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Gene Simmons on Success and Why the Band Chicago Is Better Than the Ramones

NOISEY: Well I want to “Shark Tank“ you... KISS ice cream for dogs. We’re gonna call it “Lick It Pup.” Gene Simmons: That’s terrible.

Kiss is the “Hottest Band in the World.” Everyone on the entire planet knows who Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are even if only by “The Demon and Starchild” respectively. They are as iconic American images as Michael Jackson or Madonna or Coca Cola or Apple. The two have more money than god and have bedded everyone from Diana Ross to Cher, not to mention all the various playmates of years past. Being able to ask them a couple questions with an ocean view was an absolute delight, and I can now say that I have met one of the coolest famous people ever in Paul Stanley.


Vice threw a party in NYC and all the Noisey people attended. I hear it was a riot. Sadly, that meant no one from the NYC office would be able to jet down to Cabo San Lucas Mexico in December to hang out with Simmons and Stanley at the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar beachfront resort. Luckily the “East Austin” branch was able to pick up the slack. We attended the grand opening of yet another KISS affiliated venture “Rock and Brews”, which is their version of a Hard Rock Café or Hooters. Being a life long fan of Hooters, KISS, and the Hard Rock Café, I was all in. Next stop Mexico.

As a Texan, I have been very privileged to be able to spend a good deal of time down in Mexico, though never on the west coast. A couple months back Cabo was hit with a devastating hurricane and the people are just now getting back on track. The city was great and the people were extremely nice and hospitable. The grand opening was full of red carpets and chicken wings and little mini pizzas, complete with an all-Mexican cover band performing American songs, none of which were written by KISS except for “ I Was Made for Loving You” which epically closed out the night. On an interesting side note the singer was wearing a bootleg KISS t-shirt featuring the ever-recognizable “Rolling Stones” Lips. Mexico, you’re the best.

The next day I was given ten uninterrupted minutes with Gene Simmons. Here are the results. Look for an interview with Paul Stanley tomorrow on Noisey.


Noisey: How did you find your way into the world of restaurants and franchises?
Gene Simmons: The nature of celebrity is one thing, just because you’re the lead singer in “Train”—I’m sure he’s a nice guy—doesn’t mean that translates to business. For whatever reason, perception is everything, even if it’s not the case. And I can’t tell you a thing about the engine in my truck, but I sure know how to drive it.

You put gas in it.
I don’t do that either. I barely know where the thing is. That’s not what I wanna do. What I wanna do is to drive, and everybody else should do everything. If the car’s dirty, somebody else does the cleaning. I bet you know a lot more about cleaning. And captains know where to go on a ship, but have no fuckin’ idea how the engine of the ship works. Presidents of America have no idea how economy, especially the one I voted for, has no idea how to create jobs, because he has never run a company.

But you have!
Quite a few.

If you were born in the States you could have run for president. There could have been president “Gene Simmons.”
The problem is it doesn’t pay enough. And number two is they wouldn’t make me a benevolent dictator. If they did, I’d get this country with a balanced budget in ten years. You have to be able to communicate simply direct to the point, because people have the attention span of mites.

You guys still wear the makeup. Isn’t that sort of a pain in the ass or is it all part of the show, so you still love doing it like it’s 1974?
Quite honestly, when that urge gets you… the physicality of what we’re doing is carrying around fifty pounds of extra weight. The instrument weighs about 15 pounds, studded leather—everything’s heavy. So it’s physically draining. It’s like when you’re about to go to the gym, “Ugh, I don’t want to.” Then when you come out, you go, “I did something good instead of sitting on my thumb at home.” So there’s that concept.


We have the advantage of, even if you don’t feel like it, the roar of the crowd, the smell of the grease, “Stop The World I Wanna Get Off.” You don’t know what I’m talking about. So you’re backstage and you’re “blah blah blah,” and then you start to hear [roars]. The adrenaline goes and you’re ready. Do you mean to tell me every time a boxer has an upcoming match he goes “I can’t wait to train for six fucking months, swallow six raw eggs every morning, get up at 5 AM. Oh, I can’t wait to do that.” But it’s the process of getting into it; it sure feels sweet when you knock somebody out.

Has there ever been an instance where you straight up forgot to take it off and had to stop at the bank or grocery store on the way home, and someone’s like…
The make-up? Well, a funny thing happened. We played Dodger Stadium on Halloween in 2000. We had a circus there, aerial fireworks and all that. I don’t know if you know it, Sunset Blvd on Halloween. It’s closed down. Nobody’s on the street. It’s maniacal. Especially as it gets towards night. So we’re trying to get out of Dodger Stadium before everybody else realized. Fireworks going off. So we’re in a van, about three blocks from the hotel. And we can’t move. We’re in full outfits. We were going to take the makeup off, and we’re looking outside at Chewbacca and Darth Vader and all that stuff. So we thought, “Let’s get out of the truck, and just kind of sneak in,” and as soon as we get out, we’re blown. The first thing we hear is, “Wow! That’s the best KISS outfit I’ve ever seen.”


