Kiss legend on money, sex and Bush

Gene Simmons, the fire-breathing, legendary leader of Kiss, is one of the easiest and best interviews in the music business. Part artist, part salesman, part preacher, all you have to do to get him going is to say hello. So instead of the typical rock-star interview, here are the thoughts of Chairman Gene, taken from his recent phone chat with NUVO.  

On Indiana:

I have many good memories of Indianapolis, but it has less to do with buildings and shows than the female of the species. The women of Indiana match up quite well actually. Over the years, I’ve been welcomed in Indianapolis often with open arms and sometimes with open legs.

The new tour:

We are doing, because of the present lineup with Eric and Tommy, very obscure material, in some cases material we’ve never done live. “Unholy,” “God Gave Rock and Roll To You,” “She,” “Love Her All I Can,” “All The Way,” “Christine Sixteen.” You’re still going to get “Rock and Roll All Night,” but at least half the set is stuff we hardly ever play.

It feels great, because the original lineup couldn’t do it. It didn’t have the muscle. As much as everybody loved Ace, Paul, Peter and Gene, the original lineup couldn’t pull off these songs. You’re always going to have the vocal minority and we’re in the majority business. If 5 percent of the audience says you can’t survive without Peter Criss and the 95 percent is quite happy to fill the coliseums anyway, the 95 percent have spoken.

On whether the original Kiss would ever reunite:

No. It’s too late now. It’s been 30 years. Everybody loves Ace and Peter. They’re sweethearts. They deserve to be happy. But they shouldn’t be on the road. The road chews them up and spits them out. We all care about them, they deserve to be happy. But Kiss deserves to be happy.

On drugs:

I refuse to hurt myself. The idea of somebody holding a gun is a frightening idea to me, but the rest of the world has no problem with smoking cigarettes. It defies logic. Just because you don’t die right away doesn’t mean you’re not going to die of cancer. Says so right on the box. Same with drinking. People don’t think there are repercussions for getting high and drinking. There are.

I’ve never been high or drunk in my life. Never smoked. There’s no reason to. As corny as it may sound, your mom was right. She said get plenty of sleep at night, eat your vegetables and don’t get high. And all your friends who get high and think they’re cool, they’re morons. They’re your enemies. And your mom, who you thought was corny, was absolutely right.

On money:

It’s an awkward subject to talk about because people get queasy when you talk about success and money. You’re talking about a country that is self-conscious about being the most powerful and well-off country in the history of mankind. We walk around in jeans and soft sell the idea of how enormously wealthy this country really is.

When a guy like myself works hard, joins a band like Kiss, the band bravely decided to not look around and not tug on anyone’s shirt sleeves to see if it’s OK to live the American dream, it shocks people. And they don’t know what to make of it. Rock bands, by and large, don’t do licensing and merchandising well.

Kiss does, it did, it will. It always has and always will because it’s fun. The proof is in the pudding. The fans want it. It seems to me that commercialism is a good word. It means somebody wants to buy your stuff, whether it’s a record or a concert ticket or anything else that has your band’s name on it. If you’re lucky, you’re not just a band, you’re a brand.

On being loved:

That’s not as important as being successful. You can be loved universally and be dirt poor. Having been poor, I can say that while money can’t buy happiness, it’s still better to be rich than poor. If you’re going to be a miserable son of a bitch, you’re better off being a rich son of a bitch than a poor miserable son of a bitch.

Capitalism speaks. It makes no value assessments, it just says, “This is what people want.” People who vote with money speak louder than people who just speak with words. Criticisms are words. And they’re valid to the extent they are, but if somebody buys a ticket or an album or a T-shirt, that’s worth more.

On performing:

It is a privilege to get up on that stage. This is not a birthright. We still introduce ourselves with “You wanted the best, you got the best.” Whether you’re in Peoria or Paris, the people there deserve the best. That means, if you’re the Lakers and you’re not putting out, you will lose. Doesn’t matter how good you are. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves, get out there and go to work.

On politics:

I do have very strong political viewpoints but they’re not black and white. Most peoples’ aren’t. That’s why the presidency has been occupied by Democrats and Republicans pretty evenly. Most people vote on the issue and the person.

As regards President Bush, I disagree with most of the things he stands for. The environment, women’s rights, separation of church and state. But I fully support his foreign policy. If this was a time of peace, I’d go for Kerry. But because the war is ongoing, and al Qaeda is a living, breathing thing, I’d say Mr. Bush will do a better job. If you have cockroaches in the kitchen, you don’t want somebody to come in and have a conversation with them. You need an exterminator. And exterminators are not popular guys. They stink up the house. They’re not fun. You don’t want them around, but they’re exactly what you need when you have cockroaches in the kitchen. Mr. Bush is doing what exterminators need to do: go out and find out where the roaches are.

WHO: Kiss & Poison

WHEN: Saturday, July 3, 7 p.m.

WHERE: VWMC - Tickets: $14 - $72


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