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Interview: KISS’ Paul Stanley Slams Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Patti Smith

While taking shots at Joel Peresman, Jann Wenner, Patti Smith and others, Stanley reaffirms his speech at the Rock Hall induction ceremony, calls into question the motives of the institution, and clarifies that it was Gene Simmons, not him, who said those 'borderline racist' comments.
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Paul Stanley ( Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

Paul Stanley ( Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

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By Brian Ives 

It’s not Paul Stanley who’s been ‘almost borderline racist,’ but that’s just one of a few things the founding member of KISS would like to clear up.

Last week, Radio.com posted our interview with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation CEO/President Joel Peresman. In it, we discussed this year’s ceremony, which included KISS frontman Paul Stanley‘s acceptance speech, including his criticism or the organization for being somewhat elitist. “The people, I believe we’re speaking to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and what they’re saying is, ‘We want more,'” Stanley said from the stage. “They want to be a part of the induction. They want to be a part of the nomination. They don’t want to be spoon-fed by a handful of people.”

Peresman told us, “That speech was the best advertisement for [pointing out that] what we did was right. He’s been almost borderline racist, not in that speech, but in other interviews talking about how hip-hop artists shouldn’t be inducted because they don’t play instruments. It’s like, ‘What are you, kidding?'”

Related: Rock Hall Induction 2014: Good Vibes, Special Guests and Lorde

Paul Stanley contacted us and asked to respond to Peresman’s quote earlier today (June 2). Soon, we were on the phone with him discussing his thoughts about the institution.

Related: Gene Simmons to Produce a TV Series About ‘Ugly Models’

He rightfully felt that Peresman was attributing Gene Simmons‘s comments about hip-hop and disco artists not belonging in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to him. (Simmons told us in March, “You’ve got Grandmaster Flash in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Run-D.M.C. in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? You’re killing me! That doesn’t mean those aren’t good artists. But they don’t play guitar. They sample and they talk. Not even sing!”)

Stanley says, “Why not look at Joel Peresman’s credentials? What has he done to qualify him to run the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? What did he do? He worked at Madison Square Garden as a Vice President. Well, as far as I’m concerned, delivering newspapers doesn’t qualify you as an expert on literature.”

In our interview, Stanley did parallel Simmons’ sentiments about the kinds of acts that should be inducted into the Rock Hall, saying, “I’m the hugest Laura Nyro fan, but does Laura Nyro belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? I’m not so sure. I would have to say no.”

Related: Interview: Gene Simmons Talks Religion & Rock Hall, Compares KISS Bandmates to Cancer

He added, of punk icon Patti Smith, “What has Patti Smith ever done besides singing a song that Bruce Springsteen wrote most of?”

Stanley also had some choice words for Rolling Stone co-founder and publisher and Rock Hall co-founder Jann Wenner. “This guy forgot years ago why he loved rock and roll in the first place. Perhaps if he spent less time in the Hamptons and jet-setting, he could re-find his passion.”

In between barbs, Stanley made salient points about the members of the Grateful Dead being inducted (and other acts that had “courtesies that were not afforded to [KISS]“), and said that there’s hope for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “potential.”  He will certainly vote for the artists that he feels are deserving in the future: Deep Purple, Yes, and Humble Pie.

Read the entire interview below:

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Radio.com: So I understand you read our interview with Joel Peresman. What was your reaction to his critique of your speech? 
Paul Stanley: I was smiling. Because look, the guy is clearly reeling from my exposing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for what it is. He’s doing damage control. But he’s obviously never had an adversary who could articulate a point of view like I could. And, in desperation, he’s attributing Gene’s quotes to me.

I never said anything that could be accused of racism. If [Peresman] wants to point a finger, those quotes were all Gene’s. It doesn’t change the basic truth of what I said. It’s interesting: instead of looking at my credentials, I would think, why not look at Joel Peresman’s credentials? What has he done to qualify him to run the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? What did he do? He worked at Madison Square Garden as a Vice President. Well, as far as I’m concerned, delivering newspapers doesn’t qualify you as an expert on literature.

Had you guys ever encountered him in the past when KISS played Madison Square Garden?
We probably also encountered the guy selling peanuts! But what relevance does that have to qualify you to be in a position to pass judgement on anything remotely associated with rock and roll?

