Paul Stanley Biography
For more than thirty years, Paul Stanley has reigned supreme as one of the single-most recognizable frontmen in the history of rock and roll. He's the principal songwriter, driving force and the unwavering voice of KISS, one of the most successful and influential bands ever born on American soil. Employing equal parts hip-grinding rhythm, full-tilt glam and guitar-driven slam, Stanley single-handedly penned such escapist anthems as "Love Gun," "God of Thunder" and "Black Diamond." He was the golden throat that throttled "Detroit Rock City," the charismatic swagger behind "I Was Made For Lovin' You," and stripped of makeup, was the unmasked troubadour that breathed vocal life into the ballads "Reason to Live," "Forever" and "Every Time I Look At You."
For his highly anticipated solo Live to Win, Stanley chose to sidestep the glitz and glamour that has epitomized much of his career, Stanley strips his emotions to the bone and adorns them with a melodic sheen on Live to Win. In doing away with the legendary bombast, what becomes starkly clear is that these songs about the power of the human spirit and commitment to not compromising ideals can rattle not only the walls, but also the heart and soul of the listener. "What I wanted to do on this album was sing about my life, and my life is not that different than anybody else's," he continues. "The truth is, what we all deal with in life is pretty similar, change the names and the story's the same."
"Ultimately your life is always about what you make it and how you will it to be," says Stanley, his tone soft and soothing as he describes his inspiration for Live to Win [New Door Records/ Universal Music Enterprises] his first solo album in more than 25 years, and second overall. "I sing about what I know, what I experience, try to get to keep it all fairly simple and straight ahead, and that what's kept what I've always sung about universal. This album was purely a labor of love and passion, and I was only concerned with turning out the album I heard in my head, without regard for having glitz and star power from other sources."
That philosophy is aptly summed in the album's title track, a guitar-driven crescendo that affirms Stanley's determination to make, break and sustain success:
"You ask me how I made my way, You ask me every where and why,
You hang on every word I say, But the truth sounds like a lie.
Live to win, Till you die, Till the light dies in your eyes,
Live to win, Take it all, Just keep fighting till you fall"
"I've always lived by my own rules and refused to let anyone keep me from my goals or succeeding at what I set out to do. You are either your best friend or your greatest obstacle," says Stanley. "I'm living proof of living to win - One might say I'm lucky, but I tell you, the harder you work the luckier you get. You can either be a victim in life who surrenders to failure and bitch about all your adverse experiences, or you can take a deep breath and charge forward."
In charging forward musically, KISS's professional successes achieved and sustained, Stanley has been blessed with the opportunity to examine more personal matters on Live to Win. His self-professed labor of love became, quite literally, a labor about love. "Well, you know, live and learn," he laughs, acknowledging that relationships are the driving force behind the album. "What I wanted to focus on was making timeless music using timeless subject matter." Stanley elaborates, "In spite of all the folly of fashion, we ultimately find ourselves wearing our old blue jeans, don't we? What is there in life, and what is the core of life? It's relationships. Whether they're sexual, friendships or family, whatever the category, relationships are what make this world go 'round. What I think is most rewarding in life is the product of relationships."
As important as the inspiration, was the musical focus. "KISS is a facet of who I am, but it's not all of it. This project wasn't about me replicating what I do in the band situation. This was about me being free to not consider other people, not consider a balance of material from a band, not consider any type of equality. What I wanted to do in a sense was "cast" each song using the right players as opposed to having to write specifically for what could be played well by a particular group of players. All I wanted was the best me possible, whether writing, playing, singing or producing."
While Live to Win was self-produced by Stanley, seven of the ten tracks were co-written with Desmond Child [KISS, Ricky Martin] and/or Andreas Carlsson [Bon Jovi, Britney Spears], with additional contributors including Holly Knight [Tina Turner, Pat Benatar], John 5 [Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson] and Marti Frederiksen [Aerosmith, Faith Hill]. "Someone once asked Michelangelo how he sculpted a horse from a block of stone, and he said that he chips away everything that doesn't look like a horse." Stanley laughs for a second before reflecting further on the songwriting symmetry that resulted in Live to Win. "All my collaborators and I may approach songwriting slightly differently from each other, but we all know how to kill the beast. It's really just an understanding of cutting away what's not necessary and leaving a great song. When you're working on your own album or your own music, it can come down to a lot of collaborative efforts, but because it's my album and vision - We can be in the same car and going to the same place, but somebody's got to drive. That's the continuity in the album. The one force that's in there from beginning to end is me."
There's an air of familiarity to Live to Win, not because we've heard the songs before - they were all written exclusively for the new release - but because they're written with a succinct respect for songwriting that reverberates through their resounding verses and memorable, sing-along choruses. From the opening crash of the empowering title track, through the surging heights of closer "Where Angels Dare," "Live to Win" is book-ended by the resiliency of the human spirit, the eight chapters in between stripping human nature to its most basic core. "Wake up Screaming" offers a turbo-charged take on trying to shake off old memories, while "Lift" offers a more modern-rock, ambient take on absolution and adoration. A supple yearning propels "Everytime I See You Around," "Bulletproof" is melody-driven rocker armed by the power of love and a colossal chorus, and "Second to None" and "Loving You Without You Now" are effortlessly tender and intimately compelling.
While the musical core of guitarist Corky James [Avril Lavigne, The Matrix], drummer Victor Indrizzo [Beck, Macy Gray] and keyboardist Harry Sommerdahl [Carrie Underwood, Lindsay Lohan] is complemented by former KISS bandmate Bruce Kulick and current Rob Zombie guitarist John 5, the spotlight shines on Stanley, whose vocals are effervescent and robust, and the custom-made vehicle for the timeless rock anthems they deliver.
"I wanted the freedom to explore my own abilities and disregard any self set boundaries. The only limitations we have are the ones we choose to accept and this album was about ignoring anyone else's ideas of what I would, could or shouldn't do," Stanley says to summarize Live to Win. "This isn't about forcing KISS fans someplace that they haven't been, though everyone's invited to come along. This is really about me doing an album for me, and first and foremost I had to please myself. I'd like to think that if I can please myself, I'm going to please some other people, but this is a personal work - If I had ever knuckled under to people telling me what was impossible and what I was capable of and incapable of, we wouldn't be having this conversation, there wouldn't be a KISS, and there wouldn't be a 'Live to Win.' To that end, by recording this album, I've already succeeded.
"The album is called Live to Win, and I've already won."