Driven by Stanley and Gene Simmons, and directed by D.J. Viola, Kisstory is a comprehensive telling of the band’s story, from the two cofounders’ youths through to the End of the Road farewell tour that’s slated to resume in August – the same month they hope filming will begin on a Netflix biopic. It certainly celebrates Kiss‘ myriad triumphs and occasional pitfalls, and while it’s hardly the first time they’ve told the story, Stanley feels like it’s the first time they’ve told it this way.
“What I’m so connected to and like so much about this special is the chemistry and camaraderie between Gene and I,” Stanley tells UCR. “Everybody loves to hear about strife and about conflict, but we couldn’t be closer. We have so much we look back on. His family’s my family. The general feel of some of the other documentaries that we’ve done has been almost like a muscle-car rally, a bigger-than-life, amplified superhero kind of vibe. This, I think, really breaks it down to the human side of it, the people behind it. I, for one, really enjoy Gene and I together. We go back, at this point, 52 years – that’s insanity.”
Kisstory shows Simmons and Stanley talking about Kiss in a number of casual situations, lounging at each other’s houses and revisiting Electric Lady Studios in their native New York, where they recorded pre-Kiss. Those kinds of conversations, according to Stanley, have happened “much more so in the last two years. I think we both came to a point of just assessing, or reassessing, what we’ve accomplished, what the dynamic is and what our intertwining has brought us.
“Somebody asked last year, ‘So, you don’t tend to, like, argue and fight?’ and I went, ‘Why? We won,” the singer admits. “There’s bigger things in our lives.”
That said, both men freely acknowledge their differences as people, and bandmates, during Kiss’ tenure.
“We’ve had some good fights in the sense that we might not speak to each other for a while,” Stanley says, “but it wasn’t because I knocked out his tooth or he gave me a black eye. We just weren’t on the same page, and there was animosity about the way one of us was handling something. But, look, when we had our [Northridge] earthquake in ’94, we weren’t talking, but as soon as the ground stopped shaking and I stopped shaking, I picked up the phone and called Gene. ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Okay. Go fuck yourself.’ [laughs] So, yeah, we have that bond, and we’re closer now, I think, than we’ve ever been.”
There’s still strife and conflict in Kisstory with original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, however. Neither is seen on camera, and their sound bites during the documentary come from archival interviews. Stanley says both wanted to be paid and have “final editing rights” in order to be part of the project, and he and Simmons specifically mention that Criss would not grant permission for them to use the song “Beth” in the film.
“It’s sad, but that kind of fits into the whole dynamic,” Stanley says. “We did the best we could. We tried numerous times in all different ways to have them be part of it, but this idea of final editing and money and this and that. … It was like, ‘No, your involvement doesn’t warrant that.’ And who ultimately loses out in a situation like this? They do.
“I don’t really want to trash those guys,” Stanley continues, “because we wouldn’t be here today if they hadn’t been in the band, and we wouldn’t be here today if they still were.”
Kisstory features many other voices from the group’s career, including other former and current band members, producers, longtime manager Doc McGhee and admirers Dave Grohl and Tom Morello. Kiss recently celebrated the documentary with a screening and short performance during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Now the group is turning its attention toward resuming the End of the Road tour starting Aug. 18 in Mansfield, Mass., and a new comic book, Phantom Obsession. Casting, meanwhile, is underway for Shout It Out Loud, the fast-tracked Netflix biopic that’s being directed by Joachim Renning (Malificent: Mistress of Evil, Pirates of the Caribbean films).
“It’s on the launchpad,” says Stanley, who isn’t weighing in on who he’d like to see play him. “I have no one in mind because, frankly, if you’re going to cast anywhere near to age-appropriate you’re talking about actors who are in their 20s, and I’m not really aware of many actors in their 20s. So I will leave that to the casting people, and that will give me some insight into who they think I am.”
Paul Stanley Year by Year: 1974-2020 Photographs
The Kiss man through the decades, starting with the band’s debut album.