KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons was recently interviewed by CNBC‘s Jon Fortt for the “Fortt Knox Podcast”. The full chat can be seen below.
On what he thinks of critics, who over the years have rarely been kind to KISS:
Gene: “Critics mean well, I’m sure, but living in your mother’s basement doesn’t qualify you to have an assessment about anything, especially if you’ve never done it. I think sorely lacking from critics in general is journalistic ethic… As a journalist, you still have to report on the facts. Invariably, the opposite tends to be the case. The pen is mightier than the sword, and Machiavelli was right — to have power is to abuse it. Critics become delusional, and they actually think that they’re important. You really aren’t. Consider this — if there was never such a life form as critics, do you think it would affect life as we know it on planet Earth? Not in the least.”
On how he learned the importance of showmanship:
Gene: “When I was a little kid, up in the hills of Israel, my friend Shlomo and I — he was a Moroccan Jew — went up the hills of Mount Carmel. People used to come home from work, and the very last stop on the bus stop was the beginning of Mount Carmel, the village. I remember — Shlomo and I went to the top of the hill and picked cactus fruit. I remember when I first was sitting there as the first bus rolled in, we didn’t make a lot of noise. I must have been about six, and Shlomo must have been seven or eight. I didn’t say anything — I was waiting for them to come over, because I’ve got cold cactus fruit. Nobody came over. Then I went, ‘Hey!’, and more people came over. The bigger of a nuisance and the bigger a spectacle that I made of myself, the more we sold. That’s the first lesson of mother nature and in show business — when the mother bird brings back a juicy worm, who do you think’s going to get the worm: the biggest bird, the healthiest bird, or the sickliest little putz that squeaks the loudest? You have to grab life by the scruff of the neck and demand to pay you some attention. You will only get the respect you demand. You have to puff out your chest, and if you don’t have it, fake it.”
On why the members of KISS decided to adopt personas:
Gene: “It was just about trying to get attention, really. And women understand this — there’s a room full of girls and they all have their little skimpy black dresses. The smart girl’s going to wear a red dress. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist. All the bands, they look the same. If I’m going to go into country, I’m not going to wear a cowboy hat, because everybody wears one. I might decide to go a different path. Never mind what it is you’re doing, presentation is also part of it. Food doesn’t just have to taste good. Before you taste it, you’re looking at it. And then it’s got to smell good. You want the whole experience. The astonishing thing about concerts — and life in general — is people see it first. Especially when you go to a concert, you’re bringing your eyes as well. You’re hearing with your eyes. Everything counts — every piece of the puzzle counts. The idea of the makeup and all that stuff really happened very linear — dress British, think Yiddish. Get the attention; who you are is beside the point.
“They’re more personas than characters. Characters, it infers that anybody can put on the makeup and be that. But truthfully, if I put on the red lipstick and the star over my eye, I wouldn’t be convincing, because it’s not part of my persona. My sense is, during a masquerade party on Halloween, if somebody gave you the keys to go into a costume place, you’d probably pick the thing that somehow connects with your personality. You pick that thing that connects to who you are.”
On how he and Paul Stanley have managed to maintain a four-decade working relationship:
Gene: “We share a common… I mean, there is that common heritage thing. We’re both Jews in that way, but it ain’t about that. It’s about strong family values – no drinking, no smoking, no getting high. A work ethic, and once you’ve got that covered, the rest is easy. You and I can argue about everything, and whether we’re the same race or the same religion, that’s not the point — the point is, you and I can be completely different and yet be on the same coin. Two different sides of the same coin. And we can all go together forward, even if we disagree. As long as you share work ethic, responsibility, mutual respect, once you’ve got that covered, you have most of it covered.”