By Chris Alexander
Photo by Ash Newell
For almost four decades, the iconic circus collectively known as KISS has been thrilling the masses, with their trend-defining, still wildly absurd amalgam of muscular, no-nonsense rock music and dark fantasy theatrics. Now, after an up-and-down history that saw their legacy rise, fall and rise once more, KISS are not only deeply ingrained in the collective popculture fabric, but they are at the top of their creative game.
Their latest album -- the 20th studio album, in fact -- is called, appropriately, "Monster," and while not due in stores until mid-October, the band hit the road this summer, demolishing stages across the U.S. and Canada with fellow hard-rockers Motley Crue. "The Tour," as it's boldly calling itself, condenses both bands' performances into two 90-minute sets, but, as KISS co-founder and media gadfly Gene Simmons insists, KISS won't be skimping on any of their patented blood, bombs and pyro.
"KISS has a philosophy few other bands have," says Simmons, who is 62 and still swinging from wires and vomiting gore.
"And that's to give the fans bang for their bucks. Not just our show, but making sure anyone on the bill with us is worthy of being on hallowed ground, the Electric Church, the KISS stage. For us, the power and the bombast and, yes, the roar of the crowd and the smell of the greasepaint is what it's all about."
What KISS are also all about is the way the band has transcended the fate of many of their classic-rock ilk who are content to tour the hits and pander to the generation that first found them. Instead, a typical KISS audience contains a cross section of fans of every age, with KISS Army lifers sharing space with kids, their faces painted to honor their larger-than-life heroes.
"The KISS Army is a living, breathing thing," says Simmons, who has never been known for a lack of confidence.