KISS’ Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons Talk Songwriting with American Songwriter

Throughout the 50-plus-year history of KISS, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons have clocked in hundreds of songs for the band, from their eponymous 1974 debut all the way through their final album, Monster, in 2012, along with solo and other projects.

Together, both co-wrote a collection of KISS hits including “Rock and Roll All Nite,” “Shout It Out Loud,” and “Strutter.” Stanley was also responsible for “I Love It Loud,” co-written with former KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent, the band’s second big hit, “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” with Desmond Child, “Lick It Up,” their ’80s power ballad “Forever,” co-written with Michael Bolton, and “Love Gun,” among others.

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Writing and co-writing a majority of the KISS catalog spanning 20 records, Stanley has also written for a number of artists, including Ronnie Spector and Bonnie Tyler, along with his 2006 solo album Live to Win and 2021 Soul Station project, Now and Then, featuring a collective of musicians covering a collection of could classics from the 1960s and ’70s.

In 2004, Simmons also released his second solo album Asshole, which included a song he co-wrote with Bob Dylan, “Waiting for the Morning Light.”

Earlier in 2023, Simmons and Stanley spoke to American Songwriter about the legacy and last days of KISS as a touring band. The KISS co-founders also spoke about songwriting, where inspiration arises, the magic of music, and how it all still impacts them more than five decades later.

American Songwriter: Through 50 years of KISS, solo, and other projects, what kind of songwriter are you today?

Gene Simmons: It happens even when you’re least expecting. And everybody’s the same. You can hop into a shower—if you care about hygiene—and you’re creating music. And the chances are pretty good that the melody you’re coming up with has never been used before. If you put some words into it, you’re writing a song.

[RELATED: January/February 2023 Cover Story – KISS Forever and Ever]

Paul Stanley: I loved doing the Soul Station album (Now and Then, 2021). It was awesome because my roots are very diverse. My roots are broad, and I’m a big believer that if you listen to one kind of music, you’re malnourished. Music is like food. You need variety, because what you listen to will come out in some form or another.

For me, writing the Soul Station songs and arranging the strings and everything was really gratifying. Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, Thom Bell, Holland-Dozier-Holland (Lamont Dozier, Brian, and Eddie Holland)—there are just so many amazing producers, writers, and arrangers, and that’s part of who I am. To tap into that was really something. Just a few days ago, I was listening to it [Soul Station], and I felt like I was possessed.

It’s the idea of embodying something that you’re doing. If you’re doing a project, you have to live in it. When you hear about actors not dropping their characters when they’re not filming, I kind of understand it whether it’s painting or writing songs. If I’m writing—and I enjoy writing for other projects other than myself—you almost have to put yourself in someone else’s skin. But you have to draw from your own experience. That’s what made Soul Station so much fun.

AS: When writing for other artists, is it a different process of pulling from within for someone else?

PS: It goes back all the way to writing [KISS’] “Hard Luck Woman,” (1976), which was really a song. I thought, ‘Gee, this will be great for Rod Stewart.’ What happened was we’d had a hit with “Beth,” and the band heard it, and Gene [Simmons] heard it, and it was like ‘No, no, no, no, we need this song.’

It’s the project of saying ‘What would a song sound like if it was written by so and so,’ and assuming someone else’s identity. I enjoy that.

AS: Some artists, after 30, 40, and particularly 50 years may have checked out by now. It seems like you’re still really enjoying this, and the possibility of creating something new.

GS: When you think about it, dogs sing. Birds sing. Whales sing. Dolphins sing. All kinds of animals have their own melodies. We’re surrounded by it, and people don’t really think about how important music is. We have music at flag racing. We have music at weddings. Music is all around us. When the circus comes into town, there’s marching music. When the military marches, there’s military music. This life would be pretty sad without music—of all kinds.

Music is the soundtrack of our lives. Think how sad it would be if the only thing we did was talk. It would be horrible. It would be like having to watch soap operas every day, all day.

PS: I’ve known Diane Warren before she was Diane Warren. I knew Diane back when she had her first hit with DeBarge (“Rhythm of the Night,” 1985). And Desmond Child—we had a huge hit together (KISS’ “I Was Made for Loving You”) and that was his first hit so talk about passion. Both of them are still passionate about music and Diane’s excited every day by her new songs.

[RELATED: 4 Songs You Didn’t Know Kiss’ Paul Stanley Wrote for Other Artists]

AS: She [Diane Warren] works/writes in her office every day.

PS: I love that I connected the two of them together [Warren and Child], and that was a dynamo. Talk about passion. When you lose that passion, you’ll lose your quality. You lose your excitement.

Diane…she’s a wonder. And every day is an exciting one for her in terms of creativity. That’s the way it should be. If it’s not songwriting, find another outlet. Find something that excites you.

I’m a big believer that if you don’t wake up every day excited about the possibilities, then you’re not living the right life.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ABA

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