Newswise — Paul Stanley, the frontman and co-founder of KISS, received the Sound Partners Lifetime Achievement Award from the House Research Institute. He is hosting “Sound Rules! A Sound & Hearing Celebration”, a House Research Institute event to educate teens on hearing health issues, at the Director’s Guild of America on May 12. To RSVP for the event, http://soundrules.org/.
Paul recently sat down with the editor of House Calls Magazine.
Welcome to our hearing conservation program.We are so pleased to have your participation!
To be honored by this organization, people likeDr. House, and the incredible staff who arefocused on helping and improving everybody’squality of life, is terrific for me. Over the yearsI’ve been impressed with the House ResearchInstitute, so to be a part of it is something I’mvery proud of. As someone who has a personaldifficulty with hearing, it’s very gratifying.
Paul, you mentioned you have a hearing problem.Can you tell us about that?
I was born with a level 3 microtia, a deformity of thecartilage of the outer ear, and in these cases, thereis no ear canal. There is no direct path to the innerworkings of the ear. I’m virtually deaf on that side,except for bone conduction, because there is no accessfor sound to enter.
So you’ve been using a bone conduction hearing aid.Has it helped you?
I’ve had this implanted hearing aid for about two yearsnow. This is a device that is usually given to childrenat an early age or to adults who have lost their hearingdue to a medical situation. For me, it’s an ongoingadjustment because my brain has not processed soundcoming from that side for my entire life. In thebeginning it was incredibly taxing and confusing. Ifyou suddenly developed an eye in the back of yourhead you would understand. That being said, it hassettled in quite a bit and I have to say, it enhances myday-to-day activities. Although it is far from a cure-allfor me. It’s less a solution, and more an enhancement.
Has your hearing problem had anyimpact on your career?
Not that I can tell! It’s sometimes hardfor people to understand that you don’tmiss what you’ve never had. Whenblind people speak about seeing orcolors, it’s very personal to them. Inthe same way, I may not hear musicthe way other people hear it, but I havenothing else to compare it to, or didn’tfor most of my life. I haven’t felt at aloss for anything. I have no sense ofthe direction of sound, yet I have notrouble mixing a stereo album. I hearthe expanse or width of sound, but Ican’t necessarily tell you where it’scoming from.
If you were speaking to a young personwith hearing loss what advice wouldyou give?
Avail yourself of any technologicaladvances that are at your disposal.Times have changed greatly since Iwas a child. Medicine is always takinggiant leaps, and what was true 10 yearsago isn’t so today. If there is a wayto improve your situation, then by allmeans, take the initiative to find outabout it. If not, many great people havesucceeded in enormous ways withoutnormal hearing, or any hearing for thatmatter. This can be a small pothole inthe road, but that doesn’t mean it stopsyou from going where you want to go.
What would you say to KISS fans andall music listeners who like to listen athigh volume levels?
I think that the dangers, problemsand risks are insidious. High-volumelistening without some sort of protectionis so dangerous. I like to draw theanalogy that the first time you inhalea cigarette, the body responds to it bycoughing. That’s your body telling youthat it doesn’t like it and doesn’t wantit. If you smoke enough cigarettes,your body finally surrenders. Your earsaren’t much different. Initially yourears will ring. That is your body’s wayof telling you it’s being stressed andthere is a danger. If you continue to doit, the ringing will diminish somewhat.In some cases, there may be no ringingand still, an immediate hearing loss.Some people think that losing yourhearing means not being able to hearor having difficulty hearing, but that’snot always the case. What can happendue to a loss of specific frequencies,either quickly or over time, is that yourability to distinguish what is being saidbecomes the problem. Imagine beingable to hear people speak, but not beingable to understand what they’re saying.Now I’m the first person to crank upthe amplifier, but I’m also the firstperson to put in an ear plug or somesort of valve for protection from thefrequencies and the volume that candestroy hearing over time.
There is a YouTube video of you jammingon the guitar with your son Evan, whois 16. If he chooses to pursue a musicalcareer, will that be OK with you?
