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KISS Band Members: Where Are the Musicians Now?

These rock ’n’ roll Creatures of the Night have had a wild ride throughout their careers!

For Gene Simmons, the impact he and the other KISS band members had on rock ’n’ roll is simple: “Our legacy is that we raised the stakes,” he told The Northern Echo. “[We were] a band that dared to break the rules. We were four knuckleheads from the streets of New York City who decided to put together the band that we never saw on stage.” That meant giving fans something to talk about when they left a show. “Once we came out, it was no longer enough to just get up [there] and strum an acoustic guitar. We give people more bang for their buck. You don’t have to stick your tongue out or breathe fire, but at least give them a show and give them something for their eyes and ears.”

And what a show the original KISS band members have delivered ever since Gene, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss teamed up, playing their first show in a Queens bar named Popcorn in 1973. Audiences ate up their kabuki-style makeup and characters, Simmons’ tongue choreography and blood-spitting, Frehley’s smoking (literally!) guitar, and dazzling stage pyrotechnics.

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Musicians with awards
Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Gene Simmons, and Ace Frehley of KISS attend Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction (2014) Mike Pont / Contributor / Getty

Now, 53 years, an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and well over 100 million records sold later, Simmons and Stanley are fresh off their farewell End of the Road World Tour (with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer), which concluded December 2, 2023, at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Singer has been KISS’s on-and-off Catman/drummer since 1991, while Thayer has been their long-serving Spaceman since 2002. “I joined at a time when they needed somebody who could pick up the pieces and start a new run, so to speak,” Thayer told Guitar World, which noted he went on to become the group’s longest-tenured lead guitarist — and their last.

“We reached a point where we realized that life and time are finite,” Stanley explained to Forbes. “When you play beat-the-clock, the clock wins, always. There are no 70-plus-year-old basketball players or football players. In essence, we are athletes with guitars. To do what we do at the level we do it means it’s just a matter of time before we can’t, or that people coming to see us will say, ‘You should have seen them when they were good.’”

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KISS band members
Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer, Eric Singer and Paul Stanley of Kiss (2012) Kevin Winter / Staff / Getty

Simmons feels similarly, telling Rolling Stone, “You want to go out while you’re on top. And remember, we introduce ourselves with, ‘You wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest mofo band on the planet, KISS.’ At some point, those words are not going to mean very much, when I’m in my rocket-propelled wheelchair with a hot nurse pushing me around.”

The band’s legacy is certain to live on forever, however, as it was announced this month that KISS sold their music catalog and brand name to a Swedish company in a deal estimated to be valued at over $300 million. There’s also a long-talked-about Netflix biopic about the band’s first four years titled Shout It Out Loud that’s in the works, plus plans for digitized avatars of the KISS band members — created by George Lucas’ special-effects company, Industrial Light & Magic — to keep “performing” well into the future.

Until those avatars make the rounds, here’s a look at the real flesh-and-blood KISS band members and how they’ve rock and rolled all nite throughout the years.

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Paul Stanley: Kiss band members

Paul Stanley
1983/2023 Getty Images / Handout / Getty // John Nacion / Contributor / Getty

The son of a Holocaust survivor, KISS frontman Paul Stanley was born Stanley Bert Eisen and he grew up in Inwood on Manhattan’s upper west side. As a kid, he suffered from a condition called microtia, resulting in deafness in his misshapen right ear, which he had surgically reconstructed in 1982. As a boy, he attended New York City’s High School of Music & Art, and leaned toward the musical end of his studies, though his early love was classical composers, such as Beethoven.

By his later teen years, however, he was enamored with rock ’n’ roll and played in bands, including Uncle Joe and Wicked Lester — with Gene Simmons — after graduation. That band turned into KISS, and Stanley — who rocked the Starchild persona and makeup — is credited as the sole writer of hits such as “Love Gun” and “God of Thunder,” and co-writer of “Rock and Roll All Nite.” He’s also responsible for designing the band’s iconic logo, which is instantly recognized by fans around the world.

Paul Stanley pointing at camera
Paul Stanley (2019) Kevin Winter / Staff / Getty

Beyond KISS, he’s gone on to star in Toronto’s 1999 production of Phantom of the Opera. Around the same time, he became a spokesperson for a Canadian charity called AboutFace, which helps kids deal with facial differences, a cause dear to him due to his own experiences as a child.

Stanley’s released a few solo albums, including 2006’s Love to Win, and heads up a musical project called Soul Station, performing with and touring the world with a 15-piece ensemble group that plays R&B and soul. “That music and its storytelling gave me strength and hope even in some tough days. The great classics of that era are magical medicine … and I felt myself drawn back to that era for some sorcery I think we could all use,” he’s said of his love of artists such as Otis Redding and Solomon Burke.

