Gene Simmons Interview
(KISS Bass Guitarist and Vocalist )
Kiss has to be one of
the most enduring groups in all of rock 'n roll history. They've sold over
40 million records, performed to S.R.O. audiences throughout the world and
have served as an inspiration to many of today's leading rock acts. You may
recall that back in 1976, Kiss was noted the most popular group in America,
according to a Gallup poll.
This year Kiss will release their 21st album. As finishing touches were
being made on the album and tour plans were taking shape, we spoke with
Kiss member Gene Simmons.
Q - What can you tell us about the new album? (1987)
A - The new album is called "Who Dares, Wins", which is our
basic philosophy. If you dare, you win. If you don't try, you lose by
default and that's been our basic philosophy.
Q - Stallone has said, "The challenge of success is that you keep
trying to create higher goals." How can you top your success?
A - To do what you do better. That's really all you can hope to do. I
think the idea is, you should never be satisfied. You can be proud, but
once you're fully satisfied is the time they should put you under the
ground, 'cause life is about striving. I think he's right. Very philosophical
Q - I read that Peter Criss was contacted about the possibility of doing
a reunion tour with Kiss in makeup. Any truth to that?
A - No. Peter is a wonderful guy with a terrific imagination. He hasn't
been involved in Kiss for almost 7 years. In fact, Eric Carr has been
in the group for longer than Peter has by now. This is not a put down
or anything, but I'm sure Peter would like it. He made a terrible mistake
first time, and I'm sure he'd like the old days to come back, but they
Q - As you look at some of the groups around today, are you surprised
that the combination of rock 'n roll and makeup still excited audiences?
A - No. I think ultimately it's interesting. You look at somebody who
looks a little bit different than somebody on the street, and you keep
wondering 'is this person like me or aren't they?' Wearing makeup is
fine if you do it convincingly. It's not a good idea to do it for your
entire career, because you're just a one trick pony. Ultimately, that's
Q - A concert promoter once told me that the appeal of Kiss was based
on your stage show and not your music and that your manager at the time
didn't believe the group was musically talented.
A - When you buy a record, you don't get anything except song. It is
true you can get away with one album on word of mouth, a gimmick. You
don't get away with it for 14 years and 20 albums, and this is going
to be the 21st. There's no question that part of the appeal of Kiss is
the makeup and part of the appeal of Elvis is the hip swirl and part
of the appeal of the Beatles is their haircuts. But, you must have some
content to have longevity.
Q - In some interviews I've been reading, both Vinnie Vincent and Mark
St. John have said some unkind things about Kiss.
A - That's OK.
Q - Vinnie has said when he does interviews, he can't even mention the
work Kiss. Is that true and why?
A - True. No free rides. You wanna make it, go and make it. I named Vincent
Cusano, Vinnie Vincent. That's the only gift he's allowed. It's interesting
that Vinnie hasn't changed his name back to Vinnie Cusano. Vinne for
the record was fired for unethical behavior, not because of lack of talent.
The guy is very talented. He was unethical. He was fired. Now he's got
a career of his own. Good luck. I wish him all the best of luck. You're
not allowed to use the name Kiss. I've worked for 14 years to make that
name mean something. Nobody gets a free ride off of me. Now you go and
build the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. Good luck, but not with Kiss as ammunition.
Q - And Mark St. John?
A - Mark was a swell guy who played on one record who developed a sickness
called Reiters Syndrome. Gee, I thought Mark had a good time and didn't
know he was saying unkind things. Well, if Mark is, that's OK too.
Q - How do you handle the criticism that comes your way concerning your
stage show and lyrics to your songs?
A - Let me tell you, I would pay them to do this. It makes music and
Kiss that much more vibrant. If there's nothing to complain about with
rock 'n roll, then there is no difference between rock 'n roll and country
music or opera. The difference between rock 'n roll and everything else
is that it's the outlaw music. Without organizations like the P.M.R.C.
rock 'n roll cannot be vibrant. The bottom line of all this stuff is
I would not even answer somebody who I don't think is important enough
to answer. Why do I even say, "Gee, these people are wrong." Well,
then you're talking about them and making them even more important. If
you spend all your time answering the stuff you don't like reading about
yourself, you'll never have time for performing. The people know. The
Q - Are rock groups supposed to last 15 or 20 years?
A - Most rock groups shouldn't exist more than...you fill in the amount
of time. The premise is, a rock 'n roll band should be handled like
a party. If you're at a party and it feels good and you're having a
good time, stay. If it starts to get boring, go. Don't bore yourself
or the people who are having the party by staying there if you're not
having a good time. And that's the way Kiss is treated.
Q - Bette Midler said "The worst part of
having success is to try finding someone who is happy for you. You
don't really find that in this business."
A - No, you don't.
Q - So how do you handle that, Gene?
A - It's better than working for a living. Whatever else artists may
complain about, they sure can't complain about having a hard life.
It's long hours, but everything's got its price.
© Gary James All Rights Reserved