Gene Simmons: ‘I’ve got funny-looking hair and a beautiful face…’
The Kiss man on the movie, the upcoming UK tour, the football team… and his barnet
Words: Dave Ling
If there really is no rest for the wicked, then Gene Simmons must be a very bad man. The pyro from Kiss’s last tour has barely fizzled out, but Simmons is already gearing up for 2014. Among the many things on the band’s agenda for the next 12 months are an official Kiss movie, a UK tour, Paul Stanley’s autobiography and even the band’s own American Football team. Gene recently dropped by the Classic Rock office to talk about the band’s plans, his never-ending quest to make money – and those ‘wig’ rumours.
The new official Kiss biography film, You Wanted The Best You Got The Best, is currently being made with director Alan G Parker of Hello Quo! fame. Why has it taken until now to make it?
It’s all about the filmmaker. We wanted to find someone with an honest voice, because what you’re doing is placing your child into someone else’s hands. Alan not only has a Kiss tattoo on his body, he also has an authentic vibe about him. His approach was that the movie had to include everything, and not just what Paul and Gene wanted. It certainly won’t be sugar-coated. We will not interfere – at all.
You’re saying he has one hundred per cent artistic freedom?
Absolutely. We don’t get the right to edit anything. He has the freedom to present us the way he sees fit, and if that makes us look like capitalist pigs then so be it. It’s exactly what I am – I will charge you for everything I do. Kiss is not a charity. Never, ever mix commerce and charity. Personally I support 14,000 kids in Zambia – I feed and clothe them – but I don’t hold press conferences about it. I don’t do it so you’ll think what a nice person I am, it’s private.
You obviously don’t care that people think of you as a greedy bastard.
No, I think that’s good. Listen, I work for everything I’ve got. I started off as a very poor kid. I want to get paid. People that tell you: “I don’t want a lot of money, all I need is enough to get by” are liars. Anything those people have left over, send it to me.
Isn’t it all about proportion, though? Some would consider your attitude indecent.
Proportion to whom? When I was a child a dollar was a lot of money, but as you grow up it means less. I don’t do bling. What you do with money isn’t important. You can give it to charity or shove it up your asshole. But while you are alive your job is to continue to make more money and keep on feeding the economy.
You and Paul Stanley now own an American Football team, LA Kiss. But you’ve previously admitted to hating sports.
I don’t like sports as they were designed, but they’re becoming closer to what I like – which is in-your-face. In boxing, for instance, who does the audience cheer for the most?
The winner, obviously.
No. Actually, the girl with the board containing the number of the round gets the biggest cheer. And what does she have to do with boxing? Nothing. Sports are wonderful when they hold your attention. That’s why the philosophy of LA Kiss is closer to a Kiss concert than to a football game. There’s a lot to look at: fireworks, cheerleaders and all that great stuff. A season ticket costs just 99 dollars, and you get a free Kiss concert.
So, do you actually like the game – can you talk tactics?
No I can’t. Nor should I. I’m not qualified.
So is this just a another business opportunity?
Of course money’s important; you want to get paid and so do I. But I don’t agree with this idea that you must be involved in the detail. Why can’t you attend a football game knowing nothing about the sport and enjoy it as much someone that’s aware of every minutia? All are welcome at the church of LA Kiss; you don’t have to know psalm and verse. So no, I can’t talk tactics. I don’t care about them. If you come and see Kiss without knowing any of our songs you will still walk out saying: “That’s the best concert I’ve ever seen in my life.” With LA Kiss it’s the same premise. There are two goals at the ends of field, that’s all you need to know.
Jon Bon Jovi was a co-owner– stressing the past tense – of Philadelphia Soul. Did you ask him for advice?
No. We [Kiss] do things decidedly differently to Bon Jovi. We succeed.
Three-ché – inflation came in. No, listen, I love Jon, and what he has done is great, but this is not about celebrity endorsement. I’ve actually been hitting the phone and doing corporate sales.
So is this another brand extension for Kiss?
