On March 19, Paul Stanley’s Soul Station is releasing its debut album, Now And Then. I’ve been listening to the record over the past month, and it’s phenomenal. I had the opportunity to interview Paul Stanley about this incredible artistic accomplishment, which was an honor and a pleasure. As you’ll see below, we talked about how he approached this album, when he expects to tour, and what’s next for Soul Station, among other topics. I hope you enjoy the interview, and make sure to buy a copy of Now And Then!
This album is spectacular! My favorite song is one of your originals: “I, Oh, I.” It’s so infectious! When it comes to the songs you cover on this record, how did you approach recording them?
“I, Oh I” is a great one! I think that there is so much great Philly Soul, Philly International, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff; they really took the template of Motown and put their own spin on it. I think that so many of those songs are so joyous and upbeat. “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” is one of those celebratory, optimistic songs. I thought it was a great way to start the album. As soon as you hear it, you know it.
In terms of recording these songs, I just wanted to capture the passion of them and the sentiment without doing a paint-by-numbers album. The idea was never to do a sound-alike or to do karaoke. If you play the songs side by side with the originals, they really have an identity of their own but they are so rooted in the originals that I think the honesty, passion, and joy is what makes them so true, without sounding like mimicry.
How did you go about writing and recording original material for this album? What was your approach for putting your own work alongside these timeless songs, which you pulled off beautifully?
I have to say that we’re not a band that came together in the studio and wants to go play live. We’re a live band that went into the studio. And as we were recording, it just seemed to me that for us to exist solely on the past would sell us short. I thought that both the music and the band deserved to be rooted in the past but also exist and thrive in the present. So, I decided to write a singular song. I wrote “Save Me” and it came out so good — the horns and strings — the whole thing sounded so on target and so on point that I thought to myself, “Let me write another.” And I did, and it just evolved like that. I finally shut it down at five songs because I still wanted the majority and the foundation of this to be all of those classics. But I could’ve kept going.
The arrangements on this album are so good! The horns, the strings — everything sounds gorgeous. How did you go about creating these arrangements?
Well, you have to have great players, for starters, and people who really can not play the music but be in the music. You need people who immerse themselves in something rather than performing it. Our lead trumpet player, John Papenbrook, has played with all of the R&B greats, but he’s also played with Sinatra and Buddy Rich. We were in good hands, in terms of working out the parts on all of the classics. Our string players are all either LA Philharmonic or Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. So, they’ve all got the chops and roots, but they’re also very much fans of this music, otherwise it becomes mechanical. If you watch my music videos, you’ll see a whole lot of smiles and happy people having a great time. That’s the key to all of this.
As for all of the strings and horns on the originals, I arranged all those. I’ve got some very big shoulders to stand on, when you listen to Thom Bell, Gamble and Huff, or Paul Riser and Motown. There’s just so many people to listen to who were doing great charts. And, maybe, because I grew up listening to classical music, I understood what made them tick and the give and take and call and response of different instruments. That, and we have an amazing musical director who is the glue for everything: Alex Alessandroni. He was a musical director for Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole, and Christina Aguilera, and on, and on, and on. So, we’re really all in good hands.
Vocally speaking, you sound so comfortable singing this music. Since you’re not singing rock and roll music on this album and not having to use the Paul Stanley KISS voice that everyone knows and loves, did you feel like you had more creative freedom to be yourself?
Really, freedom is a state of mind, and that’s something I’ve always had. I sing these songs at home and always have. That people associate me with one sound or one type of music is understandable, but I’ve never felt imprisoned by something that’s supposed to be based in freedom. That’s why I went off and did Phantom of the Opera. I’ve never considered myself a rock singer. I consider myself a singer who sings rock. That’s a choice, but that doesn’t rule out anything else.
Eric Singer has some great vocals on these songs, as do other members of your band. Did this happen organically or did you choose certain spots to highlight them?
I know what a great voice Eric has. He’s terrific! The funniest thing is when I met him about 25 or 26 years ago, I had no idea that he could sing. When he first said he would try, I thought he was kidding. He’s turned out to be a tremendous plus. There’s a part in “Just My Imagination” where I knew Eric would nail it. Wherever it’s appropriate, I want everyone to participate. This isn’t my backup band. This is a real band, and I’d be out of my mind to think that this band is backing me up. When we do live shows, everybody gets a chance to shine because it would be crazy not to. I get joy out of telling everybody, “Get out there and kick some ass! Go take it. You’re the goods. You know what you have.” We’re all very cognizant of showcasing each other.
When do you envision being able to perform this music live, knowing that you still have the rest of KISS’ End of the Road tour to do?
I think that the days of arena and stadium shows are a bit off. I don’t think we’re going to see that as soon as some people might hope. I’d hope that clubs and auditoriums might find a way to meet safety requirements, in which that’s the time Soul Station can hit the road before KISS.
Will Soul Station continue to record albums, whether they be in the studio or live? I know this album hasn’t come out yet (laughs), but it’s so good that I hope you continue down this road.
I have no plans to stop. It’s just funny to hear people ask, “Are you going to do another?” (laughs) when we haven’t quite given birth to this one yet.
How much of this album was recorded before COVID, and what was it like completing it during the pandemic?
Most of it was recorded before COVID, so we were really lucky. Everything was basically done. We had some strings and horns that had to get done, and some vocals. But we adhered to safety measures, and I think there’s some photos of us in the studio with masks on. We did what we had to in order to get it done.
Any final thoughts on this album or lessons you learned along the way?
I think diversity is the key to everything. In terms of music, there are two kinds: good and bad. The more people can allow themselves to listen to music with open minds and open ears, the better they’ll be for it. Eating one kind of food or listening to one kind of music is not only boring, but I don’t think it’s good for you. I’m real proud of this album, and the accolades that I’ve gotten from so many people who I look to for inspiration has been amazing.