In 2006, he also leaned back into his art background and started showing and selling his artwork. To date he’s sold more than $10 million worth of it, and he frequently hosts art shows of his paintings all over the country, most recently at Tysons Wentworth Gallery in McLean, Virginia, on April 13. Stanley, now 72, is married to wife Emily, and has three kids with her, and another son from a previous marriage.

Gene Simmons

Gene Simmons
1983/2023 Getty Images / Handout / Getty // John Nacion / Contributor / Getty

Born Chaim Witz in Israel to a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, this future rocker grew up extremely poor, he’s shared. After his parents divorced, he moved with his mother to Brooklyn in 1958, where he learned English in part by watching horror films, which would later influence his onstage looks and persona. He fell in love with music in his teens and, as he told CBS News of seeing John, Paul, George and Ringo on The Ed Sullivan Show, “There is no way I’d be doing what I do now if it wasn’t for The Beatles.” After playing in some bands, he formed Wicked Lester with Paul Stanley in the early 70s, and that band grew to add Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, turning into KISS by 1973. 

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Simmons told Cosmopolitan that his Demon persona and makeup for the band grew from “my fascination with horror movies, sci-fi and all that stuff. So it’s probably a combination of Phantom of the Opera, Batman and all that stuff that girls think is silly.” As for that infamous long tongue? He had it insured for $1 million.

Man on guitar with tongue out; kiss band members
Gene Simmons (2020) Kevin Winter / Staff / Getty

Beyond his success with the band, Simmons, now 74, is an entrepreneur with his hands in several businesses including his own financial services management company. He’s also run his own record label, Simmons Records, and starred on nine seasons of the A&E reality series Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels, along with his wife Shannon Tweed, son Nick, and daughter Sophie.

This April 21, he reportedly brought in 1 million more viewers to American Idol when he appeared as a celebrity mentor to the final 14 contestants. Two days later, he performed at the grand opening of Ridgefield, Washington’s Rock & Brews, a music-themed family restaurant chain he co-founded with Paul Stanley in 2012. After headlining a music festival in Brazil on April 26, he and his Gene Simmons Band are gearing up to tour Europe in July and August, with stops in Finland, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Italy.

Ace Frehley: Kiss band members

Ace Frehley; kiss band members
1974/2023 Tom Hill / Contributor / Getty // Gary Miller / Contributor / Getty

Bronx native Paul Daniel Frehley grew up in a family of piano players, but he, like Paul Stanley, was drawn to both art and the guitar. Getting an electric one at age 13 and being inspired by such legends as The Who’s Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix, sealed his fate as the future lead guitarist in KISS. He’d pick up his Ace nickname while playing the bar and club scene around town during the time he answered Gene Simmons’ ad in a paper that read “Hard rock group seeking guitarist with balls and flash.”

As the band’s Spaceman, his guitar solos — with their dazzling special effects — became concert favorites, but his struggles with alcohol started causing problems for him. He and his bandmates parted ways in 1982, and he started his own outfit called Frehley’s Comet two years later. Solo work followed in 1987, and he did reunite with KISS in 1996 for a reunion that lasted for six years, though he chose not to participate in the iconic band’s farewell tour.

Despite years of rough patches and legal disputes between him, Simmons and Paul Stanley, Frehley recently assured Classic Rock that “we’re just like brothers. Brothers have arguments, brothers have misunderstandings, they curse each other out, and then they make up.”

Ace Frehley playing guitar
Ace Freely (1996) Tim Mosenfelder / Contributor / Getty

His No Regrets: A Rock ’n’ Roll Memoir came out in 2011, and his solo career is still going strong at 72, having released Spaceman in 2018, Origins, Vol. 2, in 2020, and 10,000 Volts, on February 23, 2024. He’s currently on the road supporting that latest release on his 10,000 Volts tour, and he’s already publicly talking up his next album project, Origins, Vol. 3, saying he’s hoping to get Lita Ford and Slash involved.

And during a recent radio show interview, he quipped that he’d like to have his own Netflix biopic, separate from the one the band has in the works. “I think my life is the most interesting of the four original members. No offense to any of the other guys, but you know, my life is like a fairytale,” he said.

Peter Criss

Peter Criss; kiss band members
1974/2024 Tom Hill / Contributor / Getty // Manny Carabel / Stringer / Getty

Brooklyn, New York, native Peter Criss (born George Peter John Criscuola) grew up the oldest of five in an Italian-Irish family that lived in a tough working-class neighborhood. It was so tough, he’s said, that he joined a gang in his early teens. “Otherwise you would get beaten up every day,” he revealed in Kiss: Behind the Mask.

