KISS. It’s a band that virtually everyone knows. Unless they don’t like rock, in which case they have only themselves to blame. In early June, Music Connection's Rob Putnam sat down with Paul Stanley, KISS founding member and lead guitarist, at the Buena Park, CA location of Rock & Brews, a restaurant chain of which he’s a co-owner. On that day, the iconic guitarist selected the winner of a free spot in Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, an organization with which he works closely.
Putnam (pictured above) tapped The Starchild’s brain on what goes into the best guitars. “There’s no secret to building a great one,” he explained. “You’re either of one of two schools: Fender, which uses bolt-on necks, or Gibson, which uses set-necks. I’ve always been a set-neck player. It’s a different feel and although I have some bolt-ons, I tend to favor the Gibson school.”
In recent years, Stanley worked with Ibanez to craft his signature guitar, the PS10. “You can’t get much better than a Les Paul; a Flying V,” he said of the process. “We work to capture the essence of those guitars without capturing their style. I make sure that you don’t have to mortgage your house to get one.
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“People tend to equate vintage guitars with ‘great,’” he continued. “I collected Les Pauls, for example, and some were horrible. We tend to remember only the good ones. Just as today, you can get an amazing guitar or an abysmal one. People buy ’58 or ’59 Les Pauls and put them away, which is odd because they’re meant to be played. It’s like buying a great piece of art and putting it in a vault. If you want to invest, buy some stocks.”
In a fine instrument, materials matter. What wood, then, makes the best guitars? “A mahogany body––and there are several types––with a maple top tends to give you a great, round sound,” Stanley asserted. “The maple brings an upper-end bite.”
Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp is notoriously pricey. But Stanley insists that rockers’ cash is fairly traded. “It has nothing to do with being an aspiring rock star,” he contended. “It has to do with a love of rock & roll. It’s a chance for people to rub shoulders with established musicians, a few quite well known. The tie-in to Rock & Brews was a natural one.”
Abetted by bandmate Gene Simmons and other partners, Stanley aims to open the 18th Rock & Brews location soon and, indeed, to expand internationally.