Yeah, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about the business model. I’m very proud that Kiss has gone where no band has gone before.
And what happens if you don’t win trophies? Are you outta there?
No. It’s not about trophies. Some of the teams that win the least make the most [money].
So it’s about money?
Life is about money. Even God passes the hat around. That’s a typical English journalist question. Money’s a good thing, not the root of all evil. A lack of money is worse. With a hundred million dollars in the bank why would I need to hold up a Seven-Eleven?
Moving away from sports, if not money, there are rumours of a Kiss doing a spring tour of the UK in 2014.
That’s true. And as an avowed Anglophile I can’t wait. But the UK is a very strange place; it really is like the Hobbit world, a magical kingdom. The Europeans call you European but the English don’t. You’re a very small island surrounded by water. You didn’t invent rock’n’roll or blues or jazz, but you strange little people with your strange foods and odd colloquialisms created the music that rules the world – The Beatles, the Stones, The Who, Zeppelin ad infinitum – and you continue to do so.
Would you consider playing as part of a package with Mötley Crüe, with whom you toured the US last summer?
No. We’re thinking of a fortieth anniversary celebration. We have the spider stage prop, which does everything except give birth. I don’t want to give away the other thing we’re going to do, but [adopts Cockney accent] it will be a right proper celebration.
Paul Stanley’s first autobiography is published next spring. Do you know anything about its contents?
No. Paul and I are very different types of person. He’s very private and he doesn’t like to show anything to anyone until he’s completely happy with it. I’m looking forward to reading it as much as the next person.
Like a lot of bands of a certain vintage, the Crüe are now working towards calling it a day. How much longer can we reasonably expect Kiss to continue?
It’s a good, honest question. Despite what people may think, every hair on my head is real. Here, take a look… [He leans forward and offers a big chunk for inspection. Despite being jet black, the strands appear surprisingly convincing.]
There’s a lot of hair spray and stuff, but look on top [taps his scalp], it’s really me.
At the end of the day, who cares? I’ve got funny-looking hair and a beautiful face. But, having said all that, what Kiss does is very different to the great things that U2 and the Stones do. We cannot get up on stage in sneakers and a T-shirt. I love Iron Maiden, and it must be great to be in that band – they run around a little bit but don’t even break sweat. Being in Kiss is fucking back-breaking work. Even standing still on eight-inch platform heels, with forty pounds of armour, you sweat your balls off; around you there are fireballs; Paul flies across the stage, and I spit fire… At the end of every show we are exhausted. How long can we keep doing that? Frankly, I’m amazed we managed it for forty years. But physically we’re in great shape. We still have hair on our heads and, unfortunately, some on our backs, asses and teeth too. At my age it’s growing everywhere.
You can’t see Kiss lasting as long as the Stones?
No. Mick and Keith are 70 years old [Richards turns 70 in December; Simmons is 64]. Ours is a physically demanding show. I don’t want to do non-spectacle again [the band were without their make-up from 1983 to 1996], so this is it for the foreseeable future.
The so-called next generation of Kiss has been raised in interviews. Is that just a figment of somebody’s ego, or could it really happen?
I say: why not? It’s possible.
It’s okay to sit here and verbalise, but how would you make it happen?
Oh, listen. Everyone in Kiss is replaceable. My ego will tell you that I am not, but that’s not so. Paul is also replaceable, so is everybody. We love Ace and Peter but they’re not here, and I don’t see a single sign being raised by the fans asking where they are. You go to see the Stones and nobody asks: “Where’s Brian Jones?” As time moves on there are new rules. Why not pick four faces out of nowhere who deserve to wear the crown – though they’d probably have to maintain their anonymity.
It would be the ultimate brand extension?
That’s a business assessment, and you’re right in that. But to the fans that come and stand on the seats it would have to be emotional and real. We are a business, but we’re an empire too; there are Kiss coffee houses and golf courses. But at the end of the day you’ve got to have songs that people think are okay, and you must believe in what you’re doing. Kiss does both. It’s why we are the champions.
For more info: http://www.kissonline.com/