He certainly seems to have madethat decision. I applaud and takepleasure in knowing that he has founda passion. I think passion is not onlythe key to success, but also a wayto rebound from failure. The key tomy happiness is continually findingpassion in my life. For Evan to havethat passion at this point is terrific. Heis also a B+/A student at one of the topfive high schools in the country, andright now he is looking at colleges toattend in a year or so. It all makes hispossibilities limitless.
You were a student at the New YorkHigh School of Music and Art, but youwere admitted for your art work ratherthan your music. Could you tell usabout that?
From what I’ve been told, I was alwaysa fairly gifted artist from the time I wasquite young. I was told that art wouldbe a more realistic pursuit than music.When I told people I wanted to be a rockstar, they tended to scoff. What’s alwaysinteresting to me is that people oftenthink that what is out of the realm ofpossibility for them, is also impossiblefor you. Rule number one for success is,make your own rules.
Your paintings are beautiful andmultilayered – yet at first you didn’tintend for anyone to see them. Whyis that?
I saw painting as a personal way toexplore things going on inside meat the time and as another means ofself expression. I’ve always tendedto define myself by the challengesI take on and how I succeed or notat them. When a friend suggestedthat painting might be a good way tohelp me through tumultuous times,it somehow resonated with me. Iwent out and bought canvases, paints,brushes and palette knives, trulyhaving no understanding of how Iwould use any of them. It reallyturned into something cathartic anda source of self-realization. It beganwith wanting to establish for myselfa stream of consciousness that woulduse color and texture instead of words.
Even in this rough economy your artis doing very well and sold $3 millionlast year. How has this happened?
All I can say is, no matter what theeconomic situation, people tend toneed either solace, joy, or an escape.That’s why films continue to do well.Certainly KISS, as an entity, has always thrived in times when otherbands were faltering. People craveentertainment, escapism, some aspectof beauty, or a reflection of somethingmore pure than what might be goingon at any given time.
You do so many things well – songwriting, musical performances,theater, art – which do you enjoydoing the most?
That’s a tough question. I’m fortunatein that I’ve never allowed anyone totell me what my limitations or theboundaries were. Because of that I’vegot a very full plate, a very colorfulpalette. I think at the core of it though,without family, first and foremost, andthen friends, it’s all pretty hollow. Thatold cliché of playing to an audienceof thousands and going home to anempty house would be very sad. Ithink the core of my success is rootedin family and in those kinds of values.You do have a lovely family… Evan,Colin, Sarah, another child on the wayand your lovely wife, Erin.I have a spectacular wife! I’m blessedto have her and everything she hasgiven and supported me in. It’sincredible to have someone that youcan count on who is always in yourcorner. It makes it all so much easierand richer.
What are your upcoming plans withKISS?
At the moment, I’m preparingproduction on the next album. Aswith our last one, Sonic Boom, I’llbe producing it, so right now I’mwriting the tunes and organizing theband schedule for pre-productionrehearsals. We will be in the studioin the next four weeks recording thealbum. We’ve got six terrific songs forit now, which is a great start. It givesme a sense of direction and lets me seewhat we have now and what we mightbe lacking. The band will probably doa few shows this summer. Other thanthat, we will be on a break for a while.We see our longevity as a marathonand we’re still in it. At the same time,I’m in the studio painting and gettingnew pieces ready for shows.
About House Research InstituteThe House Research Institute is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with hearing loss and related disorders through scientific research, patient care, and the sharing of knowledge. Institute scientists research the auditory system, at the level of function, as well as at the cellular, molecular and genetic levels. We also explore the neurological interactions between the auditory system and brain, and study ways to improve auditory implants, diagnostics, clinical treatments and intervention methods. We share our knowledge with the scientific and medical communities as well as the general public through our education and outreach programs. For more information about the House Research Institute, please call (800) 388-8612 or (213) 483-4431, E-mail email@example.com or visit www.houseresearchinstitute.org.