Aside from the well-publicized issues, did you have a good time the night of the induction? 
I wasn’t there to denigrate, I was there to give constructive criticism and to make use of a platform, to really voice the opinion of the masses, of the general population. Look: I’ve spoken first hand with other inductees, and former inductees, and the process leading up to their induction was filled with really appropriate courtesies that were not afforded to us. The rules that [the Rock Hall] hold to only seem to apply to people they don’t like. As far as the issue of what members and former members get in, it’s just nonsense. I don’t think anybody’s ever called Peresman on it with any articulate argument. Clearly, the guy is trying to punch his way off of the ropes. He’s stuck!

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame went to the Grateful Dead and other bands and asked them [which members] they wanted to have inducted. They didn’t ask us! Hence, you get, what is it, fourteen members of the Grateful Dead, including their lyricist [Robert Hunter], inducted? Because the Grateful Dead’s people said, “It’s all or nothing.” Well, that’s a courtesy that wasn’t extended to us. And it’s easy to hide behind some alibi and rationale, like “It isn’t a science.” Well, being biased isn’t a science either. But it’s blatant and consistent. It had nothing to do with whether or not we wanted [current guitarist] Tommy Thayer or [current drummer] Eric [Singer], necessarily, inducted. But certainly this thin argument of “They’re wearing someone else’s makeup” can’t be used for [their late drummer] Eric Carr, or [former guitarist] Bruce Kuilick, who played on multi-platinum albums, and played to millions of people over a decade. Let’s call this for what it is. It’s clear to most people and obviously Peresman wants to use his platform to take some of the steam out of my argument. But I don’t go away.

It was a nice touch to have Bruce Kuilick sitting at the table at the induction ceremony, with you and Gene, along with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer.
The Hall of Fame chose to make it a celebration of the first four members. As far as I was concerned, it was a celebration of the history of this band. I wasn’t going to ignore the contributions of other people who have been in this band.

You guys weren’t the only one with ex-member drama this year. I spoke with Chad Channing from Nirvana, who originally thought he would be inducted.
How about John Rutsey, the original drummer from Rush, who played on their first classic album? I’m not pointing fingers at anybody, or questioning their getting in, but [bassist] Robert Trujillo never played on any of the Metallica albums when he was inducted. And he was only in the band six years, so where do you draw the line? Clearly, where you choose to draw it. [Note: Trujillo had played on one album at the time of Metallica's 2009 induction: 2008's Death Magentic]

Gene has mentioned his issues with disco and hip-hop being included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it seems he was accused of racism based on that. But what do you say to someone who says “Paul Stanley is a racist?”
It’s ridiculous. It’s an act of desperation and I understand it. And Joel Peresman is, quite honestly, a pencil pusher, and he’s in a position of being able to voice the point of view of an organization which is questionable at best.

In your acceptance speech, you mentioned going to see acts like Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix and Sly and the Family Stone as well as the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin.
It’s just silly, look, I’m not here to defend myself, I’m just here to shed light on the person doing the accusing. I have nothing to justify or clarify, my record speaks for itself. It’s ridiculous.What rock singer, whether they know it or not, hasn’t been influenced by David Ruffin [of the Temptations] or Sam Cooke? Without them, we wouldn’t have most of the great vocalists.

So, was your main point more about the members being and not being inducted, or about that fans should have more of a say in who gets in, or both?
Both, to some degree. the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in an effort to dupe the people, have allowed the people to vote, but their entire vote counts for just one vote. That’s a shell game. That’s deception.

Because some people were clever enough to trademark a name, gives it some sort of credibility that isn’t due. The fact that the masses scratch their heads every year about the majority of inductees speaks volumes. They’re clearly running out of their critics’ darlings, and now, unhappily, they’re having to look elsewhere. How many times can they nominate Connie Francis? The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is an opportunity to celebrate everything that is rock and roll, instead of a few people’s point of view, which, clearly, doesn’t reflect the public. I’m the hugest Laura Nyro fan, but does Laura Nyro belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? I’m not so sure. I would have to say no. Patti Smith? Give me a break! What has Patti Smith ever done besides singing a song that Bruce Springsteen wrote most of? [He's referring to her 1978 hit "Because The Night," co-written by Springsteen]

Regarding your issue of the voting body being a small group that doesn’t necessarily represent the public, couldn’t you say the same for the Oscars, the GRAMMYs or any other pop culture awards?
I don’t think so. The ignoring of some of the cornerstones of rock and roll for now more than 14 years is so blatant, it can only be called what it is, and that’s personal bias. You’re gonna tell me that Deep Purple should be overlooked for this long? The list goes on. And the fact that all of these people that now must be considered have been preempted by disco acts? Or rap acts? I thought it was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You may be able to broaden it, but let’s build it on a foundation that’s solidly and undeniably rock.

