Gene Simmons says Kiss putting makeup on for money is akin to wearing diapers



By Steve Newton

The job of interviewing Kiss co-founder Gene Simmons is not an easy one, seeing as there are so many things a ’70s rock fan wants to ask the millionaire God of Thunder. You want to glean his views on the price of riches and fame and delve into what it’s like to spend the first 10 years of one’s career in secretive make-up.

More importantly, you want to find out if he still has those humongous dragon boots with the big, silver teeth comin’ at ya, like on the cover of Destroyer.

“Oh sure, they’re around,” says the man with the prehensile tongue. “There were a lot of them made, actually, because whenever you go out on tour, you always have to have a backup in case one gets lost or stolen. So, one pair is in the Hollywood Wax Museum and there’s another pair in the Smithsonian.”

There won’t be any biting boots at the Pacific Coliseum on Friday (December 11) though, when Kiss brings its rock ’n’ roll circus to Vancouver. There will be lots of other neat stuff, mind you, as Simmons is quick to point out on the phone from his hotel room in “Wisconsin, someplace”.

“The centrepiece of the show is a metallic Statue of Liberty, and from the twin breasts that rest on the stage, all the way to the torch, that’s 41 feet. Three-quarters of the way through the show, these rockets come in and blow Miss Liberty to smithereens, and then underneath that is…well, I’ll leave it to your imagination.

“Then we have a full laser show, I’ll be breathing fire, and we’ll be playing songs all the way back to the first album—24 albums ago. And then there’s a song called ‘Take It Off’, where we will have local talent. The most beautiful girls in the city will show up and we’ll pick three lucky ones who will come out on stage and show you what they’ve got. So, all in all, it’s gonna be a good rock ’n’ roll time.”

Simmons and co-founder Paul Stanley have been having just such a time for almost two decades now, although it hasn’t all been fun ’n’ games. Simmons admits that, during the ’80s, especially, the band’s fame got the better of them.

“At that time, the band had lived through the toy-industry phase, where we were second only to Star Wars in success. And then there were the massive record sales. So we just couldn’t do anything wrong, and the problem was that all around us we had a lot of yes-men, you know. Whenever we suggested, ‘Hey, how ’bout this?’, even if it was crap, somebody would say, ‘Yes, yes—that’s a good idea.’

“Or if you’re in bed with a girl, she’d be whispering in your ear, ‘Why don’t you do more ballads? Why don’t you sing love songs?’ Or the record company would say, ‘Why don’t you make it a little friendlier so we can get it on radio?’ And, as a result, some of the records that came out in the ’80s were just not my cuppa tea. Mom and dad started to like that stuff, and on the day that mom and dad like the same music you do, rock ’n’ roll is dead.

“So on [the new album] Revenge, we really decided just to ignore girls, record companies, mom and dad, and just go back to being rude. Because that’s what the band was, that’s what it is, and that’s what it’ll continue being.”

Not surprisingly, Kiss members have also had to deal with the suggestion that they should put their famous make-up back on. Actually, it’s been more of a bribe than a suggestion.

“Every day of the year, there are bankers holding up cheques in front of our faces, saying, ‘Put the make-up back on and you can keep this big cheque.’ And even though it’s appealing, we don’t really want to do that because it’ll become like a Las Vegas show. It deals with nostalgia, and I’m much more interested in the future and the present than I am in the past.

“You know, it’s like somebody walking up to you and saying, ‘Wow, when you were a baby you used to wear diapers. Why don’t you put it back on again?’ And I’m not a baby any more. That’s exactly the point.”

Simmons donned a mask of another kind after the band tossed the greasepaint away for 1983’s Lick It Up album. His roles as vicious, death-dealing villains in the action films Runaway and Wanted: Dead or Alive proved that he could handle himself on the big screen as well as the big stage. But he’s not in any rush to get back into movies.

“I’m interested in acting,” he says, “but there’s just not enough time. The Alive 3 album’ll be coming out in the summer, and a long-form video. And there’s also a hardcover book, kind of a ‘Kisstory’, which will be a coffee-table book which you can slam on top of Madonna’s. Or she can get on top, if she likes.

“So there’s just not enough hours in the day to do all this stuff. Matter of fact, just last week I was offered the part of the Devil, or Beelzebub or whatever, in a four-hour miniseries based on Stephen King’s book The Stand. And even though that sounds exciting and everything, you just can’t do it. So the acting and all of that’ll come much later. Right now, I’m having too much fun with Kiss.”

Simmons is also having a ton o’ fun indulging in the pleasures that come with his perennial role as a swingin’ bachelor.

“Marriage is out of the question,” he says. “Marriage, we’ve been told, is an institution, and I think you’ve gotta be nuts to be in an institution.”

To hear the audio of my 1992 interview with Gene Simmons–and my interviews with former Kiss members Ace Frehley and Eric Carr as well–subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 350 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with the legends of rock.

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