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KISS stage a corpse-paint comeback 

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click to enlarge Rockin' in the free world: 'There just has to be more than a paycheck.'
  • Rockin' in the free world: 'There just has to be more than a paycheck.'

KISS has been making albums and touring for more than 40 years. They've played some of the biggest concert venues on the globe, and — in their early years — they paid their dues in rock clubs across America.

For their current Freedom to Rock tour, the hard-rocking quartet has scheduled dates in some underserved markets. "On this tour we get to go back to some cities we haven't been to in decades, and to ones we haven't been," says frontman and founding member Paul Stanley. "That's one of the things that makes it so much fun. So for us to go back to where it all started and how it all started is something that brings a smile to my face."

KISS Rocks Vegas will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in August; it's a document of the group's nine-show residency at a 1,200-seat concert venue in Las Vegas' Hard Rock Cafe. In the classic movie This is Spinal Tap, that group's manager engages in spin, awkwardly defending booking the formerly arena-scale band into smaller venues by saying, "I just think that the ... uh ... their appeal is becoming more selective."

Stanley is more forthright about KISS' decision to do the same. Because the residency allowed them to mount a nine-day run without setup and breakdown of their spectacle of a show, "we could install a show in that venue that wasn't practical for traveling," Stanley explains. "Bringing it in piece by piece was like putting a ship in a bottle; people would come in and ask, 'How did you get this all in here?' We got it in a piece at a time. It was a terrific, monumental show in a small venue; it was something worth documenting."

KISS released their 20th studio album, Monster, in 2012. These days the group is focused more on live dates, but Stanley doesn't rule out making another album with co-founder Gene Simmons and the two relatively newer members of KISS, drummer Eric Singer and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer. "I'm not opposed to recording," Stanley says. "There just has to be more reason than a paycheck. If there's a reason personally to create, then it's worth doing."

Stanley elaborates, "I just want this next [studio album] — if it happens — to not be a continuation of Monster and [2009's] Sonic Boom, but to really go off and spread our wings a bit. It doesn't mean we'd do a concept album," he chuckles, "or something where people don't recognize it as us. But I don't want to be shackled by anything we've done. And that's really always been the mantra of the band; we don't live by the limitations or restrictions of other bands."

Like most all nominations to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, KISS' April 2014 induction was controversial. Stanley believes that the honor was important to fans of the group, but he remains skeptical of the institution as a whole: "It's a very closed club of questionable judges who decide who's in or out," he says. Even so, Stanley's convinced the old-guard voting members are "being kicked out, so perhaps we'll see it become what it's supposed to be."

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