Gary James' Interview With Paul Delis Of
Gods Of Thunder
They are one of Southern California's best known Kiss tribute acts. They are Gods Of Thunder. Portraying Paul Stanley in the group is Paul Delis.
Q - Paul, outside of California, where else have Gods Of Thunder performed. How far East?
A - The farthest we've ever made it, excluding the Labor Day show we have, we made it to Arizona. We're playing in Colorado, Labor Day weekend. That would be the farthest East we've ever gone.
Q - So, when you're in Southern California, where do you perform?
A - Mainly just doing local shows. That's our primary market area. We have played in Mexico one time before, but won't be doing that anytime soon because of all the problems going on down there. We don't want to get caught up in it.
Q - I don't blame you. Best to stick to this side of the border until the violence stops.
A - Yeah. Stay in the United States. It's safe. It's best. And good money doing what we want to do. We have quite a consistent fan base that goes to our shows. We see a lot of the same faces in the crowd. But, we meet plenty of new people who come out and see us. That's one of the good things about doing this. You get to meet so many people from so many different walks of life.
Q - Are you playing clubs? Are you playing casinos. Are you playing festivals? Are you mixing it up?
A - Primarily we're playing the medium size clubs, capacity 400 to 500 people. We have played some venues that have larger capacities, 800 to 1,000. We're starting to get more interest from the casinos and that's the direction I would really like to go and play fairs. We did get contacted by the San Diego County Fair. They're going to be contacting us for a booking next year (2011). But primarily it's medium size clubs and venues along that line. We do an outdoor show three times a year at the Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet. We consistently put 1,000, 1,200 in there every time we play.
Q - What do you think accounts for the fact that of late, the public is so interested in and supportive of tribute acts, whether it be Kiss, Beatles, Stones or Doors? Why are people so fascinated?
A - Oh, well because, wow! Let me see. That's a pretty loaded question. As far as The Beatles and some of these other bands, they're no longer performing together, like Led Zeppelin and bands along those lines. People want to see the tribute bands because if they are very good, then there is a striking reality to what it would have been like to see them back when they were together and performing. On the other hand, when it comes to bands like Kiss and some of those bands that are still together and they are touring, the one thing about seeing a tribute band is you're not paying $300 for a ticket. You're not getting the exact, same, identical show you would with Kiss with all the pyro and all that stuff. But with a tribute band, you're paying anywhere from $10 to $15, maybe $20 to go see a band that emulates Kiss, such as we do with the precision and accuracy. The music that we perform onstage, it may not be the entire 35 years of Kiss, but what we're doing is we're re-creating the essence, the feel, the look of a 1970s Kiss concert, before Kiss became very wealthy and could afford just about any type of stage and show that they could.
Q - I saw that Kiss you're describing in the 1970s. Did you ever see Kiss in concert in the '70s?
A - The first time I saw Kiss was when they recorded "Kiss Alive II" at the Forum in Los Angeles and that was in August of '77. I never saw them any earlier than that. So I never got to see them play like the smaller clubs in and around New York City just to try and make a name for themselves. I never saw them in that type of venue, but I did get to see them back in the "Love Gun" tour when they recorded "Kiss Alive II". That was just a jaw dropping, eye opening experience for a 15, 16 year old kid. I was just dumbfounded and awe struck by the entire spectacle of the lighted staircases and the walls of Marshall stacks and the fire and the pyro and the blood and the smoking guitar. When I bought my first Kiss album, I was just blown away by the make-up, the look of Kiss on the cover. That's what led me to buy the album. Like wow! Look at that! That's cool.
Q - I too was fascinated by that cover of Kiss' first album. What was your favorite song after you first listened to the album?
A - Well, I walked into a Music Plus store in Glendora, which was the next town over from where I grew up, and I walked through the door and standing right in front of me, staring me in the face, was a display of the first Kiss album. It was four feet high, four feet wide. I just saw the make-up of the four guys on the cover and it drew me like a magnet. I picked it up and I turned it over and saw the entire list of songs. When I went home and put in on my turntable, with a very bad needle and saw it was scratching and everything, but the song that really jumped out at me and made a lasting impression on me was "Strutter", the first song on the album. Just the way that that powerful drum when it starts out. It just absolutely made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I was just like "Wow!" I mean, the entire album was great and to this day we all know and have performed every single song on that first album.
Q - So, prior to purchasing that first Kiss record, you had never heard Kiss before?
A - I had never heard Kiss before. I had never heard of them. That was my first exposure to them. And to this day I remain a die-hard member of the Kiss Army. And getting up onstage and doing Kiss and emulating Paul Stanley, one of the supreme, superior front men in all of Rock 'n' Roll, that's just to me, an honor.
Q - Being Paul Stanley onstage is one of the greatest jobs in the world, isn't it?
A - Being Paul Stanley, yeah. You get to stand up at the microphone, you get to interact with the people, you get to talk with them and then after that you get to sing his songs and run around onstage in seven inch platform boots and play guitar and be Kiss for a night. What better way to have fun and make some money and meet people and portray Paul Stanley and do Kiss onstage? It's a ton of fun. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world.
Q - On Kiss' first album, the song that really impressed me the very first time I listened to the album was "Cold Gin".
A - Yeah, that's a great song. Actually, Ace Frehley wrote that. And we all know the history of Ace. He liked to party. He liked to drink. So why not write a song about it?
Q - As I understand it, you were playing the music of Kiss in the mid '90s, but didn't put this band together until 2003?