Criss was a drummer from an early age (on his mom’s pots and pans), and his love of rock ’n’ roll exploded once he saw Elvis Presley perform. A childhood friend, Jerry Nolan, who later became a drummer for the New York Dolls, gave him his first formal drum lesson, and he went on to buy his own drum set in high school. After graduation, he’d study with one of his heroes, Gene Krupa, who played with Benny Goodman. After years of trying to make it as a struggling musician, he took out a fateful ad in Rolling Stone looking for bandmates, which is how he ultimately connected with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

Peter Criss playing drums
Peter Criss (1999) Al Pereira / Contributor / Getty

The Catman was responsible for KISS’s smash ballad “Beth,” which hit No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became the band’s highest charting single. In-group friction, though, led to him parting ways with Simmons and Stanley in 1980, two years after he broke bones in both hands in a car accident. Solo work followed (1982’s Let Me Rock You, 1994’s Cat #1), as did a reunion with KISS in 1995/1996, which again ended tensely over a contract dispute in 2001.

Still, he popped back into the band for a two-year stint in 2002. “There were so many glorious years and the four of us created some really fun tunes and have the most incredible fanbase a band could ever have,” he told Premiere Radio Networks in 2023, reflecting on his KISS tenures on the eve of their farewell tour, though he chose not to participate in it.

In 2007, he released his One for All album, and he released an autobiography titled Makeup to Breakup in 2012. Now 78, Criss has been mostly retired from the road since 2017, though he did make a rare appearance in August 2023 at a New Jersey charity event, peforming “Sing, Sing, Sing (With A Swing).” He also played at the Raven Drum Foundation Benefit Show, an event that also raised money for firefighters, at New York City’s Cutting Room on March 14, 2024.

Eric Carr: Kiss band members

Eric Carr; kiss band members
1983/1985 Getty Images / Handout / Getty // Ebet Roberts / Contributor / Getty

After Peter Criss exited the band in 1980, Eric Carr stepped in. He had been a professional drummer on the New York City club circuit and was nearly ready to give up his musical career when he landed his audition with KISS. His onstage persona was initially a Hawk, but as Paul Stanley noted in his 2014 memoir Face the Music: A Life Exposed, “[Eric] looked like the mascot for a high school football team,” so Carr’s makeup and outfit was changed to a much sleeker Fox.

Sadly, a 1991 heart-cancer diagnosis would cut the musician’s career — and life — short at 41, after he died on Nov. 24 of that same year following a brief battle with the disease. In 1992, KISS dedicated their Revenge album to his memory. “He was a ferocious drummer with a gentle spirit,” the band recently posted on their website.

Vinnie Vincent

Vinnie Vincent; kiss band members
1983/2018 Getty Images / Handout / Getty // Bobby Bank / Contributor / Getty

This former Treasure band member wrote music for TV’s Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi before playing with KISS in 1982, upon Ace Frehley’s departure. His band persona and costume has been described as both the Wizard and the Ankh Warrior, as it featured Egyptian ankh symbols and partial moons. 

Tensions between him and band leaders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley led to a short stint with KISS, however, and he headed out in 1984 with his own band called Vinnie Vincent Invasion. The guitarist, now 71, continues to make music and released Judgment Day (Guitarmageddon Pt. 1) in 2023.

Mark St. John: Kiss band members

This guitarist joined KISS in 1984 as Vinnie Vincent’s replacement on lead guitar, but his stint was a complicated and short one. St. John, who suffered from arthritis, left the band after they released 1984’s Animalize. He claimed the ailment was psychosomatic due to stress he was under in the band, then moved on to other groups such as White Tiger and The Keep (which Peter Criss was a part of as well). St. John would later land for a short time in jail in 2006 due to drug-related charges and resisting arrest. He suffered a brutal physical attack while there, which left him badly injured and depressed, according to loved ones. His physical and mental health did not improve once he was released, and he died on April 5, 2007, at the age of 51.

Bruce Kulick

Bruce Kulick; kiss band members
1977/2024 Gary Gershoff / Contributor / Getty // Gabe Ginsberg / Contributor / Getty

After the band had parted ways with Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick, a musician who played with Meat Loaf, Billy Squier, and Michael Bolton, among other artists, was brought on as his replacement in 1984. When Frehley and Peter Criss reentered the KISS fold in 1996, however, Kulick stepped away, though he did play on 1998’s reunion album, Psycho Circus. He’s also popped up on some musical side projects from Paul Stanley and Eric Singer.

Kulick then became part of the band Union from 1997 to 2002, before landing as lead guitarist in Grand Funk Railroad from 2000 through 2023. Bruce, 70, and his wife, Lisa, now partner on a website called Kulick’s Pancake Recipes, which shares their favorite recipes for the breakfast staple. The musician, who released his Skeletons in the Closet album in 2017, will be playing New England’s Super Megafest Comic-Con in June 2024.

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