KISS bassist Gene Simmons recently spoke with the “Three Sides Of The Coin” podcast.
On the inspiration behind his “Vault” box set:
Gene: “I’m an only child, so maybe that helps me in my being the ultimate fan of me. I know that sometimes sounds cocky and self-serving and stuff like that, but that’s really the only way I was able to overcome any kind of problems I had coming to America, not being able to speak English, just feeling like an outsider. Even if you’re not really comfortable with yourself or have some self-esteem issues, bluff. Pretend. That’s what I did. Because I didn’t have brothers and sisters, I spent a lot of time on my own and I collected everything about me. As soon as I had the good fortune of having a decent report card, I’d save it. If I got my first guitar, I’d save it. I haven’t thrown away anything. In 1964, I saw THE BEATLES on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’, and within two years, I started writing songs. I taught myself how to play guitar — originally, before bass — and just started strumming. Over 50 years, from ’66 to 2016, I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of songs – some of them good, some of them not-so-good. Some would up on KISSrecords; the vast majority didn’t, because some of them didn’t even sound like KISS, because of the way I write. It’s not linear — it just kind of comes out.
“‘The Vault’ really started formulating in my mind as far back as ten to thirteen years ago. Originally, it was going to be called ‘Monster’, and then Paul [Stanley] liked the title and [said], ‘Why don’t we use it for a KISS record?’ That was originally the idea for this — to put out the largest box set of all time. And here it is, kids. What’s inside is 167 tunes that have never been released — everything from the first song I ever wrote called ‘My Uncle Is A Raft’, my apologies for that title, back in 1966 on two-track, all the way to 2016. There are also three tunes I wrote with Bob Dylan — or, more specifically, Bob Dylan wrote with me — and three VAN HALEN/Gene Simmons songs, Joe Perry, all the KISS guys appear on many of the songs.
A lot of the stuff, I wind up playing all the instruments, because I couldn’t find somebody to play drums or guitar. For me, it’s a journey. I don’t know how many people are interested, but I have to get this out. Otherwise, all this music and all this stuff is going to stay up in the attic and gather dust. At some point, everybody has a yard sale, right? It’s like, ‘Hey, look what I got.’ Not [that this is] entirely a yard sale, but I wanted to do it just to clear it out. There’s some things on here that I’m really proud of, and other things that are curious and peculiar, and that’s okay, too.”
Gene: “Geeks rule the world. When I was growing up, I was what the comic book fans called a fan-boy. In the real world, a geek, you love what you love and you love it passionately, because it’s much cooler than Shakespeare and the other stuff that we were forced to read. We now rule the world — ‘Star Wars’, ‘The Avengers’, all that stuff — it’s our world now. We rule it. We used to be made fun of, especially by the chicks. Barbie can’t touch Darth Vader. Actually, she might want to, but that’s another story.”
Gene: “If the only reason somebody does something is for money, there is literally nothing wrong with it. In fact, it’s the highest thing. If somebody worked all their life and finally accumulates wealth, you’re not supposed to talk about it, but if some jackass spent no time working on anything and wins the lottery and gets $100 million, everybody goes over and pats him on the back — ‘Hey, congrats. Isn’t that great?’ You didn’t do anything for it, bitch. That’s not the one thatyou’re supposed to go, ‘Yeah, go for it’ — it’s the one that worked for it. The notion that, ‘Well, you only do it for money,’ well, that’s the description of the work ethic of America. Most people go to work at jobs they don’t like, and the only thing they do it for is to be able to feed their family. They do it for money. They get up at six o’clock every day, go to work at jobs they don’t like and the only reason they do it is for money. Why is it any less ethical for somebody who strums a guitar? ‘Well, the only reason I strum a guitar is to get money.’ Why not?”
On the diverse guest stars who appeared on his 1978 solo album:
Gene: “There were [supposed to be] more. Jerry Lee Lewis got there too late. He agreed to be on it. [John] Lennon, [Paul] McCartney were going to be on it, and they just — I don’t know what happened. All kinds of people said that they would do it. I wanted to hear Lassiebark on it. Imagine coming to America from another country and not speaking a word of English, and whatever it is you imagined, it not only comes true, but comes true in ways you’d never imagine. When I did the solo record, I had the Concorde jet [fly] over musicians, went to Oxford Studios right down the street from George Harrison and Eric Clapton‘s house in Oxford, England. Anything I wanted, it’d just be on [there]. At the time, I was with Cher, so I flew her over and the kids. Just this kind of opulence, you couldn’t imagine. When I did my solo record, I didn’t care about anything — I wanted to do what I wanted to do. The 1978 solo record was the first sign that Gene Simmons wasn’t just, you know, the guy — and I’m happy being in KISS, trust me — but there’s other stuff, and the 1978 solo record connects to ‘The Vault’ in ways that people find they understand, which is that I don’t just write ‘Calling Dr. Love’. There’s lots of other stuff that is part of me too.”