Paul Stanley Reveals KISS’ Ultimatum For The First Record Deal

KISS has been in the business for five decades, and the band’s iconic stage look has become an inseparable part of their image. However, it turns out that their stage makeup became an issue when KISS first signed a record deal. According to Paul Stanley, their response to this was nothing but an ultimatum.

“I don’t think that it’s that,” said Paul Stanley about his confrontation with record executive Neil Bogart over his Bandit and Starchild personas. “I mean, it’s interesting, but I don’t think it’s… I don’t know yet. I know the photos of us signing with Neil. We took these pictures at the Fillmore East when we did a press show there. I had the Bandit makeup there and then perfected it a bit. Then I just went, ‘Nah,’ you know, ‘I don’t want to do this. It has nothing to do with me. What’s the Bandit?’”

Yahoo Entertainment’s Lyndsey Parker then asked Paul if Bogart saw their effeminateness as a problem. Paul replied, “I really don’t know what his issue was. He just didn’t think it was the way to go with the band. But then again, when he signed us, Neil also wanted us to take off the makeup. So, it’s one person’s opinion, and at some point, you have to say, ‘Well, look,’ when it came down to ‘I’ll sign you, but you take off the makeup,’ you say, ‘Well, then you’re not going to sign us.’”

Recalling they eventually had to give Neil Bogart an ultimatum, Stanley continued, “When Neil heard us before he ever saw us, our demo with ‘Strutter-’ I think ‘Deuce,’ ‘Watchin’ You,’ and ‘She’ were on the demo. He wanted to sign us, and then he saw us, and he was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa!’ It was like, ‘Well, this is us. This is who we are. It’s either you take it or leave. It’s our way or the highway.’”

Following Ace Frehley’s addition, KISS started experimenting with their image; they started wearing makeup and outfits and decided on the band’s logo. They wore makeup for their first three gigs, but the iconic stage personas came to life during the shows at the Daisy in Amityville, New York.

After recording a five-song demo tape with Eddie Kramer, KISS signed to Neil Bogart’s new label Casablanca Records. However, Bogart asked them to remove their makeup to sign them. KISS was determined to continue with their stage personas, so they refused.

The band then recorded their self-titled debut and released it through Casablanca Records. KISS performed a breathtaking, loud, and energetic show during the celebration party. However, Warner Bros. Records wasn’t impressed with their performance. They asked Neil Bogart to tell KISS to remove their makeup, but this discussion had already been made between KISS and Neil.

In the following years, KISS had to remove their makeup voluntarily as their popularity waned. Interestingly, this was Paul Stanley’s idea to save the band. He believed they didn’t deserve to survive if they failed during the unmasked period. Stanley’s plan eventually worked, and KISS has continued with their iconic stage looks to this day.