Andy Gensler of Billboard spoke with KISS frontman Paul Stanley the band’s merchandise and how it all began. Portions of the interview appear below.
Billboard: Congratulations on KISS’ latest merch milestone, 125 global licenses.
Paul Stanley: We’ve had thousands of licensing partners over the years but my objective has never been to have bragging rights by accumulating volumes of licensing partners; rather, it’s been about using decades of successes as a spring board to elevate our position in terms of gaining higher stature affiliations.
Billboard: How did KISS’ merchandising begin?
Paul Stanley: Organically. We came at a time when fan clubs were frowned upon. Fan clubs harkened back to an age of Fabian and Frankie Avalon and seen as a ploy by management and record companies to sell the flavor of the week. But when we came into being people wanted to align themselves with us. They were the ones who said, ‘We want a t-shirt, a belt buckle.’ It’s very easy to tag us as marketing geniuses, but I would rather say we have very acute hearing.
Billboard: Who came up with the face paint?
Paul Stanley: We did.
Billboard: Was Starboy was your invention?
Paul Stanley: Yeah, it certainly came from me, but there was a syncronicity to it. Something”s going on when four people are on a journey together, so in some way we all certainly impacted each other.
Billboard: Who made the KISS logo?
Paul Stanley: The initial design was done by Ace [Frehley] but the one that to this day appears on everything was actually drafted by me. I did it on my parents coffee table with a ruler and a piece of white oak tag–a kind of poster board. The two S’s are not actually parallel to each other because I did it by eye. When we got our record deal we were asked if we wanted to have the logo straightened and I said, “It got us this far, leave it alone.”
Billboard: Did you ever get criticized for the merchandising?
Paul Stanley: We were snickered at by other bands until they saw the checks we were getting and all of a sudden they joined the parade. I tend to think we live by a law of commonality. In other words, no one is that different from anyone else and when i can provide something that I want and satisfy a need in myself I satisfy a need in someone else.
Billboard: What’s your favorite piece of merch?
Paul Stanley: I love all KISS merch – if I didn’t we wouldn’t sell it. But my favorite items are shirts, shirts and more shirts. Our concerts are a sea of 40 years of Kiss shirts. We’ve done a 1,000 designs and sold close to $5 million in shirts. Also, my family loves playing the Stern KISS pinball game. It’s an incredible piece of technology and a very worthy successor to the original 1970’s Bally model. I also love my KISS credit card.
Billboard: Do you ever turn down merchandising deals?
Paul Stanley: Sure. There is nothing that’s worth doing that is immoral or unethical — I think if you stick with that you’re in good shape. There were times we were offered significants amounts of money for either playing some place we thought was not holding up their end in terms of social, political or humanitarian activity and we also said no to tobacco companies. Over the years, and more so now than ever, I realize I have to answer to my children. They can’t see their father as a fraud.
Billboard: I saw something in the paper about Ace willing to join back up again, any original members reunion possibilities?
Paul Stanley: No. And that’s not coming from any place of animosity. I sang on Ace’s most recent album and did a video with him. I have the connection and the reconnection and to celebrate the good things we’ve done together is terrific. The band as it is—I’ve played with Eric Singer for I think 25 years and Tommy’s [Thayer] been in the band probably 15 years at this point. I have no thoughts of re-visiting the past. With that said I am happy to enhance or do whatever I can for anyone who has helped put me where I am, but that doesn’t include getting hitched again to somebody I unhitched from.
Read more at Billboard.