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.


15 Responses

  1. well, at least his response did not include him bashing Ace or Pete for being junkies or a alcoholics’ –
    for me, loving this band, wearing their shirts throughout the 70’s and spending my money on their music, and their shows, kiss as they are should probably hang it up , the staging is ok , miss seeing actual walls of amps { old school I know….} lighting is great , but paul and gene just don’t/cant run around anymore , they are mid 60’s so i’m not bashing , if paul could still sing I could ignore/handle the lack of movement/energy from him and gene, but he can no longer sing, I agree with the posts that say when they finally stop they will have ace and peter do a final show or a few select shows that i would see-
    time to hang it up paul-

    1. Robert,
      I saw them on the MONSTER tour, and I thought Paul sounded okay. He definitely couldn’t hit the higher notes on some songs, but he sounded better than he did when they toured for SONIC BOOM. I do agree with your comments on Gene and Paul not running around like they used to. As you say, they are getting older! I have to believe that they know that their time is about up. Personally, I would like them to release one more album, then do a true farewell tour. For the last show, have it be in NYC and have Ace and maybe Peter come on stage to play for a couple of songs. Hell, bring Bruce K. up, as well! Maybe even Vinnie V.! They’ve given us 40+ years of pretty great entertainment, so they deserve our respect! I hope it happens!

  2. Here’s a thought. Invite Peter, Ace and Bruce back for one last collaborative tour. Perhaps do it like this: have the Gene, Paul, Eric and Tommy lineup throughout each show, but have Peter and Ace come out either in costume or in plain clothes, for selected songs, and Bruce for his selected songs. And then with the final few songs, have them all on stage. Create a double drum kit set up for Eric and Peter. It could work, would be respectful to all, and the set list of songs would be great. Could pull from all eras….and it would allow Gene and Paul to still run everything like they want.

    1. I think that is a great idea! I’m not sure Peter could do a full tour like this, but it would be great if they could pull it off! That would be a show I would definitely pay top dollar for. Hope it happens!

    2. keith,

      glad paul was having a good night when you saw them , he was not the last time I saw them- I believe your right for sure on them knowing the end is close, I wish the original band could do something together again , write one more classic album “together” , do 1 last show in DETROIT { film it of course} where they give it everything they’ve got, and leave it all on the stage for not only the kiss army but for themselves, I can only hope…….. that would be the right way to go out-

  3. Much respect for all the musicians who came in went in KISS. But, bottom line, look at the original reunion tour, everyone in that audience was at a reunion show to see the ORIGINAL KISS. Sure some musicians are better at this or that, but the ORIGINAL band is what made KISS, KISS. The debate can go on forever, but lets face reality, and to this day the band still plays mainly ORIGINAL KISS songs at the shows, not many songs for Animalize, Asylum, and the albums that followed. Come on people call it like it is, without the original four members, the band would have been dead a long time ago.

    1. I agree with you, JJ. The ORIGINAL band members are what made KI$$ an iconic band. It doesn’t matter to me if Tommy and Eric may be better musicians than Ace and Peter. To me, there is a certain magic to KI$$ that is only captured by the ORIGINAL members. The reunion shows brought KI$$ new life and continued their relevance, so obviously many of their fans feel the exact same way.

      To me, having Tommy and Eric don the makeup created by ORIGINAL members Ace and Peter is blasphemy, regardless if both Ace and Peter signed away the rights to their makeups. Having those two imposters dress up as original characters does not interest me at all and I could care less about ever seeing KI$$ perform live again.

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