Andy Greene | Rolling Stone
If you want Gene Simmons to come to your house, all you have to do is buy his new ten CD box set The Vaultand he’ll bring it right to you. You can even invite over up to 25 friends. He’ll spend two hours at your place and maybe even play a few songs on the guitar. The only catch is that it costs $50,000. He swears it’s worth it. “It’s the largest box set of all time and it spans from 1966 to 2016,” he tells Rolling Stone. “It has 150 songs that have never been released, including a song I wrote with Bob Dylan. Joe Perry appears on one track and the Van Halen brothers appear on three others. A lot of it is stuff I was never able to release because we were preaching the mantra of Kiss and a lot of the stuff didn’t simply sound like Kiss.”
No rock star of Gene’s caliber has ever travelled around the country visiting fans at their houses, but the Kiss frontman has a long history of finding new ways to make money, whether it’s selling Kiss comic books, Kiss condoms or even Kiss caskets. He got on the phone with us not just to plug The Vault, but also to share the life lessons he’s picked up over the years – covering everything from infidelity to parenting to why he continues to believe that rock is dead.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
The wisest person I ever met continues to be my mother. She survived a Nazi concentration camp at fourteen when her whole family was killed. Her perspective on life is, “Every day above ground is a good day, so reach for the stars. As long as there’s nobody trying to kill you, what have you got to lose? You cannot fail.” And she’s right.
She’s also taught me that success is only temporary. She still doesn’t understand who pays me and why there’s so much money. She just can’t fathom it. When I showed her the first ten million dollar check I earned, she didn’t know what ten million dollars was, or whether it’s ten thousand or a hundred thousand. But she looked at it and it looked like a large number and she said, “That’s wonderful, now what are you gonna do?” She’s right. You knock somebody out, you’re the champion of the world, hey that’s great. OK, now what are you gonna do? Sit back? Or are you gonna get back in the ring and continue to pump your heart while you’re alive? Use it or lose it. I learned that work ethic from my mother.
How do you teach your kids to find that drive when they were born into such radically different circumstances than you?
For one thing, they’ve never had an allowance. I strongly don’t believe in giving your kids any money for nothing, because when they go off on their own, their hands are going to be outstretched, going “Where’s my money for doing nothing?” So it’s a good thing to keep your kids on a tight leash. Also, I don’t expect much from you, but what I do expect, you will deliver, or else. One is, you’re not allowed to get high or get drunk or smoke cigarettes – can’t do that. If you want to, I want to have a discussion. And tell me before, don’t tell me after. If you transgress, if you go against my commandments, you will find yourself in a desert camp digging holes, written out of the estate and the will.
Do you think if you were born to a wealthy family in America you wouldn’t have the drive you’ve had all your life?
I think I have an advantage because we came from nothing, and I wasn’t born in America. I became aware of the promise land that was America. I was supposedly born in the “Promised Land,” Israel, but there is no country that gives you so much as America.
You’ve been with your wife Shannon Tweed for over thirty years. What’s the secret to a long relationship?