Gene Simmons: ‘I’ve never done drugs or alcohol, so my soul is intact’

Allison Steward | Chicago Tribune

Gene Simmons is the co-frontman of fabled, fire-breathing rock overlords Kiss, and does a thriving side business as an entrepreneur. Kiss made rock merchandising an art form, and Simmons (born Chaim Witz in Israel 68 years ago) is its finest brand extension.

He has authored books, starred in a reality show, made it to week three of “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2008, endorsed Mitt Romney and launched his own cola. He will patiently, eloquently answer any question, and is unfailingly serious, even when he’s probably kidding. He has an easy command of Kiss-related statistics, from the number of “Gene Simmons Family Jewels” episodes that have aired (156) to the number of Kiss-affiliated Rock & Brews restaurants set to open locally (15).

“Our reach is far and wide,” says Simmons. Simmons, whose new book, “On Power,” arrives in November, talked meeting presidents, vomiting blood and life as a tabloid staple. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation:

Q: Your new book is partly a meditation on power, and partly a self-help book.

A: The book grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you and says, “OK, are you serious about life? Do you want to reach for the stars? Here’s some things you can do to make more money, and become more powerful.”

Q: What do you make of President Trump, how he uses power? Is he wielding it effectively?

A: Politically, you can make a good argument that it’s not the way people are used to politicians acting. I know President Trump well enough, I suppose. I’ve certainly met President Clinton and President Bush, and everyone’s different when they get in there.

Q: Was running for president something you would have been interested in, if you’d been born here?

A: Democracy is very messy, although it’s the best system we have, so I wouldn’t be interested in that. I like the fact that the president is accepting no salary, he’s doing it for one dollar. I like that. I think it should be public service. … I like captains of industry becoming politicians. I don’t recall your question, but I like my answer.

Q: You strike me as being very practical and unsentimental, which are great qualities for a businessman, but not so much for an artist. Do those qualities come into conflict in your mind, ever?

A: How did you ever think anyone who plays electric guitar is an artist? They can’t even read or write music.

Q: You don’t think of yourself as an artist?

A: No. An artist is somebody who went to school, who learned music theory, can read and write music, like classical musicians or jazz musicians. None of us – Madonna, I don’t care who you’re talking about – none of us learned to read and write music, we just sort of did it. It’s pretty much on the same level as cavemen who came out of the caves and started to beat on the drums, and howl at the moon.

Q: I think of somebody like Bruce Springsteen as an artist. I don’t know if he can read music.

A: Yeah, but you’re buying into the culture. I don’t think he’d stand up and say, “I’m an artist.” And I’ve met Bruce. Remember, he wears torn jeans, because he wants to connect to the common man. We both know he can buy a fleet of Rolls Royces. … Everybody puts on affectations, including myself. I wear shades in the dark, because the sun never sets on Planet Cool, does it?

Q: Are they prescription?

A: Certainly not.



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