In typical Kiss fashion, Gene Simmons clearly has his eye on the future, even as the band's ongoing End Of The Road tour creeps inexorably towards a no-doubt explosive conclusion.
Simmons, a self-described serial entrepreneur, has already launched shopgenesimmons.com (opens in new tab) – a venture centred on merchandise sporting logo permutations of his money-bag trademark – and Gene Simmons’ Kiss World (opens in new tab) in Las Vegas, showing The Demon’s vast personal collection of memorabilia and one-of a-kind personal items.
At the show I saw on Kiss’s ‘End Of The Road’ tour, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Paul Stanley smile so much. Is there a sense within the band that now the end is coming let’s enjoy every moment on that stage?
Yeah. Considering we started in 1974 and we’re in the year 2022 now and probably by 2024 we’ll be done. That’s enough. Fifty years is enough for anybody. And also out of respect and love for the fans, you want to get off the stage while the getting is good; you’ve got to have a sense of pride and know when it’s time.
Of course, everything comes to an end at some point, and you’re lucky and blessed if that last lap around the track is your victory lap. You celebrate the past. But of course, that thing is going to be over at some point in your life. You’ve got to leave home. You’ve got to leave mom and dad and go off on your own and start that next chapter. And by the way, at some point life itself is going to be over.
Talking of leaving home, what was your bedroom like as a teenager?
What would we have seen in there? I was living at my mother’s house, so I put nothing on the walls – nothing. At about thirteen, fourteen, I was learning to play just by watching people’s hands on guitar. My mother bought me an SG standard Gibson and I remember thinking: “Oh, my god, my fingers are killing me. How can anybody play this?” But slowly I started to play a C chord and then a G chord and so on…
Who was your best friend growing up, and who is your best friend today?
I’m a strange duck. I’ve hardly had any friends. I never really hung out. I never drank, so that was out. I wouldn’t hang out on street corners and smoke cigarettes and all that stuff. I was just busy doing what I wanted to do and chasing girls. That didn’t leave time for friends. I didn’t go to baseball games. I kept reading about what friends do: they hang out with each other, they call each other: “Hey, I need a favour”. I never had that.
What’s the source of that insular nature where you really didn’t have a need to connect with people?
Even today, as I sit here, other than Paul – and we only get together when we do stuff with the band… How do I say this without sounding inhuman? I don’t have friends. Yeah, if friends means: “Gee, I don’t know what I’m going to do this afternoon. Hey, you want to come over and hang out?” I don’t hang out. I’ve never hung out. I’m more interested in what I want to do, and I don’t want to pretend that I’m interested in what you want to do because, I’m not.
What are the things you wish you had known when you were younger that would have made your life a little easier?
That it didn’t matter what I thought I knew and it didn’t matter what I knew. You still have to wade through the jungle by yourself. All the knowledge in the world or no knowledge at all doesn’t prepare you for life, because there’s no one journey, there’s no one road. It’s an interesting question. I really don’t have regrets, because you live and you learn. I don’t want to quote Alanis Morrisette, but the life experience itself is going to be the best teacher. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, then that’s on you.
You’re closer to the finish of life than to the beginning. How often do you think about your own mortality, and what’s your philosophy about death?
I’d be a complete asshole – certainly more than I am now – if I wasn’t grateful for this amazing life. I mean, if it ended today, I know what my tombstone would say. It would say: “Thank you and good night.” What more could you hope for? So I’m not afraid of death – unless a car is coming straight into your face. You kind of go: “Oh my God!” But that’s just instinct.
Do you think about death much more now?
I do, but only in terms of pragmatism, which is how up-to-date is the will. I want to make sure there are no taxes, there are no liens, there’s no nothing, so that my family and my kids get taken care of. Just sort of pragmatic taking care of business.
What’s your belief system in what happens when you die?
I’m okay if there’s a heaven and a God. I’m okay with it. I’m also okay if there’s nothing. What do you lean towards? I lean towards nothing. My question is: if we get an afterlife, do mosquitoes? Maybe my mother’s sort of wise statement about every day above ground is a good day, and that’s it.
Kiss's End Of The Road tour reaches Europe this summer. Tickets are on sale now (opens in new tab).