There is no rocker like Gene Simmons. The KISS singer-bassist is refreshingly straightforward, often fun-loving, and perhaps the most business-conscious musician of all time. When Simmons, 72, isn’t coming up with concepts like the KISS Coffin, he’s on tour and planning the future of his iconic band, which has changed the face of live performance.
âIf you see Garth Brooks, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones, you get pyro,â Simmons said. “Where do you think this came from?” Air intake? We started doing this stuff, and they, the arbiter of taste, hated it. We didn’t care.
KISS, which also includes singer-guitarist Paul Stanley, guitarist Tommy Thayer, and drummer Eric Singer, has never worried about the lack of critical acclaim. Influential hard rockers are satiated by the popular vote, having sold over 75 million albums. KISS, which performs at the Gorge Amphitheater on Saturday as part of their “End of the Road World Tour” aka “The Last Tour of All Time”, has been performing anthemic cups and fireworks since 1974.
Simmons called from his Los Angeles home insisting that KISS was on their last tour. The star of the reality TV show “Family Jewels” explains why the group enjoys playing Gorge and reveals that there could be a KISS 2.0 after the current members retire.
You have to say it as it is. You recently called David Lee Roth for not being in the best vocal shape.
I’m sorry if I hurt David’s feelings. Regarding Van Halen, there was no band like them. When David was in his prime, his physique was unmatched. Mick Jagger and Robert Plant couldn’t touch him.
Larger-than-life bands have followed the path of the dinosaurs. Can you imagine how huge a band like Van Halen would be today?
They would rule the planet. It’s no surprise that people are coming back and embracing rock from a generation ago.
My teenage kids immersed themselves in classical rock and love it because a lot of those songs are still relevant today and hit you in the guts.
The proof of your point is that our kids, Nick and Sophie’s favorite bands when they were teenagers were AC / DC and Queen. You don’t get any better than these groups.
AC / DC with Bon Scott was the first band I’ve seen since I saw the Australian band opening for KISS when I was 11.
You can’t beat that. I wish I could say I was there. I never saw AC / DC perform on this tour since I was backstage getting ready to play. I’ll say we’re proud of the opening bands we’ve dated – AC / DC, Rush, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, and Cheap Trick are just a few of the bands we’ve had with we.
Is this really KISS’s last tour?
Yes, and I’ll tell you why. I am 72 years old. I’m fine. I still have hair on my head and some on my back. But we are too proud of what we do. We don’t want to be on a downward slope. We want to stop at the top of our game. We can’t keep doing what we’re doing because of the sheer physicality of it.
Mick Jagger couldn’t do what he does if he put on my dragon boots. These shoes are the weight of bowling balls. And then I carry about 40 pounds (of gear) when I’m on stage. It is demanding. It’s hard to go through a tour.
Especially now with COVID-19. Paul was affected by COVID. How is he?
Paul is doing well, and I want to thank all the fans who wish him well. It’s difficult. Paul is fully vaccinated and still contracted COVID even though he was completely responsible for it. I have a message for anyone who is not vaccinated: COVID is not a hoax. Don’t listen to these politicians in Florida and Texas. They are mean.
They are also vaccinated.
Excellent point! They are vaccinated. Donald Trump too. He was booed by his people recently for telling them to get the shot. The only way to avoid dying or being in the hospital with a tube stuck in your throat is to get the vaccine. The world is not flat. Wear a mask.
I hate to hear people say they have the right not to be vaccinated. It’s like a red light. We all have to stop at a red light. We don’t live forever, but why not live as long as you can?
Speaking of not living forever, Charlie Watts recently passed away. I thought the Rolling Stones were meant to live forever.
I’m sure (Rolling Stones guitarist) Keith (Richards) will outlive us all. I’m sure Keith made some kind of pact with the devil for eternal life. Just kidding, fans. It’s just a joke.
But as far as Charlie goes, talk about a guy who was loyal and such an amazing drummer and by all accounts one of the nicest guys you would want to meet.
Will there ever be another KISS album or even a new song?
No. KISS is not a charity although we do a lot of philanthropy. All musicians should be paid. This disaster with unpaid musicians started with Napster. The record companies were sleeping.
I once wrote how GWAR, the metal band that wears costumes, could exist after the band members retired. It could be the same for KISS. Can you imagine KISS continuing after you and Paul retire?
Yes. Another version of KISS may exist. We spoke with Mark Burnett, who produced “The Apprentice” and “Survivor”, about the development of “KISS: The Next Generation”.
How would that work?
We would see who is worthy to wear the crown. You have to be versatile and write, play well and have the physique to be successful. KISS is not a band that just stick around like let’s say Lovin ‘Spoonful, which is one of my favorite bands. These guys stayed there. Getting around on stage is part of the pleasure of being in a band.
What inspired you to form a band?
It’s always about the girls, isn’t it? That’s why anyone, including (Bruce) Springsteen, gets into a group. If you meet a girl and say, “I am a plumber”, then it is: “Nice to meet you”. So that’s it. These are the chicks.
Who had the most impact on you, the Beatles or the Stones?
The Beatles. Their composition is undeniable. One of the Stones’ earliest hits was âI Wanna Be Your Man,â written by The Beatles.
KISS made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after being ignored for years. However, you said that some acts, like those in hip-hop, should not be dedicated.
The idea of ââRun-DMC and other rap groups inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is ridiculous. If KISS was inducted into the Rap Hall of Fame, people would say, “Dude, this is crazy.” Exactly. KISS is not hip-hop, and Run-DMC is not rock. They have no place in the rock hall.
Aren’t rock and hip-hop just labels? Isn’t it all about music?
No. If you are a politician and are good at they call you a rock star. Rock is a verb and a noun. If you want to wish someone good luck, you say, âRock on. You can’t say “country and western”. You can’t say “hip-hop on.” It does not mean anything. Only the rock crosses the lines. Even rappers call themselves rock stars.
You return to the Gorges for the last time. What do you like about playing Gorge?
I love the Gorge because it’s outside, and you can really rock the sky with pyro. You can play and go for it because you don’t have to worry about setting the ceiling on fire. It will be a very memorable show when we play Gorge.