When someone disparages hip-hop and disco, it can be misinterpreted as being racist. A lot of people get caught up on that.
In the case of Joel Peresman, he’s clearly grasping at straws. The truth of the matter is, I believe that before you consider the peripheral acts, you must consider the cornerstones and the foundation.

So, are you going to vote in the future?
I’ll vote, but unfortunately, I only have one vote! I will be a big mouth and I will champion who I think belongs in there. It’s a tough battle when you have bureaucracy, and a bunch of people [in the organization] who clearly aren’t enamored with me. To have Jann Wenner introduce us [at the induction ceremony] as “Tight pants and platform boots”… this guy forgot years ago why he loved rock and roll in the first place. Perhaps if he spent less time in the Hamptons and jet setting, he could re-find his passion. But to be one of his darlings would be an insult to me.

So, who will you vote for to be inducted in 2015? 
Certainly Deep Purple belongs in there. Whether or not I’m a huge progressive rock fan, Yes has spanned and bridged progressive rock into radio rock, I think they belong in there. I would like to see Humble Pie inducted. It’s great that the Faces and Small Faces got in, the fact is that [Small Faces and Humble Pie frontman] Steve Marriott has been a major influence not only on me, but also…

Robert Plant!
Yeah, you only have to listen to the Small Faces “You Need Loving” to hear the connection. I saw Humble Pie at the Fillmore East. I was at the Fillmore East every weekend, that was church to me. There were people there that really embodied rock and roll and many of them have been forgotten, and criminally so.

The Hall of Fame added Tom Morello and Questlove to the nominating committee last year. Maybe a positive thing that could come out of this situation is that they’d offer you a seat on that committee as well.
If they invited me, I would be there in a heartbeat, because I believe that much in rock and roll, and I also believe in the potential of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So, absolutely. You put me on the committee, and I’m there! I would love to join forces to make this what it has the potential to be. Instead of what it has been, which is a stiff and stilted deception, or a fraud.

It’s no secret that it was Little Steven’s influence that got a number of acts in, the Dave Clark Five, the Hollies and the Rascals.
Not to tout my own background, but I grew up listening to everything from James Brown and Otis Redding and Solomon Burke and the Temptations and Stax/Volt to the British invasion to Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley and there’s so much wonderful music that was inspired by that music. We need more people on the committee to shine a light on that, instead of looking elsewhere when there’s an abundance of musicians and acts that should be celebrated.

Have you ever visited the museum itself?
I haven’t been there. I had mixed feelings about it, and I also had mixed feelings about an institution that would like us to donate memorabilia, would charge people to see it, and yet didn’t want us in the Hall of Fame. You can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth. You want to make money off of our memorabilia and at the same time you don’t want us in your boy’s club.

Going back to the night of the induction itself, was interesting to see you guys sitting near Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band guys. For one thing, Tom Morello who did your speech was, at that time, touring as an extra member of the E Street Band. For another, a lot of people thought that Bruce’s song “Outlaw Pete” (from 2009’s Working on a Dream) sounded a lot like “I Was Made For Loving You.” 
When I heard it I quite honestly was amused and pleased. I went “Gee, that sounds a whole lot like ‘I Was Made For Loving You.'” I didn’t invent the wheel. “I Was Made For Loving You” isn’t that different from “Standing in the Shadows Of Love” by the Four Tops. “Call Me” isn’t that different from “I Was Made For Loving You” either. Originality: it’s few and far between.

I’d read that your song “Shandi” was based on the Hollies’ cover of Bruce’s “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy.)” 
I knew it was a Bruce song. If you’re gonna borrow or steal, steal from the best!

I saw you tweet a photo of yourself from the night of the induction with Glenn Frey, it looked like you were having fun. 
I must say that I had a sense of vindication from the bleachers [laughs], I had a sense of ambivalence from some of the people on the floor. But Glenn was terrific, and the Eagles, you can’t deny that these guys have written the American songbook. So to spend some time with him was cool. Carrie Underwood [was there] — the reach and the breadth of the music [that night] was just terrific.

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