When I went to Germany was the first time I ever noticed that the SS’s in Germany are just regular S’s. Saw it on a pinball machine. How did your mother feel when you first showed her the initial logo being a holocaust survivor? Was there any pushback from her?
No. Not at all. I think the Germans are sensitive, as they should be, to certain imagery. So they’re very on top of it. To us it’s always been lightning bolts, but it’s sort of the SS.

Based on your sobriety, is it weird owning businesses that sell alcohol? I’m sorry—abstinence. Is that a better term?
No, it’s just a life choice. I also don’t like spinach.

Fair enough. Are you guys going to serve spinach at “Rock and Brews?”
Oh yes, it doesn’t matter what I like, it matters what people like. Likewise with drugs and alcohol, I don’t indulge in either because I’m not really interested. But it’s not to cast any negativity on it—you should be able to get high or eat spinach or do anything you like.

When Kiss started in 1974—

1874, you look great by the way.

Was there any pushback from the emerging punk scene in New York in 1976?
There was no punk.

Well '76 is when that first started.
When we first started it was glitter and glam. You would never play in a band and look like a punk. Well it did start in New York with The Ramones, but Joey and the guys used to come see us all the time and go “wow man, wow man.” But Punk in America didn’t mean anything more than style. Two of The Ramones were Jews, lived in middle class neighborhoods. Take the subway, go back home, and eat two meals a day. Punk in England was a cultural class divisional statement. Cultural. It meant something. Punk in America meant nothing.


Did any of those bands stick out that you enjoyed? Were you a fan of Black Flag or Fear or anything like that?
I mean, I love anything that’s picturesque. I’m gonna say this kindly—they’re disasterous. Because even if you don’t, it’s just a statement of fact. Which is, the masses still don’t have a fucking clue what the painters who don’t paint figures like Pollock, expressionism. When you say that the masses go “what is it? I don’t know what it is.” It’s the expression of my inner—so the masses, if you agree: we the people, of the people, for the people, by the people, then they decide everything. Well by that standard, not by mine or yours, Punk was a complete fucking disaster. Thrash was a disaster. Grunge was a disaster. You had one or two bands that lasted, Nirvana lasted two records. Pearl Jam is the most successful of the grunge bands, and no one else.

Alice in Chains is pretty good.
You’re saying it’s pretty good; I’m not saying it’s good or bad. That’s not a level of success. There’s only success, and you can move out of your mom’s basement. So The Ramones, bless them. We’re a fun band, and everything else, and influential to you. It’s not a big band that plays stadiums that goes, “Oh yeah, I started because of them.” So you take The Ramones which is widely accepted by the media as the most influential this and that. They have one gold record after they died. The one they hated the most. Chicago had 22 platinum records in a row.


So you’re officially saying on record that you like Chicago more than The Ramones.
My point is, it doesn’t matter what I like or what you like. It doesn’t matter. It only matters what the masses like. Either that, or we can say, "We are holier than thou. My opinion is worth more than yours.” I don’t subscribe to that theory; I believe the masses rule.

Do you still watch cartoons? Metalocalypse?
I do watch Metalocolypse. Aqua Teen.

So you stay current.
I don’t think the new stuff, other than South Park, has the depth—I’ll be clear—that the old Looney Tunes did. I’ll tell you what I mean: none of the new stuff, Aqua Teen, and I’m a huge fan of South Park

Well I want to Shark Tank you… KISS ice cream for dogs. We’re gonna call it “Lick It Pup.”
That’s terrible.

But we were gonna have your dogs from your show, on the carton, with all the make-up on.
Terrible. Mark Burnett offered me the show when he was first launching it, it was based on Dragon’s Den. He called me to see if I wanted to be the Trump of Shark Tank. I said I was interested but we just couldn’t come to terms with the money. I would have been interested in that.

Do you guys follow football? Or just the LA KISS.
I follow anything that’s successful, just like the masses. The people who watch the Super Bowl are not football fans and the people that go to the Kentucky Derby don’t follow horse racing. They’re going because of the beautiful hats and beautiful women. It’s an event. It’s a thing. And that’s kind of what we’re trying to do with KISS, which is turn, the concerts into events. You don’t even have to like KISS or know any of the songs.