During a conversation with Guitar World, KISS bassist Gene Simmons talked about the band’s farewell tour, addressing those who are skeptical about the trek actually being their last one.
A lot of bands embark on farewell tours, only to come back out a few years later and pick up right where they left off. How do we know this is really it for Kiss?
“I understand, I understand. People might not believe it. But let’s just call it for what it is – it’s the final tour. Because you want to go out on top. I’m 69. Still strong; still look good; still have hair on my head… although I have a lot more on my back now.
“But by the time this tour finishes, I’ll be 72. So if I was in the Stones or U2, I could run around onstage in sneakers and a t-shirt and never break a sweat. And both those bands are great.
“But KISS is a different animal – we’re like heavy artillery. We’re armored. I wear eight-inch platform heels and it takes hours to put on the makeup and the studs and all the stuff, and then I fly through the air with no net, shoot fire out of my a*s, Paul flies off at the stage wearing 40 pounds of armor…
“We all love Jagger and Bono, but if they put in the amount of work we put in, they’d drop dead in a half hour.
“I love them to death and respect those guys. But all they have to do is sing.”
KISS has always been celebrated for its live show. But do you feel you’ve gotten your due as a songwriter or a musician?
“I don’t care. Means nothing to me. ASCAP gave myself and Paul the songwriters’ medal of honor, whatever that’s called [the ASCAP Founders Award]. It means nothing.
“The only thing that means anything, that includes boxers or baseball players or anybody, is when you get up to bat or when you get in the ring and your bosses are standing on their seats.
“And, by the way, that’s our job. We’re not political. We don’t talk about the secret of life because we don’t have a clue what it is.
“Our job is to make you forget the traffic jam, the fact that your girlfriend is elbowing you because you’re looking at that girl over there with the set of double D’s, all that other stuff that tortures everybody. With KISS, it’s magic time.”
Well, there you go. Had you not met Paul all those years ago, where would Gene Simmons be right now?
“Where would I be? Nowhere. Because there is something called chemistry. Although it’s fair to say Paul and I are completely different people. But we’re two different sides of the same coin.
“I don’t have any brothers or sisters on my mother’s side. But certainly, Paul would be the brother I never had. And we constantly disagree about all sorts of things, but we share the important values that make great relationships last a lifetime.
“Love of family. Don’t abandon your kids. Show up on time. Do the work. Be gracious. Have a work ethic. Do all that stuff. And if you’re lucky, goddammit, and if you’re blessed to have the right thing at the right place at the right time, then you’re even more lucky if you find somebody else you can work with.
“Because if Jagger has an off night, The Stones aren’t so good. But if I have an off night, I know Paul’s going to push it through to the goal. Same as when he has an off night. And don’t kid yourself – Tommy and Eric often give us good kicks in the pants, too.”
You bring up chemistry. It’s no secret that fans are hoping to see the original KISS lineup, with Ace and Peter, reunite somehow, somewhere, on this tour.
“Well, let me address that. You know, in life, mother nature is nonjudgmental.
“Whether you’re a baby and have never experienced life or whether you’re old and grey and have gone through the trials and tribulations, both of you, when you put your hand into the fire, get burned equally. So life doesn’t give you three chances.
“You get one chance. But Ace and Peter have gotten three chances. They were in and out of the band – fired – three times. For dr*gs, alcohol, bad behavior, being unprofessional… all the clichés are clichés. Even suicide is overrated.
“It’s been done many times. So the only reason Ace and Peter were let go the first time, and then the second time and then the third time is that they weren’t carrying their load. You can’t be in a car with two flat tires.
“It’s not going to go anywhere. It’s your responsibility to change the f*c*ing tires so that the whole car doesn’t stop. It’s nothing personal. Because remember – being in a band is a gift.
“You hardly work. Physically, anyway. So the short answer to your question is we’d love to have Ace and Peter join us here and there. And if they don’t, it’s not going to be because of us. But they’re never going to be in Kiss again.”
A lot of bands embark on farewell tours…and then come back a few years later to do it again. How do we know this is really it for KISS?
“Well, our age for starters. [Laughs] Obviously there are people who are cynical, but those people are cynical, to begin with. And yes, we did a farewell tour 19 years ago, but to qualify that, the circumstances were so different.
“It was short-sighted and it wasn’t too long after we finished with it we realized we didn’t want to say farewell to Kiss, we wanted to say farewell to the two people [Ace Frehley and Peter Criss] who had become a ball and chain on KISS.
“So to do this now, we’re doing it for the total opposite reasons. The band gets on great. Everybody’s having a great time. Everybody enjoys each other’s company.
“We sound great. With that said, we’re also aware this doesn’t become easier as time goes on. For us to maintain what we do at the level we do it, it’s finite. There’s an expiration date.”