Gene Sim­mons

Kiss bassist Gene Sim­mons looks back on a year of boom­ing busi­ness and ahead to the even­tual Kiss re­tire­ment, and ex­plains why Lady Gaga “is the only new rock star in the last twenty years”.

Classic Rock - - Contents - Words: Henry Yates

Some­where off the Florida coast, Gene Sim­mons is re­clin­ing on the deck of a cruise ship, watch­ing the hordes of Kiss Kruise at­ten­dees and con­tem­plat­ing his life­long sta­tus as “the luck­i­est guy in the world”. Af­ter an­other year of razzmatazz and roy­al­ties, it would ap­pear to be busi­ness as usual for the planet’s most openly com­mer­cial band. But with Kiss set to bid farewell with their End Of The Road Tour from Jan­uary, Sim­mons’s world is about to change in a big way.

Aren’t you go­ing to miss all this when Kiss call it a day?

Well, the tour­ing band will stop, cer­tainly. But Kiss will con­tinue in other ways. Let’s just cut through all the bull­shit. I’m sixty-nine now and this is a great time to go. I’m in great shape, I’m strong, singing bet­ter than ever. By the end of the tour I’ll be seventy-two, maybe even older. In terms of pride and self-re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion for the fans – and our legacy – why the fuck would I want to be there run­ning around in a rocket-pow­ered wheel­chair? If I was do­ing what Sir Paul [McCart­ney] – who I greatly ad­mire – is do­ing I could do it into my mid-seven­ties. Jag­ger, I have to say, works his ass off. That’s a tip of the hat. But if you’re wear­ing sneak­ers and a T-shirt, you can do this into your mid-seven­ties or later. We’re the hard­est-work­ing band, and that means I carry around forty pounds of ar­mour. And if Jag­ger, God bless him, got into my out­fit he’d pass out in the first half-hour.

So you want to go out on a high?

Re­mem­ber, we in­tro­duce our­selves: “You wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest band in the world.” Why would we want to stay on stage a day longer than what we feel is le­git­i­mate? Those words have to mean some­thing. We’ve all seen pa­thetic ex­am­ples of bands who have come up and do sets and sit on chairs, be­cause they can’t stand up. I un­der­stand the need, the hunger, but [have some] self-re­spect and dig­nity, at least for the fans. When you’re heavy­weight cham­pion of the world and you’ve knocked every­body out, go out on top, for God’s sakes. Don’t leave it un­til some young punk knocks you out, em­bar­rass­ingly.

What about Kiss continuing as a stu­dio band, though?

The cancer has per­vaded and in­vaded the busi­ness. So every­body down­loads and file­shares. Kiss is not a char­ity. I refuse to do some­thing for free. There’s pri­vate phi­lan­thropy. You get paid for do­ing what you’re do­ing. I want to get paid too.

But don’t you want to con­tinue mak­ing records for artis­tic rea­sons?

No. I’d rather amass demos and do that kind of stuff, and ev­ery once in a while bring out the largest box set of all time.

Have you been im­pressed by any new bands this year?

No, I haven’t seen any­body. Y’know, there are young bands that sound like Led Zep­pelin. Years ago it was Black Keys. But noth­ing that makes you stand up and say: “Hold on there.” The magic thing, es­pe­cially in Eng­land, that hap­pened is that Queen sounded dif­fer­ent than Yes, who sounded dif­fer­ent from Sab­bath, and Zep­pelin sounded like their own thing. They all sounded dif­fer­ent and marched to the beat of their own drum­mer. They didn’t look over their shoul­der to find out what else was go­ing on. I do like pop mu­sic a lot. ABBA is per­haps my favourite. When you look at Taylor Swift and all the other won­der­ful pop princesses, there’s a for­mula. It is in­ter­change­able songs, in­ter­change­able stars. That goes for writ­ing as well. It’s in­ter­change­able. But it wouldn’t be a good idea for ABBA to do Round­about by Yes, would it?

And that goes to what Mother Na­ture fig­ured out a long time ago. Which is there’s no other per­son on Earth like you. Your fin­ger­prints make you com­pletely in­di­vid­ual. And what’s miss­ing is many new bands have the same fin­ger­print as the other bands. It’s in­ter­change­able.

By ex­ten­sion, are you say­ing you don’t think it’s been a good year for rock’n’roll?

Oh, it’s hor­rific. And we’ve played this game be­fore, per­haps. But it has to do with Nap­ster and all the other ones that have just de­stroyed ev­ery­thing. Be­cause they gave crack for free to young fans. They’ve trained them to down­load and file-share for free, with­out pay­ing the artist who cre­ated it. 1958 un­til 1988 is thirty years. Dur­ing that time, in all the gen­res of the mu­sic, you had The Bea­tles and Hen­drix and the Stones and you can go on and on. Bowie and Prince and U2 and the heavy stuff, Iron Maiden and Me­tal­lica and all that. On and on. From 1988 un­til to­day – also thirty years – who’s the new Bea­tles?

“Why the f**k would I want to be run­ning around in a rock­et­pow­ered wheel­chair?”

So you think dig­i­tal plat­forms have im­pacted on the qual­ity of bands?

No, I think the tal­ent is there. Per­haps there’s more tal­ent than ever. Max Martin and the Swedish writ­ers, those guys can write songs. But they can’t form bands. So they have to keep writ­ing pop songs for the young fe­males, the pretty girls who can ac­tu­ally sell. Be­cause there’s that young fe­male au­di­ence. And the boy bands sell well be­cause it’s their first boyfriends that these twelve-year-old girls are gonna get. And I’m all for that. I un­der­stand that. The Bea­tles started off with that. I get it. It’s all great. It was great for The Mon­kees and on and on. But The Mon­kees didn’t be­come The Bea­tles be­cause they didn’t write their own songs. And they didn’t have a sense of iden­tity. They were cre­ated. The Bea­tles was a real band. And we love the Foo Fighters, but that’s an old band. They’ve been around over twenty years. I don’t see a new band. Not be­cause the tal­ent is not out there. The Greta [Van Fleet] band is great and all that. But no­body’s gonna get the chance we did, where a record com­pany would give you mil­lions of dol­lars, non-re­coupable – in other

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