Gene Simmons: "I stand by my words, rock is dead and the fans killed it."

Gene Simmons
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Its been almost 8 years since Gene Simmons first declared to the world that rock is dead, but even as rock albums catapult up the charts, streaming figures hit the billions and new acts make the leap up to arenas around the world, the Kiss bassist isn't backing down.

Speaking to Metal Hammer ahead of Kiss's upcoming appearance at Download Festival in June - scheduled to be the band's last performance in the UK before they retire in 2023 - Simmons talked at length for our regular Life Lessons feature, covering everything from his birth and upbringing in Israel to why he never got involved with drink or drugs. He also had some choice words about his  past comments that rock was dead.

"I stand by my words: rock is dead,” he said. "The people that killed it are fans. Fans killed the thing they loved by downloading and file sharing for free. How do you expect somebody who loves the guitar to come into this creative process? You’ve got to invent yourself. And so rock is dead."

Gene's comments don't come without consideration, however. Freely admitting in the interview that he is well aware of his reputation for controversy, he offers a lesson in rock'n'roll history to illustrate his point.

"Point to a new look. I played this game before and it bears noting, rock continues to be dead. From 1958 until 1988, 30 years, right? You got Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and on and on. Motown. You have the surf thing and the Beach Boys, the British invasion – hundreds of bands. The Hollies are hardly ever talked about, they're a great band. Disco stuff, Madonna, Prince, Bowie, all that great stuff. You had the heavy bands Metallica and Iron Maiden, all that stuff in those 30 years. Eternal music and bands.

But from 1988 until today, who is the new Beatles? BTS? There's no denying BTS are world famous. But am I going to form a garage band to do those songs? No. I think they're well-crafted and professional, but One Direction and NSYNC and all the boy bands don’t change the world. It just makes little girls hearts flutter and then they're gone. That doesn't have gravitas. Influential bands, that make somebody want to pick up a guitar, learn how to play songs and be in a band don't exist, because you can't make a living.”

Bleak as his prognosis is, Gene doesn't think all is lost. Talking about Kiss's upcoming final appearance in the UK at Download Festival in June, he says, "the best thing about Download is you got great bands of all kinds getting up on stage and it's a day of celebration of the stuff you love." 

Of course, he doesn't let the practicality of it go forgotten, either. "And you bought a fucking ticket," he adds. "You paid for it, so that the people that set the stage up can get paid, so that the trucks that brought the equipment can earn a living and feed their family. 

If you don't buy tickets and it's all free, how does anybody make a living? I'm not talking about us. I know we're rich. You won't have to worry about it. But the people that work with us instead of for us, they need to feed their families. How do new bands survive? How do they have roadies? How do you pay for gas? No, no. Rock is dead. And the fans are to blame. You all hurt the one you love. Sad but true.”

Read the full interview with Gene Simmons in the brand new issue of Metal Hammer, on sale now.

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Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.