Mitch Gallagher of Sweetwater Sound recently conducted an interview with KISS bassist Gene Simmons.
On whether he is writing new songs on a regular basis:
Gene: “My batting average is very low. I can write 10, 20, 30 songs and maybe one or two will connect with people they may like. I’m not [John] Lennon or [Paul] McCartney; I don’t care who you are, whether you’re Bob Dylan or anybody else. Very few of the songs you’ll actually write connects. It’s like baseball. Your batting average is .300 and you’re considered one of the top guys. Well, 70 percent of the time you miss. I write all the time. Sometimes they’re completely different forms. You have an idea and you can’t wait to sit down and put it on paper and record it.
As an example, Paul McCartney, and you can find this in the illustrated BEATLES book, Paul McCartney wrote a song called ‘Scrambled Eggs’. And it was supposed to be a children’s song. And it goes like this [sings song]. It was a little kid’s song about what he had for breakfast. And it was Lennon who said, ‘No, no, you have something with this ‘Yesterday’ thing.’ I have original versions of ‘Calling Dr. Love’, which was called ‘Bad, Bad Lovin” and had a different chorus and so on. Things like paintings, books, you do that, then you come back and re-write and mold it. Songwriting is no different than a painting.”
On his recent book, “27: The Legend And Mythology Of The 27 Club”:
Gene: “’27’ recounts the tragedy that is either self-inflicted or chemical or the disease known as depression — most people don’t understand it and other variables that make the rich and the famous either kill themselves or pass away at 27. Why 27 years of age, people have been trying to figure this out forever. You’re talking about Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, it can just go on and on and your jaw drops, the Mama Cass [Elliot] and one of the guys from THE GRATEFUL DEAD. Even ‘The Elephant Man’ from the 1800s, 27. I did some research and the book is about that. You’ll find their lives fascinating. Then at the end, somebody pulls the rug out from under you and you’ll go why? You have everything you could ever want.
There are even recent electronic music stars and rap starts that kill themselves from drugs, either right before or right after they pass 27. There seems to be something about that, but what I hope the book does is remind everybody that just engage in the conversation because if you don’t talk about it, you’re going to be losing lives. There but for the grace of god, that person is suffering from depression or being bullied or self-esteem, it could be your child or your brother or your mom or your dad or anything and if you don’t talk to them, the worse that will happen is suicide. So, if anybody out there has a bad day or even just a bad experience, sit down and talk to somebody. To those who have really serious problems, call 911 or the suicide prevention hotline. You’re going to find people who are willing to just talk to you. ‘Oh, I had a really bad day.’ ‘Oh, me too.’ I haven’t met anybody who hasn’t had a bad day. I hope the book encourages people to reach out and talk. I haven’t been depressed. My hand is straight and it doesn’t shake, but not everybody’s the same. We have different DNA and some folks need just a kind of a ‘Hey, how are you doing? I hope you are okay.’ You are going to be saving lives and I’m not just saying that.”
On why he is so inclined to self-promote:
Gene: “Well, I don’t want to throw ice-cold water into the face of romance. All the romantic smoke-and-waters thing; it’s not that. It was never called ‘music’ — it’s not called music now and it wasn’t called yesterday and it won’t be called tomorrow. It was always called the ‘music business,’ and if you believe in truth in advertising, the word ‘business’ is up there. You can choose to ignore that word, [and] you will go back to your mom’s basement yet again. You will be doing the music you love, nobody will know about it. After you create something, it is your inferred fiduciary duty to make the rest of the world aware you created something. If you care enough about the music you’re creating, either playing or singing about, you’ve got to go out there. The mountain ain’t coming to you, Muhammad. You got to go out there and that’s called promotion and sales. A religion is only good as the messenger, the prophet. Without somebody knocking on your door saying ‘Hey, check my stuff out.’ They’re not going to know about you. You can either be a hired gun, be in the background, you put your instrument down, your drums, keyboards, everything and go home and have a hot dog, that’s fine, but you won’t go anywhere. The people and I know the folks up at the top, they go out there and work every day, even if they’re rich.”