Paul Stanley sits in a flamboyant jacket to promote Soul Station

Paul Stanley interview: “Too often, people replace passion with perfection!” Kiss frontman on Soul Station

Kiss frontman Paul Stanley may be a globally recognized rock icon in Star Child make-up and platform boots, but he’s turned back the clock for his new album, Now and Then, the debut release from Paul Stanley’s Soul Station. 

Audio Media International talked to Paul about his love of Motown, how he recreated that classic sixties studio sound, and what’s next for Kiss.

“This has always been my wheelhouse. It’s as much the foundation of what I do as the more obvious British hard rock bands,” the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer tells Audio Media International

A love letter to Motown, Now and Then delights with joyful takes on classics from Al Green, The Miracles, Smokey Robinson, the Delfonics, The Four Tops and The Temptations, all nestled alongside pitch-perfect new songs.

It says much that newly written material blends so seamlessly with standards like ‘The Tracks of My Tears,’ ‘Let’s Stay Together’ and ‘Just My Imagination.’ 

“I was lucky I saw Otis Redding when I was a kid. I saw Solomon Burke, The Temptations, John Lee Hooker….

“For me, there’s two kinds of music: good and bad. When I hear somebody say they only listen to jazz, I say if you like pizza do you have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner? I think diversity is key. No matter what kind of music you’re making.”

The direction may surprise some, but Paul says he was never in doubt that his 11-strong troupe would do this pet project justice.

“From the first time that Soul Station played together, there was magic there,” he says.  “Every member who came on board, just embellished it that much more. There’s some live footage of us, I believe it’s 2016 at the Roxy in Los Angeles, that’s pretty damn good. The band had been together for two weeks, and you know, it just was right.”

Soul Station was always meant to be a live act first, he says. “For years there was no thought of an album. Then I started thinking this is too good to not document.“

“As it progressed I just found myself thinking I don’t want the band to live, purely in the past: this music deserves to find new life and creation in the present. So I wrote ‘Save Me’, which turned out pretty much the way I expected, or better. And I thought, why not write another one?

“I’m familiar enough with all that other music and it’s so much a part of me that doing the string arrangements and the horns and everything was second nature. It wasn’t a matter of karaoke or trying to imitate something. I think when you absorb something, it becomes part of you. It was more of a frame of mind. So, lo and behold, there were five new tracks. I think that it’s a nice balance, where the foundation is still the past.”

Paul Stanley Soul Station interviewed by Steve May

Recording Now and Then: The gear, the studio…

To put a new contemporary twist on a familiar sound, a combination of old and new studio equipment was used to record Now and Then.

Paul Stanley: “It’s hard to improve on Neumann U47 and M49s mics, RCA ribbon mics. You can’t reinvent the wheel, it’s already been done, and it works well. But with Neve consoles, Pultec EQ, and Pro Tools, they didn’t exist at that time.

“Pro Tools, when used judiciously and used properly, is a great tool. I think for some people it got a bad rap because it was used as a replacement for something that wasn’t there, whether it was artistry, or performance, but it doesn’t have to be like that. We mixed through vintage, analogue gear.

“It’s like a good recipe –  a recipe has all different ingredients to different proportions and that’s what makes it work. I did some of the vocals at my house with a Telefunken M 251 going into a simple laptop rig.”

The album was recorded at Dave’s Room, in Los Angeles. “It’s a studio from the ’70s, and it’s just perfect. You know, you walk in there and it’s just warm and inviting. And like everything else with the band it was, it was just right. It doesn’t look like the USS Enterprise.

“Too often, people replace passion with perfection. If you listen to all the music that you love. It’s not perfect. Sometimes that music is almost going off the rails, and that’s what makes it so great!

“Are all the horn parts on some of that Motown, right? Well, you know, listen to ‘Uptight (Everything’s Alright)’. It gets a little a little edgy, but that’s what makes it so exciting. And I think that’s what we were going for. Soul Station, as opposed to being a band that formed in the studio and then goes play to play live, is a live band that went into the studio.”

Of course, the sixties influences on Kiss are hiding in plain sight. The Kiss classic ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ takes inspiration from ‘Standing in the Shadows of Love’ by the Four Tops. Paul breaks into song to make the point.

“’Shout it out Loud’ has the call and response of  ‘Sugar Pie Honey bunch’…”

What’s next for Paul Stanley’s Soul Station and Kiss…

The rock legend is keen to stress that, album out, this isn’t the end of his Soul Station project. 

“Soul Station is ongoing,” he says. “ It’s something that should be seen live. It’s something that I need to do live. It’s in my blood, and it always has been. I’m blessed to have this band, and to be a part of this band. When we’re on stage I always say, to the audience: this is not my backup band, I’m in this band – and that’s a great feeling. So, Soul Station will continue!”

But the behemoth that is Kiss will not be denied. “Kiss goes out in August, to pick up the end of the road tour, which is the end of the road…” he confirms.

“Let’s face it, the older you get, the more precious time becomes, and losing a year at my age is not the same as losing a year when you’re 25. So, yeah, time is precious and it can’t be bought. So the Kiss End of the Road tour is the greatest show we’ve ever done. It’s a great, great way to spend one more night with the people who have championed us and hopefully live up to and exceed their admiration and connection to us.”

Paul Stanley’s Soul Station photo credit Brian Lowe