Legacy: Gene Simmons

Here’s Gene Simmons talking about the legacy of Kiss in 2008: “Legacy don’t matter to me. I get paid hideously well because I am one of the four guys in Kiss. Once you’ve paid me well, it really doesn’t matter.”

Ha! Look, I say those kind of things because you guys need something to quote.

So have you changed your mind?

The God’s honest truth is, I consider this a privilege. I am blessed. I take what we do seriously, but not_ too_ seriously. But if I didn’t exist it wouldn’t affect humanity.

You initially resisted the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s request that the original members of Kiss be inducted. It’s a shame there’s still so much bad blood there.

For some reason I am still a dark cloud over the heads of Ace and Peter decades after they left the band, because it’s easier to blame someone else for where you’ve ended up in life rather than blame yourself. Ace, bless him, is one of the nicest, sweetest guys when he’s straight, but when he’s high he’s Jekyll and Hyde.

If you could go back to 197475 in Kiss’s career what would you do differently?

We should have fired those guys at the first signs of drugs and showing up late in the studio, and forcing us to use a different guitar player to do the solos.

You’ve never been comfortable with excesses of rock’n’roll, have you?

No. Instead I point to some of the most iconic figures. Elvis: Dead, fat, bloated, pathetic, naked on the floor in Las Vegas [it was Memphis - Geography Ed]. And all those people who died at twenty seven: Cobain, Hendrix, Mama Cass, Morrison.

Is there an aspect of Kiss that always gets overlooked?

Quite honestly, if there is it’s not an issue for me. I’m not hung up on the artistry. I’m hung up on having a great time at whatever level.

Any regrets?

Yes. I could have picked an easier band to be in. Every night, I have to put on eight-inch platforms, fifty-five pounds of armour, sweat my balls off, spit fire and run the risk of burning my mouth or swallowing kerosene.

What do Kiss do that no else can?

The truth is there are bands who play better, and many who play worse. But there is something that happens on stage with us that is different from other bands. Stand next to us, and you cannot win.

What’s the biggest mistake Kiss made?

The eighties was a dishonest decade. We started Kiss as the band we wanted to see on stage, and then we became like every other band we saw on stage. But at the time, we looked in the mirror and thought we looked cool. We swallowed the whole thing hook, line and sinker – which sounds like a bad Nazareth album title.

Is there anything left for Kiss to achieve?

Yes. I’m looking forward to when the Stones or U2 have the balls to get on stage with us. I say that with deep, humbling respect. But if you’re the champions, you’ve got to invite all-comers to get into the ring.

How would Gene Simmons like to be remembered?

Rock’n’roll is full of lemmings. They all follow the first one, and as soon as they get to the edge of the cliff the first one jumps and they all jump. I see myself as the one at the back of the line going: “Fuck this!”

Mark Blake

Mark Blake is a music journalist and author. His work has appeared in The Times and The Daily Telegraph, and the magazines Q, Mojo, Classic Rock, Music Week and Prog. He is the author of Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, Is This the Real Life: The Untold Story of Queen, Magnifico! The A–Z Of Queen, Peter Grant, The Story Of Rock's Greatest Manager and Pretend You're in a War: The Who & The Sixties.