10 Years Ago: Paul Stanley Goes Solo for the Second Time With ‘Live to Win’
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Paul Stanley of Kiss released his first solo album as part of a plan to keep his fracturing band together. Three decades later, with the group on much safer ground, he made Live to Win for personal fulfillment.
“I didn’t have a choice,” Stanley told the A.V. Club about his 1978 self-titled effort, released on the same day as solo records by bandmates Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss as part of a time-buying effort to keep the burned-out, feuding band from breaking up at the height of its fame. “The idea was to present group unity, which is kind of interesting, because the solo albums came out of the band being on the verge of splitting up. In the long run, it was putting a Band-Aid on a serious wound.”
In 2006, after bringing Kiss back to platinum-selling status from their near-fatal early-’80s collapse — then keeping the group afloat through numerous lineup changes, including the departure, return and second departures of both Criss and Frehley — Stanley felt Kiss were on steady-enough ground for him to explore another solo record. At this point, it had been eight years since the release of the most recent Kiss studio album, Psycho Circus, and two since Simmons’ own second solo effort, the hysterically titled A—hole.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to do this,” He told the Aquarian, explaining that the film career and other outside interests of fellow remaining founding member Simmons sometimes left Stanley more or less alone at the steering wheel. “I’ve always felt that, in some ways, it was really my responsibility to make sure that Kiss was always solid and in good shape, and while everyone else was running off doing other things, I usually had this feeling that somebody had to be there to bail water when the Good Ship Kiss might spring a leak. So, I really waited until I felt the band was in tip-top shape, and I also felt that I reached a point where I had to move on and do this album of my own.”
With help from Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie guitarist John 5, and with former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick contributing bass to three tracks, Stanley delivered a 10-song record that blended his natural knack for catchy choruses with a more mainstream and polished modern-rock songwriting and production style. “It’s not 1978 anymore,” Stanley told Billboard. “It’s certainly the same mentality, and certainly I’m a better singer today. My perspective and where I’m at in my life at this point, and what I’ve experienced and seen, brings something else to the table that wasn’t there then.”
A few weeks before the album’s release, Live to Win’s title track was featured on an episode of South Park, serving as the somewhat ironically inspirational soundtrack to Kenny, Kyle, Stan and Cartman’s epic, pointless video-game marathon.
Watch Paul Simon’s ‘Live to Win’ in ‘South Park’
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Stanley mounted a fall 2006 club tour in support of Live to Win, backed by the house band from the CBS reality show Rock Star (which, if you forgot, sought to find new lead singers for both INXS and a new supergroup featuring Tommy Lee, Gilby Clarke and Jason Newsted). The Chicago stop on the tour, which blended songs from both Stanley solo albums with Kiss hits and rarities, was released two years later as the home video and live album One Live Kiss.
With Stanley setting the rules (no ballads, no outside songwriters) and taking control of the producer’s chair, Kiss ended a by-then decade-plus long absence from the studio three years later with 2009’s back-to-basics Sonic Boom, and followed that well-received album in 2012 with the even coarser Monster.
During a 2016 interview, Stanley revealed that he had been thinking about making another Kiss record, although he harbored no illusions about its commercial prospects. “There’s no secret that when anybody who’s considered classic or of our generation does a new album, most people are not interested in hearing that stuff; they tolerate it at best,” he noted. “So I’m aware that doing an album is more for my own satisfaction than anybody else’s.”
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