste – self-limiting, by the way. It’s easy to say, “I love pizza.” But are you going to eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day? I think music is the same way. I think it’s really important not only to listen to a variety of music, but love it. Find the varieties that you love. Because I think it makes you more well-rounded, and it gives you the possibility of finding more joy. “Joy” is a word that keeps coming up with music. So, what would I have a KISS fan listen to? I would hope that a KISS fan doesn’t just listen to KISS, anyway. So, if you put on the Greatest Hits of the Temptations, and you do it like you’re having [to listen to it] like it’s a chore, well, you’re not going to get it. So, I would hope that a KISS fan is not purely just a KISS fan – because there’s too much great music around.
On which KISS album he thinks will be re-discovered and re-appreciated years from now
I think Destroyer is an album that will continue to stand the test of time. In the scope of what it is, it’s pretty cinematic and not purely what would one call a “hard rock album.” I think Sonic Boom is a great album. Alive! is the bible I think of KISS albums, and it will always stand as such. As a testament to what the live experience in the audience of a band was – and is.
On whether KISS’ songwriting and performance sometimes gets overlooked by the make-up, costumes, and merchandising
Well, I think KISS Unplugged stands tall in terms of showing off the songwriting and the musicianship – and the singing. Granted, what we are known for is bombastic and overwhelming, but those songs are undeniable. If you hear them played on an acoustic guitar, I’ve always believed that if a song can’t be played on one guitar and sound great, it’s not a great song. If a song depends upon sounds and arrangement, well, those embellish and enhance it, but it’s all about the foundation. And I think we have – for the most part – been most concerned with the bones with what you build on. And that always starts with a great song. And songwriting is a craft that is worked at. Anybody can write a song, but it doesn’t make you a songwriter.
On Soul Station’s future beyond KISS
I would say it’s one of my futures beyond KISS. I don’t want to be confined by anybody else’s idea of who I am or what I can or should do. That’s why I got into music – for the freedom of it. So, do I see Soul Station continuing? Absolutely. I love it. I love not only the concept of it, but also what it turned into — a big family of multi-ethnicities, nationalities, and backgrounds, that just love being together and making joyous music. I love the music and I love doing it, so I would hate to see it as a one-time project — I don’t see it that way. It’s been building now for five years.
On whether KISS plan to complete their End of the Road Tour
We will definitely complete the ‘End of the Road’ tour. The question is, “When does anybody get back on the road?” Anyone who thinks that arenas or stadiums are going to be hosting bands any time soon is kidding themselves. It’s just not going to happen. It’s going to take a herd immunity or mass vaccinations – among other things – to make the concert market happen again. A promoter can’t get insurance – even if people were willing to forgo the safety measures. KISS are in a real holding pattern right now, and we can’t go out and continue before the coast is clear. We’re circling the runway.
On how difficult it would have been for KISS to hide their identities today, compared to back in the ‘70s
It would be impossible. KISS initially came about in a different era — whether it was paparazzi, social media, it’s a totally different world. And the boundaries and parameters that are acceptable and not acceptable have changed dramatically. What we were doing back then — from covering our faces, having security guys with us who would literally pull film out of cameras — that can’t happen now. Someone wouldn’t last a week trying to maintain anonymity. It was the perfect storm, the planets aligning, or whatever you want to say. But it worked then and it wouldn’t work now.