SIMMONS STILL ROCKING WITH THE BEST
September 02, 2010
By Mark Caro, Tribune reporter
Photo by Getty Images

Ten years after kicking off its official Farewell Tour, Kiss arrives Friday at Tinley Park's First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre with no signs of mothballing the makeup and armored body suits. True, drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer have replaced original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, respectively, but singer/bassist Gene Simmons and singer/guitarist Paul Stanley are still around, along with the classic Kiss bombast.

The serpent-tongued Simmons, now 61 with five seasons of a reality TV show under his studded belt (A&E's "Gene Simmons Family Jewels"), still calls his band "the best, the hottest band in the world." In fact, Simmons said a ticketed adult can bring up to four kids 14 and under to the show for free.

Here's more of what he had to say before his band hit the stage Tuesday in Atlanta:

Why he doesn't care that Kiss isn't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: "There are more important things in the world. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a nice place. It's a nice building. It's in Cleveland. The idea of it was good, but it's really backroom politics. Fifteen guys decide who gets in, and if they want to get Grandmaster Flash and Madonna in there, that's fine. I don't consider that rock 'n' roll, and I've never met a human being who does."

Why hit records don't matter: "If all you are is your next hit song, when you stop having hit songs, you're done. The biggest bands in the world - Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Metallica, you name it - weren't driven by hits."

How Kiss changed rock 'n' roll as we know it: "We have single-handedly, and I'm not kidding myself about this, changed the expectations of what people expect when they buy a ticket to a concert. In the old days you could bring out your acoustic guitar and a Persian carpet and sit on it cross-legged and be the hippie-dippy kind of guy. We came up and blew up the stage and put on light shows and fireballs. Now everybody from McCartney to U2 to anybody else does that. Who did that? Actually, Kiss did that."

Why Kiss is letting in kids for free: "We want to make sure that young people out there know there's a world out there other than the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus ... It's time to see how the big boys do it."

Which songs get the biggest response in concert: "In some of the Scandinavian counties, it's 'I Was Made for Lovin' You.' They go bonkers. In some of the bigger cities in America, it's 'I Love It Loud.' And recently Eric, our wonderful drummer/singer, has been stealing the show when he gets up there solo and sings 'Beth.'"

Why Kiss concerts may resemble an endurance competition: "Look, you've got 15,000 to 20,000 people who are standing on their seats for 21/2 hours, exhausted and drenched. If you think you're tired, change places with guys who are on stage wearing armor studs and 12-pound guitars, about 35-40 pounds of additional weight with another 30 degrees of temperature higher walking around on 8-inch platform heels for 21/2 hours. I'll trade places with you any time you like."

Why the music business is in a state of "chaos": "Because the record industry allowed kids to download for free, so an entire generation has been trained not to pay for music... And there are no more record stores, so that support's gone, and the Internet is a cold, heartless thing."

Why all that doesn't affect Kiss "one iota": "Our Dr. Pepper campaign is massive. You're going to see Kiss Slurpee cups in every 7-Eleven across the country. Nothing touches us."