A - That's correct. I had been dabbling with the music. I went out to a music store, a guitar store, and I happened to stumble across it, it wasn't an actual Paul Stanley model, but I found an Ibanez Iceman and it was on consignment. Soon as I found the price of it, I bought the guitar. It was made in 1982 and I still have it and play it from time to time onstage because it's such a great guitar. Then I started getting more into, I'd always been a guitarist, I was starting to get more and more into Kiss and the music and the classic stuff. Not so much the non-make-up years stuff. I was starting to dabble more into trying to play the music exactly as Paul Stanley would play it onstage. Once upon a time I went to a Kiss concert in San Bernardino and they were playing with Aerosmith and I happened to run across a guy in the parking lot. I was all decked out in the full Love Gun costume. He came up to me and said "Please tell me that you play and sing like Paul Stanley." And I told him "as a matter of fact, I do." He was looking for a Paul Stanley for his Kiss Tribute band. I hadn't been in a band in a long time, so I was kind of enamored by the fact that there were tribute bands out there. I was not aware of the fact that tribute bands were having such a big impact on people. Got together, auditioned for the band, joined the band in early 2003. We changed the name to Gods Of Thunder and here I am still doing it and loving it. That guy that walked up to me in the parking lot happened to be the Gene Simmons of the band. His name is Armando Cisneros. He's still my Gene and I'm still the Paul. We've been going through a couple of changes just like Kiss did with a couple of different Aces and a couple of different Peters. But you know now we're locked in. The four of us are very tight. We've very good friends. It's just a chemistry that works between the four of us. It's just a match made in heaven with the four of us.
Q - How many people does it take to put your show on the road?
A - Well, primarily we have a couple of guys that help us from time to time, but not every show. The roadies are pretty much the wives and the girlfriends of the band. My wife helps me load in equipment and load out. She helps me haul my costume into the dressing room or the hotel where we're staying. She does the blood set-up when "A.C" Simmons spits blood. She puts down the blanket on the floor. Pours the blood in the cup. Our drummer's wife helps haul his equipment and helps him get set up. Carl, our drummer, pretty much does all the special effects with the Kiss sign, the Firehouse light and the smoke machine. He runs all that form behind the drums. It's primarily the four of us that are getting things set up for the show and then the wives helping us be stage hands and assistants onstage. It's really like a family run operation.
Q - And they get to keep their eye on their men too.
A - Oh yeah, exactly. My wife is not far from me when I'm decked out in full costume and make-up.
Q - And that's the way she wants it!
A - Yeah. That's the way she wants it. She doesn't get to go to every show. The local shows she goes to. We've gone to Washington, Oregon, Arizona. When we do out of state stuff, like we're going to be doing in Colorado, Labor Day Weekend, she won't go. She stays home, but I stay in touch. I take my cell phone and I call her all the time when I'm out there. So, we stay in touch. We've been married for thirteen years and eight of those I've been in the band. She knows that I'm a good boy. I don't mess around because I love my wife and I want it to stay that way.
Q - Have you ever met the real Kiss?
A - Yeah. March 17th, 2007, we were contacted by the comic book company that put together Kiss Four K. They were going to be unveiling and debuting Kiss Four K at the L.A. Convention Center at the Wizard World Comic Book Convention. So, we were contacted by them. We went down there and promoed all day for the Kiss Four K release and Paul and Gene were going to be there later that day, signing, autographing copies that the fans brought. Before they did that, they actually took us...we actually had a chance to meet Paul and Gene. They autographed the big comic books for us. They came in two sizes. There was a great big huge one and then there was a regular size comic book that you could buy. The comic book company gave us these comic books for doing that for them. So, we did it for free. We weren't getting paid anything. They, as a gesture of appreciation, and Paul and Gene, gave us those big autographed comic books as a gift and a note of appreciation.
Q - What was it like for you to meet Paul Stanley? What was that like? How did you feel?
A - It was kind of like it almost wasn't real. It was a surreal situation. You're standing there in front of the guy that you have idolized all your life and now all of a sudden you're standing in front of him with a chance to meet him and talk to him. It's kind of like a little, minor out of body experience anyway. It was unbelievable. It was super cool. It was the second time I actually had a chance to meet him, but this was the first time I actually had the chance where it's just the four of us and the two of them in the room. We had a real joke session going on back and fourth. We were laughing, joking with each other. Paul and Gene were just very, very friendly, down-to-earth guys. Just like regular people you would meet on the street and have a conversation with. It was really nice. At first I didn't really know what to expect because here's this guy who's been a Rock star for thirty some years and he's had a chance to meet everybody and talk to anybody that he wants to on the face of the planet basically. It was really cool the way that they treated us and acted with us and being such normal people.
Q - How long do you figure you can continue in Gods Of Thunder?
A - About four years ago we were going through some struggles, trying to find a consistent Peter Criss and a consistent Ace Frehley, somebody that could come forward and say "Yeah, I'm going to be willing to do this for however long it lasts." Once we found Carl, who's our drummer now, I told Armando, our Gene Simmons, "between you and I, we need to make a pact to decide when it's time to stop." We both agreed that if either one of us gets to the point where we're tired of doing this, then we will both collectively leave the band together. It might be two years from now. It might be five years from now. There really is no set time limit as far as to when the band will no longer do this or I will no longer do this. I guess the real deciding factor is when it stops being fun and starts to be too much work. Then I think that's probably going to be the time when I say "You know what?" I do all the booking. I make all the phone calls. I answer all the e-mails. I have no problem doing that and I love doing it because I take care of all the business aspect of Gods Of Thunder. And that's not the problem. When it starts to become too much like a job and not fun, that's when I'll start to lean towards it might be time to stop doing this. But, it's a labor of love. When you're the Paul Stanley in a Kiss Tribute band and you've grown up with Kiss, listening to Kiss, seeing Kiss, having your bedroom walls wall-papered in Kiss, it's something that you do out of a labor of love. And that's what it is. It's work, but it's also a work of love that you have for this band.