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 isβ€”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.


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  • Keith G on

    I know Paul going to get lots of negative comments on this, but I think his was a very honest answer. When you get right down to it, Eric has been in the band longer than either of the previous drummers. And Tommy has been in the band almost as long as any of the other guitarists. That is not a slam on Ace or Peter, it’s just a fact. The band as it is works for Paul and Gene. They still play to large crowds, and they have put out two pretty well received albums of original material with these guys. Those facts certainly don’t diminish what Ace and Peter means to the band or the fans. But Ace and Peter have been in and out of the band a couple of times, and it just didn’t work out. So, Paul and Gene moved on without them. The Spaceman and Catman characters were sold by Ace and Peter, and that was their choice. So, Paul and Gene owns the rights to those characters, and have every right to stick them on anyone they wish. As I’ve stated previously, I would have preferred that they had stuck with the Revenge lineup, and not use the makeup. But, that wasn’t my call. This lineup of KISS works for Paul and Gene. And, apparently, enough fans agree to make it an acceptable business venture at the moment. And people need to accept the fact that music is, in the end, a BUSINESS!

    • Michael B on

      I think most casual Kiss fans don’t seem to care who is playing what, and I’d imagine that at some point you’ll see a version of Kiss without Gene or Paul, as they have said might happen.

      Music is music, and business is business. Like all art forms, where they meet is always a blurred line. Gene and Paul were just completely upfront with their position, and to them it’s almost all business and marketing, or they would have never put the makeup back on.

      In 2017, I don’t find them particularly relevant anymore, and I was a huge Kiss fan. Seeing one of their recent tours, Paul was pretty bad in the vocal department, but as long as they get those merch and licensing $$, it’s all good I guess.

    • Jason Falkinham on

      The thing is, Kiss isnt playing to big crowds in the States anymore…at least not without a co-headliner. I’m not quite sure adding Ace would change that, either, but it wouldn’t hurt.

  • Doug R. on

    Let’s see, make the KISS ARMY VERY happy, or, go with your ego, hmm… come on, Paul, “Got To Choose,” πŸ˜‰ so, make the right choice!

    BTW, the original KISS pinball machine is still the best, as is the original Spaceman and the original Catman, Ace Frehley & Peter Criss!

    – KISS fan since 1974! πŸ™‚

  • Frank T on

    I still say where there’s smoke there’s fire. Paul and Gene blasted Ace and Peter prior to the reunion tour saying it would never ever happen and it did. I believe a final tour is coming in some form perhaps featuring Ace and Peter for a few songs or a jam like on MTV unplugged. That will lead up to a final show in NYC central park which will be the original 4. I don’t ever believe what Paul and Gene say simply because the past tells us they consistently contradict themselves.

    • Keith G on

      I agree that, when Paul and Gene decide to hang it up, there is a real good possibility of Ace and Peter being involved in a final tour or show. Peter probably could not complete a whole tour, and maybe not a full show. Ace could, of course. The fact is that it would make too much business sense for Paul and Gene to not want the whole thing to end like that. I think they will probably make it happen, one way or another.

  • Waverider on

    Perfectly said, Keith G

  • RTunes68 on

    What I got out of this interview is that KISS will definitely reunite with Ace! If you notice, when asked if there are any “reunion possibilities,” Paul clearly said, “No.” That can only mean one thing: Ace will be back in KISS. In fact, I’ll bet Ace will come back and Paul just won’t let anyone know. People will go to KISS shows and think it’s Tommy when it’s really Ace….and how do we know that it’s really Eric under that makeup? What if it’s really been Peter all along and Paul just hasn’t told anyone?

    (For the record, my response doesn’t sound any more delusional than anyone who’s posting that Paul’s “no” actually means “yes.” Sometimes “no” just means that – no.)

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