Ken Sharp | Rock Cellar Magazine
Outspoken and brash, arrogant and opinionated, profane and vulgar, supremely narcissistic and sexist, are among the colorful descriptions both the public and media foist at KISS’ founding member Gene Simmons.
Acutely aware of how he is perceived, Simmons even named his last solo album Asshole. When meeting with the “God of Thunder,” one will notice he’s polite and gracious, proving there’s much more behind the self-proclaimed “Man of 1000 Faces.”
Currently on the road with KISS for their “Freedom To Rock” jaunt of the U.S., the band, or brand, as Simmons often likes to describe the Roll & Roll Hall of Famers, are not content to rest on their laurels and count their mountainous pile of greenbacks. Rather, they continue to press the envelope with a keen understanding of the transformative power of how a rock and roll band can be marketed in today’s world.
Yet as Simmons attests, his accomplishments with KISS have far exceeded his expectations. “It is really weird that KISS, which never really started out as anything but this bizarre dream of four knuckleheads off the streets of New York just wanting to do one record, that four decades later, the RIAA crowned us as the number-one Gold record award winning group of all time in America. It’s amazing especially since we’ve only had three hit singles, Beth, I Was Made For Loving You and Forever.”
For a group routinely dismissed by short-sighted critics as a flash in the pan, a “joke band” comprised of talentless cretinous musical goons soon to be forgotten and quickly discarded on the junk heap of failed rock bands past, KISS are having the last laugh. Detractors be damned, 46 years since the original band–Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss–first came together, in 2016 KISS continue to transcend the parameters of what a rock band can do.
Whether starring in their own Scooby Doo cartoon (Scooby Doo & KISS: Rock & Roll Mystery), teaming up with menswear designer/clothier John Varvatos or collaborating with Japanese teen sensations Momoiro Clover Z on Samurai Son, the band’s first # 1 single in the “Land of the Rising Sun,” yesterday and today KISS stubbornly follow the beat of their own drum and continue to thrive, loudly.
Witness their latest “Freedom To Rock” tour, which is drawing in a significant generation of younger fans eager and excited to be baptized, KISS-style. We sat down with the band’s resident “God of Thunder,” Gene Simmons, who offered a primer in all things KISS, past, present and future.
Rock Cellar Magazine: The new KISS tour is labeled the “Freedom to Rock” tour. When did you first feel the freedom that music provided as a creative outlet?
Gene Simmons: That’s a very good question. When you’re a pimple-faced little kid, we’re all trying to figure out where we fit on the chess board of life. We try to sort of hang to or latch on to that thing that makes us acceptable and it’s usually not mathematics, unfortunately, or sciences. The kid that put in the time to excel at math and science, the rest of the kids at school don’t just go, “Oh yeah, I need to hang out with that guy.”